It’s all happening here at ISKCON News this week.
We’re extending our gratitude to Ekendra Dasa, the managing editor whose two and a half years of dedicated service brought the site to where it is today—and welcoming a new face.
Ekendra’s degree in multimedia and internet development, as well as a diploma in education, made him the ideal person to take ISKCON News from a project with vision to the reliable news source that our readers expect today.
His dedication also inspired him to take a short course on journalism and communication to further boost his capability. He made an effort to “reach out into all the little nooks and crannies of the ISKCON world,” and showcase the amazing things that devotees were doing. With Ekendra at the helm, ISKCON News became a steady, weekly way for devotees to plug-in to our worldwide society.
But now Ekendra says it’s time to take a long overdue break away from his computer. “I’ll be getting fit and helping out on the farm at New Govardhana,” he grins, talking about the ISKCON community in Australia that he calls home.
Filling in his space will be Subala Dasa, our Russian wunderkind who started working for ISKCON Communications in Moscow back in 1992.
Subala first heard of ISKCON as a teenager, while picking up some valuable computer skills in an internship at Moscow’s Railway Institute.
“A friend of mine gave me a copy of Srila Prabhupada’s Teachings of Lord Chaitanya, and the message ‘Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead’ stuck in my head, although I didn’t act on it at the time,” he says. “I wasn’t aware that there was a Krishna temple in Moscow, so I joined the Russian Orthodox church instead.”
There, Subala underwent extreme austerity and would fast for three days a week. One day, as he was sitting on the steps of his local church about to break his fast with a tiny piece of wonderbread, an old lady approached him. He’d seen her around before—the church authorities always refused her entry into the church because they thought she was crazy.
Now she looked at Subala and asked him for his bread. Although he had nothing else to break his fast with, he gave it to her.
Thanking him profusely, she said, “You’re so nice. You shouldn’t be here—you should be at the Krishna Society instead. Why don’t you got there and ask for Vidura?”
Vidura, who turned out to be the temple president of ISKCON Moscow, encouraged Subala to continue on his path and do his Orthodox seminary. “But,” he said, “If you change your mind, you can come and stay with us.”
Subala found himself praying to Krishna that he wouldn’t pass the grades in the seminary. He didn’t, and immediately joined ISKCON. He was only seventeen.
“I was serving as a temple priest in 1991 when there was a failed coup de etat against President Gorbachev,” he says. “I remember that the devotees all slept on the floor instead of using the ashrama’s bunk beds, in fear that we’d be hit by a shell from one of the tanks firing in Red Square.”
Subala began working with ISKCON’s Hare Krishna Today Russian language newspaper in 1992. In 1995, his guru Mukunda Goswami invited him to move to the United States and help him with his Hare Krishna Today monthly video report.
Subala next spent several years working as a professional systems engineer, before moving to New Zealand, where he is now ISKCON News’ new managing editor.
“It’s the perfect next step for me,” he says. “I started helping ISKCON Communications with its Hare Krishna Today newspaper, then moved on to video, and now we are using the Internet, which encompasses both. It’s a modern-age method of outreach.”
Subala’s goals for ISKCON News are ambitious. “I want to use my technical skills to make the site a one-stop news, social-networking and educational hub for devotees,” he says. “Many ISKCON devotees think of reaching out to people in the same way that it was done fifteen, twenty or even thirty years ago. But there have been drastic changes in technology since then, and young people don’t communicate with each other in the same way that they used to.”
Subala believes that social-networking is the way of the future, and that technological breakthroughs such as this require devotees to think in fresh new ways. “Here at ISKCON News,” he says, “We’ll be stepping up to the challenge—setting up new ways for devotees to communicate to the general public and between themselves.”
Subala’s plans have former managing editor Ekendra’s endorsement. “He seems to be a very intelligent and capable person for the job, and I wish him the very best,” Ekendra says.
He adds: “In the future I’d like to see ISKCON News play more of a role in developing unity and cohesion in our society. IN is an excellent medium by which any reader can develop more appreciation for the individuals who are members of ISKCON, and all the great things they do.”
As ISKCON News steps into this new era, Ekendra will stay on as an advisor to the team. But he says he’ll miss the regular association of the ISKCON News staff, especially senior devotees Mukunda Goswami and Anuttama Dasa.
“I’m really inspired by them and their dedication to Srila Prabhupada’s mission,” he says.