At least 1,200 children in North America are enrolled in official ISKCON Sunday Schools every week. Sunday School educators are set to gather for a Sunday School and Youth Education Conference at ISKCON Baltimore from May 29th to 31st, to develop a common vision and share best practices.
“One of our main inspirations was the book Life’s Final Exam: Death and Dying from a Vedic Perspective, edited by Giriraja Swami,” says Tarini Ganga. “It describes how in hospitals and hospices people are suffering so much, and how their families are so emotionally drained."
Smashing expectations, around 2,300 people attended the three-day festival opening the new Vedic-style ISKCON temple in Baltimore, Maryland from April 28th to 30th. They came from India, England, and all over the U.S., and included local congregation and public as well as many Srila Prabhupada disciples who had previously served in Baltimore.
I wasn’t ready for all the excitement that hit me as I walked into the temple. The mridangas, the kartals, and the joyful Kirtan. I bowed down to Srila Prabhupada. The energy from the previous day stilled flowed through the air. I found myself falling down a deep well of anticipation.
Last week’s Sunday Feast kirtan was an emotional experience for ISKCON Baltimore devotees, who shed tears even as they danced and chanted ecstatically together. The rip-roaring session was their last Sunday kirtan in their old temple, a 2,500 square-foot house where the main worship room can only hold around 35 people. The 110-year-old building at 200 Bloomsbury Avene in Catonsville was becoming dilapidated, and the congregation – now nearly 300 devotees – couldn’t even fit in for morning programs.
Tivon and Cheyenne are an African American couple in their mid-twenties. She works in a steakhouse, and he’s in marketing. Cybil, in her fifties, is a real estate agent. Jorge is a student. Lauren is a professor of music at Towson University. Maria is retired from her government agency job. Ravi is doing his postdoc in medicine at John Hopkins. Kate is a nurse and a Buddhist. And Henna works on a horse farm. They’re as diverse a group as possible, but they all have one thing in common: they’re all regular attendees at the recently re-opened Bhakti Lounge in Baltimore.
For at least the past two decades, ISKCON Baltimore has been a small center, and the congregation remains at only around 150 people today. But it has been growing, with more young Indians and Westerners becoming regular visitors due to several innovative outreach programs.
On New Year’s Day, devotees at ISKCON Baltimore in Maryland, USA set a group goal to read 100,000 pages of Srila Prabhupada’s books by the end of the year, as an offering to the ISKCON founder. Within two weeks, they were already on track to beat their goal, and had set a new goal of nearly twice as much -- quite a start to the New Year!