Back in 1972, when the Hare Krsna movement first acquired land for a temple in Nairobi, some members of the congregation thought the devotees were setting up in the wrong place. The land was near the center of the city, with its busy atmosphere and traffic. Better to select a calm, quiet location in the suburbs.
"I suggested to Srila Prabhupada some locations I thought would be more suitable," recalls Mr. Jayant Ruparel, a prominent agent in real estate. "But he told me, 'You don't understand. You are thinking to go far away from the people, but I am thinking to be in the middle of them.' "
So the movement set up its temple, and the programs there grew, so that over the last few years the devotees saw the need for a new temple to keep pace with the growth.
They began looking for land, found several good sites, and tried to make a deal for the best one of them. But the deal fell through and every time they tried for another site, the same thing happened.
So finally the devotees decided to stay right where they were, and then everything began falling into place. Donors came forward with funds and materials, engineers and architects offered their services, and soon the new temple was well on its way.
The temple, with its new asrama, meeting hall, and guest house, opened last November 19.
"Open the Doors to Your Heart"
To advertise the opening of the temple, the devotees put a twelve-page insert in the Daily Nation, Nairobi's largest newspaper. The cover of the insert showed the temple doors opening to reveal the Radha-Krsna Deities, Radha-Bankebihari. The caption: "Open the Doors to Your Heart and Let Govinda In." The insert included articles on vegetarianism, Srila Prabhupada, chanting Hare Krsna, and Hare Krishna Food for Life. Here are some of the many letters the devotees received in response to the insert:
Please, we are very much interested to learn more about the Hare Krishna temple, how to let Govinda in, and how to be among your devotees.
2nd Brigade Headquarters
The Kenya Army
I am very much interested in your Food for Life Program. Although I come from a rural community and there is not much I can contribute, if you feel that a donation of one or two acres can be of assistance to you I shall be happy to give it. If there is any other way you feel I can be of any assistance, please contact me. Meanwhile, I leave you with the chanting of the Lord's holy names: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Andrew K. Waitutu
I read information about the Hare Krishna Society in the Daily Nation, and my heart was opened to a new spiritual and intellectual awareness. I was particularly moved by the article on vegetarianism and its spiritual dimension, which helps us develop a natural appreciation and love of God.
Kaimosi Teachers College
I was greatly impressed by your educative, enlightening, and intellectually stimulating article on the subject of vegetarianism which appeared in the Daily Nation. I must add that I was fascinated by the articles on Krsna as a whole.
Having been born in a Christian family, I must admit I have always been suspicious of the practices and intentions of any religion or movement that did not believe in Christ. But having gone through your articles, I was surprised to learn that your teachings are not in any way basically at variance with Christian teachings, as they are also inspired by love, not only for human beings but also for animals. I would like to request more information on the Krishna movement.
George Edwin Omouk
I am a Christian church pastor, and I firmly believe in God and Jesus Christ. I am in charge of four church congregations in Nyambena District of Eastern Province. I was very much touched by a story with your beliefs which appeared in the Daily Nation.I was particularly impressed with your article on vegetarianism.
As church pastors we preach, "Love your neighbor," as Jesus said to love your neighbor as yourself. I now come to understand from your article that Jesus did not only mean human beings but animals also. It is a matter of fact that the other day I witnessed the slaughter of a camel for meat. It is certainly true that it underwent a lot of suffering, and most of us who were there had to run away, as we felt some mercy for this poor beast.
Your article I have gone through several times, and as from now I will teach my Christians this doctrine to avoid eating any meat and to extend our love to all God's creatures.*
I wish for all Christians to be vegetarians, but to help me in this effort I kindly request you to please furnish me with any literature you might have available on this subject.
God bless you and your work.
Yours in the service of Christ,
Rev. Ambrose Gichunge
Bread of Life Mission
Eastern Kenya Diocese
* Pastor's emphasis.