on Dec. 13, 2008
Krisha Devotee and Teacher Dr. Prayag Narayan Misra
This story from the secular press discusses Krishna consciousness in Arizona. While the Chandler temple mentioned and photographed is an ISKCON temple, the proposed "Vedic Cultural Center" in Sedona is not. -- Ed.
“I am 16 years old,” said Dr. Prayag Narayan Misra, Krishna devotee and teacher, “my spiritual age is 16, ever youthful.”
Dr. Misra, adorned in plain white robes, stood facing a colorful display of godly figures in a temple dedicated to Krishna, Hindu avatar of Vishnu, their lord. He presented a red blossoming flower, its scent mixed with the sweet incense of the temple. He smiled and joined his open palms together gently under his chin.
“Hare Krishna,” he said.
The temple is found inside an unassuming building in Chandler, Ariz., with only the simple sign “Bhaktivedanta Cultural Center, ISKCON Phoenix" outside. ISKCON stands for the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. It was established in 1996 by co-founder Dasarath Pandit, an American who became a disciple in 1971 after attending a lecture in Baltimore. He said most people go through life concerned about what makes their bodies happy, but forget about their souls. Hare Krishna’s teach “how to live as a spiritual soul,” he said.
Dasarath also established a temple in Tucson in 1986 and is currently raising money for a $70 million project in Sedona named the Sedona Center of Vedic Culture. It is estimated for completion in five years.
According to plans, the project includes an authentic temple, performing arts center, natural food restaurant, library, museum and 70 guest house suites. It will also contain an educational center which teaches Vedic music, dance, astrology, science, arts medicine, yoga, and meditation. Dasarath said it will “promote world peace, health and spirituality.” To learn more about the Sedona project, go to www.SedonaVedicCulture.com.
Sedona’s picturesque landscape provides a perfect background for the Vedic Cultural Center which caters to all ancient Indian Vedic Cultures, not just Hare Krishna.
Most people have encountered a Hare Krishna devotee at some point in their lives. Shadowed by controversy and dubbed by some as the mainstream Hindu faith, its members were often found in airports handing out books and asking for donations.
But this is not the essence of Hare Krishna.
Dr. Misra said Krishna is one of ten avatars (Vishnu’s descent to Earth in physical form), appearing 5000 years ago. There is one god, but he has 10,000 names, he said.
“We are not Hindu,” he said, “We are spiritual people, we are pure spirit. Our bodies get old and die, but our soul is eternal.” Hare Krishna devotees believe everyone is pure soul inside a material body. They say they are an eternal consciousness free from the materialistic constraints of life. To end suffering and to have peace, bliss and joy, one must think eternally, said Dr. Misra.
He called himself “a servant of the servant of the servant of the Lord.” He said he is not directly a servant to the Lord, but is humbly a servant to those who serve.
As in all religions, Hare Krishna devotees have key principles they must observe. The Hare Krishna has four: no meat eating (including all meats and eggs), no consuming of addictive substances (including alcohol, coffee, soda or tea), no illicit sex, and no gambling.
ISKCON was founded by spiritual master A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (His Divine Grace) who came to the United States in 1965 to teach Krishna consciousness to the western world. Before his death in 1977, Prabhupada founded 108 temples on six continents, circled the globe 14 times, and wrote close to 70 books, said Dr. Misra. He was the number one writer of English literature after Shakespeare, he said. His most famous was an English translation of the Bhagavad-Gita (ancient Hindu text, its name literally meaning “song by the Lord”).
The Hare Krishna temple and its six daily services is open to visitors and devotees alike. When visiting, remember to take off your shoes, and “wake up your sleeping soul” by joining the Maha Mantra which is chanted to bring peace, love, joy, and happiness:
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare