This year, ISKCON leaders and centers are celebrating ISKCON’s 50th anniversary. ISKCON news sites feature constant stories about this ongoing 50-themed celebration. A host of new films, and innumerable events around the world promote ISKCON 50. The unvarying mood of these announcements, stories, films, and events is festive, self-confident, and self-congratulatory.
Just a few days ago, the GBC hosted over a thousand leaders at the ISKCON Leadership Sanga. Here too, the theme was ISKCON 50, and the mood was uniformly celebratory and optimistic.
If all one’s knowledge of ISKCON came only from these sources, one would naturally conclude that ISKCON’s mission was a wonderful success all over the world. The flood of announcements, stories, films, and events, show hardly a hint of self-criticism, or even objective self-analysis.
My purpose here is not to criticize the ISKCON 50 celebrations. A birthday party is generally not the time to criticically analyze the person or institution whose birthday we are celebrating. Tough, critical analysis at a birthday celebration would seem inappropriate, or offensive.
It is not by accident or innocent oversight, that no one connected with the ISKCON 50 celebrations has interviewed me, asked me for a statement, or included me in any film or story about ISKCON 50. To my knowledge, not a single ISKCON 50 event, article, film, or story has spoken a word about Krishna West. Given the nature of the ISKCON 50 celebrations, and the nature of my preaching in the last several years, the reasons seem clear.
Prabhupada used to say at our annual Gaura Purnima festivals in Mayapura, that this was the time of year to make our plans for preaching and service in the upcoming Caitanya year. Tomorrow is Gaura Purnima, and even if Krishna West has been systematically excluded from official ISKCON 50 events, many of us hold a rational belief that Krishna West is ISKCON’s best chance to regain its relevance in the western world, presently the most influential region in the world. A few years ago, we began a Krishna West program in North America, and I am happy to report that this program has made extraordinary progress and is bringing many intelligent young people to Krishna. Similar programs are succeeding around the world. Throughout North America and Latin America, in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and other areas, thousands of devotees have found new inspiration and faith in Krishna consciousness through Krishna West. And many new people are attracted. Krishna West works!
I want to emphasize that the Krishna West mission is not to fight with other devotees, nor engage in endless debates with them, nor criticize ISKCON and its leaders, nor lend a sour note to the 50th anniversary celebrations. Our mission is to bring Krishna to the world in a powerful way. Krishna West focuses on bringing people to Krishna, especially in the Western and Westernized world. Therefore I sincerely request all of my many friends around the world to take advantage of this holy time of year and, as Prabhupada ordered us, make a beautiful plan to spread Krishna consciousness in the new Caitanya year.
Of course, we must not neglect our own spiritual advancement. This is also the time of year to meditate intensely on our personal relationship with Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Krishna Himself. Srila Prabhupada has mercifully made possible our relationship with the Lord. The Lord Himself explains that our devotion to Him is like a flowering creeper that grows in the garden of our heart. At this time, let us all joyfully enter our gardens, pull out some weeds, and lovingly water and nurture our bhakti.
Ultimately our external and internal purposes, preaching and personal progress, are two facets of the same Krishna consciousness. One feeds the other with perfect spiritual reciprocity.
Thank you for this opportunity to speak to you on this most auspicious occasion. May Lord Caitanya bless all of us!
With best wishes,
Hridayananda dasa Goswami