Hare Krishna devotees hold public event
Devotees from around Grey-Bruce welcomed their Hare Krishna movement’s spiritual leader in Canada to a public vegetarian feast and celebration Saturday.
Owen Sound organizer Rajesh Kalavadia said the first-time event at Kelso Beach featured three elements: vegetarian food, spiritual activities like chanting and meditation, and entertainment including music, freestyle dance and a secular drama about loneliness.
Lonely People was co-written by its principal actress Nitai Pryia and BhaktiMarga Swami, who is the Canadian leader of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, representing this country as part of the movement’s governing body commission.
Known also as The Walking Monk, BhaktiMarga Swami had been through Owen Sound twice before. He stopped here during two of the three trips he has made across Canada on foot.
The event at Kelso Beach was a festival and celebration much like those in India in the spring; a gathering and sharing of food, friendship, community and culture, he said.
“It’s a unique outdoor event that has all the right components, music, drama, some dance and food as part of a spring festival,” BhaktiMarga Swami said.
Raised in Chatham, he said he joined in 1973 the Krishna Consciousness movement, founded in 1967 by Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. At its core is mantra chanting and meditation as a means of reaching a higher consciousness.
The highly visible populist spiritual movement flourished in North America, while also being the frequent target of pop humourists, especially during the early 1970s, he said.
“In the early days there was a lot of interest among people on a genuine spiritual quest, looking to find themselves,” BhaktiMarga Swami said. “Krishna Consciousness seemed to answer it for a lot of people.”
The movement struggled in the late 1970s after the leader’s death. In Toronto, with its growing East Indian population, many of the immigrants joined the ISKCON Toronto Temple, BhaktiMarga Swami said Saturday, helping stabilize and solidify the Hare Krishna community in that city, BhaktiMarga Swami said.
“They felt very much at home with us and have become a very intricate part of our community.”
While Krishna Consciousness devotees are scarce in rural areas, reaching such small communities is also part of his role, he said.
“The point is that there are some folks who are members of our society and they’re living in the rural areas, so Owen Sound is kind of like a hub for that,” he said.
Musician Tulasi Hanna, one of three brothers raised in Wiarton, all with their own families now in Grey-Bruce, said there are Hare Krishna families in Owen Sound, Collingwood, Wiarton and Southampton connected to the ISCON Toronto Temple.
He said the growing Grey-Bruce community welcomed the new public event Saturday.
“We’re all spread out a bit,” Hanna said. “It’s nice when we can get together, once a year or so to bring everyone together. We’ve been doing it in our house in Wiarton for years and years.”