The sounds of enlightenment Third Street: meet the Hare Krishnas

You may have seen them here on campus with copies of the Bhagavad Gita looking for monetary donations. You may have seen them on Fridays at the Third Street Promenade dancing and singing. “Hare Hare Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Rama Rama Rame Hare,” the group chants. The Promenade attracts characters of many kinds, musicians, the homeless, religious groups. This time the popular Hare Krishnas take to the sidewalks and begin dancing and singing their praise to the divine Krishna.

The men wore dhoti kurta and the women colorful drapes called sari. As they danced and spun around, some of the men played mrdanga and kartals like drums, which represent transcendental sound vibrations from the Vedic literature.

“We’re chanting the names of God. We’re trying to spread peace, love, we’re trying to spread God consciousness essentially,” said Jarred Richardson.

The chanting is called sankirtana, which is the congregational chanting of the holy names of God. The mantra consists of the three names of God: Hare, Krishna, Rama.

Onlookers joined in the celebration, dancing and ad-libbing their own chants. This expression is what the group believes to be at the core of what they're trying to do. "We believe this is for everyone. Anyone doing anything can apply this to their own lives," said Richardson.

"It doesn't matter your designation: Christian, Hindu, Muslim," he continued.

Richardson himself started off working in a factory but was really into filmmaking. He and his fiancee chronicled the life of a mutual friend from high school who became a monk and moved to a temple here in Los Angeles. The life of the monk piqued their interest which prompted their lifestyle change. "We made the documentary and have been living in the temple ever since," said Richardson.

The Hare Krishna group consider themselves disciples who are devoted to God. Some of them identify themselves as Bhakta meaning "religious devotee." "Everyone has a uniform; like a police officer, he wears a uniform that lets you know he's a police officer. Similarly, we wear this Vaishnava clothing and it signifies that we're devoted to God," said Richardson.

Whether their clothing changes, they don't believe it changes the core of who they are. "Just like a cop when he takes off his uniform, he's still a cop. He doesn't lose his ability to fight or protect. If we're not wearing this dress it doesn't mean that our consciousness changes."

The group consists of diverse individuals from all over the world. Participants in the celebration were from South America, Asia, and all parts of the United States.

One participant, a Brooklyn native named David Mendez was born into the lifestyle. He doesn't speak much English but believes in his spirituality.

In the past the group has acquired the label of a cult from their methods of conversion but not all of them see things that way. "This is not like I just decided to do this and then quit tomorrow. I'm not gonna be a Muslim or a suicide bomber," Dasa said. He refutes anyone's opinions that the group's beliefs are just a fad.

The Hare Krishnas are a group who are not afraid to spread their message, whether or not you're interested in their spirituality. "I never hesitate to approach people about Krishna because we understand that everyone's essence is their spirituality," Govinda Datta Dasa said, a member of the group for 43 years.

The music is just one way to celebrate spirituality. The drums continued to echo throughout the Promenade.

"It [mrdanga] adds spiritual strength to the ambience of the music," said Bhakta David. "These books are called mrdanga because the bass is going for a couple of blocks, but when you open one of these things the bass is going anywhere in the world."

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