Author Topic: Now I Know Why  (Read 49 times)

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Now I Know Why
« on: April 08, 2020, 02:38:34 pm »
A young journalism studentís path to Krishna consciousness takes her from curiosity to conviction.

It was 4:15 in the morning. On the north side of Chicago, not even the birds were up. But I was. And not only was I up, but I was chanting and dancing around a room with thirty other people, all members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.

To most Americans, the scene would have appeared odd, to say the least. The men wore either white or saffron Indian dhotis, and we women were dressed in bright saris. On our foreheads we all wore tilaka, the white, V-shaped clay markings indicating devotion to God, and around our necks we wore strands of beads indicating dedication to God and the spiritual master.

Samsara davanala lidha-loka Ö It was mangala-arati, the ceremony that begins each day for Hare Krishna devotees. The men, filling the front of the room, faced the Deity forms of Lord Krishna and His consort, Srimati Radharani. Some men played Indian drums, producing exotic, throbbing rhythms. Others clashed small hand cymbals with a regular one-two-three, one-two-three. The women, clustered at the back of the room, clapped and danced to the rhythm of the drums, cymbals, and chanting.Vande guroh sri-caranaravindam . . ,
Several times that morning I asked myself, Why am I here? I was a ďnormalĒ college junior doing well in school. I wasnít consciously searching for any kind of supreme truth, the way Iíd always heard people did before they got involved with the Hare Krishnas. Yet, although it was spring break, I wasnít in Fort Lauderdale or any of the other fun spots that cater to college students. I was at the Chicago Hare Krishna temple.

Why? Why was I involved in worshiping God, Krishna, in this way? Well, as yet even I didnít know the answer to that one. I didnít know if I was acting out a fantasy, if I was just curious, or if I really wanted to believe as the devotees did. All I knew for sure was that I enjoyed spending time with them and that I respected them for their strong faith and their courage in sticking with beliefs society frowns on as alien.

The story of my interest in the Hare Krishna movement goes back to when I was a seventeen-year-old freshman at Southern Illinois University, in Carbondale. When those strange-looking people with the orange robes and shaved heads first appeared on campus, I had no idea who they were. But I was curious. So I overcame my timidity and talked to them. Then I reported what Iíd found to my friends, and a well-meaning roommate threw at me the frightening word cult.

But I, always the rebellious one in our family, wanted to see for myself whether the reported ďbrainwashingĒ would take place for me. It never did. And because I had expected a bit of magic, I was a little disappointed. But I did keep talking to the devotees whenever they came to Carbondale, and though their beliefs were hard to understand at first, after a year or so of questioning and studying the philosophy of Krishna consciousness, I began to find it more acceptable; it all began to make sense. And I found my admiration for the devotees growing for their spiritual knowledge, their strength of character, and their high moral standards.

After two years of chance meetings with devotees, I learned that a small Hare Krishna center was opening in town. I was thrilled. I loved the prasadam (the spicy, sanctified food they served), the beautiful saris the women wore, and the feeling of being part of a worldwide, growing movement. The center soon gathered a few followers, including myself. But my following was only tentative, sporadic, and very cautious. Playing at being a devotee was fine, I thought, but I certainly wasnít ready to give up my plans of being wealthy and worldly-wise.

Then, during spring break, the centerís director, Damodara Pandita, decided to take his wife and their two-year-old son to the Chicago temple for a week. A few people went with them, and I followed several days later with some friends.

The group of us making the trip got in late at night late, that is, for devotees, whose days start at 3:30 a.m. Damodara Pandita was waiting for us at the temple and took us two blocks down an alley to the apartment we were to share with his wife. Since she was staying there just temporarily, it was bare except for bunk beds along the walls.
When 3:30 came, I was already awake. I excitedly jumped out of bed and took my turn in a quick shower, tied my hair back into a braid, carefully applied the clay tilaka markings, covered my head (as a sign of chastity), and stepped out into cold, predawn Chicago.

Itís one thing to be told that the early-morning hours are best for spiritual practices. Itís quite another to experience it. I could almost touch the stillness in the damp, thick air as we walked through the alley. The late spring air chilled us, and soon we were walking faster and faster, finally breaking into a run the last few yards before we reached the temple building.
After scurrying up three flights of stairs, we entered a dimly lit room as big as a basketball court. We clanged a bell hanging by the door to announce our presence to the Deities, sank to our knees and offered obeisances by touching our foreheads to the checkerboard marble floor.

The Deity forms of Radha and Krishna smiled down from a lighted chamber along one wall of the room. Ancient Vedic scriptures say that if the Deities are installed in the temple with the proper ceremonies, God will consent to reside within Them. But bowing down before the Deities is one thing some people canít understand; it seems degrading. But I enjoyed it. Thanks to rituals learned during childhood judo lessons, I had never thought myself too good to bow to a superior. And God, I thought, is as superior as you can get.
When the mangala-arati ceremony was over, it was time for individual chanting. Each devotee carries around his or her neck a cloth bag containing a string of 108 japa beads, similar to a rosary. While turning each bead between the thumb and second finger, the devotee chants the mantra Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

Hare means ďO energy of God,Ē and Krishna and Rama are names of God. Chanting is a spiritual call for the Lord and His energy to give protection to the conditioned soul and engage him in the Lordís service. And, since God is absolute. He and His names are nondifferent. I actually felt His presence while chanting.

When all 108 beads have been told, a ďroundĒ is done. Sixteen rounds are required every day from each initiated devotee. But I, with a poor early-morning attention span, was having a difficult time concentrating. I looked around at some of the older devotees, a few of whom had been in the movement for ten or twelve years, and saw them chanting easily and with pleasure. Some paced as they chanted, some sat still, and some rocked back and forth, but all had looks of deep concentration on their faces. Inspired (and not wanting to appear too much of a novice), I closed my eyes and began again. This time it was easier, and I started to savor the words of the chant.

I opened my eyes and looked around, feeling a warmth slowly spread through my body. The temple seemed almost like home. I knew that an outsider might see it as segregated men were generally aloof from the women but that was because distractions had to be minimized so one could concentrate on spiritual life. Both sexes seemed to want it that way. And when we did get together, to watch video tapes or to discuss the dayís activities, I sensed comfortable relationships without the strain of flirting.

After a ceremony in which we worshiped the guru, we had a forty-five-minute philosophy class on an ancient Sanskrit spiritual classic called the Srimad-Bhagavatam. The morning ended with a delicious breakfast of fruit, cereal, chickpeas, and hot milk.

After breakfast, a six-year-old girl devotee and I started walking back to the apartment together. Halfway down the alley, we were surprised by two little boys who popped out of their backyard and began to scream at us. ďWe believe in Jesus Christ,Ē they yelled, making faces, ďnot your blankety-blank old God!Ē The little girl looked at me, bewilderment and hurt glistening in her wide eyes. ďBut I believe in Jesus, too,Ē she said. I held her hand tighter. How do you explain religious prejudice to a child? ďDonít worry, itís okay,Ē I told her. ďThose boys are just envious because theyíre not as happy as you are. They donít look very happy, do they?Ē She agreed they didnít, and we walked on.

The boys werenít acting like followers of Christ, I thought. Where was the mercy, the compassion, the love he taught? I could see these clearly in the devotees, and they expressed them toward people of all faiths. I knew that devotees regard Christ as an empowered representative of God and that they actually worship him as a pure devotee, a spiritual master. Itís too bad most people canít understand that devotees of Krishna arenít enemies of Christianity.

Devotees donít eat meat (following ďThou shalt not killĒ closer than the vast majority of Christians), and they donít use intoxicants, have illicit sex, or gamble either. What genuine Christian could fault the devotees for abstaining from these sins? I had to admire the devotees for their self-control, even though I wasnít ready to follow all those regulations at that time.

All in all, I could see why the Hare Krishna religion was attracting so many admirers. Its purity, combined with incidents like the one with the little boys, made me want to defend it for all the goodness I knew to be there. I still had my doubts about parts of the philosophy, but just being around devotees made it easier to believe. More than anything, I realized suddenly, I wanted to belong to this movement. Maybe not just then, but someday.

At the end of my visit, as I expected, the devotees invited me to stay. But I felt an insistent need to get back to journalism school, my boyfriend, my job, and my plans. I just wasnít ready to make that kind of commitment.

So I left. But even though I drove out of Chicago, I didnít really leave the movement. I kept visiting the St. Louis temple (it was the closest one to Carbondale), and one by one my doubts and questions were answered, especially when on one of my visits I met my spiritual master, His Divine Grace Srila Ramesvara Swami.

Back at school I worked my way up to a position as editor on the student newspaper, and after graduation I went on to work for several professional newspapers in the Midwest. Krishna consciousness always remained a part of my life, and gradually the desire grew in me to make it even more so. Then, one day in St. Louis, I made my decision. I was confident that moving into the temple community and serving Krishna full time was the right thing to do.

Six months later, Srila Ramesvara Swami awarded me formal initiation and gave me the name Krishnamayi-devi dasi, meaning ďservant of Radharani.Ē My parents and some of my friends were astonished, but I never regretted my decision. I havenít given up my plans to be a writer in fact, the first articles I ever sold to a national magazine were written after I had become a full-time devotee. Only now my writing is devotional service to Krishna, and itís much more satisfying than writing for prestige.

Days still start before the birds are up. Only now I know why Iím up that early and why Iím chanting before the beautiful Radha-Krishna Deities at the Dallas temple, where my husband and I live with our newborn child. Iím not just pretending to be a devotee anymore; Iím living a life based on the deep understanding that Iím a servant of God and that all I do should be done with devotion as an offering to Him.

And that kind of life is becoming more and more satisfying every day.

- Krishnamayi Devi Dasi


  • Guest
Re: Now I Know Why
« Reply #1 on: April 08, 2020, 07:10:17 pm »
A fascinating read, going inside the dogma to see the back story.

That said, I detest (ftmp) rituals, supplication, and ornamental religiousity in all its forms.

The path to the divine need not be so ornate nor so structured is my take. But perhaps that is a portion of what the woman writing this was alluding to, albeit her surrender to the "order" seems set.

How is this:

All that different from this:

A Utah teacher who forced her student to wash off the Ash Wednesday cross last week said she thought the Catholic marking was ďdirt on his foreheadĒ and claimed she didnít know it was a religious symbol.

Moana Patterson, a fourth-grade teacher at Valley View Elementary in Bountiful, apologized Monday for the incident last week, and explained why she had her student, 9-year-old William McLeod, wipe the ashes off his forehead, FOX13 reported. Patterson was placed on administrative leave as Davis School District officials investigate the incident.


Re: Now I Know Why
« Reply #2 on: April 15, 2020, 02:23:21 pm »
I detest (ftmp) rituals, supplication, and ornamental religiousity in all its forms.

Me too, but only for certain religions. I am drawn to some of the more ornate forms of "worship".

Why I try be careful of how often I ruminate on my "beliefs":

"Mr. D, a 72-year-old Christian with a long history of schizophrenia, presents to the emergency room with concerns about evil spirits in his home who have poisoned him. He has called for police assistance on numerous occasions and has tried to kill the evil spirits with his rifle, but states "they are bulletproof." He is unable to sleep and is "fearful for [his] life every night because that is when the demons come out." Mr. D also believes that God is "more powerful than the evil spirits." Two elders at his church have prayed with him and encouraged him to go to the hospital.

Delusions with religious content are associated with poorer clinical outcomes and dangerousness. Most mental health professionals will encounter patients with delusions with religious content because this type of delusion is relatively common in patients with symptoms of mania or psychosis. The prevalence of delusions with religious content varies considerably among populations and can be influenced by the local religion and culture.

Patients with delusions with religious content had higher Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale scores and lower Global Assessment of Functioning scores, waited longer before reengaging in treatment and were prescribed more medications.

In addition, compared with patients with other types of delusions, patients with delusions with religious content often hold these delusions with greater conviction - making them more challenging to treat.

Dangerousness in patients that have delusions with religious content can manifest as self-harm or harm to others. Extreme examples include self-inflicted enucleation of the eye and autocastration. Several cases of psychotic men performed autocastration based on a literal, erroneous interpretation of a passage in the Bible (Matthew 19:12) have been reported. Patients suffering from delusions with religious content have committed rape and murder because they believed they were the antichrist.

Categories of delusions with religious themes include:

1. Persecutory (often involving Satan)
2. Grandiose (messianic delusions)
3. Guilt delusions

Categorizing delusions with religious content is important because some are associated with more distress than others. For example, case studies of self-inflicted eye injuries found that most patients had guilt delusions with religious themes that referenced punishing transgressions, controlling unacceptable sexual impulses, and attaining prescience by destroying vision. In our example, Mr. D is experiencing a persecutory delusion with religious content.

Tips for effective evaluation

The DSM-5 offers no specific guidelines for assessing delusions with religious content VS nondelusional religious beliefs. There is risk of pathologizing religious beliefs when listening to content alone. Instead, focus on the conviction, pervasiveness, uniqueness or bizarre nature, and associated emotional distress of the delusion to the patient

In the context of the patientís spiritual history, deviations from conventional religious beliefs and practices are important factors in determining whether a religious belief is authentic or delusional. Involving family members and/or spiritual care professionals (eg. chaplains and clergy) can be especially helpful when making this differentiation. In the hospital, chaplains often are familiar with a variety of faith traditions and may provide important insight into the patientís beliefs. In the community, clergy members from the patientís faith also may provide valuable perspective.

Similar to how having a basic familiarity with a patientís culture can improve care, a better understanding of a patientís spiritual or religious beliefs and practices can build rapport and the therapeutic alliance. This is particularly important with patients with delusions with religious content because these individuals often have a poor therapeutic alliance and engagement with providers. Because many psychiatrists have limited time and may not be familiar with every patientís spiritual or religious background, consultation with spiritual care professionals may be helpful.

Assessing whether your patient has reservations about their psychiatric treatment means some may believe that seeking care from a doctor is evidence of weak faith, whereas others may feel that psychiatric treatment is forbidden or incompatible with their religious beliefs. Mental health clinicians need to consider their own religious biases that may cause them to minimize or pathologize a patientís religiosity. Working collaboratively with spiritual care professionals may help reduce clinician biases or assumptions."

- Sara M'lis Clark, MD

My psychiatrist always asks me, every appointment, are you praying a lot? I say no. And that's the truth!


  • Guest
Re: Now I Know Why
« Reply #3 on: April 15, 2020, 09:00:39 pm »
To the extent that praying becomes an analog to begging for favours, I can see your point.

Being with God need not necessitate "worship" per se, regardless of how the human face painted on the divine has been cartooned in, yes?


Re: Now I Know Why
« Reply #4 on: April 16, 2020, 11:37:06 am »


  • Guest
Re: Now I Know Why
« Reply #5 on: April 16, 2020, 09:31:43 pm »
Indeed yes, and back I go again to the "trickster" idiom... ::)

..something for our Lefse-baking bard to ponder...


Re: Now I Know Why
« Reply #6 on: May 01, 2020, 08:42:02 pm »
our Lefse-baking bard

Rich coming from me, but where is he? Rich coming from me.


  • Guest
Re: Now I Know Why
« Reply #7 on: May 01, 2020, 09:19:50 pm »
K_Dubb's back mixing it up on Ballgrab with Shreddie.

I mean, maybe where there's smoke there IS fire... :-\

I just never had him sussed as mono-diet forummer. Perhaps we might tempt him back with some quick rising mana...