Buzz By The Bay: Gauranga Das Prabhuji, ISKCON Leader, Talks About Spirituality And Sustainability

Buzz By The Bay: Gauranga Das Prabhuji, ISKCON Leader, Talks About Spirituality And Sustainability

When a person graduates from IIT Mumbai or the Indian institute of technology, you expect them to have a high-powered corporate position with a six-figure salary and what not

Anushka JagtianiUpdated: Saturday, October 07, 2023, 08:17 PM IST
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When a person graduates from IIT Mumbai or the Indian institute of technology, you expect them to have a high-powered corporate position with a six-figure salary and what not. You don’t really expect them to renounce the world and dedicate themselves to serving humanity and spreading the wisdom of God. Gauranga Das Prabhuji is from this rare breed of people. He is one of ISKCON’s (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) leaders and is a Commissioner on their governing body. He is also the Director of Govardhan Eco Village in Palghar, Maharashtra. Here, Prabhuji talks about projects he is undertaking, offers a crash course in Hindu spirituality, and shares powerful methods to navigate an increasing complex and demanding life.

Excerpts from the interview:

Your schedule is very hectic. You travel the world and lecture on the Gita and are Director of Govardhan Eco Village. Can you tell us about some of the projects you’re involved with?

Only two billion of the world’s population has disposable income. Six billion of the world’s population is underprivileged. As a part of one of the NGOs or civil society organisations or spiritual organisations, we have been trying to make a difference in peoples lives. One of the biggest challenges the world is facing is that people who have moved in the city don’t want to come back to the villages and people in the villages want to move to the city.

To bridge the disparity between those who are poverty-stricken and those who are excessively rich, we thought we should map the needs of those in the city with those in the village. People in the city ironically are experiencing stress, depression, mental health issues. India has 370 suicides a day, so people in the city are looking for peace. People in villages, because of poverty, are looking for money. So we thought can we connect peace and paisa? What better place to have a wellness and peace giving spiritual resort than a rural part of India. Two hours from Mumbai airport we have Govardhan eco village spread over 100 acres. Most people in Mumbai don’t know that the three million people in Palghar have a per capita income of only Rs 27,000 per annum. We started making some interventions through rural and farmer development and creating transformation in farmers’ lives by hand holding them in doing organic agriculture through multi-cropping. We created women’s empowerment opportunities for the wives. We have created more than 300 self help groups and are impacting the lives of 10,000 farmers. For their children, we have established a skill development centre.

What work are you doing in the field of sustainability?

We are a part of Indian Green Building Council Platinum Projects. We have managed to create 4,00,000 compressed stabilised earth blocks which are bricks made out of locally procured earth using seven per cent earth and three per cent limestone. We are accredited to The UN Environment Program, UN Biodiversity Council and UN World Tourism Organization. In Palghar, we are attracting the biggest climate scientists across the world and we have established what is known as a Vedic climate change adaptation model. This is a project, which I call the S3 impact – Spirituality, Sustainability, and Social impact.

Is it just a coincidence that there are several engineers and scientists attracted to ISKCON? Is it because of the scientific nature of Vedanta and the Bhagavad Gita?

It’s a fact that engineers comprise the major chunk of people who have always purchased the Gita and have started implementing the Gita.

Is it because of the scientific nature of Vedanta and the Bhagavad Gita?

The Gita has five topics. Let’s begin with the topic of the self, aatma or Jiva. Then the aatma is engaged in karma or action. As we experience life we are all experiencing the influence of time or Kal. But then the Jiva is within this body which consists of earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind intelligence, ego. The action is performed by exploiting and engaging with objects, which are made out of prakriti or nature. So whether you are Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, etc, you have to accept these four generic things – Jiva, karma, kal, prakriti are common in all traditions. Now we come to the fifth topic. That’s where the debate begins. The individual soul’s identity is connected to a super soul, an Ishwar, a controller. The concept that there’s a controller, all traditions accept. The debate begins when you are trying to define the Ishwar, the personality and description. Of five topics there is agreement on four and a half Jiva (soul), Karma (action), Kal (time), Prakriti (nature), and the fact that there’s a controller. Only on half there is no agreement. The debate on the nature of the controller will continue but the principal is that when we understand that there’s a supreme controller who controls, we are establishing cause and effect. Engineering minds are wired towards cause and affect. One with a logical bent of mind immediately starts connecting the dots.

(Watch the full interview on Buzz by the Bay on Free Press Journal’s YouTube Channel)

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