Hindu TEMPLE, BANDAR-ABBAS, IRAN
The Hindu Temple in Bandar Abbas is a unique historical monument in Iran that was constructed in 1892. Studies indicate that this Temple was created for the Brahman caste and specifically for the worship of Vishnu. Indian merchants stayed in Bandar-Abbas until 1965.
"- How many people are followers of Krishna in the world?
– In ISKCON, it is about 150,000 initiated devotees. I heard this number.
– What are the differences between the schools?
– Sampradayas? Yes, there are 4 sampradayas, like Rudra Sampradaya, Sri Sampradaya, Brahma Sampradaya and the fourth one is Four Kumaras Sampradaya.
– What are the differences?
– There are differences in the understanding, in the philosophy. It is very hard to explain but in very simple words, we know that we are created by God as an image, but at the same time we are different from God. These four sampradayas explained these concepts. In our school, they explain Atchintapyada pyada tatvya – it is a sanskrit explanation which means "similarity and difference from God". We are similar to God by qualities but not by quantity. There is the comparison between a glass of water and the ocean. A glass of water it has similar chemical structure of the ocean, but the quantity is different.
– So if we connect all the humans, all the glass of water maybe we can fill an ocean?
– Actually our school says it is not possible. Other schools have different explanations. Some school says we are more similar to God, this other school says we are more different compared to God.
– When these schools appeared?
– In immemorial times.
– From the very beginning?
– From the beginning there were legends with Shiva, who originated his own school, our school was originated by Brahma.
– But Brahma, is it the same etymological origin as Brahmane?
– Yes, it is the same.
– but you have Brahmane people in each school.
– Yes it is a social position. Brahma's body was made of intellect. Our body is made of bones and blood. That's why Brahmanes are originated from Brahma.
– The Pope for Catholic, Aga Khan for Ismaili. What about you?
– Srila Prabhupada is the founder of ISKCON.
A statue and portrait of Srila Prabhupada, the founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)
Women dancing in the ISKCON temple of Tashkent
"- What about women and men? Women can become monk?
– Except India, everywhere in the world it is allowed for a woman to become a monk. In ISKCON in India, it is not allowed.
– Only in India? Why? In ISKCON in Tashkent for example a woman can become a monk?
– Yes. Swami Prabhupada our founder allowed women to become monks, but in India it is a different cultural system, that is why he did not allow it. Indian people have a different mood. Women and men are raised differently in India compared to Western countries, from the childhood. We can normally be with women without feeling bad or weird. That is why it is allowed.
– What about cosmos? What is the universe?
– We can understand the creation from the point of view of citizens of Earth and from the point of view of the Heaven. Still the creation is one. That is why from the Earth, you can see that Earth is moving around the Sun, that Moon is moving around the Earth, but from the Heaven perspective, they have different visions and for them, the explanation of Srimad Bhagavatam is done from that perspective.
ISKCON TEMPLE, TASHKENT, UZBEKISTAN
"– We believe in Brahma muhurta time, it is the best time for praying, for reading books and other. It is very good for the intellect.
– When is it?
– It changes with moon and sun movements. It is about 2 hours, for 4am to 6am, sometimes for 5am to 7am. We have fixed ceremonies so what's why at 4.30am in all ISKCON temples in the world, we have Mangala Arhati (?) service from 4.30am to 5am. From 5am till 7am, we have this Japa time during which we are chanting Hare Krishna. It takes about 2 hours per day. From 7am to 8am, we have another service which is called Guru Puja. From 8am to 9am, we do lectures on the Srimad Bhagavatam, it is our sacred scriptures. At 9am usually, we have breakfast till 10am. After 10am, everyone has his own free time to do whatever he wants. Some are going outside for preaching, others are staying in the Temple. From 10am to 2pm, it is called "service" time. From 2pm to 3pm, we have lunch. From 3pm until 4pm, we have time for ourselves. From 4pm, we can do other services. From 4pm till 6pm, we have the service Dhupa Arati. (Their Lordships give darshan to the devotees with the opening of altar doors for dhupa arati wherein incense, flowers, chamara and vyajana are offered.) At 6pm, we have Gora Arati. At 7pm, we have other readings and that's it.
– This is for someone who stays at the temple. If you have work to do like you, or for example a taxi driver, how can you handle all this?
– Oh, that's why it is a temple program. It is for those who are living in the temple, for monks, Amkhiram Prabum (?) he does that every day. For house holders, it is allowed to modify a bit the program. For example my father he is also working at the university and he does all the services but shortly. The Japa time is however fixed – 2 hours a day. Before I came here, I was chanting by walking. It is allowed.
– Japa time is always coming with music?
– There are two kinds of meditation. The first one is Japa which is chanting on prayer beads. It is more personal, like meditation. The second one is Kirtan. It is with music instruments and repeating Hare Krishna with some tunes. It is varying.
– Why is it varying?
– There is a science of music. You have to start with more meditative tunes like very slowly and it has to speed up. The rhythm gets faster and louder the voices. The finish is also more meditative. I heard that you have to wait 20 minutes and feel the tunes and the people. The singer should feel this and starts increasing the pace.
– Everywhere in the world, they are playing the same music with the same instruments?
– Yes the instruments are the same but it is not restricted. For example in Russia they use accordions, in Brazil, they use these African percussions. There is no prohibition about this. The main instruments are mridangam, harmonium and caracallas."
"-Why the color orange?
-The monks living in the temple wear this kind of cloth if they don't have a family life.
It's kind of step for this studies.
Some of people after graduating they can have family and after that they were a white one.
-What is the meaning of the color Safron?
-It means fire and death in the Veda culture.
This colour means he is dead for material life and he his with God.
(…) Krishna takes care about every one.
It let the people living their own lives but he sends them his own assistance. He gives people the right of choice. We are in this world because we made wrong choices."
A monk reading Bhagavad-gītā, one of the sacred book for followers of ISKCON.
"My sister, for example, got married to a Muslim. She is adoring Krishna, she does not eat meat but she cooks meat for her husband. So our family is not fanatic, we have intercultural roots. The wedding is ok, it was her choice, they found each other, it was like arranged by God. We have to accept this."
Ramanuja, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
ALTAR IN BISHKEK
" – Can you explain ISKCON organisation?
– We have this guru system. We can discuss religion with our spiritual master. We have then this JBC body, which is an assembly of leaders and they decide by vote.
– Decisions on what?
– It may be on new technologies, on the reaction to World events, but also administrative tasks, like how many books we have to publish. JBC Committee holds annual meetings in Myapur, in India.
– So you said Srila Prabhupada is not dead?
– We just say he left this planet.
– Do you think he is coming back?
– So you believe in reincarnation?
– Yes, like Buddhism. We believe he did not have to reincarnate, he just went to Kingdom of God directly; because he is free. He got this samati level, he finished his mission on Earth.
– Is there any kind of limitation on the number of reincarnation?
– Yes, if your heart is free, if your heart is pure, like you don't have any desire for material pleasures, you will not reincarnate again. We have to bear again, because we have some desires in this life. We want to have some money or some glory, that's why we have to bear again. If we have only a desire for pure love, then we don't have to bear again.
– That's what you are looking for?
– Yes it is our mission, our purpose of life.
"- How many people are adepts of Krishna here?
– We have no registration from the government, so we are not allowed to do many things. For example, it would be forbidden to go in the streets to celebrate our holidays. It is not allowed officially. Some people are doing this, distributing food or books, we also but it is undercover. Actually the government can hold us in detention for some time but cannot arrest us on these motives.
– Is it complicated to get the registration?
– Registration process started in early 2000s when our first President Mr Askarakaiev was running the country. He is in Russia now. Before him, we had official registration from the Central Government.
– Really what happened then?
– After the collapse of Soviet Union, we got the registration.
– What happened in between?
– In between, we had a temple like in Tashkent and we were organizing good programs. I was a young boy at that time. 300 people were coming each Sunday for programmes. Early 2000s, we started to have some problems.
– Because of what?
– It is happening all the time, when people starts something, they are more interested in it, they are more passionate. But after some time, they loose their courage, they let it go. It happened to us. Some people started thinking little. We lost our registration.
– Because you had less and less people coming?
– No. I heard that SNB did not want us to be registered. When we went to the office for registration, the chief there was saying the orders were coming from above. You never know, it is politics. The second President is in Belarus right now. You know our history, we had many revolutions… He invented this system : only religions which can gather 200 signatures can ask for registration. It is the official law in Kyrgyzstan. Our leaders say that even if they gather the 200 signatures, they will not get the registration. It is just a law to cover themselves. We are still struggling to get the registration. My friend has opened a yoga studio here. He teaches basic information on yoga, he trains them on yoga. We are not trying to get more people following Krishna, we just want people to get to know the truth about us. Our activity is in this way. We still have Sunday programmes. Another friend of mine is organizing this Sunday festival, each week, sometimes in the Yoga Studio. My father is working on building the new temple, because we lost the previous one.
– It has been seized by the government?
– No, not by the government. It was a bad story. One of our leaders, it was his mistake. For now, we have no temple. My father has this land, not too big, it is enough for one building. He started building this temple, it is in the countryside. We just have the walls.
We hope that in the future our government will be more open to different kind of religions and cultures. Even though the government does not allow us, then we will open some yoga studios. We have some ideas, we will think about this.
– How do you pray? You have small temples at home?
– We think that 200 people will be there.
– But while completing the temple, where do you pray?
– We have this altar in our President's apartment here, downtown. She is about 60 years old. She is powerful and she is our leader."
"- What is the symbol of your haircut?
– It is a very simple explanation. The spiritual path is very hard, inner demons, the society. Sometimes people can fall aside of their path, Krishna grabs this ponytail to make you stay on the right path. Everytime people asks me the signification. It is kind of a joke, but I like this explanation. Another explanation, more scientific, is that we believe in shakras. There is the spiritual shakra right there and it helps us to grow this shakra, in order to be more spiritual. We also believe that God is seating on this shakra and this ponytail is like a couch for him. It is also a very good sign, we can recognize each other. When I was going for the first time to India, I was alone and did not know anybody. From the crowd, one devotee came and told me: I know you are Hare Krishna devotee, come and follow me, I will help you. He immediately recognized me thanks to my ponytail. (…)
– So it is only common to the followers of Krishna? Or it is common to the 4 schools?
– I think it is common to the 4 schools, because it is linked to shikra system. I think it is common in the Hinduism world. I am not sure though. Even Gandhi had this haircut.
– It is quite "universal" religion, you have yoga, you have meditation, you have music, you have cooking, you have medicine, so it is very broad application and practical religion.
– Yes it is practical.
– But you have also casts?
– We don't believe in casts like in India. If you are born in a brahmani family then you have to be brahman your entire life. If you are in the family of untouchables, untouchable you have to be. One of our leaders, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, introduced this system. When people reach their varna, not by birth but by their habits. You can be born in a brahmane family and live a very simple life. You are not a brahmane in this case, you have to admit it. It is not a position, it is a way of life. That is why we believe in this system, but we believe also that this system is related to our habits and way of life. We think that some people are more inclined to intellectual works, some people want to rule, they want to lead, other people are good at trading, finance, and some people just want to work.
– As any religion, when you look at history, you have faced extremism? In the Vedas, is there any prohibition of using the violence?
– Actually you know that we have Animsa – means "non-violence". This is the fundamental thing. If you do not understand Animsa, you will not understand anything. When people come to us, they have families and they want to break apart from their families because they eat meat or something else, we say stick to your family, stay with your siblings, do not be radical, have some integrity. Non-violence is the beginning. From this starts the religion actually. This is the basic thing in any religion, especially in the Vedas."