ISKCON’s contributions to India 3 – Non-discrimination in sharing spirituality
Transcription by– Keshavgopal Das and Ambuj Gupta
Hare Krishna. We will discuss today on the topic of ISKCON’s contribution to India and we will be discussing based on acronym I N D I A. So we already discussed about internationalization of India’s spiritual culture. Now we will discuss ‘N’, non discrimination in presenting India’s spiritual culture to everyone in India and outside. So especially in India we will focus because we are talking about contributions to India.
The spiritual message of India’s philosophical classic Bhagavad Gita is universal. In Bhagavad Gita Krishna says:
mūrtayaḥ sambhavanti yāḥ
tāsāṁ brahma mahad yonir
ahaṁ bīja-pradaḥ pitā
Krishna says that I am the seed giving father of all living beings. Not just all human beings but all living beings. So this obviously includes all human beings whatever be their caste, creed, color, religion and such external differentiating designations. So in this universal spirit of the Bhagavad Gita, ISKCON presents India’s spiritual culture to everyone and in ISKCON temples there is no discrimination with respect any such externals. Everybody is invited, everybody is welcomed and everybody is facilitated in the practice of spirituality. So in a country where there are so many divisions, especially caste divisions where unfortunately the caste by birth idea which is not a scriptural based idea, it is a subsequent imposition which has come about. So the Vedic scriptures are universal in their approach. So that universalism is evident in ISKCON temples. And everybody whatever be their caste by birth, they are invited to practice. And what to speak of practicing, they can also become not just practitioners, not just seekers but also leaders and teachers. So with in ISKCON the growth of a person is not determined by any such external designations. It depends only on sincerity and the devotion of one’s heart. And many of ISKCON leaders are people who were from various back grounds. Some of them are from illustrious Brahminical back ground and some of them are equally devoted and dedicated. And they are from other back ground. So there is no discrimination. What is seen is only the quality of the heart and that is actually the inclusivist universal spirit of the Bhagavad Gita and of the spiritual wisdom of India. So this non discrimination has enabled many-many Indians to get over the bigotary, the discrimination, the divisiveness, that had characterized their formal experiences of religion in India and they have found a way to unify themselves with others. So this spiritual foundation of our national integration can be provided by the process of bhakti, by the philosophy and the process of bhakti. The philosophical understanding that we get that we are all parts of God whatever we may be externally, this can unify not just all of humanity but all of the world, all living beings in the world, Vaudhaiva kutumbakam, that is the message of Vedic literature. The whole earth is one family. And this is demonstrated in ISKCON, where even the pujaris are individuals who have devoted themselves to God for many-many years and by that devotion they are seen as spiritual exemplars who can serve the deity and convey the blessings of the deity to the people and share spiritual values and spiritual message with people. And their past background is not considered at all. So this non discrimination which is the spirit of the Vedic literature but which is unfortunately lost over centuries of misunderstandings, that non-discriminating universal spirit which can unify India and which can act as a healing balm in the polarizing division among India, that non discriminating universal spirit is one of the foremost contributions of ISKCON to India. Thank you.