Friday, January 01, 2010
New Year's Message
Dear Friends, Radhe Radhe !
This New Year is a time of mixed feelings for me and many other devotees.
Along with the usual hopes that come with every new beginning, there is a sentiment that our beloved Vrindavan Dham is in serious trouble.
Many people in this great land of India have bad memories of a colonial past and fears of a neo-colonial future. They also have tremendous hopes for a technological and economic awakening. They want India to take its rightful place as a global leader and political powerhouse on the world stage.
All these things are natural, and indeed, since most devotees love India in a special way, loving her because she has contributed to their own spiritual awakening, they sympathize with all these ambitions.
Indeed, our great hope is that India, empowered by her unique spiritual heritage, would be a leader in the very things that we cherish most dearly: peace, non-violence, the harmony of humanity and nature, and a human society that is centered on the values of simple living and elevated spirituality.
Many Indians share the sentiment that the Western countries have exploited the resources of the world for so long, taking more than their fair share, and that now it is their turn to do so. They resent it when people from the West, however well meaning, try to push their values on them. Indeed, they may use the proverb, "There is no more pious woman than an old prostitute" to describe us.
I remember one suspicious person telling me so many years ago, "The British first came here in the name of trade and commerce, and ended up creating an empire. Now you are all coming in the guise of yogis and devotees, but your goal is the same!"
All these persons fail to understand the sentiments that so many of us have towards India and its holy places. Most of all, why should India suffer by making the same mistakes that our countries have made?
The mad rush for development is all based on a materialistic and purely consumerist concept of human happiness. This is a huge error in the way that we approach the meaning of human life.
There is nothing wrong when we, who have been awakened by the great spiritual leaders of India--the Buddha, Krishna, Shankaracharya, Chaitanya and so many others--hold up the mirror of their teachings to their countrymen, who are now desecrating their holy land in the name of progress. These are not our values; they are yours!
Surely there is a way of transmitting this message humbly and sympathetically, but it must be done. It is not just India that is in danger, but the whole world. Surely India can find ways of developing that give the proper value to its own heritage. Surely India can find ways of leading instead of merely copying blindly!
Let us all participate in this campaign to save Keshi Ghat from this unsightly bridge. But more than that, let us make the different levels of government in India aware of our sentiments. Let them know with perfectly clarity that this is no longer a local issue that only affects a few medieval pietists, but one that concerns the whole world.
In fact, Vrindavan is a world heritage site, whether it has been officially so declared or not. That is what we must show them. Vrindavan no longer belongs to India alone. India is merely the guardian of a treasure that belongs to the world. The people of India must think of polishing that treasure, so that its inner light shines on the world, not covering it in a rubbish heap of senseless development.
Don't hide the unique qualities of this land in the wrapping of the global consumer culture.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with us requesting them to do so. Indeed, to not do so is an error of judgment.
Please join the letter writing campaigns. Please sign the petitions. Please make our voice heard.