This article, "Hare Krishna 'Life Is the Soul, I Am Not My Body,'" was published in The Palm Beach Post, August 17, 1971, in West Palm Beach, Florida.
SAN FRANCISCO - It was an unusual dinner party.
"We've been cooking for days," one of the hosts said.
"How many people are coming?" I asked.
"About 60,000," the young man answered.
Take that, Pearl Mesta!
The young man and his fellow disciples of the Krishna Consciousness movement were putting on a festival and a feast. The Hare Krishna Rathayatra festival was the fifth such annual gathering in the San Francisco area. The yearly celebrations are also staged in London, Tokyo and India.
Four thousand people actually showed up. but of these, only 300 were "devotees" of Krishna. The rest were onlookers invited to come if they wished.
A "devotee" wears saffron-colored robes and his head is shaved except for a lock of hair remaining at the back. One of them explained. "If I spend my life keeping up hairs, this is a waste of time. It is better spent in the service of the Lord."
The Krishna Consciousness movement was discussed by a devotee. "How can I enjoy THINGS?" he asked. "That's what this world is all about. Krishna worshippers want to counteract that. We must all give up the illusory struggle for happiness...along with the bodily conception of life. Life is the soul. I am not my body. People confuse themselves with things. Have you ever noticed when one car hits another? The man jumps out of his car and yells, 'You hit me!' The man was not hit... it was his car."
I will tell you this: If anyone got hit by one of the three mammoth juggernauts the Krishna people pulled 2.5 miles through Golden Gate Park, he would not get up and yell anything. He would simply not get up.
The three "rothas" were like giant parade floats with huge 10-foot wooden wheels. The rothas were covered with silks and flowers and carried incense burning pots. On each of the three gigantic carts was a wooden Deity form of their Lord. A devotee said the idols were "authorized worshipable forms of the Lord," Not exactly like the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost...but rather, Krishna, his sister and her husband.
During the march and at the feast, members of other persuasions got in their innings. Hundreds of "Jesus freaks," the fundamentalist youth who say, Jesus is their biggest "trip," distributed literature and rapped with the crowd.
One slightly older Jesus person repeatedly yelled at the entourage his allegiance to Jesus. Perhaps he felt it was necessary to shout in order to be heard over the chanting of the Hare Krishna.
Another group worked its way through the crowd asking registered San Francisco voters to sign petitions against a transit fare increase.
It's a miracle that women's lib and the black pride groups weren't there, too, because in the play the Krishna people presented, the "demon" was in blackface; and a devotee revealed that women were expert at cooking, but not quite so expert at explaining philosophy.
The police were there, though. They were on motorcycles, motor bikes, horses and in squad cars. But the gathering was not unruly, and about the only need for police was when a television crew inadvertently locked its equipment inside their truck and the cops picked the lock.
Anyway, the Krishna people really did serve 4,000 guests. Their dinner was organic bread, which tasted like a gingerbread brownie, cherries, grapes, and sweet little balls of honey, nuts, and sugar they called halvah.
By the way, there were no place cards. But the food was pretty good. And so what if 56,000 of the expected guests didn't show? Leftovers are to be anticipated at any party, right?