50th Anniversary of ISKCON Celebrated at House of Lords, London
By Sri Radharamana dasa
On the sacred day of Govardhan Puja, 31st October 2016, Bhaktivedanta Manor hosted a gathering at the House of Lords at the Palace of Westminster to acknowledge the 50th anniversary of the incorporation of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), Founder-Acharya His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
The House of Lords is the upper house of the UK Parliament and was built to advise the Crown Imperial since 1295. The House of Lords scrutinise bills that have been approved by the House of Commons and regularly reviews and amends them. In this capacity, the House of Lords acts as a check on the House of Commons that is independent from the electoral process. The Queen’s Speech is delivered in the House of Lords during the annual State Opening of Parliament.
With the kind permission of the Lord Speaker, the event was hosted in the Principal State Room for an incredible yet intimate gathering of profiled guests renowned in their own disciplines.
Bhaktivedanta Manor has built a tremendous track record in improving the quality of life in the UK through the spiritual initiatives of ISKCON. The peer sponsor, Lord Dholakia welcomed the gathering by recollecting on the challenging yet exciting journey of ISKCON in UK through Bhaktivedanta Manor. Quoting in particular the background to the building of New Gokul, Britain’s foremost centre for cow protection and working oxen at Bhaktivedanta Manor, Lord Dholakia expressed his privilege in being instrumental to helping to protect Lord Krishna’s sacred cows. Soon after, New Gokul was hailed as a blue-print for the future of farming and The Independent and Daily Telegraph newspapers reported the New Gokul project as being the “Hilton of all farms.”
Bhaktivedanta Manor’s temple president, Srutidharma dasa, described the significance of the 50th anniversary of the incorporation of ISKCON and how it is being celebrated in the UK. Having detailed multiple projects and programmes of Bhaktivedanta Manor, the president announced the start of a new chapter in its history in June, 2016 as the ground-breaking ceremony for the long awaited Shri Krishna Haveli building was led by (now former) UK Prime Minister David Cameron. The ceremony itself formed part of the Manor’s offerings to celebrate the 50th anniversary of ISKCON, upon which Mr Cameron heartily congratulated ISKCON by praising the founder on his creation of a “global mission.” The president invited all to participate in this project so that the current generation can leave a legacy. He concluded by explaining that even if those present are not here in the next 50 years, at least the future generation will have the opportunity to leverage from this legacy to celebrate the 100th anniversary may be here at the House of Lords.
Managing Director of Bhaktivedanta Manor, Gauri das, presented the journey in finally receiving planning permission to build the Shri Krishna Haveli. Over many years of work including the development of a planning brief, a public consultation, and one and a half years awaiting a determination, Bhaktivedanta Manor listened carefully and patiently to local resident concerns and worked hard to balance the needs of the temple and the local community. In the end the concerns were all addressed and thus unanimous permission was granted on the Queen’s 90th birthday. Having described the plan of the Haveli, a video was played to illustrate the new project. The video showed Mr Cameron garlanding the Deity of the Founder-Acharya who had stated “if only he had lived to see what the Manor has become; a mock Tudor country house donated by a Beatle, serving as a hub of worship, celebration and selflessness.” The video also showed Mr Cameron congratulating ISKCON on its 50th anniversary. He went on to say: “I look at what you have done in the past fifty years and I think how much you can achieve in the next fifty. In fact, the next half century begins right now as we begin building the new Krishna Haveli, and I’m delighted to be putting the first tool in the ground.”
His Holiness Bhakti Charu Swami travelled in from India to present the keynote speech. His Holiness began by reflecting on his privilege in being present at a historical place of British Parliament where many significant decisions had been made throughout history that affected the entire world. His Holiness described the objective behind ISKCON and the many sacrifices made by Srila Prabhupada in its establishment. In detailing the prediction of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, His Holiness demonstrated how Srila Prabhupada inundated the entire world with a spiritual revolution that places a solution to all problems of life and the world through devotional service to Lord Krishna. His Holiness shared some of his intimate moments with Srila Prabhupada to exemplify the magnanimity of the Founder-Acharya. Out of love for Srila Prabhupada, His Holiness once expressed how he wished that he could’ve served Srila Prabhupada when he was alone in the beginning days in New York. Srila Prabhupada affectionately responded saying that he was never alone since Krishna was always with him. His Holiness described how ISKCON came to the UK and requested for all people to seriously consider the message of Srila Prabhupada for the upliftment of each individual and mankind.
Member of Parliament, Shailesh Vara, closed the evening by describing the unique contribution that ISKCON brings to society and the importance of its message. Shailesh thanked His Holiness and Bhaktivedanta Manor for hosting the celebration of the 50th anniversary at the House of Lords. Event organiser, Sri Radharamana dasa commented: “On this night of Govardhan Puja, the anniversary of ISKCON’s incorporation has been resounded to the world through the House of Lords. Furthermore, it has been an absolute privilege to have this glorification initiated through an intimate associate servant of Srila Prabhupada who travelled from India to deliver the keynote speech. We remain indebted to His Holiness Bhakti Charu Swami maharaja for taking time out of his schedule to participate in this unique offering in the 50th anniversary year of the incorporation of ISKCON.”