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EEL PIE DHARMA - a memoir / haibun -  © 1990 Chris Faiers

Chapter 23 - Hare Krishna

Martha had a redhaired friend named Jill.  I always had a thing for her, and as I was in-between girlfriends, I decided to look her up.  Through the grapevine I learned that she had joined the Hare Krishnas, and so one afternoon I headed downtown to their main temple with a young hippie guy who was passing through Eel Pie.

The Krishnas greeted us warmly, if a little absentmindedly.  They were blissed out, in a robotic way.  While we snacked on the light vegetarian food they offered us, one disciple kept repeating, "George Harrison is a member.  He helps us."  Over and over he name-dropped the Beatles, like a mantra.

The Krishnas ushered us into a second room, where the devotees were kneeling on mats. An incredibly ugly old man with a shaved head approached me.  "I know you.  We've worked together in other lives," he intoned.  He seemed sincere, but I felt a little displaced.  On the wall was a chart listing all the qualities of a good devotee of Krishna.  Near the bottom was the word "poetic".  I had always understood poetic to mean being free, to being one's own person, but the Krishnas were very dogmatic.  They were better, perhaps, than the acid fascists who were taking over Eel Pie, but not by much.

Soon it was time for prayer and dancing in the chapel, a larger adjacent room.  The young hippie and I followed into the chapel, and the devotees began chanting and dancing in rhythm.  We joined in, not wishing to be poor guests.  The effect became hypnotic, and the blue presence was in the atmosphere, just as it had been in the Buddhist Temple:

Two longhairs
    among saffron & shaved heads
        dancing blue phantoms

We chanted and danced for several hours, and then returned to the smaller sitting room.  This alternated all afternoon.  It put the two of us on a high.  When we finally left in the early evening, after four or five hours of chanting, dancing and discussion, we felt very high.  The blue presence was still with us, and we both wondered if the Krishnas had put small doses of acid in our vegetarian food.  Although I had gone there for reasons of the flesh, I had enjoyed the afternoon, although it was too regimented for my spirit.

Years later when I received a Krishna pamphlet in Toronto, I was startled to recognize the ugly old guy with the shaved head and the cosmic memory.  He was the founder of the movement, and I had been highly honoured to have had him approach me.

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revised 8 March 2017