I haven't given much thought to the Hare Krishnas since the '60s and '70s. Then it was hard to miss the saffron-robed devotees' ecstatic chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra at airports, college campuses, and other public places.
Now I'm reminded of them via my perusal of an interesting comment exchange that began September 2 on a Church of the Churchless post. Scrolling down the comments to that date, you'll find one that begins:
Landofpar, Please chant the Hare Krsna ("Hahraay Krishna") mahamantra and be happy.
A moments association with a pure devotee can save one from the greatest danger. That danger is to suffer on the wheel of karma for millions of births in the material world. A.C. Bhaktivedant Swami Prabhupada appeared to deliver a sublime message to us all:
You are not the body. You are spirit-soul. You are part and parcel of Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Krishna is God. He is the all-attractive Supreme Person. Your eternal home is with Him in the spiritual world (Vaikuntha). You have a loving relationship with Krishna. The easiest method for reviving that spiritual love is to chant the names of God:
Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna
Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare
Hare Rama, Hare Rama
Rama Rama, Hare Hare
Well, could be. Philosophically speaking my mantra is: "I don't know. I don't know. Don't know. Don't know."
But along with other Church of the Churchless regulars, I was surprised that the person advocating an embrace of Krishna Consciousness was none other than Tao – who has been harshly critical of "churchy" religious organizations, including India-based ones like Radha Soami Satsang Beas.
Over on the Yahoo Radha Soami discussion group, where a similar discussion has been taking place, Manjit said:
Hello Tao - are you kidding? Chant Hare Krishna to 'make your life happy and sublime'? For real? I'm flabbergasted!! I've been reading your recent comments, and am totally blown away by what I perceive to be outstanding irony in your praise of the Hare Krishna theology, especially in light of your often vitriolic criticisms & contempt for the RS system.
I've always enjoyed Emerson's "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." Being an advocate of spiritual independence, I'll all for individualistic creativity when it comes to fashioning a personal philosophy of life or spiritual faith.
Whatever turns you on. If it feels good, do it. Different strokes for different folks. ('60's ish sentiments that still ring true to me)
That said, I have to agree with Manjit that there are a lot of similarities between the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) and Sant Mat groups such as Radha Soami Satsang Beas. On the ISKCON web site I found a summary of the Hare Krishna philosophy, which says in part:
The Vedic scriptures state that spiritual life begins when one inquires into the nature of the absolute truth, the Supreme Godhead…The ultimate goal of Gaudiya Vaisnavism is to develop a loving relationship with the Supreme Godhead.
…To understand knowledge of self-realisation one must approach a genuine spiritual master, just as one learns the essence of any subject from a perfected practitioner.
…The Vedas describe the [Hare Krishna] mantra as a prayer to the Lord, "Please Lord, engage me in Your service".
Devotees may accept formal initiation into the chanting of the Holy Name vowing to abstain from intoxication, gambling, illicit sexual connections and the eating of meat, fish or eggs.
Though I once was a true believer in a particular path to God, I now can't accept that repeating certain words as a mantra, accepting a particular guru, or following prescribed ethical precepts are keys to unlocking the door that separates us from ultimate reality.
I also find it difficult to resonate with the notion of a personal divinity. Christian mystics repeat the Jesus Prayer as a mantra: "Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me" (or a variant). Hare Krishnas call upon Krishna. RSSB devotees look toward the guru while repeating their own mantra.
Everybody thinks their own way is the way.
Again, I don't know for sure that there are many ways, rather than just one (assuming there is a way at all). Who knows? Maybe there really is a distinct personality at the end of the God road who favors being called by this name rather than that name.
I doubt it, though. When I feel most in touch with the reality of either my own self or the world around me, I don't have much of a need to label, analyze, dissect, or conceptualize. I am as I am, and it is as it is.
Which is why I'll continue to say "I don't know," which amounts to saying "I can't say."(However, I will say that even though I'm not attracted to Hare Krishna as a religion, I'm on board with its vegetarianism. Got some fond memories of Hare Krishna feasts.)