I’m familiar with the Hare Krishna movement – followers of ISKCON (International Society of Krishna Consciousness) are often misunderstood as a cult. When they’re doing chant sessions at the Union Square L train stop, people sometimes keep smiling and walk away.
Some, however, stop to learn a little more. I should just say that I’m a big fan of their movement and what they try to achieve – peace for themselves and others through harmless means.
The origins of ISKCON happened on 2nd Avenue by Srila Prabhupad. The temple he founded was on 2nd Avenue and 1st street. At that time, several people who were seeking happiness were looking to do it through artificial means of drugs and free “love.” Not much has changed since that time. People are always searching for happiness – it is human nature to do so.
So what the Krishna lovers do is spread the ancient religion of Bhakti – connection through devotion (which may include, singing, dancing and meditating) so that this happiness can be derived through natural means. A lot of misconceptions can be cleared by visiting the Krishna NYC site’s FAQs.
Getting back to the East Village, their program has become superbly popular and each week more and more devotees show up for the chanting sessions. I had the opportunity to go there and record the session (episode 16). I’ve always found them to be peace bringing and meditative. Hopefully, if not all, at least one person attains that meditative state that I do when I attend by listening.
And the next time you see them chanting on the subway, stop and ask a few more questions. They’re not weird at all, in fact, they happen to be super nice!