Now, I’m not too crazy about religions of any sort, and I’ve got tons of friends who are friends of sundry and diverse sects, and each one considers his or her religion and god the one and true religion and god in the world. So it’s not a theme that attracts me all that much. But one day I saw a report on the news (not that I ever watch the news, must’ve been zapping that day) and it was about a girl who had grown up on a Hare Krishna commune here in Spain.
She explained that when she grew up, she moved out, got a job, rented an apartment, tried to live a normal life and do the usual thing, but she couldn’t. She found spirituality sorely lacking in the society that surrounded her, and young people her age only lived for the next alcohol orgy or the next drug-induced high, or for a roll in the hay with the first guy that they could pick up at the disco. How depressing and meaningless, no? That didn’t seem like real living to her!
She missed the warmth and friendliness of the members of her Hare Krishna community. She missed the daily prayers and chanting and most of all, she missed dressing up the Hindu gods in the morning.
She explained that every morning they dressed the statues of the gods and adorned them with different sets of jewellery. It was the highlight of her day to be surprised by the ever-new and creative manners in which the gods could be bedecked each morning. (I guess it’s a bit like a little girl dressing up her dolls, but with some religious nuances thrown in there.) So she left her apartment in the city and returned to the commune.
I thought that sounded really neat, and the truth is, I also agreed that there was a sore and noticeable lack of spirituality in general in the world that surrounded us. So I discovered that we were fortunate enough to enjoy a Hare Krishna commune right here in my own city. There aren’t too many in Spain, so I considered that a real lucky finding.
One rainy afternoon I packed the kids up and we set off in search of this elusive community. I knew which neighbourhood it was in, but not the address, since it wasn’t listed. Once we arrived in that neighbourhood, I found it harder than I expected to hunt down the commune. I had imagined that everyone in the district must know where it was, since this group is quite vocal in other cities. However, in my city, it just happened that they maintained a low profile, almost hiding away, as it was. In the end we located the commune out in the middle of a field, which on that particular afternoon was filled with mud, since it had been raining the whole day.
We went in for the Sunday chanting ceremony, which is open to the general public and which, I suppose, is intended to show lay people what they are like and what they do, in case someone is interested in joining them. True to Spanish custom, however, the ceremony actually began only about two or three hours after the time announced on their website. So we sat around in an empty hall just getting bored and twiddling our thumbs for a long time.
At last, people finally started arriving. I don’t know whether it was the weather, and everyone was feeling under the clouds, or if it was the damp and chill, but seemed that no one had much energy. People drifted about looking bored (like us). A few instruments, mostly drums and guitars, were spirited out. The statues of the gods (which, on that dreary afternoon, even they appeared out of sorts and drably arrayed) were lit up and the ceremony began.
There was some half-hearted singing, of chants I had never heard before and which I didn’t find particularly beautiful – so no lovely, ecstatic, melodic intonations by George Harrison over there – and then people formed a circle and twirled around a little bit. There didn’t seem to be very much sense to it, however, actually. No one went into bliss and no one received a divine revelation. No one even seemed to be enjoying it very much. Maybe they were just hungry, or cold?
After the chanting and twirling someone regaled us with a fairly lengthy, boring sermon. Now, as I mentioned earlier, I am not too interested in religious themes, so I didn’t find the sermon particularly transcendental or life-changing. A few members, with long, depressing expressions on their faces, asked some questions full of angst about their life challenges, but no one seemed to receive a satisfactory reply since in general the answers seemed to consist of a plethora of platitudes like: “I’m sorry but I can’t help you there, only you know what is the right decision to make.” “If you trust in Krishna he will light the way for you.”
At last the best moment arrived: the food! And if truth be told, the food was indeed delicious. There was spicy dhal soup and yellow rice, some Indian flatbreads with butter and a few vegetarian dishes, followed by sweet lassi. All right, the truth is, we didn’t go there for the food. I, at least, had personally hoped to discover that delight and ecstasy that the girl had described in the news report. But, well, if we couldn’t revel in spiritual delights, at least we got the opportunity to enjoy some more earthly delicacies!
All in all, I would have to say that the people are certainly very friendly and hospitable. But if you are hungering for some spiritual fulfilment, I, at least, didn’t find that this group in particular filled my plate very much in that respect. I suppose, like they say, in the end you must still search for your spirituality and spiritual meaning within, rather than without in the things of this world.
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