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Who is Hare Krishna?

This article "Who is Hare Krishna and why are they doing all those strange things on Fifth Avenue?" was published in New York, September 6, 1971, in New York, New York.

By Richard M. Levine

"... Susie found Jesus 'too impersonal,' the Maharishi a 'bogey yogi,' but with Krishna Consciousness she found the Way Out...


All Saturday night and into the early morning hours of Sunday, devotees prepared for the Vedic marriage that would take place that afternoon between Susie and Swarup. The kitchen crew baked huge stacks of chupatties and rolled hundreds of sweetballs for the wedding feast, while the flower detail strung garlands of pink roses and white carnations to be worn by the participants in the ceremony. Two brahmacharis - unmarried men - scrubbed and waxed the linoleum floor of the temple room until they could see their faces peering into it. In the sewing room, a few girls made silk cushions and bolsters for the throne-like chair on which the Spiritual Master would sit when he visited the Brooklyn temple, as he was expected to do any day now, and talked about their hope that the more comfortable Srila Prabhupad could be made to feel, the longer he might be induced to stay. At 3:30 a.m., Rukmini rose sleepy-eyed from the floor and, taking a silver bell in one hand and a brass tray filled with fruit salad, yogurt and cream of wheat in the other, went to wake the deities up and serve them breakfast. She sanse back holding a miniature bed and smiling blissfully to announce, to no one in particular. "It's going to be a great day for Krishna Consciousness."

Outside the sewing circle, Susie gave some final touches to her wedding sari - red Thai silk with more than enough gold thread in it to satisfy the Vedic prescription that an opulent marriage is an auspicious one. She was a pretty, blond-haired twenty-year-old whose overall cookies-and-milk wholesomeness seemed only accented by the gold nose ring she wore in one nostril. 

Like most of the 120 devotees living in the temple. Susie had been involved in Krishna Consciousness less than a year and was not yet an initiated member. She grew up a doctor's daughter in a pleasant ranch-house suburb of Portland with a pool down the block. Leaving her all-Oregon junior free-crawl trophy at home, she became, by her midteens, a roving flower child. With a stop-off for a year at Northeastern University in Boston. Susie has lived in half the hippie haunts from Venice, California, to the caves of Crete, knowing all the while that there had to be something more than drugs and sex and revolution now. She found Jesus too "impersonal," though, and the Maharishi, with his $50-mantras, a "bogey yogi," so it was not until she came across a group of devotees in Germany last summer that she felt she had discovered a bona fide answer ... the Way Out. She traveled on, but kept rereading an essay by the Spiritual Master called "Krishna, the Reservior of Pleasure," which promised a scientific method for leaving behind one's gross material body, the realm of the witch Maya, and reaching back to Godhead. Shortly after returning home, Susie became a devotee - much to the dismay of her parents. "Oh Krishna," she said now, smiling her little girl smile, "I can't wait to leave this rotten material world and enter the Spiritual Sky.

The false entanglements of the material world: Susie's mother and stepfather, for example. After many trying telephone calls from Brooklyn to Newburgh, New York, Mr. and Mrs. Hammond agreed to attend the wedding and even cover its costs, so long, at least, as the payment could be made in the form of a tax-deductible contribution to the temple. At the moment, Susie was more than a little nervous about her parents' visit. She and Swarup had paid a call on them a few weeks before to announce their intention to marry, and although Swarup had been on his best behavior, even letting his black hair grow in for the occasion, it had not come off too well. Susie's stepfather, a retired Air Force colonel, asked Swarup just what he planned to do in life and was not entirely satisfied with his answer, which was that he hoped to serve the Spiritual Master and Lord Sri Krishna to the best of his abilities and help his wife do the same. But it was Susie's mother who put up the real fight. She started out calling Swarup by his karmic - outsider - name. Stevie, and ended up grilling them on their sex lives, imagining God knows what went on in that temple in Harry Krishna's name. As it happened, Susie and Swarup had absolutely no sex lives at all, but Mrs. Hammond shifted gears smoothly and hit upon the clincher. "You two can't get married!" she blurted out, "Why, you've never even kissed!

It just proved Srila Prabhupad right. Love among karmies was nothing but lust, a perverted reflection of man's true attraction for God. Not so in Krishna Consciousness. Susie and Swarup hadn't kissed - or held hands or even talked much before then - because a prohibition against sex outside of marriage was one of the Four Regulative Principles, the others being no eating of meat, fish or eggs, no intoxicants (LSD to weak tea) and no gambling.

Reference: New York, New York, USA, 1971-09-06