When a large group of deaf tourists took a guided tour through Trafalgar Square this June 22nd, they never expected to not only chance upon an ancient Vedic festival, but be explained its meaning in detail.
Intrigued by the colorful chariots and tents of London’s annual Rathayatra festival, they had come over only to take a look. Naturally, they didn’t expect anyone to be able to explain it to them. So they were surprised when an ISKCON devotee jumped onto a bench in front of them and, using only sign language, gave a class on the history and theology of the event.
His theatrics and passion for his subject soon drew another large crowd, this time of hearing people who stood watching the spectacle in amazement.
One of these was London-based Hare Krishna devotee Kripamoya Dasa. “There’s nothing quite like watching a deaf man get excited about explaining philosophy,” he says. “Especially a philosophy that places such a great emphasis on hearing divine sound within the form of a mantra. I mean, how do you break that news to an audience who can’t hear anything at all? But he did it.”
The devotee’s hands moved quickly. He formed letters with finger signs, and with gestures he conveyed words and expressions. His smile was contagious – even those who couldn’t understand sign language were grinning back.
It turns out that the devotee hailed from the “Radha Krishna Deaf Association,” a London group who sign for audiences during every large festival at London’s Bhaktivedanta Manor, and meet up for regular discussions and classes. They’ve also got a book, a t-shirt, a DVD, and a growing number of deaf people who think that Krishna consciousness is just what they are looking for.
“Amazing as it may seem, here in London we have many deaf people -- not just ‘hearing impaired’ but completely deaf -- who have begun chanting,” says Kripamoya.
These unique students of Vaishnavism explain that they hear the Hare Krishna mantra not in their ears, but within their heart.
Now that’s proof that there’s no material bar to spiritual practice.