Published on November 13th, 2020 | by Madhudvisa dasa
The Hare Krishna’s in 1970 — CBS Word News interviews Rupanuga dasa
The Hare Krishna chant. As you walk the streets of some of America’s larger cities you will occasionally come upon a group of people garbed in apparel which makes you think of India. The heads of the men will be shaven with just one streamer of hair remaining. The group will be carrying out a slow, shuffling dance to the tune of the Hare Krishna chant.
The International Society for Krishna consciousness is one of a number of new religious experiences which are attracting increasing attention in the United States. Rupanuga dasa is a former New York City social worker, today he dedicates his life to the Krishna consciousness. Rupanuga tells us how the Hare Krishna movement began in the United States.
“Our spiritual master arrived in the United States in 1965. At that time His Divine Grace had with him about two hundred scriptures, the Srimad-Bhagavatam and seven dollars. He was sent here on a mission to the Western world by his spiritual master to teach Krishna consciousness in the Western world.
“Our spiritual master is seventy-five years old and His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada is the thirty-second spiritual master in a line of disciplic succession that extends back in history five thousand years without a break. This disciplic succession has carried the teachings of the Vedas to the present intact, without any contamination.”
We asked Rupanuga about the role of music in Hare Krishna:
“The music accompanies the mantra, the maha-mantra. ‘Maha’ means great and ‘mantra’ means the mind-releasing sound vibration that releases one from the material conception that we have of ourselves. We think that we are these bodies for example. So by chanting Hare Krishna. Now ‘Hare’ is addressing all the energy of the Lord, of God, and ‘Krishna’ is God Himself. You know God is omnipotent. Omnipotent means that His names, His pastimes, His paraphernalia, all these are the same as He. All the same potency. So when we say “Krishna” it is Krishna incarnate and Rama is another name of God meaning “the great enjoyer.” So Hare, Krishna and Rama make up the mantra:
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare
“These are the names of God.”
Some members of Hare Krishna adopt garments typical of an Asian monk, shave their heads and eat an essentially vegetarian diet. Rupanuga explains that Krishna consciousness means more than simply meditation:
“We give our life, surrender our life, our money, our intelligence and our words. Everything we give because we understand that in order to be at peace, in order to have peace in the world, everything must be God-centered. That’s why something like the United Nations has been so slow, practically empty of any real result because for so many years we have been calling for unity but this is false because we are already united on the spiritual platform, we simply have to recognize that. This verse explains that one who always sees all living entities as spiritual sparks in quality one with the Lord becomes a true knower of things. What is there as illusion or anxiety for him? So we begin to see things on the level of the spiritual platform not simply in passion or ignorance and then we can see things in the proper light. This is what enlightenment means, to see things spiritually, to see each other as spirit souls, not just as bodies.”
In a sense members of the Hare Krishna have their equivalent of the Christian Bible:
“We have the Bhagavad-gita As It Is, this is the introduction to Krishna Consciousness and the Second Chapter begins with the differentiation between the body and the soul and proceeds from there. How we are not these temporary bodies and how we are eternal, consciousness is eternal, and then this proceeds scientifically, progressively in Bhakti Yoga to the Srimad-Bhagavatam, the beautiful story of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, that is the graduate study. Then there is the post-graduate study, the Caitanya-caritamrta, this describes the immortal nature of the living force.”
Rupanuga also talks about the type of people who are attracted to the Krishna consciousness:
“All kinds, all walks of life, all backgrounds, all religious backgrounds, all educational backgrounds. There is no material qualification for becoming Krishna conscious, engaging in Krishna consciousness. There is no impediment, no material impediment because it is our normal, natural existence.”
Members of Hare Krishna decorate their foreheads with a white symbol which extends from the center of the forehead straight down to the bridge of the nose. Rupanuga explains this symbolism:
“That white mark, the two lines with the point at the bottom is called “tilak“, it is water and clay and it sanctifies the body as a temple, this physical tabernacle as a temple to God and it signifies that a person who wears it is God conscious, Krishna conscious and that he is a devotee of the Lord. Now the clothing, this is a traditional sign of the Vaisnava, the servant of God and it is easily identifiable. We are preachers, we are missionaries. Of course it does not require that anyone who wants to be Krishna conscious or practice Krishna consciousness, he doesn’t have to dress like that. He can wear a coat and tie and go to the office as many of our devotees do but it easily signifies us. If someone sees us they know that if they want to know about Krishna they can approach us.”
We asked Rupanuga about the growth of the Hare Krishna movement:
“The growth has really been an explosion. Just five years, our spiritual master started in a very small storefront, Second Avenue on the Lower East Side in the East Village where there was a very large youth culture growing, drug culture and searching, seeking going on philosophically and everyone flocked there and in a very short time from that one storefront we have seventy centers now around the world.”
Rupanuga, a former New York City social worker who has adopted the philosophy of the Hare Krishna people, modern-day men and women seeking spiritual solace in the ancient teachings of the Indian subcontinent.