On February 8th 2017, I was mind blown as I had the chance to walk into the ISCKON temple in Dallas, Texas for an India civilization field trip. The ISCKON temple, also known as the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, had two large lions guarding the front door. Krishna is called “a lion among wild creatures” by the Gita. I removed my shoes as I entered the temple and was in awe as I saw a big beautiful altar at the head of the room. In the center of the art filled altar sat the colorful Sri Sri Radha Kalachand.
The room was filled with people who stood motionless as the gazed upon the altar. On the altar a ritual was being performed with a prayer, continuous knocking noise, and an occasional blow from a conch shell. Following the ritual, I could see people around the room get on their knees and pray to the altar. As I observed more, I noticed that aside from the lions at the front door, there were more that surrounded the ceiling inside the temple. On the right side of the temple was a magnificent statue of a man named A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. According to The Hare Krishna Movement, “It was Prabhupad who conceived ISCKSON; it was he who knew what Krishna Consciousness was and how to achieve it; and it was he who had the charismatic authority to draw others into what to all of them was a totally unfamiliar tradition” (Hopkins, 174).
I also noticed large paintings of Krishna on every wall. Our incredibly helpful and informative guide named Prajapati explained that they all told the stories of Krishna. In one story, Krishna stole the clothes from every girl in town. It was a belief that the man a woman was to marry would be the first to see her naked. Krishna gave every girl her fantasy by forcing them to present themselves nude to him in order to receive their clothing articles back. Another similar story depicted Krishna multiplying himself many times in order for every girl to dance with him at a festival. One more painting illustrated a story of Krishna stealing butter and getting away with it. These stories display Krishna as the “uptown swami” in New York which is defined in The Hare Krishna Movement as, “sophisticated”, but also the “downtown swami” in New York who said to always be, “singing, dancing, and chanting in the park…”(Hopkins, 171). I did not know much about Krishna previous to this field trip, but I did learn that he was very sophisticated with his little schemes he executed, but was also very happy and playful. He seemed to love to dance and sing and multiply himself so he could do more of it at once.
This field trip was eye-opening for me since I’ve been enclosed by my own religion my whole life. It was intriguing to step inside the temple and learn about the Hare Krishna movement.