|HARE KRISHNA DEVOTEES, NYC.|
I learned first-hand just why the identity of Indians is intertwined with Hinduism when I visited the pilgrimage town of Vrindavan in the early 70's (shortly after the arranged disaster of a marriage to an Indian I discuss elsewhere in this blog). We had just finished visiting the "old" Govindaji temple and the newer version when I spotted an much larger, really gorgeous one nearby. Apparently a sign warning non-Hindus not to enter was posted outside, but my husband told me to cover my face with my sari with only my eyes showing.
Well, as you can imagine, the gatekeepers saw my white skin and forbade my entrance. What is more, they started shouting (in Hindi), "the English, the English," to my considerable amusement and surprise. Since I had just learned that the top floors of the old Govindaji temple had been razed on the orders of the infamous Mughal tyrant, Aurangzeb, they might as well have been shouting, "the Muslims, the Muslims." However, my impression of these old, unhealed traumas seemed to make their pride in the survival of their Hindu heritage that much stronger.
Moreover, despite the popularity of Yoga and Meditation world-wide, their practice does not make the beneficiaries of these ancient disciplines Hindus. Why, then, do the members of the Hare Krishna (ISKCON) claim that their bhakti-yoga practice is an exception? Using the example of the Gaudiya Vaishnava saint Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu as proof that non-caste Hindus can study Vedanta and become brahmins by virtue of their chanting the Hare Krishna mantra proves nothing.
Far worse, it treats Bhakti-Yoga as a kind of Hindu magic: simply chant the Maha Mantra, eat food offered to the Radha Krishna deity, and you too can become better than a brahmin or an Indian who by birth is a Hindu?