ISKCON’s contributions to India 4 – Development
Transcription by– Keshavgopal Das and Ambuj Gupta
Hare Krishna. We are discussing on the topic of ISKCON’S contribution to India. We are discussing based on the acronym INDIA. We already discussed about internationalization, then non discrimination, then we are talking about development, ‘D’.
India’s development is a concern for everyone, for every concerned responsible Indian. But we need holistic development. Development means that we need the development which will develop not just the body, not just the social financial situation but also the emotional and the spiritual constitution of people. And this holistic development is actually the contribution of India’s spiritual culture.
India had this progressive program of dharma, artha, kama and moksha, where the whole person is taken care of. There is religion, there is financial development, then there is satisfaction of desires and then there is ultimately liberation. This broad holistic program which takes care of all the aspects of an individual’s life is the contribution of the Vedic literature towards the complete development of the human society. And this Vedic wisdom, spiritual wisdom of ancient India is presented by ISKCON today in a way that fosters holistic development. Here let’s focus on not just spiritual development, which is being done through the temples, through book distribution, through educational initiatives like seminars and courses, through the organization of festivals, but we will focus on the concomitant positive material effects which have happened.
First of all ISKCON has changed the face in a positive sense of many of the ancient and revered pilgrimage centers of India. Prominent among them are Mayapur and Vrindavan. Mayapur, in West Bengal, is the birth place of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu who is considered to be the kaliyuga incarnation of Krishna and Vrindavan off course is the place where Krishna performed His childhood pastimes. So the place where ISKCON developed its temple in Vrindawan that was practically a undeveloped area when the temple project was started. But after that now not only it has become almost like a core part of Vrindavan but around it a huge community and in fact a whole township has developed in a very rapid way. There is not just economical or cultural development but this sort of development has attracted even in the attention of international scholars. Scholar Charles Brooks from America came to India to study and he wrote a book called “Hare Krishnas in India”. And he specially talked about how in the Vrindavan temple of ISKCON in India, the temple became like a cultural vortex from where Krishna bhakti spread to people not just in Vrindavan, who were off course many of them Krishna bhaktas already, but visitors who came to Vrindavan, they started considering the ISKCON’S Krishna Balaram Mandir as one of the important pilgrimage sites over there. And there they were sort of reverse missionary effect where ISKCON with its many American, European and foreign devotees and spiritual teachers by their presence and by their presentation, these devotees from various backgrounds inspired people to take their own culture seriously. So the all-round development of Vrindavan happened by the influx of spiritual tourists into that area. And many of the spiritual tourists were not just tourists, some of them became seekers and some of them became residents also. This has contributed to making Vrindavan more accessible for even Indians because the facilities have developed over there and going for pilgrimage has become much easier now with the facilities available.
The same is true in a even more dramatic sense for Mayapur, the place where ISKCOIN has its magnificent temple and associate community in Vrindavan, The Mayapur Chandrodaya Mandir, that was fifty years ago practically a overgrown wilderness. And Srila Prabhupada said that this will be the international headquarters of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. From that prophetic statement onwards began a whole chain of events characterized by spiritual dynamism which led to a complete transformation of the local situation and now that part, The Mayapur Chandrodaya Mandir, has become the heart of a booming township and thousands of thousands of people have got their lives facilitated even at a material level what to speak of spiritual level by this provision.
With India integrating into global economy rapidly, one way that India can get revenues from the whole world is if it attracts spiritual tourists. So the spiritual tourists bring resources financial and others when they come for their spiritual tourism and if they become resident they bring that and give further impetus to development. And the temples which have been built in Mayapur, in Vrindavan, in Mumbai, these Srila Prabhupada considered to be like the most important temples built not just in India but all over the world for ISKCON. And especially for the projects in Mayapur and in Vrindawan, the founder of ISKCON Srila Prabhupada said that devotees in temples from all over the world should contribute. So for example the Mayapur temple which is going to have a huge dome as majestic as the Washington square dome that is a project worth more than sixty million dollars. And a large portion of these funds are coming from people all over the world. Some of them are Indian expatriates but many of them are non Indians who appreciate India’s spiritual culture and want to create spiritual structures in India for perpetuating that and for facilitating the sharing of that with others in future generations. Huge amount of financial resources are coming to India because of the spiritual tourism that has been pioneered in the pilgrimage spaces by ISKCON. Srila Prabhupada himself envisioned the revitalization of the global culture through East-West synthesis. He said Eastern spirituality and Western technology, they come together we can bring a new era in the world. Like the blind man and lame man coming together. So this development of India economically, technologically through spiritual tourism has significantly happened by ISKCON’s endeavors and there is a huge potential for this in future also and ISKCON is bound to contribute in that. This development is one aspect.
The other aspect is a culture of charity. The more people are materialistic the culture of charity goes away because materialism promote selfishness. And spirituality, by helping us understand that we are non material beings, decreases our material possessiveness and encourages spirit of charity. So as a part of charitable endeavors, ISKCON food relief foundation and this food relief foundation works with the Indian government which has the mid day meal scheme for promoting the education and the nutrition of children in India. Food relief foundation feeds more than two hundred thousand students just in Maharashtra. There are many-many students fed in other parts of the world also, other parts of country also. The hygienic and nutritious food that is provided by the food relief foundation is of such a high quality that eminent leaders from all over the world have appreciated.
Barrack Obama, the president of America, has said that the way technology is used in a systematic way to ensure high standards of hygiene and nutrition is distinctive and this can become a model for food relief institutions all over the world. Similarly Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Abdul Kalam, they have also appreciated the scale and the quality of this endeavor. This charitable activity has been inspired by the spiritual wisdom and spiritual culture that ISKCON has shared. ISKCON has infused the spirit of charity among thousands and thousands of people. In this way the future of India is preserved and brightened by taking care of its younger generation.
Summary: ISKCON’s contribution to the development of India are in terms of spiritual tourism, are in terms of the spreading of a culture of charity and are in terms of making available the potential and possibility for integration of the spiritual and material through bhakti, by integration of East and West through the joining of hands of Eastern spirituality and Western technology and to take India to a new level of development where India can eventually lead the world as a spiritual super power and not only share its spiritual wisdom for the benefit of Indians but for the benefit of the whole world. Thank you. Hare Krishna.