Usually, I don’t blog about personal experiences other than the frustrations and victories of the writing life, but the last week and a half has been unique! I’ve darkened the door of two very different religious institutions while dodging the bolt of lightning my sassy husband predicted would strike me.
- Day one: Lauren, my friend of 36 years, died after a short illness.
- Day two: My sister, Liz, arrived from Florida for her first visit back to Colorado since 1974.
- Day six: I visited the Denver Krishna temple with my devotee sister, and I participated in a joyous evening of chanting and feasting with a friendly and vibrant group of locals. All my long misconceptions about Hare Krishna dissolved in one night.
- Day ten: I spoke a few words at Grace Place, a nondenominational congregation in Berthoud, CO, during the celebration of Lauren’s life.
After all this emotion I needed some grounding, so I plunged into research.
My sister had reminded me, with a twinkle in her eye, I was under the mistaken impression that Hare Krishna was a cult. Briefly, here’s what I found out:
Hare Krishna, in full International Society of Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), popular name of a semimonastic Vaishnava Hindu organization founded in the United States in 1965 by A.C. Bhaktivedanta (Swami Prabhupada; 1896–1977). This movement is a Western outgrowth of the popular Bengali bhakti (devotional) yoga tradition, or Krishna Consciousness, which began in the 16th century. Bhakti yoga’s founder, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (1485–1534?), advocated the pursuit of mystical devotion through repetitive chanting, especially of the Hare Krishna mantra.
So, it seems ISKCON is like many other religions, ancient and evolving simultaneously. I also discovered the Krishna Food for Life project is the largest vegetarian/vegan food-relief program in the world. They feed anyone who is hungry from college students to victims of war and chaos – worldwide. And, as an added plus, no animals are harmed in this endeavor.
I visited Grace Place to honor my friend and found a loving gospel centered congregation. Its mission is community outreach which it does on many levels, from assisting young and old in the local area to advancing Social Justice Awarness (bringing forward the issue of Human Trafficking.) Its pastors and members are among the kindest folks I’ve met in many years.
I was fortunate to have these experiences and, once again, I realized how much alike we humans are, whether or not we care to admit it. We sing the praises of the life we are given in many ways, sending our faith in things unseen into the universe and beyond.
Do you have a favorite way of rejoicing?
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/thelightningman/7233369438/”>Striking Photography by Bo Insogna