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from GBC Members, 2002
By Kalakantha dasa
GBC members began the 2002 meetings in Mayapur, India, this year by summarizing their preaching activities around the world.
Bhaktimarga Maharaja reported that the Toronto Rathayatra was organized last year by ISKCON youths. The Rathayatra is one of the largest in North America. In Toronto, Maharaja turned over the temple management to Mother Subuddhi, Krsna das Prabhu, and Mother Prahara. In Montreal, Vishvambhara Prabhu, a senior devotee has taken over the temple management. A group of immigrant Russian devotees is organizing a farm community one hour from the city. In Ottawa, the temple is near the University of Ottawa where there is a regular dinner program. Maharaja visits all over the country, including St. John’s on the far east coast. Challenges include a lot of encroachment from Narayan Maharaja in Saranagati and some one-sided media coverage of the Turley lawsuit.
Kavichandra Swami reported that in Bali the national Hindu council have become more friendly toward the devotees and invite us for kirtan at all their functions. On the other side of Indonesia, Bhakti Raghava Swami and Gaura Mandala Bhumi Prabhu have started a self-sufficient community that is making progress. In Japan, the temple is holding steady. In Israel, the large Russian community (one million) includes many devotees. Guna Avatar Prabhu is preaching actively there. Visiting devotees are welcome.
Kavichandra Swami also gave a report for West Africa. In Nigeria the devotees held a national festival attracting several hundred devotees. The children there are particularly enthusiastic to chant. A famous television musician there likes devotees and has attracted people to Krsna consciousness. In Ghana the devotees have started a school, bringing some 85 children from a nearby village. The children, including those from Muslim families, come every morning for the temple program and take prasadam at lunch. On the Ivory Coast, the media is very receptive. French speaking devotees are welcome.
Bir Krishna Goswami reported that he passed a year of Vaishnava appreciation; serving the Vaishnavas and appreciating the Vaishnavas who are serving Srila Prabhupada so nicely. "We toured South India and of all the many historical temples there," Bir Krishna Goswami reported. "The ISKCON Tirupati temple was the best. The temple president, Revati Raman Prabhu, was most hospitable and well-trained, making the whole atmosphere very attractive." Bir Krishna Maharaja reported that in Hillsboro, North Carolina, the congregation has purchased seven acres across the street from the present temple. They have committed to help build a $2 million temple/school facility there, featuring Vedic architecture. Bhakti Caru Swami has spent much time in Hillsboro, which has been enlivening to all.
Bir Krishna Maharaja also reported that in Fiji the congregation is preparing to build a new $1 million temple in Suva. The devotees there are particularly hospitable. A small meal there is 75 courses. The devotees there have been wonderfully trained by Tamal Krsna Goswami and welcome any devotees to visit. In Atlanta, Hrdayananda Maharaja is helping reconstruct one of the old buildings on the temple property and making plans to develop preaching there. New Orleans is carrying on steadily. In Slovenia, the devotees have decided to keep their present location, a wonderfully located building in the center of town. The congregation is largely professionals, including PhDs, architects, and other influential people. Bir Krishna Maharaja intends to continue helping there and in other areas that suffered from the loss of their former GBC.
Bhakti Svarupa Damodar Swami said he visited Spain and appreciated the sincerity of the devotees there. Unfortunately, he became quite ill there and went to France to recuperate. There again he was unable to recover and had to go to Bangalore for special treatment. He has recovered now and has subsequently published Thoughts on the Synthesis of Science and Religion, a major new book. In September Maharaja visited Switzerland to counsel the family of a friend who had passed away. While there he met with leading scientists. Switzerland has just six million people and yet has produced eleven Nobel Prize winners. He met some of these leading scientists and enjoyed the hospitality of the devotees in Zurich.
After the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001, Bhakti Svarupa Damodara Maharaja became more involved in interfaith preaching. Maharaja was an invited delegate to the United Nations world religion conference October 10th. Maharaja met there with Pradyumna Prabhu, who is also active in interfaith preaching. Recognizing Maharaja’s Vaishnava dress, many people asked him to perform kirtan to encourage peace.
Maharaja also visited Bali for an Asian-Pacific interfaith summit, where he helped organize the devotees and spoke at the home of Indonesia’s former president. Maharaja took place in a Rathayatra procession with an ecstatic kirtan that attracted a large following.
In January, Bhakti Svarupa Damodara Maharaja took part in a Day of Payer sponsored by the Vatican in Assisi, Italy. This inter-religious meeting was significant in that the media highlighted the Pope’s accepting one day with a vegetarian diet and no alcoholic beverages. The Franciscan monks were very gentle and gracious.
Maharaja closed his year by lecturing on his new book at Indian Institute of Technology campuses throughout the country. Bhakti Svarupa Damodara Maharaja also met with scientists in Madras studying the recent discovery of a ten-thousand year old city in Gujarat. He also opened a new ISKCON temple at Vijaywalla not far from Tirupati on the banks of the Krishna River.
Bhaktivaibhava Maharaja next gave his report. Last year he traveled for nine months throughout his zone in Europe and Russia. One of the highlights of his travels was in Mongolia, where men do not grow beards – very convenient for the bhakta program, he said humorously. The devotees held programs in the capital that attracted up to 200 people. The people of Mongolia particularly love prasadam, and a nama hatta group has been formed in this new field that attracts 30 people a week. Fifteen devotees there have now vowed to chant Hare Krishna every day.
Bhaktivaibhava Maharaja reported that in the Czech Republic some fundamental legal problems have been resolved. Druta Karma Prabhu did an extremely successful anti-Darwin tour, including several press conferences that generated very positive newspaper, radio, and TV coverage. Over 2500 copies of Forbidden Archeology in Czech have sold. The devotees in Prague have daily Harinama and are presently searching for a larger building to accommodate more educational program. Last year 96,000 books were sold, with 74 devotees selling 12,000 books in just 8 days during the marathon. The two restaurants sold 220,000 plates of prasadam. A third one is now open in Slovakia. The farm project in Czech Republic harvested 12 tons of wheat and potatoes, and tons of flour were sold. Hundreds of preaching programs have been held, including exhibitions at the Czech Lions club where only prasadam is served to the VIPs. The devotees have built up a very successful catering business that is engaging many grhasthas. They hope to market a few prasadam food products through other channels.
This year, while flying to India on the conservative Lufthansa airlines, Maharaja was shocked to be singled out as the plane boarded. The stewardess stood at the head of the crowd waiting to go on the plane, looked at Maharaja and his companions, and announced, "Hare Krishna monks first!" Maharaja couldn’t believe it, but she repeated, "Hare Krishna monks first!" Maharaja walked on, much to the surprise of the German businessmen standing by.
Madhusevita Prabhu reported about preaching in Italy. The Villigio Hare Krishna community in Northern Italy continued to distribute books successfully and maintain a very high class restaurant in Milan. The local people have also come to appreciate the devotees for opening a public swimming pool. "Eleven schools send a total of one thousand children to us so the children can learn to swim," Madhusevita Prabhu said. "Every night the devotees put Ganga water and water from the 1008 holy places in the pool. People often comment, ‘When I get out I feel so much lighter!’"
The people are very hungry when they get out and they cannot resist the devotees’ bakery where many professionally produced products are sold.
Madhusevita Prabhu said that the devotees built a new goshalla for their small herd. Villa Vrindavan is also being restored. The building is safeguarded by certain laws as an historical landmark. The devotees have found a person with the knowledge to restore it in a way to reveal its jewel-like qualities. A restaurant is being planned that will seat 108, and a guest house and bakery to be built as well. It should be completed in two years.
In Rome there is a new center, close to the Vatican, with a restaurant. It is run by brahmacaris and attracts many new devotees. A second center, with a cultural emphasis, is being run nearby by a disciple of Bhakti Svarupa Damodar Swami. Regular Harinama and other basic preaching go on in the heart of Rome.
Madhusevita Prabhu said that Radhadesh is going very well. A wonderful guest house, which matches the original stone of the castle, will be completed soon. The devotees set a standard for Vaishnava etiquette. Mahaprabhu das, son of a famous painter, is donating significant amounts of laxmi to develop the project. Thousands of tourists come each year.
Madhusevita’s mother in law passed away this year. She refused to chant or even say Hare Krishna or call her daughter by her spiritual name, and she would not talk about philosophy. But when she became ill she suddenly grew deeply absorbed in Krsna consciousness. She began chanting and desired only to associate with the devotees. She completely gave up the association of her high-class friends in Torin. For three months she practically chanted Hare Krishna 24 hours a day as her cancer rapidly consumed her body. At the end she opened her eyes widely as if seeing a beautiful vision and peacefully passed away while hearing kirtan. It was a miraculous event.
Bhakti Caru Swami reported he was involved primarily with producing Abhay Caran videos. He has not been as involved in active preaching as before, but he still managed to travel widely in the US this year helping raise funds for the Turley legal defense through friend-raising and educational programs. Many people pledged to donate $100 monthly for a year, amounting to tens of thousands of dollars to protect Srila Prabhupada’s names.
Bhakti Caru Maharaja also traveled extensively in Europe, presenting seminars on Vaishnava heritage and philosophy. In India he came to Calcutta on short notice three times to help recover the Calcutta temple and to participate in the Calcutta Rathayatra. In Bombay he established a post-production studio for Abhay Caran and commercial use for Disney and Discovery Channel. Three dignitaries, including a movie star, a political leader and a large Muslim youth organization leader attended the studio opening.
Guru Prasad Swami noted progress in Mexico where many new devotees have joined. Ramai Swami and Devamrta Swami visited and enlivened the young bhaktas. Book distribution has remained strong there. Big book distribution has increased, including several thousand Spanish Bhagavad-gitas and forty sets of Bhagavatams, sold to guests. In Monterey some eighty devotees, forty initiated, have opened a temple in a nice building in a central location. Forty guests attend evening Bhagavad-gita classes each day. Preaching centers are set to open this year. Some 400 initiated devotees live in Mexico.
Things are more difficult in Central America, however. Guru Prasada Swami said that El Salvador needs leadership, but there is a dedicated core that keeps the temple open. There is a small but growing congregation in Nicaragua, where there is 50% unemployment. In El Salvador there are some eight Gaudiya Math groups as well as ISKCON. The temple is run by a dedicated group of devotees that keep it steadily progressing. Maharaja worked with Havi Prabhu to open a new temple in Venezuela, but it was not able to stay open. Gaudiya Math competition was a factor, largely because of the easy initiations offered by them.
In Colombia there is a preaching center in Cali and a temple reopening in Bogota. Kapila Prabhu, the oldest active devotee in Columbia, is going to lead it. In Trinidad and Tobago there is a small, self-sufficient farm community that runs without electricity.
Guru Prasada Maharaja stays in his zone because it requires a lot of his personal attention. He conducted roughly forty TV programs, fifty radio interviews, and fifty newspaper interviews during the year.
Devamrita Swami said he works in the west side of South America, including Chile, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. He took intensive Spanish courses to help his preaching. In Peru the yatra has grown weaker over the years and lost its registration as an official religion. Maharaja managed to recover it this year and has taken steps to revive the temples’ preaching spirit. In Ecuador he took steps to recover registration and protect the ISKCON property. He also visited Brazil, Spain, and Russia. The opportunity to return to Russia afforded him a chance to work with older devotees, which he found rewarding for his heart.
To stimulate his intellect, Devamrta Maharaja has preached at IIT Bombay several times. Also, this month Maharaja will be publishing "The History of Vedic India" which attempts to contrast the mundane view of Indian history with the Vedic version.
Praghosa Prabhu reported that the Irish devotees bought a house in suburban Dublin to serve as a Sankirtan base. The Irish party distributed about 10,000 medium books this year. In addition, the yatra has a steady Saturday afternoon Harinam in Dublin and ongoing college preaching. The lectures were arranged by a Christian interfaith leader, a dozen all together this year. Eight groups participate in these lectures, but the devotees received top rating from 85% of the students. The devotees also do prasadam distribution in the city and are hoping to secure a new temple there. They cater a World Vegetarian Day in Dublin and have been invited to be part of the leadership of the project.
In Belfast, interfaith is an important issue. A devotee’s face appears prominently on the national interfaith promotional campaign throughout the country.
In France, Pradhosa said that the devotees have struggled to find a new building to use as a combination temple/restaurant. In New Mayapur, the temple has been listed on a list of tourist destinations which has helped stimulate the yatra. Paris Rathayatra was particularly successful this year, with help from Kadamba Kanana Swami.
Niranjana Maharaja reported that he spent a month at Bhaktivedanta Hospital where he enjoyed the healing power of Vaishnava sanga. After that, he traveled and preached for the rest of the year with Godbrothers, including Bhakti Caitanya Maharaja, Devamrta Maharaja, and Teijyas Prabhu, as well as B.B. Govinda Maharaja and Bhakti Vijnana Maharaja.
One of the highlights of his year was the festival at which Bhakti Vijnana Maharaja (formerly Vaidyanath Prabhu) and Bhakti Vaidurya Madhava Maharaja (formerly Maha Mantra Prabhu) accepted the renounced order of life. More than 800 devotees attended the ceremony and all were deeply struck by the auspicious ceremony.
Niranjana Swami visits some 45 cities in Russia each year, mostly speaking in the temples and encouraging the devotees. In Ukraine, Acutya Priya Prabhu has organized 15 temples and 16 nama hattas throughout the country. Our emphasis there is to bring the devotees together and train them in basic Krsna conscious association and activities. Acutya Priya brings the leaders of all the temples together for one week each month for kirtan, bhajans, classes, and seminars to each other. The last day they talk about management. In Kiev, the main temple, the devotees have organized a counselor system modeled after the Chowpatty system in which older devotees take responsibility for newcomers.
Niranjana Swami said that in the last year he concentrated on the Holy Name by chanting with devotees and preaching about the Holy Name. By doing this he discovered a marked difference: usually, devotees would line up with their problems, but in this case devotees began lining up with questions about the Holy Name. More focus on the Holy Name is proving to be the solution to our problems. "I am very grateful to be part of Srila Prabhupada’s wonderful movement," he concluded.
Sesa Prabhu reported that he had plenty to do in Alachua, Florida, and didn’t need to travel much. In Alachua, the devotees, with encouragement from Mother Nanda and Krsna Kripa Prabhu, maintain regular Harinama and book distribution. Alachua has a number of devotional schools, and Sesa works with them all to help develop them as models for other communities. The schools include Mother Laxmimoni’s ashram school, which maintains a high standard of devotional enthusiasm. A day school project, headed by Mother Nataka Chandra, has attracted three gurukula graduates to come back to share their Krsna conscious experiences with young devotee children. A government funded charter school educates 113 children, 100 from devotee families, are taught by a nearly all-devotee staff. That affords a good education for children whose parents who can’t afford gurukula tuition.
Future plans in Northern Florida include a boy’s ashram headed by Ritadvaja Swami. Sesa also hopes to encourage older, experienced devotees who are finishing their household careers to reactivate their preaching careers.
Bhakti Caitanya Swami joked that he has a large contiguous zone which stretches from South Africa to Mermansk (in the Arctic Circle) and all the way to Siberia and the East Coast of Russia. In Mermansk, the devotees produce thousands of cakes (such as the Mayapur cake, the Vrindavan cake, the Radhe Shyam cake) which are incredibly popular. The prasadam sales support the entire temple. In Africa, much of Maharaja’s area is in turmoil and preaching is very limited. One exception is Mozambique. It is on the east coast of Africa just north of South Africa. It is one of the poorest countries in the world. Two devotee families are preaching there, and the local people are extremely attracted.
In South Africa, the preaching is strongly established and has been going for over 30 years. The Durban Food for Life distributes one million plates per year and has made the devotees extremely famous. The president of the country attended the Rathayatra festival a few years ago and distributed the Food for Life prasadam, calling it the real "development and relief" for the country. At the Rathayatra each year, over 100,000 plates of prasadam are served, and two questions and answers booths go non-stop for four days.
Bhakti Caitanya Swami said that in Durban, the devotees are opening a second temple in the suburb of Phoenix, to complement the extremely popular temple already in place. The bottom floor of the new temple, which is over 8500 square feet, is already open and in use.
Balabhadra Prabhu, head of ISKCON’s Ministry of Cow Protection and Agriculture, said he is returning to Mayapur for the first time in 20 years. To further his work as director of the ISKCON Ministry of Cow Protection and Agriculture, Balabhadra Prabhu spent a month visiting Goshallas in and out of ISKCON throughout India. In Delhi he met with the director of a 232 member-organization coalition protesting the increasing numbers of slaughterhouses in India. This organization is targeting the importance of bulls in Indian culture. Balabhadra spoke at their conference, presenting verses from Srimad-Bhagavatam emphasizing the importance of cow protection.
Balabhadra inspected ISKCON goshallas in Vrindavan and Jaipur. One organization in Jaipur has developed a number of successful medicines through cow urine and energy production through cow dung. This and other organizations are trying to reintroduce the importance of the cow and bull through holistic application of agriculture principles.
Balabhadra (and his family) then enjoyed a visit to Chowpatty temple, followed by a tour of Mother Labangalatika’s small-scale cow-protection project near Bombay. Next was Tirupati, where Revati Rama Prabhu keeps a well-organized temple and small cow protection program. The devotees toured the goshalla kept by the Balaji temple.
B.B. Govinda Maharaja then reported his highlights for the year, which included three wonderful festivals in Hungary (New Vraja Dham) with 12 hours of kirtan on Janmastami.
In the Volga region of Russia, Maharaja and a team of devotees went to a folk music festival attended by up to 300,000 people. The devotees have a tent each year at the festival, and many kids have grown up with the Hare Krishnas and spend nearly the whole festival at the tent. Each night devotees’ kirtan begins at 9:00 PM and goes until 5:00 AM, because the kids won’t let them stop.
B.B. Govinda Maharaja also commented on the wonderful affection and love flowing among the devotees attending the sannyas festival in Moscow.
At the Ukraine festival, over 1200 devotees attended and heard from many of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples, including Sruti Kirti Prabhu.
In Kazaksthan, the devotees acquired a property in the center of the capital and developed a beautiful preaching center in restaurant opened in the end of November. Since then, 50 to 60 clients a day eat in the restaurant, and courses for the congregation as well as newcomers are becoming very successful. The devotees have a farm community about 40 kilometers out of the city, in which 75 devotees live. This year, they harvested 50 tons of wheat, 30 tons of barley, and tons and tons of potatoes, carrots, and other vegetables that see them through the winter.
The devotees have also rented nearby land and expect to harvest 200 tons of wheat this year. This will help maintain some of the devotees. They also produce and sell 1300 sweets a day. The farm also has 20 bulls, cows, and calves.
This year, the wife of the president of the country requested Maharaja to meet her at the President’s house. They met for two hours.
Maharaja also helped develop centers in other Central Asian republics. Maharaja met the chief Imam (Muslim priest) of Uzbekistan. They spent four hours together discussing philosophy and parted very close friends.
Many devotees are joining in these countries. Maharaja brought 45 devotees from Kazakastan on a one month parikrama around India this year – the first time any of them have been out of the country.
Although this region is very poor, the devotees managed to distribute 10,000 books this year with good collections.
GBC member Badrinarayan Prabhu reported that in Utah, two devotees, Caru and Vaibhavi, opened an incredible new temple and over 5,000 guests attended. Their preaching with the Mormons has been so successful that, when Badrinarayan Prabhu went to the local K-mart in his Vaishnava attire, all the cashiers and other shoppers were giving him ‘thumbs-up’ signs and asked about the installation. The President of Brigham Young University was having trouble with his teenage son. Having tried everything else, he steered his son to Krishna consciousness. The boy is now chanting 16 rounds. The President is so pleased that he had a student volunteer group dig a kund for the new temple.
The devotees have opened a new temple in Las Vegas.
In Los Angeles, the airport was closed after 9/11. Still, in 2001 they have remitted $325,000 to BBT, a 25% increase over the last year. The gift shop did $800,000 last year and the restaurant $360,000. Hollywood actor Danny Devito regularly calls the restaurant and says, "Hey Acarya, what’s good today?" Last week he pulled up at the restaurant with Arnold Schwartzenegger. Gwyneth Paltrow and Susan Sarandon regularly eat and shop there.
The Fate Museum is open and has attracted 4,000 paying visitors since reopening in October. The temple is planning to develop a guest house and build a matching façade over the existing temple and the entire complex. Bus tours are beginning to come in with tourists to visit, eat, and shop at Govinda’s.
Badrinarayan Prabhu also reported that in San Diego the devotees purchased 24 acres of land about 40 minutes from town. With years of persistence and 50 pounds of burfy and sandesh the devotees turned a 1-6 denial to a unanimous approval for construction of a Vedic temple designed by the Mayapur temple architects. The next phase of construction is road improvements and grading, which will cost a lot of money.
ISKCON Communications Minister, Anuttama Prabhu, said he aims to serve the devotees in various GBC zones around the world. Communications is meant to create favorable environments for preaching to go on, which usually means creating strong relationships with people who can either help or hurt us. Anuttama said that the principles of ISKCON Communications include consistency with Srila Prabhupada’s teachings and flexibility according to time, place, and circumstances.
To achieve this over the last year, Anuttama traveled widely presenting a four-day course on Communications in India, England, Germany, Russia, Argentina, Brazil, and the USA — a total of 13 times (with help from two associates).
Anuttama also appeared on several major TV shows and other media outlets responding to the Turley lawsuit. He also participated in several major interfaith events. He also took part in the American Family Foundation (anti-cult group), showing a Chinese propaganda film demonstrating government techniques for releasing members of the Falun Gong ‘cult.’ He helped organize a Family and Youth conference in Alachua and a conference of devotees trained in mental and social services.
New York GBC member Romapada Swami observed that, after Sept. 11, the bubble of security in NYC was burst. The streets were empty for several days. Then, gradually, various types of altars began to appear on street corners representing various religions. Small kirtan or bhajan parties chanted at many of these street corner altars. This allowed the devotees to reach many people A few days later a larger group of devotees went out and sat in circle and attracted hundreds of pedestrians.
Romapada Maharaja got special help from Mahamuni Prabhu in St. Louis and Kalki Prabhu in Chicago, Srila Prabhupada disciples who are coming back to ISKCON in responsible roles. Similarly, Prthusrava Prabhu and his wife Mother Danakeli are setting up a permanent preaching center at the University of Illinois at Champaign/Urbana.
Personally, Maharaja has been involved in setting up Bhakti Yoga clubs on various campuses and strategically located Bhakti Vrksa chapters in the Midwest. Devotees in Chicago are actively pursuing an 11 acre suburban site for a new temple.
In New Jersey the devotees finally won a court case to gain tax exemption for the temple, Romapada Swami said. The devotees are considering relocating to a larger facility in order to accommodate their rapidly growing congregation.
Bhakti Vijnana Swami, formerly Vaidyanatha Prabhu, reported that the Moscow temple is vibrant and growing. About 200 devotees come for Srimad-Bhagavatam class every day. There are school programs nearly every day. School children come and dance and chant. City tourist buses stop at the temple. The temple distributed some 50,000 books during the marathon, a 58% increase from last year.
The new Russian Bhagavad-gita has come out. The old one, printed in Sweden during the communist era, had translation errors, yet sold some 10 million copies. The new version sold 2500 copies in its first two days.
The devotees hold festivals that attract up to 3000 people. Congregational preaching is going strongly, including among Moscow’s Indian population.
Bhakti Vijnana Swami said that throughout Russia, devotees earn money by producing and selling cakes. There are five such businesses in Moscow. One of them produced over 2 million pounds of cakes last year. Furthermore, Kirtiraj Prabhu came to Moscow to help the devotees locate possible alternative temple facilities. He led some gatherings in which the first Russian devotees shared with the many newcomers their pioneering experiences.
To accommodate the growing number of devotees in Moscow the leaders have organized a charity called the Garuda Foundation.
The Prime Minister of India gave the devotees a lot of recognition and support during his visit to Moscow, which greatly helped the devotees in the eyes of the government.
Among other events, ISKCON’s Russian leaders held a chanting and educational festival in October that attracted nearly 3000 devotees. Bhakti Vijnana Swami reported that to raise the spiritual standards among the devotees, the Russian leaders implemented classes in Bhakti Sastri. One hundred devotees achieved their degree this year. In addition they established special training programs for leading devotees, which proved very attractive in terms of sanga and inspiration.
GBC member Prabhavishnu Swami reported that in New Zealand Devamrta Swami had set up a ‘loft’ preaching center in Wellington, the capital, which attracts people through hatha yoga and Bhagavad-gita classes. In Auckland, construction of a large Vedic temple continues, with completion likely in 2-3 years. In Australia, the temples are stable, with restaurants, Rathayatras, and congregational preaching going in all major cities.
In Malaysia, the devotees have about 15 temples, all of which hold Rathayatras. Congregational preaching, though Jayapataka Swami’s inspiration, has spread throughout the country. At a major renovation opening ceremony in Kuala Lumpur this year, all the money needed for the renovation was pledged.
Prabhavisnu Swami also said that in Myanmar (formerly Burma), local devotees are able to preach, although foreigners are not. There are about 500 devotees in the country, mostly grhasthas, who preach actively. The devotees have completed a Burmese translation of the Bhagavad-gita, and the government is considering approval of its publication. In Bangladesh, a newer, more conservative government is more repressive to Hinduism, but ISKCON continues to function. There are 15 temples and many Nama Hatta groups. Many people have donated properties to ISKCON, including historical properties associated with Rupa and Sanatana Goswami and Haridas Thakur.
Prabhavisnu Swami is also the GBC for Nepal, where governmental turmoil has affected the temples’ ability to function. Many businessmen have left the country, as have many devotees.
In Varanasi, the devotees have been given a nice piece of land and a donation for covering legal transfer expenses. In Patna, devotees have established a temple in the family home of Radha Jivana Prabhu from Alachua.
In Russia, Maharaja oversees a 200-devotee farm community in the Caucasus Mountains, which is developing successfully.
Prthu Prabhu said he has developed a vigorous community in Portland, Oregon (USA) which has many enthusiastic young devotees and guests. He also said that Murari Sevaka is attracting help from senior devotees, including Hrdayananda Maharaja, Balavanta Prabhu, Mangalananda Prabhu, and Gayatri Prabhu.
In New York a number of Prthu Prabhu’s disciples distributed many books, ranking second only to Los Angeles in annual distribution. He told two miraculous stories of his preaching contacts from September 11.
One friend of the devotees, Bhakta Larry, worked on the 102nd floor of the World Trade Center. Following some instinct, he went downstairs five minutes before the terrorist impact and was saved. Another friend of the devotees took an unprecedented day off and was spared. In both cases, everyone else in their companies was killed.
In Germany, the devotee population has dwindled since Harikesh’s departure. However, things are on the way up. A recent legal threat from a government tax office has been resolved. Interest in Gaudiya Math groups is waning. ISKCON preaching is gradually increasing in many areas.
GBC member Gopal Krishna Maharaja next reported that in Delhi, the Russian ambassador attended the new Hare Krishna museum. He was so pleased that he now sends all visiting Russian dignitaries. The government tourist offices have placed the temple/museum on all its tourist maps and advisory lists.
In Juhu, the congregation has purchased all the tenants’ rights to the Hare Krishna land flats. The devotees are planning a major new educational and cultural center.
Also in Bombay, Srila Prabhupada’s disciple Haridas Prabhu has established a regular program in morning prime time (7:30 – 8:30 AM) on Star Plus, a major satellite TV network in Asia. They are serializing Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita As It Is.
Gopal Krishna Maharaja said that in Kurukshetra the devotees completed what is perhaps the largest Rathayatra festival in history. In a series of 31 consecutive programs, the Lord moved all the way from Kuruksetra to Vrindavan. The entire event was a big success, all organized by ISKCON congregations in Hayana, Delhi and Kuruksetra. Congregational devotees also arranged Rathayatras in other Indian cities which have no temples.
In Gujarat, Gopal Krishna Maharaja said, ISKCON has a major new temple in Surat as well as many other developing projects.
In Africa, with help from our late Godbrother Tribhuvanath Prabhu, devotees have established a beautiful new temple in Uganda. In Nairobi, the temple is also very beautiful and features a major Food for Life program which serves 2000 people daily.
Gopal Krishna Maharaja also said that a translation of the Bhagavad-gita As It Is has been completed in Swahili and that in Russia he oversees the "Golden Ring" area that has five temples. In one of them, the devotees have opened a three-story gurukula. There are 35 students from all over Russia.
Sivarama Swami reported that in May he returned to Europe, where the French government has been actively exporting anti-cult propaganda. Hungary, where Maharaja preaches, has Europe’s most liberal constitution. However, the government was on the verge of passing a draconian measure restricting tax exemption and other religious rights to four Christian religions. It appeared the measure would pass, but due to the tenacious lobbying of ISKCON Hungary’s communications team, the measure failed.
Tribhuvanath Prabhu, one of Maharaja’s dear friends and a leading preacher in the UK and Africa, passed away this year at the flat of one of Maharaja’s disciples in Brazil. Maharaja helped organize a memorial festival in which over 500 devotees participated.
At the farm New Vraja Dham in Hungary, more than 20,000 tourists have come this year. In course of time one of the tour bus drivers became a devotee. He would bring in the guests, pay his obeisances, and tell the guests to do the same. Before long the driver began to bring the buses on his own. Finally the bus company began to complain and asked the devotees not to let him in if he brought the company bus. Shortly afterward, the devotees had a two-day festival.
Sivarama Swami concluded by saying that in the UK, some 70,000 people attended Janmastami at the Bhaktivedanta Manor.
Radhanatha Swami said he visited Moscow and found the enthusiasm of the devotees overwhelming. He credits Srila Prabhupada’s mercy on Bhakti Vijnana Maharaja. In Ukraine, Maharaja found a thriving yatra of Krsna consciousness. His tours of Europe and the US left him enthused about the development of Krishna consciousness.
New Vrindavan’s struggle, survival, and return to ISKCON, according to Radhanatha Swami, is an unprecedented triumph of Srila Prabhupada’s mercy over tremendous obstacles. The day Kuladri Prabhu returned to the presidency after fourteen years absence, it seemed as if he had been gone for just a day.
In Columbus, Ohio, the temple consists largely of ISKCON gurukula graduates who are deeply devoted to Srila Prabhupada.
In Chowpatty, Mumbai, India, the temple came in number two for the world in book distribution. (Juhu, also in Mumbai, was first). There are 70 full time brahmacaris who are holding weekly programs at 30 colleges in Bombay, each with 10 to 50 students chanting 16 rounds. There are a dozen nama hattas centers in Maharastra, each with 200 to 300 members.
Radhanath Swami said that the Bhaktivedanta Hospital in India is attracting dozens of new devotees through its staff, patients, and the relatives of the staff and devotees.
About 2000 devotees from Chowpatty went to the Rathayatra in Jagannatha Puri. Seeing the ISKCON devotees had the most enthusiastic kirtan, the MC announced, "Lord Jagannath has brought these foreign devotees of ISKCON to show us the meaning of real devotion." The next day the pandas gave two ropes exclusively for ISKCON, and with other visitors leaving, it appeared that the entire event was an ISKCON festival.
© CHAKRA 5 March 2002
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