A brief look at the worldwide activities of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness
Relieving the “Religious” War
Years of bitter fighting, terrorist bombings, armored cars, and patrolling troops have made residents of Belfast, Northern Ireland, rather grim. But as visiting devotees have noted, Belfasters brighten when they hear the chanting of Hare Krishna. “The people here in Belfast are naturally pious, so they’re curious about Krishna consciousness,” reported Vrajendra Kumara dasa, one of the devotees from ISKCON’s London center. Even though shooting and bombing sometimes flare up nearby, the devotees are following Lord Caitanya’s instructions to spread Krishna consciousness “wherever you go, to whomever you meet.” To Catholics, Protestants, soldiers—anyone and everyone—the devotees are distributing spiritual food, Krishna conscious literature, and the chanting of Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
In February the devotees ventured to Coleraine, a town of fourteen thousand, also in Northern Ireland. Despite snow and gale-force winds they distributed books entitled Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Soon the danger of frostbite forced the devotees off the street, but by that time one in every four families had received a Krishna book.
ISKCON Miami’s “Heavenly Forest”
Swarms of bumblebees humming around newly-grown mango buds, peacocks strutting beneath flower-laden trees, cows munching happily in the fields—ISKCON’s new eight-and-a-half-acre farm on the western outskirts of Miami, Florida, resembles Lord Krishna’s spiritual abode, Goloka Vrndavana. Srila Prabhupada has requested that the land be developed into “a tropical paradise full of fruits and flowers,” and Temple President Narahari dasa and the other devotees are fulfilling that request. They recently installed a marble floor in the seventy-by-twenty-foot temple room and built a new barn.
But there’s still plenty of devotional work for the fifty devotees on the farm, which is named New Naimisaranya (after a sacred forest in India). Some go out daily to distribute Srila Prabhupada’s books and magazines. Others are busy putting the finishing touches on the temple. And still others take care of the bees, cows, and peacocks.
“We have fourteen working beehives right now,” Narahari said, “and we’ve built an additional twenty hives that we plan to set up over the next year. We expect at least one hundred fifty pounds of honey a year from each hive, which should fully supply our temple’s needs—and then some.”
Meanwhile, the herd of five cows (two Jerseys, two Brown Swiss, and a Guernsey) produces more than enough milk to provide a sumptuous variety of milk sweets and other dishes for the temple’s Deities—Their Lordships Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai.
Narahari seems confident that the paradisal environment, the beautiful Deities, and the natural joy of Krishna consciousness will attract many spiritually-minded people to New Naimisaranaya.
On-Campus Chaplaincy Approved
The University of Maryland, one of America’s largest (with an enrollment of over forty thousand), recently granted ISKCON permanent facilities to offer Krishna consciousness on campus. Located in College Park, Maryland, eight miles from Washington, D.C., the university will provide ISKCON with an office in its interdenominational chapel.
The formal confirmation of ISKCON’s on-campus ministry stemmed from increasing student interest in Krishna conscious programs at the university. A committee of students, faculty, and administrators examined the Krishna consciousness movement and agreed that ISKCON fulfilled the requirements of the Board of Regents for appointment to a chaplaincy. The committee then voted unanimously to grant ISKCON facilities for its programs on campus.
In a typical week, Gabhira dasa, ISKCON’s on-campus representative, gives lectures to various classes, meets with individual students and professors, and organizes seminars on the philosophy of the Bhagavad-gita As It Is. One of his most popular programs is a class in Vedic cooking, held in campus dormitories. Devotees teach the students how to prepare Indian vegetarian food and how to offer the tasty dishes to Lord Krishna with devotion. The classes culminate in feasting for all. “By increasing our lectures, seminars, and free vegetarian feasts,” says Gabhira dasa, “we hope to share even more of the Krishna conscious philosophy and way of life with the community.”