Sri Lanka has been heavily influenced by India when it comes to spirituality. From the Lord Buddha, Swami Vivekananda, Sathya Sai Baba to Srila Prabhupada, Sri Lankans have shown a huge urge to embrace the religious doctrines these great spiritual leaders presented to the world.
Hare Krishna devotee Nimai Sundar Das, who has undertaken a mission in Sri Lanka, is of the opinion that Sri Lankans are naturally religious and have the potential to make progress spiritually. But he gives out a warning. “Sri Lankans are too honest and pious and hence can get misguided when it comes to following a religion,” says Das, an Indian, who is stationed in Sri Lanka and helps in promoting Krishna consciousness. He has also travelled to Europe to promote the Hare Krishna movement.
The Hare Krishna movement, which operates as International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), is gearing up to celebrate its 50th anniversary. Sri Lanka is also part of this celebration and will mark its golden jubilee under the ISKCON umbrella on August 19. The scheduling of the island’s general elections too close to this significant day has made the temple authorities of the Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple in Kotahena postpone celebrations in Sri Lanka.
The world is full of troubles and the reason points to people moving away from religion. The period during which elections are held can force any organizer to rethink about conducting a vital event. Das says that maya (illusion) has great power and will contribute to bringing out demoniac tendencies in people. “This is kali yuga (the era of quarrel). During Kali Yuga we are all considered as Sudras (the lowest caste in the social order) hence we have to work real hard in learning the scriptures under a bona fide spiritual teacher,” says Das who is a Vice President of ISKCON Sri Lanka.
The Baghavad Gita teaches devotees to view with a neutral mind both success and disaster. Hare Krishna devotees look forward to hitting the streets, going in procession and chanting the maha mantra, ‘Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare’. According to Das, devotees are expected to learn the Baghavad Gita, but the chanting of 16 rounds using a chain (Mala) made of 108 beads is given equal importance in the practice of being a Hare Krishna devotee. According to Das, chanting 16 rounds using the mala takes a little over two hours. “God does so much for you, so can’t you give The Lord at least this much of time from your life each day,” queries Das.
He says that Lord Krishna will eventually give you what you ask for. “People who worship Krishna can be categorized into four groups. People can ask God to relieve them of sickness, some will want wealth, some come to The Lord because they are inquisitive about the truths of life and the last group comes to him because they are convinced that The Lord is their master and they should surrender on to him,” explains Das.
Das is from West Bengal, Calcutta and went to Gurukul, a school run by the Hare Krishna Movement in India. He began his education at the Gurukul at the age of eight and never really wanted to leave once completing his general education. His original name was Nirmal Roy and when taking initiation he was given the name Nimai Sundar Das. He is a family man and lives with his wife and two daughters. “Whatever we do we put Lord Krishna in the centre. This gives our work more value,” says Das. At present his two daughters are followers of Lord Krishna and are happy being devotees. “If they decide to move away from this spiritual life and start leading independent lives we are ready to accept their decision,” says Das who strictly practices the basic precepts laid down for a Hare Krishna devotee which are abstaining from; eating meat, onion and garlic, consuming products that intoxicate the mind, having illicit sex, harming living beings, stealing, lying and gambling.
What is the right effort one has to put into seeing results as a Hare Krishna practitioner? Das has this to say to this query. “There are no rules or laws when coming to Lord Krishna. The whole idea is about chanting the maha mantra and being happy”. According to Das, any person having read the Baghavad Gita thrice is ready to take initiation.
According to Das, he was sent to Sri Lanka by his guru His Holiness Jayapataka Swami in 1994 to help develop the Hare Krishna movement in the island. He is stationed here in Sri Lanka, but returns to India often to see his family. Das said that he looks forward to helping ISKCON Temple President in Sri Lanka Maha Karta Das and his wife Nandarani Devi to complete building a Hare Krishna temple in Kotehena. “When there is a temple it is easy to bring Krishna to you. One doesn’t have to convince Sri Lankans why there should be a temple to promote religion. They know this aspect of religion truly well,” says Das.