It is with great sadness that we report that Reverend Dr. Kenneth R. Cracknell, a Methodist Christian scholar, theologian, professor, and friend of ISKCON passed away on October 26, 2022.
Kenneth was a was a British specialist in interfaith dialogue and the Christian theology of religions. His career included pioneering the interfaith relations work of the British Council of Churches, teaching at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, and at Brite Divinity School, Texas, from where he retired in 2007 as Distinguished Professor of Theology and Global Studies.
Appointed the first head of Interfaith Relations for the British Council of Churches in 1978, Dr. Cracknell traveled around the world facilitating conversations and collaborative work between religious groups, some that had histories of animosity toward one another.
Among his many books and articles are “Justice, Courtesy and Love: Theologians and Missionaries Encountering World Religions, 1846-1914,” Epworth, 1995; “In Good and Generous Faith--Christian Response to Religious Pluralism,” Peterborough: Epworth, 2005; and “An Introduction to World Methodism,” Cambridge University Press, 2005, co-authored with his wife, Dr. Susan J. White.
Dr. Cracknell first spent time with Hare Krishna devotees in 1987, when he met
Shaunaka Rishi dasa, who was then ISKCON Ireland's Public Relations Officer. Shaunaka invited Kenneth to visit the ISKCON temple on Inis Rath, a small island in
Ireland. Staying for a week, Cracknell both learned of the history and depth of Gaudiya
Vaishnava teachings, yet challenged ISKCON, and Shaunaka, to move out of its isolationist tendencies and enter more firmly into the world of interfaith dialogue and exchange.
Shaunaka Rishi: “Kenneth was my mentor, my guru in interfaith. He was thoughtful, compassionate, bright, sensitive, and kind in all his dealings. A gentleman, a scholar, and a devotee. He did so much to help other devotees, in Europe and the US, that Krishna, also being kind, is no doubt, offering him more service and love—and always will.”
Dr. Cracknell’s first article written for ISKCON was published in the June 1996 (Volume 4) of the ISKCON Communications Journal (ICJ), entitled “The Four Principles of Interfaith Dialogue and the Future Of Religion.” Therein he described:
“My involvement with the International Society for Krishna Consciousness stems first of all from dealing with issues of religious freedom. Some proposals being put before the European Parliament in Strasbourg in 1984 were designed to limit the powers of so-called sects and new religious movements to make and keep converts in Western Europe. These proposals, clearly inspired by the anti-cult movement, were so half-baked as to be ludicrous…..As a servant of the British Council of Churches at that time, I wrote a position document for our Executive Committee. The church leaders who composed that Executive saw immediately the threat to religious freedom…and supported the stand I was about to take. Thus I became the friend of all new religious movements whose only offence was to want to proclaim their message and to gather communities of believers.” (To read the full article go to https://www.iskconcommunications.org/iskcon-journal/vol-4/the-four-principles)
In Volume 8 of the ICJ, June 2002, Dr. Cracknell wrote of his growing appreciation for the contributions of ISKCON, and its bhakti tradition: “Could it really be that our best partners in Christian-Hindu dialogue are those of the bhakti traditions? Could we not, from our Christian point of view, deem it as providential that Srila Prabhupada so brilliantly preached among Westerners? Might we not say that God has, through this man's teaching, raised up a new generation of interpreters of bhakti devotionalism? Could this not even be a new kairos, or turning point, in the long and chequered history of Christian-Hindu relations?” he wrote.
Kenneth and his wife, Susan White, herself a professor emerita of Brite Divinity School where she taught worship and spirituality, participated as senior scholars and faith leaders in several of the annual meetings of the Vaishnava-Christian Dialogue in Washington, D.C. There Kenneth spoke of Protestant writers in India who first met Vaishnava sadhus and appreciated their devotional commitment and realizations; as well as urging participants to benefit with open hearts from each other’s theological insights.
In his later years, Kenneth and Susan both retired from university teaching and moved to Vermont, USA, where they established Sutton Books, an online book selling company that housed, as of 2022, 40,000 titles. There, in the small village of Norwich, Vermont, Kenneth and Susan hosted ISKCON’s Communications Director, Anuttama dasa, and his wife Rukmini devi dasi, for several days each summer.
“It’s been our great honor and pleasure to know Kenneth and Susan and to have them as close friends,” said Anuttama dasa. “I loved to hear Kenneth speak of his own deep spiritual insights and love of God, and his great appreciation of other faiths. He was a genuine teacher, mentor, and sadhu. We learned immensely from him. I will miss him dearly,” said Anuttama.
“Kenneth was a gracious and godly man,” said Rukmini devi dasi. “It was a delight to hear him speak. He told me that his first profound experience of religious diversity was when he went to Africa as a young missionary to bring God to the African people, but instead discovered that ‘God was already there at work;’ he was amazed at the sophisticated theological understandings the local people held. That experience, he explained, changed the trajectory of his life,” said Rukmini.
The last academic conference that Professor Cracknell attended was “The Worldwide Krishna Movement: Half a Century of Growth, Impact, and Challenge,” held at the Harvard University’s Center for Study of World Religions in 2016. The conference marked the 50th Anniversary of ISKCON and was hosted by one of the world’s preeminent forums for religious study and dialogue. In an interview during the conference with film maker Krishna lila devi dasi, of Karuna Productions, the good professor spoke of his appreciation for ISKCON, and the contributions of Srila Prabhupada. To watch that interview and learn more about the deep affection of this important scholar held for ISKCON, devotees of Krishna, and interfaith dialogue in general, go to https://www.iskconcommunications.org/resources/photos-gallery/videos-gallery
It is with great sadness that we report the passing of Her Grace Kalindi Devi Dasi.
In her absence, our heart is burning by the constant raining fire. Her loyalty; her dedication was as firm as the stars and faith in Guru and Krishna was as firm as the mountains. Words fail to describe her glorification; her greatness. This great Vaishnavi mother's presence means the presence of Guru and Krishna's majesty. She always strived to fulfill her vows under the orders of her spiritual master, His Holiness Subhag Swami Maharaj, how to please Gurudev more, and more mightily. She was always active at any service to please her spiritual master. She always did the most delicate work with utmost perfection. Kalindi Devi's heart blossomed with a wonderful, soft tenderness of a flower. She was always carrying this beauty in her demeanor in her every word. From the youngest devotee to the great Vaishnavas were honoured by her with a gentle aura, mixed with dignity. Her home was indeed a beautiful temple. Anyone who entered that home temple would never come back hungry. She would spontaneously look at the door, waiting for a devotee to arrive.
Kalindi Devi Dasi used to discuss her spiritual master and God with a very humble heart, in a simple humble voice. Sometimes she used to shed tears while talking about the glories of her Guru Maharaj. She spent the rest of her life in complete Krishna Consciousness. She spontaneously took all risks and continued the preaching activities till the last breath of her life. Kalindi Mataji's preaching activities were so perfect that she made many devotees, and helped guide them to becoming initiated devotees. Kalindi Devi Dasi's presence was so active, lively and so pure that it can bring about a radical change in the life of many. She was truly a precious gem. There was no trace of anger in her behavior. This legendary Vaishnavi dedicated her life to serving Guru and Krishna.
With the prayers of all Vaisnavas who knew her, we bid farewell to Kalindi Devi Dasi.
At 8:33 am on August 11th in Sri Mayapur, the beloved disciple of His Holiness Jayapataka Maharaja and servant of Srila Prabhupada, His Holiness Bhakti Nityananda Swami, left his body. It is with great sadness that we announce this news, as he has been very dear and important to all of us in our Mayapur community. He has given many years of tireless and steadfast service to ISKCON Mayapur, and the amount of people he was able to bring to Krishna Consciousness has made him truly a leader in Mahaprabhu’s preaching mission.
Urvasi devi dasi passed away last week in Ojai California and will be cremated. She was a beloved member of the ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) movement, worldwide. Below is a compilation of memories and tributes to Urvasi devi dasi.
In her honor, a Vanipedia page was created of the letter Srila Prabhupada wrote to her parents, the Kimmels.
From Giriraj Swami
Urvasi Dasi was Srila Prabhupada’s beloved disciple and my dear godsister. His Divine Grace said that when a Vaishnava departs, we feel simultaneously happy and sad—sad because we will miss the Vaishnava’s association, and happy because we know they have gone to serve Krishna.
In the last few months, I have had several programs at my ashram in Carpinteria, and Urvasi attended—and enjoyed—all of them. Her presence—her humanity and divinity—uplifted our spirits and consciousness. She was always pleased to attend our programs, and we were happy to attend hers.
Peter Burwash, a Canadian-born, world-renowned tennis champion, business entrepreneur, leadership consultant, and affectionate friend of ISKCON passed away on Thursday, July 7 at the age of 77, in California, his longtime home.
Peter was a man of remarkable skills and talents. He began as a professional hockey player (with the St. Louis Blues) switched his attention to tennis, and went on to become the winner of 19 International Singles and Doubles Titles. He later founded Peter Burwash International (PBI), which for fifty years has been the world’s largest tennis management company, operating in 30-plus countries.
Govinda Madhava Prabhu left this world on June 9th at his London residence where he had been living since 2005 with his wife Uma Dutt. The news saddens us all the more as he has always been a very devoted Vaishnava to the mission of Srila Prabhupada.
Born in Brazil 44 years ago, Anderson Malta met the devotees in 1990 and participated in cultural programs organized by the Goura Vrindavan community in the Vale da Graúna region there, he met Param Gati Swami who gave him initiation.
On Ram Navami, at ISKCON Juhu, His Grace Payonidhi Das suffered and tragic accident and left this world. Originally from Orissa, he was a loving servant of Lord Jagannatha.m and he was a full-time resident living as a Brahmachari (monk). He was currently serving in ISKCON Kharghar but had traveled to attend the temple's Ram Navami celebration.
It has been in the news that Oscar winning actor, William Hurt, passed away Sunday, March 13th from cancer. What was not reported is that he spent one week in the guest house of our ISKCON Atlanta temple in 2010.