Museum of The Hare Krishna Movement?

By mayesvara dasa - 14.11 2018

Those of us who appreciate the magical potency of what Srila Prabhupada gave us know that a miracle of colossal historic importance occurred in the late 1960’s. At that time His Divine Grace came and ignited a worldwide spiritual revolution that has no historic equivalent. Those of us who were blessed to become his disciples all got an opportunity to be part of this extraordinary moment in history. Yet time is gnawing away at all of us every day. One by one we watch the disciples of Srila Prabhupada evaporate right in front of our eyes.

It is both a terrible and glorious moment whenever a devotee of the Lord passes away. With the help of social media, we are reminded nearly every day just how poignant that reality is which we all face. As devotees we are particularly taught how everything in this world is temporary. The reality of this realization is forced into our consciousness as we age. Nobody can stop the slow erosion of even the great Himalayas which will also someday disappear due to the relentless nature of time. What our consciousness is at when we take our last breath is what the whole purpose is for those who don’t want to waste our human life.

What we will be conscious about at that moment will be dependent on many things, one of which will be how well we have wound up our duties in this world. One of those duties is to be thoughtful of those who follow us in this journey we call life. For the disciples of Srila Prabhupada that includes the responsibility to posterity. How will we preserve the artifacts which portray how the Hare Krishna movement evolved from the humble efforts of one extraordinary individual?

Now located in North Carolina the BBT Archives was originally established as soon as the disciples realized the value of what Srila Prabhupada had to offer. We are all blessed by the efforts that were taken back then to preserve nearly everything he said. In a similar way, all of Srila Prabhupada’s personal possessions were snatched up and collected over the years. Those sacred items are finding their way to appropriate places like his personal room in Vrindavan for pilgrims to worship and learn from. Siddhanta Prabhu of ISKCON Television has also done a tremendous service preserving the various testimonies of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples. Due to his vigilance, future generations will have the opportunity to hear directly from those Srila Prabhupada personally trained. From them people in the future will be able to learn all of the remarkable things that occurred. But what about the other less sensational, yet relevant items? What about those things that reflect the milestones achieved as the Hare Krishna movement matured from a mimeograph machine in Boston, to the most respected mega-publisher of original Vedic Scriptures?

We have all learned about the pastimes of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu with the six goswamies and thoughtful individuals from their generation preserved artifacts at the sacred places of pilgrimage for all of us to visit today. How much can we preserve for devotees 500 years from now to see and study so they can better understand the remarkable miracle that Srila Prabhupada performed at the height of the counter culture revolution in the West?

Out of respect for anything related to Krishna, I have accumulated quite a collection of items that are relevant to the development of the Hare Krishna movement. I suspect others also have their own cherished memorabilia related to how the Krishna Conscious movement began and grew. I have no progeny and as I age, I feel the burden of doing what I can, to preserve the historical devotional accouterments I have acquired for future generations. Being the caretaker of these things, I feel a need to make some plan to entrust them to an appropriate person or place where they will be preserved for the future generations benefit.

I am referring to things the early “Hare Krishnas” have tucked away such as newspaper articles, early publications and photos in personal albums from preaching events etc. Many disciples of His Divine Grace have some items that are intriguingly unique to how ISKCON grew from $7 and a suitcase of books to the fastest growing international religious organization in the history of mankind. Will all of these things end up in the dumpster after the coroner formally confirms that the soul of another devotee has departed? None of us know when that day will come, but we do know that unless we make some tangible plan a lot of history could very literally go up in smoke.

I can only imagine the vast number of historic Vaishnava books devotees have in their own personal libraries. Will they all be dispersed to the used book stores, where they are destined for destruction, if not appreciated by some fortunate patron before the cost of shelfing them outweighs their potential for revenue?

In the small town of Ojai where I have lived for the more than 30 years, there are several places where the history of far less spiritually significant importance is being preserved. Ironically the followers of the man who was notorious for preaching about how religious pandits cannot help you, scriptures cripple the mind and how one must find their own way, now maintain two large museum/library complexes of his books and artifacts in this small valley of about 40,000 residents. The Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. preserves significant items for historians to study how the United States was founded and developed. In the Midwest there is not just one, but two museums dedicated to something as simple as barbed wire because it played such a pivotal role in how the West was won. There are places where scientists can go to study virtually every variation in any plant, animal or insect one might be curious to learn about.

As devotees we know even the tremendously impressive exhibits one can see at the NASA space center located in Cape Canaveral, pale in historic comparison to the first tambourines that were used in 1966 to accommodate Srila Prabhupada when he chanted Hare Krishna under a tree in New York at Tompkins Square park. Yet where is that tambourine today?

I have several things that are relevant to my Krsna conscious journey which are not directly related to Srila Prabhupada… but do capture aspects of how life was for one of his disciples. I have some paintings, books, deities and various collector items that only devotees would appreciate. I even managed to hang on to the original japa beads that Srila Prabhupada gave me at the Krishna Balarama Mandir in Vrindaban India 1976. That moment is preserved in a fantastic photo that was taken by my Godbrother Vidyananda Prabhu. (See Attached Photo)

I am sure I am not the only one faced with menacing thoughts like this. Therefore, I am reaching out with this article as the first step to see what my options might be while there is still time to make appropriate arrangements.

I want to do what I can to avoid sending my personal library to the local Barts used bookstore where Vaishnava treasures will end up in a local land fill sooner than I would prefer to imagine.

I hope anyone who reads this article will take it seriously and consider sharing it with others. I am seeking suggestions regarding how we can best preserve what is in our care for those who come after us. It seems to me that we should be collectively striving to establish a Museum that serves the mission of preserving the history of The Hare Krishna Movement. Ideally that museum should be part of a larger temple complex, although that may not be possible for a variety of reasons. I think about this issue a lot. I am willing to commit resources towards the organization and founding of a place where future historians can research what it took to get the Hare Krishna movement started. I invite anyone who has similar realizations about this timely issue to please respond to me directly with their ideas or suggestions without delay.

Thank you very much!