Wednesday, October 21st, 2015
What’s so Special About Butler?
My very competent support person, Vivasvan, navigated a route that
would avoid busy traffic. A connected series of quiet gravel and
paved roads was the perfect lead into Butler, Pennsylvania – a true
milestone for this pilgrimage.
Karuna Sindhu joined Tre’von and I for a stretch. Yes, our party is
growing happily. It seems that some young men are attracted to the
program. Another one joins us on Saturday.
Now, back to Butler and the significance this tiny city has for our
spiritual order (known in theological terms as the Gaudiya Vaishnava
tradition) which has roots in India. The Vaishnava culture dates back
thousands of years. One of the major teachers in this lineage from
the medieval period in India is Sri Chaitanya, himself, a well-known
walker, who promoted adoration for the Divine in the form of Krishna.
The most recent exponent of this form of spiritualism is, in lengthy
honorific terms, known as Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada – or
Prabhupada for short.
It was he, Prabhupada, who came to Butler in 1965 – 50 years ago. He
took accommodation at the then YMCA, now the Boys’ Cubs Hall on McKean
St. Prabhupada spoke at the Y as well as the Lions Club and St.
Fidelis Monastery in nearby Herman. It was here in Butler, at the
mature age of 70, that he planted seeds of bhakti (a form of
devotional yoga) before he moved on to New York City where a following
finally took hold.
When I entered Butler today and made my way to the old YMCA, I met a
rep from the Butler County Eagle Paper and a local radio rep. The
news was later announced that the Walking Monk had come to honour his
teacher, Prabhupada. My emotions did arise.
I shall attempt to make a list of Prabhupada’s accomplishments after
my own humble deliberation:
1) Forerunner of kirtan culture, or introducing chanting to the West.
2) Introduced bhakti-yoga, an ancient devotional lifestyle to the West.
3) Wrote, presented, and published a scholarly line of Vedic
philosophical texts (including a translation of the Bhagavad-gita)
forming a veritable library on Eastern thought. Established the
Bhaktivedanta Book Trust to print these books.
4) Introduced a new line of vegetarian cooking. Perhaps the first
teacher of Vedic cooking in the West. Taught how to consecrate that
food as prasadam (where, in Judaism, such food is known as Kosher and
in Islam as Halal).
5) Forerunner of animal rights, ie. Cow and bull protection
6) Introduced to the West the ancient technique of seva puja,
honouring the Divine as a sacred image.
7) Forerunner of the science of reincarnation. Spoke boldly of the
soul’s transmigration (sourced through his books).
8) Reinforced agrarian life, ‘Back-to-the-land’ living as an
ecologically-friendly alternative, ie. ‘Gita Nagari’ in Port Royal, PA
& ‘New Vrindavan’ in Wheeling, West Virginia.
9) Reinforced that God is a person, hence, he challenged atheism and Darwinism.
10) Promoted anti-racism through provocative, profound statements like
‘We are not these bodies, we are spirits.’ All-inclusive policies
towards men, women, and people of all races.
11) Spoke strongly against drug intake, alcohol intake, and gambling –
hence saving lives.
12) Established a world-wide mission called ISKCON, commonly known as
These and other contributions can be considered as benevolent for
improving and adjusting life-styles in the West. We are grateful to
the founder of Iskcon, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
May the Source be with you!
20 miles / 32 km