Sunday, May 29, 2016

Akshaya Patra Foundation, Chinese scientist, Mongolian actor honored

From left: Nikkei Asia Prize recipients Dogmid Sosorbaram, Madhu Pandit Dasa from the Akshaya Patra Foundation and Jiang Lei at the awards ceremony in Tokyo on May 29
Nikkei Asia Review: TOKYO - A foundation that provides free lunches to school children in India, a Chinese scientist who specializes in biomimetics, and a Mongolian performing artist who helped usher his country toward democracy were awarded this year's Nikkei Asia Prizes at a ceremony in Tokyo on Sunday.

The awards, now in their 21st year, are given to those who are making a difference in the Asian region. "The world is facing many uncertainties," said Fujio Mitarai, chairman of the selection committee and head of the influential Japanese business lobby Keidanren. "Therefore, it is becoming increasingly important to shed light on knowledge and activities that can be shared across the globe. The winners fit that bill."

The Akshaya Patra Foundation, which serves daily meals to 1.5 million children at 11,000 schools across India, was recognized for economic and business innovation. During the ceremony, Chairman Madhu Pandit Dasa said: "Akshaya Patra firmly believes that every nation's destiny is in the quality of life that it offers to its children. Not only the destiny of nations but the destiny of our entire civilization, especially so when the world is moving toward a single global economic village."

Dasa, the chief priest at a well-known Hindu temple, founded the nongovernmental organization in 2001. Today, it runs 24 central kitchens in 10 of India's 29 states. It has no religious agenda and provides meals to Muslim schools as well.

"According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, out of 794.6 million hungry people in the world, 195 million are in India," Dasa said. "India is home to a quarter of the undernourished population in the world. Why this hunger and poverty? Did God create this? No, this is created by human beings and can be solved only by humans, with God's grace."

Dasa stressed that people are not powerless to change this dire situation. "We can unleash the compensating force of compassion in the hearts of the rich to share their wealth, at least to meet the basic needs of humanity." His foundation aims to serve 5 million children by 2020, and is building eight more central kitchens. "Our aspiration is that no child in India should go hungry, and that hunger should not be an impediment for education."

Natural inspiration

Jiang Lei, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Technical Institute of Physics and Chemistry, took the science and technology prize. Jiang is known for his research on the way living organisms work, and his findings have paved the way for materials that mimic those features. Using carbon nanotubes, for example, he artificially recreated extremely water-repellent structures based on the legs of pond skaters. These structures can be used as coating materials to protect delicate objects.

Another significant achievement was the recreation of the surface structure of fish scales, which repel oil and dirt. The results are now used to protect ship hulls. "Over 700 vessels that navigate the seas use my technology," Jiang said.

The scientist spent time in Japan during the 1990s and said he took inspiration from Japanese research methods. "The Japanese way of research thinks of the application of that research from the very beginning," he said. During his remarks, Jiang showed the audience a famous painting by surrealist artist Rene Magritte. The piece, called "Clairvoyance," depicts a man painting a picture of a bird while looking at an egg. "What this man is doing," Jiang said, "is what I do in the world of biology."

The culture and community award, meanwhile, went to Dogmid Sosorbaram, a Mongolian actor, singer and former political activist. He is the first Mongolian to win a Nikkei Asia Prize.

The art of change

Born in 1958 into a nomadic family in southern central Mongolia, Sosorbaram spent much of his youth sitting astride his horse and singing songs. He went on to major in theatrical performance at university, and subsequently became a key figure in the pro-democracy movement that gathered momentum in 1989.

Reciting poems and singing at political rallies, he helped to unify opposition parties into the currently governing Democratic Party. At the party's first national convention, held in February 1990, he was the opening speaker.

"I am merely an actor, a singer and a director, but I take pride in being one of the first members of Mongolia's democratic movement," he said in his acceptance speech. "I also feel pleasure in deepening mutual understanding between Mongolian and Japanese arts and culture." Sosorbaram then wowed the audience with a traditional Mongolian folk performance.

The Nikkei Asia Prizes were created in 1996 to commemorate the 120th anniversary of Nikkei Inc.'s main Japanese-language newspaper, The Nikkei. Past winners include professor Yuan Longping, the Chinese father of hybrid rice, in 1996; Dr. Manmohan Singh, who won in 1997 and would later become prime minister of India; and Dr. Muhammad Yunus, managing director of Grameen Bank, who was honored in 2004 and received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006.

More Info: http://www.nikkei-events.jp/asiaprizes/en/index.html

Saturday, May 28, 2016

50 Year Full Circle for ISKCON's Acarya

ISKCON IRM: Back To Prabhupada, Issue 50, Winter 2015/16

The last 50 years have seen the position of the "Acarya" in ISKCON undergo various changes. Here we undertake a review of these changes to reveal how dramatically, on the 50th anniversary of ISKCON, these changes have actually come full circle!

1966: The Acarya

The first title Srila Prabhupada ever used, as soon as he founded ISKCON, was "Acarya". ISKCON's founding document, the "Constitution of ISKCON", displays Srila Prabhupada's position simply as "A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, Acharya". And his first personal ISKCON letterhead stationery after ISKCON's founding displays his position simply as "Acharya: Swami A.C. Bhaktivedanta". And he continued to use just the "Acarya" title for a few years more on letterheads, within letters and on banking accounts. Therefore, reflecting his position as both the Acarya and Founder of ISKCON, the title "Founder-Acarya" was adopted. Srila Prabhupada's role in ISKCON, due to his position as the "Acarya", means that he also acts as the diksa guru, as Srila Prabhupada states in Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila, 1.46. And from 1966 onwards, Srila Prabhupada did indeed act as the only diksa guru for the whole of ISKCON.
Thus, Srila Prabhupada is established as ISKCON's Founder, Acarya and diksa guru.

1978: New Acaryas

Following Srila Prabhupada's physical departure, it was claimed that Srila Prabhupada had been succeeded by 11 successor "acaryas". These 11 now became the "current" or "present" acaryas of ISKCON. They had a special "acarya" committee and they would issue recommendations to the GBC:
"That the governing body commission shall delegate to the Acharya standing committee the following additional responsibilities:
1. To hold discussions and make proposed mutual policies for how the ISKCON Acharyas can further the GBC and Srila Prabhupada's desire and see to the fulfillment of Prabhupada's will. [...]
6. To keep the proceedings of the Acharya standing committee confidential, except recommendations to the GBC or the GBC officers' committee."

(ISKCON LAW 10, GBC Resolutions, 1981)

1995: "Acaryas" no more

Following the majority of these "acaryas" engaging in various sexual and other illicit, gross deviations, it was decided by the GBC that a "successor" diksa guru to Srila Prabhupada should not be called an "acarya". This rule was officially codified in a document entitled "Gurus and Initiation" in 1995:
"THAT the GBC approves the compilation of rules called "Gurus and Initiation" submitted by the ISKCON Rules Revision Committee".
(GBC Resolution No. 58, 1995)
"Zonal-Acarya" System: No guru should declare himself or allow himself to be declared an "acarya" or "present acarya" for ISKCON or for a geographical area of ISKCON. There should be no use of the word "acarya" as a title of office."
(Laws of ISKCON, 1.6.3 and 1.5.6.1, from Gurus and Initiation in ISKCON, GBC)

2016: The Acarya

In 2014, the GBC issued a "Foundational Document" which established the official and definitive position of Srila Prabhupada in ISKCON. This position is that:
a) Srila Prabhupada will always be ISKCON's Founder and Acarya (Founder-Acarya).
b) His position as the Acarya of ISKCON includes him acting as the diksa guru of ISKCON.
This is explained in detail in our book Srila Prabhupada: The Founder-Acarya of ISKCON – Presenting the Conclusions of the GBC Foundational Document.
Thus, 50 years on, we have come full circle, and Srila Prabhupada is proclaimed to have exactly the same position in ISKCON that he had in 1966 – its Founder, Acarya and diksa guru! Though, this is only on paper and in theory, and unwittingly -- but not in practice.

Diksa guru reality

The reason the GBC have been forced to go full circle is that there is a fundamental incompatibility between what they want to achieve and reality. They do not want to accept that Srila Prabhupada is the diksa guru, but also cannot escape the fact that Srila Prabhupada established himself as the Founder-Acarya of ISKCON. This means his position today as Founder-Acarya cannot be any different to his position as Founder-Acarya in 1966. Thus, having tried for many years to "explain" what this Founder-Acarya title actually means, they were forced to write, that yes, his position is the same as it was in 1966. Which means Founder, Acarya and diksa guru!
Additionally, we have documented many times in BTP that whenever ISKCON's leaders try to explain how Srila Prabhupada actually functions in ISKCON, they end up agreeing with the IRM's position!
                                                             
Minimisation reduced

Accepting Srila Prabhupada's position as Founder, Acarya and diksa guru in practice would also help combat the problem of Srila Prabhupada being minimised due to the attention given to the GBC "diksa gurus". Suresvara Dasa, the person tasked by the GBC with running the official course on "Founder-Acarya", states in an email to a current ISKCON "guru":
"That some of your disciples didn't attend the series is also a telling reminder of something you once told me: that it's difficult for devotees of Indian descent to understand that their diksa-guru isn't everything".
(Email to HH Bhakti Charu Swami from Suresvara Dasa, 9/3/15)
But this is an issue for all devotees. By definition, diksa guru means everything to the disciple, and disciples worship and glorify their "Guru Maharajas" as if they are "everything", especially in Vyasa-puja offerings (just read any of them). Srila Prabhupada is everything for his disciples, and one cannot expect other devotees to treat their diksa guru any differently. Thus, as long as the GBC gurus are falsely proclaimed to be "diksa" gurus, Srila Prabhupada's position will continue to be minimised. One has to, therefore, tackle both the position of Srila Prabhupada and the GBC "diksa gurus". Hence, only by saying both that Srila Prabhupada is the diksa guru and that the GBC initiator is not, can this minimisation of Srila Prabhupada be reduced.

Conclusion

Attempts to philosophically explain Srila Prabhupada's position forces ISKCON's leaders into admitting, unwittingly, that Srila Prabhupada is the diksa guru.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

ISKCON temple row: Odisha officials conduct on-spot survey

Revenue Divisional Commissioner (RDC) Central Division A B Ota today conducted an on-spot survey of the land in Sipasarubali mouza of Baliapanda area in Odisha’s holy town Puri wherein International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) has proposed to construct the controversial second Jagannath temple.

“There is an apprehension in the mind of the public that a temple like that of the Shree Mandir will be built. I am discussing that. Secondly, whether they are going to worship any idol of Lord Jagannath in the temple. Thirdly, if there is any illegal occupation of government land, then it will be freed from encroachment,” said Ota talking to reporters.
Earlier in the day, the RDC held detailed discussions with officials of the district administration at the Circuit House here.
The RDC tried to find out if any irregularities were committed by the Puri-Konark Development Authority (PKDA) while approving the plan for the proposed temple.
Ota also tried to find out whether ISKCON had any plans to construct Jagannath temple as mentioned in the brochure  and whether any government land was illegally occupied by ISKCON within the plan approved area.
Notably, senior BJP leader Bijay Mohapatra on January 18 had alleged at a press conference that ISKCON was conspiring to construct another Jagannath temple in Sipasarubali mouza in Puri.
On the next day, PKDA had ordered stopping construction of the proposed temple till disposal of the case.
On the other hand, ISKCON at a press conference on the same day had clarified that Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra, and Devi Subhadra would not be worshipped at the proposed temple.
Following public outcry Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on February 10 had ordered an administrative inquiry into the construction of the proposed Jagannath temple by ISKCON in Puri by the RDC Central Division and submit the report within 60 days.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Probe begins against proposed second Jagannath temple at Puri by ISKCON


Prameyanews7, Bhubaneswar: On the backdrop of controversial issue of the second Jagannath temple construction proposal at Puri, the Revenue Divisional Commissioner (RDC) level probe has begun into the issue on Saturday.
The District Collector and the Puri Konark Development Authority (PKDA) will also assist in the investigations, sources said.
Notably, ISKCON has proposed to construct a Jagannath Temple over 18 acres of land at Sipasirubuli, on the south-western side of Puri at an estimated cost of Rs 100 crores. Apart from a replica of Jagannath temple ISKCON had also proposed to build a Grand Radha Krishna Temple, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu Museum, Lord Jagannath Lila Museum, Library, amphitheater and auditorium, amusement park for children, Govinda’s restaurant,  international guest house,  ayurvedic clinic and yoga center, inmate ashram and prasadam hall, convention hall,   Bhakta nivas (residence for devotees),  Vedic school, Dharmashala (low cost residence for pilgrims) and a  Vaishnav market area.
The matter came into limelight after senior BJP leader Bijoy Mohapatra alleged that ISKCON is planning to construct a second Jagannath temple, in Puri. He claimed that the ISKCON had already submitted a DPR to the State Government and the PKDA (Puri-Konark Development Authority) for the setting of a Jagannath Temple more than the height of Shree Mandir. Besides he claimed such a gore issue would certainly destroy the Odia culture and harm the religious beliefs of the State's people.
Following these serious allegations, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had ordered for an administrative probe into this proposed project by ISKCON and directed to submit a report within 60 days in this regard. He had directed the Revenue Divisional Commissioner (Central region) to inquiry into the matter and submits a report on the issue. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Iskcon project director gives undertaking of 'no work' in High Court

Economic Times: CUTTACK: The project director of the proposed Jagannath Temple of International Society for Krishna Consciousness (Iskcon) today gave an undertaking to the Orissa High Court that since the plan of the project is in an approval stage, no construction work is now being undertaken at the site. 

The project director gave the undertaking in the form of an affidavit before a division bench headed by Chief Justice Vineet Saran. 


The bench questioned the locus standi of the project director and asked the petitioner of the writ appeal to implead the authorities of the Iskcon in the matter. 

Posting the matter to be heard again next month, the High Court has asked all the respondents in the writ appeal to file their counters within four weeks. 

The Iskcon had approached the HC seeking quashing of an order of the Puri-Konark Development Authority restraining it from going ahead with the work of the proposed temple. 

A single-judge bench of Justice Kumari Sanju Panda had on February 24 rejected the appeal of Iskcon and asked it to present its case before the PKDA as per the latter's notice. 
The Iskcon then approached the High Court again in a writ appeal seeking a larger bench adjudication to quash the single-judge bench order. 

The Iskcon is planning to construct the temple on an area of over 18 acres at Baliapanda locality of Puri at an estimated cost of Rs 100 crore. 

The PKDA had in January issued a 'stop work' order to the Iskcon in the wake of public resentment over the proposed temple which is being referred to as the second Jagannath temple in the holy town of Puri.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Orissa HC refuses to issue interim order in ISKCON Puri temple matter

Odisha Sun Times: In a major setback for the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), the Orissa High Court today declined to issue any interim order in the matter pertaining to the proposed controversial project for construction of a Jagannath temple at Baliapanda in Odisha’s holy city Puri.

A division bench of the High Court comprising of Chief Justice Vineet Saran and Justice Dr B R Sarangi declined to issue an interim stay on the verdict of a single member bench in this matter while conducting a hearing on the plea of Banamali Das of ISKCON.
However, the court has fixed the next date of hearing in the matter for Monday.
It may be mentioned here that single member bench of Justice Sanju Panda of the High Court had directed ISKCON to present its side over the proposed temple at the Puri Konark Development Authority (PKDA). This apart interveners in the case could place their arguments at the PKDA if they so wish, the bench had ruled.
The PKDA had served notice to ISKCON to present its side on the construction of the temple project. Citing PKDA had no powers to serve notice, ISKCON had moved the High Court seeking its quashing.
The single member bench of Justice Panda in its order rejecting the case directed ISKCON to present its side on the temple project and its construction before the PKDA instead.
Challenging the verdict of the single member bench ISKCON had appealed in the High Court through a writ petition.
Notably, senior BJP leader Bijay Mohapatra on January 18 had alleged at a press conference that ISKCON was conspiring to construct another Jagannath temple in Sipasarubali mouza in Puri.
On the next day, PKDA had ordered stopping construction of the proposed temple till disposal of the case.
On the other hand, ISKCON at a press conference on the same day had clarified that Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra would not be worshipped at the proposed temple.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on February 10 ordered for an administrative inquiry into the construction of the proposed Jagannath temple by International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) in Puri by the Revenue Divisional Commissioner (Central Division) and submit the report within 60 days.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Iskcon to face inquiry into food-poisoning

Education minister Vinod Tawde announced on Monday that the education commissioner would conduct an inquiry into an incident of food poisoning from a mid-day meal at a zilla parishad school in Palghar district's Kasa Budruk (Taluka Vikrammgad) on February 25. Iskcon Food Relief Foundation had provided the mid-day meal.
He was responding to a call-attention motion moved by leader of the opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, Sardar Tara Singh, Amin Patel, Varsha Gaikwad, Sharad Sonawane, Abu Azmi, Praniti Shinde, Medha Kulkarni, Tryambak Bhise, Amit Deshmukh and Rupesh Mhatre. The members had pointed out that 250-300 students suffered from food poisoning after the mid-day meal concerned. They questioned the government on the measures taken to combat repeated incidents of food poisoning in Palghar district.
The members pointed out that 25 students from the same school had suffered food poisoning earlier, on August 4, 2015.
Tawde said that there are 2,424 schools in Palghar district that are eligible for the mid-day meal scheme and Iskcon foundation had been entrusted the responsibility to provide cooked food to 1,012 such schools. He added that 1,02,390 students are availing the benefits of this scheme.
Tawde also said that on February 25, of the 318 students in the school where the food poisoning incident took place, 254 were given the meal. He said that the students suffered from vomiting and fainting, after which 108 of them were admitted to hospital and released in a day.
The education minister added that in 2014, 33 students from the same school had suffered from food poisoning and Iskcon was fined Rs10,000 for it at the time.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Odisha HC rejects ISKCON’s plea challenging PKDA order

Odisha Sun Times Bureau Cuttack, Feb 24: The Orissa High Court today rejected International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)’s appeal challenging stop work order of Puri-Konark Development Authority (PKDA) on the former’s proposed construction of a Jagannath temple in Odisha’s holy city Puri.

The court in its order directed ISKCON to present its side on the temple project and its construction before the PKDA instead.
The High Court on January 29 had issued an interim stay in the matter till February 17 forbidding any action in the matter till further orders.
ISKCON had moved the High Court following PKDA’s order to ‘stop work’ on the temple at Baliapanda and submit details of the project.
Following coming to fore of certain facts concealed by ISKCON, PKDA had served notice to ISKCON authorities.
ISKCON authorities had appeared before the district collector’s court on January 29 and had apprised PKDA through an affidavit that the High Court had issued a stay order following which the collector had adjourned the hearing in the matter.
Notably, senior BJP leader Bijay Mohapatra on January 18 had alleged at a press conference that ISKCON was conspiring to construct another Jagannath temple in Sipasarubali mouza in Puri.
On the next day, PKDA had ordered stopping construction of the proposed temple till disposal of the case.
On the other hand, ISKCON at a press conference on the same day clarified that Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra would not be worshipped at the proposed temple.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on February 10 ordered for an administrative inquiry into the construction of the proposed Jagannath temple by International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) in Puri by the Revenue Divisional Commissioner (Central Division) and submit the report within 60 days.

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