Sri Lanka is making elaborate plans to celebrate the 50th anniversary of spiritual leader Srila Prabhupada’s visit to the island. This historic event happened on August 19, 1965. To celebrate this visit by the founder of International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), Sri Lanka’s Hare Krishna devotees have already begun a series of programs. These celebrations will culminate with a special program for which invitations will be sent to the country’s President Maithripala Sirisena and Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe.
The Hare Krishna movement in Sri Lanka is active in Colombo, especially Kotahena (Colombo 13). This is largely due to the presence of a Hare Krishna Temple in this area, and the untiring efforts of a hard working priest by the name of Mahakartha Das. The priest has been quoted in ISKCON NEWS saying that these special programs lined up will help spread Krishna consciousness, and also aid the realization of one of the aims of the society which is to see a Baghavad Gita (The book which contains the teachings of Krishna) in every home.
The Krishna Consciousness Movement gathered momentum in America when Prabhupada set foot in this western nation in 1965. He knew nobody in this foreign land, and took few possessions with him in a grueling journey which he did in a cargo ship. What gave him strength were his teacher’s words, ‘go to the West and spread Krishna consciousness using English as the medium’. As a result, ISKCON was registered in New York on July 11, 1966.
There are many versions and different interpretations of Bhaghavad Gita, which offers practitioners of spiritualism knowledge about life in abundance. Hare Krishna followers regard the book ‘Bhaghavad Gita as it is’ (authored by Bhaktivedanta Srila Prapbhupada) as the one which contains the original lessons which Lord Krishna gave Arjuna during the battle of Kurukshetra.
The Gita teaches devotees how to control their senses and condition themselves, so that they will reach a position where they can accept The Lord as the supreme personality or Godhead. The book further teachers devotees that the easiest and surest way to unite with Godhead (Krishna) is to chant the Hare Krishna maha mantra (Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare).
According to records available in Sri Lanka, Prabhupada had been received well by officials of Narrotam & Pierera Co, where a gentleman by the name of Banka had arranged a vehicle for the spiritual teacher to see the city. Prabhupada’s diary records of the visit state that he had passed through nice clean roads and bazaars. Little do people know that Prabhupada had survived two heart attacks, while making the journey by ship to Sri Lanka.
His was exposed to great challenges in spreading the message of the Bhagavad Gita in America because this nation, by that time was noted for leading the world in sinful activities. Prabhupada had written in his diary that he was overwhelmed by the challenges he had to meet in America, hence he had sought benediction from Lord Krishna to help him spread the teachings of Krishna Consciousness. What’s amazing is that Prabhupada had started his universal journey of spreading Lord Krishna’s message when he was 69 years old!
The movement has spread across the world ever since, and Hare Krishna Centers have mushroomed all over North America, Europe, Australasia, Africa, Asia and Latin America.
According to ISKCON NEWS, Temple President Sri Lanka Branch Swami Mahakarta Das is confident that he can gather 10,000 devotees for the special programs lined up to celebrate the 50th anniversary celebrations.
The Sri Lankan branch of ISKCON plans many activities to mark this historic occasion. Topping the agenda of activities will be the issuing of a stamp to mark Prabhupada’s visit to the island. ISKCON Sri Lanka also plans to conduct a school’s competition on Prabhupada’s life and mission, invite Hindu Bhajan Groups to sing at the occasion and distribute free-sanctioned meals (food that’s approved by the scriptures and offered to Krishna). As a result of the spreading of Krishna Consciousness in Sri Lanka, thousands have embraced vegetarianism.
One of the most looked-forward to activities during the celebrations will be the Nagar Sankirtan, where devotees will walk the roads that were traversed by Prabhupada during his visit to Sri Lanka. The dates for this activity have been scheduled for August 22 and 23.
The Sri Lankan branch of ISKCON, while celebrating this historic occasion, hopes to spread the message that practicing Krishna Consciousness helps people liberate themselves from all forms of sufferings.
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