My parents became part of the Hare Krishna movement in the early 80's. My dad moved into the Temple in Detroit first, and gave up eating meat, drugs, alcohol, and associating with people who were involved with partying. He was 23 and found a group of people who's beliefs resonated with him and his. My mom didn't really understand my dad living in an ashram, doing service for the temple, giving up "normal" things and singing: Hare Krishna, Hare Rama shamalama ding dong. But the more she came around, the more she became interested, and both became devotees of the temple. Soon enough they were both living in the temple, reading, learning, and taking part of this totally new lifestyle. They were both raised in Christian families, so to be the only two that took on a different path, it wasn't quite accepted. What do you mean no more booze and drugs and meaty BBQ's?!?! No more steak and potato dinners, they were hungry for something different. They got married. One ceremony in a church, one ceremony in the temple. They went to India for months! Took in all the culture, experienced life how they wanted to, and continued to pursue this Krishna conscious lifestyle. Visited temples all over the world! From London to San Francisco, Hawaii, and more. Came back to Michigan, had a kid (me), bought a house in Ferndale, and began a new life.
I was born and raised vegetarian, which is what my parents practiced as a part of their religion. Running around the Detroit temple wearing bindi's and singing and dancing. Like most of us, we are born into a religion or spiritual belief that exists in our family. America's foundation is Christianity, so most of the population has roots somewhere within those lines. Typically when we see or hear of anything that is not Catholicism or Christianity related...we think it's really weird. Coincidentally, America is known as the "melting pot" country yet we are so resistant to all of these different cultures and beliefs that are brought in. So what is my parents religion even called? Most people recognize it by ISKON (International Society Of Krishna Consciousness) or Hare Krishna's, but the proper way to label the devotees of the practice is "Vaishnavs". This means that they are followers of the Vedas, which are the oldest written scriptures known to man.
How is this different from Hinduism? Hinduism and ISKON share some similarities and come from Vedic scripture, but are very different in the way that they live, eat, practice, and worship. There are many God's in both religions, but differ from each. I am very ignorant about the Hindu religion because I have not been exposed to it or ever practiced it, but from what I believe they worship Shiva as their main God. Vishnavs worship Lord Krishna, and all forms of his transcendental being...which there are many. Lord Brahma, Lord Chaitanya, Jagannath, Nashringadev, etc. I know this sounds like a lot of info, but this is what I know from asking my own questions and doing my own research. I'm not sure about the strictness and guidelines of Hinduism either, but I do know that Devotees of Krishna are encouraged to take on a vegetarian, drug free, alcohol free, cruelty free lifestyle.
I've heard a lot that people refer to ISKON as a "cult" which always makes me feel two things.
This makes me uncomfortable because the literal definition of a cult is a group of people with a similar belief, so if this religion is a cult, then so are all the rest. Stop using cult in a negative way. Yes, there are extremists of this practice just like there are for all the others. Yes, there have been strange incidents that have taken place within temples, just like strange things happen in Churches. YES, Hare Krisha devotees try to spread the faith through books and ask for donations, just like the people who hand out bibles or pass around a basket for church donations during a Sunday service do. For as long as I've been exposed to this lifestyle I have never once felt as if I was being forced to believe in something or unable to leave the religion if I no longer wanted to be a part of it. There are so many different types of people who come to the temple that I have never felt as if I needed to be a particular way, race, or ethnicity to come to the temple and participate in a Sunday program. I show up, sing, dance, listen to lecture...try to understand, and then we have a vegetarian feast.
I have learned to accept people's ignorance of other religions. We can't understand what we don't know, and don't want to know.
So instead, we judge.
As much as religion brings people together, it also separates us to great lengths. Which is unfortunate, because the whole point of every single religion is to bring yourself closer to whatever God you believe in.
As long as there is no harm being done to another, then there should be no ridicule or punishment or judgement,
Who are you to tell someone their way of faith is wrong just because you don't understand it?
I personally do not practice any particular religion. I have so many questions and just can't follow something I don't understand completely. I can't say if I believe in a God or not. I definitely believe in something greater than me, or you. Also, I have found my own path that allows me to work on being a better person and devoting my life to work on my self relationship. I'm super spiritual, as most of you know. I do still enjoy going to the Temple and Festivals because it's FUN! It's a great environment to engage in from time to time and I don't have to be a die hard follower to experience it!
I'm in love with the energy of the people who love what they are a part of. Singing Kirtan and dancing with others is great for my soul.
Kind of like a passionate Choir at a church, it moves you from the inside out. You FEEL the love people are giving out.
If you practice a religion, do you know WHY? Do you know what it is about? Have you asked any questions about your faith? Are you happy taking part in it?
These are important things!
Take the time to open your mind, ask, wonder, explore.