Tuscon, Arizona, USA---On Saturday, October 15th, under a brilliant Karttika moon, sixty-plus devotees and VIP guests celebrated ISKCON’s 50th anniversary in the courtyard of Govinda’s Natural Foods Buffet.
The setting couldn’t have been more fitting. For thirty years Govinda’s has served as the temple’s portal to Lord Krishna’s sublime food, music, wisdom, and dear devotees—a spiritual oasis in the Arizona desert—what everyone had come to celebrate.
As a harpist stroked heavenly notes, devotees and guests feasted on Govinda’s prasadam, forging new friendships and renewing old ones, for one thing was clear: practically everyone had been here before, setting the stage for the tributes.
Beaming as she stood at the podium, Temple President Sandamini Devi Dasi thanked everyone for coming, glorified ISKCON’s saintly founder, Srila Prabhupada, for launching scores of spiritual oases around the world, and recounted the evolution of Govinda’s in Tuscon. Then one-by-one, the distinguished guests, grateful for the evening’s banquet, stepped up to speak.
From the Southside Presbyterian Church’s Hunger Relief Outreach, Doug Larsen and Mary Kierzek thanked the temple for bringing Food for life to the city’s homeless, praising the devotees’ punctuality, hospitality, and care in preparing and serving the sanctified food.
From St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, Father Jorge Sotelo said it was his vegetarian diet that brought him to Govinda’s, where the devotees introduced him to Lord Krishna’s teachings. Inspired by the answers to his questions, the pastor accepted Vaisnava initiation and received the name Hamsa Balarama Dasa, all while continuing his Christian ministry.
From the Kadampa Meditation Center, Buddhist nun and teacher Gen Kelsang Lingpur praised the devotees for sharing their love through spiritual food. She concluded with a Buddhist poem about compassion, her way of commending the devotees’ service to the community.
From the University of Arizona, Professor of Religion and East Asian Studies Alison Jameson similarly praised the devotees for their loving and nonsectarian presentation of Krsna consciousness on campus. Professor Jameson currently serves as the devotees’ Bhakti Yoga Club advisor at the university.
From ISKCON, Initiating Guru Jivananda Das reminded everyone how true love of God is the satisfying remedy for everyone’s ills, and Governing Body Commissioner Nityananda Das challenged the audience to find that love by serving all of God’s children, regardless of caste, color, or creed.
From Tuscon City Hall, Mayor Jonathan Rothschild surprised the devotees by praising the seven purposes for which Srila Prabhupada founded ISKCON, reading each one and exulting in their spirit of loving service. Before becoming mayor, he and his wife had also dined at Govinda’s, whose purifying prasadam inspired his tribute.
Mayor Jonathan Rothschild Speaks at ISKCON 50 Event at Govinda's
As the cooling Karttika moon continued to climb the night sky, Ayush Das, a young devotee musician and university student, led the celebrants in singing Hare Krishna, the best blessing from Govinda’s oasis for Tuscon’s desert dwellers.
Written congratulations from the Governor of Arizona:
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