Saving the Yamuna in Vrindavan

The article “The Save Yamuna Campaign” in the July/August issue was great but did not address the specific problems in Vrindavan or the efforts to solve them. I feel strongly that Mr. K. P. S. Gill and Srila Prabhupada’s disciple Chandi Devi Dasi should be sincerely acknowledged. They spent hundreds of thousands of dollars and two and a half months diverting the river back toward Vrindavan and cleaning its contaminated water.

During the last few years, an illegal landfill was created next to the Yamuna canal by the parikrama marg, the path pilgrims walk around Vrindavan. (The Yamuna canal consists of black-water sewage runoff from homes and apartments all over Vrindavan.) Sand was dredged from the opposite side of the river and shore and brought to create the landfill. This caused the Yamuna’s flow to slow down, as she became shallow where the canal met the river near Keshi Ghat.

The filthy water from the Yamuna canal had been pouring swiftly into the Yamuna, but the illegal landfill bogged down the flow and caused standing black water to seep into well water. Consequently the ground and well water in Old Vrindavan Town was becoming more and more contaminated. Both humans and animals were getting sick by drinking the polluted water.

Through a monumental project of dredging and redistribution of sand using two gigantic backhoes and an average of five hundred workers a day over the course of two and a half months, Mr. K. P. S. Gill and Chandi Duke Heffner diverted the Yamuna’s flow back to her original position using an ancient sandbag diversion technique. Building the last part of the diversion was the hardest due to the powerful flow of the Yamuna. Because individual sandbags were being swept away by the Yamuna’s strong current, Chandi taught workmen how to weave nets and fill them with sandbags. After they completed the several-kilometer sandbag bridge, Chandi stocked the clean water with healthy fish and turtles, pollution having killed the former aquatics.

Anyone can see the change by walking down to the Yamuna at Keshi Ghat. Consequently, ISKCON Vrindavan held its annual boat festival in this calm, clean area of the Yamuna.

Mr. K. P. S. Gill and Chandi Devi are meeting with heads of temples in Vrindavan to continue their plans and efforts to clean up the Yamuna. Their heroic endeavor deserves a huge applause.
Kusha Devi Dasi
Vrindavan, India

Hinduism and Krishna Consciousness

Having spent some time reading some of your literature, I have a question: What, if any, connections do you have with mainstream Hindu beliefs as commonly understood in India?
Adela Pennyfather
Via the Internet

Our reply: The basis for the various branches of the Hindu faith practiced around the world, originating in India, is the Vedic literature. The Hare Krishna movement is also based upon the Vedic literature, but its practices and goals are different from those of many Hindus today. The Vedas present humanity with a wide array of spiritual knowledge—for material advancement to heavenly planets, liberation into the impersonal Brahman, attainment of mystic perfections, and so on. The Hare Krishna movement focuses upon developing pure, unalloyed love for the Supreme Lord, fully independent of any ulterior motive. This essence is presented by Lord Krishna in Bhagavad-gita and substantiated in the Srimad-Bhagavatam, the mature commentary on the Vedanta-sutra, the essence of all Vedic theistic thought.

Hanuman and ISKCON

Hanuman is a great devotee of the Supreme Lord Sri Rama, yet he is never celebrated in ISKCON’s Vaishnava events and calendar. Why is this?
Jagannatha Dasa Adhikari
Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada

Our reply: Your assertion that Hanuman “is never celebrated in our Vaishnava events and calendar” is incorrect. For example, many ISKCON temples have a special class about Hanuman on his appearance day. Also, some ISKCON temples have deities of Sita-Rama-Lakshmana-Hanuman.

We in ISKCON follow Prabhupada’s lead in where to put our emphasis, and Prabhupada, being primarily a devotee of Radha-Krishna and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, emphasized the worship of Them and Their devotees. They are the central focus of our parampara, or spiritual lineage. As far as we know, Prabhupada never observed Hanuman Jayanti in any special way. If we were primarily Rama bhaktas, his example would have been different.

We know that Hanumanji is very popular in India, but most Indian people are unaware of the spiritual status of the followers of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. For Gaudiya Vaishnavas like Srila Prabhupada, the worship of the Six Goswamis, for example, is more important than the worship of Hanuman. Our acharyas tell us that only by worshiping the Six Goswamis can we attain Radha-Krishna prema, and that is our goal in life. All the associates of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu are nitya-siddhas, eternal associates of Lord Krishna—gopas, gopis, and so on. We offer full respect to Hanuman, and our acharyas point to him as an emblem of pure service to the Lord, but we mainly focus our attention on the devotees of Radha-Krishna and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.

In your own spiritual practice, you (or any ISKCON devotee) can certainly worship and pray to Hanuman, but for reasons given here, he is not likely to have a prominent place in the liturgy of ISKCON.