Last Sunday I went with a friend to check out the Hare Krishna Temple in Laguna Beach aka ISCKON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness). I don’t exactly remember why we decided to go there but I think we were talking about good vegetarian food… and these guys know how to cook some very good vegetarian food. I think all the ISCKON chapters serve a Sunday feast. The dinner started at 7p.m. but the actual Sunday program started at 5 p.m. with chanting and then a lecture. We decided to show up at 5 o’clock so we could experience everything. There were only a handful of people there when we arrived but the crowd grew to around two-hundred by the time the lecture started.
Earlier that day I went grocery shopping and the cashier asked me if I had anything planned for the rest of the day. I told him I was going to “hang’ with the Hare Krishna. You should have seen the look on his face. I might as well have told him I was going to spend time with Charles Manson.
The Hare Krishna have been the butt of many jokes since forever. They used to be in airports chanting, wearing orange robes and asking for donations. Ok, maybe they did look a little out of the ordinary but I always liked those who stood out from the oh-so-boring crowd. In my opinion many Americans see them as a cult but in India they are a well respected religion. I spent the afternoon at the Krishna temple in Berkeley, California back in the early 90s. I was there interviewing their priest for a writing assignment for my Great Religions college class. The day I went was a weekday so I didn’t get to see their celebration program but I did get to eat lunch and boy was it good!
Their Sunday celebration has a lot of similarities to other religious gatherings (I attended a lot of different church services over the years, to see what these guys were doing behind closed doors so I saw a lot of interesting rituals). They use incense and bow to their deities when they enter the temple…like the Catholic Church. They sing, dance and raise their hands to praise Krishna (another name for God) like any Black church. They are vegetarian like the Seventh Day Adventists and encourage others to live a “clean” life…no drugs, alcohol, smoking or promiscuous sex… like the Mormons.
There was a mix of East Indian, Caucasians and a couple who looked like they just left a Dead Head concert. Some of the woman wore beautiful sarees. But the majority of them looked like everyday people, working regular jobs… so much for the typical stereotype.
The lecture that night was to follow your dream because life is too short and before we know it, the ride is over and we discover that we followed a dream others decided for us, instead of discovering our own. That sounds like good advice to me.
I plan to attend their Holi Festival Colors in a few months. You can read more about what that’s about here.
I videoed a couple minutes of their chanting and dancing so you can get a taste. Enjoy!