Chakra Discussions

Urbanising Sridham Mayapur - a Reconciliatory Approach Is Optimal

by R. Jai Simman (Jakarta, Indonesia)

Posted October 17, 2005

Hare Krishna.
Please accept my humble obeisances.
All Glories to Srila Prabhupada.

I have been following the discussions on CHAKRA regarding the feared long-term impact of urbanising Sridham Mayapur that may be potentially created by ISKCON's project. It is clear that both parties are sincerely dedicated to realising Srila Prabhupada's vision and caring for the Holy dham. However, they differ perhaps only in terms of the details and not the purpose. Both parties are coming from different angles, trying to counter-balance the other's focus points. It is my humble view that upon closer scrutiny, neither of these is at conflict with each other. In manifesting a project of such immense magnitude, seemingly opposing views are not necessarily stumbling blocks. On the contrary, these provide for a system of checks and balances and greater introspection and analysis, before the next forward step is taken. Caution is always vital and I would like to thank Solai and Sarah for their thoughts and concerns. That the dham's simple spiritual sanctity may not be compromised by the grandeur of the project and that the project in turn may not be jeopardised by the dham's geo-strategic, ecological and social fragility, brings into consideration the implementation of sustainable development that mutually benefits both.

I am sure that the Mayapur Project committee would have already thought of these issues. Nevertheless more cautionary reminders are never harmful given the fact that this is a project of mammoth proportions whose ramifications can be far-reaching and difficult to reverse once entrenched.

It is my sincere opinion that our mood should be to seek constructive and sensible suggestions from critical quarters. While mere criticism does not help, retorting to such, devoid of positive engagement, produces a similar effect. Sarah has indicated at the end of her posting thus: -

"That doesn't necessarily mean that they should stop building the temple that Prabhupada desired - it just means that they should be truthful and realistic about it, as well as considerate about the environment and the impact it will have on the other residents of Sridham Mayapur."

This shows that both Solai and Sarah are all for the project, albeit with some adjustments. It would be good to involve persons like Solai and Sarah in the Mayapur project. Their input grounded on technical expertise can provide for constructive ideas related to the social and ecological sustainability of the dham at every stage of the project implementation. While not all of the ideas may be agreeable to the managers of the project, the issues responsible for Solai's apprehension do require ongoing consideration. In any society, the presence of those who question is not to be seen with disdain or fear. If they are positively and constructively engaged in the betterment of the society, not having adopted a nihilistically rebellious mentality, they function as a coolant that reduces possible overheating.

As for ISKCON's Mayapur project not being the Adbhuta Mandira, as argued by H.H. Bhakti Gaurava Nrsingha Maharaja, this is something that the ISKCON Management needs to address. However, even Maharaja has not discredited the project's validity and has only sought to question the prophetic element involved in its advertising and publicity. While ISKCON need not concern itself with the protests of the various Gaudiya Maths in terms of institutional accountability, the issues raised by the latter do need consideration, if there is practical validity involved in terms of the dham's welfare. While prostitution, etc. are symptoms of the age of Kali and not to be blamed on spiritual projects that expand a location's popularity, it is also our responsibility to ensure that the manner in which we act does not directly provide facilities readily available for exploitation by the Kalichelas. Perhaps not all cautionary advice may be deemed fault-finding. Some aspects of such advice have their value, if we would only consider the sources of such advice as well-wishers and not see everyone and everything as the ghost of past experiences of envy and deterrence. We do need to see issues on their own merits or demerits, discounting personal or institutional grievances.

It is my humble suggestion that the Mayapur Project committee engage Solai and others like him and try to see the angle from which they are coming. Furthermore, the committee also needs to publicly present to the devotee community at an ongoing interactive level, its suggestions to manage the issues contained in Solai's article and those of others like him. In this way, a more thoughtful middle path may emerge that helps to realise both objectives as mutually beneficial.

Hare Krishna