Inspiration, Memoir, Writing

Never Had I–Reflections of ISKCON

Devotees wearing saris at the Festival of Chariots in Venice Beach, California  Source: lataco.com
Devotees wearing saris at the Festival of Chariots in Venice Beach, California
Source: lataco.com

Never had I seen a place so clean. Never had I smelled a room so fragrant. Never had I felt the fine silk of a sari or seen such vivid hues of sunshine yellow, pea green or sea glass blue. Never had I felt so safe that I could ponder the names of the colors of a stranger’s dress. Never had I felt so safe that I could turn my back to a man. The temple filled me with Never Have I’s.

In the temple, there is only good. The bad is sniffed out and done away with–gently shuffled out the heavy wooden doors and directed down the street toward the alleys of Berkeley and UC, the temple doors shut again, closing off the world and the many things my kid self worried about: number one, strange men, number two, thirst and hunger, number three, mad things like crack cocaine-using hitchhikers and chronic cigarette-butters and alien-worshipers and space ships themselves and semi trucks a honkin’.

ISKON Temple, Berkeley, California
ISKCON Temple, Berkeley, California

Every room in the temple is protected by Krishna or Ganesha or Rhada or Chaitanya or Prabhupada. More than just a painting or deity looking over us, I could actually feel the presence of the Gods, the air rich with spirit.  My father and I both moved about the temple so light on our feet we might as well have been ghosts or angels, I remember thinking. Then again, you’d be surprised at the airy-ness that shoeless feet and hardwood floors create. It was always a struggle to let the ego go at the door. It was an unspoken rule that you do, unspoken that you leave your judgements with your shoes and let your bare, or socked, feet humbly guide you into the room that would show you the inside of your soul.  Never before had I looked into myself like that. Never again has my being been so still and humble.

I’ve heard things. Bad things about the place, about the community. But my testimony of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) is positive. My testimony is–I’ve seen evil, but in the temple? Never had I.

7 thoughts on “Never Had I–Reflections of ISKCON”

  1. You didn’t see bad or evil as you went with an open mind! You are a treasure.

    If you are anywhere near San Francisco in the next few months, check out an exhibit at The Exploratorium. It is on The Changing Face of Mental Health and asks the question of What is normal? The project that started it all is by a photographer/blogger named Jon Crispan and it is brilliant. If I were not living in France, I would not miss the exhibit. A friend who lives in Sacramento has promised to go and tell me all about it. If you are interested, you can check out his blog online.

  2. Terah, if you check out Jon’s blog, you will get a glimpse into the exhibit. It is all about The Suitcase Project. If I were stateside, you couldn’t keep me away. Of course there would be tons of fodder for the writer… 🙂

  3. Hi Terah. I’m out of the mountains for a day here. Of course I’m not too sure about this. One of my rules of life is to not go to a church with padded pews. What I here is “come on in David make yourself comfortable.” Every thing is allright. ” “Don’t worry we’ll take care of you.” “Now doesn’t that make you feel good/” For a couple years now my church going has been to clean the church, and it is hard to get upholstered chairs clean. Talk like that from any god is what scares me. I start looking around to see who or what is about ready to whop me. No I am more of a Jacob sort of guy, you know sleep on a bed of rocks and wrestle with your God. My soul might have to wear this coat of flesh and blood and deal with all that flesh and blood seems must deal with, but I fear when I get too comfortable with it. There is something , and I don’t capitalize it, in this world that I can’t help but feel is trying to lie to me all the time, assuring me and even petting me when I get too comfortable and it drives me into the wilderness. Temples are nice, churches are nice I guess, when I don’t have to pretend that I am anything but what I know I am. Love you Terah and keep up the good work. Did you say I might see you again someday? You mean before I die even? Wow! I’d like that. David.

    1. “and it is hard to get upholstered chairs clean” — I’ll bet.

      “you know sleep on a bed of rocks and wrestle with your God” — I’ve done this so much. There’s something to be said for Feng Shui.

      “There is something , and I don’t capitalize it, in this world that I can’t help but feel is trying to lie to me all the time, assuring me and even petting me when I get too comfortable and it drives me into the wilderness” — OK, interesting.

      “Temples are nice, churches are nice I guess, when I don’t have to pretend that I am anything but what I know I am. ” — You go weekly don’t you? And it is your job to clean the church. You know where I’m coming from. Else you would not engage in these things.

      This indeed just one side of story with many sides. Thank you for reading. Blessings, sunshine, birds, tree tops and wombs of the earth with you. Dig deep.

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