Getting to Know Krishna

“I’ll be gathering with other members of the local Krishna community for a big festival,” I told her.

“Christian community?” she asked.

Apparently, my Hare Krishna haircut didn’t mean anything to her.

“No,” I replied, “Krishna community. I’m a Hare Krishna.”

“Hare Krishna?”

“You’ve never heard of Hare Krishna?” I asked.

“No. Is it something like Islam?”

“No. It’s from India.”

And that’s as far was we got before the dentist’s drill found my mouth and ended our conversation.

I was surprised that someone living in an area that’s home to hundreds of Hare Krishna devotees had never heard of Krishna. But I was happy to introduce her to Him.

On my first visit to a temple, in 1974, I heard the lecturer say that Krishna is God because Krishna possesses six opulences in full: beauty, wealth, strength, fame, knowledge, and renunciation. These are attractive qualities, he said, and since Krishna is the reservoir of all of them, He’s naturally the most attractive person. That’s why He’s called Krishna—“the all-attractive person.”

Pondering the qualities the lecturer had mentioned, I balked momentarily at the idea that Krishna possesses unlimited fame. Two days earlier I’d never heard of Him. How could He be the most famous person?

I asked someone about that later.

“Well, He’s God,” he replied. “Everyone’s heard of God! And because He’s the most famous (among other things), He’s called Krishna.”

Srila Prabhupada came to teach us that Krishna is God. I sometimes wonder at how easily I accepted that proposition back then. The night before my first visit to the temple, I read a small book called Krishna, the Reservoir of Pleasure. I had bought it from a devotee that afternoon for twenty-five cents. I’d been haphazardly looking for “the truth” and keeping a diary of my search. When I finished reading that night, I wrote in my diary, “Maybe this Krysna [sic] is it.”

I’m sure the devotees’ conviction had a lot to do with my attraction to Krishna consciousness. I arrived at the temple a few hours before the Sunday Feast, so I was escorted to the apartment of a devotee couple, where I spoke with several devotees and witnessed something of their lives. One impression stuck: “Boy! These people are really into what they’re doing!”

Their dedication inspired me to dive into Srila Prabhupada’s books. And only a few weeks later I was blessed to see Srila Prabhupada himself at the San Francisco Rathayatra festival. That day I started wearing Vaishnava neck beads—an outward sign of my growing conviction that Krishna is God.

Seeing Prabhupada and reading his books helped me understand the depth of faith shown by his disciples. Srila Prabhupada’s conviction, clearly derived from experiences higher than any I could imagine, was contagious. His day was spent in full absorption in Krishna, in thought, word, and deed. And his books contained none of the hedging found in pretty much everything else I’d read.

Now I’m trying to do my small part to help Srila Prabhupada spread the name and fame of Lord Krishna.

Nagaraja dasa is the editor of Back to Godhead Magazine