On the fourth day of the ILS, delegates at the plenary session heard a presentation by Anuttama Das, GBC Minister for Communications on the topic, ‘Srila Prabhupada, the greatest communicator’. He explained that we normally associate Prabhupada with his books, letters, conversations and speeches, but we should also remember that Prabhupada was a skilful communicator.
“Prabhupada tried to create a favourable environment for preaching Krishna consciousness by meeting influential leaders of the day such as Allen Ginsberg, Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, George Harrison, and others. He met several religious leaders, VIPs, government leaders, and businessmen,” said Anuttama Das. “Prabhupada made it clear that he did not want to convert everyone or make them into devotees. Instead he wanted influential people to become ‘sympathisers’ so that a favourable environment could be created for spreading Krishna consciousness.”
Stressing the importance of how much communication mattered to ISKCON in the 21st century, Anuttama concluded, “We generally emulate Prabhupada to build temples, distribute books, make devotees and distribute prasadam. But we should also emulate him and follow his communicating strategies. The question every ISKCON temple should ask itself is: are we communicating like Prabhupada wanted us to?”
Almost 1200 delegates and presenters at the ILS have been fed three full meals every day by the organisers. The massive task of cooking these meals is being overseen by Bhavamrita Krishna Das from Mayapur. A team of over 30 devotees cut, clean and chop big mounds of vegetables, cook in large vats and woks, and transfer the cooked prasadam to big drums3.
“There are many western devotees at ILS, hence we are careful with the amount of spice we use in the prasadam,” said Bhavamrita Krishna. “We try to maintain variety in tastes and diversity in the cuisine by including South Indian, Punjabi, Bengali, Chinese, Italian and continental dishes every day. It is our great fortune to cook for so many senior Vaishnavas who are assembled together at the holy dham in the service of Srila Prabhupada.”
Complimenting the cooking team of 30, is the large service team of 100 devotees that transfers the cooked prasadam from the kitchen to the dining areas and carefully serves them to the ILS delegates.
Vanamali Mukunda Das, a sankirtan devotee who has been staying in Mayapur for seven years, is one of the 100 people who serve prasadam to the delegates. He feels that serving senior Vaishnavas at the holy dham of Mayapur is a rare opportunity that makes him a happier person. “When Vaishnavas are happy, the Lord is happy too,” he commented. “We feel so energised to see senior sannyasis, GBC members, Temple Presidents and ISKCON leaders all gathered together in the dining area, and even more so when we see them appreciate the prasadam and the service.”
The variety and range of different cuisines was appreciated by several ILS delegates.
“We are spoilt for choice,” laughed Vijnan Rajsatyal from Nepal. “The different tastes are balanced and the invigorating recipes are nutritious. Even if we eat a little bit, we feel totally satisfied. The devotees who serve the prasadam are truly humble and care for every small detail. I have so much to learn from them in terms of Vaishnava etiquette.”
Paramvyoma Das from Brazil has visited India fifteen times and tasted prasadam at innumerable locations in the country. “I feel that this is the best prasadam I have eaten in India in all my 15 visits. This is because the food is not too spicy, and also because of the incredible number of gourmet dishes and flavours they serve.”
Laxmimoni Dasi who oversees the organising and logistical parts of the ILS on behalf of the GBC Strategic Planning Committee is committed to maintaining the quality of the cooking and the service. “However, we need help to maintain the same quality for the ILS. In addition, many devotees who are not formally registered for ILS do walk in and ask us for prasadam. If we had more donations, we would be able to feed all of them too. We appeal to all generous devotees out there to please consider sponsoring the prasadam service at ILS, which is such a pleasing part of the whole event.”[ gbc ] [ ils ] [ mayapura ]