Thursday, July 30, 2009

Going ISKCON 2: The Target

This is the section 2 of 4 on the workings of ISKCON .

Please read the introduction to the series here.

The first few months of a desi student in USA is something which is fairly stressful. Even for those who come from hostels, this time is quite frustrating . Tough courses,distracting presence of unlimited TV, little money to spend ,no relaxation, lack of travel options , a completely new set of people to hang out with,and worst of all-the responsibilities of the kitchen. And here is where the Krishna bhaktas of ISKCON come in. The first contact is made and the bhaktas go out of their way to help the newly arrived desis settle down. Normally, graduate students help the new students with a place to live for a week, and some food to share- but ISKCON people go much beyond that.

Over a course of the next few months the devotees-in the guise of graduate students- go about helping the freshers in a variety of ways. They provide delicious food once a week, are approachable any time of the day, help the students with academics and such. They are seen on-campus from exactly 8-5. A bunch of these seemingly very dedicated students live together and have a very focused and helpful way of life.

This phase is very important . Even if most students do not become permanent devotees, their resistance could prove disastrous for the overall strategy of ISKCON. (which is described in the paras below.). Once a favorable impression is setup they move in slowly for the kill. They start talking from their own experiences of how directionless and desperate they were in life- and look at them now- they are contended with simple things, focused in life, have only good habits and thoughts etc etc..

They avoid making any reference to anything abnormal in their lives .
The recruitment strategy differs for different sets of people. Books have been written on how to brainwash people in different countries. For example:In turkey , where the local government is hostile to religious propaganda- the activities have to carried out with great risks. Devotees are first told to gain the trust of their associates there-by forming a strong bond of friendship. Once this is established only then should they try to infuse religious propaganda in the discussion. It usually starts with how Islam/Christianity is similar to Hinduism (in terms of practices and culture), how chanting is an inherent form of all religions etc.. Next the target is asked to chant the Hare Krishna maha mantra , along with their usual religious practices. Obviously they are asked to be secretive because devotees claim that people in a lower level of understanding will mistake it for brainwashing and will do something harmful.

Now, there are books, which detail how to go about doing the above. It details every step,every possible argument posed by the target. Its the naive who fall for such sweet talk and it is their dependents who suffer the most because of such activities.

Having established a good raport with the new students the bhaktas encourage them to intensify the practice of religion,along with their academics. This appeals to most students , as all of the problems noted earlier on is easily solved living in such a lifestyle.Usually at this stage the devotee maintains normal contact with his parents and but makes no mention of the regular interaction he is having with ISKCON devotees. At some point of time ,once the complete trust of the target is gained, he is asked to move in with the devotees and the brainwashing in complete.

The next section deals with the lifestyle of the devotees.

1 comment:

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