They are neither Christians, Muslims, Hindus nor any other faith group you may know in Malawi. Yet, they, too, believe in God whom they call Krishna and congregate under the banner of International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). Our reporter WATIPASO MZUNGU JNR talks to ISKCON congregational development officer Murari Das on this new faith.
What exactly do you stand for and how did you find yourself in Malawi?
We are three people engaged on a full-time basis for spreading Krishna (God) Consciousness. One of my colleagues is from Tanzania. He was introduced to our movement when he was studying for his Master’s degree in communications engineering at the University of London.
He embraced the teachings and dedicated his life to sharing this knowledge. He came to Malawi about three years ago and started the society in Malawi and he currently holds the responsibility of chairperson of the society. Another one of my colleagues is from Hyderabad, India. He is a computer science engineer. He used to work in a private firm. Later, he decided to join the movement to spread these teachings. I, myself, came to Malawi about eight months ago with my wife and two children.
I have been very much fascinated with the teachings of the Bhagavad-gita (word/song of God) since childhood and got influenced with deeper teachings from the Bhagavad-gita through ISKCON when I was doing my Master’s degree in plastics engineering in Mumbai. I have worked with different industries for about 16 years and later I decided to spend more time for the service of God. I have since assumed the responsibility of the congregational development officer here in Malawi.
What are the beliefs and pillars of this religion?
ISKCON is a worldwide non-sectarian movement meant for reviving our God consciousness. The religion stands on four pillars. They are compassion, cleanliness (both internal and external), austerity and truthfulness. The principle of compassion is broken by meat eating and violence to any living being. The principle of cleanliness is broken by indulging in illicit activities and illicit sex is the epitome of breaking internal cleanliness.
The principle of austerity is broken by intoxication and the principle of truthfulness is broken by gambling, cheating and stealing. So, the basic rules we prescribe are; no meat eating, no intoxication, no gambling and no illicit sex. We believe that salvation is obtained by the mercy of the Lord and to seek mercy of the Lord, we actively engage in his devotional service by chanting and singing His glories.
All members also chant the names of God for about two hours a day, usually in the morning. We chant Hare Krishna and Hare Rama on prayer beads (rosary). We also sing these names in a song in different tunes. The idea is to invoke the mercy of God and purification by him by calling out his names such as Jehovah, Allah, Buddha and chanting any of them is a form of worship and service to him.
How different is it from other faiths such as Christianity and Islam?
All bonafide religions are essentially the same since their goal is the same; to develop love for God and to teach one another how to follow God and abide by his injunctions.
This Krishna (or God) consciousness movement is meant to revive God consciousness among people in general. Human life is meant to serve the Lord and not for sense gratification. Sense gratification takes us away from the Lord and makes us slack in following the commandments of the Lord. But when we serve the Lord by using the same senses, the senses are fully satisfied automatically, just like if we water the root of the tree, automatically all the branches and leaves get nourishment. And so when we serve God we feel satisfaction and happiness.
When was the society registered in Malawi and what your membership like?
This society was registered in Malawi in December 2010. We are about 100 people who are actively involved in this Society. We are currently active in Blantyre and are also increasing our activities in Lilongwe. We visit colleges, hostels, industries and public places to meet people from all walks of life and try to spread this message.
Where do you congregate?
We have a temple on Chilomoni Ring Road where mostly members of the congregation meet every Sunday at 10:30am. We also have a lounge behind the Malawi Immigration office in Blantyre.