Haight Turns to Love: The Haight Street Festival Hari Nam
TIt was my turn to lead. I looked ahead to see what appeared to be an endless sea of people. I gathered up my courage, and led the party through a thick crowd. As we sang ‘Nitai Gauranga! Nitai Gouranga!’ I had a sense that all that heard instantly became devotees, and I was filled with hope for humanity. Indeed, just by hearing the Holy Name of Krishna (smaranam), one is
Hari Bol to all the Vaisnava Devotees of the Supreme Lord Krishna. All glories to His Divine Grace AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who, by his unlimited causeless mercy has permitted such fallen devotees like myself to help him in his mission to spread the Hare Krishna Maha Mantra all over the world.
On Sunday June 10, 2001, devotees from Berkeley’s New Jagannath Puri temple, and the Hare Krishna Youth gathered at the annual Haight Street Festival in San Francisco. Haight Street has been a cultural landmark since the 1960’s when the hippy movement saw it as their congregational place of pilgrimage.
So, when one goes to Haight Street, he or she expects to see everything and anything beyond the wildest imagination. Anything goes here on Haight Street, as nothing is shocking, and I mean nothing. Some of the bazaar visions would have the most pious of persons quivering in their shoes. So, when such a place holds a street fair, devotees jump at the opportunity to perform Hari Nam Sankirtan.
We arrived at the edge of Golden Gate Park where Haight Street begins. Krishna Balarama Swami began the kirtan with a few of us, and we waited for the others to show. We had a group of about fifteen devotees overall. As we began the kirtan, one nice boy immediately joined with us, and stayed chanting his heart out the entire time. When all the expected devotees arrived, we proceeded into the land of Haight.
Now, I use Haight as an intended pun. Sense gratification to the extreme was rampant. We sang our loudest, but were drowned out by a loud rock concert. We continued a block or so until we could hear ourselves again. As we moved on through hundreds of people, we were choked by continuous billows of smoke coming from cooking animal flesh. I began to get a bad headache. The smell of beer also thickened the atmosphere.
We finally found some space where we could chant and dance among the cultural arts and crafts booths. It was here that Haight turned to love. Every Hari Nam I have been on always has at least one moment where we get a glimpse of the ecstasy of Lord Caitanya’s mercy. Rajahamsa Dasa was leading with his sweet voice, and we reached that pinnacle of bliss. It was as if we could almost reach out and embrace Lord Krishna in the form of His Holy Name. A large group had gathered around us. Some were dancing and singing with us. We were quite pleased with how favorable the crowd was.
The kirtan was getting wild at this point, as many were observing from their apartment windows. We ended the kirtan, and it was my turn to lead. I looked ahead to see what appeared to be an endless sea of people. I gathered up my courage, and led the party through a thick crowd. As we sang “Nitai Gauranga! Nitai Gouranga!” I had a sense that all that heard instantly became devotees, and I was filled with hope for humanity. Indeed, just by hearing the Holy Name of Krishna (smaranam), one is performing devotional service.
We returned from the festival feeing like we had returned from battle. The Love of Lord Caitanya and Srila Prabhupada conquered the hearts of Haight.