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Wandering Souls Chant Hare Krishna

This article "Wandering Souls Chant Hare Krishna," was published in Winnipeg Free Press, June 20, 1970, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

WASHINGTON (Special-TPNS) - "Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna," chant two shaven-headed saffron-robed men in front of American University.

Students stroll past or sprawl on the grass, paying little attention.

"By chant we can spiritualize the atmosphere," explains Dinadayadri Dasi, who was trying to sell sandalwood-scented incense and literature about the Hare Krishna movement.

Takers are few, and the 18-year-old, sari-clad girl speculates that the student strike has generated an especially heavy atmosphere of "maya." Maya - the illusion that the physical world reported by the senses is real and potentially satisfying - offers the same kind of challenge to the Krishna devotee that sin offers to the revival preacher.

"Krishna," to the devotee, is the name of God in his highest manifestation. Chanting his name and attributes drives away maya and is the source of absolute bliss.

Dinadayadri wears a gold ring through her left nustril. The ring is attached by a fine gold chain to a companion ring in the top of her ear. She might be taken as a religious woman of India, but her U.S. origins are betrayed by her long golden hair and milky blue eyes.

Sings Name

She has been a devotee of Krishna consciousness and dedicated to singing the name of God - the Hare Krishna chant - for about five months.

Before that as she tells her story, she was known as Jeanne Clansen and lived in a commune near Ann Arbor, Michigan.

"We thought we were having religious experiences. We were being misled by false rascals, people like Timothy Leary."

Until last June she lived with her parents and was a high school student in Ferndale, Mich, a suburb of Detroit. But from the age of 15, she was, she says, a user of soft drugs, principally LSD and grass (marijuana).

"They were a big illusion. I thought they would give me self-realization."

"I was a wandering soul looking for absolute truth."

That sense of wandering is past for Dnadayadri now she believes. Her days - and her future - are planned in detail.

Dinadayadri's spiritual master, inspirer of the entire International Society of Krishna Consciousness, is a 75-year-old Indian religious teacher known as His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami. The swami, "Prabhupada" as his followers affectionately call him, now lives in a $250,000 former Methodist church in Los Angeles, surrounded by 75 devotees including two who wait upon him constantly.

The swami may be full of years, but most of his followers in Los Angeles, in the Washington temple and in the 20 other temples throughout the United States are youthful. Few of the 500 full initiates are over 30 and many are in their teens. A similar youthfulness prevails among the hundreds more who have a more casual relationship with the society, inquirers, temple worshippers and part-time chanters.

For some searching young people, Krishna consciousness clearly offer satisfying answers. Five years ago what is now a flourishing movment was only a hope in the heart of Swami Bhaktivedanta, who arrived in New York from India convinced that he was called to introduce Westerners to the bliss of chanting.

Beards Offend

He believed that a proper understanding of spiritual ascetism called for men to be shaved on scalp, cheek and chin, and he was offended by the beards and flowing locks of the uptown swamis.

He saw that some accepted cocktails and smoked cigarettes, and was sure that people who live properly-regulated lives abstain not only from tobacco and alcohol but also from drugs, meat, fish, eggs and sexual intercourse (except for the procreation of children).

He took his dream in the East Village, where the hip explosion was just beginning and opened the first temple of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness in 1966.

At the temple, Gargamuni Das, now in Los Angeles, then a young Jewish dropout from Mesa College, Grand Junction, Colorado, and the swami, Gargamuni's brother, Brahmananda Das, now 27 and chief of the movement's publications division in Boston, also came to the movement in those early months.

So did Damodar Das, 20, who heads the Washington Temple. All devotees take one of the divine names as their own, following it with the suffix "Das" or "Dasi," meaning "servant of " or "handmaiden of."

Gargamuni, recently explained some of his reasons for accepting the Hare Krishna way.

Four days of Mesa College, he said, convinced him that "colleges are actually slaughter houses. Pictures of nude women dangle everywhere, and an atmosphere of sexuality covers the senses."

Gargamuni regards Judaism as the height of hypocrisy: "they sing God's name in one room and get drunk in the next."

But he is equally scornful of most other conventional U.S. social institutions. He dismissed churches as a front for business and an illusory haven that "the whole society is made up of cheaters," and he urgued that most people have organized their lives around a meaningless search for transitory sex pleasure.

"Do your realize that you are composed of 90 per cent mucous and 10 per cent stool and urine? That's all sex pleasure is - mucous, stool and urine," he said.

Marriage, however, is permitted for male devotees who are unable to submit to celibacy. It is required for woman intiates like Dinadayadri, whose chief task now is to wait upon the husband the movement has given her, Nara Narayan Das, 20.

"A woman's only purpose is to serve her husband." Dinadayadri said calmly.

"Women have been conditioned to think they are equal to men, but living entities that take a female body are always inferior to those that take a male body."

"I am like a cow. But it is a very nice thing to be called a cow, because they are holy and Krishna loves them."

The movement operates a 500-acre farm called New Vrindaban 10 miles outside Wheeling, West Virginia, to which devotees' children are sent when they are six.

"It helps to diminish the family attachment between parents and children," Gargamuni said. At New Vrindaban devotees tend dairy cattle and grow what he described as "nice food stuffs."

"Nice" and "blissful" are constantly upon the lips of devotees.


Damodar dscribed the saffron dhoti, or long loin cloth he wears as "very comfortable, very nice."

Dinadayatri said that since she has begun to chant, she has built "very nice relationship" with her parents.

"They go to the temple in Detroit," she said, "Every time I talk to them, the more blissful they are."

She now is hoping that her parents will give her pearls to adorn her nose ring, which she wears, she said, "to please the senses of Krishna."

She added: "my parents by serving me are serving God."

For other devotees, however, attachment of Krishna means estrangement from their families. Damodar said that he corrsponds frequently with his mother (his father died last year). But his mother still finds it painful to address him by name that differs from the one she gave him, Daniel Clark.

He was married and a young film-maker in New York in 1967 when his eye was caught by a advertisement that Swami Bhaktivedanta could be chanting in New York's Tompkins Square.

"I took it up immediately, the experience was so ecstatic," he said. "It brought about immediate contact with God, intoxicating bliss."

It also brought about separation from his wife, who still lives in New York and concerns herself with politics and art. Damodar has dedicated himself to celibacy.

Milton McRween, 25, who lives at the Washington temple and wears Indian garb and a shaved head though he is not yet initiated, also broke with his wife over Krishna consciousness.

"She hates the whole idea," he said.

Mr. McSween, one of the few Negroes in the movement spent two years at Antioch College and three years in the marines before beginning the religious quest that led him to the movement:

"People in this age need more help than christianity is giving them," he said.

His search led him to experimentation with drugs, to the Bhagavad Gita, one of the classic Indian scriptures, and finally to the Hare Krishna movement.

Beg In Street

The financial base of the movement is unclear. The devotees depend considerably on their steet begging and publications and incense sales.

Their incense and other fragrance, which they import from India and put in to commercial form, are also for sale in some stores under the "spiritual sky" label.

Sandalwood is a favorite fragrance among those devotees, and an approaching chanting party can often be detected not only by the sound of music but by also the scent of sandalwood.

The movement also enjoys some heavy contributors, according to Gargamuni, most notably Beatles George Harrison, who has six devotees living and chanting on his estate in Devon. One of the movement's most honored items of merchandise is a record of the chanting of the devotees of the London temple that was issued under the Beatles on Apple Label.

At noon or thereabouts, they set out for up to 12 hours of chanting and dancing on the streets. If any devotee is bored by the endless repetition of the Hare Krishna chant, he does not speak of it.

"Through chanting," said Damodar, "love will emerge."

"Singing and dancing," said Gargamuni, "spread love and peace. It is better than the peace movement, which is spreading only conflict."

He added firmly: "Hare Krishna is much more powerful than any other form of the name of God."

And under his breath he softly hummed the endless chant.

Photo 1: To please the senses of Krishna...
Photo 2: ... I am like a cow

Reference: Winnipeg Free Press, Washington, D.C, USA, 1970-06-20