Article On Preaching In Italy
Posted September 17, 2005
In the Shade of the Leaning Tower
The day before Radhastami we went to Pisa, an hour drive from Villa Vrindavana, to attend Matsyavatara Prabhu's conference. He is a disciple of Srila Prabhupada and an initiating ISKCON guru. As we arrived at the Auditorium of the Province of Pisa, a new, big building on a main street near the railway station, many people were passing by and two disciples of Matsyavatara Prabhu stood at the main gate handing the pamphlets to the passers-by with smiles and enthusiasm.
Though I don't speak much Italian I could very well see how well organized
his conferences are; all the devotees were neatly dressed in
professionally-looking western clothes, preaching Krishna consciousness
indirectly but effectively.
Around 40% of the audience were youth-I was very happy to witness this because, because I am here in the West since three months and I hardly saw any spiritual interest in these western youth, but here there were around two hundred people, students, philosophers, doctors, professors, teachers, etc.
Another startling scene was the book stall; dozens of colorful , expertly presented books, CDs and cassettes by Matsyavatara Prabhu.
The program began with a video about the Centro Studi Bhaktivedanta, founded
by Matsyavatara Prabhu, and its activities, then Matsyavatara Prabhu spoke
for an hour and half. Then there was a 20 minutes break.
During the break we went to the world-famous leaning tower of Pisa, in the "Camp of Miracles," a monumental architectonical religious complex with some of the monuments as old as 800 years. The atmosphere was very sattvik and artistic. While circumambulating the tower I was afraid that it might fall on me.
After the break there was a question and answer session, and then another
video, presenting the courses offered by the Centro Studi Bhaktivedanta (I
was surprised to see myself in the video, for a few moments, dancing
Bharata-natyam in a church-which I had done a couple of months before, as
part of an interreligious program by Matsyavatara Prabhu). For the closure
there was an all-time favorite: delicious Italian pastries, biscuits and
apple juice. All visitors were handed colorful pamphlets about the coming
courses and conferences and they also received a survey form to fill.
As I watched I was thinking: "Wow! It's really astounding to see how Matsyavatara Prabhu is touching thousands of people's lives, changing westerners into bhakti-yogis, people who would never be convinced by direct "religious," "Hare Krishna" preaching, but who are gradually surrendering their lives to the principles of freedom, by realizing that the path of Vaisnavism is the real solution to any existential challenges. These people (mostly Italians) approach this academic institution, the CSB, which offers degrees and PhDs. Matsyavatara Prabhu has built the whole thing single-handedly, without support from temples and without taking manpower from existing ISKCON projects. Many years of hard work are giving spectacular fruits in the form of dozens of books and audio-visuals, dozens of initiated devotees, and a snowballing project involving more and more people into understanding self-realization and coming to practice it. Matsyavatara Prabhu is bringing Radha-Krishna into their lives, slowly and steadily convincing them in a very intellectual, scientific and scholarly manner.
We might often complain: "Oh! I don't have the support of the temple for my plans! That person is against me and therefore my preaching doesn't develop!" But here we can learn how Matsyavatara Prabhu is being successful in cultivating the people of the West through his determination, sincerity, intelligence, long-term planning, dedication, and, in one sense most important of all, patience. Big tests give us big results; steadiness is the key word here.
At the conference I also met an Indian lady. She was from Karnataka and spoke my mother tongue, Kannada. She's living in Pisa for 20 years, and has been attending Matsyavatara Prabhu's classes for 15 years and she is loving it.
Many people are following Matsyavatara Prabhu, appreciating with great respect and trust his rational approach to Indian culture. It's very attractive to see his style of preaching: if you want to attend and enjoy his conferences and seminars, better hurry to learn Italian (but don't worry, they present their courses in English too).
for more information on the English courses offered: firstname.lastname@example.org