ISKCON’s contributions to India 5 – Infrastructure provision for spiritual practice in modern times
Transcription by– Keshavgopal Das and Ambuj Gupta
Hare Krishna. ISKCON’S contributions to India. We have been discussing this topic based on the acronym INDIA. We discussed internationalization, non discrimination, and development. Now we will discuss about infrastructure provision.
ISKCON is primarily a spiritual organization. Even spirituality requires infra structure for its practice. Infra structure is in terms of temple, books, retreat centers and various other cultural and intellectual resources. These are made available in the spiritual culture of India from time immemorial. In today’s generation ISKCON is making it available in a very easy and accessible way for people. Especially in cities where the high stress, fast paced life style dominates, people do not have on a regular basis, time to go to holy places, to get spiritual rejuvenation, even if they want to. ISKCON has built many temples in the heart of the cities. In these temples there is regular worship of the Lord going on diligently. There are regular kirtans going on and these temples become spiritual sancturies. Just by entering in these temples people get a sense of calm and peace and that act as a solace for the stressed heart and for the tired mind. Thousands of people come to various temples in Mumbai, in Delhi, in Chennai and such places all over the world, all over the country, for spiritual rejuvenation. Within the temples, the kirtan culture is one of the most vibrant. People come and participate in the kirtan, sing and hear the kirtans or they themselves sing or they sit or they dance also in the kirtans. And it’s a very inclusive and relaxing atmosphere which offers refreshing release for people from their various stresses of life.
Along with this, the heart of the temple is the deities. ISKCON is known all over the world among people who practice deity worship for its very high standards of temple worship. The deities are beautiful they are gorgeously and elegantly decorated and they are meticulously cared for. People come and charmed and enchanted by the beauty of the deities. Just seeing this beauty gives them solace and joy to the hearts especially of those who are pious and devoted. These temples which act as spiritual oasis in the high stress, high speed, urban life style, these are very important spiritual infra structure for keeping a sense of balance and perspective among people, especially in the cities.
Along with that infra structure in the form of temples another very important contribution that ISKCON is doing is in terms of books. The Bhagavad Gita is India’s pre-eminent philosophical classic. This book has been made widely available by ISKCON through its vigorous book distribution programs. Millions and millions of people have got a Bhagavad Gita because of this and the Bhagavad Gita by Srila Prabhupada, known as, Bhagavad Gita As It Is, presents the eternal message of Krishna in the way that is understandable and relevant to today’s times. Along with that ISKCON presents various other books- Srimad Bhagavatam and the Isopanishad. Along with that books which explain spiritual wisdom in contempory terms. This educational contribution of ISKCON is very important in terms of a infra structural resource for people to understand their spiritual legacy and to apply it better and to reap greater benefits in terms of enrichment and empowerment from it.
So along with, the temples, the deities and the books, there are also the festivals that are celebrated. There are Janmashtami is celebrated in grand scale in the temple and rath yatra is celebrated on a equally if not more grand scale outside the temple on the streets. Both these festivals provide opportunities for people to re discover themselves spiritually, to rejuvenate themselves holistically. In many cities if these sort of facilities are not available then people are not able to practice their culture and tradition even if they want to. But these accessible and relish able forums for practicing India’s time honored festivals provides people a very easy opportunity. Thousands and thousands of people across the various temples benefit from this.
Now off course ISKCON contribution are not limited only to the cities of India but along with that even in the rural areas ISKCON has various programs for example there are eco friendly communities. Several places in India these have been developed and some of them even won international awards for high standards of eco friendliness. And these communities serve as examples of how one can live in eco friendly ways and one can live on the gifts of nature without polluting nature and without eroding into nature’s resources. Both in the cities as well as in the villages, ISKCON is contributing in distinctive ways for keeping alive and spreading further the spiritual culture of India. The farm communities act as resorts also for retreats for people to rejuvenate themselves spiritually away from the fast paced city life style. For people who are more committed offers them an alternative life style, where people can commit themselves, living close to nature and close to God and thereby grow holistically in that environment.
Off course ISKCON has village distribution and village padyatra programs where devotees go, walk village to village or travel on bullock carts and they distribute spiritual wisdom through literature, through talks, through kirtans.
In this way the spiritual culture of India which would have been otherwise inaccessible for many people, has been made accessible through the infra structure that has been provided. One of the most important infra structure is the youth outreach. The younger generation often has its own distinctive mind set and its distinctive needs. ISKCON has specialized youth centers and youth forums which present spirituality in a customized way for their benefit. And this has benefited thousands of youth. And this also is very important contribution of ISKCON to India for preserving its spiritual culture by providing the appropriate infra structure.
Thank you. Hare Krishna.