Reply to point one of nine reasons to change the TOVP

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By Hari-sauri dasa

September 2, 2008

To the assembled Vaisnavas,

Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

I have read with interest the presentation of ‘Nine points’ by our Iskcon scholars (and others) as to why the current design of the TOVP in Mayapur should be stopped. (I will not say here ‘changed’ because there is no alternative on the table.)

Its clear that there are some strong feelings amongst some devotees that the US Capitol building-based design is not going to serve our purposes, and that is natural. There is hardly a building of significance in the world that does not have its detractors.

Since I presented my initial reply to the concerns of the authors of this document, they have been hard at work to more clearly express their dissent. All well. It would be a poor world to live in if we were dumbed down by decisions that cannot be discussed and debated (what Ravindra Svarup prabhu used to call the ‘mushroom philosophy’ – ‘keep ‘em in the dark and feed them stool.’)

Ambarish prabhu has welcomed the debate and already replied. I have waited to have my say because I already made a lengthy presentation several months ago. In this instance I wanted to see what the more developed arguments are and what are the reactions to them.

I would humbly like to request the indulgence of the assemble devotees while I reply this latest salvo. If anyone is in doubt about my personal qualifications in making this reply, all I can say is that

1) I am a member of the current design team, being the coordinator for the proposed exhibits.
2) I was personally with Srila Prabhupada on numerous occasions in 1976-1977 when the discussions on building the TOVP were building up a head of steam and Srila Prabhupada was pushing his disciples to complete the plans and begin the work.
3) I spent over three months living with Srila Prabhupada in Mayapur and I am a resident of Mayapur since 1996. i.e. I have a deep attachment to this project seeded and cultivated by my association with His Divine Grace.
4) I am an Iskcon man and have been for nearly 37 years.
5) Other than that, I am a conditioned soul and I readily accept that my perceptions or ideas may not be clear. By submitting my understandings to the general devotees I hope to go deeper and more clearly into the divine realm of devotional service.

Here then is my response to the first of the ‘9 points’:

Point one:

1) Srila Prabhupada, in mid-1976, made three brief statements (added at the end of this aticle) which suggested that the TVP should look like the U.S. Capitol. But he never insisted that the latter must be its exact model. He said only that the TVP, like the Capitol or the Victoria Memorial, should have a big dome. Five years before these statements, Srila Prabhupada approved Ranchor Prabhu’s very different design for the TVP, and after the statements he did not object to, and seems in fact to have approved, Saurabha’s Indian design; he allowed Saurabha to make a model of it and to display it outside the Lotus Building. It is therefore unclear to what extent he really wanted the TVP to resemble the U.S. Capitol.

Hari Sauri Prabhu describes, in Transcendental Diary, Srila Prabhupada’s “extreme enthusiasm” for Saurabha’s drawings of an Indian design, in January 1976 - the very drawings that resulted in the model that was put on display. We are on safe ground if we give priority to Srila Prabhupada’s direct statements about the architecture of the TVP.

The problem is that there are not many such statements. The brief and never repeated ones about the Capitol dome, at least two of which were made in the course of long conversations about other things, are supportive only of the idea that the TVP should have a big dome similar to that of the U.S. Capitol, to the extent of being a dome and big. This being the case, the exact nature of the dome should be decided on the basis of other related instructions Srila Prabhupada gave in his works.

Such instructions of course suggest that the architecture should be Indian. Srila Prabhupada said that the whole world will come to Mayapura to see “the architectural culture, they’ll come to see the civilization culture, the philosophical culture, the religious culture.” (Feb. 28,1976, Mayapura)

My answer:

The key to this whole debate, as I have stated previously, is mentioned here “We are on safe ground if we give priority to Srila Prabhupada’s direct statements about the architecture of the TVP.” I think all of us agree on this.

1) The authors state: “It is therefore unclear to what extent he really wanted the TVP to resemble the U.S. Capitol.”

a) I find the statement above to be problematic. The thrust of this first of nine points is to minimize as much as possible Srila Prabhupada’s own statements made in 1976 in order to deny the fact that he wanted a dome, or indeed a whole building, like the US Capitol.

Instead, to gain credibility the authors have indulged in some obvious assumptions and obfuscation which I would like to point out:

At no point has anyone suggested or insisted that there cannot be another design. Even a cursory reading of my previous article reveals this fact.

However, Ambarish prabhu has already stated that when he took the project up, he was fed up of the constant changes in design that had been made for over 30 years. There were many, many designs. Even as late as 2004-05 changes were being made to the exterior.

None of these attempts factored in Srila Prabhupada’s own stated preference for the exterior design. And the total expenditure had come to about $12 million +. Thus he decided to go back to a design which he knew Srila Prabhupada liked.

Ambarish has never said Prabhupada didn’t like any other design. He simply said, “We know that Srila Prabhupada like this design, let’s build it because we are on safe ground.”

b) There is an attempt here to dissemble Srila Prabhupada’s own words and minimize them. The authors state “it is unclear to what extent he really wanted the TVP to resemble the US Capitol.”

What is unclear? Let me go through the sequence, and for the umpteenth time, present exactly what Srila Prabhupada actually did and said (and please note the authors of this paper have avoided these quotes in their new presentation):

On July 4 1976 Srila Prabhupada, accompanied by a large group of devotees, went down into WDC ostensibly to view the massive fireworks show that had been promised for the evening’s entertainment.

After a brief tour around, the group settled on a spot at the end of the Mall, facing the Capitol.

As we awaited the fireworks, this is what Srila Prabhupada saw:

(Photo taken on July 4, 2008 by Hari-sauri dasa)

Two days later on July 6, he called in Yadubara prabhu and his wife Vishakha and asked them to take photos of the Capitol Building:

Prabhupäda: … I wanted both of you to take various detailed photographs of that Capitol.
Yadubara: The Capitol Building. For what purpose, Çréla Prabhupäda?
Prabhupäda: We shall have picture, planetarium in Mäyäpura. (aside:) That’s better. [break] …spiritual world, material world, and so on, so on. Planetary…, succession of the planetary systems, everything. A building like that.”
[end quote – pls. Note I have included the fuller quote in my previous paper]

Yadubara and Vishakha reported back two days later and Çréla Prabhupäda instructed them to make three copies of all the photos they took, one set for himself, one for Saurabha and one for the Mayapur management.

Less than one month later, on July 26, 1976, in London, Srila Prabhupada met with George Harrison. Part of that conversation, which ranged over many things, included this exchange:

Prabhupäda: … We are just attempting a big planetarium in Mäyäpur. We have asked government to acquire land, 350 acres. That is negotiation going on. We shall give a Vedic planetarium.
George Harrison: Is that the one you were talking about? With all the…
Prabhupäda: In the Fifth Canto.
Gurudäsa: The planetarium will be 350 feet high and show the cosmology of the spiritual world.
Prabhupäda: The construction will be like your Washington capital, like that.
George Harrison: A big dome.
Prabhupäda: Yes. Estimated eight crores of rupees.
[end quote]

Now, how can it be shown from the above that Srila Prabhupada was ambiguous or ‘unclear’ about the Capitol building?

He clearly states, twice, that he wanted a building in Mayapur ‘like that.” What does the word ‘like’ mean? I am sure our scholars have dictionaries. Here’s what mine says:

“similar; resembling”
“the equal or counterpart of a person or thing, esp. one respected or prized.”
“resembling or similar to”
“having the characteristics of”

It is possible to say that Srila Prabhupada was being loose in his usage. But when we factor in the request for his disciples to take photos “inside and outside” and send them to his Mayapur GBC, and his chief designer, and to keep a set for himself, there can be no doubt as to the degree to which he was impressed.

If someone is unclear about an historical event, the first duty of a commentator should be to contact the persons that were personally present and hear from them. I was there, and I have already expressed my understanding which the authors do not find palatable. Just in case the authors think that I have a bias (I do, and that is to understand exactly what Srila Prabhupada wanted and nothing more) we would naturally expect that the authors would have contacted Yadubara and Vishakha prabhus, to find out what their impression was.

I did:

August 25, 2008

Dear Yadubara prabhu,

Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

You will have no doubt seen the current stir about the use of the Capitol building design for the TOVP. It is now being claimed that Srila Prabhupada’s request to use that as the template for the TOVP was ambiguous.

I have a couple of questions if you wouldn’t mind replying:

1) When Srila Prabhupada asked you and Vishakha to photograph the Capitol, and when he asked you to make copies and send them to Saurabha and Gargamuni, what was your understanding why he did this?

2) Was Srila Prabhupada’s request in any way ambiguous, or was it clear that he wanted that design for the Mayapur temple?

An early reply would be appreciated.

[end]

And this his response:

August 25, 2008

Dear Hari-sauri prabhu,

Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

We have been asked similar questions in the past and here is our answer:

> Srila Prabhupada was in Washington D.C. for the two hundredth anniversary of American
> independence day (July 4, 1976) and that evening we all went with him downtown to see the
> fireworks. That’s when he saw the Capitol Building and the next morning during mangala
> aratirka, called Yadubara and me into his room and asked us to take pictures of that building.

> (At the same meeting he looked right at us and said, “Take it from me they didn’t go to the
> moon,” and to directly experience his conviction was a memorable moment.)

> Both Yadubara and I feel that the Capitol Building was to serve as some form of inspiration;
> that Srila Prabhupada was not fixed on that design but offered it as an option for consideration.
[end quote]

Its clear that this letter was written by Vishakha devi.

A couple of points can be noted:

They both felt that Srila Prabhupada wanted the Capitol to serve as ‘an option’ or ‘as some form of inspiration.”

That’s pretty clear then, what those in direct contact with Srila Prabhupada understood from his actions and words. When we add to this his statement to George Harrison a few weeks later, it becomes even clearer.

Why is this being discounted? And discounted it is, because the other point to note is Yadubara’s statement to me: “We have been asked similar questions in the past and here is our answer.”

I was intrigued by this and wrote to Vishakha on August 30:

“No doubt you have seen the recent stir against the current TOVP. Yadu has already sent me a statement from you and him about what were your impressions of Srila Prabhupada’s intentions when he asked you to take photos of the Capitol building. I am just wondering if you have been contacted previously by Tattvavit or Janakiram on this topic?”

Here is her reply:

August 31, 2008

“No, not by either of those two devotees, but by Carana Renu Prabhu. She has the statement from us on the topic.”
[end quote]

For there readers who don’t know Carana Renu dasi (Phd in astrophysics), she is the former co-ordinator for the ISKCON cosmology team led by Ravindra Svarupa prabhu. She supports the efforts of her fellow scholars in trying to derail the current plans.

Without jumping to conclusions, one has to ask whether Carana Renu mataji was:
* involved in any way with putting together the ‘9 points’ paper?
* Whether she sent this message from Vishakha to the authors, or in any way indicated its contents to them?
* Or in any way discussed the possibility of using their testimony?

If she did, then we have to say that this eye-witness, first hand observation was deliberately left out. And we would have to ask ‘why?’. Is it because it does not agree with the authors’ attempt to show that Srila Prabhupada’s words and actions were ambiguous or ‘unclear.’

And even if Carana Renu mataji has had no contact at all on this topic with the authors, we would have to ask why they have been so eager to not contact the obvious people they should have done, had their investigations into this matter been unbiased and of a scholarly nature.

c) Apart from this, I was quite amused that the authors are even attempting to show that in my own record of events from Mayapur in 1976, Transcendental Diary Vol 1 I have contradicted what I now present:

“Hari Sauri Prabhu describes, in Transcendental Diary, Srila Prabhupada’s “extreme enthusiasm” for Saurabha’s drawings of an Indian design, in January 1976 - the very drawings that resulted in the model that was put on display. It is interesting that again the authors have excluded my exact wording.

Here’s my exact quote:

January 22, 1976 - Mayapur

“In the evening Saurabha prabhu showed Prabhupada the preliminary plans for the new temple. He estimates the cost will be at least eighty crores of rupees ($80 million). Saurabha’s drawings revealed magnificent plans for an entire city, centered around a huge temple structure. It will be surrounded by satellite temples, a gurukula campus, a commercial area, bathing ghatas, and other facilities. The whole area will be protected from flooding by a latticework of canals. The main feature is to be a gigantic planetarium within the dome of the main temple.

Srila Prabhupada was extremely enthusiastic about the plans. He wants the planetarium to demonstrate the Vedic alternative to modern scientific cosmological propaganda, illustrating the structure of the universe as described in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Impressed with Saurabha’s work, Prabhupada suggested that the plans be presented to the state government with an application for official acquisition of the land we require. Prabhupada always thinks big; he even suggested that we try to get them to relocate Calcutta’s Dum Dum airport nearby. For Prabhupada no vision is impossible, because it is for Krsna.” [end quote]

There is no mention here about an ‘Indian’ style dome. Nor do I say that he was extremely enthusiastic about drawings of ‘an Indian design’. I say very clearly that he was extremely enthusiastic about the plans, and I go on to mention the effort against modern cosmological propaganda.

Furthermore, I said in my last paper that the design for the temple was not yet fixed up at the January 1976 meeting. As above I say there were some ‘preliminary plans’ of the whole scheme.

If we then consider that just 5 months later Srila Prabhupada was having photos taken of the Capitol, and sending them to his designer and GBC, stating he wanted something ‘like that’ it should be clear that in Srila Prabhupada’s mind at least, the final design was not fixed up, and that whatever he was shown in January 1976, he developed an enthusiasm for the Capitol building.

One has to ask then, where do the authors get this contention, from my book, that he had an extreme enthusiasm for an ‘Indian design’? An that this somehow countermands my account of what went on later?

If there is a hint of criticism in the authors questioning of why I did not include the two above paragraphs from January 22 1976 in my previous paper, I think this is now answered.

I did not include them because they give no information about the exact design of the temple, and because they were superceded by the clear and direct comments and actions five months later.

Sounds like someone is clutching at straws here.

d) The authors go on to state:

“The brief and never repeated ones about the Capitol dome, at least two of which were made in the course of long conversations about other things, are supportive only of the idea that the TVP should have a big dome similar to that of the U.S. Capitol, to the extent of being a dome and big. This being the case, the exact nature of the dome should be decided on the basis of other related instructions Srila Prabhupada gave in his works.”

Here we find the authors venturing to extrapolate or qualify the statements Srila Prabhupada made about the Capitol. They attempt by slight-of word, to reduce the unequivocally clear preference of His Divine Grace to “to the extent of being a dome and big.”

Well, munis are known for reductionism so that they can introduce their own ideas, and here we see it plainly in action. If Srila Prabhupada wanted simply a ‘big dome’ of any nature, he would have said that. But rather, he states, clearly, on two occasions in three weeks, “like that” referring directly to the Capitol building.

Another attempt to minimize Srila Prabhupada’s words is to say, “at least two of which were made in the course of long conversations about other things.”

Why does this minimize the importance of such an statement? Rather the opposite. The fact that Srila Prabhupada called in Yadubara and Vishakha without prompting, to take photos when they themselves didn’t know the reason why, shows that he was mediating on the Capitol building and that his meditations brought him to the point of actualization.

The fact that he mentioned the Capitol building to George Harrison in a conversation about many other topics, shows that despite many other possible subject matters, he was meditating on the Capitol building and was eager enough to have it for his Mayapur project that he, again without prompting, voiced his desire.

The final sentence above concludes:

“This being the case, the exact nature of the dome should be decided on the basis of other related instructions Srila Prabhupada gave in his works.”

A clever but transparent jump of logic not related to reality.

e) And finally, another such jump of logic:

Such instructions of course suggest that the architecture should be Indian. Srila Prabhupada said that the whole world will come to Mayapura to see “the architectural culture, they’ll come to see the civilization culture, the philosophical culture, the religious culture.” (Feb. 28,1976, Mayapura)

I have in my previous paper, presented some statements that indicate what every manager in Mayapur knew: that Srila Prabhupada did not want a repeat of the many Indian-style domes and temples, not just in Mayapur, but in India in general. He had already gone with that at the Krsna Balarama Mandira, and in Mumbai and Hyderabad.

In Mayapur he wanted something that would reflect the international nature of his ISKCON.

In fact, Srila Prabhupada was criticized by his own god-brothers in Mayapur for not repeating the same architectural style that they have built their temples in.

Here is the Yoga Pitha, the biggest temple established by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur:

They were critical that he was not following the tradition set by their Guru Maharaja. The Lotus building was entirely different from anything that any other god-brother built.

Srila Prabhupada didn’t have a care about their criticism. He had his own, expansive plans for the development of Mayapur-dhama that went beyond the preservation and easy life of running a temple midst the rice paddies of rural W. Bengal.

I will finally add, on this section, that obviously, in 1977, Srila Prabhupada agreed to allow Sauraba prabhu to go ahead with the design he had been working on most of the year: that of the multi-domed, pyramidal structure that was displayed as a model outside the Lotus building during the festival. Saurabh prabhu had labored long and hard, in the midst of many other important projects, and Srila Prabhupada was not keen to make him scrap what he had already started. Therefore he gave the go-ahead for the model to be displayed. For him, it is a fact that the interior usage was superior to the external features.

The point to re-iterate here is that Srila Prabhupada was open to other options. Noone has ever disputed that. But the use of the Capitol building has been strongly attacked, and the thrust of this new ‘9 point’ declaration is to demolish in the reader’s minds the idea that Srila Prabhupada himself liked that design. I think I have shown conclusively that this is not at all the case.

My Conclusion:

The authors know that unless they can show that Srila Prabhupada didn’t have a preference, or didn’t state exactly what he wanted, then it leaves them room to express their own dissatisfaction and their own preference in place of the current proposal.

However, if it can be established that Srila Prabhupada did in fact like, and request a building like the US Capitol, then I would suggest that the authors have to honestly acknowledge this by issuing the following statement:
a) Srila Prabhupada likes the Capitol.
b) We don’t.
c) Therefore we don’t like what Srila Prabhupada likes.

To reiterate the opening statement on which we all agree:

“We are on safe ground if we give priority to Srila Prabhupada’s direct statements about the architecture of the TVP.”

I think that to any discerning reader it can be seen that Ambarish prabhu, with GBC approval, is therefore attempting to build something that we know without a doubt Srila Prabhupada likes; This is the safe ground, and this should be given priority, considering all other factors.

I will answer the other points in due course. For now I think this is sufficient for the reader to digest. I thank everyone for their indulgence.

Your humble servant,
Hari-sauri dasa

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1 Tattvavit Dasa

Hari Sauri Prabhu wrote: “. . . please note the authors of this paper have avoided these quotes in their new presentation.”

Not so. We included them all, for we thought that devotees would want to read them. Therefore they are in a supplement to the main article. Surely the readers saw them there if they read everything we sent.

Hari Sauri wrote: “We would naturally expect that the authors would have contacted Yadubara and Vishakha prabhus, to find out what their impression was. . . . They both felt that Srila Prabhupada wanted the Capitol to serve as ‘an option’ or ‘as some form of inspiration’. . . . one has to ask whether Carana Renu mataji was: involved in any way with putting together the ‘9 points’ paper? Whether she sent this message from Vishakha to the authors, or in any way indicated its contents to them? . . . If she did, then we have to say that this eye-witness, first hand observation was deliberately left out.

Carana Renu has been sympathetically involved in our discussions. She wrote to Vishakha and Yadubara only after we published the article, and received their reply a few days ago. Therefore their observations were not deliberately left out.

(Carana Renu has been planning to write to Ambarisa Prabhu and Hari Sauri Prabhu to make known her feelings about the design and to reassure them that she is still cent percent dedicated to helping with the planetarium plans. She just has been very busy and hasn’t managed to do this.)

Hari Sauri wrote: “. . . where do the authors get this contention, from my book, that he [SP] had an extreme enthusiasm for an ‘Indian design’?”

Our logic is: Srila Prabhupada was “extremely enthusiatic” about the plans shown in Saurabha’s drawings; those plans led to Saurabha making a model of a TVP with an Indian design; this model later was put on display with Srila Prabhupada’s approval.

Hari Sauri wrote: “It is interesting that again the authors have excluded my exact wording.”

Again not true. The exact quote is in the supplement to the main article.

Comment posted by Tattvavit Dasa on September 3rd, 2008
2 Unregistered

TVP Planners,

Hare Krishna!

All glories to Srila Prabhupada and your determination to please him.

For what it’s worth, it seems obvious to me to allow those who are trully inspired and committed to this service to have the final say. They seem to have been very willing to hear all kinds of suggestions, and now want to move ahead with construction. They have experienced the paralysis through analysis phenomenon and are are now giving it their best effort rather than waiting for the perfect design and the perfect arrangement. There will always be critics.

Anyone who has done some form of sankirtana knows that you do your best and depend on Krishna. If you wait for the perfect material arrangement, you will never begin anything. If you try to please everyone, you will end in stalemate. All you can do is try to please guru and Gauranga.

I would like to add two comments I have heard regarding this project which I feel are constructive considerations.

1) Could the designers please consider the acoustic design of the kirtan areas, so that kirtans are supported by the hall rather than it being an environment antogonistic to hearing and being heard?

2) Is there truly a demand for the TVP? By this I mean to say, Will there be sufficient interest and capability to maintain the TVP once it is built? We have the experience of obtaining buildings without a realistic idea about how to maintain them.

Hari bol!

Dvarakadhisa das

Comment posted by Dvarakadhisa das on September 3rd, 2008
3 Hari Sauri dasa

Dvarakadisa prabhu asks:

1) Could the designers please consider the acoustic design of the kirtan areas, so that kirtans are supported by the hall rather than it being an environment antogonistic to hearing and being heard?

Ans:
This is a very valid point. The acoustics in the Puspa Samadhi are so bad that its almost impossible to hold a program in it. The design team are aware of this and one of the top acoustic engineers in India has been consulted and will be working with our team to ensure that the TVP acoustics will be first class.

2) Is there truly a demand for the TVP? By this I mean to say, Will there be sufficient interest and capability to maintain the TVP once it is built? We have the experience of obtaining buildings without a realistic idea about how to maintain them.

Ans:
When the Puspa Samadhi was opened in 1995 the crowds attending Mayapur increased by a factor of at least 10. During 1998 we kept attendance figures and over 1.5 million visitors were recorded through the gates. There is no question that the TVP will be a magnet for millions. The maintenance of big buildings is always hard work, but in India it will be no problem, as we have seen in our other big projects. The resources are available, the manpower is available–we simply need good managers.

Yhs, Hari-sauri dasa

Comment posted by Hari Sauri dasa on September 7th, 2008
4 pustakrishna

Dear bhaktas,
Dandavat and Hare Krishna. As Hari Sauri das knows, I rarely appreciate something he has written, but I do appreciate his efforts. I want to simply clarify something about Srila Prabhupad’s character. Many, many, many times, a disciple would start out a statement with “I think…”. Srila Prabhupad would soundly, and somewhat abruptly express, “you think, what is the value of your thinking!”
So, I am cautioning individuals to understand this. It is not o.k. to think this way and that way, whimsically or even thoughtfully, when it comes to the order of the Jagatguru Spiritual Master. It is an issue, “if there is a snake in the corner, and my spiritual master says that it is a rope, then I accept it is a rope.” “If he then says, it is a snake, then I accept it is a snake”. How will you come to opinions about all of these things? Even the GBC was sometimes criticized by Srila Prabhupad for their near-sightedness.
Nonetheless, Srila Prabhupad has given a system to resolve these issues, in the absence of one appointed acharya (which Srila Prabhupad did not do)…that is the GBC should consider all the issues and go forward. But, please read my contribution to Sriman Ambarish’s reply to Tattvavit…it is critically important that you do not discourage His Grace Ambarish from his divine service to Srila Prabhupad. You must consider this.
Many of the Gaudiya temples have 9 spires, representing the 9 forms of devotional service. That is very nice, but remember that Srila Prabhupad was also very much aware of this. When he admired the dome shape of the Capitol style, His Divine Grace AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad was considering the shape of a Vedic Planetarium. It is designed to be different, to be unique, to stand out as an attraction that would captivate the imaginations of scholars and ordinary people with little education. It is designed to refute the consideration that human beings are on top of the evolutionary scale, therefore qualified to exploit the world for their own purposes. Srila Prabhupad wants to establish in this place that beyond cheating ideas, there are gradations of life and existence from lower to higher, based purely upon the quality of consciousness. Thus, Krishna Consciousness is designed to elevate the soul and society by an understanding that one can choose, volitionally, to counter the conditioned misconceptions. His proposal, The Vedic Planetarium. Pusta Krishna das

Comment posted by pustakrishna on September 8th, 2008
5 Akruranatha

The few times I have been to Mayapur (I think I have only been there 4 or 5 times), I remember passing on the drive from Calcutta some kind of “Science” theme park with a big planetarium.

I have never visited this “Science Land” or whatever it is (the local devotees will know much more clearly the place I am talking about, and what it is really like), but it seems likely designed to indoctrinate the Bengali populace into materialistic science and doubtfulness about revealed Vedic scriptures.

I remember how I myself was indoctrinated as a child by trips to museums and planetariums (planetaria?), along with books designed to teach science and ancient history to young readers, full of “artist’s conceptions” depicting what it was really like in ancient Egypt or among the dinasaurs or on the surface of Jupiter.

Growing up in the 1960s in the Washington, D.C. area, materialistic science was kind of like a religion that I was invited to repose my faith in, a rational outlook based on objectively observed “facts” and testable speculations by groups of very smart people, who were making progress discovering the secrets of nature and the basis of the technology that would usher in a better tomorrow.

Part of the message I absorbed was that there was no good reason for an intelligent modern person to believe in a soul, or in God, let alone in the rituals or doctrines of various superstitious religions that were constantly quarreling with each other and blocking mankind’s progress.

One thing Srila Prabhupada emphasized over and over again about Krishna consciousness is that it is “scientific.” Not that it is based on an ascending process of speculative hypotheses and experimentation and critical peer review like mundane science, but it is factual, systematic, explains everything, and delivers the careful student-practitioner from ignorance with the torchlight of realized knowledge, which defeats all doubts and leads to self-control and divine character.

It is not simply a matter of having “blind faith” in one set of scriptures or religious authorities like benighted fundamentalists. It brings true enlightenment in every sense of the word, philosophically, morally, even economically and physically (the manifestation of sattva guna is experienced when all gates of the body are illuminated with knowledge).

Prabhupada’s TOVP will defeat the indoctrination of materialistic “science,” by showcasing the superior, spiritual science.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on September 9th, 2008
6 Akruranatha

I do not mean to suggest that we criticize the valuable achievements of modern scientists either. Whatever they develop that can be used in devotional service need not be rejected, and we routinely use cars, computers, airplanes, modern medicines (even though these products may be unnecessary and actually be prone to bad applications or cause pollution and worse), in much the same way that in ancient times demons like Maya Danava provided technology to the Pandavas.

We are not against the march of history or the advancement of scientific knowledge, like certain Muslim and Christian fundamentalists. We are at the vanguard of opening up a new phase of history in which mundane science is seen as just a small and inferior kind of human knowledge, good perhaps at making clumsy, iron-age technological solutions to existing problems, but not providing a correct cosmological or philosophical framework in which to understand the human condition and its greater spiritual and moral needs.

Can ISKCON really do all that? We certainly have everything we need to do it, in terms of Srila Prabhupada’s books, instructions, blessings, and enlightened senior disciples. It might seem to outsiders as if we are just “shooting for the rhinocerous”, going after absurdly grandiose goals with little chance of success, but it does not seem like that to me.

After all, Prabhupada’s books are so amazing. Srimad Bhagavatam and Bhagavad Gita (as it really is) are well-known ancient works that are full of enlightenment for the people of Kali yuga, if we can only get people to properly read and understand them in parampara.

Bhagavatam is the literary incarnation of Krishna (yada yada hi dharmasya glanir . . . tad atmanam srjamy aham) which is destined to give light to the people of this fallen age, now that Krishna returned to His abode accompanied by religion, knowledge, etc. Lord Gauranga has revealed its importance (and the Maha Mantra sankirtan), and it is now time for us to properly glorify this enlightening, civilizing message all over the world. It will happen. We just have to remain steady, sincere, cooperate in enlightenment (without quarreling), and carry out Prabhupada’s orders together.

The TOVP will be a big step forward in this sacred mission.

“Never doubt that a small group of dedicated people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead

Comment posted by Akruranatha on September 9th, 2008
7 varahanarasimha

dear Prabhus, Maharajas and matajis
please accept my humble obaisences
All glories to Srila Prabhupada
It is really not difficult to see what Srila Prabhupadas desire was when it comes to the TOVP , he clearly expressed his desire that the US Capitol Dome , be an inspiration for this project, there is no if but and why.
Srila Prabhupadas desire is clear so I agree with Ambarish Prabhu, there is no room for speculations. Simply Srila Prabhupadas desires in this matter has first preference, then it will be successful.
Yasya prasadad bhagavad Prasado yasyaprasadad na gatih kuto ‘pi
your servant
Payonidhi das
Ps to build something that goes against Srila Prabhupadas expressed desire is disobeying his instructions, the result of disobeying will only create more deviations and confusions, and defeat–to build what he wanted will create all auspiciousness

Comment posted by varahanarasimha on September 9th, 2008

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