Here in New York City we have recently concluded our tenth commemoration of the terrorist attacks on September 11th. While at the time it was unavoidable given the circumstances, the mosques and religious schools attended by Muslims living in this country have been the subjects of intense scrutiny since then. No matter what the reason, alienating an immigrant group distinguished by its widely-admired work ethic and strong family values does not come without a price.
How foolish, then, is the ISKCON cult’s brazen co-opting of the “Indian Cultural Society” and "Vedic Cultural Society" labels to hoodwink Indians (both resident and non-resident) into spending their hard-earned cash to fund the spread of a belief system that most would find both repugnant and illogical. So, instead of the temple in question bearing the name of the resident deities (e.g.,“Sri Sri Radha Govinda Mandir”), you have the “ISKCON Hawaii Cultural Center,” or in Pune, India, the “New Vedic Cultural Center.” Unbelievably, in Almaty, Kazakhstan, ISKCON has established an “Indian Cultural Center” despite the fact the NRI population in the entire country is less than 1,500! How can it make any sense to try to convince the people of Kazakhstan that they need to emulate Indian cultural values?
The practice of changing the name of a controversial group to blend in with reputable organizations is a guerrilla warfare tactic that is commonly referred to as “hiding in plain sight.” It is a simple ruse that, among other things, helps the group in question to evade detection and evaluation by governmental agencies and the general public. In education, matters are as bad or worse. For example, ISKCON runs a “Vedic Cultural Center” in Sammamich, Washington, that contains a "planetarium" which is nothing more than a view of the universe from a profoundly anti-science Vaishnava perspective. Schools run by the Hare Krishna group world-wide share this fault of educating students to pass the government-administered tests while teaching them a view of the universe which adheres to a literal Vedic model which is primitive and, frankly, ridiculous. This view includes such howlers such as the belief that “Vedic” astronomy teaches us that the Earth is a disk supported by four elephants in space and that the moon is an inhabited “heavenly” planet.
Moreover, despite having spread these beliefs in the West, the founder of ISKCON, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, never regarded his organization as a form of Hinduism. I can tell you that this is true from my experience in the 13 years I spent in the Hare Krishna movement. In fact, the swami never observed the typical Hindu festivals of Holi or Deepavali in our temples and viewed the devotion many Hindus feel for Shiva, Ganesh, and Durga as mere demigod worship. I also know that he would have also regarded the re-naming of temples to blend into the Indian Cultural Center model with indignant anger and disbelief. Better stop all of this subversive business and admit that using all of this imitation and flattery to pick the pockets of sincere Indians yearning for a taste of the mother country is a cruel joke.
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