Published in the Spring 2011 issue of Awaaz: The Voice of South Asia, a publication of Columbia University.
Awaaz: ISKCON’s philosophy presents a unique view of the world, the identity of its people, and their relationship with Krishna [God]. What is this view?
His Holiness Bhakti Vasudeva Swami: The ISKCON philosophy, which hinges on the Bhagavad Gita as its primary book of wisdom or spiritual literature, with all of the Vedic literatures, brings to bear that we are creatures of God, or parts and parcels of God. We call God Krishna. Krishna means the all-attractive Personality of Godhead. The relationships we find in this world—like the parent-child relationship, friendship, the servant-master relationship—these are all relationships that exist between the living entity (the creation of God) and God. Through the process of devotional service unto God, unto Krishna, we become purified and we are able to become reinstated in those—our original relationships with God, with Krishna.
Published in the Fall 2010 issue of Sanctum: The Undergraduate Journal of Religion at Columbia University.
There are a number of varying ideas on what constitutes social justice, some of which conflict with each other. What is true social justice and how is it best achieved?
It is a very important issue in social justice. Rudimentarily, social justice refers to the idea of creating an egalitarian society or institution that is based on the principles of equality, justice, and solidarity that understands and values human rights and that recognizes the differences of all. It is easily achieved when we understand our pristine identity—that is, the fact that, despite our differences, in bodily designation like race, gender, age, etc.,we have a common spiritual essence, and, based on that spiritual essence, we can value people instead of trampling their rights. So [social justice] can be achieved very easily, if we recognize, first of all, who we are and who others are—despite the color of their skin and despite their gender and despite their age, etc. That’s why I call social injustice…being rooted in an “identity crisis.” That is ignorance, ignorance of our true identity.