A newly arrived migrant to Sydney in 2003, I remember the early days when we explored Circular Quay, the CBD and a few noteworthy areas or landmarks. On one such occasion in the month of May, after hours of exploring in and around Surry Hills, we felt cold, hungry and were looking for a place to assuage our hunger when one of our Hindu friends suggested that we try the free vegetarian meals at the local Hare Krishna Hare Rama temple. My curiosity got the better of me and I readily agreed when the small group looked at each other for mutual consensus. For a person who was not a fan of vegetarian dishes, the taste of unique combination of vegetables in a blend of spices appealed to me to such an extent that I became an ardent fan of the Hare Krishna Hare Rama free meals which was available only after participating in the praying or the chanting.
During my formative years, with specific reference to the 1980s my memory of the Hare Krishna Hare Rama movement was associated with the Hippie movement as portrayed in the 1971 film directed by Dev Anand.
Research on the subject exposed me to interesting revelations about the ‘Stay High! No more coming down!’ campaign advocated by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness under the leadership of Acharya A.C. Bakthivedanta Swami, which was misinterpreted by the Hippies who mistook the transcendental ecstasy for the ecstatic feeling or intoxication artificially induced by drugs or alcohol.
Allen Ginsberg, an elder statesman of the Counterculture and a supporter of Eastern Religions, manipulated the arrival of a swami to his locality in America, organized a ‘mantra rock dance’ and inspired the audience to chant ‘Hare Krishna Hare Rama’ influenced by his then recent visit to India and encouraged people to visit the local Krishan temple after an LSD trip for stabilization. I am not going to debate for or against Allen Ginsberg’s point of view, but I can vouch for the fact that ISKCON preaches the idea of purifying devotees’ soul from materialism through the chanting of ‘Hare Krishna Hare Rama/Krishna Krishna Hare Hare/Hare Rama Hare Rama/Rama Rama Hare Hare’ and bakthiyoga. One cannot ignore the movement’s pivotal doctrine that it is possible to change one’s karma through meditation and yoga and attain enlightenment and liberation.