- Lord Krishna in the 21st Century -
Rohini-suta dasa (ACBSP 77)
Rohini-suta dasa (ACBSP 77)
Published by CyberSubsidary
I dedicate this book to my spiritual master, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. I present this with my sincere desire to reinforce Prabhupada's mission which he so beautifully stated when he said: "Let us try to make them Krishna Conscious. That is our only interest. Because I love Krishna, I want to see all - everybody in the world become Krishna conscious."
- Table of Contents -
The Greatest Hero
The 4th of July
The Children of Northern Iraq
Tornado devastates Limon, Colorado
Food for Life Australia
The Big Easy Chair
Hollywood vs. Reality
Getting on Stage
Don't Put the Cart Before the Horse
The Starting Point
What's in a Name?
Water Water Everywhere But Not A Drop To Drink
Show me the Money
ISKCON'S Public Image
Wearing Two Hats
More About Joining NOVAD
How To Create A Worldwide Disaster Relief Agency
More about responding to Disasters in America
More Than Just Water
Other Ways To Advertize
Hari & Bol
Old Gold Mines
Krishna Search & Rescue
Krishna Medical Relief
Lord Krishna in the 21st Century - Fact of Fiction?
A Final Thought
5/21/13 - Everything you are about to read was written many years ago, but never published. I have now decided to release the book on my Ancient Vedic Radio website. So please allow me to welcome you to, Lord Krishna in the 21st Century. But let me first take a moment to comment on the tragic events that have been taking place in Oklahoma, especially yesterday (5/20/13).
It is now 8:00 am here in Texas and at this very moment the picture below is at the top of the Drudge Report. Take a look at it. It speaks volumes about the terror and destruction that has killed nearly a dozen school children while hiding under their desks. But this image also captures the compassion of the human spirit. Yesterday, all this young girl had left were the clothes she was wearing and her prayers. And yet it is said that all endeavors (in this case, rescue & rebuilding) should first begin with prayers, so although someone else might suggest a more dramatic picture from the massive tornado, I like this one.
Lord Krishna In The 21st Century is a book that will specifically address the events that happened in Moore, Oklahoma - Krishna Disaster Relief
Although there have been enormous advancements in technology since I first wrote this book, the basic concept is still as strong as every. For example, not that long ago I read about a machine that that can be mounted on a flat-bed truck. This device sucks air into it from the atmosphere and out comes pure drinking water - even in the desert and at a much lower cost than delivering water by the bottle. As you read, you will understand where this would come into play.
Lord Krishna In The 21st Century only takes a few hours to read and I guarantee that you won’t find it lacking in grandeur. It is a book that starts with a vision that I had at a 4th of July parade, but never looses sight of its most important theme: the aspirations of my spiritual master, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. This is what every word in this book revolves around and supports. Nothing else.
Actually, presenting my vision is more like writing down a formula and for me it is a formula that simply states: "Right actions produce right results." As I said, in this case, the right result is the fulfillment of Shrila Prabhupada’s fondest wish - or, if I may, his dream.
And believe me, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to understand this formula. Of course, Prabhupada’s fondest dream rested upon the very thing he was most fond of - Lord Krishna. Prabhupada loves his Krishna and because of this love he came to America to share this wonderful person with us. This was his mission: to introduce us to Lord Krishna and to awaken our love for Him. Prabhupada said, "Because I love Krishna, I want everybody - the whole world to love Krishna, too. This is my only interest." For me, this is Shrila Prabhupada.
Please understand - although I have written this book and speak about a "vision" I once had, I am nobody special. Not even close. Even after living for many years inside ISKCON, and even after having received two initiations, I am not fooled. I’m best at washing pots. I don’t even qualify to follow in the footsteps of a bhakta. Nor are you going to read in here a bunch of scripture to prove MY points. In fact, as I recall, I have only used a few short quotes - all from Shrila Prabhupada.
Putting these things aside, I sincerely believe you should give what I have to say a fair reading. ISKCON has a book called, Bhagavad-gita As It Is. In exactly the same way, Lord Krishna In The 21st Century is saying, simply present Lord Krishna to the world - as He is.
When reading this book, please keep in mind what Shrila Prabhupada wanted. As his followers we have two tremendous things going for us to fulfill Prabhupada’s mission. One is that God is the greatest person. My book takes a little different spin on this and says that, "God is the greatest hero." The second thing we have is the fact that, "Everyone loves a hero." These are two, undeniable and powerful truths.
This is getting down to the essence of what this book is all about. All I have done is connect the dots: Prabhupada’s overwhelming desire to see the entire world loving Lord Krishna....our only interest is to fulfill Prabhupada’s dream....Lord Krishna is the greatest hero....everyone loves a hero.
What does it mean to present Lord Krishna as He is? What does it mean to present Lord Krishna as the greatest hero? What will happen? This is what you are about to discover.
As far as the 21st century, I guess time will tell. I would certainly welcome your comments or questions. I can be reached at: email@example.com. All glories to Shrila Prabhupada. If you do not want to take the time to read my entire book, please jump to Chapter 32, Lord Krishna In The 21st Century - Fact or Fiction? This is a vivid account of what is possible, illustrating all points I make in the book in a dramatic story set in the year 2030 A.D.
Lord Krishna in the 21st Century - Chapter 1
The Greatest Hero
The Greatest Hero
I have often pondered the very first book I ever read by Shrila Prabhupada, Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead. I remember reading about the various qualities of Lord Krishna, which taken together define and identify Him as God Almighty.
In these Western countries, when someone sees the cover of a book like "Krishna," he immediately asks, ‘Who is Krishna? Who is the girl with Krishna?’ etc.
The immediate answer is that Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. How is that? Because he conforms in exact detail to descriptions of the Supreme Being, the Godhead. In other words, Krishna is the Godhead because He is all-attractive. Outside the principle of all-attraction there is no meaning to the word Godhead. How is it one can be all-attractive? First of all, if one is very wealthy, if he has great riches, he becomes attractive to the people in general. Similarly, if someone is very powerful, he also becomes attractive, and if someone is very unattached to all kinds of possessions, he also becomes attractive. So from practical experience we can observe that one is attractive due to 1) wealth, 2) power, 3) fame, 4) beauty, 5) wisdom, and 6) renunciation. One who is in possession of all six of these opulances at the same time, who possesses them to an unlimited degree, is understood to be the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
This has always struck me as something quite wonderful and I’ve thought about these passages many times. It even dawned on me that one could say that the Lord is also: THE GREATEST HERO. This is just a tremendous fact because, EVERYONE LOVES A HERO.
Indeed, mankind the world over recognizes this quality and holds any person who truly acts heroic, in greatest esteem. There is the often repeated example of the man who saves a child from drowning, but drowns himself in the process. Or, at the last moment, an elderly gentleman is pushed from the path of an oncoming bus, but the hero dies saving him. Communities across America and in every country across the globe honor such heroic men and women every year. No one is more honored than the person who gives his life to save another. Even dogs are awarded medals—such as the "Carnegie Medal of Honor"—for acts of life-saving valor. Furthermore, nearly the same honor is bestowed upon those who don’t die, but who clearly and unselfishly come to the rescue.
Besides these outstanding individual efforts, organizations such as The Salvation Army receive award after award for their unending commitment to help in times of great need.
I once worked with The Salvation Army during a dramatic fire at the Denver airport. Several large fuel tanks caught fire, which ended up burning for a week. Besides the extreme danger involved with the nature of this particular fire, the temperatures at night were well below freezing.
Believe me, after five days and nights, 24 hours around the clock with countless meals fed to the firefighters, police, and city officials, praise and admiration for The Salvation Army was broadcast all over the city. In the end, officials from Stapleton International Airport held a ceremony in their honor and handed The Salvation Army a very large "thank-you" check for "coming to the rescue."
Shrila Prabhupada has pointed out that there is no greater hero than God. Additionally, it makes sense that Lord Krishna is also the most interesting person. These two facts are simply fascinating to me. For more than twenty years my thoughts have been preoccupied thinking about them—especially within the context of what Shrila Prabhupada wanted to accomplish.
As the religious embodiment of Prabhupada’s life’s mission, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness certainly has its work cut out. But this challenge can be achieved simply by presenting Lord Krishna—as He is. This cannot be neglected. After all, to have on one hand the most interesting person, and on the other hand a boring presentation about Him, is quite a contradiction. But it happens all the time. In this regard, I think it was the great Pentecostal preacher Smith Wigglesworth who once cautioned, "Instead of praying for ten minutes and giving a one hour sermon, pray for one hour and deliver a ten-minute sermon."
Consequently, besides all that goes into writing a book, this is also part of the challenge before me: to present the Lord as He is. After all, only tragic ineptness on the part of this author could result in a boring book about God.
Lord Krishna is the greatest hero. Everyone loves a hero. How do we open this window for the world to see? What will happen if we successfully present Lord Krishna to the world—as He is?
Lord Krishna in the 21st Century - Chapter 2
In each chapter I want to reemphasize the purpose of this book. Everything I have to say is dedicated to the fulfillment of a very special dream. And in all frankness, the dream has not yet come true. Far from it. Every day I either read or listen to the news. Sadly, year after year after year, Lord Krishna is seldom mentioned. But the dream is a great one, the greatest goal I know of. So again, please read anew these beautiful words of Shrila Prabhupada and the "dream" he wanted fulfilled:
"Let us try to make them Krishna conscious. That is our only interest. Because I love Krishna, I want to see all - everybody in the world to become Krishna conscious."
In the previous chapter I said that the greatest challenge facing the preaching movement is to present God as He is. Why is this so important and what are the consequences?
In any marketplace you will find many vendors advertising their wares. "Please stop and see what I have to offer." And in the global marketplace of ideas, goods and services, devotees of Lord Krishna are also advertising. "Please stop and examine what we have."
This is good. The most important thing, however, is to get the public to stop and take notice in the first place. And again, when this happens, here we find our greatest challenge: to present Lord Krishna as He is.
Once you have gained their interest, where does this lead? In one, very important word: appreciation - appreciation for Lord Krishna. And if you think about it, the word "appreciation" has many meanings and they all apply: "to prize, regard, cherish, relish, savor, acknowledge, thank, comprehend, realize, recognize and understand."
Once this appreciation has been kindled within the heart, the blessings bestowed upon those fortunate souls are enormous. Shrila Prabhupada states:
1. August 19, 1972, Shrimad Bhagavatam 1.2.16--"This is the beginning of spiritual life—people are praising our activities—this appreciation is a lift for such persons. If he doesn’t hear, doesn’t come, simply says, ‘it is very nice.’ Yes!"
2. May 9, 1975, morning walk, Perth, Australia--"If they simply appreciate, (they say) ‘It is very nice,’ then in (their) next life, human life is guaranteed. In a very nice family. Simply if he appreciates."
"...the beginning of spiritual life." This makes so much sense - the consequence when this appreciation is awakened for Lord Krishna. And to my way of thinking, appreciation is where love of God starts. This, we all know, is the goal of human life.
Shrila Prabhupada loved Krishna with all his heart, and he simply wanted the whole world to love Him, too. This was Shrila Prabhupada’s heart’s desire—his "dream," if I may. And the fulfillment of our Guru Deva’s dream is the mission of our great society. A mission that begins with presenting Lord Krishna as He is and ends with love of God, the world over.
I have named this book, Lord Krishna In The 21st Century. It is a book about a common-sense approach for best accomplishing Shrila Prabhupada’s mission. Remember, Shrila Prabhupada wanted everybody in the world to love Lord Krishna. So we have to think big. And although this book is big in scope, it contains a very practical formula that is both easy to understand and easy to execute. We can do this? It’s a piece of cake. Here is a blueprint that can produce success within our lifetime. I am 100% certain of this fact. What could be more inspiring than this? But first my task is to convince you.
Lord Krishna in the 21st Century - Chapter 3
The 4th of July
It is common knowledge that after joining ISKCON in the summer of 1976 and serving Shrila Prabhupada under the guidance of Ganapati das Swami for a period of four years, I left the movement. I became fully active again in service to Shrila Prabhupada between 1988 and 1991. I now reside in beautiful Canyon Lake, Texas, with my lovely wife Kay.
In spite of my obvious shortcomings, two remarkable events happened to me in 1990 that more than anything else gave me the desire to write this book. The first was a direct result of the Persian Gulf War (Desert Storm) and the second a tremendous tornado that devastated the small town of Limon, Colorado.
I was serving in Denver during this time, and I had taken over the temple’s Food For Life program, going out daily, feeding the homeless from a converted stepvan. Although this service meant a great deal to me, due to the temple’s commitment to host Denver’s first ever, full size Ratha Yatra in nearby Boulder, I was asked to work full-time on the construction of Lord Jugannatha’s new cart. Bhakta Jeff and I were building the largest cart in North America, from the ground up.
The work took us months of hard labor. As July 4th approached, the cart was nearly finished. During this same time it became widely known that the United States Air Force was going to have one of its secret, stealth bombers fly overhead during the upcoming 4th of July celebration - downtown. Many of the returning troops from Desert Storm would be marching in the parade and a great deal was being made of all of this.
Coming from an Air Force family and having served my country during the Vietnam War, I decided to take off for an hour and attend the parade, first hand.
Needless to say, the crowd was enormous. There was hardly a vantage place left. Near the review stand I finally managed to locate a spot with a good view.
As the parade began, formation after formation of marching troops passed by, each time receiving a thunderous applause. Every formation consisted of neat rows of marching men and women in neatly starched uniforms. Each branch of service was represented. Also, in order to create a special honor for each of them as they passed the review stand, the organizers of the parade allowed for about a three-minute space between each group, which created a short pause between each formation.
I mostly wanted to see the stealth bomber. Since its eventual flyover was about an hour away, I stood and watched along with everyone else. This was a very special 4th of July celebration. People were there by the thousands. More than anything, I couldn’t help being impressed by the overwhelming appreciation that the crowd was showering upon all the troops as they passed by. It felt very genuine, heartfelt and good.
With many thoughts going through my mind while waiting for another formation to appear, I gazed down the empty parade route. Suddenly I began to imagine a large group of brightly-dressed devotees approaching the review stand - mridangas, cartels swirling as the Holy Names were loudly proclaimed.
But sadly, in my mind’s eye, as the imaginary troupe of devotees passed the review stand, I could tell that they were not welcome. There was no applause from the crowd. On the contrary, many booed as if to say, "What in the hell are you doing here?" We just didn’t fit in. Our reputation much too clouded. There was no common ground. Our presence was more like some strange looking cult crashing a private party.
With my spell broken by the sounds of an approaching band, I remember standing still and feeling disturbed. Every day I pledge my allegiance to Shrila Prabhupada and Lord Krishna, but I am also an American. America is my country and my home.
My father had risked his life over the skies of Europe in WWII for the freedoms that we all enjoy today. And I had served her during the Vietnam War. Consequently, sensing the crowd not wanting devotees in a parade that my family could have easily been marching in, and to have my religion rebuffed during this great national day of independence was quite upsetting. Who wants that? Who wants one’s fellow countrymen to feel like that toward me and my friends? Of course, all that this really consisted of were some idle thoughts and bodily sentiments floating around my foolish mind. The devotees were not actually there.
Another lapse in the activities occurred. Once again my attention was drawn toward the empty street off to my right where the crowd was watching in eager anticipation. I had already shrugged off the things I had been thinking about. But then, almost immediately—even surprising myself—once again in my mind’s eye I began to make out something approaching the review stand. At first I wasn’t even sure what it was.
Lord Krishna in the 21st Century - Chapter 4
The Children Of Northern Iraq
The war against Saddam Hussein lasted for only 100 hours, resulting in a lopsided defeat and mass surrender. This was all viewed on television each night with military videos of the latest smart bombs finding their exact targets with pinpoint accuracy.
I can’t remember when a war was followed with such interest by the public—due in part, no doubt, to the vastly superior telecommunication technology existing back then. A person can be sitting in his living room and watch live footage of actual combat on the other side of the globe. Americans love a good fight and the nightly news organizations made sure that their viewers got a very exciting look at all our victories.
Just as quick to anger, the American temperament is equally swayed by other emotions, besides the heat of battle. There’s no question that this war galvanized the spirit of America to rally around her armed forces. But it is also true that an even more powerful emotion soon overtook the American spirit. The fighting was predictable enough, but what happened during the aftermath of the Persian Gulf War was totally unexpected.
I can still remember the vivid images. Without a war to report, the center stage of the nightly newscast was transported from the hot desert sands of Kuwait to the bitter-cold mountains of Northern Iraq. Scenes of burning oil wells and surrendering troops were replaced with pictures of little boys and girls being buried by their grieving parents. As for the children still alive, most had very little to wear and inadequate shoes to flee from the ruthless Saddam, as he turned what remained of his weary forces against these nomadic Kurds.
Night after night America’s heart was torn apart by the pictures of these broken people. The plight of the children was especially heart wrenching. These are some of the most adorable looking kids in the world. And yet, there they were—cold, starving, some barefoot and many dying—struggling through ankle-deep mud up the side of a rain-swept mountain. Of course, this happened many years ago. For those of us who can remember, in response to their terrible plight, President Bush (senior) ordered a massive military airlift of food and supplies in what became known as Operation Provide Comfort. The war itself certainly stirred the emotional fervor of the American populace, but nothing compared to their outcry over the plight of these helpless children.
Staring down the empty parade route, I suddenly became alert as another figment of my overly imaginative mind began to appear. I was genuinely surprised. Even perplexed. Unlike the other military floats that I had seen earlier, the float now approaching looked very strange. Instead of a mock-up of a Navy ship or something similar, the float looked more like the top of some barren mountain peak. On it I could see several devotees dressed in soiled dhotis, standing around a large brass kettle. The kettle was shimmering in the sunlight. They were stirring its contents with large wooden paddles.
Another group of devotees were sitting in a circle off to the right, each with a child bundled in their laps. These devotees were holding plates of hot prasadam and feeding the children. High above them in banner-like style, a simple sign declared:
DURING THE AFTERMATH OF THE PERSIAN GULF WAR, HARE KRISHNA DEVOTEES FED AND SAVED THE LIVES OF THOUSANDS OF KURDISH CHILDREN
I was stunned. All around me the huge crowd went absolutely mad with shouts of praise and applause. In fact, their appreciation was overwhelming - even louder than their cheers for the returning troops - all at once bringing me back to reality. What did this mean? I sensed from the depths of my soul that something extremely profound had just happened. I felt that a very special window had just opened for the first time. Even now, years later, hardly a day goes by that I don’t spend at least some time appreciating the many things this open window has allowed me to see. I want to see more. This is what this book is all about.
Lord Krishna in the 21st Century - Chapter 5
Tornado Devastates Limon, Colorado
It will be hard to forget the first time I went out with the old Food For Life van to feed the homeless in front of a Catholic shelter—about five miles from the Denver Temple. Three of us were crouched over in the back, trying to keep warm against a cold rain. In fact, the rain was being blown sideways through the doors, getting us all wet.
Regardless of the weather, as I would soon discover, the line of social outcasts that stood waiting for our hot prasadam never failed to appear. My first trip out proved this. It wasn’t a very pleasant experience. This was especially emphasized when one of the more intoxicated men fell forward on top of me, spilling everything as we collided.
Knowing that there had to be a better way, I bought a 1963 Ford stepvan and converted it into a mobile kitchen. One of my complaints against the old maroon van was how its only Food For Life sign was facing away from traffic as we handed out our meals. Sad but true, I think our overall appearance looked more like a drug deal going down, rather than the Hare Krishnas feeding the homeless.
Our new stepvan certainly took care of that problem. Its brightly painted Food For Life signs were highly visible on three sides and we even played the beautiful maha-mantra over an outside speaker. Everyone loved our music. Once I started going out in our new kitchen, we could all detect a much friendlier response from the passing cars.
It was during my early involvement with Food For Life that the tornado I mentioned struck. In June 1990 the Limon Tornado caused $25 million in damages with 117 homes and 23 businesses destroyed. The Fire and Police departments, Town Hall and the Post Office were all damaged along with the loss of phone service throughout the entire community.
I first heard about it on the news but really didn’t make much of an effort to help. Then I listened to a live interview with this one fellow who just dropped everything, rented a truck, got a bunch of supplies together, and was out there feeding everyone.
This was quite inspiring so I decided to load up some watermelons and cold tea and drive to Limon, myself. I had no idea what to expect. All I knew was that this was by far the biggest story to hit Denver since I had been there.
Eventually, as I got close to the area damaged by the tornado, I was stopped by a roadblock. A highway patrol officer motioned me to pull over.
Lord Krishna in the 21st Century - Chapter 6
There is no doubt that at this point in time—after what I had just experienced at the 4th of July parade, and then being allowed by the highway patrol to cross beyond their roadblock, that I was beginning to grasp the tremendous importance of what I am about to set forth in this book.
For a very wonderful purpose I was given the opportunity to experience certain things and to now, share them with you.
There is even a detailed "history of the events" that led up to the publication of this book, but I would rather leave them for another time. In no special order they would include many things—like walking down an underground tunnel on a military base to meet with Mr. Bobby Baines, the chairman of NVOAD (discussed later); going to Washington, D.C. to attend NVOAD’s annual meeting; giving prasadam to Army troops in Colorado Springs at the site of a deadly airline crash; the founding of Krishna Disaster Relief; members of Krishna Disaster Relief aiding the victims of a firestorm in Oakland, California; and some years later, with the help of my gracious wife, finally being able to have a nice home and a computer to write this book on.
Lord Krishna in the 21st Century - Chapter 7
Food For Life Australia
One of the keys to understanding the potential success that is within our grasp, for the fulfillment of Shrila Prabhupada’s great mission by means of disaster relief - are the proven achievements of the Australian Food For Life program. As an example, I am referring to a specific meals-on-wheels program that was originally running under the leadership of His Grace Priyavrata dasa. The important thing about this (that he later discussed in his newsletter) was how even though the program was quite small in scope, nevertheless, national credit was quick to come. In other words, their modest effort was never criticized for being too small. Rather, it was their sincere effort that counted and, indeed, quickly recognized by the government. This is important to remember. In fact, this very point was again illustrated just the other day on CNN. A good two minutes was dedicated to an obscure relief agency who’s aid was actually just a tiny gesture in comparison to the total devastation they were trying to address.
It is my proposal, (along with the tremendous fact how everyone loves a hero) - that even though our initial efforts will naturally be lacking in depth, no one will complain. Nobody criticizes the man who runs into a burning building but can only save one of the six children trapped inside.
And there is more to this than just my high hopes. Besides the lesson with the meals-on-wheels program in Australia, I have personally interacted with many of the professional men and women who respond to disasters. I have attended classes with them - and during disasters I have worked shoulder to shoulder with them. These are some of the nicest people I have had the privilege to meet and after hours of contact with them (as a Hare Krishna devotee) I am convinced of their open-mindedness and complete willingness to work with people of all faiths.
In fact, here in America they are already organized to do this under a single banner, representing many diverse faiths and interests. Their organization (NVOAD) will be discussed soon. I even have a letter from them inviting Krishna Disaster Relief to join. But to begin with, the important point is that you will never hear a particular group cited for not doing enough. They are all volunteers and are simply doing what they can to help out in times of disaster. This is all that is expected of them.
Lord Krishna in the 21st Century - Chapter 8
The Big Easy Chair
I said in chapter two that the important thing is to get people to stop, in the first place, so that they can experience what devotees have to offer them. This can be quite a challenge.
I remember the first time I ever saw Hare Krishna devotees. That was in 1969. I was in Denver, Colorado, when I spotted a rather odd looking group of men and women, singing and dancing in front of the May D&F department store. They were brightly dressed and as I walked by, one of the ladies handed me a magazine and asked for a donation. I also remember how later that day, when I had to pass by again, I purposely stayed on the other side of the street.
With the likes of me to reach, devotees definitely have their work cut out. And again, what is being offered to humanity is the opportunity to appreciate Lord Krishna. An opportunity to begin their spiritual life. An opportunity to participate in the fulfillment our spiritual master’s great mission. An opportunity to fulfill Shrila Prabhupada’s dream.
But remember—Prabhupada had a global vision and he wanted everybody in the world to appreciate Lord Krishna. Therefore, how do we best participate in such a broad concept? How do we reach so many people in a really significant way?
Granted, all of our various programs add a certain amount of success to this endeavor. They should all be continued. However, there are differences. Opening a small Hare Krishna restaurant should not be discouraged and many of its customers will eventually come to appreciate the Hare Krishnas. But, when you compare this to having Krishna Disaster Relief featured as a major story on CNN, you gain a sense of the perspective that I am talking about.
As I have mentioned, you are reading a blueprint. Furthermore, I am stating that the strategy in this book is to reach "the world" - exactly where they are most receptive - right in their living rooms - winning their appreciation while they are sitting in their big easy chairs, doing what they enjoy the most, the world over, by the millions—watching television (a now on their smartphones, tablets, and other computers)!
As an added bonus to this plan, simultaneously our message will reach them by radio, magazine and in their hometown newspaper - that they also enjoy in the comfort of their big easy chairs.
A legitimate question may be asked: "How could anyone afford to purchase such massive advertisement?" This is a valid question. After all, imagine if a company invented a candy bar and wanted worldwide advertisement for their new product - via television, newspaper, magazine, radio and Internet. Who could spend that much money? But the good news is that Krishna Disaster Relief can get all this advertizement absolutely free. And I am speaking of prime time, first-class advertisement - and in many instances, broadcast simultaneously by more than just one source. During a disaster, the same story is often in the news constantly for several days, often played over and over 24/7.
Furthermore, this free, attention-grabbing advertisement will be provided over and over for an indefinite period of time (as long as there is a world to live on, disaster will happen frequently). There will also be significant stories about Krishna Disaster Relief spilling over into all the major media outlets - not only about some current disaster relief effort - but stories such as you see on Good Morning America.
Similar general-interest stories can be found on all the major television channels, magazines, radio-talk shows, newspapers and Internet. Every Sunday newspaper has sections dedicated to stories just like this.
As you now know, this book is about disaster relief and our role in it. You may have never thought about this before—especially in the context of devotional service or Shrila Prabhupada’s mission. The following chapters will explain to you how all this works - especially emphasizing for you its value.
Lord Krishna in the 21st Century - Chapter 9
Hollywood vs. Reality
I believe it is a fair assumption that you have seen a television news report, describing a major disaster in some part of the world. Being reported at this very minute, the morning news is full of reports on the massive flooding and destruction in the Ohio Valley. Earlier in the week every news program (local and major) started with reports from Kentucky and the tornadoes that destroyed much of that state. (Update 5/20/13 - This is old news from when I first wrote this book, but we all know about the tornado that just hit Moore, Oklahoma, killing all those children).
In many ways, the actual disaster site is like a huge stage. But unlike the fake sets in Hollywood, these are real stages with real life drama. At times the "disaster stage" is quite small. At other times it can consume hundreds of square miles.
Still, many aspects about the "disaster stage" are similar to those in Hollywood and by making some comparisons you will better understand some of the building blocks that this book is based on.
Again, a disaster site is just like a huge, real-life stage. On this stage you will find drama, various actors playing various roles, cameras, reporters, directors, and security. Most importantly, what happens on this "disaster stage" is given the highest priority as a top news event and is immediately broadcast into televisions sets, newspapers, radios, magazines, and over the Internet, the world over.
It just seems to me that if Krishna is the greatest hero, then logically, He should be the first to the rescue. If not, what does it mean when we say that He is the greatest?
Of course, God is the greatest hero. This is what this book is all about—presenting Lord Krishna to the entire world "as He is." The following chapters will show how this can be done and what will happen when we do it.
Lord Krishna in the 21st Century - Chapter 10
Getting On Stage
Tom Cruise - recently voted the most popular movie star in the entire world. Across the globe, acting schools are packed with aspiring young actors and actresses, all hoping to someday, somehow, be fortunate enough to follow in his footsteps. Acting ability, personality, good looks, luck, etc. - they have all contributed to his famous career. Yet, more than anything else is the fact that he got himself on the stage.
In fact, you can see this common factor in the lives of all the famous actors and actresses. Somehow they were given the opportunity to be on stage. This is the all important starting point. Once Tom Cruise was allowed on stage, he was given the chance to present himself to the worldwide movie audience which, today, so deeply appreciates him. All of his fame and good fortune has occurred because somehow he managed to get on stage.
I have said that a disaster site, such as where a tornado strikes, is much like a stage. But not everybody can get on it. Just like a Hollywood movie set or a rock concert, you must first have a stage pass. If you don’t, security won’t let you enter. Every disaster site is guarded in this same fashion, whether it be by state police, county sheriff, local law enforcement, military, or some other official such as a game warden.
Just as on any entertainmetn stage, a disaster site is a highly managed, strictly enforced affair. Of course, amongst all the chaos, this fact may seem obscure, but nonetheless it is positively there. And in the same way that just any old person isn’t going to be allowed to walk onto a live movie set while the cameras are rolling - who and who isn’t allowed into a disaster area is strictly controlled by the authorities.
These authorities have the final say and they issue the "stage pass" for the various "players" to "get on stage" (into the disaster site).
FEMA, or the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is located in Washington, D.C. and is our nation’s top governing authority in times of disaster. Some years back, the United States came up with legislation to better manage disasters. When passed into law it was given the name: The Federal Response Plan. The specifics of this law have been published in book form and is referenced as Public Law #93-288. I sent His Grace Priyavrata dasa a copy of this book. The President’s signature on it gives FEMA its authority.
As part of this law, FEMA is required to notify the American Red Cross whenever a major disaster has occurred. Furthermore, it is then stated that the American Red Cross is required to notify NVOAD (pronounced no-vad). NVOAD in turn notifies its member agencies—which are located in every state, including Puerto Rico, Guam, and other U.S. territories.
This shouldn’t be too confusing. As far as NVOAD and what this is—NVOAD stands for an organization called, National Voluntary Organizations Active In Disaster. What follows, then, is the proper chain of command and authority structure which governs in times of disaster - here in America: FEMA - The American Red Cross - NVOAD
This is noteworthy and important: Since NVOAD is to be activated by the American Red Cross when a major disaster strikes, NVOAD and its member agencies all have federal authority and are each part of The Federal Response Plan.
The bottom line here is that if you belong to NVOAD you get a "stage pass." This is how you get on stage - for both big and little disasters. This is how you become one of the "actors!" This is how you get on television. This is how you stop and get that guy’s attention who is sitting in his big easy chair. This is how you instill appreciation for Lord Krishna within his heart - and simultaneously, millions more just like him/her, all watching the news on their television sets.
As for who the current members of NVOAD are, a partial list would include such organizations as World Vision, Volunteers of America, The Salvation Army, Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, Ananda Marga Universal Relief Team, and Church of the Brethren—about thirty groups in all. Let’s add Krishna Disaster Relief!
Lord Krishna in the 21st Century - Chapter 11
Don't Put The Cart Before The Horse
Before unrolling this blueprint and taking a detailed look at it, I would like to pause for a moment to again remind you why this book is being written.
As I have stated from the very beginning, Lord Krishna In The 21st Century represents a specific strategy which is being humbly suggested by this author as a most excellent way for ISKCON to quickly and efficiently bring about the fulfillment of Shrila Prabhupada’s heartfelt desire--"Let us try to make them Krishna conscious. That is our only interest. Because I love Krishna, I want to see all - everybody in the world to become Krishna conscious."
I have already mentioned the highly successful Food For Life program in Australia—especially their meals-on-wheels program. Although modest in scope, it nonetheless received outstanding recognition from the Australian government. This shows us that it is quality and not quantity that counts.
Also, I have written about appreciation and how, when this appreciation is awakened in the heart for Lord Krishna, the fulfillment of Shrila Prabhupada’s dream begins to blossom. I have also said that the best place for this appreciation to occur is right inside the very homes that we are trying to reach—reaching this worldwide audience as they are reclined in their favorite easy chairs, doing what they enjoy most - watching television, reading their favorite newspapers, on the Internet.
More than any other single advantage that devotees have at their disposal for the fulfillment of Shrila Prabhupada’s dream, it is this: EVERYONE LOVES A HERO.
Because Krishna is the greatest hero, I have suggested a formula. After-all, when a disaster strikes, shouldn’t the greatest hero be the first one to the rescue? Isn’t this showing the world Lord Krishna as He is? The following blueprint will explain how to do this. But first let me say a little something about building things. After all, this book is about building a disaster relief agency.
A blueprint is nothing more than a detailed drawing or picture of something that can be constructed. In my furniture business I create blueprints all the time. I like to say that if I can draw it I can build it. But there are serious pitfalls that I want to point out. They apply to many endeavors and should be highlighted in the back of your mind to constantly remind you of their presence and danger.
The first pitfall is pointed out in the title of this chapter: Don't Put The Cart Before The Horse. An example of this pitfall would be thinking you would like to open a business at a certain location in town. You THINK the building is going to be rented to you. But before you have actually acquired legal acquisition to the building, you go out and spend hundreds of dollars on fancy business cards and stationary, with the name of your establishment and address printed on them. However, later you sadly discover that the deal on the building has fallen through. Now you look foolish and have wasted so much time and money on a bunch of worthless stationary. Unfortunately, people do this sort of thing all the time. A lot of it probably has to do with being over enthusiastic.
Anyhow, this pitfall is a serious one and I was fortunate to have it explained to me when I was in college. For example, I have a letter in my filing cabinet from NVOAD inviting Krishna Disaster Relief to join their organization. "This is fantastic," you might say. "Here is our stage pass!" But rather than accepting their offer, instead I sent back a polite letter thanking them for the honor. I asked them to please let Krishna Disaster Relief first develop beyond the paper-tiger stage before joining.
This is how I left it, other than an occasional donation that I send to help NVOAD with their administrative cost. This was really the right action to take. However, among other things, this book is going to show how to properly join NVOAD. It is very important that this is done right.
Speaking of the proper way, another important thing whenever building something is to be sure to complete each step as perfectly as possible before going to the next. This takes patience but in the long run it will help you to avoid many problems.
Carefully completing each step is kind of like adding a column of numbers. You may add half of the column correctly. But if you then add 53 + 7 and compute that you have 61, then by that much, at least, will your final answer be off mark.
I use to face this challenge every day. Constantly I was building things. Of course, it could be said that nothing is going to be perfect in this material world, but believe me, unless each step involved in making something is performed as near perfectly as possible before going to the next, you’ll certainly end up with a mess - (pitfall #2).
Consider the Hubble telescope. It was built and sent into orbit. But when it was turned on, to the dismay of scientists back on Earth they could see that the telescope could not focus properly. Why? Because way back in the string of steps that went into building it, someone made a miscalculation in the lens configuration. The error was not detected and got built into the telescope. So this is also important. In the blueprint that follows, I have tried to make it free of any errors.
It is my sincere wish that someday soon devotees will use this book to fulfill Shrila Prabhupada’s dream. As I said, this can be done in our lifetime. It is a piece of cake. Not by using illusions or trickery. Not by hiring some expensive PR firm to fluff and perfume our image. All that is required is a logical presentation of Lord Krishna, as He is - the world’s greatest hero. The rest will follow automatically, in a real and genuine way.
Lord Krishna in the 21st Century - Chapter 12
The Starting Point
We all know that Shrila Prabhupada came to America first because he had the foresight that great things begin here. This is very true and on the road to building a full-blown Hare Krishna international disaster relief agency, America is the perfect starting point.
The starting point is a very important factor. Of course, for me, the starting point took place during that 4th of July parade. This is the way things often get built—starting with an idea or concept - which then takes on the form of a blueprint or plan. On paper the thing can be drawn out and "built" - before risking all the time and money that the actual construction requires. Also, other engineers (devotees) can look over the blueprint and suggest changes before the work is begun.
Again, this is what this book is - a kind of blueprint. I have given it my best presentation, and now it has been handed to you. And I am sure that it will require some adjustment. But at least this book provides a comprehensive set of actions to consider.
Lord Krishna in the 21st Century - Chapter 13
The GBC (Governing Body Commission)
I have a very definite concern about what I have to say in this chapter - only because of its tremendous importance. This will make Krishna Disaster Relief either succeed or fail.
Although it is somewhat embarrassing as to how long it has taken me to get this book to you - what to speak about how long it might be before this blueprint is actually brought before the GBC, nevertheless, I am hopeful. Many years ago His Holiness Tamal Krishna Goswami has assured me that at the GBC level, complete backing will be there.
The need for unity only makes common sense. I admit that I have never been part of the structure that rules ISKCON. But I do know this—ISKCON’s board of directors must place their signatures on this blueprint before construction begins.
Any major project develops like this. Before the construction starts, the blueprint is reviewed by a host of officials, each placing their signature on it.
As for the GBC, their approval is most significant. I’ve mentioned several things that will be affected. I said that the starting point is very important. ISKCON’s official seal of approval is a major factor in this starting point. I also described Krishna Disaster Relief as a "paper tiger." I wrote the chairman of NVOAD. I told him that until Krishna Disaster Relief develops past this stage, that we would have to decline their invitation to become a full-fledged member. And finally, on a personal level, the devotees who eventually accept the service of building Krishna Disaster Relief - they need to know beyond any doubt that the entire management structure of ISKCON is aware of what they are doing and is giving them their one-hundred percent support.
Regarding this endorsement, I want to be hopeful but I need help. I once visited the Food For Life Web page that His Grace Priyavrata dasa had put together. Priyavrata prabhu was one of the first devotees to join Krishna Disaster Relief. At the time he was still living in Australia and managing that country’s Food For Life program.
Needless to say, when I browsed through his Food For Life Web page and discovered that he had installed a link to Krishna Disaster Relief, this made me quite happy. I am also receiving E-mail from His Grace Madana-mohana in Russia who is also very enthusiastic about Krishna Disaster Relief. He mentions how devotees in Russia are attempting to gather ideas in their Overseas Development Committee on how to best organize their disaster relief efforts. As you know, they have already been quite active in disaster relief.
I opened this chapter by saying that I have a definite concern. I say this because of several stumbling blocks I encountered while trying to organize Krishna Disaster Relief, years ago. My inability to secure this across-the-board support from ISKCON’s complete leadership was most discouraging. Without this unanimous backing, I just felt that I couldn’t proceed. So I stopped working on the entire project. In Chapter Eleven I pointed to this pitfall. Unless each phase of construction is performed as perfectly as possible before going to the next step - that to ignore this error, and continue, will not produce the right results.
I also admit that this problem was compounded by my own shortcomings. I sincerely lament over this. I apologize. But I have never given up. Instead, I have chosen to write this book, build this and other websites about Krishna Disaster Relief - still striving for the final outcome that I know is possible.
But from my point of view, I know that there are things that need ironing out. I would like to briefly mention this, and again, it has to do with the across-the-board support I’ve just mentioned.
My earliest attempt to organize Krishna Disaster Relief took the form of a newsletter. To my great surprise, soon more than one hundred devotees from around the world asked to be part of Krishna Disaster Relief. These requests included many temple presidents. Also, His Holiness Tamal Krishna Goswami acknowledged my efforts and offered some financial help. From the bottom of my heart I thank everyone.
I also took the opportunity to visit His Holiness Bhakti-tirtha Swami in Washington, D.C. I have always enjoyed his association and I came away so impressed as to how user-friendly he tries to make devotional service. He readily gave me his full backing and encouragement.
These are all very positive things and put wind in my sails. But I also want to say that I had my setbacks. For reasons beyond me, not everyone makes serving Shrila Prabhupada so easy. At one point I asked to have Krishna Disaster Relief featured in ISKCON’s Back to Godhead magazine. But I was told that Shrila Prabhupada just wouldn’t approve of Krishna Disaster Relief. Now, why was that?—I asked myself.
There are other examples but I would rather not go into them. The only purpose here is to say that Krishna Disaster Relief needs the full support of the GBC before it leaves the drawing board. Because of my faults, I wasn’t able to get this. As I said, this left me no choice but to decline NVOAD’s invitation. But this dialog with NVOAD can be opened again. I also had to put a very nice devotee in Nigeria—His Grace Ananta-vyjay dasa—on indefinite hold who was just bursting with enthusiasm to develop Krishna Disaster Relief in Africa. That was a real shame.
I may be OK doing a few things, but I’m not a warrior—not in the sense that I am willing to do any more than present my ideas. Even in this realm I hesitate to lean too hard. But as I said, I am actually encouraged. Many years have gone by since I sent out my last newsletter and today I see that devotees are still actively trying to organize a Hare Krishna disaster relief agency.
I have dedicated this book to Shrila Prabhupada’s dream. It is also dedicated to all the devotees who have encouraged me over the years. What they need to see - as I’ve said - is ISKCON’s official seal of approval on this blueprint.
Lord Krishna in the 21st Century - Chapter 14
What’s In A Name?
Opening this blueprint, the first thing we notice is the name printed at the top: Krishna Disaster Relief.
You might be surprised at how much time and thought went into selecting this name. At first I used the name: Hare Krishna International Disaster Relief Agency, or HKIDRA. I also tossed around the name, International Disaster Relief Agency (INDRA).
Actually, there were several factors that eventually led me to settle on Krishna Disaster Relief. The first had to do with noticing the graphics used by the television networks when reporting live from disasters. While interviewing a relief worker - I saw that close to the bottom of the screen - two lines of type, separated by a solid line, were always used. This is the standard format used by everyone. The top line of type gives the person’s name being interviewed. Below the stripe, the last line of type gives the name of that person’s organization. I began to notice this during the famine in Somalia. For example:
The obvious thing is that not much space is provided for the organization’s name. Hare Krishna International Disaster Relief Agency just won’t fit. They don’t provide more space.
These facts set the parameters and clearly I needed to come up with a shorter name. This is when I asked myself, "What’s in a name?" To answer this question, it helps to picture yourself in that big easy chair, knowing very little about Krishna, and watching the news.
Words mean things. What would this tell the world?:
Absolutely nothing. This would be a very bad choice! Or, what about this?:
Somewhat more pronounceable, but what does it really say? Again nothing. This would also be a very bad choice!
Remember, place yourself in the shoes of someone who knows very little about Lord Krishna. And keep our goal in mind. Also, sometimes news interviews are rather short and to the point, which makes the name we use even more important. They don’t necessarily mention the group’s name. But they always print it out. Now look at this:
Krishna Disaster Relief
What a significant difference the right words make. Krishna Disaster Relief tells anyone who reads it so many things, plus it includes the Holy Name. After seeing this, the person sitting in that big easy chair would naturally think: "Well, I’ll be - the Hare Krishna people are helping the victims of that horrible disaster. Gee, I never knew that they did that sort of thing. That is really nice of them." Sounds like appreciation to me. Everyone loves a hero.
The name, "Krishna Disaster Relief" states WHO we are and WHAT we are doing. This name accomplishes the very thing that this blueprint is all about. It brings people in touch with the essence of God - the greatest hero. Heartfelt appreciation is a natural result. This is an excellent name to use!
Lord Krishna in the 21st Century - Chapter 15
Water Water Everywhere But Not A Drop To Drink
Shrila Prabhupada once said that a smart man enters like a needle and comes out like a plow. For many reasons this is a great strategy. Obviously we don’t want to bite off more than we can chew. Furthermore, whatever we do in the form of disaster relief, we want to do first class. After all, the whole world will be watching. Therefore, I like the approach of starting simple and once that is running smoothly, think about adding more.
This blueprint, then, is metamorphic in nature. In future years, Krishna Disaster Relief’s profile will appear a lot broader. This will happen as Krishna’s complete portrait is more fully presented.
I have given this chapter a lot of thought. Exactly what type of assistance should Krishna Disaster Relief provide the victims of disasters with? I am mainly referring to Krishna Disaster Relief activities, here, in America.
My first reaction to this question—especially after seeing the fantastic mobile kitchens that the Salvation Army has equipped themselves with—was to say, "Yes, this is what we need, too." A kind of Hare Krishna prasadam-on-wheels program - deployed during disasters. In fact, this is what the chairman of NVOAD (Mr. Bobby Baines) suggested to me. He said that there is presently no organization providing vegetarian meals to people during disasters. He told me that relief workers are encountering more and more vegetarians every year and that NVOAD would love to see us satisfy this need.
Mr. Baines certainly has a valid point and this was the focus of our initial meeting at the Denver Federal Center. And I see this in our blueprint - once a fully working model has been created and is working smoothly. But this is a matter of time. It is a matter of building up to that point. Not only do we want to set this as a goal, but we want to let NVOAD know that we accept their challenge. This only makes sense: hot prasadam being served to disaster victims.
But as I just said, this is a goal to work toward. There really isn’t any deadline to meet. Rather, the question now is how to best achieve our goals? I believe the easiest way is to first concentrate on water—drinking water! Again, I have given this considerable thought. This approach certainly has a lot of merit. Please allow me to explain.
Lord Krishna in the 21st Century - Chapter 16
I want to point out how each of the 25+ members of NVOAD specialize in providing a specific form of assistance during disasters. For instance, the Seventh Day Adventist have committed their nationwide membership to sorting and distributing the mountains of clothing that are donated by concerned Americans.
Other groups help the blind. Some assist with animal rescue and relocation. REACT provides emergency communications and the Civil Air Patrol uses their members and small airplanes for various logistical needs. Together, working as a large and diverse team, these volunteers rush to the rescue.
But what about water? Why am I suggesting that we should begin by providing water? At first glance, this might even seem a bit odd. Well, there are several reasons. The first is the enormous need for drinking water that relief workers almost always encounter—amazingly, even during floods. In fact, I remember reading about this when the great Mississippi River flooded years ago. All that water but not a drop to drink. Ironic but true.
Actually, again and again I have either read or heard about this critical shortage. Years ago on CNN, the reporter was commenting on this very problem in Europe - where flooding had taken on Biblical proportions. Indeed, the lack of drinking water seems to follow every disaster. Massive flooding inundates and knocks out water treatment and pumping plants. The electricity to generate water pressure is wiped out. Water becomes contaminated. Since there is no organization stepping forward to address this life-giving necessity, Krishna Disaster Relief could perform this service.
Besides bringing needed relief in the form of quality drinking water, there are other reasons why I see this as a good starting place for Krishna Disaster Relief - one is that this is a fairly simple thing to provide.
Also, only a small number of devotees would be needed - far less complicated than trying to put a mobile kitchen on the road. As a former head cook, I am well aware of the enormous chore involved in keeping up with the cleanliness and other health aspects of running a kitchen - mobile or otherwise. But by providing just water, you can easily sense the simplicity. And of course, water can also be offered and served as prasadam.
Furthermore, the initial cost of providing drinking water would certainly be far less than putting together a mobile kitchen, that can cost over $100,000.00 each. Remarkably, the Salvation Army deploys hundreds of these expensive units.
Like I said in an earlier chapter, quality rather than quantity is what counts here. In the same way that the Mennonites (Church of the Brethren) are not going to rebuild every house damaged by a massive hurricane - by any stretch of the imagination - neither should anyone think that somehow we are going to provide drinking water for an entire city. This is not the point, nor the goal. NVOAD is only looking for a sincere effort from their members. Besides this, the real object is to show the world Shrila Prabhupada’s all-merciful Lord - the greatest hero and greatest friend. The goal is to make the entire world Krishna Consciousness, beginning by awakening a heartfelt appreciation for Lord Krishna and His devotees.
By providing drinking water and joining NVOAD, devotees will receive a "stage pass" onto the most powerful preaching platform on the face of this earth.
As I have said, disasters are given top priority in the news. The various news networks are all equipped with mobile television vans, full of broadcasting equipment. With great competition they strive to provide the world’s population with live coverage of the unfolding drama - including profiles on the various "players."
God is the greatest hero. Everyone loves a hero. Heroes rush to the rescue. Take the next 100 years: What will the world’s appreciation of Lord Krishna and His devotees be - if, at every major disaster shown on television they see Lord Krishna coming to the rescue? What will happen to their appreciation toward Lord Krishna? How many disasters will occur during a person’s lifetime? What if from "day-one" they see and read about Lord Krishna and His devotees coming to the rescue? Will that person appreciate Lord Krishna and Shrila Prabhupada’s great movement? Multiply this by billions of people, the world over, and the enormous power of showing Lord Krishna as He is - the greatest hero - becomes plain to see.
"Let us try to make them Krishna conscious. That is our only interest. Because I love Krishna, I want to see all - everybody in the world to become Krishna conscious."
Lord Krishna in the 21st Century - Chapter 17
Show Me The Money
As I think about Krishna Disaster Relief, one of my concerns is money. Laxmi is a form of energy and it takes energy to do anything in this world. If you’re flat broke, your options are almost zero, what to speak of trying to create a worldwide, disaster relief agency.
I thank God for what he has given me and with it I have the means to write this , put u[ websites, and share all of this with you. I also want to acknowledge the assistance that Mrs. Marjorie Herndon has given over the years. But introducing Lord Krishna on the worldwide disaster-relief stage is going to take more than just this small book. Therefore, money also needs to be mentioned since everything that follows involves a lot of energy and funding.
I frequently say that a good idea is fine - however, the really big challenge is to implement the idea. Among other things, this requires the financial resources to get the job done.
My initial insight into Krishna Disaster Relief didn't cost me anything. The basic idea that I experienced at that 4th of July parade has not changed one bit. The beginning chapters have covered all of this. But, as I attempted to implement what I saw, I automatically encountered a need for money. I bought a word processor which I used to type out my first newsletters. Along the way, others made donations for postage, printing, etc. Presently I have purchased this computer to continue my work on this project.
But all these attempts are just initial steps. Many more are needed. Although the mention of money can be a troublesome topic, the best news is that I am 100% convinced that Krishna Disaster Relief will more than pay for its own way.
Wanting to avoid long chapters, nevertheless, there are several points about all of this that I would like to touch on - things concerning the financial structure of Krishna Disaster Relief. These are details that just make common sense, at least to me.
Perhaps number one on this list, Krishna Disaster Relief needs someone to fill the position as director. Like a CEO or president, this person would "run the company" and manage the finances. One thing that he or she would do is open a bank account so that checks can be made directly payable to: "Krishna Disaster Relief" - and deposited. Of course, once this checking account has been established, Krishna Disaster Relief can also write checks to pay for various things.
This account—named, "Krishna Disaster Relief," needs to be part of the initial steps taken. Krishna Disaster Relief needs to be Krishna Disaster Relief - and Food For Life needs to be Food For Life. Organizationally the two entities can work together hand-in-hand. However, financially the two should be kept separately. This is an extremely important point to get right.
Another strong suggestion is that Krishna Disaster Relief should have its headquarters at the Potomac temple. Because of its location, Washington, D.C., can be reached easily via public transportation—by bus and then subway. Couple this with the fact that most countries have their embassies located in Washington (which we will need to visit), the reasoning is clear.
Another consideration, again related to Potomac’s close proximity to Washington, is that both FEMA and NVOAD have their national headquarters located there. Also, a federal, disaster relief college is close by. I’ll mention more about this shortly.
Finally, because Washington is so near, I can easily envision the day when various senators, congressmen, ambassadors, and even the President and Vice President of the United States will visit the Potomac temple to see our Krishna Disaster Relief facilities. Hopefully, the temple will establish a nice restaurant for this purpose. Personally, if the Potomac temple has any specific role to play in the larger scheme of things, I would like to see the headquarters for Krishna Disaster Relief expanded and let the temple property be a show place for it.
As far as ISKCON providing Krishna Disaster Relief with an allowance, I am in no position to dictate where this money should come from. Perhaps several sources. But I have always wanted to see everyone involved. This is why from the very beginning I have thought that each and every ISKCON temple and farm community should support Krishna Disaster Relief with a small, monthly stipend. The details of this can be worked out, but I like this idea because it will give Krishna Disaster Relief a respectable position within every ISKCON facility. Many Christian denominations do this very thing. For example, once a quarter in every Lutheran church throughout the world, there might be a special collection earmarked for a specific ministry. Multiplying each small amount given by the total number of churches creates a big amount.
This is actually a good idea. It is also a good idea because, then, when we say that we have a worldwide, disaster relief agency, supported by a worldwide organization, this can be factually shown. People look at the money trail. What I am saying in this paragraph is really important. This will transform the paper tiger into a legitimate, disaster relief agency that the world will recognize and welcome.
My final point on the financial profile of Krishna Disaster Relief has to do with an organization that I have not mentioned yet. Only a few years old, this is a group that is rather new to me. It is called InterAction and is located in Washington, D.C.
I first heard about InterAction on CNN as THE organization to contact for more information regarding the severe famine in North Korea. I was able to quickly locate them on the Internet and a few days later received a large envelope containing all kinds of literature on who they are and what they are doing - and also how to join.
Besides consisting of over 160 different organizations, InterAction seems to be on the cutting edge of a wide variety of social and global concerns. Disaster Relief is one of the major issues they address.
Part of their information package contained material to apply for membership. Reading this over, I could see that they set a rather high standard. Part four of their requirements cover the financial standards that must be followed.
The director of Krishna Disaster Relief should follow these standards - even if we don’t choose to join InterAction. In a later chapter I will say a few more things about InterAction.
Lord Krishna in the 21st Century - Chapter 18
Please note that this "How To Help" information was printed alongside a newspaper story about a recent tornado (Spring of 1997) that killed over twenty people in a small Texas town, just north of Austin. In fact, for several days in a row, this "How To Help" box - or one similar to it - appeared in newspapers throughout America.
How To Help: Needed
Cash, lumber, cement, roofing materials, tools
Food, clothes, shoes, toys
Where to send checks
Jarrell Recovery Fund
c/o Eagle Bank
P.O. Box 345
Jarrell, Texas 76537
c/o Tornado Relief
P.O. Box 28145
San Antonio, Texas 78228
Burial Fund Donations
c/o Community Fund Donations
First Baptist Church
P.O.. Box 339
Jarrell, Texas 76537
American Red Cross
c/o Disaster Relief Fund
2218 Pershing Drive
Austin, Texas 78723
c/o Jarrell Disaster Fund
Diocese of Austin
P.O. Box 13327
Austin, Texas 78711
San Antonio Food Bank
4311 Director Drive
San Antonio, TX 78219
All newspapers, both large and small, print these "How To Help" boxes along with the actual story. These "How To Help" boxes appear as a small shaded box to give them a special appearance. I have seen them dozens of times over the years.
In chapter 17 I said, "show me the money" and as soon as possible Krishna Disaster Relief should acquire its own 1-800 number. One that can be easily memorized. 1-800-DISASTER has already been taken by someone. Perhaps 1-800-KRISHNA is available.
The basic idea from here is that whenever a major disaster strikes, Krishna Disaster Relief would generate an e-mail, fax, etc. and send it to every newspaper in America, with our 1-800 number. Of course, even before this, we would have sent to these newspapers information about Krishna Disaster Relief. If written nicely and with a photograph included, many newspapers would print the entire thing as a general-interest story.
I want to stress the words, "every newspaper." We don’t want to leave out rural America. Our country is dotted with millions of small towns and they all have their small newspapers. I have a collection of them. They also report on major disasters and include these "How To Help" boxes. In other words, the residents in a small village in Montana - hundreds of miles from Texas - will nonetheless read in their local newspaper the story about the tornado in Jarrell. They will also notice a "How To Help" box, showing them where to send money for the relief efforts - and many people do.
The Salvation Army doesn’t pay to have their name placed in the "How To Help" boxes. No, their name is included because they are simply helping out. When you multiply this formula by the huge number of small newspapers in America - plus all the major ones - you can imagine how much money is given to the various relief agencies that respond to disasters. Since Lord Krishna is the greatest hero, I’m saying that Krishna Disaster Relief should be listed in these "How To Help" boxes, right along with the Salvation Army, Catholic Charities and others.
When a major disaster hits, we can then customize a special press release and within no time have it sent to every newspaper in America.
Another point is that these newspapers (print and digital media) - both large and small - also report on worldwide disasters - not just local or national disasters. I’m a little ahead of myself here, but shortly I will show you how a bonafide, worldwide, Hare Krishna disaster relief agency can be set up almost over night. Once this is done, whenever there is a major disaster - at home or abroad - we want to send a similar press release. Remember, besides reporting on the specifics of a disaster, these newspapers will also print a "How To Help" box. But first they have to know about us.
The points to consider here seem endless. Every region in the U.S. has some form of television and Internet news coverage. Breaking news thus reaches people by all sorts of means, including smartphones. I have also seen these "How To Help" boxes displayed on the television screen. Keeping track of every newspaper in America, local television station, and news website will certainly keep Krishna Disaster Relief busy, but this is what is needed. The idea is that we want Krishna Disaster Relief’s name and 1-800 number listed in every "How To Help" box that the media produces. Again, we should be right there alongside the Salvation Army and the American Red Cross! This is presenting Lord Krishna as He is - the world’s greatest hero.
Because Krishna Disaster Relief is a worldwide disaster relief agency, everything that I have mentioned so far in this chapter also needs to be duplicated globally. People in Brazil and Spain and Asia also have their local newspapers and local television stations. They also have their "How To Help" boxes. People everywhere want to help out and all we need to do is give them the opportunity.
As I have been trying to say all along, people relate to heroes. Even if the hero is a dog. If a dog were to jump into Canyon Lake today and pull out a little toddler, why, you would be seeing that dog’s photo in the National Enquire. Good Morning American would probably fly the dog and its owner to New York City for a live appearance. People love heroes. This they can relate to. Certainly Lord Krishna is the greatest and we can show the world that He is so great that He had 16,108 wives. Or, we can show Him coming to the rescue - as the word’s greatest hero.
The fact is that we have, here, with Krishna Disaster Relief, an excellent way to show Lord Krishna to the world, in way that they can relate to and appreciate. People love heroes. This is the value that this book is trying to present.
Lord Krishna in the 21st Century - Chapter 19
ISKCON’s Public Image
Not that long ago I sat in a morning Bhagavatam class and listened to a presentation about the newest public relations firm that ISKCON had just hired. We were told that the PR firm that ISKCON had been working with was let go so that this new PR firm could take over. I might be wrong, but I got the impression that there had been several PR firms hired by ISKCON over the years.
During the period of full-temple service I gave to Shrila Prabhupada, I never advanced much above the temple janitor and pot washer. I was asked to do a little cooking. Even so, you might be surprised what lessons can be learned about public relations with a broom in your hand.
I could give you hundreds of examples but when you examine each of them, there is one compelling factor that ties them all together. The truth of the matter is that, right actions produce right results.
This axiom is the key to public relations and I’m sorry - hiring a PR firm seem to me to be a big waste of money.
I just said that, "right actions produce right results." I’ve seen this principle proved to me time and time again. For instance, taking extra time cleaning the kitchen, I have seen the broad smiles on all the devotees. Or, after working hard all day preparing a delicious Sunday feast, everyone in the temple is completely satisfied. Right actions produce right results.
The corollary to this axiom is pretty self evident, but sometimes I wonder. Obviously, if you don’t like the results - or your image - then you simply need to look at your actions. In other words, if ISKCON doesn’t like its public image, instead of spending money on a PR firm to create a smoke screen, what needs to be done is an honest inventory of what actions - or lack of actions - are taking place that are creating the wrong results. In this case, a bad image.
This book is taking a look into the 21st century. In it I am proposing a certain set of actions that in my judgement, devotees should embrace with great enthusiasm. I feel that disaster relief is the right action to highlight in the next century. ISKCON has some of the brightest and most talented people on the face of the Earth. Let them put this plan into motion. I know that this kind of activity will produce a wonderful relationship with the world’s public.
But please don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying that Krishna Disaster Relief is the only right action. This would be ridiculous. But it is true that "right actions produce right results" and this is the magnifying glass that ISKCON should always use to examine itself with - especially if there is some dissatisfaction with the way we are judged by the public.
I ended the last chapter talking about the "How To Help" boxes. Presenting Lord Krishna as the greatest hero will automatically produce the most wonderful results, imaginable. But be careful. If we say that we are involved in helping out at a particular disaster, then let’s be 100% positive that we are in fact doing so. The director of Krishna Disaster Relief has to make this his/her top priority - to insure (and document) our truthfulness in this matter. If not, as soon as we slip up, the press is going to point their finger at us and yell for all to hear: "I told you so." It’s a bit ironic how a religion, based on truthfulness has such a bad reputation about this very thing.
Regardless of past problems or even current negatives perceived about ISKCON by the public, the thing that will bulldoze this to the side, is to simply stay on course with right actions. Right results will certainly follow. Results that all the assembled devotees will cheer about - guaranteed.
Lord Krishna in the 21st Century - Chapter 20
Wearing Two Hats
You probably already know what a SWAT team is. This is a special police unit that is called into action during hostage and other dangerous situations. The interesting thing about the individual members of a SWAT team is that normally they are not performing in this role, on a full-time basis. Instead, they are your regular, run-of-the-mill cops, performing ordinary, everyday duties. But they do have special training and equipment. When their phone or radio alerts them, they simply put on a different hat - still a police officer - but for a very special purpose they are now marked as members of an elite force. Later, when the emergency has been resolved, they put away their SWAT hats and again take up their duties as regular policemen - now wearing the hat of an ordinary police officer.
ISKCON already has in place its Food For Life and temple structures, consisting of many devotees, vehicles, kitchens, volunteers, etc. These various Food For Life programs and temples are located throughout America and the world. In the same way that an ordinary traffic cop can instantly change "hats" (roles) during an emergency - and then back again to being a regular policeman - in a similar way, anyone working in Food For Life, can, during a disaster, put on a Krishna Disaster Relief "hat/uniform." Devotees not necessarily working with Food For Life can also put on a Krishna Disaster Relief "hat." Anyone can.
This concept instantly creates a worldwide, Krishna Disaster Relief structure. When combined with the monthly financial support each temple is giving, this is a legitimate way of creating its workforce and organization. I believe that Krishna Disaster Relief already exists. It is simply a matter of doing it. It must exist because God is the greatest hero. It is simply a matter of presenting Lord Krishna as He is. Then all of this will quickly manifest.
Disasters don’t occur every day, nor in every place. Many locations around the world are seldom hit by major disasters. Devotees in these locals may rarely put on their Krishna Disaster Relief "hats/uniforms." Nonetheless, they can be trained to do so, be made aware of the program, be connected on paper, be prepared, and they can participate in other ways such as the monthly financial support I have been mentioning.
Lord Krishna in the 21st Century - Chapter 21
More About Joining NVOAD
To further facilitate a smooth relationship with NVOAD - setting the stage for an even more effective role during disasters - each temple across America should have their temple president and/or Food For Life director or other devotee attend one of NVOAD’s monthly meetings that are held at the state level. Large states like California have two state VOADs.
These meetings are held at the different facilities owned by the various groups that make up NVOAD. For example, I once attended a meeting held in a Seventh-Day Adventist hospital. Later we were all treated to a vegetarian lunch in their cafeteria.
ISKCON’s network of Food For Life volunteers already exists and this same network can be plugged into these NVOAD meetings. Prasadam cookies can be brought to these functions and many valuable friendships made.
For instance, I got to meet the Fire Chief from a small town in the mountains above Colorado Springs. Years ago, his wife had known devotees and eaten prasadam when she was going to college in California. I brought her some maha-prasadam. The point is that thousands of friends like these are waiting to be made. If a large forest fire was raging out of control in that area and Krishna Disaster Relief needed water to fill the tank on its truck, a fire station would be a possible source. Providing drinking water to an "army" of firefighters is another type of disaster relief work that Krishna Disaster Relief might participate in. Or, a small town could burn to the ground, creating a national news sensation. In any event, there are countless scenarios, and these friendships can later turn out to be valuable assets.
At Krishna Disaster Relief’s headquarters, its main office should receive feedback on all these monthly meetings and a computer record of names, etc. created and organized.
Concerning the NVOAD meetings, you may ask, "but don’t we need to be invited?" Well, not really. Once Krishna Disaster Relief’s blueprint has been approved and the green light given, then the appropriate devotees can contact their state VOAD office. This will tell them when and where the next meeting will occur. All that is needed is a self-introduction. Then indicate that Krishna Disaster Relief would like to attended. Mention that Krishna Disaster Relief has been active in the past with the state VOAD contingent in Colorado, called COVAD. Mention that Krishna Disaster Relief has attended NVOAD’s annual meeting in Washington and has been invited to apply for membership.
The important point is that every monthly meeting must be attended - in as many different states as possible. Two devotees should attend. If for some reason both of them can’t make a meeting, then at least one can attend. Attendance must be there. In time, the temple, itself, might like to host one of these meetings. If the temple has a restaurant, it would fit in nicely - but this is not necessary.
Besides these monthly VOAD meetings, several times a year, various disaster drills are staged. Just last week in San Antonio, a huge earthquake drill was staged involving all kinds of people and equipment. Again, this would be an excellent opportunity to distribute prasadam, make friends, and learn. I was invited to attend such a drill in Denver and I got to meet many of the city leaders. And they loved the cookies. These drills are covered by the news media and I would imagine that Krishna Disaster Relief would get some very good press by participating.
Attending these various functions are very important. Our nationwide presence will give Krishna Disaster Relief credibility and improve our overall reception and response to actual disasters.
NVOAD sponsors another series of meeting, held two or three times a year in various locations. These meetings are not mandatory. However, most of the CEOs of the various relief organizations that belong to NVOAD do attend. Krishna Disaster Relief needs its CEO!
Since this is a blueprint for success, Krishna Disaster Relief should attend every type of meeting NVOAD holds. As far as attending these other training meetings, if the director of Krishna Disaster Relief cannot attend, then the temple president located closest to the actual meeting site should go. He could then report back to Krishna Disaster Relief on what took place.
By the way, here is a good example why one of my concerns is about money. These meetings are held in only the finest facilities and simply to attend will require so many things. A short list would include transportation, hotel fees, proper attire, and meals.
I mentioned that every year (in January) there is a mandatory meeting of NVOAD’s full membership. Besides attending, Krishna Disaster Relief should present NVOAD with a small donation to help assist them with their administrative costs. This isn’t required and doesn’t have to be a huge sum of money. But again, you are reading a blueprint for success and this small donation should be given to NVOAD yearly. When I attended, I gave Mr. Baines two hundred dollars.
Finally, one other program that Krishna Disaster Relief should participate in, involves some college-type courses. Covering all aspects of disaster relief, they are offered by the United States government. Near Washington, a special college campus has been established for this very purpose. The details on this college can be obtained from NVOAD. Graduating from this school, the director of Krishna Disaster Relief would bring to it the kind of accreditation that would help transform the "paper tiger" into something we can all be very proud of.
Lord Krishna in the 21st Century - Chapter 22
How To Create A Worldwide Disaster Relief Organization
"Let us try to make them Krishna conscious. That is our only interest. Because I love Krishna, I want to see all - everybody in the world to become Krishna conscious."
Because Shrila Prabhupada’s mission has a global vision, Krishna Disaster Relief is also global in scope. And this is not difficult to accomplish.
Since one of the key points to the entire Krishna Disaster Relief concept is to show the world Lord Krishna coming to the rescue, it is vital that when the media says we are providing disaster relief in a certain part of the world (because we told them we are) - that this is, in fact, happening.
Again, this is not difficult to do. There is not a country in the world that Krishna Disaster Relief cannot get to, within a matter of minutes.
But first, let me remind you that it is "quality that counts here, not quantity." This is the guiding principal. Again, who criticizes the man who runs into a burning building but is only able to bring out one of the six children trapped inside?
On the international level, there are several things that can be automatically done to render assistance. I want to say again that all of this can be increased in amount. What I am about to point out is a legitimate, international framework that although simple, is nonetheless valid and worthy, even at this introductory level. Call it a first step.
Furthermore, with Krishna Disaster Relief established as an active member of NVOAD, its presence on the global stage will be readily accepted. I cannot stress enough the importance of establishing ISKCON’s membership with NVOAD - and most likely, with InterAction, too. This will open so many doors.
Furthermore, just as FEMA is America’s lead organization for responding to our country’s needs during times of disaster, within the United Nations there is another disaster relief organization. Worldwide in nature, it is referred to as UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees). With Krishna Disaster Relief’s membership with NVOAD established as a reference point, it is totally conceivable that our membership with UNHCR is only a matter of applying. As you can imagine, this would open a whole other dimension for Krishna Disaster Relief to participate in. This blueprint is the framework for Krishna Disaster Relief’s international acceptance onto the global stage.
I want to now describe what Krishna Disaster Relief should actually do on the global level during disasters.
To begin with, in order to respond within minutes to a disaster - anywhere in the world - a data base needs to be created by computer and kept updated. Back-up copies of everything should be also kept. This would take about a year to set up and install. The computer will store vital information on every country in the world. This information can be obtained by having someone from Krishna Disaster Relief visit in person all the various embassies that are located in Washington, D.C. Some countries may have their embassies located in a different location, such as New York City, so some research is required here. But the general idea is to initially visit every country’s embassy.
Just think of it. Here is an opportunity for devotees to walk up to a country’s embassy and knock on the door with something extremely worthwhile to talk about. Friends can be made, prasadam cookies distributed, and the database I am referring to created and maintained.
On a yearly basis these records can be brought up to date. On our initial visit, we can explain the importance of keeping our records on them accurate. We can show them a copy of a questionnaire that will be mailed to them every year to help us keep things current. Better yet, perhaps this updating can be done by a simple phone call or E-mail.
Concerning this data base, what Krishna Disaster Relief needs is the means to instantly access vital information on any country, anywhere in the world, from its central computer. I am referring to information about that country’s disaster relief structure and Krishna Disaster Relief's/ISKCON'S activities located there. A detailed map of the country should be part of each country’s computer file.
What follows is an example of the type of information that needs to be gathered. Of course, this will apply to any country, but let’s pretend that there is a massive earthquake in Italy. And remember, this data base is going to give Krishna Disaster Relief the ability to legitimately respond to any worldwide disaster, within minutes.
First of all, the data will be alphabetized by country. Using this program, "Italy" is typed and entered into the computer. This brings to the screen all the vital statistics that are needed - listed in order of importance for us. This information has come directly from our visit to the Italian embassy.
1. Pay To The Order Of - What we need here (for each country) is the name that we are to write on our check. Perhaps it will be the name of the embassy. Perhaps Italy has its own disaster relief agency and that is what is written on the check. Maybe the check will be made out to a certain individual. Until we speak with the staff at the Italian embassy we will not know.
2. Where To Send The Relief Check - Does Italy want our relief check sent to their embassy or to an address in Italy? To what entity and to what address do we put on the envelope?
Using just these two facts, Krishna Disaster Relief can instantly respond to any disaster - pull up the information from the computer, write the check out, put it into an enveloped, and mail it.
By the way, be sure that our check is a check from "Krishna Disaster Relief." Not a temple or ISKCON or Food For Life check. As mentioned earlier, this means that a bank account needs to be set up in the name of Krishna Disaster Relief. Our envelopes, stationary, and other forms of communications should also say on it, "Krishna Disaster Relief."
3. To whom And To Where Our Disaster Relief Package Is Sent - This will be discussed in just a moment.
4. The Name Of The Person Inside Italy’s Embassy Who Will Be Our Main Contact Person (including his/her title, phone number, fax, E-mail and position). Also, The Name Of A Second Person (in case the primary contact person is gone for some reason - also his/her title, phone number, fax, E-mail, and position).
5. The Name And Address Of Italy’s American Embassy (including phone numbers, fax and E-mail) - After our relief check has been mailed, we want to send a copy of that check and a letter from Krishna Disaster Relief to our contact person in Italy’s embassy. This should help us receive from the Italian government an official letter of appreciation.
6. The Name Of The Temple President and Address Of ISKCON’s Italian Temple/Temples (including telephone numbers, fax, E-mail, etc.) - If there is not a temple located in a certain country, then we would want similar information on the nearest temple.
7. A Brief Description About That Country’s Temple or Temples - Number of devotees, do they have a Food For Life program, who is the FFL manager, location of the temple, nearest airport, contact persons at the temple besides the temple president (including phone, fax, E-mail, etc.). Also, include the GBC jurisdiction. This GBC individual may not live in Italy, but will need to be contacted. These records also need to be kept current.
8. A Brief Description About Italy’s Internal Disaster Relief Organization - This is very important. Does the country have a specific program? Who runs it? What are the individual’s names, phone numbers, addresses, etc? Perhaps this is the organization that will receive our disaster relief check. If Krishna Disaster Relief wants to enter a specific country to render aid, then all this information will be immensely valuable. The whole idea is that people like to be kept informed and we also want to work with each country’s existing authorities - that is, with their own disaster relief organization. Include here specifics on Italy’s participation with UNHCR - again with all the contact information that we might need. If a given country has several disaster relief agencies active inside it, what we want to have in our recoreds is a brief picture of the chain-of-command. Which agency is the lead agency? Who activates who? Determine from that country’s embassy staff which agency we should work with first.
Of course it needs to be determined how severe a disaster must be before Krishna Disaster Relief sends that country a relief check. We also need to consider the types of disasters - natural or manmade. In any given country, on any given day of the year, there are disasters. A gas station explodes and kills three people. This is a disaster, too. In any event, some criterion needs to be established. Probably along the lines of what is reported as major news. Is CNN reporting it? This point needs some discussion. Of course, this suggests that Krishna Disaster Relief needs to keep its "disaster relief finger" on the world’s pulse at all times. If not, a sudden disaster will happen without us even knowing about it. The greatest hero isn’t that kind of a hero.
Here is the general procedure: When a disaster does occur, in any country, all we have to do is go to that country’s computer file and write out a check and send it accordingly. How big a check is another thing that needs to be determined. Since these are major disasters, I would think that $250 would be the bare minimum. Again, this is a legitimate response that can be made instantly by Krishna Disaster Relief.
There is one more thing that Krishna Disaster Relief can do for Italy. A basic, disaster relief package containing actual relief items can be sent by air express. This large box could be standardized to contain predetermined items. I’m sure that a visit to the American Red Cross would tell us what to include. But off the top of my head I would imagine that it would contain flashlights and batteries, basic medical supplies, a couple of teddy bears, blankets, prasadam in the form of dried fruits and other nonperishable items. This is just a partial list but it does give you the idea.
By contacting the major airlines, I am sure that the air freight charges will be free and in total I am suggesting about a $250 value relief package - besides the check. Again, in the future all of this can be increased in size. But here is a sincere and actual relief effort.
The best thing is to send the package to our Krishna Disaster Relief representative (devotee) in Italy, who in turn could personally deliver it to the actual relief effort taking place there - all quickly determined from our computer information. But, our computer records, or the situation itself, may indicate to send the box elsewhere.
Finally, all of our relief efforts need to be documented and this documentation organized and stored. If at all possible, our Krishna Disaster Relief representative should take photographs and e-mailed to our central office.
What I have given here constitutes the minimum framework for a valid Hare Krishna international disaster relief agency. This can be set up and maintained without much effort. Once established, if there is ever a major disaster in the world, presto, Krishna Disaster Relief can respond in the form of a relief check and a relief package. Several boxes can be set aside—ready for same day shipping. And then, if at all possible, devotees can actually enter the disaster area and personally distribute prasadam. This would be our goal. But even without directly going there, at least we can honestly say that we did help.
To end this chapter, I want to point out that what we have here is Krishna Disaster Relief working on two separate stages - an American effort with NVOAD, and a global effort using the framework above. Our global effort will be linked to UNHCR. What we have is Krishna Disaster Relief affiliated and active with both NVOAD and UNHCR. And, as I indicated earlier, probably affiliated with InterAction as well, since this organization has a very high profile.
Lord Krishna in the 21st Century - Chapter 23
More About Responding To Disasters In America
Writing this book has definitely led me to address many areas of interest that I had either inadvertently glossed over or simple not considered. The subject matter here is really immense. Being a rather down-to-earth kind of person, I try to look at all the bases to be sure they are covered. Additionally, for Krishna Disaster Relief to work, it needs to be practical. Nobody likes a plan that is too far fetched.
Part of this plan has been explained above. Here the idea of having Krishna Disaster Relief’s name and 1-800 number included in every "How To Help" box, alongside the other relief agencies—was mentioned. I have also said that here in America, we should begin our response to disasters with drinking water. Incidentally, in other countries, too, devotees may wish to begin this way.
If this plan is adopted by devotees, then it needs to be pursued vigorously. People love heroes. By showing Lord Krishna coming to the rescue, in time the entire world will stand up and give Him a tremendous applause. I think Shrila Prabhupada will be very pleased.
Putting my thoughts down on paper has also made me realize that I am somewhat handicapped due to a lack of dialog with other devotees about the specifics of what I am proposing. Everything that I am saying needs to be placed on the table. An open discussion about them would then clarify the many issues I have tried to bring up.
Although I am lacking this forum, still I have more ideas about Krishna Disaster Relief.
I’m still concerned about our disaster relief efforts in America. Please allow me to just say what comes to mind.
I have already said that one day I would like to see Krishna Disaster Relief headquartered at the Potomac temple. Eventually a proper building could be built on the property for Krishna Disaster Relief to use. It could be designed very nicely to give it the mood of a disaster relief facility. A place for several vehicles to be parked inside, storage, classrooms, offices, etc. Like a modern fire station.
During an emergency, it would be from the Potomac temple that a specific Krishna Disaster Relief team would depart. Of course, it would also be here that Krishna Disaster Relief would have its offices—doing and managing all the things that I have been suggesting. From here, Krishna Disaster Relief could hold its own annual meetings where devotees from all over the world could attend. Just a thought.
This facility would also give us the opportunity to host meetings where disaster relief people from other organizations could meet, such as the Maryland and Virginia state VOAD teams.
But as I said, it would be from here that a Krishna Disaster Relief team would leave to respond to actual disasters. However, to cover the United States properly, at least three other staging areas need to be established. One in the Southern part of the United States (perhaps in Florida), one in the West (California), and one in Texas or Colorado. This should do it.
The need for mobility is rather obvious. Mobility means vehicles and in this regards I have a couple of thoughts. Having been to several major disasters, myself, I have given this subject considerable attention.
Using the Limon tornado as a good example, the most significant thing about a disaster is the complete devastation. Everything is broken and ruined. In stark contrast to this - giving the dazed victims their first real sense of stability - are the things brought onto the "stage" by the various "actors." Everything may be destroyed, but over there sits a new vehicle, brought to the scene by a disaster relief agency. It isn’t smashed. This vehicle - and others like it, belonging to the various disaster relief agencies - are clean, strong and solid.
I guess I am just worried about how we will look to the public. I told you how devotees in our beat up maroon van in Denver looked more like a drug deal going down than the Hare Krishnas feeding the homeless. We definitely want to avoid showing up to a disaster in a vehicle that already looks like it has been in a disaster.
Instead, when Krishna Disaster Relief arrives, we should have only the best. Specifically, the kind of vehicles that Krishna Disaster Relief needs are as follows. And I also feel that everything we have should look the same. Not a mix but rather the same make, same style, same color, etc.
Perhaps Amberish prabhu could arrange for the Ford Motor Company to give Krishna Disaster Relief a grant of four vehicles for this humanitarian work. However this is arranged, what we need are four, one-ton pickup trucks. Four-wheel drive would be best. If I were going out today to place the order, I would ask for four F-350s, with extended cabs. This size and type of truck would be needed because of all the weight that it will be pulling. They should all be white in color.
Then I would buy an 8-foot cab-over camper for each unit - again - all the same make, color, etc. I would then have on the driver and passenger doors of the trucks, a nice Krishna Disaster Relief sign painted.
About signs—we want them but let’s not overdue it, either. Some thought needs to go into this. We want to avoid the appearance of "grandstanding." I did notice that on a side door of a Salvation Army canteen truck, there was a modest sign under plexiglass, about 18" by 24." Here they had presented a little information about themselves. It wasn’t displayed in an "in-your-face" way, but rather was off to the side and attached to the inside of a door that swung out once the canteen was set up for service.
I like the modest approach. Let our actions speak for us. Besides the signs on our truck doors and on our water trailers, perhaps a sign similar to the Salvation Army could be displayed nicely. A small pamphlet could be made available "for the taking" near the sign - for anyone interested.
These four trucks fitted with campers would give each disaster relief team the mobility and appearance that we would need. If maintained properly, they would give Krishna Disaster Relief many years of service. The director of Krishna Disaster Relief would be responsible for insuring that all of this equipment is taken care of properly. In each locale - wherever they are kept - they should be stored in a garage of some kind. A type of carport/garage can be purchased that would suffice.
Regarding the 8-foot cab-over campers, they are both compact and fully self-contained - meaning a bathroom, kitchen, beds, storage, etc. It is rather amazing how much they have been able to build into these condensed units. There are several manufacturers of these cab-over campers to choose from. While in California several years ago, I bought a new unit for $9,000.00. Other makes and models were cheaper/more expensive. Some thought needs to go into all of this as far as what is finally purchased. Buying four identical units at once will give us leverage to save money. But again, all four need to be the same in make and color, etc.
As far as the means to provide drinking water, each truck can pull a custom built trailer filled with bottles of drinking water. This needs to be discussed. If not a individual bottles of water, perhaps a trailer that will hold those one gallon plastic bottles of water that you can buy in any market.
I realize that there are more details here to work out, but this gives you some of the basic ideas that I have. Water bottles are convenient to pass out. I can just imagine how we could get an unlimited supply of these donated to us. And this is quality water that is free from contaminants. The more I think about it, the more I like the idea of a custom-built trailer with compartments inside to stack these one gallon water bottles. This water should have a very long shelf life. But we need to determine this.
People like disaster relief agencies. The director of Krishna Disaster Relief could contact the owners of storage units - that we are all familiar with - such as "U-Store It." More than likely they would just donate a storage unit to us. We could have a network of these storage units strategically located across America, on major roadways. Devotees near each locale could then stock each storage unit with gallon bottles of water. Preferably the ones marked distilled water. A team of Krishna Disaster Relief carpenters could put together strong storage racks to hold the water. They could travel to each storage unit ahead of time and get it prepared. Then we could slowly fill it up with water bottles.
This supply of drinking water could then be picked-up by our actual disaster relief team on their way to a disaster and/or by our support truck and brought to the disaster site.
True, there are a lot of details to work out here but just imagine the logistics and difficulties and details involved in deploying a mobile kitchen. Providing just water is a much simpler task.
Lord Krishna in the 21st Century - Chapter 24
More Than Just Water
One of the great challenges that will face Krishna Disaster Relief is to respond to all disasters. In a previous chapter I gave an outline on how to respond to disasters anywhere in the world—that is, major disasters.
But here in America we want to respond to many more disasters. The challenges may be numerous. At times there may be a series of disasters happening at once. There are also smaller disasters. Regardless of their frequency or size, somehow we need to arrange for Krishna to come to the rescue. Somehow there has to be participation on our part.
Take, for example, any of the many mini-disasters that occur with all too much frequency. Nature’s destruction isn’t always massive in scale. A forest fire may not be the biggest ever seen. A tornado may only demolish a dozen homes, instead of hundreds. A storm’s fury may only be felt on a local level. But still people are impacted. Still, people suffer.
I don’t pretend to have all the answers to this but in general terms I feel that in some way, Krishna Disaster Relief should try to help out. This makes perfect sense to me. After all, we are talking about the greatest hero (and the greatest friend).
So how can we respond to these mini disasters? Obviously, many disasters wouldn’t warrant sending out a full-fledged response. A thousand gallons of water may not be the proper answer. But still, a response is necessary. If nothing else, a card of condolence could be sent. A basket of fruit could be sent. A donation to the rural volunteer fire department could be sent. These are the folks that usually bear the brunt of these tragedies. A fifty-dollar check sent to the volunteer fire department along with a short letter from us would be greatly appreciated. We could also enclose a brief summary about who we are. Include our Web site. Who knows, at some later date we just might have to coordinate our relief efforts with them while responding to a much larger disaster.
I just think that it would be a mistake to focus on the big disasters and ignore the small ones. No one else does that so why should we? People will notice. Doing so would definitely send the wrong message.
Lord Krishna in the 21st Century - Chapter 25
The Internet is a great educational tool. But we need to make Krishna Disaster Relief’s Web page easier to access. The above Web address is the most simple. It can be easily memorized by anyone. Since the "www." and the ".com" is a given, all anybody would really have to memorize is Krishna Disaster Relief.
Once our Web page is easy for the general public to access, here is a great vehicle to inform the public about Krishna Disaster Relief—how they can help, and links to ISKCON.
Our Web site would also give professional men and woman an easy means to learn more about us.
Lord Krishna in the 21st Century - Chapter 26
Other Ways To Advertise
CNN recently aired a story about the current reading habits in America and said that religious, self-help, and awareness books are now the most widely read category. Furthermore, if you go into a big book store, you will notice that the magazines related to self-help, religion, awareness, etc. make up the largest selection.
In the major magazines, such a Vegetarian Times, a display ad about Krishna Disaster Relief could be printed—"The World’s Only Vegetarian Disaster Relief Agency." And as I said, in other magazines, this same display ad could run. In our advertisements we can mention www.KrishnaDisasterRelief.org.
In the magazines that are not major, we can place an ad in the less expensive classifieds. Usually there is a ten-word minimum. In this case all we need to say is something like: "Visit www.KrishnaDisasterRelief.org to learn how we are helping the world." I’m sure that many magazines would give us a free, ten-word space in their classifieds.
Lord Krishna in the 21st Century - Chapter 27
Hari & Bol
I remember many years ago when a group of devotees were criticizing people who kept dogs. Some years later I was traveling with His Holiness Ganapati Swami and we spent the night at the home of a devotee couple - living in Colorado. They had two white dogs, Hari & Bol. Then about three years later, on the cover of Parade Magazine - which is included in Sunday newspapers across America - I saw a picture of Mrs. Caroline Hebard and her German Shepard, Pascha. Both are famous for their rescue work during disasters.
The very first week I spent living in a temple, during a conversation with His Grace Jayananda prabhu - who was letting me stay in his room at the Manhattan temple on 55th street - he told me that we don’t have to give up what we enjoy doing, but rather, learn how to dovetail our propensities in the service of the Lord. If you are a carpenter - fine - you don’t have to give this up. But instead of building strip malls, build temples.
I can’t help but pause for a moment and remember the criticism I heard about people who owned dogs. Perhaps some devotees need to have a broader view. For example, keeping the vision of Krishna Disaster Relief in mind - along with what Jayananda told me - if I were to come across some people who liked dogs, I would follow in Jayananda’s footsteps and say to them - "Fine, and here is a way you can dovetail your love for dogs. If you want to have dogs, then why not raise and train the best rescue dogs in the world. There are people all over the world who do this kind of work with their dogs. They are the first to enter an area where buildings are down. During an earthquake, these dogs are invaluable in locating and saving the lives of men, women, and children buried alive. Join Krishna Search & Rescue.
All along I have been saying, "Krishna to the rescue." It doesn’t take much imagination to see the enormous diversity and opportunities for devotional service that Krishna Disaster Relief can offer. This book is barely scratching the surface.
Lord Krishna in the 21st Century - Chapter 28
Old Gold Mines
About nine years ago I had a rather remarkable experience. I had just finished helping two friends move into their new home—a small cabin in the mountains above Boulder, Colorado. After spending the night, we woke up to a beautiful morning and decided to go exploring. The entire area was teaming with gold mines from the past.
This suggestion seemed to spark a lot of enthusiasm and within the hour we set off on our way, each feeling the excitement of the adventure.
We left about 9 AM and after venturing down long forgotten tunnels, climbing over mountains, and looking thru the remnants of one old mining camp after another, dusk finally approached. I remember how even after all of that exploring, I still had more than enough energy and enthusiasm to continue, right up until dark.
After dinner I was simply struck with wonder at all the energy I had. Instead of a forty-three year old man huffing and puffing, I felt as strong as I did when I was a teenager. We all did.
Whenever something profound happens to me, I try to understand it. I enjoy thinking about it. Is there a lesson to be learned? After all, it isn’t every day that something really significant happens to me.
The number one question I asked myself was where in the world did all that energy come from? The answer to this question is fascinating. The answer also has a place in this book.
For each of us - waking up full of energy and experiencing this throughout the day is the result of something very special and natural - not because of pills, fruit juice, elixirs, or potions. Rather, this energy is the result of being involved in something that is interesting to you.
This is what unlocks the energy. There is nothing like it. Because we were so interested in looking around all those old mining camps, it was just as if an energy switch had been thrown on inside of us. Being highly interested is the key.
And this is what I like about Krishna Disaster Relief. Not only is it a direct link to the most interesting person - Lord Krishna - via service to Shrila Prabhupada’s great dream, this service is, in itself, highly interesting. Or, I could say that disaster relief has all the makings for a very interesting service.
In many ways, I find this fact to be one of the most important factors about Krishna Disaster Relief. It is extremely interesting. And when you combine this with the fact that people the world over love heroes, what I see is a powerful combination of forces that spell out for me, at least, a great victory for Shrila Prabhupada. After all, it is the fulfillment of his dream that this book is all about.
Lord Krishna in the 21st Century - Chapter 29
Krishna Search & Rescue
Having just mentioned how Krishna Disaster Relief is so interesting, I have been wanting to mention a couple of other aspects that we could easily pursue along with providing water (and later hot prasadam) - and this involves search and rescue.
Not only does this activity make sense with the general idea of showing the world Lord Krishna coming to the rescue, it is also a highly attractive service - because it involves the most daring aspects of disaster relief.
I don’t believe that anyone would argue about the need for attracting new members into our society. Especially the youth. Without the active participation of the young, a religion can wither away.
So the point that I am making is that Krishna Search & Rescue would be a tremendous service to capture the minds of the world’s youth. This is an avenue of service that should not be neglected.
Giving this some thought, here are some of the ideas that I’ve come up with:
A) If there are some devotees who are inclined to work with animals, then I would encourage them to follow in the footsteps of Caroline Hebard. This needs to be researched but apparently she has formed a search and rescue organization—that Krishna Disaster Relief would want to affiliate itself with.
B) The only word of caution that I have here is to work within the established system. At all times we want to respect the other "actors" who have rightly earned for themselves the roles that they "play" during disasters. Contacting these people and working with them is the best way to go.
C) I have called this Krishna Search & Rescue, and it is OK to think of it like this - and call it that - but we don’t want a bunch of splinter organizations. This, along with a couple of other groups that could specialize within Krishna Disaster Relief, should all be considered part of Krishna Disaster Relief.
D) The U.S. government has now perfected an electronic radar device that can detect the presence of someone who is alive, but behind objects. It is not expensive. Of course, this device has a number of possible applications. Yes, people who are trapped under fallen debris can also be detected. If all of this were to research out favorably, I would think that this would be better than working with dogs. But canine rescuee can be there, too.
E) During earthquakes, tornadoes, and violent storms, Krishna Search & Rescue could be the cutting edge of our disaster relief response. This could develop into a really exciting service. Besides the possibility of locating people trapped under debris, devotees could provide all kinds of search and rescue options. During flooding, devotees could rescue people by boat. So here is another area of expertise that we could get involved in. Krishna Search & Rescue would be a diverse group of devotees with their own special equipment and training. They would need to be trained in emergency medicine and emergency communications. This will be mentioned in the next two chapters.
F) During a disaster, Krishna Search & Rescue (which is Krishna Disaster Relief) would also be acting as scouts for Krishna Disaster Relief’s other members, which would most likely be hours behind them. This advance team would relay back information on road conditions, other areas of concern, and even where to best stop and pass out the water and/or prasadam that we would be bringing.
Lord Krishna in the 21st Century - Chapter 30
What I would really like to see happen is the development and eventual deployment of a comprehensive Hare Krishna disaster relief response.
One area affected by disasters is man’s ability to communicate. So what I have in mind is a complete mobile communications center that we could deploy with the rest of our overall response team.
If we could bring this "command post" onto the "disaster stage," this would have profound implications. Not only would this give our entire team the means to stay in touch with each other at all times, we could also provide real-time reports back to Krishna Disaster Relief headquarters in the form of videos, etc. There are many ways that we could use this information.
Equally important, by having this mobile communications center deployed, Krishna Disaster Relief would become a very important "player" amongst all the other relief agencies taking part in the rescue efforts. A disaster means an emergency. Being able to provide emergency communications during a disaster is something that we should provide right along with the rest of our response.
And here, again, is a highly interesting service that Krishna Disaster Relief can encourage the youths of the world to participate in. Similar to our search and rescue team, here is a branch of Krishna Disaster Relief that would have its own equipment and training. I’m just barely touching the surface here. Unfortunately, I am not personally up to speed on everything that modern technology would let us do. But it wouldn’t surprise me if we couldn’t even provide the major news networks with live video of unfolding events.
This mobile communications center - or command post - would become the core of Krishna Disaster Relief’s response - not only providing emergency communication abilities for our own people, but providing assistance to other groups, as well. For instance, the American Red Cross might ask us to relay messages for them.
Lord Krishna in the 21st Century - Chapter 31
Krishna Medical Relief
As part of the total and comprehensive disaster relief package that we are capable of deploying, this branch of Krishna Disaster Relief is most significant.
I see this as a perfect way to engage the many Indian doctors and other medical professionals that make up a large part of ISKCON’s congregation. Obviously, this will take some strong leadership within our Indian congregation, but nevertheless, if there is a will, there is a way. Compared to all the really difficult things that mankind has accomplished, this is actually simple.
I even once saw an ad for an entire field hospital for sale. Of all places, this ad ran in the notorious Soldier of Fortune magazine. While reading the classifieds where this ad was placed, I was able to see this aspect of Krishna Disaster Relief in a new light.
Anyhow, the concept of Krishna Disaster Relief setting up an emergency field hospital is completely feasible and well within our sphere of capabilities. What other religious group, besides the Seventh Day Adventist, have so many doctors and other medical professionals as members?
The field hospital I am referring to can be stored in a truck or building - just as the Denver temple stores its Ratha-yatra cart in a storage van. In the same way that devotees come once a year and assemble the cart, during the right kind of disaster, devotees could position and assemble this field hospital.
Again, this is my idea of Lord Krishna coming to the rescue. Not every disaster we respond to will require the deployment of every tool that Krishna Disaster Relief has in its disaster relief bag. But some will. Just imagine that for a moment.
Lord Krishna in the 21st Century - Chapter 32
Lord Krishna In The 21st Century—Fact Or Fiction?
(Note: this is a make-believe story of what the future could be like)
Date: November 17, 2018 A.D.
Place: Vrindavana, India
Greetings from far away India. I hope you are feeling better today. I know that being 89 years old can sure slow you down. Unfortunately I’m learning this the hard way, myself. As you know, I’ll be sixty-three next April. I’m still moving around OK but not like I did when I was a teenager. Remember when we used to go skiing together when I was in high school? Seems just like yesterday. Those were the good old days; both of us sailing down those mountain slops.
I’m sorry that it’s been over a year since we last got to visit, but I’ve tried to keep you informed on all that’s happened. I just hope you got all the news clippings I’ve been sending.
I’m pretty exhausted. But now there is plenty of opportunity to rest up. I’ve got a pleasant room to stay in and everyone here is very nice. But it is on the warm side.
Since I don’t have any specific plans for the next five weeks, I have decided to catch up on my correspondence with you. As I said, I have been quite busy. So much has happened, I really haven’t had a chance to even sort out everything for myself.
As you know, we were really lucky on this one. They say if it had been a little bigger, none of us would be here. There could have been no warning. And wouldn’t you know it, it wasn’t even the government who first spotted the thing. Rather, some kind of a UFO club out in Arizona. I read that they had all pitched in and bought this big old telescope and what luck - on their first outing they spotted the damn thing. But it took them nearly a whole month to get up the nerve to mention it to anyone. They said they were not sure what it was and that they didn’t want to embarrass their club. So they ended up asking some astronomy professor in Tucson to tell them what it was. That all happened about two years ago.
I know that I have never given you the complete rundown of these events, so I’d like to fill in some of the missing parts while I have the chance. And as I said, I kind of need to look at the whole thing again, myself. A lot happened and I need to put it down in writing. So If I get too detailed, please be patient. And besides, since you had to hang up your golf clubs, I bet you can use a small "book" to read. Hopefully this will help us both pass the time away. Besides, later I can use this letter as a reference to help me gather my wits for the Krishna Disaster Relief conference I will be attending in January.
Did I tell you that the President of the United States is going to be there? He’s a mighty lucky man. He could have easily been killed. And remember, you’ll be coming, too. You should be receiving your tickets in a few days if they haven’t already arrived.
Where to start? I already mention how that UFO club first spotted the asteroid and how this stroke of luck gave us plenty of time to get ready for it. Of course, at first, nobody was even sure if it was going to hit the Earth but once they knew it was, I got a call from NVOAD letting me know.
I remember that after I hung up the phone, I was just dumbfounded. I mean, you prepare mentally for this kind of thing but you never really expect it. I recall going thru all these strange motions after I got the news - kind of like being in a twilight zone of some kind. I found myself actually doing things that I never really thought I would ever be carrying out. And to live like that for an entire year is something else.
Anyhow, Krishna Disaster Relief sure has come a long way since I wrote its first newsletter nearly twenty years ago. Looking back, now, I can hardly believe all that has happened. I may have had the initial idea - well, even this is not correct. There was another devotee who had also been thinking along these same lines - even before me. His name is Sarva-satya dasa. He and his wife, Kunti dasi, works with the Hare Krishna World newspaper.
To begin with, I can’t escape the fact that once we began to seriously develop Krishna Disaster Relief, it was then that things really started to go well. I had even neglected to mention in my book, Lord Krishna In The 21st Century, the possibility of Krishna Disaster Relief being eligible for United Way funds. It took a little doing but five years ago we got them. Along with the other funding we were receiving, we were finally able to purchase many of the things we needed. And oh yes, there was that million dollar donation from that computer billionaire in China that I told you about.
As you know, dad, one of the difficulties surrounding the asteroid was the fact that nobody knew for sure where the thing was going to strike. Some even said it was going to miss us. But further calculations suggested otherwise. I think this is where my friend, Dr. Jerome Brown, who is the chairman of NVOAD, helped the most. He let me know immediately, once he got word from his contact at NASA, that there was, in fact, going to be a collision. Plus, throughout this drama, he kept giving us the very latest data on the asteroid - when and where it was going to hit and things like that.
But you must realize, dad, they were not certain, at all, where it was going to hit. I think it took about three months of precise calculation to just figure out on what side of the Earth it was going to collide with. Once it was determined that it was going to be on our half of the globe, this is when everybody got excited. At this point in time we were looking at approximately eleven months away from impact.
But again, the exact point was hard to say. They did think, however, that a hit on North America was more likely than the asteroid hitting South America. This was even more ominous news for us. I remember reading some news reports and how it was mentioned that most likely the asteroid would hit out in the middle of the ocean. This is what the odds makers were saying. As for me, I just waited for Dr. Brown to let me know. All I knew for sure was that I had to get things ready. Our call to our Krishna Disaster Relief teams was made.
Where to start telling you about everything that then happened? One thing I do recall is that I kept on taking an inventory of everything we had. I just wanted everything to be safe and ready to use.
You saw the beautiful Krishna Disaster Relief facility in Potomac when you and Sally came out to visit. In the auditorium we had the largest Hare Krishna gatherings ever held in North America. The emotions were running high, but rather mixed, as you can imagine. You can picture how everyone reacted when Dr. Brown stood up and told us that NASA had just informed him that the asteroid was definitely going to hit somewhere in the United States. He said that the area of impact would be known in about 30 days.
Apparently the asteroid had a strange wobble to it that kept changing. Depending if the wobble was to left or to the right when it got here, would determine where it would hit. He said that right now it looked like a dead center hit on America, but with the wobble, it was a plus or minus 1000-mile guess. From that day on, all our meetings were 100 percent business.
By the way, it was so nice to meet many of the wonderful devotees that I had only known by correspondence. I really wanted them to be there with me to help organize our strategy. These were the devotees who spontaneously wrote me way back in the early part of 1990. Being with friends gave me the confidence that we could succeed.
One individual in particular, His Holiness Ganapati Swami, was very instrumental in helping us to organize the events that followed. Because I know him so well, I have always felt comfortable tossing my ideas around with him. When I first met him in 1976, he was managing a rather complex preaching program. It consisted of more than one hundred men traveling around the country in about six converted greyhound buses. This took a lot of coordination to pull off smoothly and this is where I first got to know him. His office was located in the old Manhattan temple and together, three of us were kept constantly on the move, trying to stay up with everything that was going on.
Aware of his gift for managing things, I was really happy to see that he had taken time off from his college program to come to our Potomac meeting. I just felt that if anyone could pull off the logistics that we needed to plan things out, it was going to be him. At first I wasn’t sure if he’d even agree to help, but after he and Dr. Brown had a long talk, there was no doubt about his signing on for the duration. For me, this was the best news to come out of that meeting. Now it was time to do some serious planning. Remember, we barely had five months before the asteroid was suppose to hit.
One thing that we decided early on was to pull out all the stops and give this looming disaster our best effort - taking full advantage of what we had previously accomplished. As you are well aware of, Krishna Disaster Relief had already established for itself an impressive record. Public opinion of Lord Krisha was at an all time high. Especially after we rescued that little girl and her brother only minutes before the building they we in collapsed. I’m sure you remember that—in Florida three years ago when Hurricane Ellen swept thru. Of course, we had no idea that her father was a famous congressman.
Even though we have had our successes, I cannot say that we had ever deployed our entire Krishna Disaster Relief teams, all at once. Besides, it had only been recently that Dr. Patel has indicated that his team of doctors and nurses were finally ready to deploy. But it would only be a short matter of time.
Two months before the astroid hit, we held a practice drill, setting up our field hospital on the huge lawn behind the Dallas temple. Dr. Brown even arranged for some National Guard troops to be on hand to help pitch the tents. There were also other NVOAD agencies participating. In fact, by the time our drill was ready to go, it seemed like the entire city wanted to practice with us. The police, the fire department, the Red Cross - everybody turned out.
Remember the newspaper I sent you with the big picture of us on the front page? Apparently that story was picked up by hundreds of newspapers and this same picture was printed everywhere. When I get back to Potomac, dad, I will send you a copy of the video we made of that drill. It was really something to see. Even the boy scouts got involved, pretending to be injured kids from a school bus that had been blown off the road. The Salvation Army also showed up with one of their big canteen food trucks.
We, too, had one of our new canteen trucks there. I felt a little sorry for the Salvation Army. They were most welcome, don’t misunderstand me, but when everyone saw that we were serving out hot pizza by the slice, it was quite obvious where everyone wanted to eat.
This is the same type of mobile kitchen that you and I had originally looked at back in 1999. Even though we were just window shopping at the time, it was that same San Diego company that built our other two pizza trucks. Wait to you see the video of them. You talk about beautiful. They even have the blue skylights all along the top that we liked so much.
I remember when we ordered them. We had the entire kitchens designed just to make pizza. This is a rather simple thing to make, especially with the right equipment. Hot pizza during a disaster - this is what I had envisioned all along. Hot pizza and lots of drinking water - a combination that has proved to be a home run wherever we show up. Everyone wants our pizza. No one has ever complained about a lack of meat.
With the money we got two years ago from United Way, we also bought a couple of refrigerated trucks to act as supply vehicles for our two canteens. The refrigerator units don’t need to be turned on unless we need them, so these two trucks are quite versatile. Actually, we recently bought a third truck to go along with our field hospital. I never realized that so many medical items have to be kept refrigerated. This third truck is only used in conjunction with our portable hospital because it has to be kept really clean. From the very beginning, Dr. Patel said that he would be keeping a rather large supply of blood and other supplies in it, so the truck couldn’t be used for any other purposes.
You have to see that video to fully appreciate the significance of that drill. For the first time, ever, everyone could finally see the enormous potential that we had achieved for showing the world Lord Krishna coming to the rescue.
Another thing I want to tell you about is our mobile command center. Although it is just a truck with a large cab-over camper on it, it’s packed to the hilt with the latest gear. As you may recall, I mentioned how much I wanted this and boy, did it pay off. I still don’t know how to use everything in it, but believe me, we have got a couple of young folks that do.
Jeff’s father is the vice president of NBC news and behind the scenes they had worked out a direct link between our command post and the NBC news room in New York City. Some of the technicians at NBC showed Jeff how to hook up everything - including a telescoping antenna that comes right out of the back of the camper and goes up into the air about twenty-four feet. This gives Jeff the ability to send live video up to the NBC satellite which then beams it down to New York.
Jeff’s dad even got us a camera to use. You have probably seen them. You have got to rest it on your shoulder. It’s very big. After Jeff replaced a broken switch and a few other parts, the thing worked like new.
Of course, we have a lot more equipment in our command center than just this system, but like I said, it really paid off. Jeff and his dad worked out an exclusive with NBC so that they would be the only network getting our telecast - if there was ever anything interesting to send them. Who would have imagined in a million years what we were able to show the world?
About the other things we have inside the camper - there are about ten different radios - including an ancient CB, our long range handheld radios, special cellphones, and our Homeland Security radio. We have one phone that connects us to the military and one that stays on a special FEMA frequency. Another phone is reserved for the Red Cross. Oh yes, we have two more phones, one just for us to use and another that is hooked up to a mobile computer and fax machine. We also have ham-radio phones and a complete paging system. Wherever we are, with our computers and cellphones we can communicate directly with our Krishna Disaster Relief headquarters. They can then put out press releases, etc.
Jeff and his wife were like two kids at Christmas when I gave them the keys to the truck, about three years ago. They went out and bought an extra large cab-over camper for it and had it custom made just for the purpose of providing us with this command center. It was quite a feat of engineering. They even have a small trailer that they pull behind it. This is where they keep our electrical generator and all kinds of other things.
They even have a large wall tent that they erect once they have parked and set up. This gives them a lot more room to accommodate all the activity that they generate. Right after the asteroid hit, we were the only relief agency with any significant communications equipment working. For a while there I thought the police were going to confiscate our comand post and use it themselves. People ended up giving us so much help that all Jeff had to do was operate the NBC camera.
After the disaster drill I was telling you about, Ganapati Swami began to put together a plan for us. When he got a call from Dr. Brown telling him that the impact was looking more and more like an area around St. Louis, we all decided on a course of action that, unbeknownst to us, would thrust Lord Krishna into the world’s spotlight like never before in the history of man.
Although Dr. Brown had mentioned St. Louis as the most probable place of impact, he also said that the asteroid’s wobble was still a disturbing factor and that a two to four-hundred mile correction in any direction was something that we just had to live with.
He said that in two weeks NASA would know for sure, but by then it would only be hours before impact. After this call, Krishna Disaster Relief began to take on the appearance of an elite commando force, preparing for the very worst. A kind of excitement, filled with danger, seemed to consume us all. This was going to be very risky business. We needed to position ourselves, but as another scientist said on Good Morning America, as the asteroid entered Earth’s atmosphere, the thing could severely alter its course. It could hit just about anywhere in the United States. Even with this uncertainty as a factor that we just had to deal with, we weren’t going to just sit there. A few days later Ganapati Swami began to deploy the first elements of our team.
It was at night that America’s fear was felt the most. They say that you can’t see the bullet that kills you, but in the case of this bullet from outer space, you could. If you stared at it long enough, it could easily remind you of the headlights of a huge locomotive bearing down on you. The question on everyone’s mind was obvious - "am I standing on the wrong track?"
It didn’t take me long to stop looking, though. Sure, everyone took a look at least once a night, but my stiff neck quickly said, "enough." More important was the job we had to do. Besides, time was so scarce that most of us were just too busy to stand around looking up at the sky.
And dad, we all want to thank you for arranging the use of the hanger at that Air Force base outside of Kansas City. We cannot thank you enough. Although the base had fallen victim to the rash of base closings back in the late 90s, it was the perfect place for us. That retired Air Force general you used to play golf with certainly has some pull. After Dr. Brown spoke with base security, they actually gave us a set of keys to the place.
Best of all, this really seemed the perfect spot for us to all rendezvous and wait for the inevitable to happen. So this is the plan we placed into action. We had nine days to get inside the hanger and another two days to wait. General Richmond told me that the hanger was built to withstand a nuclear bomb so what a better place to be?
Let’s see, we had 72 vehicles in our various convoys, and eventually a total of 236 men and women inside the hanger. There were also some military people and equipment inside with us.
So this is what we had to get to Missouri by the 17th of August. First, we had Dr. Patel and his hospital, loaded in a truck driving up from Dallas. There was also all of his staff. They left in a large caravan—everybody and everything leaving together with three days to get there. Dr. Patel had the refrigerator unit on his supply truck turned on and the whole thing was packed with medical supplies. I know that a lot of doors were opened for us to get everything that Dr. Patel needed but again, it helps to know people. Of course, Krishna Disaster Relief belonging to NVOAD certainly helps. This and being directly linked to FEMA and Homeland Security is about the most powerful leverage any disaster relief agency can have in an emergency. And this was certainly that.
The count that Dr. Patel gave me when I met up with him in the hanger was, besides himself, 23 doctors and 47 nurses. At the high school we managed to give him 26 devotees to provide them with any help that they needed. I thought this was a really impressive number of doctors and nurses that Dr. Patel was able to pull together for this. He said hundreds more wanted to come.
Obviously we couldn’t promise his team anything more than tents to live in, but we did promise to keep our second mobile kitchen with the hospital at all times. For all their gear, we a had another supply truck full of tents, sleeping bags, and all kinds of other things traveling with them.
About six years ago a bunch of us were brain storming about an imaginary disaster and had made up a list of items that we thought our teams would need out in the field. This is what our Krishna Disaster Relief facilitator in Dallas used to fill the supply truck with. So that was handy.
In every temple we have a number of devotees actively participating with Krishna Disaster Relief. Mostly they go to meetings with other NVOAD agencies. And they have a manual to go by, which they were able to use, as I just mentioned. Of course, in a situation as we just had with the asteroid, the entire Hare Krishna Movement was mobilized. This is how we got so many devotees to travel with Dr. Patel. So this is what we had coming up from the south.
Out of Denver we had our Krishna Search & Rescue team leave for the hanger. These are some really talented folks and they brought everything they needed. Since they had no idea what they were going to be getting into, they brought the works. They even had a team of dog handlers from Caroline Hebard’s group, volunteering to work with us. Like I said, these are some really fine people. When their convoy arrived at the hanger, they were quite a sight to behold. There were eight trucks, altogether, and two of them were pulling boats. One was even pulling a horse trailer. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that we also had two horses and four German Shepards in the hanger with us when the astroid hit. Besides this search and rescue team out of Denver, we had another 23 devotees and their vehicles from California and Arizona - all of them coming into Missouri from the west. They left together in one big convoy from Denver
With so many people to feed, we pulled our other mobile kitchen up from Florida. Luckily we had a lot of advance notice. Because we didn’t own, outright, enough supply trucks to carry all the provisions needed, we just rented four of them. One of them had a refrigeration unit on it so that we could bring along some perishables. We decided to let this group - headed up by ISKCON’s Food For Life director, His Grace Priyavrata dasa - be our main food supply. This included our two mobile kitchen, the four supply trucks, and twelve more vehicles consisting of some of the best cooks in our movement. Many of them flew into Miami and once assembled, their caravan also began its movement north, toward the base. And let’s not forget the five trailers full of drinking water that we brought. As we soon discovered, without that water we would have been really desperate.
Finally, there was our caravan out of Potomac. I had left much earlier for the hanger in St. Louis because Ganapati Swami thought that I should be there first. He wanted me to meet the Air Force security people and make sure everything was ready for our various teams to arrive. Later, when it was time for everyone from Potomac to leave, Jeff and his wife led the way. General Richmond had assured us that the hanger was going to be plenty big enough to fit everyone inside and once I saw it, any doubts I might of had melted away.
At one time the thing was able to hold two B-52s, so it was really big. As I said, this was before Clinton closed the base down in the 90s. Actually, there were four of these hangers on the base so if we needed, I was told that we could also use one of them.
By this date, we also had a lot of devotees flying into the Washington airport from all over the world. About sixty in all. For instance, Madana-mohana from Russia arrived with eighteen devotees. These are some of our toughest "troops," having braved the war in Chechnya to feed the homeless. I had special plans for them when they got to Missouri. We also had devotees from England, Mexico, South America, Australia, New Zealand, and even China and India.
As you can imagine, Ganapati Swami was really being taxed to coordinate an orderly flow onto the base, so he was staying close to Jeff and his radios. He had his own motor home.
By the way, everyone got to the base on time and later when we looked back at this part of our odyssey, we only had two small problems—flat tires. And guess who had one of them? I’ve learned over the years to always have a good spare.
Speaking about flat tires (and other mechanical problems), my old friend Pari Purna brought his van full of tools as part of the Dallas caravan. He used to fix the buses when he was part of the old Radha-Damodara bus party. With so many vehicles that might break down, I was really glad that he wanted to come along. He is also a computer whiz in his own right.
Dad, if you are amazed at the size of our Krishna Disaster Relief team, so was everyone else. Factually speaking, many more devotees wanted to come. Of course, not everyone could. But who would have ever guessed that we could have used a Krishna Disaster Relief team ten times bigger than we deployed? This is going to be one of the topics discussed when I get back to Potomac.
One thing about Jeff and Ganapati Swami is that they really got along great and between the two of them, back in Potomac, they designed the system that we used to stay in touch with everyone.
I don’t think I had told you this, but Jeff had worked in a radio command post during Desert Storm. I know his military training really helped us get organized.
The first thing they did was place everyone into squads. Just like in the army, we also had squad leaders. What we did, then, was give each squad leader a special cellphone and hand-held radio that Jeff could talk directly to from our command post. It was a ham-radio phone that was completely self-contained and independent of any telephone company. They have a good 50-mile range. We have our own generating system at the command post. This really gave us an edge.
Then - and this is the neat part - Jeff gave each squad member an old-fashion pager. These completed our Krishna Disaster Relief emergency radio system. Again, the pagers were completely independent of any telephone company. Jeff was able to generate our own signals to them. Obviously, during a disaster, electricity and phone systems are the first to go.
So, in this way, using our ham phones and pagers, not a single devotee was left out of the loop. To keep everyone informed and working as a team, from the command post, Ganapati Swami could talk to the squad leaders. We could also page all the squad members with various codes - such as 0808 which meant, "go meet with your squad leader for important information." Altogether we had nineteen squads. This was factually a rather inexpensive way to keep us all in touch. Pagers are really cheap. In fact, Jeff had some of his friends actually make them back in Potomac. Don’t ask me how, but they did it. Jeff had 300 of them packed in a box when he left Potomac. Of course, the ham radios were a lot more expensive but we only needed a couple dozen. That grant we got from The Action Foundation paid for all our radios, and then some.
One thing there wasn’t room for in the hanger were all the vehicles we brought. Besides, none of us wanted to be in a hanger with all those gas tanks if the burning - hot asteroid somehow hit our building - bomb proof or not. Nobody said that the hanger was asteroid proof.
With only two days left before impact, things were really getting intense. A last minute call from Dr. Brown confirmed that our general area was still ground zero. He also said that the asteroid had not broken up into smaller pieces and was a bit bigger than originally estimated. He gave us his blessings and told us to keep him informed as soon as possible.
Well, as we all know now, he was wrong. True, it hadn’t broken into smaller pieces—if you want to call a small skyscraper a smaller piece. Instead, it had only cracked. There was now less than 48 hours to go.
As I have mention earlier, this was the first time that Krishna Disaster Relief had ever fully deployed itself on this magnitude. I never dreamed that one day we would be looking at nearly 300 devotees—checking and double checking—waiting for the inevitable to happen. It was best to keep busy. Our different squads had already been organized and each group was busy getting to know one another.
As far as my final role, I teamed up with Madana-mohana and his men from Russia. Not knowing exactly where the asteroid was going to strike, once we did know from the satellite pictures that Jeff was monitoring, our team was going to be the first to leave the hanger. I was going to be part of our Krishna Search & Rescue team.
One thing that we didn’t have to worry about was any severe weather. A weak cold front was the only thing that we had to keep our eye on and that was still located in Colorado.
Finally my team was set to go. Two years ago I had purchased our five, 4-wheel-drive scout vehicles. We kept them parked in a special garage that we had built in Potomac and they were all in great shape. This has always been my pet project. I just felt that we should have this - the means to get into a disaster area as quickly as possible to assess the situation and direct our main forces, which would be slower getting there. Large trucks certainly can’t travel at the speeds that our scout vehicles can. Next year we have plans to buy a long range helicopter for just this purpose.
Jeff had installed radios for us and he had even put a winch on each of the Jeeps. Inside and on top of them, we had everything that we would need to sustain us for a good two weeks by ourselves, if need be. Complete with extra gas, we were ready to go.
Since our search and rescue team is so unique, we didn’t have separate squads. But we all knew who we were and worked as a team. The Denver search & rescue contingent each had their own radios, as well. We could all keep in touch. The radios worked great. Our vehicles also had global tracking systems installed so that Jeff could monitor and tell our exact whereabouts.
We went to some extra expense here but I thought it was well worth it. Our four vehicles - especially - needed to get out of the second hanger as quickly as possible and direct our relief efforts to the best possible location. Nobody knew for sure what to expect or exactly where to go, but we need to go first. Roads could be washed out or destroyed, bridges down, or fires blocking our path. This is why we had to leave first, even ahead of some of our other search and rescue vehicles. I guess you could say that we were concerned more with the searching part - looking for the best routes to take and where to direct everyone else. If our FEMA and Homeland Security communications were still working, Jeff could feed us information on the best routes to take. So he played a vital role in all of this.
After a final briefing from Ganapati Swami, each of the squad leaders spoke for a few moments. As the asteroid was breaking up in the atmosphere, the most beautiful kirtan I have ever heard was echoing throughout the huge hanger. Even the military people with us seemed spellbound at the wonderful sound we made.
When the asteroid hit, there was no mistaking it. Everyone could feel it. The ground beneath us just shook. Three times we felt it. I could see Jeff’s wife wave at me and I ran over to the command post. Madana-mohana and his men were all set to roll out.
The Air Force base is located about 75 miles from Kansas City, and more than a hundred miles from St. Louis. But I needed to see something first. The satellite imagery we were monitoring couldn’t be mistaken. The worst possible thing that could have happened was right there before our eyes. Both Chicago and St. Louis had taken direct hits. The large asteroid has split up. In fact, St. Louis seemed to have been hit twice. The asteroid had come apart in three pieces. This wasn’t good.
As you well know, dad, the American public was really at a loss as to what to do. Because of the asteroid’s peculiar wobble, NASA was never able to say for sure where it was going to strike. They wanted to, but couldn’t. They kept saying that even their best guess could only pin it down to a four-hundred mile circle. But everyone knew that America was in for it - somewhere. It’s hard to run from something like that. You could be running right into it. Besides, our government quickly put a stop to anyone who was thinking about it. In fact, for the last 24 hours there had been a curfew enacted and nobody was allowed to drive anywhere. They wanted all roads cleared for rescue efforts.
Of course, this didn’t affect us because we were now a part of the government’s relief effort. All of our nation’s top officials inside FEMA, Homeland Security, and the American Red Cross had visited our Potomac facilities. So we were well-known by everyone and more than welcome. Krishna Disaster Relief was on the green list carried by every law enforcement agency in America. As Jeff liked to say, "we were good to go."
Although we had a large group of very talented people assembled there in that hanger - from a brain surgeon to a dog trainer who could find people buried alive - we nevertheless had a specific job to do. I have always said, let us simply show everyone Lord Krishna coming to the rescue - the world’s greatest hero. In a few hours billions of people around the world were all about to meet Him. "Krishna appears as His devotee" made more sense to me than ever before.
Thankfully, the specifics of our rescue effort were not that difficult to understand. This greatly helped everyone make sense out of what appeared as a rather complex gathering of people and equipment, all in a rather odd setting.
Most importantly we wanted to get Dr. Patel’s field hospital set up along with our command post. Also, our two mobile kitchens. This alone was going to keep the bulk of our people busy. We all knew that once we were there, it was going to mean a 24-hour a-day, nonstop mission. Exactly where we were going to set up was the big question.
Oh yes, I forgot to mention that most of our teams traveled by military bus. There was no need for everyone to be taking their own vehicles. The Air Force was also providing us with a small truck fitted with a 500 gallon tank to hold gasoline.
As my team’s four Jeeps roared to life, a lot of things were going through my mind. But those concerns had to be set aside. We needed to get off the base. Everyone there gave us a hardy farewell.
All set to roll, our plan was to get to St. Louis as soon as possible. Along the way, Jeff was sending us reports of massive destruction but details were sketchy. At least the roads were clear. We even had a police escort.
Nearing St. Louis, the sky just didn’t look right. Things were beginning to smell funny, too. What we then did, was split up into three groups—two of the jeeps going south, Madana-mohana going in directly eastward, and my vehicle circling north. Little did we know the incredible events that we were about to find ourselves in.
One of the most difficult things to accept in any disaster is that you can’t save everyone. But if God is the greatest hero, the I feel that this should be our goal. Of course, this is never going to be possible. And this really isn’t even our aim. As Shrila Prabhupada always said, the purpose of human life is to develop love for God. Krishna Disaster Relief is only a means to that end. And a great one, at that. There is no doubt about it, dad. America is standing up for us now in great numbers. The entire world saw what we did. If we can just manage to stay on this path and keep the world seeing Lord Krishna coming to the rescue - I am absolutely certain that we will fulfill Prabhupada’s heart’s desire. We already are.
Another thing you can’t do, dad, is be everywhere at once. The St. Louis area is enormous. As I was wondering what our other scouts were finding, Jeff called over the radio to tell me about a large high school that we needed to get to as soon as possible. He said that he had got a call from Dr. Brown and that FEMA had received word that things there were really bad. It was located outside of St. Louis on our side of the city. FEMA wanted to know if we could check it out.
We decided to let two of our scout vehicles continue with their reconnaissance while my vehicle was to join up with Madana-mohana and his jeep to look for the school. We were only about an hour ahead of our main relief team, but if need be, they would stop briefly for our directions.
What can I say, dad? This wasn’t war, but you know about mass destruction. Eventually I saw parts of the city where everything had been wiped out. There were a lot of fires and our visibility was getting really bad.
Jeff called again and said that our vehicle’s global-tracking unit was telling him that the school was about two miles up ahead. He said that we should be crossing a river right before we got to the school. He also gave us the latest weather update that he had just received from Denver. The cold front would be blowing in that afternoon, but it wasn’t supposed to be a strong storm. Good, maybe it will clear the air.
As we proceeded slowly, I could feel that we were on the edge of something really terrible. Looking back now, I can understand why. When the asteroid entered the Earth’s atmosphere, it broke up into three large pieces. One piece slammed into Chicago, another hit downtown St. Louis. The third punched a hole into the Earth about two miles from the school we were looking for. This high school was between us and the actual point of impact. The closer we got to it the more I could tell that something horrific had happened here. Several times we had to stop because of fallen trees over the road. We used chain saws and our winches to remove the debris so that we could proceed. Behind us and closing fast, the main body of our Krishna Disaster Relief response team needed to know where to go.
The radio in our jeep came alive again and this time it was Ganapati Swami. He said that despite the massive amount of destruction that our other two scout vehicles were reporting back to him, the emphasis he was getting from FEMA was on the high school. Word was that more than half the town had taken shelter in it. He told the other two scouts to concentrate their efforts with us. They would be able to meet us at the school in about forty minutes.
When our two jeeps finally reached where the school was suppose to be, visibility was really bad. Just a lot of smoke and dirt in the air. The twelve of us put on the face masks that we had packed away in Potomac. Thank God for thinking ahead.
Although our global tracking system said we were at the school, exactly where we were at didn’t look like any school that I had seen before. As it turned out, this was because it was nearly buried. But we could see hundreds of parked cars and buses off to our left. Of course. This school would naturally be where all the town’s people would take shelter.
When the asteroid hit, huge amounts of dirt became instantly displaced. Beyond the rim of the crater, what had happened next resembled a large wave out in the middle of the ocean. But instead of water, this wave consisted of massive amounts of dirt and trees and everything else imaginable that was caught up in its wake. Of course it didn’t go on forever. Fortunately, after covering most of the high school it stopped. On our side of the school things were somewhat more recognizable—but destruction was really all around us. But just up ahead and beyond, it looked like total devastation.
We radioed back to the command post, which was proceeding about thirty miles to the west of us. Jeff confirmed our position. I gave him a quick briefing of what we were looking at. Then Ganapati Swami came on and asked us to take a quick look around. They would be monitoring our progress on our ham radios.
With our marching orders given us, the doors of our jeeps flew opened and I motioned for everyone to listen for a few moments. Then I thought I could hear something. It was very quite. Yes, we all heard it.
Honestly, dad, I don’t think it took us long to fully grasp the gravity of the situation inside that high school. I don’t want to get too graphic here but as we spread out toward the sounds, we could sense the panic inside. That was enough for me and a SOS was punched into our phone - which meant: "Bring everybody here just as quickly as you can." With that code, Krishna Disaster Relief was about to deploy its first, full-blown rescue effort, ever.
Several of the Russian devotees had remained by the school to see if they could find a way in while the rest of us quickly did a fast survey of the layout outside. We needed to stake out where to put up the hospital. This was the worst part. When you get to this point, nothing seems to happen fast enough. Especially when you have people desperately in need of help. When we got near the school, the muffled cries inside were overwhelming. But unless we got our site selected and the hospital set up as quickly as possible, nobody was going to get any help.
Suddenly a briskness in the air could be felt and the wind began to pick up. Just in the nick of time.
Right behind our other two jeeps, our search and rescue teams from Denver were the next to arrive. We quickly got them positioned and in no time flat they had unloaded their gear and were off. Then our hospital arrived. Dr. Patel said that the police had already set up roadblocks.
With Dr. Patel and Ganapati Swami giving out instructions, everyone pitched in to set it up. The military troops that had come with us from the base also helped out. We managed to get it set-up on some grass, about a hundred yards from the school. Other sites were better but we didn’t want to set up too far away. A lot of people were going to need to be carried there on stretchers.
All at once, a lot of activity was taking place. Tents were going up, people were yelling, generators were being turned on, some of the injured were already arriving, and various vehicles were being positioned.
In the past we had practiced setting up. As far as things on our end, everything was completed in record time. Arranged in a circle, first we had Dr. Patel’s field hospital. On each side of it, other tents were erected. These were for his staff of doctors and nurses. Again, to the right and left, to complete the semicircle, we stationed our two kitchens. Behind them we parked our supply trucks. Next to each kitchen we had put up other tents where rescue workers could sit for a spell. I had seen this same kind of set up years ago during a fire in Denver. After hours of fighting the fires, the Salvation Army had provided a large tent where the fire fighters could sit down for a half an hour and drink coffee, talk with their fellow fire fighters, and just unwind.
Bringing our circle together, everyone in our team had their personal tents pitched. This was a big circle and in the center we parked Jeff’s command post with its satellite mast and other antennas pointing into the sky. Next to Jeff, Ganapati Swami had his small motor home parked.
As you can imagine, dad, the next twenty-four hours were the most hectic. Our search and rescue team was doing everything possible to pull everyone out of the school. Large parts of it were destroyed. Those people who were not hurt too bad were taken by ambulance to a hospital. But many others were being treated on the scene by Dr. Patel’s staff of doctors and nurses. He was also treating other victims that the police were bringing to us from other locations. Again, thinking ahead, Jeff and his team had marked off a helicopter pad. For what seemed like days on end there was nothing but a constant stream of ambulances and helicopters coming and going. Anything we needed, we got.
But the one helicopter that no one had expected was suddenly on its way. After it was all over, I bet the President wishes he had stayed back in Washington.
Again, it was Dr. Brown who told us to get ready. Of course, by now, the entire world was glued to their television sets, watching NBC’s live news coverage of the events that were unfolding at the high school. Other news groups also had their reporters out covering the damage left by the asteroid, but nothing compared to our pictures. Jeff’s wife was able to send live coverage up to the satellite within a half an hour after first arriving. Our live coverage of the asteroid’s damage was at least two hours ahead of anyone else. In fact, all the other news networks were playing our news footage. The drama, they later said, was the most intense ever witness on TV. Dad, this whole thing was turning out to be far greater than any of us could have imagined in our wildest dreams.
This is why the President of the United States was now about to land his helicopter at the high school. Personally, his arrival, I thought, should have been postponed for a few days. Things were really unstable all around us. After the dam broke, we were even rescuing people by boat. Now this. And poor Jeff - it seemed like our command post was getting a call every minute. Plus, we had the Red Cross using our phones. I know that he never thought he’d be actually speaking to a Marine pilot inside of a helicopter with the President of the United States on board, but he did.
Actually, there were two helicopters in his entourage that needed to land. After the President and his group toured our field hospital, they visited our command center and spoke briefly with myself and Ganapati Swami, thanking us for our tremendous service. The President asked us to visit him at the White House after all of this was over. He seemed sincere in his offer and NBC carried all of this live - even the earthquake that sent the president back into our hospital - but this time as a patient.
Dr. Brown had once mentioned to me the possibility of this happening. The Earth had really taken a strong jolt. Besides the possibility of an earthquake, some people were saying that the Earth’s axis might shift. If that had happened, I wouldn’t be here in India writing you this letter.
And as far as President Howard, the earthquake couldn’t have come at a worse moment. He wanted to go over by the school. This is when all hell broke loose. All of us nearly got it. Compared to him, I was lucky. I just broke two fingers. But his leg was really bad. Dad, it was pandemonium. There were at least fifteen people hurt. To this day, the director of FEMA is still in the hospital. Even Ganapati Swami had to have his head stitched up.
As you know, the President ended up staying in our hospital overnight and now, in just a few weeks, he is going to give Krishna Disaster Relief a special award when he visits Potomac. He told me that he would also like to address the country and give a short talk on the importance of volunteers during disasters. So this ought to be very interesting. I had always thought that the auditorium we built could have been bigger.
Remember to bring your coat because its going to be cold when you get off the plane. It will be great seeing you and Sally again. After I read this over, I will probably have a few more things to add. For instance, I never got to tell you what happened to my friend from Russia, Madana-mohana. But this is all for now. Hare Krishna. With Love, Ronnie
Lord Krishna in the 21st Century - Chapter 33
A Final Thought
After having said everything up to this point, I feel that I should include this one last chapter because I want to make sure that I am crystal clear about one of the core points that this book is attempting to make: that everyone loves a hero.
So many times I have heard the statement, "don’t be sentimental." After all, this is when a person is ruled or overcome by one’s emotion rather than reason. Perhaps there is a good argument against falling under the grip of sentimental feelings but when you are talking about love - love of God in the case - I find it almost impossible to ignore emotional feelings.
The danger lies in being caught up in the wrong sentiments.
I opened this book by saying that everyone loves a hero. This is what I want to make this final comment on.
Sometime during 1970, while stationed at Lowry AFB, our squadron was ordered to attend in mass, what is commonly referred to as "Commander’s Call." It was held in an auditorium setting, the base commander discussing with us some of his concerns such as safety and things like that. They then showed us an Air Force produced movie about a tremendous earthquake that had recently devastated large portions of Alaska. The film was specifically about how the United States Air Force used its enormous resources to come to the rescue immediately following this earthquake.
Like the rest of the airmen in that auditorium, when we were told about the unexpected movie we were about to watch, the topic of the movie definitely seemed more interesting than the usual pep talks that we normally received at these Commander Calls. And if we didn’t like the movie, seeing how the lights would be out, nobody would notice if we closed our eyes for a short nap. We were not the most patriotic group of young men, even in our uniforms.
Anyhow, the movie started and right away I became interested in the story. Although it only lasted for about thirty minutes, I remember how this incredible emotion swept over me. And I am going to bet that you, too, have experienced what I am talking about.
I have said that everyone loves a hero. Although this is a wonderful idea, perhaps, I fear, just having this fact presented as a written sentence - that perhaps the idea I’m trying to convey is lacking in the exact meaning that I am trying to get across. I want this sentence to convey to you exactly what it means to me. This meaning is perfectly illustrated in what happened to me during that Air Force movie.
The movie itself was rather a straightforward story. First it showed how out of the blue this earthquake just demolished everything it touched one day, creating a living nightmare for thousands and thousands of people. Then the movie showed their desperate calls for help going out. It showed the Air Force receiving their calls. It then showed how the Air Force just dropped everything and loaded up their planes and came to the rescue.
The important thing here is that as I sat watching this drama unfold, I began to feel my chest grow swollen and my face began to flush. In a very sentimental way, I felt like crying. This is a very unique experience and I have only felt this way a couple of times in my life - each time related to stories about various men and women "coming to the rescue."
The whole point here, is that what happened to me during that Commander’s Call was not some isolated experience that only happened to me. Just like during certain movies at the theater where just about everyone is crying (Love Story, for example, where Ryan O’neal gets up on the hospital bed to hold his wife as she dies from cancer in his arms) - in this same universal way, the tearful reaction to people "coming to the rescue" is a God given emotional response that is built into everyone’s heart.
After we got out of that Commander’s Call, I sensed that we all felt the same way. This is a VERY POWERFUL emotion that is awakened when we see people coming to the rescue. Shrila Prabhupada wanted the whole world to love Lord Krishna. As soon as you talk about loving someone, then you are involving so many things - emotional things, heart things, deep appreciation, sentimental feelings, etc. And these are all very positive events that opens one’s heart to the person that these feelings are being directed to.
When I say that everyone loves a hero, I am talking about a tremendously powerful kind of love. An attraction that rushes out of the heart and fills every inch of the body with pronounced and significant feelings.
I am simply suggesting that we tap into this and point it in the right direction. It all makes sense to me. God is the greatest hero. Everyone loves a hero. Showing the world Lord Krishna "coming to the rescue" will create a really profound change in the people who see this. Again, this is a most excellent way to fulfill Shrila Prabhupada’s heart’s desire - his mission - his dream.
Imagine for a moment that guy sitting in his big easy chair watching the evening news. On comes a story about a horrible disaster with pictures of Krishna Disaster Relief "coming to the rescue." Not only is this guy going to think, "Gee, I didn’t know that the Hare Krishna people did that kind of work. That’s really nice of them" - he is also going to "choke" with love towards us.
I am simply trying to illustrate this "perfect storm" - when a persons thoughts and feelings simultaneously merge in agreement.
This is the most positive kind of affirmation that can take place. When you can get both the mind and heart to agree on something, you have truly created the kind of appreciation that will last forever.
Thank you for reading, Lord Krishna In The 21st Century - Rohini-suta dasa 5/25/2013