Over sixty devotees and guests, including the Mayor of Tuscon and leaders of the Christian and Buddhist communities, attended a 50th anniversary gala at the courtyard of Govinda’s Natural Foods Buffet on 15th October to celebrate the 50th anniversary of ISKCON.
“The setting couldn’t have been more fitting,” said Sandamini Devi Dasi, Temple President of ISKCON Tuscon, and one of the main organisers for the event. “For thirty years Govinda’s has served as the temple’s portal to Lord Krsna’s sublime food, music, wisdom, and devotees. It is a spiritual oasis in the middle of the Arizona desert.”
The programme began with a prasadam-dinner while a harpist strummed live music in the background.
In her speech to the audience, Sandamini Devi Dasi thanked everyone for coming, and described the achievements of ISKCON’s founder-acharya, Srila Prabhupada.
Doug Larsen and Mary Kierzek of the Southside Presbyterian Church’s Hunger Relief Outreach, thanked the temple for bringing Food for life to the city’s homeless, praising the devotees’ punctuality, hospitality, and care in preparing and serving the sanctified food.
From St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, Father Jorge Sotelo said, “It was my vegetarian diet that had brought me to Govinda’s, where the devotees introduced me to Lord Krsna’s teachings.”
Inspired by the answers to his questions, the pastor had accepted Vaisnava initiation and received the name Hamsa Balarama Dasa, while continuing his Christian ministry.
From the Kadampa Meditation Center, Buddhist nun and teacher Gen Kelsang Lingpur praised the devotees for sharing their love through spiritual food. She concluded her speech with a Buddhist poem about compassion.
Mayor of Tuscon, Jonathan Rothschild surprised the devotees by reading out each of the seven purposes of ISKCON provided by Srila Prabhupada, and paid a tribute to his all-encompassing vision.
Professor of Religion and East Asian Studies Alison Jameson, who serves as an advisor to the ‘Bhakti Yoga’ club at the University of Arizona, said, “I thank the devotees of ISKCON for their loving and nonsectarian presentation of Krsna consciousness on campus.”
Jivananda Das, an initiating spiritual master from ISKCON, commented, “I want to remind everyone how true love of God is the satisfying remedy for everyone’s ills.”
In his concluding address, Chairman of ISKCON’s Governing Body Commissioner, Nityananda Das challenged the audience to find that love by serving all of God’s children, regardless of caste, color, or creed.
The programme concluded with a special singing of the Hare Krishna mantra by Bhakta Ayush, a young devotee musician and university student.
“I want to give a special thanks to Atula Govinda Das, who worked long and hard to inspire Tuscon’s VIPs to attend ISKCON’s 50th anniversary,” said Sandamini Devi Dasi. “The event was hugely successful in educating some of Tuscon’s most important people about Srila Prabhupada’s achievements and ISKCON’s global spread.”