Sunday, July 5, 2009

Hare Krishna

Breakfasts with my friends the Krishna monks. Very simple and vegetarian food. Yuk. Before serving the food an offering is made to Lord Krishna in the form of a little amount of the food we're going to have, so he can have a bite and give us His blessings in return. When I ask about the meaning of this (How does it actually purifies the food to leave a plate on the floor for a few minutes? Do they really think a superior being purifies it?), I'm being told that "it is not like Lord Krishna is coming down on Earth just to help himself to some rice, it's more of a symbol". Trying to reason scientifically, I then suggest that we could weight the plate before and after the offering to see if it is lighter after we take if back. But, once again, "it's not like that", Lord Krishna only eats a tiny portion of food, like a single grain of rice. Moreover, he's got a lot of plates to bless all around the world, so he better keep some of his apetite. I reply that it'll be possible to weight the plate precisely enough to see if, yes or no, a grain of rice has gone. They laugh.

By trying to see how far they go to rationalize their beliefs, I find that they justify scientifically some concepts (soul, rebirth), but at first look it seems there is no actual explanations to most of their rituals (prayers, offerings), rituals which are more mystical and beyond reason. Which they simply believe in, and therefore doesn't call for a rational explanation.

Jean-Paul, Canadian, named after Sartre, has been a monk at the ISKCON temple for over a year. Like his comrades, he wakes at 4 in the morning. He prays for 2 hours, then meditate individually for an hour and a half.

The prayer, or Maha Mantra, consists in 108 "beats" which you have to say 16 times a day. A "beat" is this:

Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna
Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare
Hare Ram, Hare Ram
Ram Ram, Hare Hare

To be said no less than 1728 times each day! It takes about 2 hours of their time. If you skip a beat, you have to start all over again. By singing this mantras, they liberate their karmas to achieve happiness. They extract the purity of the soul by cleaning away the mud that covers the diamond, the pure soul. By starting singing those early in life, everyday, we can hope to join Lord Krishna in His Kingdom at some point, liberating our soul (Jiva Muktha) and achieve wholeness. Some chosen few accomplished this in their lifetime, like the prophet A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who liberated himself and could therefore start spreading the Krishna Consciousness. Orelse liberation can be obtained at the time of our death, in which case we're freed from the cycle of reincarnations. Otherwise, of course, we can start in this life and carry on our faith in Krishna and singing of the mantras in our other lives, in order to attain the Nirvana (Nir=negation, Vana=forest ; "Come out of the forest of the material world").

Jean-Paul takes me for a tour around the temple and its pretty garden, their miniature version of Vrindhavan, the birthplace of Krishna.

I'm meeting up with Ashok Sawant, who will host me from now on.

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