Some Christians isolate themselves fearful of tarnishing their holiness. I do not share their fears. God told Isaiah a holier than thou attitude is a stench in his nostrils (Isaiah 65:5, NLT). The only people Christians are admonished to avoid are people who claim to be Christians yet habitually practice something the Bible condemns (1 Corinthians 10:11).
Most of my friends are Christians and the articles I write are about Christians, but I have written about Pagans. They were willing to share their stories and allowed me to film them because one of them is a friend of mine. I also have friends who are atheist, agnostic, homosexual, Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, Pentecostal and Jewish. Exposure to my friend’s diverse beliefs has strengthened my faith.
Jesus prayed that God would leave us in this world (John 17:15). Is there something God wants me to see and understand? I think there is and will not shut my eyes and ears to the world I live in. Therefore, when the New Orleans Lamplight Circle informed me of a meeting discussing the faith, beliefs and spirituality of the Hare Krishna, I headed for the Fair Grinds Coffeehouse.
Joy, from the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), was scheduled to speak, but she convinced Radha Rahmon, a traveling teacher from India, to speak in her place. He is a temple president from Sri Mayapur a village with 5,000 temples considered one of the spiritual capitals of the world.
The program opened with Kirtan which is the chanting of the holy names of the Lord. Joy compared the Kirtan to the Bibles exhortation to “make a joyful noise to the Lord.” I understood what she meant but, why did she think the Pagans sitting at the table would understand the comparison?
The main Kirtan is the maha mantra:
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna
Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama
Rama Rama Hare Hare
Krishna is the name for God, Joy explained, which means all attractive. Hare is the energy of Krishna. The maha mantra is praying to the energy of the Lord to “please engage us in your service.”
HARE KRISHNAS CHANT MAHA MANTRA
The Kirtan finished abruptly and Joy introduced Radha Rahmon. He immediately pointed out that the ultimate goal of life is to become God conscience, not Krishna conscience. “Hare Krishna’s strive to live a simple life with a constant awareness of God,” he said. After giving a brief history of how Hare Krishna spread to the west, he answered some difficult questions with patience and grace. His answers were intriguing. Most Christians would have said similar things.
While my Christian concept of God differs from Radha Rahmon, his views on separation of church and state, abortion and homosexuality were common ground. He also addressed the equality of women; an issue of contention within the Christian church. Some protestant churches allow women in leadership but it is unlikely the Catholic Church will ever ordain women to be priest. The Hare Krishna’s do not have a problem with a woman teaching spiritual things.
Most of the Pagans I have talked to started their story with abuses they suffered or witnessed in the Christian church. I understand how easy it would be to leave Christianity for something offering love and acceptance, especially for women called to ministry who are denied their place. Like the Pagans, I have been abused and witnessed abuse. Should I have expected different treatment when Jesus was also abused by the church and told us we would be persecuted. My experience with God was so intense I cannot deny him to worship an idol who did not come when I called. I’ve also lived long enough to see the abusers eat the fruit of their own ways.