Saturday, March 18, 2017

Whiff of Iskcon food at Namma Canteens?

Times Of India: BENGALURU: The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (Iskcon) will, in all probability, be the sole supplier of food for the newly proposed 198 Namma Canteens in Bengaluru city. Food from Iskcon kitchen fills thousands of tummies every day at schools across the state under the midday meal scheme.

Sources in the government said the idea to rope in Iskcon came from the food and civil supplies department earlier last year. The idea of Namma Canteens was floated by C M Ibrahim, state planning board deputy chairman, three years ago. Ibrahim had suggested Aiyya Canteens, on the lines of Tamil Nadu's much-lauded Amma Canteens. However, due to cost considerations, the idea was shelved in 2016.

The Karnataka government had then hit upon the idea of targeting the migrant population and the homeless in urban areas by having night-food shelters or night wheels. However, with assembly elections approaching, the CM decided to revive the TN canteen model to supply food for all. According to the budget announcement, these canteens will offer breakfast at Rs 5 and lunch at Rs 10. The government is seeking to execute the project with a centralised kitchen so as to ensure quality food and consistent taste.

"Iskcon appeared to be the best possible option as it has the capacity to execute such bulk orders," said a senior government official. The government is believed to have had two rounds of talks with Iskcon for the project, and a memorandum of understanding (MoU) is likely to be inked soon. The project is estimated to cost Rs 100 crore.

According to sources in the urban development department (UDD), while Iskcon will be charging a higher rate for each plate of breakfast and lunch, the government will subsidise the same at the promised rates.
The food and civil supplies department, which was to be the nodal agency, has now decided to hand over the scheme's execution to the BBMP. The Palike has to identify the locations for the canteens in the 198 wards. These will effectively work as distribution centres for food coming from Iskcon.

A spokesperson for Iskcon confirmed that they were in talks with the government for the project and that negotiations are on. "We have the capacity to manage both midday meals and Namma Canteens. The procurement process will be separate from both the projects and Iskcon is ready to supply bulk orders for Namma Canteens," the spokesperson said.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

HC refuses to quash FIR against members of ISKCON Mumbai

Bangalore Mirror: One more case in the ongoing legal tussle between ISKCON Bengaluru and ISKCON Mumbai reached the High Court. This time, three trustees and members of ISKCON Mumbai approached the HC seeking to quash a FIR registered against them by the Ulsoor police after a complaint by ISKCON Bengaluru. The HC has, however, dismissed the petition, saying it is for the trial court to decide the matter before it.

An original suit had been filed by ISKCON Bengaluru trust in 2001 claiming exclusive management of the Bengaluru properties. ISKCON Mumbai was contending that the Bengaluru institutions were its branch. ISKCON Mumbai had filed 32 volumes of documents in the case and one of it was the bone of contention now. That case has reached the Supreme Court and is still pending.

In July 2012, Dayaram Das, Varadakrishna Das and Krishna bhajan Das of ISKCON Mumbai are said to have held a press conference and issued a press release claiming ISKCON Bengaluru was its branch. They are said to have released an 11-page document said to be an exhibit in the original suit between Bengaluru and Mumbai.

ISKCON Bengaluru filed a complaint before the magistrate court claiming that the document had an additional page and therefore was a forged and fabricated one. The three ISKCON Mumbai members approached the HC seeking to quash the FIR ordered by the lower court. They also sought to make the Registrar General of the HC as a party to the case and to direct him to hold an enquiry into the allegation of the allegedly forged 11th page.

Dismissing the petition, the HC said that the complaint was not that a forged document was filed before the court in the case but a concocted page was inserted as being part of the court document. Secondly, the allegation that the investigation officer of Ulsoor police had a nexus with ISKCON Bengaluru was also dismissed as the said officer was no longer in the same station and another police officer was handling the case. As to the contention that the Ulsoor police did not have jurisdiction, the HC said that it was only a procedural aspect which can be brought to the notice of the lower court.

The HC said that as the lower court had ordered an enquiry, “it would not be prudent for his court to quash the proceedings at this juncture.” The HC also dismissed the request for an inquiry by the Registrar General as it was the subject matter of the criminal case. The court dismissed the petition, saying it had no merit.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Gujaratis donate over $1mn for Iskcon temple project

Times Of India: Ahmedabad: Alfred Brush Ford and his wife Sharmila organised a fundraiser at Iskcon temple on Saturday evening for the ambitious Sri Mayapur Chandrodaya Mandir (Temple of the Vedic Planetarium). Ford had started his Gujarat travels from February 1. It was the first state on his pan-India itinerary.

Alfred is the great-grandson of the founder of Ford Motor Company, Henry Ford.

"Gujarat is a state blessed by Lord Krishna," Albert said at the Ahmedabad meeting. "It is a great pleasure to be here. I had been to Rajkot and Dwarka several years ago. Our collection of funds is going very well. We were ably supported by Jasumatinandan Das in the cause. We have collected over $1 million (approximately Rs 6.72 crore) in just three days which is very encouraging."

Talking about the temple project that started in 2009, Albert Ford said they are following in the footsteps of Srila Prabhupada, founder of Iskcon, who had dreamed of a spectacular temple at Mayapur as a tribute to Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. "The process started with his travels to the West and sharing his dreams to revitalise Veda and ancient culture in India," said Ford, who is chairman of the project.
His wife Sharmila said that, for the first time, visitors will be able to see a 3D model of the universe as explained in the Hindu scriptures. The 350-feet-high temple will show Golok Dham at the top and Patal at the bottom, Ford said.

Brij Vilas Das, director of fundraising, said that apart from a personal donation of Rs 250 crore by Ford, the project has collected an additional Rs 100 crore for the temple which is expected to cost Rs 700 crore. "Around 95% of the construction for the primary structure has been done. We expect the project to be complete by 2022. An 80-feet-high Kalash will be established above the dome this March," Das said.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Akshaya Patra's Annapurna Yojana Offers Food for Rs. 10 for Poor in Chandigarh.

Press Room: Annapurna Akshaya Patra Yojna initiated by Akshaya Patra Foundation (APF), in alliance with Chandigarh UT Administration, was started to provide an affordable, hygienic and nutritious diet to people. Under this scheme, food packets worth Rs 10 were distributed by the UT Administration, but only 500 people could avail the meal as the entire stock was sold within an hour.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

UP CM AkhileshYadav Performs Ground Breaking Ceremony for 11 Akshaya Patra Kitchens

The Hans India: The Akshaya Patra Foundation is set to launch eleven new kitchens in in partnership with the Government of Uttar Pradesh. The Honourable Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Shri Akhilesh Yadav announced the setting up of eleven new kitchens with the ‘Shilanyas’ (Ground Breaking Ceremony) on 26 December, 2016 at Lok Bhavan, New Secretariat – Lucknow. These kitchens will start providing mid-day meals to children in the next academic year and increase the reach to over 1 lakh children per kitchen every day in due course. 
There were a host of dignitaries present at the occasion including Shri Ahmad Hasan–Cabinet Minister for Basic Education,  Shri Kailash Chourasiya – Minister for Women & Child Welfare, Shri Wasim Ahmed – Minister for Child Development &  Nutrition, Primary Education and Energy, Shri Rajendra Choudhury – Cabinet Minister for Political Pension,  Shri Ram Govind Choudhury – Minister for Panchayat Raj, Shri Pradeep Mathur – MLA, Mathura constituency, Shri Alok Ranjan – Chief Advisor to Shri Akhilesh Yadav, Shri Rahul Bhatnagar – Chief Secretary, Shri Ajay Kumar Singh – Secretary, Basic Education,  Shri Chanchalapathi Dasa, Vice Chairman – The Akshaya Patra Foundation and Shri Suvyakta NarasimhaDasa – President, The Akshaya Patra Foundation, UP.
Akshaya Patra is currently feeding 1,05,000 children from its Vrindavan kitchen and 66,000 children from the Lucknow kitchen (which was inaugurated by Shri AkhileshYadav on 15th March, 2015), totalling to 1,71,000 children across 3021 schools in Uttar Pradesh. With the introduction of these new 11 kitchens, the reach will be expanded to serving more than 13 lakh or 1.3 million beneficiaries per day, which makes this the Foundation’s largest intervention in India.
Speaking on the occasion, Shri Chanchalapathi Dasa said, “We are humbled and honoured with confidence reposed on us by the Honourable Chief Minister Shri Akhilesh Yadav and the Government of Uttar Pradeshfor sponsoring the land and the kitchen facilities as a step to end class room hunger in the region. It is due to this unflinching support that Akshaya Patra is poised to feed more than 1.3 million children in Uttar Pradesh on a daily basis, which is a shining example of a successful Public Private Partnership (PPP) in the field of nutrition, education and child welfare not only in India but across the world. We are deeply committed to work with the Government to construct Akshaya Patra kitchens and provide healthy and nutritious mid-day meals to children.”
The districts where the eleven new kitchens will be constructed are Varanasi, Ghaziabad, Agra, Allahabad, Kanpur, Etawah, Kannauj, Ambedkar Nagar, Azamgarh, Rampur and Ballia. It was a landmark event in which the ground breaking ceremony for establishing all the eleven centralised kitchens was observed simultaneously, signalling the delivery of better nutrition, better education and a better future for the beneficiaries.
Acknowledging this momentous event, Shri Madhu Pandit Dasa, Chairman – The Akshaya Patra Foundation, said, “I sincerely thank the Honourable Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Shri Akhilesh Yadav, a dynamic and visionary leader whose progressive policies have been instrumental in the all–round development of the state.This encouragement and support will help the Foundation take greater strides towards its mission of feeding 5 million children every day by 2020.”

Friday, December 23, 2016

Indrani Mukerjea wants to donate Rs 175 crore to ISKCON trust

MID-DAY: Indrani Mukerjea, the main accused in the Sheena Bora murder case, yesterday told the court that she wants to donate 75 per cent of her wealth, as well as her organs. 

To both her wishes, the court said she doesn't need its permission for acting on them. According to CBI records, the net worth of properties registered in her name is around Rs 250 crore, excluding the cash in her 10 bank accounts in the city. 

An investigation done by the CBI till now has revealed that Indrani had fixed deposits of Rs 80 lakh in her parents' names, which were transferred in her name in 2013. At present, the current value of FDs in Indrani's name is around Rs 6.92 crore — Rs 4.85 crore with Syndicate Bank, Rs 8 lakh with Axis Bank and Rs 1.32 crore with 
IndusInd Bank.

Besides this, her immobile wealth includes office premises in Phoenix Tower in Lower Parel, which she had rented out for `4.40 lakh a month, and flats on the 4th and 5th floors in Worli's Marlow building, of which one has been gifted to her daughter Vidhi; in the other, Indrani stayed with her husband Peter till the two were arrested.

In Betim, Goa, Indrani owns two flats bought for `62 lakh each. She also had office premises in Gurgaon, which was reportedly sold for `42 lakh. The probe has also revealed that Indrani owns properties in London's Snake Park. 

The day in court
Around 2.45 pm, when the court called out the Sheena Bora case, Indrani's lawyers Sudeep Pasbola, Gunjan Mangla and Ayaz Khan informed it that they would start their arguments on the point of charges against her by the CBI today (Friday). 

After that, Indrani, who was sitting in the third row with her escort officers, came forward and told the special CBI court, presided over by judge HS Mahajan, that in the last 15 months she has spent in jail, she has seen too much grief around her and hence wishes to do something for the poor. "Though I am a British citizen, I have spent almost my entire life in India. I am used to this simple life," Indrani told the court.

"Whether I get convicted or acquitted by this court, I want to give away 75% of the wealth I have earned to the Hare Krishna movement (ISKCON) and an NGO working with women and children."

When the judge told Indrani that she need not inform the court, Indrani replied the jail authorities has asked her to, adding, "I also want to donate my organs."

After Indrani walked out, when the judge asked Peter if he wanted to say something, he replied, "My organs are fine, I don't intend to donate them as of now."

Permission granted
The court has also granted Indrani the permission to perform the final rites of her father on December 27. Its order stated the jail authorities should leave early in the morning on December 27, so that she can perform the last rites either at home or in a city temple, giving her time till 7 pm for it, and then return to jail.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Bengaluru mayor tastes Akshaya Patra mid-day meal

The Times Of India: The Akshaya Patra Foundation, operator of the world's largest Mid-Day Meal Programme, is driving its food truck to the residents of Bengaluru, so that citizens can taste the food and give feedback.

This 'Taste of Joy' was inaugurated by the mayor, G Padmavathi on December 14 at the BBMP office, after the inauguration, the food was served to the public.

The aim of this campaign was to serve a hot and nutritious Akshaya Patra meal to the people of Bengaluru. Citizens could then post their feedback on social media sites using hashtags such as #foodforeducation #zerohunger #tasteofjoy and #menuforhope.

The food truck will also be going to different places across the city to increase awareness about the importance of eradicating hunger from classrooms. G Padmavathi said that the taste of the food helped in bringing students to school everyday and that the superior quality of the ingredients and the high nutritional value of the meal would help the children grow as well.

Shridham Krishna Dasa, chief projects manager, The Akshaya Patra Foundation said "Over the years, both children and their parents have tasted Akshaya Patra's food. Now we are taking it to the people, whose feedback and inputs help us add more strength to children's ascent. It overwhelms me that, as the first citizen of Bengaluru, our Mayor has tasted the Akshaya Patra food and has shared good feedback. We are also glad that the 2000 people liked our food and showed their support for the noble cause by sharing their feedback."

The "Taste of Joy" food truck will be going to the Nayandahalli Metro Station on December 15 at 5.00 pm.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Pourakarmikas to get mid-day meals

The Hindu: Bengaluru: Over 25,000 pourakarmikas will be served breakfast every day starting Tuesday. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah will flag off the programme in the East Zone.

The programme was part of the 2016-17 BBMP budget in which Rs. 10 crore had been earmarked for this initiative. The meals will be provided by Akshaya Patra Foundation of ISKCON. Each meal will cost the civic body Rs. 20 and will be served in the ward offices, mustering centres and other BBMP buildings in each ward.

Senior civic officials said that the scheme will be launched only in the East Zone on Tuesday and cover 6,000 pourakarmikas. “We will expand the programme to other zones with every passing week and cover the entire city in eight weeks,” a senior official said.

Vrindavan to get World’s tallest religious skyscraper

New Indian Express: A 700-foot structure with 70 storeys — a skyscraper temple-cum-heritage centre — the world’s largest religious structure, will be built by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) in Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh.
Reporters from Bengaluru were recently taken on a guided tour of ‘Vrindavan Chandrodaya Mandir’ to witness the ongoing construction. Work on the foundation piles, which run as deep as the height of the Qutub Minar (239.5 feet), was getting completed at the venue.  
The temple will be taller than St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, which soars to 421.91 feet. A grand temple of Lord Krishna at the centre, a theme park and facilities to carry out many social programmes form the major components of the edifice.

The goal of the project is to acknowledge and celebrate on an epic scale the depth of the ennobling influence Lord Sri Krishna has had on humanity, said Naveena Neerada Dasa, Head of Communications of ISKCON Sree Radha Krishna temple in Bengaluru.
“It is our aspiration to create a world class and iconic monument for Sri Krishna in the holy land of Vrindavan and proudly, place Krishna on the world mindscape and Vrindavan on the world map,” he says.
Skyscraper details
The temple, planned on 5.5 acres, will have a grand temple of Lord Krishna, a theme park and several facilities for social intervention programmes.
In connection with Lord Krishna, the social programmes include welfare programmes for widows of Vrindavan, restoration of Yamuna river and restoration of important sites in Braj.
“The forests of Vrindavan will be recreated around the temple. Spread over a sprawling 26 acres and designed by leading international landscape designers, the twelve forests of Braj will come alive here,” Naveena Neerada Dasa said.
The fascinating aspect for visitors would be a capsule elevator that will rise through the temple core taking visitors through different planetary systems in the universe according to Vedic literature, accompanied by a stunning light-and-sound show.
“The elevator will take visitors to the viewing gallery on top for a breathtaking view of Braj Mandal,” said an official communication. The project will also have apartments and villas around it, which will be sold to devotees to raise money for the skyscraper.
The construction will be earthquake-resistant and state-of-the art. Numerous consultants of different faiths from across the world are involved in it while its structural consultant is Thornton Tomasetti, who has designed the tallest buildings across the globe, including Petronas Towers and Shanghai Towers.
The project cost is expected to run into `800 crore, of which  `50 crore has been spent for piling work. Donations from devotees are expected to fund this iconic structure.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

ISKCON at 50: A Review

Back To Prabhupada, Issue 50, Winter 2015/16

ISKCON will organize a number of self-congratulatory events this year to celebrate it having come a long way in reaching its 50th Anniversary. However, as this review of ISKCON's "accomplishments" after 50 years shows, it has only come a long way away from the ISKCON that was established 50 years ago by Srila Prabhupada.

Key area comparison

On the following 2 pages we have made a comparison in key areas between the ISKCON Srila Prabhupada established and the ISKCON of today, 50 years on. Please examine it. These comparisons demonstrate that today's ISKCON is a completely different entity from the original ISKCON. Not only is it a different ISKCON, but none of the differences have been authorised by Srila Prabhupada, and therefore are just straightforward deviations. To make the comparison simple and easy to understand, it is largely restricted to titles and pictures. But it is self-explanatory. And we have given all the evidences for these differences and why they are deviations in previous issues. For example, in regards to the introduction of demigod worship into ISKCON temples, we have noted Srila Prabhupada stating:
"[...] this Krsna consciousness movement simply advocates worship of Krsna to the exclusion of the demigods."
(SB, 4.31.14)
And Srila Prabhupada never sanctioned the opening of schools that provide regular material education accredited by the government. Rather, he stated that:
"Our school will not be government recognized because we cannot follow the government syllabus. We want to teach only Krishna Consciousness." 
(Srila Prabhupada Letter, 12/4/72)
And in regards to how ISKCON celebrates its festivals, we have noted Srila Prabhupada warning:
"So far the Road Show and this Yoga Village are concerned, these things should be stopped. Simply perform our kirtana. If we divert our attention in this way, the whole thing will gradually deteriorate. [...] Such inventing spirit will ruin our this movement. [...] Stop all this. Simply have kirtana, nothing else." 
(Srila Prabhupada Letter, 5/11/72)
And so on. We can note that Srila Prabhupada's warning that the "inventing spirit will ruin our this movement" is actually applicable to all the deviations we have listed ISKCON engaging in.


As the chart overleaf documents, the differences between ‘ISKCON at 50' and the ISKCON Srila Prabhupada established are not just restricted to the key issue of "who is the Guru", but in every key area. We are in effect talking about two completely different "ISKCON"s. These differences, such as going outside of Srila Prabhupada's recorded teachings, are just as fundamental as whom one officially accepts as their diksa guru at an initiation ceremony. For it becomes irrelevant to claim that "only Srila Prabhupada is the diksa guru" if one does not accept "only Srila Prabhupada as one's authority"! Hence, we have seen that even those who pay lip-service to the position of Srila Prabhupada being the only diksa guru in ISKCON, will also share some of the deviations in these other key areas which are listed in the chart overleaf.
Due to space restrictions, we are limited to only offering differences in 12 areas. We could actually have listed many more. But what is given here is more than enough to document that ‘ISKCON at 50' is not the ISKCON Srila Prabhupada established.

ISKCON leaders agree

Below, ISKCON leaders themselves give their own "review" of today's ISKCON. And we will see that these leaders, who are themselves actually responsible for the state of affairs in today's ISKCON, agree with our analysis of ‘ISKCON at 50' offered in the chart overleaf.
Firstly, there is general agreement about the fact that today's ISKCON is a different and deviant ISKCON to that established by Srila Prabhupada:
"There's even a whole book written about it called Hare Krishna Transformed, by E. Burke Rochford, Jr. about how the movement has deliberately changed from what Prabhupada instituted. [...] I see ISKCON as being increasingly off course."
(Bhakti Vikasa Swami, Lecture 24/8/11; Sannyasa Reports, 2014)
"[...] we have lost our way from Srila Prabhupada's mood, mission, and methods for how to progress and how to attract the conditioned souls."
(HH Kesava Bharati Dasa Goswami, Sannyasa Reports, 2014)
"[...] if current trends within ISKCON are not addressed, we are already on our way down the path to a slow death of assimilation and irrelevance."
(Badrinarayana Swami, GBC, "Who Are We and Where Are We going? A Fight for the Soul of ISKCON", 2015)
In addition, there is also agreement in specific key areas of deviation highlighted in the chart. For example, here are statements about the changes in ISKCON in regards to: focusing on Indian congregations, making money off of Vedic teachings, paying salaries, and establishing non-gurukula schools:
"[...] appreciating his [Hridayananda Dasa Goswami's] genuine desire to reach significantly beyond the comfort-zone of Indian congregations and to recover the trajectory of significant world-change envisioned by Srila Prabhupada."
(HH Krishna Kshetra Swami, Sannyasa Reports, 2014, emphasis added)
"As far as income amidst formal preaching work; we have to be careful to not sell (make money off of) Vedic teachings."
(HH Bhaktisiddhanta Swami, Sannyasa Reports, 2014)
"I strongly disagree with the practice of the temple managements' paying a salary to full-time grihasthas and pujaris in various temples wherever I visited. The is not according to Srila Prabhupada's orders. They may be provided with living facilities but no salary."
(HH Navayogendra Swami, Sannyasa Reports, 2014)
"So like this, schools and colleges, Srila Prabhupada was very clearly against mundane education which is why he set up gurukulas. Nowadays, schools in ISKCON, they proudly announce that ‘Our school is affiliated with the Cambridge Board' ".
(HH Bhakti Vikasa Swami, Lecture, 24/8/11)


Thus, our review of ‘ISKCON at 50' as being a different and deviant movement must be accurate if even ISKCON's leaders agree. After all, they should know -- they caused it! Thus, 4 decades of deviation since Srila Prabhupada physically departed is hardly a cause for celebration.

ISKCON at 50: Not Srila Prabhupada's ISKCON 

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