Inside the world of a Hare Krishna

(Photo: Bernard Wilchusky / Central Florida Future)

It began with a chant. In a small house off Rouse Road, in the center of the shrine room's wood-paneled floor, a bald man in saffron robes shifted from foot to foot, singing the words of his faith: hare krishna, hare krishna, krishna krishna, hare hare, hare rama, hare rama, rama rama, hare hare.

It's a form of worship called mantra meditation. It's one among a number of methods of devotion practiced by the members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness — known colloquially as the Hare Krishnas — as a means to come closer to their God and a state of mind called Krishna Consciousness.

"Chanting clears the mind; it's a way of attracting God to us," said Trivikrama Swami, the temple's elder acolyte. "People falsely believe they are at the center of the universe, so Krishna created the physical world to fulfill that belief. Chanting reminds us that we are not the center of the world, that there are things greater than us in the cosmos."

Trivikrama Swami has been an initiated member of ISKCON since 1966. Since his initiation, when he swore to remain celibate and devote his life in service to God, he has traveled the world — Japan, Korea, Poland, England and more — before placing his roots at the ISKCON Temple here in Orlando.

"I felt that, well, I've been all over the world, I've practiced in pretty much every country, but I figured I'd be more effective here, as an American," Trivikrama Swami said. "After my spiritual master left the world in 1977, we [his disciples] had a bit of leeway to choose where to go and practice."

The ISKCON Temple in Orlando was established in 2003, though its members have been practicing in the local area for many years beforehand, using space provided at various Hindu temples in the local area. The temple boasts a shrine, vegetable garden, community kitchen and living space for its six resident devotees, in addition to serving as the community's focal point for festivals and high holy days.

Life for the temple's resident devotees begins promptly at 4 a.m. They wake, wash and begin chanting on a string of prayer beads before the temple's first service at 5 a.m. Service lasts for two hours, after which devotees may tend to the garden, study or prepare food prior to the evening ceremony at 6 p.m.

Services are open to the public, and often students from UCF appear among the temple's regular cast of members to experience firsthand the Hare Krishnas' unique form of worship.

"I thought everyone was so open, enthusiastic and happy about their worship," said Andrea Sullivan, a freshman international and global studies major. "It's very different from what I'm used to [as a Catholic] where everyone is so serious and formal."

In addition to its ceremonial services, the temple supports a student organization called the Bhakti Yoga Club. The club provides a means for students to practice mantra meditation and to learn more about the Hare Krishna faith.

For international students such as Naman Mehta, a master's candidate in optics and the Bhakti Yoga Club's current president, it provides a link to his home in India. Mehta, a practicing Hare Krishna, moved to America to study at UCF. The club and the ISKCON Temple provide him an outlet for stress and a way to place his life into a larger context.

"I focus on one simple thing: I try my best, to the best of my ability, to serve him [Krishna]," Mehta said. "Everything else follows from that. Sometimes I don't know how I can do it — the studying, the club, moving from India. So long as I believe, so long as I worship, I know that whatever happens is the best for me."


Srila Prabhupada Procession in Vrindavan

Every year the day before Srila Prabhupada's Disappearance he is taken for Saptadevalaya Darshan.

Inaugurating the new Prabhupada Vani Bookstall in the Samadhi Museum!

Inaugurating the new Prabhupada Vani Bookstall in the Samadhi Museum!

Passing New Madan Mohan Mandir

Passing Old Madan Mohan Mandir

Passing Advaita Vat

Sri Sri Radharaman Ji

More than 10,000 attend Diwali 2014 at the Bhaktivedanta Manor Hare Krishna Temple

More than 10,000 people from across the UK came together at the Bhaktivedanta Manor Hare Krishna Temple in Hilfield Lane, Bushey, on Sunday to celebrate Diwali.

Visitors enjoyed face painting, henna, traditional dance performances, and the annual grand firework display.

Bhaktivedanta Temple was donated by the Beatles star, George Harrison, to the Hare Krishna movement in 1973. It is the only temple in the UK to host a Diwali fireworks display on such a big scale.

Communications secretary for the temple, Radha Mohan Das, said: "The day was a really big success, everyone had a lot of fun. There was a great atmosphere, particularly in the lead up to the fireworks."

The day also saw two drama perfomances, which told parts of the story behind Diwali.

Diwali celebrates the triumph of good over evil, which is told in the ancient Indian text, Ramayana.

Lord Rama, his wife Sita, brother Laxman and friend Hanuman are returning home after defeating the demon Ravana.

Their journey home took place during the night in complete darkness and to guide them home safely thousands of local villagers, celebrating their return, lit up their route by hanging lamps, lighting divas, candles and fires - which is why it is often called the festival of lights.

Mr Mohan Das, who also took part in one of the drama performances added: "This is one of the biggest festivals we host and we have around 100 people who have volunteered their time to help organise it. We couldn't have done it without them."

President of the Bhaktivedanta temple, Srutidharma Dasa, said: "Diwali is traditionally a time for families to come together. It gives us an opportunity to give to others - helping those who are less privileged than ourselves. And to forgive - and by forgiving, it grants us the opportunity for new beginings."


Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Museum Inauguration at Vrindavan Dham

On the 9th of October it was held the inauguration of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta's Museum in Sri Vrindavan Dham, at the Sri Radha Gokulananda Temple.
Sannyasis and devotees from different parts of the world attended to the event. Srila B.A. Paramadvaiti Maharaja and Shrivatsa Goswami were present and Goswamiji gave a beautiful speech about the glories of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur Prabhupad, the World Vaishnava Association - Vishva Vaishnava Raj Sabha, and this exhibition.
A beautiful reception was prepared for the visitors and Maha prasada was distribuited at the end.

We kindly invite your parikrama group to visit the exhibition during this month of Kartik. The museum will be open everyday until the 19th of October, 2014.

We are also very happy to announce that a permanent exhibition is being planned to will be installed at Keshi Ghat. Soon we will bring you more informations.

Sri Shrivatsa Goswamiji and Sri B.A. Paramadvaiti Swami

By the grace of Sri Sri Radha Gokulananda the Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Museum in being held in Sri Vrindavan Dham.