International Society for Krishna Consciousness also called as ISKON is by far the biggest spiritual movement started by one single man. The reach and hold of ISKON movement seem miraculous, almost as though it is God’s own intention. However, to me, it is amusing and fascinating how a single man bought together millions of people in the name of god. Today, ISKON moment has spread its branches far and wide with its roots in India. In India, ISKON has built temples in almost all the metro cities, in some cities, there are more than one temples built!
To a policeman, every incident looks fabricated and suspicious in life. He can never let even the small things go. He will try to get to the bottom of every situation happening in his life. It is a policeman’s nature. Similarly, a true marketing enthusiast never stops looking things from the marketing perspective! When I see or hear about ISKON, all I can think of is their mind-blowing marketing strategies!
When I was 16, four ISKON advocates visited our school to preach us all about the importance of Krishna consciousness and how it could improve the quality of our lives. I do not remember a lot about that workshop but what I do remember is a video message that they played. It was a few clippings from the slaughter houses showing how hens, pigs, cows and goats are slaughtered and processed so that we can make a meal out of them. To me, a girl of 16 who is still trying to find her way through life, this video was heart-breaking and disturbing to a very huge extent. I remember really well, I had stopped eating meat completely, I wouldn’t even eat eggs.
I did not have the time or means to improve my rational thinking then like I have now. I did not have the courage to ask questions and demand answers like I do now. I did not have the ability to look past the play, behind the curtains and see what the true face is! Today, I am not the same 16-year-old girl that I was then. Reading books and listening to a lot of rationalists as well as mystics has improved the boundaries of my understanding.
Today, when I see a huge group of school children swaying and dancing to the tunes of “HARE KRISHNA” song sung by the guru preacher, I see the amount of marketing strategies put in action right there. If you want to spread spirituality, there is no better place to start rather than a bunch of kids who do not have the ability to make their own choices or decisions. It is way easier to sway them than a matured thinker like me.
Today, when I see an amount of Rs. 2100/- put up for getting close to the statue of Lord Krishna and pour a jug of milk on it, I see marketing strategies there too. Making people believe like it is not a statue but they are actually getting close to Lord Krishna himself and bathing him with the milk. People will obviously start feeling like they can shed any amount to be given the honor of performing this ritual. If ISKON actually believes that God is for all, then why is it that only people with money can get close to Lord, touch him and bathe him?
Today when I look around the temple or listen to the preachers speaking, all I can see is marketing at its best. Even the donation box put up in front of the Lord’s statue speaks of ISKON’s ability to reach masses and earn in millions through their marketing strategies. I hear that they put their earning to good use by helping the poor but I don’t really know how much of it is true.
I am not here to put anybody down or point at anybody’s beliefs. I am not an atheist either. I am a very ardent devotee of Lord Shiva. Like I mentioned earlier, I too was swayed by the ISKON movement at one point in my life. As I grew up, I started to realize that just like how a person has the rights to choose what he wears, what he eats, what he drives or what he spends on similarly a person’s spirituality is his/her own choice. I may want to pray to Shiva or Vishnu. I may want to convert into a Christian or explore Wicca. Maybe I simply want to give up on spirituality altogether. It is completely my choice and my decision and I will face the repercussions of this decision very happily! But putting up disturbing videos and using strategies to brain-wash people into following any kind of spiritual group is simply unacceptable and useless in the longer run.
“A thing of Beauty is a Joy forever!” – John Keats
Now, when I visit ISKON, I do so because these temples are usually built very beautifully and in Chennai, the temple is at a very secluded and open area. It naturally has a very calming effect on our eyes and mind!
Even the interiors of the temple are very pleasing and calming. I go there to get away from the noise and stress of my life. I go there to get some silence so that I can meditate for a while and reflect on my life. If I am at Bangalore ISKON, it is most probably for the amazing food at their food court!
What I do not expect while visiting ISKON is dedication or reverence towards Lord Krishna because I find my own home and my heart to be a better temple for my Krishna!