The shaved-headed man in a peach-coloured sarong who answered the door seemed quite happy to usher us into the private world of Krishna at their Toronto temple. We were just university students out to have some fun but our irreverence seemed to roll off him like water from a duck. He didn’t even grimace when we told him straight-faced that we were lost in life and needed some spiritual direction. Wink wink, nudge, nudge.
What we saw inside was something else altogether. We got a mini-course in Hare Krishna all in one day. The man took us through a room where a life-sized replica of Srila Prabhupada, founder of the Hare Krishna sect, sat on a podium. The guide told us that they believed that any image of a god, was an embodiment of the god, to be venerated. We stepped into the holy of holies and things started to get seriously weird. There, twangy Indian music played and ornate golden thrones sat all in a row. The guide took us over to greet those seated. Despite that the assortment of dolls looked pretty much like ridiculous golliwogs dressed up in Indian garb, we were personally introduced. This is Krishna’s brother, this is Krishna’s cousin, this is Krishna’s sister, etc.
Pleased to meet you Mr. Rag Doll. I tried not to burst out laughing, except that the fresh flower garlands and the bowls of rice placed there daily with the incense, looked pretty serious. So did the earnest middle-aged dude clad in a loincloth which vaguely resembled an oversized diaper. He danced back and forth in front of the figures, in an expression of ecstatic praise, which I took to be his function and purpose for being there. It passed through my mind - this is the waste of a life. Some father out there is crying, and this grown-ass man, why isn’t he at work doing something productive with his time? Let’s just say they lost me totally at the loincloth stage.
Though Hare Krishna has largely receded from public view, it was just part of many waves of inter-spirituality to hit the shores of North America in the 70’s and beyond, the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, the aperture of the kind of global spirituality which was supposed to subsume mankind and make us of one mind and spirit.
If Christians better understood their own religion, they might come to question their easy relationship with Eastern religion. Father John Dreher has written a good piece on centering prayer on the Catholic Answers website where he outlines the practises creeping into western churches that do not square with Christian theology. If you have the time, the article is interesting reading. You will find the link here.
You may not be alone if you decide to give eastern religion a pass. The Beatles flirted with it. They even went to live in an ashram as students of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who devised the Transcendental Meditation technique. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, died a billionaire, and he was most famous for his girlish high-pitched giggle which drove some people crazy. The Beatles abandoned their project when they discovered that the Yogi was just a weird and hairy old man who pretended to be wise by answering questions with a question. Meanwhile at the ashram, he was getting it on with gullible young women as part of his elevated status. The Beatles left the ashram on bad terms, and captured their distaste in a few songs like “Fool on the Hill” and “Sexy Sadie”. Lenon was convinced to change the lyrics last minute in case the Yogi sued him, but you can fill in the name from the lyrics. The song was a reaction to their shock when they discovered the Yogi had tried to rape Mia Farrow during their stay.
Sexy Sadie, what have you done, You made a fool of everyone
Sexy Sadie, ooh, what have you done, you broke the rules
You laid it down for all to see
Sexy Sadie, ooh, you broke the rules
One sunny day the world was waiting for a lover
She came along and turned on everyone
Sexy Sadie, you'll get yours yet
However big you think you are.....
Sexy Yogi may be a bit much to wrap your head around. He was just another creepy old dude looking to get laid, all the while playing holier than thou. I guess his was a very early prelude to the “Me Too” movement.
McCartney didn’t mince his words either.
Day after day, Alone on a hill
The man with the foolish grin Is keeping perfectly still
But nobody wants to know him, they can see that he's just a fool
And he never gives an answer
But the fool on the hill sees the sun going down
And the eyes in his head see the world spinning 'round
Well on the way, Head in a cloud
The man of a thousand voices talking perfectly loud
Nobody seems to like him, they can tell what he wants to do
And he never shows his feelings
But the fool on the hill.....
Did anyone figure out that Nowhere Man was also about the Yogi?
He’s a real nowhere man sitting in his nowhere land
Making all his nowhere plans for nobody
Doesn’t have a point of view, knows not where he’s going to
Isn’t he a bit like you and me?
He’s as blind as he can be just sees what he wants to see
Nowhere man, can you see me at all...
Maybe there is not much I could add. The Beatles got it about right. For those critics of Christianity, I will take Father, Son and Holy Ghost any day.
Men in loincloths... I will give that a pass, thanks.