Iskcon’s extraordinary success in spreading its wing in mere 50 years shows that there are people all over the world who still have great affinity for India’s Vedic culture and tradition. When Srila Prabhupada incorporated Iskcon then he refused to dilute the Vedic teachings to make it more acceptable to non-Indians. Not just the philosophy but even the attire and the food he introduced in the west were completely Vedic. Men were supposed to wear Dhoti-kurta and had to have sikha and tilak and women were required to don saree and wear tilak. And all devotees were supposed to take sanctified vegetarian food. Before Srila Prabhupada and after Srila Prabhupada many Indian spiritual leaders went to the western world but most of them refused to present the Vedic scripture “as it is” because they feared lack of following. But Srila Prabhupada had not gone to west to become a famous preacher.
He was not mesmerised seeing the material beauty of the western world. Although he praised the western men and women for their workmanship but reminded them unambiguously that material advancement will not bring ultimate satisfaction in their life. He told them that the purpose of human life is to know God and he begged them to chant the holy name of the Lord to revive their relationship with the Lord. In return he did not expect anything for himself. He did not identify people based on their nationality or gender or colour of the skin or caste or creed. He saw everyone as children of one God and he was clear who that God is. Krishna is the Supreme God, he declared, and he backed it with numerous references from the Vedic literature.
Today Iskcon has become one of the most prominent spiritual organizations of the world. It has more than 600 temples spread all over the world. And also there are numerous farm communities and vegetarian restaurants. Vedic literatures are being distributed in thousands every year in all the major languages of the world. Krishna Conscious devotees can be seen everywhere - in USA, in Europe, in Asia, in Africa, in Australia. Many of them are materially very influentially and many of them are from humble background. Temples are not just located in important cities like New York, New Delhi, Mumbai, Moscow, London or Luxembourg but is also located in small towns and villages. Lord Jagannath Rath Yatra is celebrated in hundreds of cities of the world.
One would have expected that such phenomenal success would invite all round appreciation especially from fellow Indians. But there are some who are levelling false allegation against Iskcon. Shankaracharya Swami Swaroopanand recently alleged that Iskon temples are center of religious conversion and Iskcon temples in India are collecting money and sending to the west. But he failed to provide any proof regarding this.
Does Iskcon indulge in religious conversion?
Iskcon does not use any money to purchase people’s faith as is being done by some missionaries in poor countries. And Iskcon never uses violence and force people to follow their philosophy as is being done by ISIS. When Srila Prabhupada went to the west, he was penniless and had no permanent place to stay and no guarantee of daily food. To spread the message of Krishna Consciousness he shared with them the timeless teachings of Vedic literature and introduced the chanting of the holy name of the Lord. He did not promise his followers any material benefit, he just told them that re-establishing relationship with the Supreme Lord will make you eternally happy. And the same preaching strategy is still being employed by followers of Srila Prabhupada. Iskcon does not indulge in religious conversion but only believes in transformation of people’s heart. One can belong to any religion or any nationality and can still practice Krishna Consciousness. People do not have to convert to Hinduism to practice Krishna Consciousness.
Do Iskcon temples in India send money to the west?
Those who follow Iskcon closely will laugh at this allegation. Each Iskcon temples are required to raise their finances separately. However all Iskcon temples are also supposed to support the Iskcon project in Vrindavan and Mayapur. And few months back devotees from Mayapur were travelling all over the world to collect fund to build a magnificent temple of Lord Krishna and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in Mayapur. So actually the funds are coming in India and not going from India.
There will always be ill informed people who will try to spread rumours but Krishna being the best judge and protector of devotees will make sure that Krishna Consciousness keeps on flourishing. During 1970s when Krishna Consciousness was rising in the west a Bollywood movie was made in which it was shown that devotees are taking drugs and chanting the Hare Krishna mahamantra. But the reality was that each committed devotes are supposed to follow 4 regulative principles - no meat eating, no gambling, no intoxication and no illicit sex. But the attempt to defame Iskcon did not succeed and Krishna Consciousness movement has grown from strength to strength and with the mercy of Lord Chaitanya will continue to grow.