Eastern Canada’s Krsna Culture
The traditional chanting, dancing, and worship are all going strong, but there’s much more.
by Amogha Dasa
|The Hare Krsna church-turned-temple stands proudly on Avenue Road, one of Toronto’s busiest thoroughfares.|
Still, for many Canadians the questions remain: What do the Hare Krsnas do? And why?
Nandikesvara dasa, president of the center in Montreal, explained, “We live according to the Vedic scriptures, such as Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam. These books were introduced here in the late sixties and early seventies by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder and spiritual guide of the Hare Krsna movement. He translated them from the original Sanskrit and explained them in elaborate purports. To understand our activities here in eastern Canada, you have to understand something of the principles laid down in these scriptures.”,
|The Deity forms of Lord Krsna and His consort Srimati Radharani (far left) stand on Their altar before a sylvan backdrop painted by Visnu dasa. (The devotees know the Krsna Deity as Ksiracora-gopinatha, a name explained on page 12)|
For several weeks last summer I lived with the Canadian devotees and saw how they put these principles into practice.
As in all Hare Krsna temples, the devotees in Canada begin the day at 4:30 in the morning with a formal arati ceremony. Accompanying themselves on drums and hand cymbals, they sing prayers to the spiritual master, a pure representative of Krsna and the devotees’ spiritual guide and source of inspiration. Then they chant the Hare Krsna mantra in chorus.
|Devotees follow the lead of temple president Visvakarma dasa (beating the blue drum) as they chant Hare Krsna in downtown Toronto|
For an hour and a half after the arati softly on beads (see page 4 for more details). Then it’s time for a class in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Laksminatha dasa, president of the center in Ottawa, told us of its significance: “By hearing the Bhagavatam every morning, we feel tangible spiritual improvement. The Bhagavatam is the foremost of all Vedic literatures because it deals with nothing except the instructions and activities of Lord Krsna and His devotees. The Lord is within each of us, and, as the Bhagavatam itself explains, He purifies our heart and gives us transcendental knowledge when we regularly hear about Him. Ultimately He reveals Himself to us. So the morning Bhagavatam class is a vital part of every devotee’s practice of Krsna consciousness.”
|Before initiating new disciples at a recent ceremony in the Toronto temple (above), Srila Gopala Krsna Goswami (on red velvet seat of honor) explains the relationship between guru and disciple in Krsna consciousness.|
After the class, everyone rises to sing more prayers glorifying the spiritual master. Then it’s breakfast time, followed by the start of the day’s devotional activities.
|Nandikesvara dasa, leader of the Montreal center, play a traditional Indian tamboura as he sings the glories of Lord Krsna.|
Visvakarma also told me about his large congregation of Indian life members. They’ve seen that the devotees are following the genuine Vedic culture, so they enthusiastically support the temple. Two members, Syama-Krsna dasa and his wife, Kunti-devi dasi, recently took spiritual initiation from Srila Gopala Krsna Go-swami, who oversees the movement’s affairs in Canada and initiates new disciples there.
|At a shopping mall in downtown Ottawa, Gaura dasa interests some youngsters in the latest issue of BACK TO GODHEAD.|
Her husband added, “What inspired us was that we saw that we didn’t have to give up our regular life. We could carry on with that and yet advance spiritually and make Krsna the center of our life. We could do everything for Krsna and help spread Krsna consciousness.”
|Mrs. Elizabeth Mohar, one of several thousand members of the Toronto temple’ s congregation, prays to Lord Krsna during an outdoor festival last summer.|
|Newly initiated Syama -Krsna dasa and his wife, Kuntidevi dasi, throw grains into the fire during a ceremony held last summer in the Toronto temple.|
I also learned that another troupe, in Toronto, puts on a play based on the Ramayana, the epic about Krsna’s incarnation Lord Ramacandra. And I heard that one devotee performs ballet and classical Indian dance to portray the Lord’s pastimes.
|A drama unfolds onstage at the Montreal center. In a production of the Vedic classic Mahabharata, the wise Vidura played by Nanda-kisora dasa) warns King Dhrtarastra (played by Gopisvara dasa) of the dangers inherent in a rigged gambling match.|
|Bhakta Luc pantomimes someone trying to control the earth.|
|Deep in creative concentration, Visnu dasa puts the finishing touches on the backdrop for the altar in the Toronto temple.|
“What do you think of that?” Nandikesvara asked.
|Mahavirya dasa sings of Krsna in Montreal.|
“The devotees did it all themselves,” he told me.” Abhay Charan made the wrought-iron table legs and matching chairs, Dana-keli did the plumbing, wiring, and kitchen installations, and Visnu dasa hand-painted the wall mural.” This monumental piece of artwork consists of seventeen panels separated by hand-cast columns and arches.
|Two patrons toast each other’s health with apple juice. The ornate columns and arches, as well as the mural depicting Krsna in the spiritual world, are all products of the devotees’ own artistry|
|Devotees dish out plate after plate of prasadam (sanctified food) to eager celebrants at a festival in Montreal|