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Enchanting Ourselves – Excerpt From “Game of Gods”

July 29, 2016

The following is an extended excerpt from my forthcoming book, Game of Gods: The Temple of Man in the Age of Re-enchantment, chapter 6 – titled “Enchanting Ourselves.”

Game of Gods Cover

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   Kirtan music floated in the background. Colorful silk saris and white arched windows and exotic pictures of an ancient culture greeted my eyes. Miniature deity statues stared amidst the peacock feathers and souvenir trinkets. A small but tempting buffet beckoned, filling the air with the rich aroma of curry and cloves, and the subtle notes of cardamom. I made a beeline for the food.

   After my second helping of palak paneer – a savory dish of spinach and paneer cheese – and too much mango lassi, the guru beckoned to join him in a cozy sitting area tucked under a white staircase. A painting hung over his bench; adoring women and cows were watching Krishna playing a flute. The staircase ascending above our heads, I assumed, was the inside access to the temple space.

   “When you came in,” my host gestured with an exaggerated sweep of an arm, “the smells and sights caught your attention, yes?”

   “Yes,” I answered, “and the food was very tasty.”[1]

   His wife and assistant quietly joined us in what became a mostly one-sided conversation. English was not my host’s native tongue, and he had much to say.

   “Why here?” I interjected. “Why Utah?”

   “Krishna directed us to this place.” 

   Since 1998, the Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple – also known as the Lotus Temple – has been a landmark in the predominantly Mormon community of Spanish Fork. Located approximately 50 miles south of Salt Lake City, the Temple is comprised of gleaming white domes, over 100 arches and columns, a grand outdoor staircase guarded by two bronze elephants, and a spacious upper level walk-around patio. This edifice, set against a mountain backdrop, is visible from Interstate 15. 

   Established as part of the ISKCON network – the International Society of Krishna Consciousness, also known as the Hare Krishna Movement – the Lotus Temple’s spiritual heritage is built on the teachings of the late A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Thirty-nine other ISKCON temples and Vedic centers currently dot the United States, each one advancing the mission of Prabhupada.

   Noted for his influence upon Western culture and his voluminous writings, Swami Prabhupada’s message was one of religious universalism and conscious transformation.

   “Actually, it doesn’t matter,” Prabhupada famously explained in 1974. “Krishna or Christ – the name is the same. The main point is to follow the injunctions of the Vedic scriptures that recommend chanting the name of God in this age.”[2]

   The name chanted is Krishna, the avatar of the Hindu god, Vishnu. In repeating the Hare Krishna mantra and through the practice of bhakti yoga – devotion through yoga – the follower embraces the unity of religions. Prabhupada said it this way,

“To practice bhakti-yoga means to become free from designations like Hindu, Muslim, Christian, this or that, and simply to serve God. We have created Christian, Hindu, and Mohammedan religions, but when we come to a religion without designations, in which we don’t think we are Hindus or Christians or Mohammedans, then we can speak of pure religion, or bhakti.”[3]

   While I was at the Lotus Temple, the resident teacher told me that Hinduism has been evangelizing the West through yoga, and to a lesser but growing extent, the Holi Festival of Colors.[4] The thought struck me: The West is being Hinduized in-fact but not in-name. We are not converting to an organized form of the Eastern religion; rather, we are embracing its thinking and spirit as we mimic its religious practices.  

   Pointing to his own community of Spanish Fork, the guru boasted: “Every Sunday, 100 to 150 Mormons come to the temple for yoga and the Maha Mantra.”[5]

   Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna…

Screen Shot 2016-01-01 at 3.06.00 PM

NOTE: Game of Gods: The Temple of Man in the Age of Re-Enchantment, is slated to be released later this year. Watch for it!

[1] Later I discovered the buffet is blessed twice a day by the Hindu deity, Lord Krishna. The situation reminded me of 1 Corinthians 8 with its discussion of food offered to idols.
[2] The full conversation between Father Emmanuel Jungclaussen and Swami Prabhupada can be found here: http://www.krishna.com/krishna-or-christ-name-same.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Its more consumer-oriented expressions are the popular 5k color runs and associated color festivals. 
[5] Each Sunday the temple puts on a Hara Krishna Love Feast, a time for lectures, worship and yoga, and a fellowship meal.

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