The ISKCON New Vrindaban community extends condolences to the friends and family of George Floyd, Breanna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and all victims of social injustice. Our Vedic scriptures ordain that the duty of ksatriyas – public officials like the police – is to protect the citizens from harm. When those officials are the ones to inflict harm, especially out of something so senseless as racial prejudice, it is disgraceful.
At the core of our spiritual teachings is the understanding that every living entity has a sacred soul. Spiritually, we are one family: brothers, sisters, and children of God. When any member of a family is harmed, the whole family suffers. We affirm that Black and Brown lives are sacred and matter very, very much. Indeed, we affirm that all lives are sacred, including our animal brothers and sisters, yet we honor the special need to listen to and respect Black, Brown, and Indigenous people.
In our tradition, we are called to look beyond one another’s body and social status, honoring the divine soul within. As we recognize the spiritual teaching that we are so much more than these material bodies, we also recognize the unique gifts and challenges held by our spiritual sisters and brothers. We also seek to take responsibility for the impacts that we may each have as we walk on the earth with our various privileges and limitations, aspiring to offer all respects to others without expecting respect in return.
The current coronavirus pandemic has heightened this sense of universal brotherhood. It has been a stark reminder that we are living in a global community. In other words, we are all in this together: not only the coronavirus pandemic, but also the pandemic of racism and hatred in our society. We wear masks and observe social distancing out of love for one another, to protect one another for harm. Likewise, out of our love, we must join together to fight the spread of racism, violence and hatred in society.
This must begin in the heart. The way to fight violence is not with more violence. In fact, violence is not the problem but a symptom of a deeper ill. While we must treat the symptoms, if we really want to cure this disease, we need to get to the root of it. The root is in the heart. When hatred, anger, lust, and greed are in the heart, they will inevitably manifest in our external behavior. So, to cure the disease, we need to purify our hearts.
The way to purify the heart is through determined spiritual practice. Therefore, we at ISKCON New Vrindaban encourage every individual to go deeper in your spiritual lives at this time. According to our scriptures, the most powerful spiritual practice, the practice which is specifically recommended for this day and age, is the chanting of the holy names of God, the Hare Krishna maha-mantra: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
This chanting is free, it’s easy, and it can be done in any situation. We urge everyone to set aside time each day to sit down, set a positive intention, focus, and repeat the Hare Krishna maha-mantra aloud in a prayerful mood. The spiritual sound vibration of this mantra is truly transformative. As you chant, you’ll feel all negative qualities like anger, worry, and frustration melt away and be replaced with positive qualities like inspiration, joy, and love. With regular chanting, your perspective on the world will become spiritualized, enabling you to see the inherent equality and immense value of each and every life on this planet. The best part of the chanting is that it not only benefits the chanter, but it similarly benefits all those who hear it. In fact, the sound vibration goes out into the atmosphere and purifies the whole world.
Dear friends, this is not just some philosophical rambling or sweet words of assurance. It is a call to action. As they say, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” If enough people agree to change their hearts, the world will be a better and safer place for all of us.
Image: A mural and memorial honoring George Floyd in Minneapolis. Photo by Xena Goldman.