Lend Me Your Ears


Oct 12, USA (SUN) — I happened to catch the motion picture, "X" the other night about the life of the famed civil rights activist, Malcolm X . The film directed by Spike Lee was intriguing in that the faith and conviction that triggered Malcolm X's conversion from petty criminal while serving a seven year sentence in prison to the outspoken leader of the Nation of Islam was not all that different from the type of conversions that took place for becoming devotees of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, although both movements are gulfs apart in terms of their ideology, conclusions and goals. After all, ISKCON has the Vedic literatures. I have no doubt that had Malcolm X lived longer (he was assassinated in 1965) he might have been very sympathetic to Srila Prabhupada's movement. Ironically, Srila Prabhupada arrived on American shores a few months after Malcolm X's death.

The Nation of Islam, while controversial in nature, also boasted a charismatic figure, the Honorable Elijah Mohammed, who won over many black men and women by teaching them spiritual values even though the thrust of the teachings dealt with the plight of the African-Americans seeking relief from racist oppression during the turbulent civil rights era that permeated America in the 1950's and 1960's.

It is also interesting to note that Malcolm X drove up the membership of the Nation of Islam from just 500 members in 1952 to 30,000 members in 1963. This aggressive preaching (he used radio and TV to communicate his message) culminated in the assassinations of not only Malcolm X but also another civil rights leader during that same period, Dr. Martin Luther King. While King preached a "Gandhi-esque" form of non-violent disobedience, both activists shared similar visions for a world devoid of hate and prejudice. While there is speculation as to who assassinated Malcolm X, there are many who believe it was an inside job amongst envious and disgruntled higher-ups within the Nation of Islam itself or certainly induced by a paranoid FBI/CIA connection.

In fact, in an FBI memo orchestrated by the late J. Edgar Hoover in 1963 it stated, "Prevent the rise of a 'messiah' who could unify and electrify the militant, black nationalist movement." It is interesting to note in this connection that Srila Prabhupada was often quoted as saying that if they really knew what he was talking about they would kill him. ISKCON was never a "militant" organization. However, I'm sure most Prabhupada disciples are well aware that the CIA and FBI had informants that infiltrated ISKCON in it's early days to gather information as a matter of course.

Be that as it may, one of the striking similarities with any social, religious and/or political movement is that the leaders themselves were great orators. If one thinks back to the many movements, good or bad, in the last few thousand years, one comes to the conclusion that apart from charisma, (which helps) what attracted people to a specific cause, was the individual's ability to persuade through words. Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, (his "I have a dream" speech) John F. Kennedy, Adolph Hitler (A madman but a great orator) Mark Anthony, Fidel Castro, Socrates, Brigham Young, (who founded the Mormon church) Robert Kennedy, Richard M. Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and even Spartacus, (an illiterate slave who led a revolt against Rome) all had one thing in common, the power of speech and the ability to inspire the masses whether one agreed or disagreed with their ideologies.

In ancient Greece, Demosthenes (384-322 BC) a great orator, knew the value of speech. He was born with an impediment and also stuttered. When he was very young he would put pebbles in his mouth and recite short speeches while he ran. He would also go down to the seashore and give speeches over the roar of the waves. Thus he became one of the greatest orators in the world.

What has all this got to do with Krsna consciousness? Simply put, we need dynamic, new Krsna conscious orators. We need devotees with the power of speech and use of words after realizing the truths from the Vedas that can set the world on fire and attract the masses to Krsna consciousness. We need bold, fearless Krsna conscious preachers. More emphasis must be placed on this kind of preaching and those who have linguistic abilities should mount a very aggressive attack on Maya instead of spending time fighting amongst ourselves. This is the only movement that will save the world.

Since Srila Prabhupada's disappearance in 1977, (and much to the chagrin of those disciples who bitterly remember the zonal-acarya era) there have been only two or three Krsna conscious orators that quickly come to mind in ISKCON. One was Srila Ramesvara Swami prior to his leaving the movement in the 1980's.

I don't say this just because he gave the first Srimad-Bhagavatam class I ever heard, but rather, the manner in which he delivered his discourse. He would speak from practical experience and start the discourse slow, building to a crescendo that in the end, left no doubt about who God was or the conclusions of sastra. I use Ramesvara Swami only as an example of his personal oratory abilities at the time.

There have been many ISKCON preachers who are sincere in their discourses, I'm only referring to the manner in which they are delivered. There is a certain quality to speech-making. If one studies the great orators they will see that the common thread is forcefulness and conviction. Devotees could feel the conviction in Srila Prabhupada's voice when he spoke from the Vedas. The Vedas were not some obscure, mythical writings but actual fact and Srila Prabhupada delivered them in a very matter-of-fact manner making them accessible to time and place.

The Christians still have Billy Graham, one of America's greatest evangelists and the Catholics had Fulton J. Sheen back in the 50's doing an early morning TV show. There's Pat Robertson with the "700 Club", Robert J Shuller with the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) and Focus on the Family that all bring in millions of dollars worth of revenue. But sadly, there is no Hare Krishna TV show where a devotee can deliver the best knowledge of all, liberation from birth and death. Not on cable, but on major network television.

Perhaps monies could be appropriated for such a venture. It is important to remember that a movement expands by the power of it's preaching and then the economic base expands as new devotees come just as in Srila Prabhupada's early days. Maybe Alfred Ford (Ambarisa das) and his foundation should consider investing in such a venture even at the sake of temporarily suspending temple building. Try to imagine (much to Rocana das's chagrin) HH Danavir Goswami or Sankarshana Das Adhikari, delivering a 30-minute discourse from Srimad-Bhagavtam every Sunday morning face to face on network TV. We must give up all the petty bickering no matter how well-founded and mount a massive preaching campaign. The time to act is now while the world is in chaos.

I therefore extend a serious proposal to ISKCON and the GBC to consider organizing a "Krishna Conscious March for Peace" on Washington, D.C. by bringing together all the Hare Krsna devotees worldwide or nationally, at a date and time to be decided. Perhaps the Spring/Summer of 2006 which marks ISKCON's 40th anniversary in America might be nice. Guest speakers may be invited such as celebrity speakers and religionists etc. The march would culminate at the Washington Monument area where Martin Luther King gave his famous speech. Subjects could be addressed like the Vedic view of peace. A massive harinam with hundreds of thousands of people chanting, "Hare Krsna, Hare Rama." This could be very well-organized with good security.

ISKCON and the GBC may select a keynote speaker's (good orators) who can deliver the message of Krsna consciousness. They may begin by relating Srila Prabhupada's arrival in America in 1965. Thus, good devotee speech writer/s are needed. (I would gladly be one of them). The many aspects to be covered (much to the dismay of atheists) will be peace and prosperity by following the principles stated below:

    1. Closing all slaughterhouses in the continental United States. And why.

    2. Make all abortion procedures illegal stressing that life begins at inception. Explaining why. (Quotes from Srimad-Bhagavatam)

    3. That all gambling, and other forms of intoxication should be eliminated or strictly regulated over a period of time to be determined by congress. Economic impact will be stressed as well as immediate benefits.

    4. The primary thrust of the speech will be to tie-in how the above mentioned principles will immediately have positive effects for the whole world that is now being plagued by terrorism, global warming, natural disasters and famine etc. and how the maha-mantra has the efficacy to counteract these forces of nature by adopting the mode of goodness.

    5. Finally, as not to scare the non-believers, (and this is where the power of speech comes in) we will also state that while the process is simple and effective, an understanding of these principles will be a new beginning for human society. As such, we will ask that Americans chant at least 1 round of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra every day for 1 month and then contact their local ISKCON temple with the results. Don't laugh! (This is a transcendental trick of course. Many people won't, but imagine who will).

    6. The important thing to remember is that while all religions preach some form of God consciousness, there is one almighty God that is the origin of all life on earth etc.

Again, this would be an important step in bringing to the world the message of Krishna consciousness in a bold way. There would be extensive media coverage. Other organizations could get involved such as PETA and even the intelligent design movement.

Naturally there would be profuse prasadam and book distribution. Think about it. I would therefore like positive feedback to begin the necessary steps for achieving this goal for the summer of 2006.

Anyone interested? Wouldn't Srila Prabhupada like this? I want to hear from all GBC sannasyis and devotees about this proposition. It is attainable if we all co-operate together. Try to imagine.


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