Updated: Jan 29
When I was 16, I traveled by myself to California., I had traveled quite a bit at that point in my young life but I had not traveled alone. I was at JFK airport waiting for my flight, browsing through the newsstand for some magazines to read.
I was painfully shy, and generally would prefer not to be noticed, but …noticed I was.
When I first caught sight of the Hare Krishnas at the airport, I was intrigued by their look and overall joyfulness and they stood out quite a bit so they were not hard to notice. They were dressed in white and golden robes, and they all had their heads shaved, both men and women although there were more men than women and were singing, actually they were chanting but I didn't know about chanting back then. I had heard of them but had no idea who they were. I was intrigued by their look and overall joyfulness, they all had the same serene expression to their faces and a look of compassion when they looked around or spoke to people. I also noticed that they were approaching people in groups, kind of swarming around them, which made me wary. This was back in the late 70’s though, so Flower Children and Hippies were not an anomaly, maybe just a curiosity. In any case, I was on my way to California to be with my best friend who was quite the amazing Hippy! So I guess I had a bit of that within me, I just didn't recognize it yet.
I didn't know anything about Hare Krishna’s, I knew who they were but not what they stood for or what they were selling, since it clearly looked as if they were selling something. They made me very nervous - I remember that I wanted them to notice me but also that I didn't want to be seen. They were so very joyful but it was also clear that the general population were very stand offish. Most people looked the other way or shook their heads to the the daisies that the Krishnas were handing out. They had already spotted me and before I could fade away they had surrounded me, I was nervous but I was not scared. They were kind, and sweet. They handed me flowers ,which I took and talked to me about things that I did not understand - an entire world of wonder and magic that I had not ever heard of. I thought that perhaps they saw something special in me, that maybe they thought I was special. ‘What were they saying, who was this Krishna and what did they want from me? I was just a young girl and had nothing to offer…’ They gave me a large hardcover book and they asked me to read it. I LOVED books and I thought that was quite an impressive gift!
The cover had a drawing of a beautiful blue joyful man on the cover. I took the book that they offered and I held onto it tightly. I didn't know what it was and why it was important but somehow I knew it was.
Funny how life guides us directly to where we need to go!
Had I known…. Had I truly understood who the Krishnas were, I would have run away with them instantly. But I did not know then what I know now.
The book they gave me was the Bhagavat Purana, a book that I would not read for many many years later. Somehow I knew that the book was important and I kept it all of those years. When I finally did read it in my mid -30’s (along with the Bhagavad Gita) it changed my life forever.
Many people have a distorted or misunderstood idea of who the Hare Krishna's are. They are often looked upon as a cult out to sell you something and to lead you astray into an ungodly place.
Here is my attempt to shed some light on these lovely beings of God.
Who are the Hare Krishna's
The Hare Krishna movement is a branch of Hinduism, formally known as Gaudiya Vaishnavism. Its name comes from its chant — Hare Krishna — which devotees repeat over and over. It was started in the 16th century by Sri Chaitanya of Bengal (1486-1533). He emphasized the worship of Krishna and believed that chanting the names of God was so powerful that in addition to one's own meditation on them, they should also be chanted in the streets for the benefit of all.
This is so beautiful! If you ever have the chance to be around these lovely people, please join them in their chanting of Gods name and rejoice in love and joy, or at the very least listen to them. You will not regret it.
Swami Prabhupada brought the movement — formally called the International Society of Krishna Consciousness — to the U.S. in 1966. Public dancing and chanting became its trademark. Woohoo!!!
How does the Hare Krishna movement differ from other strains of Hinduism?
Devotees of the Hare Krishna movement consider themselves monotheistic, which is the same for hinduism, that there are many names for God but only one God. According to the sacred texts, Bhagavad Gita and Bhagavat Purana, Krishna is the supreme God, who oversees millions of demigods — who are seen as administrators of the universal affairs. These demigods are needed to run creation. They have certain roles, — these demigods serve at the pleasure of Krishna.
Krishna is often accompanied by Radharani, the female aspect or counterpart of Krishna.
The Hare Krishna understanding is that when Hindus pray to Krishna, or when members of the Abrahamic faith pray to Allah or Yahweh, we are all praying to one and the same person, this is the same for Hindu’s.
In addition, the Hare Krishna movement has adapted itself to the West. For example, Swami Prabhupada provided an equal opportunity to both men and women to become priests in the worship rituals — a privilege reserved only for men in traditional Hinduism(this is not actually a Hindu belief but an Indian one) . Perhaps because of its sensitivity to Western ethos, the Hare Krishna movement has been more successful than more traditional Hindu branches in attracting non-Indians into its culture, philosophy and practices, which is wonderful because the more the merrier!
What is the Hare Krishna mantra?
“Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare
Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”
Here is a link to the Hare Krishna Mantra below, also known as the Maha Mantra , Maha means “the Great”! https://youtu.be/3Hx0umh_uiA
I have personally recited this mantra for years and will continue to do so for many more. It’s very powerful , you will quickly see why so many do so. It is said that to chant the Maha Mantra is to invite the Lord Krishna to dance upon your tongue and you will feel joy and abundance all around.
This is one of the most beautiful and profound mantras that there is! Repeat it always and see how your world changes.
The word "mantra" means to deliver or free the mind. The word "Hare" refers to the divine feminine potency of God. "Krishna" means the all-attractive one, and "Rama" is the reservoir of all pleasure.
Hare Krishnas believe that the sound vibration of the mantra has a direct impact on the soul. According to a philosophy of ancient India, the soul is spiritually asleep. Just as an alarm clock awakes a sleeping person, the Hare Krishna mantra awakens the soul to its spiritual reality — whereby it can experience its eternal connection with Krishna or God. And devotees believe that a person need not understand the language of the mantra, because the sound vibration transcends the sensual, mental and intellectual levels of consciousness and puts one directly in touch with the spiritual.
Reincarnation and Karma
In Hinduism, karma — what a person creates for his past acts — proceeds not only from what he has done in the present life but from past lives as well. According to Hindu philosophy, human beings are not always reborn as human beings.(perhaps I will speak about this in another article!) Some are, but others are promoted to still higher forms, forms beyond our present understanding others are degraded to lower species. One's future status depends on whether one lives in harmony with nature's laws or violates them. Only human beings can gain freedom from the cycle of birth and death.
According to the Bhagavad Gita, whatever a person thinks about at the time of death determines what sort of body he or she will take in the next life. Those death-bed thoughts shape the next body — what sort of eyes, nose, ears and tongue, as well as what sort of hands and legs and other bodily features one will have.
And what one thinks about at death depends largely on one's thoughts and actions during life.
Why don't Hare Krishnas eat meat?
Hindus believe that animals are children of Krishna, created by God with a soul. Therefore, to eat an animal is an affront to God. Moreover, it's bad for your consciousness: Because the slaughter of animals is violent, when you eat meat, fish or fowl, you are subjecting yourself to more violent thoughts and, perhaps, violent behavior.
In Hinduism, cooking is intertwined with spirituality. Hare Krishnas believe they are cooking for the pleasure of God. They never sample the food they are cooking, since it must be offered to Krishna first. Moreover, Hindus believe that food absorbs the consciousness of the cook.
If you are angry and elbow deep in the lentils or kneading dough for chapattis (unleavened bread), Hindu philosophy claims that your emotions are transferred to the food — and then to the person who eats the meal. It is one reason monks don't go to restaurants, because it raises the question, "Whose consciousness are you eating today?”
I hope that this has enlightened and softened you to the Hare Krishnas!
If not here is one more story….
When my son Mingo was a young man, he spent some time in India and also worked for Jivamukti Yoga in the City where he got to know a young woman that was a Hare Krishna. She opened him up to the lovely heart and soul of the Hare Krishna's and taught him about their lifestyle and how she had come to know and honor this faith which so much dedication. His heart opened to their spirit.
A few years later, I was with my son, Mingo at the town fair in Stratford, where I had a booth promoting Yoga and Meditation, That day, we were standing there and he saw a man walking down the crowded road, this man was dressed in the traditional Hare Krishna clothing and was wearing the necklace and forehead drawings that are known to be connected to their movement. My son Mingo did not hesitate when he saw the Hare Krishna , he looked at me and said Hare Krishna! And then he called out “Hare Krishna" to the man in the road and waved his arms with great enthusiasm !! He raised both arms and repeated it again and without hesitation ran out to greet him. There was no pause, there was just the knowing that this man would welcome him as Mingo greeted him with an open heart and smile. This was so beautiful! So wonderful to see the instinctual unguarded reaction to another loving being . My son and this Hare Krishna spoke for a few minutes and then embraced. My son returned with a smile so grand that it made me smile, and in turn I hope it has made you smile as well. That is all.
Hare Krisna Hare Krisna Hare Krisna !!!
Hare Om Tat Sat