Inside the Hare Krishna Temple

So today, being sunday we decided to go visit the Hare Krishna temple.

Ive heard mixed things about this religion, so I decided to investigate it for myself. So around 5pm me, Diego, and a friend of his named Mamo, took a bus out to burnaby. We saw the sign marking the road that read Iskcon Krishna Community. We followed the gravel driveway to the bottom of the hill.

There I saw it, rising up from the trees, huge whiteish pink towers that faced up looking similar to a lotus flower or tulip. It was surrounded by a massive beautiful garden, with pathways, trees, fountains, huge religious statues, and tons of flowers. As we approached the building I was surrounded by the smell of insence, and the sound of loud festive singing accompanied by drums and cymbols. This would be interesting.

Unsure of where to go in we ran into a Krishna monk in the garden, whos name I couldnt spell even if I could remember it, His head was shaved, and he wore solid orange robes, similar to those worn by buddhist monks. His forhead was marked with an upsidedown golden triangle with lines that reached the top of his forehead. He welcomed us, told us alittle bit about the order of events and explained the set up of the temple, then brought us to the back door.

Shoes are taken off at the door, as in most eastern culture, there is a tiny gift shop inside that sold prayer beads, religious figures, and the sheet things that turn into pants when wraped the right way. They also sold vegetarian cookboks. I noticed that about 90% of the community was Indian, Which made since to me, Hare Krishna is a branch of Hinduism. In fact Krishna is one of the Hindu gods. The temple and beliefs of the two arnt too much differant. Accept Krishnas are a little more monotheistic, as opposed to the thousands of Hindu gods, and Slightly more western in the fact that men or women can be religious leaders, Which only men are allowed in Hinduism. We walked through the large wooden doors into the Temple.

The Temple, with out people of the chair and statue in the middle

Wow. that Temple was amazing. It was small, Not as huge and spacey as a Christian church, or as bright, But sooo beautiful. the walls were shimmery gold arabian style arches, Inside each was a brightly colored stained glass window with images of peacocks or lotus flowers. The celing was painted blue with clouds and blue indian gods. We were handed cushions and lead by the monk to the front of the temple. An altar was at the head of the room, With the Krishna playing a flute and his female counterpart Radha. They wore gold, and live carnation flower chains hung from their neck. they were surrounded by smaller decorated figures, and photos of gurus and tons of fresh flowers. Above it hung a turkish chandeler. The altar seemed to glow in the slightly dark temple. From the altar there was a carpet that ran through the center of the room to a large Golden chair with a statue of Srila Prabhupada sat. He, I was informed, brought this faith to the western world. Noone sits on the carpet bc it blocks his view of the altar.

Krishna

So anyway he gave us a space to set our cushions on the right side of the carpet, as we sat there for awhile listening to the presentation, I looked around and noticed, that Diego and Mamo were the only males on the right side of the room. Men sat on the left, women sat on the right. The monk probally didnt want to split us up. I figured Id ask him about it later. The women were all dressed in beautiful colorful silk saris, with golden accesories. Men wore thoes pants made out of the sheet thing, or street clothes. Some people held prayer beads, some also had the same gold marking on their forehead as the monk.

About half way through the presentation he came in and asked if we would like a tour of the grounds. So we quietly left. The man in orange robes lead us to the garden, there were a few tiny building structures throughout the garden. He took us to one, a small greenhouse which held about five 7′ trees. He explained that They are Tulsi trees. A sacred tree in India, but its not nativly grown in Vancouver, so it needs these special conditions. He told me that 6 meals a day are cooked for Krishna and Radha, and placed on the altar. Radha wont accept food that unless its offered with Tulsi leaves. We continued walking over the bridge that crossed the lotus pond he showed Diego how to chant the Maha-Mantra on prayer beads, said that men and women sit seprate just out of tradition, but if we wanted to sit together towards the back noone minds. The washrooms are in a little outdoor building. He lead us back inside where the chanting, and dancing had started accompanied by the drums and cymbols, and sweets were eaten, that were first offered to Krishna of course.

Afterwards they asked who was celebrating with them for the first time. Us and about 3 other people raised out hands and they came to us with Hindu magazeens, upcomming events, and yoga meditation prayer booklets. And then…. The Vegetarian Feast.

We sat in rows on our cushions. I was expecting mabey pita bread, rice and mabey lentils at most, not an eight course meal with 3 differant drinks and seconds offered. We were each handed two large plates and 3 cups. Then a man in a beautiful indian outfit came down the rows with a big silver pot and a ladle. He gave a huge mountain of yellow rice that tasted like lemon mixed with herbs, behind him a woman in a bright blue sari with an identical silver pot. She flooded the rice with what I think was lentils, A minute after was a man serving what seemed like soup with spices and alot of peas, added to it. from there was a thick pile of spicy veggies, the only thing I reconized was broccili, Then a man giving piles of pita bread to each of us, at this point my second plate was almost overflowing, but they kept comming. A huge ladle of a type of yogert with cilantro, peas, and sweet pepper. The first of the drinks came down, a thick yellow liquid, that reminded me of eggnog accept really really really sweet. We ate for awhile, and the second I had a clear spot on one plate the next server piled a wet looking type of salad onto my plate. The second drink, which was more like a dessert came by and filled my second cup. It looked kind of like a lumpy milkshake with strawberries, I asked an old indian man sitting next to me what it was and he said sweet rice. The lumps of the milkshake thing were rice and also strawberries. Each previous server came back offering seconds. After that we were each given a peice of friut and the final cup was filled with hot spiced sweet tea.

Wow.

Amazing.

I sat with the boys, monk and a woman named Leslie, who I was introduced to, and found out shes a Bikrams Yoga instructor. They asked where where from, school, plans, ect. Diego asked how he became a monk. And I learned this…

Hare Krishnas dont smoke, drink alcohol, gamble, do any form of drugs, eat meat, and they try to obstain from sex. They are vegetarian because eating meat is bad karma, animals are gods creatures as well, and the violent act of slaughtering an animal is bad for your consciousness and its bad energy can lead to violent thoughts and behavior. Monks that wear white are married, monks that wear orange have taken complete vows and dont have sex. The marking on their forehead symbolizes the entrance to the body as a temple. Their chanting is a spiritual form of yoga, not the physical and mental yoga that is more commonly recognized as yoga, but both kinds are still practiced. Most of the members of the community are not Krishnas, but Hindus, Buddhists, and agnostic that enjoy the spirituallity, chanting, meditation and energy. The gatherings indulge all the sences, through dance, singing, incence, food, music, nature and beautiful setting.

We chatted for awhile then began to head home, Leslie said she owns many saris, if you hang around long enough the women just give them. Also the monk informed us that we can bring containers to take home food. all thats left ofer is donated to a local homeless shelter.

So theres my experience. I have no intention in converting, as I dont connect myself to any organized religion. I find aspects of each that I agree with and believe what I believe. I found nothing strange about this religion, no weird rituals, its a form of Hinduism. In all honesty ive found stranger rituals in the bible and christian religion than ive seen today. I dont believe it has anything to do with a cult, mabey at one time there was a group that took things the wrong way and gave the whole group an incorrect reputation. In the same way Suicide bombers in no way represent the Islamic faith, I have no negative feelings, and see this as nothing more than a ligitamite eastern religion.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Leslie
    Jul 19, 2011 @ 17:36:19

    Dear Hannah,
    It was great meeting you, Diego, and Mamo on Sunday. I am glad you had such a nice experience at the temple. Somehow your blog ended up on a website called dandavats.com, which is widely read within the Hare Krishna community. In coming across your blog on this website, I realize and appreciate that you took such interest in learning about the Hare Krishna culture and practices. Since we of course didn’t enter into any philosophical discussion, I would like to clarify a couple of things, for your interest. The tradition we are following comes directly from Krishna, through a line of spiritual teachers. Krishna is one of many names for God, and of course God is non-sectarian (ie He is not Hindu, Catholic, etc). Most of the folks you observed at the temple are following the tradition to various degrees, although anyone and everyone is welcome to attend the temple any time, regardless of whether or not they identify themselves as “Hare Krishna”, or follow principles such as abstaining from meat eating, illicit sex, gambling, and intoxicants. Many in the congregation have taken initiation from a spiritual master, vowing to follow these principles and to chant the Mahamantra every day. Others who attend the temple are at different places along the spiritual path – for example the fellow sitting next to us was talking about his family being agnostic, and that he identifies with buddhist teachings. Still others, like yourself, come to the temple out of curiousity and to experience the culture, prasadam (food), kirtan, etc. I hope you will keep in touch, remember to bring your container next time and maybe I will have a sari for you 😉
    Best wishes,
    Leslie

    Reply

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