Vrindavan, 2017.10.25 (VT): At the instigation of Raseshwari Dasi and H.G. Padmanabh Goswami Prabhupad, a meeting was arranged for Braj Tirth Vikas Parishad VP Shailja Kant Mishra to meet with leaders from the foreign devotee community. Mishra has a great deal of power to act independently in his new role, which is equivalent to that of the Chief Secretary in Lucknow.
It was a welcome opportunity for the foreign devotees to express their concerns about the future of Vrindavan to Mr. Mishra and also for him to introduce himself and to speak of his plans with the BTVP.
Sri Padmanabha Goswamiji introduced the foreign devotees. Amongst those present was B.A. Paramadvaita Swami, originally from Germany and the acharya of VRINDA, a Vaishnava preaching organization that has many branches, particularly in South America. Paramadvaiti Maharaj has been active in environmental work wherever he goes, but particularly in Vrindavan where he has started “Braj Vrindavan Act Now” to serve the Dham.
H.H. Indradyumna Swami from the USA, who is preaching primarily in Poland and other east European countries… as far as Mongolia was present.
Panchagauda Das, ISKCON temple president, also hails from the USA. Rupa Raghunath Das, the founder of Food for Life Vrindavan and the Sandipani Muni schools, is of Italian origin. He originally began his seva in Vrindavan as an environmentalist.
H.G. Deena Bandhu Dasji, former temple president who has been resident in Vrindavan for more than thirty years, and is the popular leader of ISKCON’s 84-kos Braj Mandal Parikrama, sometimes known as ISKCON Vrindavan’s “Tirtha Guru.”
ISKCON Bangalore was also represented there by Suvyakta Narasingha Das, president of the local Akshay Patra and Vrindavan Chandrodaya Mandir complex.
Most of the speakers, as expected, spoke about specific issues. Hamsarupa Das talked about depleting water levels and the dangers this presents for the future of Vrindavan. He saw this as the major issue that would bring the entire town uninhabitable. He also highlighted some of the illegal activities of local construction sites and buildings who pollute the ground water with “gray water.”
Rupa Raghunath Prabhu spoke about hopefully making a permanent consulting body from the non-Indian origin bhaktas, and also about some of the brainstorming initiatives that he has taken with his donor base.
Indradyumna Swami also said that as worldwide apostles of Vaishnava dharma, they have many connections with experts around the world who might be able to help, so they can offer such help if called upon.
Paramadvaiti Maharaj expressed concern about the non-participation of many local businesses, ashrams and temples. He said, “We are all getting rich on Vrindavan, making millions of dollars by preaching about Brajraj Nandan Sri Krishna, and we should give back more to the community. There has to be a way to encourage those who are benefiting from the Dham to acts in the common good. There has to be ways of organizing them that they use their clout to promote volunteerism in the various educational and practical projects that are needed to develop Vrindavan in the proper way.”
He also talked about the visual pollution made by billboards.
Pancha Gauda Prabhu spoke about law and order and the need for a bit more strict enforcement. Mishra answered him by stating that in his opinion the standards in policing have gone down since he first joined the IPS, but nevertheless, law enforcement is always the last resort. A society has to enforce principles itself through example and precept.
“Besides,” he added, “the task is daunting. Everyone in Vrindavan is littering. Is it feasible to give everyone a ticket for that?”
“What is more, there are only 120 municipal cleaners for a town of 70 (57K official). This is inadequate, but unless people themselves change habits, the cleanliness problem will never be solved. So education is necessary and he appealed to everyone to do as much education of others as possible.”
Mishra’s personal connection with Braj
Shailja Kantji told a bit of his own story. In the 1990’s he spent more than two years stationed in Mathura as the Superintendent of Police. He used to come daily to Vrindavan to see his guru Devrah Baba on the other side of the Yamuna in Pani Ghat. So this gave him a strong sense of connection to Braj.
But it was actually Devrah Baba who gave him the order to serve Braj and the cows, so even as a police officer, when transfered to Lucknow he took action to stop polythene use the because of what it did to the street cows.
The photos were effective because they operated on several cows and found their digestive systems to be completely clogged with the plastic. The graphic pictures of these foul contents were horrifying and had a great effect on all who saw the exhibit. Mishra intends to bring that same exhibit to Vrindavan to sensitize people here to polythene use. He jokingly called polythene an incarnation of Hiranyakashipu because it is very hard to get rid of – earth, water, fire, cannot get rid of its environmental mischief-making.
Mishra also touched on the subject of STPs — there are none working properly anywhere in India, he said. He talked about the importance of humility and compassion, and Guru Kripa, as important elements of his spirituality.
Jagadananda Das also spoke about the role of Vrindavan Today is helping to create a community forum for discussing and informing about these issues. He made an appeal to everyone to contribute their proposals to VT as a practical way of sharing ideas and initiatives. “Vrindavan is bigger than any individual or institution and worshipable for us all, regardless of sect or subsect. Therefore a forum is needed that transcends such segmentation,” he said.
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