What are your thoughts on presenting Krishna Consciousness for today’s global audience, especially in the West (as opposed to preaching in India). Do you agree with the use of yoga, topical lectures, movies, etc. for preaching purposes? How can we make Krishna Consciousness relevant in the world today?
Regarding “yoga, topical lectures, movies, etc.,” certainly all these can be used in a spirit of yukta-vairagya. Consider also the following: most of the successful ‘loft’ type programs, such as those created by Devamrta Swami, are bridges to conventional, Indian-style Krishna consciousness. I recently spoke to Devamrta Maharaja, whom I greatly admire, and he acknowledged this. Here is the crucial point: if one does a bridge program, the program need not be so straight, because once people are attracted, they will come to a conventional temple and get all their spiritual and religious needs met.
I have a very different purpose. Here are my points: bridge programs are excellent for bringing in new people, but they do little to change our overall image in society. Until we become mainstream, we will never have much influence in society. Just as people have basic nutritional needs, they also have basic religious needs: strong spiritual community, sacred space, strict practice etc. Since bridge programs are not designed to fulfill all religious needs, new people, as I said, usually go back to conservative, Indian-style temples to become strong in Krishna consciousness.
What we really need in the West, in my view, is a full-service western movement within the movement. If new devotees can satisfy their spiritual and religious needs within our western style program, then the program will grow and create an entirely new impression in the public eye. In fact, I believe that western-style Krishna consciousness will become the main western movement in the future.
That’s why I am more concerned than a bridge preacher would be in maintaining strict spiritual standards, because Krishna West (or whatever we call it) is not a bridge. It’s a final destination. And to be a final destination, it has to provide the advanced spiritual community, sacred space etc. I admire those who do bridge programs. They are great souls, who are saving other souls. Yet, for all the good that bridge programs do, and they do much good, I believe they cannot fully revive the Western Hare Krishna Movement and make it relevant and respectable in mainstream society.