This article, "Hare Krishna, Hare Rama," was published in The Hindu, September 13, 1970, in Chennai, India.
I WAS walking along a street in San Francisco one sunny afternoon and I suddenly heard the chant "Hare Rama, Rare Rama, Rama, Rama, Hare, Hare. Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna...," I saw three Americans in saffron robes with their heads completely shaven chanting the 'Taraka Names'. They were seated in the street corner and there was a small crowd around them. Out of curiosity, I joined the crowd and listened to the chanting of the Americans. One of them walked up to me and asked me if I was from India and when I said 'Yes', he was delighted. He pulled out a card and invited me to a "Giant Vegetarian Feast" the following Sunday.
He talked about the International Society for Krishna Consciousness at the Radha-Krishna temple at 518, Frederick St., San Francisco. The Society organises services daily at 7 p.m. The members of the Krishna Consciousness Society believe that God can be realised through the chanting of the Hare Krishna Mantra.
There are Krishna Consciousness Centres at Boston, Buffalo, Honolulu, Los Angeles, London, Montreal, New York City, North Carolina, Sante Fe, San Francisco, Seattle and Vancouver, and in Hamburg (West Germany). Under the guidance of Bhaktivedanta Swami, the founder of the International Krishna Consciousness Centre, a Krishna Consciousness Centre is taking shape in the hills of West Virginia in the U.S. It is called New Vrindaban.
In a letter to his disciples, the Swami wrote: "You have New York, New England and so many 'new' duplicates in the U,S. Why not import New Vrindaban into your country?" The extent of New Vrindaban is about 133 acres and there are plans to build seven temples to begin with.
"Back to Godhead" is the monthly of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness and carries interesting articles on subjects like the Gita, Chaitanya Mahanrabhu, the Upanishads, etc. It also carries some vegetarian recipes from time to time.
The Centre is a hive of activity on all days, especially Sundays. It believes that one can attain peace of mind and radiate joy around oneself through the chanting of the Hare Krishna Mantra. I myself was asked to recite this at a number of places. Americans, young and old, joined in. I was greatly struck by their sincerity and earnestness.
Among the younger generation in the West, there is a general restlessness and a disinclination to join the rat race. They try to break out of the establishment and try out new sets of values. Some have given up all material things and live like genuine sadhus. I met a young American in San Francisco who asked me to give him 50 cents to buy supper. On enquiry, I found that he was a graduate, but chose to lead the life of an Indian sadhu. He begs for his food and meditates the rest of the time. There are several like this in California and New York. Some may be bogus, but some are really earnest.
It is rather odd that while Indian youths are questioning the values of their society, Western youths are struck by our ideals of detachment nonpossession and devotion. The Krishna Consciousness Centre aims at transcendental meditation through 'Bhajan' and 'Nada Upasana'.