E. Burke Rochford Jr., a professor of sociology at Middlebury College, has studied the Hare Krishna movement for over thirty years, and as the movement’s friend, has written numerous articles addressing its development. In January of 2009, he came to Bhaktivedanta College to give a course on ISKCON and Society, and has been an inspiration for the fifteen students who attended. When asked how it felt to teach a group of young people whose spiritual movement, parents, guides, and friends he had studied for over three decades, Rochford said it was the highlight of his career, and among the very best teaching experiences he has ever had.
In Rochford’s “Hare Krishna Transformed”, which he referred to as a labour of love, he addresses social issues within ISKCON, and these are what he presented to the students. The students were thoughtful, hardworking, and intellectually curious; thus the learning experience was brought to a peak, inspiring both students and teacher. The students, being deeply concerned about ISKCON’s future, discussed different ways of improving the movement and were able to connect to Srila Prabhupada’s vision of the movement and its function.
As Rochford said, the time has come for the youth to “skin their knees”, be allowed to take up leadership positions, and for older devotees to, with encouraging words and help, to put the movement securely in their children’s hands. The time has come to extend a hand of love and trust to the young adults of ISKCON, whom Prabhupada addressed as the “future hope”. Moreover, Rochford said:
My book should be helpful in that it is an honest treatment of the movement’s trials and tribulations in North America. […] To serve as a leader requires honest and open dialogue. The time of trying to cover over troubling matters has passed. Learn from the past. Pay attention to devotees of all types. Truly be a servant of all those who seek to know Krishna and Prabhupada.
Rochford advises ISKCON youth to remain confident and to do everything within their power to further Prabhupada’s teachings and vision, to remain strong and never forget their spiritual responsibilities to Krishna. Indeed, the students got an opportunity to express and discuss their concerns with their teacher and peers and found ways to increase their spiritual commitment to Srila Prabhupada. I truly hope that the hand of love and trust will be extended to the youth of ISKCON so that they can further Prabhupada’s dream of a worldwide Krishna conscious movement.