The religious rural culture of India is being replaced by materialisitc culture. What can we do to counter this?
Transcription by– Keshavgopal Das & Ambuj Gupta
Question: In the past the culture was devotional and even if there was competition, say I will have a bigger temple or we will have a bigger festival, it was all centered more or less on Krishna or other devtas. But now it is becoming centered on bollywood and getting music stars or movie stars. How can we revive the original culture?
Answer: Every age will have its specific cultural expressions. Even in the history of India it is not that all times the same devotional culture was expressed in the same way all times. For example, the principle of sankirtan has been there for long-long time but dancing sankirtan was specially popularized by Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. There were many other bhakti saints but they focused primarily on singing towards the devotion to God. Even now if we see in south Indian temples, there is singing and there are specific artists who may dance but everyone doesn’t dance.
We shouldn’t think of devotional culture as just one particular thing. There are many expressions of that. The specific expressions may change according to time, place and circumstance. For example, in kirtans, in the past they may have used traditional instruments. Now if certain modern instruments can increase the appeal of devotion among people, then in principle, there is nothing wrong in that. Of course there may be some places where the traditional culture is also preserved for example some temples may not want the use of modern instruments in the kirtans that are directly in front of the Deities. But if there are outreach programs where devotees may even use rock music (there are Hare Krishna rock bands also) and through that people may become attracted to Krishna. That’s also one way of attracting towards Krishna. In the same way, if it is that in the villages or else where people are getting attracted to certain things or certain forms of music or certain forms of culture then devotees can use those cultural forms to re attract to Krishna.
The principle of bhakti remains the same but the packaging, the marketing, can vary. For example, we have been presenting in the cities or in the urban areas through the internet but in the past there was no internet. We don’t have acharyas teaching through the internet but internet outreach has become a very important part of today’s culture. So if we are not on the internet we will be left out. In the same way, what specific initiatives to be used, in a particular situation, that will need a firsthand assessment of that particular situation. But we can surely innovate. Like Indradyumna Maharaja has a whole festival of India where in the philosophy is one part of the whole cultural package. If somebody has the enterprising spirit to do something like that, that’s definitely welcome. To some extent, it has greater appeal in the west than in India because it’s so exotic in the west. It’s not familiar to people. In India people may feel we already know these things. But then often they may just know the surface form so they may not about it in-depth. Then we have some educational aspects to it where people can go deeper into things. Specific way in which that can be expressed can vary. For example, Prabhupada said if devotees have hospitals then in the hospital they can have _______. So we have some hospitals which do this. There are some devotees industrialists who have also kirtans in their industries, not just constant kirtan but periodic kirtan programs. That way, things can vary and the specific ways in which people can become attracted towards Krishna they can vary according to time, place and circumstance.
Rather than focusing on some universal formula we do need localized expressions of how in various places Krishna bhakti can be best presented to people and then they can be attracted so that the traditional culture can be at least in some ways preserved. For example, at the time of Bhakti Vinod Thakur, there were popular singing of songs in particular tunes but the songs had no philosophical content. Bhakti Vinod Thakur wrote “baula geeta”. He wrote songs in the same tunes using similar kind of vernacular language but songs filled with devotional import and through that he attracted people to Krishna. That way devotees can be resourceful in presenting cultural Krishna consciousness in appropriate cultural package. Thank you.