Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Swami Srila Prabhupada’s ISKCON Bangalore and FOLK program

ISKCON Bangalore
INEWS-2, 2010/09/15 14:34 — A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada set out on a 35 day long trans-Atlantic voyage to the United States in the year 1965, at the age of seventy. He carried with him Rs.40 and a trunk filled with his English translations of The Srimad Bhagavatam.
For four decades following the instruction of his spiritual Master he travelled to different places spreading the message of Bhagavad-Gita and other Vedic literatures all over the world. During his journey he confronted with many challenges and difficulties, but he moved ahead to serve the order of his spiritual Master with firm determination and vigor.
Srila Prabhupada reached the eternal abode of Lord Krishna in the year 1977. As a great futurist he was aware of the complications that might arise after him and hence laid out his succession plans before his departure from this world.
He had already formed a Governing Body Commission to manage the affairs of the society. Next he had to decide on who will be the spiritual successor to take up the seat of the Acharya (acharya-peeta)- an ultimate possession of spiritual and material authority.
During that time most of his leading disciples were westerners and Srila Prabhupada was aware of the fact that they were young and inexperienced in age and spirituality. He could feel that even his senior most disciples were tremendously materially ambitious. In such situations, Srila Prabhupada decided not to appoint any successor Acharya.
Instead he appointed eleven Officiating Acharyas or Ritviks, who would initiate on his behalf and the new initiates would be Srila Prabhupada’s disciples. Four months before he left for the heavenly abode he issued a written directive to the whole institution explaining this system of initiation.
But unfortunately these eleven members who were all westerners conspired and declared themselves, without authorization from Srila Prabhupada, to be the next Acharyas. Devotees who tried to question them were ill treated and harassed. ISKCON went through several crises in the next few years after 1977, and had to face some major embarrassments because of these self-proclaimed Acharyas.
The devotees of ISKCON-Bangalore under the guidance of Sri Madhu Pandit Dasa have taken up the struggle to fight this disobedience of Srila Prabhupada’s directions. In 1998 the devotees of ISKCON-Bangalore challenged the wrong Acharya system and formally declared to the Governing Body Commission that they shall only follow Srila Prabhupada’s directions on the Acharya system and implement what he intended for the ISKCON society. Since then Madhu Pandit Dasa with his team has dedicated themselves to fulfill the seven purpose of ISKCON as enunciated by Srila Prabhupada.
The Present
“India Young”, screams advertisements from everywhere. These are exciting times for the youth, as India makes rapid advancements in the field of technology and is recognized the world over for its vast and untapped resources, especially the ‘human’ resource. With 55% of the population in the age group of 18-25, the future seems bright. Or does it?

Along with this euphoria, there is also a darker side to this reality; one that finds today’s youth battling with drug and alcoholic addictions, pre and post marital infidelities and mental depressions, which have risen to frightening proportions. How many examples have we come across in life, wherein a person had come to the brink of life and not having the desire to stop and had to jump off a cliff?
History Repeats Itself
What India is going through with its youth is not something new. This is exactly what America went through in its history in the 1960s. The youth, frustrated with the lives led by their parents, rejected and rebelled against the set standards of the society and formed rules of their own, by discarding and disowning their connections with their families and experimenting with drugs, alcohol and other dangerous addictions. This was also known as the ‘hippie’ movement.

The youth, however, never got the answers to their questions and they went deeper and deeper into a blind, dark alley. It is there that they suddenly saw light in the form of His Divine Grace, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, a distinguished scholar and a pure devotee of Lord Krishna, who had stepped on to the shores of America. Over the next decade, he went about transforming the lives of these very youngsters, who were on the precipice of sunset to a new world of joy, happiness and devotion.
This he did by revealing the ancient and timeless knowledge of a highly civilized society in the Vedic times, thereby also quashing some theories that the Vedas were meant for people of a particular time, place and nationality.
The Beginning: FOLK
Based on the teachings of His Divine Grace, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, ISKCON, Bangalore has been presenting this treasure house of knowledge to youth through Friends Of Lord Krishna (FOLK) in a humble manner since the year 1997. What began as a small endeavour has now transformed itself into a juggernaut with more than 500 youngsters making their way to ISKCON every Sunday for a gala gathering of an enjoyable evening of classes, music, dance and not to forget prasadam—delicious food offered to Lord Krishna.

The FOLK program employs highly interactive sessions handled by experienced faculties who have graduated out of premier institutes such as the IITs and IIMs and who have dedicated their lives for over 20 years to share the same joy, which they have experienced in their lives. A typical program on a Sunday consists of Vedic wisdom being imparted, which is connected to the current world realities. Solutions are provided to difficult problems that youth have to encounter in their daily lives, such as how to manage stress, how to improve memory and concentration, how to get rid of bad habits, how to excel in life, etc.
State-of-the-art facilities in terms of the classroom infrastructure also ensures that there is never a dull moment for the spirited youngsters and every opportunity is provided to them to showcase their talents and skills for the pleasure of the Lord. The youngsters are also taken through personality enrichment courses that explore their deeper selves and make them more reflective and introspective—a real need in current chaotic times.
There are varieties of opportunities that youth can practically involve themselves such as taking up some services for the pleasure of the Lord, by which one can experience the truth not just theoretically but in reality too. More enthusiastic youngsters take up book distribution, as they are keen to share this wonderful knowledge to other people, who are unaware of this treasure.
Sometimes people ask, “Aren’t these youngsters too young to take to spirituality? Mustn’t they experience life fully before coming in touch with such peripherals?” The answer to this question is sufficiently answered by the example of the “TITANIC.” How?

Nobody comes with a sealed guarantee that we might live up to a particular age. What is done in life earlier, especially if misguided becomes impossible to be undone later in life. Just as the ship cannot suddenly change course, one’s life too needs a lot of time and energy to change course. The FOLK progamme has provided youngsters an opportunity to literally transform their lives. Don’t take our word for it. Ask any FOLK participant, regarding the value of these programmes and you will be told its real worth.
You just can’t express with ideal words an ‘EXPERIENCE’ of a lifetime.

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