ISKCON’s contributions to India 6 – Appreciation of India’s spiritual culture among Indian youth
Transcription by– Keshavgopal Das and Ambuj Gupta
Hare Krishna. ISKCON’s contributions to India, this topic were discussing based on the acronym INDIA. So we are discussing the last part now. ‘A’ is appreciation. Appreciation for India’s spiritual culture among Indians itself is a significant contribution to India.
India is at cultural cross roads. We have had an extra ordinary spiritual heritage which has continued for thousands of years despite persecution by invaders from different parts of the world. This spiritual legacy which is continued for millennia is now being lost rapidly because of different kind of aggression. This aggression is more in terms of the sheer onslaught of Western materialism.
Most people, most younger generation, they grow up in an environment of rampant materialism. The spiritual culture doesn’t make sense and doesn’t feel of any relevance to them. Often through their education they get many questions which need logical and scientific answers and often these answers are not available. India has an ancient spiritual culture but most of the spiritual books are written in Sanskrit and many of the spiritual teachers have been brought up in a traditional setting and they are not equipped to answer questions of the modern mind. There is one edifice of scientific education that is offered today along with the medical facilities and the technological opportunities. There is other edifice of India’s spiritual culture which is opportunity for inner growth and spiritual development. These two are both significant edifices, important edifices for the human society today and a bridge has to be brought among them. And bringing about that kind of bridge is one of ISKCON’s most significant contributions for India.
ISKCON has many well educated spiritual teachers who have got education often from the best institutes in India, IITs, IIMs, and other top colleges. Yet they have been inspired by the spiritual wisdom of India and not only are they living it but they are also teaching it. When they present the spiritual wisdom, they can present it in the way that is intelligible and relish able for people with today’s modern mind set or even the post modern mind set.
ISKCON offers courses and presents the spiritual message of India in a systematic, logical way and brings about a union, sort of synthesis between the spiritual culture of India, the spiritual foundation of India and the scientific temper which the younger generation has imbibed. Through this systematic logical presentation of spirituality large number of students and large number of youth are been attracted to spirituality. Those people who would otherwise have not been at all attracted to spirituality are now been attracted in significant numbers and with remarkable enthusiasm. ISKCON conducts youth festivals at many of its important temples and these temples in Mumbai and other places. Sometimes in youth festival thousands of students are there. On regular basis several hundred students are there. And they are not there for youth festivals, many of them also practice spirituality on a regular basis.
ISKCON has specialized youth forums with youth counselors which deal with the unique issues that youth face and how the spiritual wisdom can help them to navigate their life journey during the critical phase of youth. These youth forums are vibrant wings of most ISKCON temples and they offer spirituality customized for the youth. In this way ISKCON India’s spiritual heritage which is been passed down for generation to generation but which would otherwise would have been lost because of incomprehensibility because the younger generation is not understanding its relevance that is being preserved and is being cherished by younger generation.
ISKCON also has specialized youth centers close to many of the eminent educational institutions. These are the places where India’s future leaders reside. If these future leaders of India get proper exposure to India’s spiritual glory then they can eventually grow up and contribute to India’s growth in a holistic way. Not just materially, not just becoming a note worthy engineers and managers and other social leaders but also becoming spiritual exemplars and spiritual leaders. The spiritual centers, youth centers close to the colleges offer courses for young students and young minds to understand spirituality and to apply it in their own lives. This is also widely accepted, respected and appreciated program of ISKCON in sharing its spiritual wisdom with the younger generation.
Off course younger generation doesn’t refer only to the youth. ISKCON also has special programs for children. The most popular program is the summer retreat camps where children who normally don’t get much awareness or experience of their spiritual culture in their schools, they come to the temple or they go to some retreat centers and there are camps where they learn through demonstrations, through craft, through art about the spiritual classics like the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and the underlying spiritual values. Off course ISKCON has schools also, weekend schools. And even some places full schools also where material education and spiritual education are both shared in a balanced way so as to bring about the holistic growth of the children. Through this also the timeless culture of India is being preserved and cherished so that it will go on generation after generation for a long time to come. Just infusing appreciation for India’s spiritual culture among the younger generation, not just the younger generation, among intellectuals in general, by systematic philosophical customized presentations of India’s philosophy and spiritual culture, this is significant contribution of ISKCON to India.
Thank you. Hare Krishna.