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Getting Right With God

As a child growing up in Tasmania, I was convinced that God wanted me to serve Him. I was raised as an Episcopalian, but between the ages of twelve and fourteen I was sexually molested by four priests. At an age when I was already experiencing unprecedented suffering, these very men who were supposed to uphold spiritual values compounded my suffering by abusing their spiritual office and principles.

Like Holocaust survivors, many victims of child abuse reject God and the spiritual quest. This is especially true when their abusers were supposed to be men of God. In my mid teens I left the Episcopal Church. Later, after a brief look into Krishna consciousness, my comparative religious studies course in college led me to the Orthodox Church. This eastern form of Christianity seemed to hearken back to the early church, to the asceticism of the desert fathers. I embraced their writings, intrigued by their emphasis on celibacy, communion with God, and monastic vegetarianism.

My interest in eastern Christianity led me to look at Islam, with its austere iconoclasm and emphasis on community. Yet some answers were missing in Islam. Who is God? What does He look like? What is His nature?

I also appreciated the meditation of Buddhism, was well as its monastic emphasis on the sangha, or spiritual association. The doctrine of transmigration of the soul was still alien to me, but curiosity impelled me to consider it more and more.

Ever present in my mind was the question “If I fail to get my relationship with God right in this life, am I doomed to hell?” I yearned for a vibrant spiritual community that was missing in the tiny emigre Russian Orthodox Church I worshiped in.

BTG and a Step Forward

Most of this took place after my first contact with Krishna consciousness. In 1977 I bought a copy of Back to Godhead magazine in a health food store. I was at once drawn to Srila Prabhupada. I read about how he had come to the United States with forty rupees and a trunk full of spiritual books. I remembered having heard about the Vedas in comparative religious studies. Back to Godhead was providing answers, supported by the Vedas, about the name, identity, and personality of God. I had long felt that the Christian Trinitarian notion of God was incomplete. Who is the Father really?

I then went to the library and got the First Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam. I immediately appreciated Sukadeva Gosvami’s exposition on the Absolute Truth.

And so it was that, at age seventeen, during my final year in high school, I jumped on a plane to visit the Melbourne temple. I was impressed by the beautiful forms of Radha-Vallabha, the enthusiastic brahmacharis, the incredible prasadam. But I still bore the emotional residue of my Christian upbringing, and I ran out of the temple in tears, overwhelmed and uncertain.

Still, my attraction for Krishna grew, as from time to time I came across one of Srila Prabhupada’s books. My appreciation was that of an armchair admirer—it came from the head and not the heart.

That began to change when I met Puri Dasa, who held a Sunday Feast in his tiny flat. His warmth and compassion, and his desire to spread Krishna consciousness, touched me. (He passed away several years later in a car accident while traveling to distribute Srila Prabhupada’s books.)

Drawn to the Monastery

But I still wasn’t quite ready to commit to Krishna consciousness. In 1982, after my mother’s death, I entered an Anglican Benedictine monastery. My life in some ways mirrored brahmachari life—rising at 3.30 A.M., prayer, meditation, study.

I spent over a year there before returning to Tasmania to enter the university, where I met Hare Krishna devotees running a cooking club. I learned there was now a temple in Hobart. I became a regular at the Sunday Feast and enjoyed the classes by the temple president, Brihaspati Dasa. Alas, this temple was to close in 1984, leaving me without devotees.

I gravitated back to the Christian path for the next ten years, until in 1996 my wife and I went to western Australia on vacation. One day we ran into devotees handing out flyers for their Perth center, and along we went. I learned that some devotee families had moved to Tasmania, and so I went and took lunch with them on my return.

Finally, with my own japa beads, I took to regularly chanting the holy name and attending mangala-arati at the seaside home of one family. My Krishna consciousness was finally taking off. I attribute my desire to serve the Lord at this point to the mercy of those devotees, whose love, instruction, wonderful prasadam, and clearly evident love of Prabhupada affected my whole being.

Gradually my chanting and other spiritual practices increased, and I tried more seriously to connect to Srila Prabhupada’s instructions. My desire to share this wonderful knowledge grew, and I took part with other devotees in presenting Krishna conscious programs in public halls and people’s homes. While my wife could not embrace Krishna consciousness at this point, she became a vegetarian and supported me in my spiritual journey.

In 2000 we visited Vrindavana-dhama. I was mesmerized by the living fidelity to the Vedic tradition. I saw babajis (renunciants) embracing trees that Krishna had walked by. At ISKCON’s Krishna-Balarama Mandir, I saw the emotion of hundreds of people at 4:00 A.M. as they waited to see the most beautiful deities in the world. I knew that I had come home—to the house that Prabhupada had built.

I received spiritual initiation at Bhaktivedanta Manor in 2000 and entered a new family of Godbrothers and Godsisters. I met devotees whose serious pursuit of sanctity was self-evident.

After two years of cooking for Radha-Gopinatha at ISKCON Sydney and enjoying that vibrant community, I came home to Tasmania.

Now with a daughter, Lila Tulasi, I see that the next chapter in my Krishna consciousness is unfolding. I aspire to see a community of devotees grow in Tasmania and to re-open the temple that closed twenty years ago.