Hare Krishna in Tennessee

Nestled not far from a lengthy gravel driveway in Lincoln County is the ISKCON Murari Sevaka. The nearly 40-year-old farm sits on 265 acres on Murari Drive in Mulberry and is home to several devotees of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, or ISKCON.

Story and photos by Rachel Vickrey, Tullahoma (Tennessee) News and Guardian
Posted July 22, 2011

Seeking Contentment, Pleasure Through the Many Names of God

Nestled not far from a lengthy gravel driveway in Lincoln County is the ISKCON Murari Sevaka. The nearly 40-year-old farm sits on 265 acres on Murari Drive in Mulberry and is home to several devotees of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, or ISKCON.

Its members believe the same God is spoken of in all major scriptures of the world. ISKCON founder A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and a group of about 20 devotees established the local farm in 1976.

Gadi Das is one of the original devotees. Das is a tall, slender, and kind-hearted gentleman with light-colored eyes and a friendly smile that can calm a person and light up the room in the same instant. He often wears white traditional clothing and matching white socks while inside the main building on the farm.

After learning about Prabhupada’s teachings during his college years in Florida, Das found himself, along with several fellow devotees, chanting the holy name of the Lord on a large plot of land in Middle Tennessee.

But before Prabhupada introduced his teachings to the West, the elderly man had begun his own spiritual journey decades earlier in Calcutta, India. That’s when he met Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. Thakura was a prominent scholar and religious leader who later became Prabhupada’s spiritual mentor. Thakura asked his disciple (Prabhupada) to educate the English-speaking world of India’s Vedic teachings and is lovingly referred to as the grandfather of the modern-day Krishna Consciousness movement.

After years of study, Prabhupada sailed from Mumbai (then Bombay) to New York City in 1965 to honor his mentor’s request. At the time of arrival, Prabhupada was 69 years old and had about $7 worth of rupees in his pocket along with his translated sacred Sanskrit texts. But he shared more than a love of God.

Prabhupada also shared music, arts, language and cooking of his native country with all who would listen. And that was the beginning of what many people refer to as the Hare Krishna movement and the early stages leading up to the formation of ISKCON.

Das returned in recent years to Murari Sevaka after a three-decade hiatus. “There was a sense of unfinished duties. We want to do something to create a nice environment for people to enjoy,” said Das.

Following Prabhupada’s worldly departure in 1977, there were several changes in administration at the farm. “There was a sense of confusion and a need for maturity [at the farm]. Hopefully, that has developed within me a bit. I want to come back and put this together in the right way.”

ISKCON is a monotheistic, nonsectarian movement belonging to the Gaudiya-Vaishnava denomination. It’s based on a 5,000-year-old Sanskrit text called the Bhagavad-gita.

In the Vaishnava tradition, God is known by many names. However, Krishna is the primary name, meaning all-attractive and supreme. “There are many details about the religion, but the essence and our core focus is singing the beautiful names of Krishna,” said Das. Chanting the names of the Lord is the practice of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, which is believed to be the most effective way to achieve self-realization and love of God in the current age.

Members of the Hare Krishna movement practice compassion, truthfulness, cleanliness and austerity. There is also a focus on the eightfold yoga path:

•    Yama — Social behavior such as nonviolence, truthfulness and no         stealing.
•    Niyama — Individual discipline including contentment, self-study, and         austerity.
•    Asana — Breathing postures and bodily movements.
•    Pranayama — Breath control.
•    Pratyahara — Discipline of senses.
•    Dharana — Concentration and ability to still the mind.
•    Dhyana — Deep, uninterrupted meditation.
•    Samadh — Absolute bliss, the ultimate goal.
According to Das, the point of yoga is to reunite with Krishna. “The culmination of each of those yogas is in the sound vibration of saying Krishna’s names,” said Das.

“Originally, all paths of yoga are to reunite with the Supreme, because somehow there is this feeling of disconnect in the world. After a while, you start to feel a certain separation or a yearning for something that is missing. And so the connection process is through the chanting of the holy names.”

And those at Murari Sevaka are setting the example that this reconnection is possible. For more information about ISKCON Murari Sevaka, call 931-759-6888 or send an email to gadi -at- pamho.net. You can also connect using Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/murarisevaka.

Helpful definitions:
•    Vedic teachings — Based on the four Vedas, or scriptures (Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharva), the Upanisads, Vedanta-sutra, Puranas, and Mahabharata, including the Gita.
•    Monotheistic — The belief in the existence of one God. Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Bahá’í are other examples of monotheism.    
•    Nonsectarian — Not affiliated with or restricted to a particular religious group    
•    Gaudiya-Vaishnava — Also known as Chaitanya Vaishnavism and Hare Krishna movement. Gaudiya refers to the region of present day Bengal/Bangladesh. Vaishnavism is the worship of Vishnu, another name for God.
•    Bhagavad-gita — The paramount scripture of the Vedic tradition, providing the teachings of Lord Krishna to his devotee Arjuna.
•    Krishna — The supreme Godhead; a name for God

Reposted from a full-page article in the Tullahoma (Tennessee) News and Guardian, July 10, 2011.

Posted in In the News.