During a visit to Los Angeles for a political function, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, U.S. Congresswoman from Hawaii, addressed a crowd of about four thousand devotees and members of the public at the L.A. Rathayatra festival on August 4th.
Gabbard is currently campaigning for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States in 2020. According to USA Today, she was the most Googled candidate after both the first and second Democratic debates. It remains to be seen if she will qualify for the third debate on September 12th in Houston, Texas.
Rep. Gabbard has also described herself as a “Vaishnava Hindu” and was the first Congresswoman to swear in to office using the Bhagavad-gita.
“I follow the Gaudiya Vaishnava branch of Hinduism,” she said during a CNN Town Hall Meeting earlier this year. “And the teachings and the practice that I live in my everyday life… is this practice of what’s called Bhakti Yoga and Karma Yoga. Bhakti Yoga is developing a loving relationship with God. It’s a very deeply personal relationship. And Karma Yoga is seeing how can I dedicate my energy and skills and time into the service of others.”
After Tulsi’s aide connected with ISKCON L.A. temple president Svavasa Das, Tulsi spoke for about five minutes from the main stage at the Rathayatra festival on Venice Beach.
The speech, given at 2:30pm, is included here in full:
“Haribol! Jaya Jagannath! Jaya Sri Krishna! Jaya Srila Prabhupada! We came here straight from the airport, and I’m grateful to join all of you as we celebrate Lord Jagannath today, and as we celebrate God’s unconditional love for every single one of us.
I have served as a soldier now for over sixteen years. I spent two deployments to the Middle East, and I served in Iraq in 2005 during the height of the war, in a field medical unit. And during that time, I saw every single day the high human cost of war, and also understood in a very real way how little time we have here in these bodies in this life. That at any time our moment can come.
There was a big sign at one of the main gates to our camp that read, “Is today the day?” Every single day reminding us that any day our time could come. Now as this was true for us there, it’s as true for us here today. We’ve seen in the news the shootings that occurred late last night in Dayton, Ohio – the people who lost their lives there; the shootings in El Paso; the shootings that are taking the lives of people. Ever a reminder that we never know when our moment can come.
I found great strength and shelter during my time serving overseas just as I do now, in the teachings that Lord Krishna shares with us in the Bhagavad-gita, about the eternality of the soul, and the unconditional love that he has for all of us. And how the deepest happiness that we can have in our lives – I’ve experienced this in my own life – is when we dedicate our lives in loving service to God, and in service to others.
So while my path of service is going through politics and public service, every one of us, we can make that choice in our own lives, to truly live and practice bhakti yoga and karma yoga every single day. Whether it’s business, or politics or education, or healthcare, whatever it is, we know that this is where real happiness can be found, and real success in life lies.
I am ever grateful for the wisdom and the teachings and the strength that Krishna has gifted to us through His message to Arjuna. These universal teachings that apply to us regardless of race, or religion, or where we come from, or any of the things that are too often used to divide us in this world. We draw strength from Krishna’s love, and the love that we share with each other, and recognize this is how we come together and heal the wounds that are inflicted – how we come together as people, as spiritual souls, inspired by that love every single day.
Enjoy the rest of your celebration here today – Jaya Sri Krishna! Jaya Lord Jagannath! Jaya Gurudeva! Haribol! Thank you so much!”
The speech was punctuated with several rounds of applause, and when Tulsi descended the stage, so many people approached her that it reportedly took her half an hour to make her way through the crowd.
“She talked to individual people, who thanked her, said they’re going to vote for her, and that she was really speaking the truth,” Svavasa Das says. “The crowd was very happy to see her, and amazed that she came to the Rathayatra and spoke so nicely about Lord Krishna. I think for most of us as devotees, it’s kind of a refreshing feeling to have a presidential candidate who has belief in the Bhagavad-gita and in Krishna.”