As the USA now has the highest number of Coronavirus cases in the world above Italy and China, 22 states – half the country – have issued “shelter-in-place” or “stay-at-home” orders to try to “flatten the curve” of the virus. The orders require most people, apart from essential personnel, to work from home and only go out for groceries, medicine, or to take a walk for exercise, during which they are recommended to maintain a distance of at least six feet from each other. Schools are online, all non-essential businesses are closed, and grocery stores only allow a limited number of people in to shop at a time, causing long lines outside.
This unprecedented environment has also created an unprecedented state of affairs for ISKCON, with all events cancelled, and temples across North America closed to the public, as well as to devotees except temple residents and some rare essential personnel.
Faced with a reduced number of devotees to carry out services, no funds from the hundi (public donation box), and a lack of in-person association, it is undoubtedly a very challenging time. Yet temple leaders are tackling the challenges head on, creating innovative ways to continue services and reach out to the community, helping affected members, finding the silver lining, and taking solace from a deep philosophical tradition.
We spoke to four temple managers across North America to see how they were handling the changes caused by the COVID-19 Pandemic.