So picking up from day 2, after finally hitting the bed or rather the bed hitting me, it was time for day 3.
We stayed at ISKON within Mayipur. And let me tell you that it was, well an interesting opportunity.
Now just a disclaimer, I don’t agree with nor do I condemn the ISKON way and teachings, I simply acknowledge but do not follow it. I know a large part of their way clashes with my beliefs, so I simply pay it no attention. This is probably why I had no expectations.
Now my mum and brother on the other hand is a different story. My brother follows the Vedic path and completely disagrees with the ISKON way. Interestingly enough, ISKON disagrees with the Vedic way. My mum is a strong Krishna devotee. She too does not agree with all their beliefs, but in South Africa, ISKON isn’t so blunt with how their way and only their way is correct.
So, basically my mum went there with high expectations and my brother with very low expectations. So, what do you think happened…
Firstly, ISKON in Mayipur are not greedy by they are money driven. And let me explain why I say this.
To stay in the Mayipur, you already have to pay a price. And then there’s the tours… They are very insistent that you have to pay a day before, which i guess is okay, but they make sure they apply enough pressure on visitors especially those who arrive just before the office close in times. There’s also a fee involved with the taxi drivers.
So now after you’ve paid for the accommodation, the tour and the taxi drive, it should be covered, right? Well wrong! For each temple you visit, you have to pay a separate donation. And some temples are divided into 4 or 5 subsections, each with its own donation box. And after you’ve visited, the tour guide will gesture to the donation box and ask you to make a donation… Even though it’s voluntary.
But the fun doesn’t stop there, some temples require you to make special offerings that are extremely pricey and not properly explained before hand. And you still have to make your usual donation regardless. For some temples, you have to take local Rick Shaws and ferries, and these costs are not covered in the tour. So you have to pay out of your own pocket for this.
And it gets worse… You’re also expected to pay a hefty donation to the tour guide himself. And when we did pay him, he didn’t thank us, which wasn’t necessary. But he did ask us what donation would be making towards the temple, I mean c’mon.
I’m not against temples or religious centre’s asking for money, but it should be done in a more tactful and direct way. You may think I’m being petty, but you basically pay for everything at ISKON. There are no meal plans or cooking equipment in your room. You also can’t carry any food. So you’re required to buy from them, which is again, more costs.
Now about the 2 day tour, my family didn’t enjoy it, in fact we were disappointed, my mum especially. We basically went from temple to temple to hear the convoluted views of ISKON as well as how they were taking care of all the temples in the area. My family are well versed in the scriptures, so they know something doesn’t make sense.
Twice my brother and mum pointed something out that didn’t make sense, and both times the tour guide was not able to provide a proper answer. She was pretty disheartened by the end of the tour.
Another annoying thing was that there were no pictures allowed during these temple visits which made me irritated. You pay all this money to travel half way across the world to be told you can’t take photos. And it’s not like these temples are busy or you’re distracting or disturbing the devotees.
And finally with regards to the tour, the locals just butt in at any time. Whether it’s their rowdy conversations, obstruction of your view or just plainly intruding on a tour that you’ve paid for, it’s quite disappointing, and the tour guide of course does nothing.
But for me, the most disappointing thing of all, was that the temple at the residence does not allow you to take a cellphone into the temple to take pictures, so my mum and I couldn’t take pictures. However! There were so many devotees who took cell phones in and when we asked the guards why, they simply ignored us and laughed. I think they even called us stupid, but obviously we can understand Hindi.
After 3 days of harassment, they finally said that those devotees were true devotees hence they were allowed to take pictures within the temple… Who died and made them a judge on what’s not and what’s allowed. This was probably the most heart wrenching thing of the stay in ISKON Mayipur.
Anyway, I’m sitting in Kolkata Airport typing this out with no wifi, no sure when I’ll be able to post this.
Jai Sri Krishna