Brooklyn: Ramabhadra Dasa sues in Court to have temple sale approved.

Attorney General’s Office asks Court to reject the deal. A Brooklyn courtroom was filled with Krishna devotees this past Wednesday for a hearing on a petition asking the Court to allow the Brooklyn Hare Krishna temple to be sold. The petition was filed by Ramabhadra Dasa, the former president of ISKCON Brooklyn. New York Assistant Attorney General Abigail Young appeared in court to oppose the petition, as did attorneys for the ISKCON GBC, for a renewed, GBC-supported temple board, and for members of the congregation.

For the sale of a place of worship, the State of New York requires Court approval. Typically, the seller first seeks approval from the State’s Office of the Attorney General (OAG). If the OAG approves, the Court it likely to approve as well. But on September 26 the OAG notified Ramabhadra that after nearly two years of back and forth, it had declined, once and for all, his request for OAG approval. If you want to pursue the sale, the OAG told him, you will have to take your request to the Court. That is what Ramabhadra chose to do. In late October he filed his petition with the Court, asking approval for the proposed sale.

On Wednesday the attorneys for the GBC and for members of the congregation filed with the Court their responses, outlining their many reasons why permission for the sale should be denied. Some fifty or more New York devotees packed into the courtroom to show support for keeping the temple in its present location. Advocating the sale, only four now-removed members of the temple board showed up: Ramabhadra Dasa, Adi Deva Dasa, and their wives. (They were accompanied by two lawyers.) read more

Life of Ramanujacarya

Ramanuja is well-known as the great philosopher and acarya of the Sri Vaishnava sampradaya. However, it should not be misunderstood that he was the founder of the Sri Vaishnavas. Originally started by Laksmidevi Herself, the Sri sampradaya contained many exalted devotees prior to Ramanuja’s appearance to whom he admits his debt in his writings. In their expressions of devotion to the Supreme Lord, all South Indian devotees were influenced by the nine Alvars, who lived several hundred years before the birth of Ramanuja. Despite some minor philosophical differences, it is plain that the themes of devotion and surrender to God, which are essential to Ramanuja’s teachings, are based to a large extent on the writings of the Alvars.

Life of Ramanujacarya book

PREACHING IN USSR 1980-81

In 1980-81 I was living in Calcutta, which at that time was ruled by Jyoti Basu’s communist government. Even our next-door neighbor was the Polish embassy and down the street was the Soviet embassy (the temple was in the diplomatic section of town). Though Calcutta temple was far from Moscow we were part of a team that was using every possible means that we could think of to infiltrate the USSR with Krsna Consciousness.

How? Devotees like Kirtiraja Prabhu, would smuggle phone directories of major cities out of the USSR and send them to Calcutta (not sure if other temples were involved). Then under Adridharana Prabhu’s leadership we would take addresses from the phone directories and put them on envelopes containing a Russian translation of Prabhupada’s introduction to the Bhagavad-gita. Then we would take these many thousands of  “time bombs” and mail them to the USSR from many different Indian cities so that the KGB and their Indian collaborators could not figure out the source. Because India and the USSR were close allies, letters from India would not be scrutinized so closely if at all, but if thousands of letters had suddenly come from a Western country suspicions would be aroused.

Admittedly we were using a scatter-gun approach and had no idea who we were sending them to. The letter could end up at the home of pious person or the head of the KGB, we just didn’t know. Nor did we know if our endeavor was having any effect. read more

DIFFERENT UNDERSTANDINGS OF SRILA PRABHUPADA’S TEACHINGS

GBC Resolution #313 – Harmonizing our Preaching Efforts

Whereas the GBC Body accepts that many different understandings of the teachings of Srila Prabhupada and sastra, and many different understandings of what constitutes effective preaching, exist amongst ISKCON devotees, and this, in general, is a healthy situation;

Whereas when one ISKCON devotee’s preaching efforts, however well-meaning, are seen to work at cross purposes with the preaching efforts of others, it is the responsibility of ISKCON’s leadership to step in and take regulative action that it considers will be most favorable for the fulfillment of the objectives of ISKCON; read more

Is India the Rape Capital of the World?

Even before but more so after the sensational Nirbhaya gang-rape case of December 2012 India has been portrayed as the rape capital of the world where violence against women is enshrined. But what do the numbers tell us?

Other countries in fact have much higher rates of rape than India, but the media for their own reasons sensationalize the ones in India – more on that later. According to this “country-by-country rape statistics”[1] India has one of the lowest rates of rape in the world something one would not know if one listened to the media reports. It proves the adage “don’t believe everything you read in the paper.”

The rate of rape is determined by dividing the total number of reported rapes by the total population and the units of measure are the number of rapes per 100,000 people. Thus even though India may seem to have a rather large number of rapes reported in any given year but considering that India has a population of 1.3 billion people the rate of rape (number of rapes divided by 1.3 billion) becomes very small. And even if as some people claim that many rapes go unreported that even if we double or even triple the number the rate would still be low compared to many so-called First World countries. read more

“How many likes” or “who likes”

The social media has become extremely popular among masses today. One among the different jargons that are used is “like” or many versions of it in different social media websites. It is a common practice to write something for the world to see and be anxious about how many likes we get. “How many likes” is a common concern for all today. The concept of likes existed throughout the history of human race. Humans have always been anxious about the likes they get on the activities they perform. This is spread across all categories of people and all age groups. In fact, getting likes is an aspiration of the soul. I can recollect the first experience my daughter had when she took help of my hands to stand up. She was also concerned as to when will I like her act. When I appreciated her, she became extremely happy.

Although likes has always been a concern for humanity, there has been an inherent change in the nature of likes that are expected. This is due to the cultural changes across the world. One simple example that we can think of is that of youths visiting temples or attending spiritual gatherings. Their mothers aspire that the children visit temples. But their friends desire otherwise. So, if a young one visits a temple, he or she will get a like from the mother but not from others. But if one doesn’t he or she may lose the mother’s like but may get likes from a large number of people. So, the quantity of likes has overpowered the quality of likes. “How many likes” has become a more important question than “Who likes”. This can be seen everywhere including spiritual institutions like the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). For instance, a friend of mine was telling me that the best thing that ISKCON has done is the program to feed poor children. Unfortunately, our founder Acharya thinks otherwise as indicated in the following quotes:

What is more public welfare than Krishna Consciousness? To awaken everyone’s original consciousness is the best public welfare in the whole world. read more

LEADING WITH SHASTRA

Dear prabhu, while you are an historic devotee who has done tremendous service for Srila Prabhupada, the way you understand and explain spiritual subjects is not the way that Srila Prabhupada told us to understand them. If we consider the way Srila Prabhupada himself explained them, whether in his books or lectures especially, he lead with shastra; only seldom did he quote his own Guru Maharaja. But most of us don’t do that. In these debates we tend to either quote Srila Prabhupada at length or quote from our own experience of him and seldom quote from shastra. And there are many reasons why this leads to innumerable misunderstandings.

Consider the case when we happen to speak with devotees who do not belong to our sampradaya. For example, Sri Vaishnavas. When we discuss spiritual subjects with them, we don’t quote Srila Prabhupada at length, we quote shastra at length and then may sometimes add the support of our acharya, Srila Prabhupada. Otherwise, they will not accept what we say, even if it is right. And we can’t blame them for that. We would do the same if they started bashing us over the head with quotes from whomever their current acharya is.

So the first point here is that when we lead with shastra, then that evidence has wide authority, more so than any other kind of evidence. Srila Prabhupada wanted to present the teachings of Lord Krishna in the most authoritative way, which is why he placed so much emphasis on shastra in his own presentations. read more

Bamboo Skyscrapers

H.H. Hridayananda Goswami’s Krishna West project is based on the simple idea that if you remove the non-essential, Indian cultural trappings of present-day ISKCON from its spiritual essence, then ISKCON will be restored to its former potency and once again become the dynamic preaching movement with high levels of recruitment it once was. According to the Krishna West mission statement, they “do everything possible to make bhakti-yoga easy, relevant and enjoyable for Western people, without in any way compromising, diluting, or diminishing the purity and power of a glorious ancient tradition.”And they aim to do this “by offering the essential spiritual teaching and practice in its entirety, without requiring students and practitioners to embrace a new ethnicity composed of non-essential Eastern dress, cuisine, music etc.” Therefore they say they are giving the people in the West “the chance to practice genuine bhakti-yoga within an external culture that is comfortable and natural for them.” The big idea behind Krishna West is that bhakti is internal whereas culture is external, and their aim is to establish a complete and mature Krishna conscious community on this principle.

In some respects, Krishna West’s approach to preaching is no different from other long-standing bridge-preaching programs like spaghetti night at the local university or the successful loft program pioneered in Australia, whose focus was to create a “hang-out” for young people so they could feel comfortable, make friends with devotees and eventually become devotees. The idea is that there is a kind of cultural rift that prevents people who would otherwise like to become devotees but due to cultural attachments won’t. Therefore, as its name implies, the program tries to “bridge” that cultural divide and make it easier for them to cross over to Krishna consciousness. Successful bridge-preaching programs generally have to deemphasize certain aspects of ISKCON’s internal culture in order to be effective.

But Krishna West is different from these past and on-going bridge-preaching projects in that it aims to establish a fully Krishna conscious society on the idea that culture is external to bhakti, that it is irrelevant. Bridge-preaching before Krishna West had always operated under the assumption that once one becomes serious about Krishna consciousness, he, or she, will automatically warm up to ISKCON’s internal culture. Krishna West, however, rejects this assumption. Because they say that culture is external, encouraging others to adopt some other culture foreign to their own tastes should be discouraged and considered undesirable. Since they regard culture as external to bhakti, they consider culture to be just as irrelevant in the mature stage of Krishna consciousness as it is in the beginning. The Krishna conscious community envisioned by Krishna West is therefore bridge-preaching scaled up from a peripheral outreach program to an extensive, fully mature, Krishna conscious society, but one in which culture is considered irrelevant to Krishna consciousness. read more