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Friday, June 1, 2012

An Afternoon of Devotion at my Local Hare Krishna Temple


                                                
     This picture is of a harmonium, which is one of the primary instruments used in kirtan (chanting). Google images.


The door opened and a young woman in beautiful traditional Indian clothing ushered me warmly in. I took off my shoes and before long Jiva greeted me from the doorway. I embraced her quickly, refreshed at seeing someone familiar while in the midst of such a new experience. It had been a few weeks before my first visit to the temple which was merely to purchase japa mala beads for meditation. During my brief encounter with Jiva and her husband I had become curious about the beliefs of Hare Krishnas and had asked her many questions. I had enjoyed our conversation and felt intrigued to learn more and also come back to experience one of their services for myself.

As we approached the entrance to the temple room Jiva explained that they were just finishing their Tulsi ceremony and inquired whether or not I wished to take part. I said yes and soon found myself falling into line with others who were chanting while walking around a circle. In the center of the circle was a stand that stood about three feet tall and on it was placed a tulsi plant with a small bowl and spoon beside it.

As I walked my circuitous route I noted my surroundings. The room of the temple looked smaller than the last time I had visited. This was because a curtain had been drawn in front of where the deities were displayed. Intermittently throughout the service until the very end I noticed a devotee who would keep going behind the curtain and ring reverently what sounded like bells.

Flashes of my former life as a Christian blazed across my awareness. I had the quick thought that if I was asked if I wanted to participate in such a ritual just a year or so ago I would have outright refused. In fact, I would have never put myself in such a position to be asked in the first place. I would have considered entering a place of worship other than one that which glorified Jesus as being heresy and a sin and would have actually been very much afraid for the fate of my soul chanting the names of foreign gods. I consciously reminded myself that I no longer believe that way, shaking the small residual unease clean from my conscience. Blazing bright in my awareness was the truth that God is not so small as to dwell  in one religion only but dwells in the hearts of all sentient beings and is expressed in countless of ways.

My intention at the temple that Sunday afternoon was to witness and participate in how Hare Krishnas worship and tap into an awareness of the Divine. I wanted to learn all I could from those that seemed to find so much peace and happiness while on their spiritual path towards God. It was my desire to immerse myself with my surroundings and participate to my fullest capacity, leaving any potential inhibitions with my shoes at the door.

As we walked around in the circle Jiva came to me and instructed me to dip a tiny spoon in the bowl of water that was laid beside the tulsi plant and then let the water fall on the fingers of my opposite hand, allowing the excess water to simply fall on the smooth hard wood floor below. With the hand that had just gotten wet I dipped the spoon in again and poured its small contents onto a delicate leaf. I then resumed my position with the others, chanting and circling.

When we stopped the tulsi ritual we continued to chant. A friendly devotee handed me a small booklet to help me with the words which were unfamiliar and in sanskrit. Some might think that all that Hare Krishnas chant is the mahamantra but going to the service eroded that assumption from my conception of them. There were lots of other chants. Though of course, the mahamantra was emphasized.

Not long after mats were spread out all over the floor and I found a position on one of them as those around me settled onto their own. The same devotee handed me a copy of the Bhagavad Gita As It Is. That is the official translation devotees use of the Bhagavad Gita. It was translated by his divine grace, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the man who started the krishna consciousness movement in the west in the late 60's.  The temple president Pyari Mohan Prabhu then began the Bhagavad Gita class. As an interesting sidenote he is also Jiva's husband.

Unlike most sermons where the congregation's role is more like that of an audience the Bhagavad Gita class was much more intimate and interactive. Our teacher read from parts of the Gita which we repeated aloud and then read whatever notes the Gita would have on those verses and then discuss the theme of the selected verses. There was much back and forth between students and teacher. I appreciated such an exchange because it really seemed to foster true understanding. Questions weren't jotted down in a notebook to be perhaps emailed to the pastor at a later time only to receive a sometimes brief and unsatisfactory reply. Instead answers were immediately given and oftentimes in a warm and encouraging manner.

A principle that was discussed that resonated with me was the fact that we must seek out and be focused and aware of the eternal. That it is destructive to one's spiritual progress to become attached to the impermanent material stuff of life that the world offers us. That which quickly fades and tarnishes. Instead, our hearts should be set on and devoted to the Ultimate Truth, to Krishna/God. That is something that I have been actively working on in my personal life. 

Another thing that was emphasized was the need to recognize that God is personal and has a personality. I have to admit, that this is one area I struggle with accepting and understanding. Perhaps I always will.  During this time I listened intently as our teacher described how he once practiced Buddhism and meditated hoping to achieve a oneness with Brahman. This pursuit did not satisfy him completely and he still felt spiritually restless after years of pursuing this path. He noted that Brahman is only one aspect of God. There are three: Brahman, Supersoul and Personal God/Krishna. To neglect the personal aspect of God was not to achieve full realization into God's nature and a complete relationship with Him (Krishna consciousness).  For really, how can one have a relationship with something impersonal? I thought a lot about what he had to say, noting that many I've talked to and read while studying the Hare Krishna religion  have noted that they went from a nonpersonal to a personal belief in God after studying Buddhism and other eastern philosophies for years and believing in Brahman exclusively. That's kind of where I am right now. Seeing God in all and all in God. Seeing Him more as an Ultimate Reality of all things in which when we die we merge back into. A creative energy full of love and compassion weaving reality together. Through meditation I have felt and had awareness of the deep interconnectedness that all of life shares.

The teaching that devotees should only associate with other devotees came up in the class. This is also something heavily endorsed in a book I am reading that Jiva gave me, "The Nectar of Instruction". I could see the point to that teaching in one sense. As a Christian I once held that belief for the most part myself. There are many reasons to associate with other believers of the same faith. Not only does it give one a sense of fellowship and encouragement but it also provides one with accountability which is necessary for anyone digging deep and pursuing their faith to its fullest. Relationships with fellow believers can be profoundly edifying. At the same time, I wonder what this means for a new devotee that perhaps wasn't raised in such a community and has almost all friends and family who are not devotees. I can imagine that this approach could lead to definite feelings of being isolated from once meaningful relationships. Also, wouldn't a great way of witnessing and allowing the positive effects of one's spiritual beliefs be to actually form relationships with nonbelievers? I'd love the opportunity to interview a devotee who was not raised in this faith but converted to adulthood, to hear both the blessings and challenges such a conversion brought about in their lives. Perhaps that's an idea for another post.

We resumed chanting after the class and I could feel this beautiful sense of peace, a joyful energy emanating from the center of my consciousness. It pushed itself up through layers of stubborn ego. This feeling of love, awareness of God, only breaks through into my awareness during times of meditation, mindfulness and chanting. It welled up and outward. I felt my spirit take flight. Incense drifted, dancing amidst the sound vibrations of all who chanted. Their faces beamed with peace and devotion. A woman walked around holding a platter with flames. I watched intently as she walked up to devotees. They would sweep their hands along the top of the flames then move them in a sweeping motion across their foreheads. I knew she was going to come to me and was nervous because I've always been wary of fire. It took me years to even use our grill!  I felt a sense of trust in the process as I observed that  nobody taking part seemed to be ablaze. When the platter made its way to me I took a breath and then did as all the others did, swiftly moving my hands along the top of it and moving my hands in a sweeping motion across my forehead. The woman simply moved on and I resumed my chanting unscorched.

When the service came to the end the only part I didn't participate in unfolded. Devotees all went to the deities and participated in a ritual. I didn't really know what was being done and since I had no understanding of the ritual along with the fact that devotees believe the deities embody actual gods, I thought it best for me to refrain. I didn't want to do something wrong and insult anyone or offend a deity.

The service concluded in traditional Hare Krishna style-with a feast. The Hare Krishna religion is often referred to as the "kitchen religion" because of its emphasis on food. Hare Krishnas are vegetarian but not only do they abstain from eating the flesh of other sentient beings they also first offer their food to Krishna in love and devotion. Since God is within all of His creations, both sentient and non-sentient, when one consumes even something like a plant, which to our knowledge is not conscious, that person will still accumulate negative karma. When one first offers their food to Krishna/God their food is purified and is completely karma free. This food is called prasada and it is what is offered after every temple service. It was truly a feast for a wide variety of food was offered. Everything from fresh fruit to ethnic Indian dishes to bread was served.

My original post,  Journey for Japa Beads , received the most comments my blog has ever gotten for any article. Among the comments were some great spiritual discussions with current Hare Krishna devotees along with some criticism towards the organization that runs the temples, ISKON. I would encourage anyone who might want to look into the religion to read through the comments and then investigate it for themselves. The best way is probably to visit your own local temple and experience things firsthand. Though perplexed and little disturbed by some of the criticisms I have to say my own personal experience was a very positive one.



Thoughts? I'd love to hear them! Please leave them in the comments section.
Thank you!






52 comments:

  1. I am so enjoying reading your experiences with this specific approach. I appreciate your open mindedness, your desire to ask questions for yourself and for us as you share what you're learning. You and I have discussed meditation on your FB wall, and it is a practice I find deeply valuable. I'm not sure that I have the discipline, nor the inclination for the rituals of chanting, but I find the learning process that you're sharing to be fascinating. Wonderful series so far, Jessica! <3

    - Dawn

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    1. Thank you so much Dawn. You are always so encouraging. :) I've enjoyed our conversations on fb and feel blessed to have you along for the journey. For sure, not every spiritual discipline is for everybody but it sure is fun sharing what we learn and experience with others who are also moving forward on their spiritual path. Thank you for stopping by. :)

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    2. That's exactly why I enjoy your blog so much! I get to experience your journey with you, and because you're similar in nature with your love of detail and research, I learn something, usually several somethings, every time I visit. The only frustration is that we don't live in the same town, because oh my, the girlfriend evenings we could have! Keep up the wonderful journey, chickadee. I'm right there with you. :)

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  2. I am glad Jessica that you had a memorable experience. I sounds almost exactly as it was for me, the first time I went to a Sunday program. It was a big holiday so there was much dancing too.

    I am one of those persons who became interested in becoming a Krishna devotee in adult life (I was 49 yrs old then) after 20 yrs practicing Buddhism. Your post touched on the main points of faith and practice that most new visitors question, so that is great. Our hope is that many persons will visit, learn some and leave with a positive experience regardless if they ever visit again or not. ISKCON is a branch of the Gaudya Vaishnava (or Hare Krishna) movement. It is the most widely known and most populous, but not exclusive. All the branches come from the sankirtan movement of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, now 500 yrs existing. It is a very interesting history of master/disciple lineage all the way to Srila Prabhupada, who came to the Western countries to spread Krishna consciousness.
    All in all, a wonderful post and I am glad that you felt the presence of Krishna/God in the temple room. Indeed, His presence is everywhere but often it is difficult to feel it while in the material state of mind. The various activities in the temple bring our minds around to His presence, as the chanting of the mahamantra does also, which is why it is so recommended. Hare Krishna!

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    1. Thank you so much David for commenting. I really appreciate the depth in which you respond. I find it really interesting that you became a devotee after practicing Buddhism that long. If you're ever up for an interview I'd love to ask you some questions sometime into your experience of becoming aware of Krishna consciousness and becoming a devotee.

      It was a really positive experience, one that I'm glad I endeavored on. I'd love to visit the temple again in the near future. You're right, the temple with its chanting, incense and energy of devotion from others in the room does create a conducive atmosphere where one can really open up to and experience God more fully, helping one center themselves in awareness of Him.

      Thanks again for stopping by.

      Hare Krishna :)

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  3. "He noted that Brahman is only one aspect of God. There are three: Brahman, Supersoul and Personal God/Krishna."
    Right away, Jessica, all the bells and whistles went off in my heart and soul. We are celebrating Trinity Sunday this weekend and I have just finished writing prayers for our contemporary service that acknowledge this divine mystery. A mystery, it seems, that moves powerfully and sincerely throughout all religions.
    I'm not one to put God in a box. For years, I taught seventh grade social studies which included exposing children to the the five major world religions. I did much research to make it authentic for them, and was more amazed by the similarities as opposed to the differences. And, I'll never forget my visit to a Hindu temple. Wow!
    I don't know if you are familiar with the book "Eternity in Their Hearts", but, though written by a Christian missionary, opens the door and our perspective to how God has prepared each and every one of us, no matter what our religious background, to receive His truth when we hear it. You might want to check this one out.
    What I saw most in your recounting of your experience here though, Jessica, was Jesus, the teacher, telling, then listening, and not judging. That's the image in my mind right now as I write to you. Jesus, who sacrificed everything because He so loved us.
    Blessings to you, my dear, and thank you for this marvelous reflection!

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    1. Martha,

      What a great connection and comparison to make-between Hinduism's three aspects of God in the Trinity! For sure, it's a testament to the true nature of the Divine that essential truths would be woven throughout all beliefs systems.

      I'll have to check out "Eternity in Their Hearts"...I hadn't heard of it but I'll put it on my list of books to check out...It sounds like a book worth reading....Thanks for telling me about it. :)

      Many blessings to you and yours,
      Jessica

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  4. I find your experience here truly fascinating sis. I have visited a Hindu temple but have not truly engaged in its practices. I felt immersed in what you have just shared. It's so wonderful because I could actually 'feel something' inside you that felt so alive!

    'Seeing God in all and all in God.' ~ I am glad that what you are experiencing along your spiritual journey through contemplation has found its place in here. I would like to know which questions you sought answers for have been resolved.

    This took me back to my experience in Europe when most of the youth would rather go to India to seek 'deep spirituality.' I would like to hear more sis :)

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    1. Thank you so much Melissa for stopping by.:)

      "I felt immersed in what you have just shared. It's so wonderful because I could actually 'feel something' inside you that felt so alive!"

      It was a really positive experience. :)

      I definitely plan on writing more. In a recent thread another reader asked me to share the changes I've experienced spiritually so far in more detail and I plan on doing that in a future post. I think that would be a perfect article to address the question you you posed. :)

      Many blessings sis,

      Jessica

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  5. Dear Jessica,
    Beautiful story and experience. It is very easy to see just how happy you are. May all your days be filled with such joy. Thanks for sharing my friend.

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    1. Thank you so much Andy for stopping by. I'm glad you enjoyed the post.
      ~ blessings

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  6. Beautiful story. A lot of information I didn't know. Thank you Jessica <3

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    1. Thank you so much Nikky. Glad you learned something new and enjoyed it. :)

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  7. Wow,

    Thank you for this post. I always enjoy reading about the Hare Krishna branch of Hinduism, but your account of time spent at your local temple is really special. I'm curious about your 'former life' as a Christian - what prompted the change?

    I look forward to reading more from you and connecting with you - found you via Blogplicity.

    Blessings,

    Casey

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    1. Thank you so much for stopping by Casey. I wrote a post that touches on the reason I decided to drop all labels associated with my spirituality. You can read it here:

      http://ascendingthehills.blogspot.com/2011/12/breaking-free-of-belief.html

      I do plan on writing a future post that addresses some of the questions that have been posed in this thread and recent ones..of which yours is similar. Keep an eye out...I'd love your thoughts once I post it! :)

      Blessings,

      Jessica

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  8. I know so little about this form of faith. Thank you so much for sharing your story and insight.

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    1. Thank you for stopping by Galen. I hope this gave you a bit of a glimpse of what it's like in one of their temples during their services. :) Glad you enjoyed it.
      ~ Blessings

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  9. “For really, how can one have a relationship with something impersonal?" We can’t Jessica, we can’t. There can be no true relationship with the material.
    I missed the Journey for Japa Beads because I was on a hiatus for a couple months, but I wondered where your adventurous spirit would lead you next dear Jessica;-) You should think about writing a spiritual memoir at some point in time. Certainly, you’ve explored different paths enough to have plenty of material.

    I recall you saying you wanted to be an astronaut as a child, and explore the unknown. Just look at you now, still exploring!

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  10. Thank you Debra....It's so great to see you in the blogosphere! I was wondering, but figured as much that you were away on a hiatus. I hope you enjoyed your time away and find yourself refreshed and renewed from your time off.

    "I recall you saying you wanted to be an astronaut as a child, and explore the unknown. Just look at you now, still exploring!"

    I don't think I'll ever be done exploring...the journey never really ends...at least in this lifetime! :) There's always more aspects of the Divine to explore and discover.

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    1. Wow..just a week ago I never would have ever bothered to read this post...as you know, I consider myself a "Christian" (quotes because I don't necessarily like labels either but deep in my heart I feel that He is the Way, the actual personification of God on earth). I, too, would have been horribly uncomfortable honoring other "dieties" especially in statue form...it just rings too much of idolitry...anyway, I consider it a spiritual step for me to have even read this post. I always try to keep an open mind and an open heart when it comes to the Divine. It is so true that there are more similarities than differences when it comes the world's religion's. This business of semantics and doctrines has really gotten us all messed up, in my belief. I"m reading a very interesting book right now, "Eat, Pray, Love" and wonder if you've ever read it. If not, you should, I think, as the writer is also from New England and kind of reminds me, remotely, of you.
      Anyway, I, as always, feel there are no coincidences or accidents and am grateful for your posts. I admit, some of them have angered me but I've learned that when you feel strongly about something you must not turn from it because it is trying to teach you something. I don't think I'll be visiting a Hare Krishna temple any time soon but I encourage you on this journey. I recently read that our purpose is look for God like a man with his head on fire looks for water!! And that is all that matters.

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  11. Thank you so much Mary for your honesty. I think it's admirable how you moved outside your comfort zones to read this post. A spiritual step indeed...and I think it speaks of the confidence that you have in your chosen faith. For if one is really confident in their faith they won't be threatened about hearing or reading about other religions.

    I'll have to read that book you mentioned...I've heard others mention it before. Sorry that some of my posts have angered you...I get that reaction from others sometimes if it's any consolation. ;) As I mentioned, I give you much credit in stretching yourself and being so honest while doing so. May we all fervently seek after God and find Him wherever He leads us.

    Many Blessings,

    Jessica

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  12. Dear Jessica,

    I'm so glad you went back to the temple to experience it yourself.

    For those wishing to get an aural appreciation of congregational (as opposed to personal) chanting, you may download and listen to one of my favourite recordings here:
    http://dl.dropbox.com/u/20014791/144.mp3

    It starts quite meditatively but the tempo does pick up. You'll also hear the harmonium (and drums and cymbals), and it closes with one of our other prayers.

    Words to our main prayers may be found here:
    http://www.stephen-knapp.com/standard_hare_krishna_songs.htm


    As usual Jessica, you've correctly absorbed and understood most of what was going on!

    "The teaching that devotees should only associate with other devotees came up in the class." ... "I wonder what this means for a new devotee that perhaps wasn't raised in such a community and has almost all friends and family who are not devotees. I can imagine that this approach could lead to definite feelings of being isolated from once meaningful relationships."

    Imagine you listened to a particular genre of music (pop, classical, jazz, rock,....) but for whatever reason became disinterested, and/or interested in another, different genre. You'd make new friends within that new crowd. Some of your old friends would remain, perhaps through your shared interests or history with them outside of music. Others might disapprove, scorn or even criticise you for your new taste. Some may no longer connect with you at all, and others - as happens in material friendships in any case - may drift apart in the course of time.
    And, if you were to become accomplished in your new genre (i.e. as a musician), then you'd spend most of your time with others within it.

    Nectar of Instruction is actually quite an advanced text, and one I've not actually read myself. But from Srila Prabhupada's preface (paraphrasing):

    "As Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu left the Sikshashtaka, Rupa Gosvami gave us Upadesamrita (The Nectar of Instruction) so that we may become pure Vaishnavas." (emphasis added)

    So naturally, if you're reading a text that purports to helping you become a pure Vaishnava, it'll be pretty strict on the "dos" and "donts."

    For the public, visitors and new-comers, Srila Prabhupada would just encourage them to "chant, dance and eat." But for those who were serious - and in those days that meant temple residents - they were expected to adopt and fully follow the rules and regulations.

    "Also, wouldn't a great way of witnessing and allowing the positive effects of one's spiritual beliefs be to actually form relationships with nonbelievers?"

    Absolutely! However, one must be cautious. There are considered three stages of being a devotee - the beginner, whose faith is unsteady and may be easily swayed, the intermediate who is more sure and can mostly convince others, and the top-most devotee who is more highly (perfectly) situated, yet comes down to the second level for preaching purposes.

    So, yes, ultimately we have this wonderful thing that we want to share with others, but let's first be fixed up ourselves. As Lord Krishna concludes in the Bhagavad Gita:

    "Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear." Bg 18.66

    In other words, when we are finally able to fully surrender to God it doesn't matter which path we have travelled to get to Him. But, until one gets to that stage, better find a path you can follow, and best to travel in the company of others.

    With best wishes,

    Hare Krishna,

    David.

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  13. Thank you so much David for stopping by and sharing your thought along with that audio file which I'd encourage everyone to listen to. I'm listening to it write now as I write this response. :) Downloading wasn't even necessary. It just sends you to a page where you can play it after you click the link..which was convenient.

    Thanks also for the website you cited of where one can read most of the chants that are chanted at services. I didn't know about that one!

    I think you bring up some great points about the whole issue of devotees only associating with devotees. It is, indeed natural, to associate with like-minded people. And for sure relationships formed in any of life's areas...spiritual, religious, hobby-related, familial...have a way of either growing deeper and stronger or dissipating.



    "So, yes, ultimately we have this wonderful thing that we want to share with others, but let's first be fixed up ourselves. "

    I do see the value of one building a strong foundation of knowledge and faith in their chosen path before engaging with others who are outside of it for there's always the risk of being influenced away from one's steady course forward. There's many currents in the river that threaten to take one here and there or perhaps even washing someone ashore where they are tempted to pitch a tent by the wayside instead of progressing forward in their realization of God. I'm sure other religions touch on this as well...I know Christianity does. Scripture again and again reinforces the importance of fellowship and proper association.

    Many Blessings,

    Hare Krishna!

    Jessica

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  14. Dear Jessica

    After reading davids response to you, I was alarmed at some points he made and decided to engage in a private discussion with him. David it seems is a disturbed individual who not only does not understand the Krsna philosophy having only been a devotee for two years and is not initiated. But is fanatical to the extent that he thinks it's of no consequence to prospective members that abuse goes on in iskcon. I asked him point blank to answer some key concerns I had and was the victim of torrents of abuse and denial.

    I strongly urge caution and a deeper investigation of their beliefs and history and present situation.

    David is a fanatic fundamentalist who admits that his sole aim is to convert you to his faith. Be most careful, and anyone else reading this blog

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    1. Dear Anonymous,

      If "private discussion" is your replies on Jessica's "japa beads" post then it certainly wasn't private, and I'd hardly say it passed for a "discussion" either. And certainly (trying to understand your words here, if this is what you are indeed trying to imply) I did not subject you to "torrents of abuse" , or "denial."

      Yes, as I've admitted (NOT denied!), there have been cases of abuse within ISKCON in the past, which came to light and have been dealt with and new zero-tolerance policies are now in place. Jessica has replied saying she was aware of it and ISKCON's steps towards dealing, compensating (as such a thing may be) and preventing it. Again, in the "japa beads" post, the parallel of the Catholic Church was brought up by someone else.

      I obviously know of no "abuse" that you imply (still) goes in within ISKCON, nor would/could I. That, again, is not a denial - or an admittance that such a thing is happening.

      Jessica is indeed very much investigating our beliefs herself. And I've certainly - nor have the other devotees Jessica has met - not been trying to "convert" Jessica. We have answered her questions, recommended her books to read, and she has attended the temple herself (again) of her own choosing.

      You have some details about my time and experience in ISKCON wrong, which is not surprising since you do not actually know me. I will also leave it up to my peers to judge my level of understanding of Krishna consciousness rather than you.

      I will enter into no further dialogue with you - not because of denial or that I cannot answer your allegations, as I'm sure you will crow - but because I have better things to do with my time.

      Jessica, and others, are more than capable of making judgements about ISKCON - and me, and my blog replies here - for themselves.

      Hare Krishna,

      David.

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  15. Dear Jessica

    After reading davids response to you, I was alarmed at some points he made and decided to engage in a private discussion with him. David it seems is a disturbed individual who not only does not understand the Krsna philosophy having only been a devotee for two years and is not initiated. But is fanatical to the extent that he thinks it's of no consequence to prospective members that abuse goes on in iskcon. I asked him point blank to answer some key concerns I had and was the victim of torrents of abuse and denial.

    I strongly urge caution and a deeper investigation of their beliefs and history and present situation.

    David is a fanatic fundamentalist who admits that his sole aim is to convert you to his faith. Be most careful, and anyone else reading this blog

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    1. Dear Anonymous,

      If "private discussion" is your replies on Jessica's "japa beads" post then it certainly wasn't private, and I'd hardly say it passed for a "discussion" either. And certainly (trying to understand your words here, if this is what you are indeed trying to imply) I did not subject you to "torrents of abuse" , or "denial."

      Yes, as I've admitted (NOT denied!), there have been cases of abuse within ISKCON in the past, which came to light and have been dealt with and new zero-tolerance policies are now in place. Jessica has replied saying she was aware of it and ISKCON's steps towards dealing, compensating (as such a thing may be) and preventing it. Again, in the "japa beads" post, the parallel of the Catholic Church was brought up by someone else.

      I obviously know of no "abuse" that you imply (still) goes in within ISKCON, nor would/could I. That, again, is not a denial - or an admittance that such a thing is happening.

      Jessica is indeed very much investigating our beliefs herself. And I've certainly - nor have the other devotees Jessica has met - not been trying to "convert" Jessica. We have answered her questions, recommended her books to read, and she has attended the temple herself (again) of her own choosing.

      You have some details about my time and experience in ISKCON wrong, which is not surprising since you do not actually know me. I will also leave it up to my peers to judge my level of understanding of Krishna consciousness rather than you.

      I will enter into no further dialogue with you - not because of denial or that I cannot answer your allegations, as I'm sure you will crow - but because I have better things to do with my time.

      Jessica, and others, are more than capable of making judgements about ISKCON - and me, and my blog replies here - for themselves.

      Hare Krishna,

      David.

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  16. ISKCON's gurus are some of the most corrupt and evil people on earth. They engage in, condone, and support the following activities:

    pedophilia
    rape
    murder
    violence
    prostitution
    drug use

    and the list goes on. ISKCON's gurus have a VERY DARK past history that includes all kinds of sick things, the worst of which is that over 1,000 children were molested in ISKCON and which the gurus supported and protected the people doing the child molestation, sometimes the ISKCON gurus themselves were doing it.

    All I can tell you is, please read Prabhupada's books and chant in the privacy of your own home. As an ex-ISKCON member, I truly regret every joining that organization. And if you join, years later down the line, if you ever wake up from the brainwashing that they program you with, you will also highly regret joining ISKCON.

    I say this for your good will.

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  17. Here is a quote from one recent lecture by a certain iskcon swami

    " it is our sole business to convert anyone and everyone despite their faith, Krsna consciousness is the only true path. Those that don't follow are destination for hell and are to be seen as most degraded and fallen. We must be strict on this point, iskcon is the only ship that will save us from the tsunami of material life"

    Can David clarify wether such statements are really ok? Because this is the essence of the iskcon faith and purpose, I know, I was in it for over twenty years and left after I saw the light

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    1. If this is indeed a correct quote then there would be no need to say "a certain iskcon swami" - he could be named and the lecture could be referenced, along with the context in which the exact statement was given.

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  18. There seems to be two anonymous people posting, I posted about David and the cultish quote, the one who quoted iskcon gurus being evil is another anon although I agree with what he is saying and there is ample evidence to prove his points

    Jessica, you are now vulnerable from being emotionally affected by the devotees, that's how they gain members, keep your guard and take solace on your family and friends, remain independent and continue your search

    However. I would say that a spiritual quest is a noble one that should be pursued by everyone

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    1. If there is "ample evidence" then it can be presented.

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  19. David, iskcons problems continue to this day, you are wrong, many leaders are amassing funds for themselves pretending it was for some iskcon project, some gurus have recently been caught out by disciples and only then did the gbc act, but still, many of the leaders continue to control the situation without considering the congregation. My step daughter was beat up by older kids in new vrindavan and the temple and child protection team does nothing , police had to intervene.

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    1. "many leaders are amassing funds" - again, allegations.

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  20. Davids refusal to enter into further dialogue is exactly what the iskcon leaders do, refuse to deal with the horrible issues that face iskcon today, there is global dissatisfaction with iskcon leadership, it's a fact, David, why do you think you have better things to do than confront the truth? Yes Jessica is capable of making her own mind up as long as people like you do not use cult dynamics to try and emotionally persuade her that iskcon is a good place and devotees are free from fault, David, even the people you classed as your own gurus have issues, hoarding of money and thinking its ok for men to beat their wives, this is double standards, a prime feature of iskcon that should be known by all, face the discussion, do not hide

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    1. I predicted that my statement about no further dialogue would lead to allegations against me. And, yes, strangely enough I DO have better things to do (and I have wasted enough of my time today already) than try to counter numerous unsubstantiated allegations on the Internet.

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  21. I would say there are thousands of substantiated claims of serious abuse in present day iskcon David, I would also say that there is a global dissatisfaction amongst its members, but I would not expect you to actually consider these as serious as the two people you told me are your gurus are also corrupt- Giriraj swami hoards millions of dollars, even though swamis are not allowed by tradition to hold money, what to speak of millions, and the lady urmilla you quoted as also being your guru was repeatedly beat by her husband and publicly stated that it's ok for a husband to beat his wife, shall I send the relevant links to Jessica or should I post them here for all to see? If one follows teachers of questionable character and takes their words as absolute, one cannot actually make rational decisions or engage in sane thought processes can they? I urge you to make your own investigation David, because this is the point I have been making to Jessica's you devotees are following blindly..following a philosophy you have not realised for yourselves. In fact the very essence of your philosophy is based on corruption, a corrupt god in fact. Krishna, the blue cowherd boy had hundreds of girlfriends in vrindavan India, Radha is his main girlfriend and he takes great pleasure in cheating on her with chandravali and making her cry..then Krishna leaves for dwarka and marries 16108 wives, promises his girlfriends in vrindavan that he will return but never does..go figure David, is this philosophy real? Your god cheats and takes great pleasure in making people beg for his mercy???? This is 2012 David, mythology is no longer useful, we must deal with reality not escape it, if the human species needs to survive, we must stop belief and act with reality and integrity. You are teaching Jessica that she should avoid non devotees and hang out with devotees, so in time she will resent her husband and see him as a demon as he won't chant hate Krsna right. Same way as you called me a demon for not being in iskcon anymore
    Get real David, you have fell for the usual cult dynamics and are now brainwashed into believing false things. Your emotional attachment to the philosophy has clouded your judgement and will do the same for Jessica, I speak from 21 years of experience, how about Jessica speaks with thousands of iskcon members and finds out for herself why they left? Maybe she should do the world a big service and conduct that investigation and make it public on these pages, maybe she should also know that prabhupada left his wife because she sold one of his scriptures as they needed the money for tea and food?

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  23. Everyone that comments on this thread is free to share their opinions but it is my request that everyone engage in dialogue with as much mutual respect as is possible. :)

    Anonymous (I think there are two people responding with that name..not sure...A little confused about that I have to confess!)...

    On the original post the issue of ISKON's past when it comes to the abuses that have taken place was addressed. This is why, at the end of this post I encouraged any considering pursuing the Hare Krishna religion and going to a temple to investigate and look into things for themselves and consider all information given.

    For the record, I don't feel as if anyone is trying to convert me, including David. I have appreciated the dialogue I have had with him relating to spiritual matters as it has allowed me to understand elements of his faith and beliefs more clearly. I do continue to read the material I have obtained...Srila Prabupada's books as I enjoy reading spiritual/philosophical books from a wide variety of views. I also draw a lot of inspiration and truth from the Bhagavad Gita and do genuinely feel my own personal views resonating with much of what I read since the Gita is very central to their teachings.

    I find it very unfortunate and tragic your past with ISKON and my heart goes out to you and all of those effected by its abuses made in the past. They are not condonable. What you share is certainly a testament to what many have had to endure ...a fate that sees to be shared by members of all faiths on one level or another for it seems no religion or organization is without scandal and corruption at one point or another. This is something that people have to remain vigilant about..being aware and persistent in identifying it when it happens.

    When it comes to associating with non-devotees...That was a question I had regarding devotees and who they and who they don't associate with. I don't consider myself a devotee...I was just curious about their reasons why devotees should primarily associate with devotees and honestly it seems like all religions have similar views for those who adhere to them. Those of like minds tend to congregate together...seems pretty simple. I have strong relationships with friends/family and would never resent them for not sharing any beliefs I might have. God touches everyone with His truth in different ways.

    Thanks everyone for responding....It is my hope that whatever further conversation, if any , continues on here that it will be in the spirit of learning from one another and sharing in an edifying manner. I think all who read this thread have much to digest in terms of the controversies surrounding ISKON, and I encourage them to investigate those, as I did in the last paragraph of this article.

    Thank you Anonymous and David....

    Namaste,

    Jessica

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  24. I am saying these things to try to help save Jessica's life. Srila Prabhupada, the Guru of ISKCON, is pure. But the institution ISKCON is VERY SICK, and full of very evil people, criminals, murderers, pedophiles, etc.

    NOT good association!

    The main issue here is how corrupt and evil the bogus ISKCON gurus are. There is a revival though of the original ISKCON. Google "ISKCON IRM" and get in touch with them, please, for your own good. The man who runs that can explain everything to you, and he may just as well save your life from being ruined by joining the bogus ISKCON, the ISKCON that worships child molesters as gurus.

    So in short, there are two ISKCONs. A bogus one and a true one. The IRM, the Ritvik ISKCON, is the TRUE ISKCON. They ONLY worship Srila Prabhupada, and do NOT worship these criminal bastards calling themselves "gurus" in modern day ISKCON.

    Avoid the bogus ISKCON like the plague. You'll thank me later.

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  25. The other anon is right, prabhupada never authorised others to be gurus after his departure, there is ample signed by prabhupada documentation to prove that

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  26. Humanity is faced with two choices, to transcend and run away from the world, leave it in ruin and the ruin of future generations or, we can engage deeper with the world by accepting our own conditioning and overcome it and become the change,
    This means that we will have no time to pursue fancies or myths and spend endless hours meditating on something or someone that may not be true..our present condition demand that we be fully present in the world to save humanity itself..agreed? If so, does it make sense for us to dedicate our existence to a god that is not actually helping the millions of people suffering including babies and children? Come on! Let's be real here,it's time to put things in perspective here, it is time we accepted the responsibility of change ourselves, by doing so, we will be granted power to change an urgent situation..millions of people are seeing that faith and belief is not saving the planet, nor is the iskcon saving the world..if it were we'd know it..iskcons activities are more focused on fundraising than actualy preaching...we need not preach anything but change, we need to demand a better future for our children and grandchildren, god is not granting that, he, if he exists is just watching..how can someone with immeasurable power watch children starve to death of be murdered?
    IT IS TIME TO WAKE UP AND DO THE JOB OURSELVES, hide and you will accomplish nothing:)

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  27. I agree Nikolai, in that we need change in this world. If people get mired into any pursuit which hinders them from seeing reality clearly then that's a problem, in my opinion. I think compassion is what will change the world. Humanity needs to (and is slowly starting to) develop an ever increasing awareness of compassion. I believe meditation is a beautiful way of drawing this compassion up into the awareness of an individual. If you look at all the world's greatest mystics, from the world's religions, they were also some of the biggest advocates towards helping others in practical ways.

    I believe with or without dogma, it would be of great benefit to all sentient beings if we all find, in whatever way draws us, fertile ground in which peace and compassion can blossom in our own individual hearts and then manifest outwards to others.

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  28. Iskcons conception of compassion is to give people books, mantras and sanctified food, while that is good, prabhupada and his guru shunned societies that set up hospices hospitals and community centres, there are many quotes in this regard..regardless of this..radhanath swami has set up quite a few facilities and his disciples fundraiser globally and aquire millions of dollars in donations yearly, these facilities are in india and things are cheaper in India by far and all the staff at these facilities are not paid, they do work free of charge..one devotee asked for financial transparency and was given a blunt refusal. It is the belief of many that not only does radhanath go against his gurus orders but has access to far more funds than is needed for his projects. So compassion is wonderful and many have indeed left iskcon due to lack of it..our last residency in America was in a farm community, my daughter was one year old at the time and suffered a third degree burn and her hand puffed up and turned white, she was howling in agony, we didn't have car licence not a vehicle, there was one driver and one vehicle, he refused to take us to the hospital as he felt service to the deity or statue was more important, thus my wife had to frantically enlist the help of a neighbour..long story..but where is the compassion? Service to a statue that is supposed to be god is more important than a young injured child? Make an enquiry of iskcons child protection office, many have reported abuse to the CPO and not had justice, I am referring to incidents that have taken place over the past two years.iskcon still employs people suspected of child abuse and gives them high profile paid for positions

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  29. I missed some of David's comments..in response I'll ask Jessica if it's ok to post the vast amount of evidence that David has been protected from on this blog, I will do so only if she feels it's right. David, you need to understand one thing very clearly, I was in iskcon for 21 years, you for only two, likely that I know many more devotees and certainly have seen and heard a hell of a lot more. For you to question me in this regard and assume I am lying is concrete proof of your blind faith. Do your research, do not have tunnel vision..you are suffering from denial due to the indoctrination you have RECIEVED..it is common knowledge that one sanyassi has a luxurious residence in Beverly hills, is taking PhDs and has a very opulent lifestyle, he has been documented as having close relations with women and yet more sanyassis are documented to have even worse habits, and I've seen some myself..your experience may be positive thus far but that does not mean that others have not born witness to atrocities in the name of Krsna..I ask you point blank David..why do you think that problems do not exist in iskcon anymore..if they didn't there wouldn't be thousands of people worldwide publicly giving vent to their outrage..do your research, open your eyes, until you have done so, it is very stupid and dangerous to try and convince people to take part in iskcon, you are knowingly putting them into a society that at this very moment is held in close scrutiny by several organisations and is still paying back a multimillion dollar fine for sexual child abuse, one need only google turley vs iskcon and see for themselves

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  30. A real iskcon memberJune 5, 2012 at 11:18 AM

    For all evidence www.iskconirm.com

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  31. As is usually the case, iskcon falls silent when confronted head on with very real and serious issues..one of the main qualities of a proper devotee is truthfulness..that means to speak and abide by the truth..when truthful abuse is presented they do not like to comment in public, wanting to keep an external pristine image..and when stuff leaks out, they have a department called iskcon communications who try their best to cover stuff up..the fact is that iskcon is losing membership fast..it is now a business with most temples relying solely on Indian donations to survive..now many temples will satisfy the Indian congregation by worshipping cars and telling the owners that the car is now the remnants of the lord..so many things iskcon is doing to avoid the truth of the matter..and that is..in essence to present something pure..it is a shame..considering all this, until if and when iskcon sorts it's internal problems out, I dare to say that they should stop trying for new members..this is unfair to place newcomers in such a precarious position..to place ones faith and ones very self in the hands of a society that is crumbling and has so much infighting is ridiculous...I do hope someone of authority in iskcon can adress all this issues head on, but I doubt it very much..likely the owner of this blog will be requested in private to disable the thread...if they are that concerned then they should facilitate serious and honest discussions between leadership and congregation, but they do not due to a totalitarian mindset. I hope the readers can judge for themselves and make a serious investigation into the inner workings of iskcon..speak to ex members find out why they are dissatisfied, search the net for there are hundreds of sites and blogs dedicated to airing out these issues, and if you are in Facebook you can check out occupy iskcon..the lesson I have learned from all this is that blind faith and following in something you have not had direct experience of is a most dangerous affair,,and I really wish I never had to speak like this, but my own experience of iskcon is terrible and my families very existence was threatened on numerous occasions..if there were no children involved it would not be as big an issue as it is, but there are and they are affected as are my wife and I..no apologies have come from iskcon..no one accepts responsibility for the abuse we faced..we have evidence...emails..documents..voice recordings,,,eye witnesses..we were messed up due to no fault of our own.l I am crying as I write this because I truly hope no one who searches for spiritual life ends up going through what we did..iskcon claims to be the saviour of humanity..it is far from that..it's has destroyed thousands of lives..make sure it doesn't happen to you

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  32. Nikolai,

    I am very sorry for what you have experienced. As I mentioned at the very end of the article and also in the thread, people should look into the controversies concerning ISKON before pursuing anything related to it and decide for themselves. Listen to testimony such as yours and others and have an open mind.

    I agree with your statement:

    "blind faith and following in something you have not had direct experience of is a most dangerous affair,"

    One should always use critical thinking and never rely on blind faith. History has proven the result of that as being quite tragic.

    Peace,
    Jessica

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  34. Hi Jessica,

    I say these things for your well being. I care about oyu and don't you want to go down the same path I went, and have to suffer the same way I did.

    If you join ISKCON, in the beginning, everything may seem all rosy and peachy and nice, but believe me, after a short time, you start seeing through the bullshit and see the real nature of these "devotees".

    The vast majority of ISKCON's devotees are very, very low class people, many of them are outright criminals, child molesters, drug addicts, etc.

    This is VERY BAD association. Believe me. I've been there, and done it.

    I am saying this so that YOU won't have to suffer the same way I did. I suffered so much in ISKCON, that I don't wish that kind of suffering on anyone.

    Krishna Consciousness is good. Prabhupada is good. You can easily practice Krishna Consciousness in your own home, read Prabhupada's books, chant, etc.

    But I would stay far, far away from the modern day ISKCON organization. Otherwise, I promise you, you will regret it. It has turned into a VERY SICK CULT, and I truly hope that you won't have to suffer the same things I did by making the MISTAKE of joining ISKCON.

    Please know that I say all of this with your well being in mind. This might scare you, but it's better that someone warns you, rather than you make the mistake of joining this sick cult.

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  35. I can see that others have presented some very angry feelings towards iskcon, and that readers can see its not just one person, it's thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands that are upset. The fact is iskcon is a disease that poses itself as a spiritual tradition. 80 percent of its members come from drug and alcohol backgrounds and did not take further education and joined iskcon as a shelter from the material world they so hope to avoid. So what happens is you concentrate a large amount of dysfunctional people in one place and follow a path that also advocated hating the world? You have a volatile situation. We can see swamis going to college after 50 years of age, some even stop being swamis to marry. My conviction is that this is all socially wrong. Devotees stop developing emotionally and socially from the moment they join iskcon, because they are taught they are not this body or mind and are soul, thus their development as humans is stunted, hence the vast problems. Most act like teenagers to be honest and cannot make rational decisions.

    I have recieved a couple of hateful emails from one devotee involved which goes to prove the intense fanaticism of these people. The sooner the general public realise the grave danger of this society the better and I commend Jessica for having the courage to investigate it herself, posting her sincere thoughts and witnessing the feedback for herself. Let us all wish her well in her life

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  36. I am now closing this comments section down. I thank all who participated...I think everyone has a right to their opinion. At the same time I had to spend a great deal of time today erasing very negative and ignorant comments from this thread.

    For the record, the point of this article was to give a first person account of what it is like to attend a Hare Krishna service. That was all it was meant to be. I feel I did just that.

    Whatever my beliefs are, I will certainly illustrate in future posts. So, if you are interested in them...stay tuned for future posts. :)

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