By Frances Chapman
Sophomore, Political Science and Arabic major
The enticing scent of vegan food mixes with the gentle chanting of the Hare Krishnas every weekday in the Plaza of the Americas. While most UF students are familiar with these delicious lunches, available for only a “mandatory donation,” the religious tenants of this organization seem as distant as their country of origin. When asked her thoughts about the Hare Krishnas, Lauren Hintenlang, an honors sophomore microbiology student, stated that she enjoys their delicious Friday potatoes and their salad staple but knows “very little” about the beliefs of the group, like many UF students.
Although there is relative unawareness of their religious principles on campus, the Hare Krishnas have existed in Gainesville since 1971. According to current follower Hladini Lorince, there is a “big focus on service” to “all living entities and to Krishna.” To her and other members of the group, cooking food for students is not just a way to be more visible on campus, but it also serves in “minimizing the self and pleasing Krishna. When cooks are making this food, they are thinking about Krishna, and Krishna doesn’t see the food but the love put into it, and it’s with a very particular conscience that the food is made.”
According to National Public Radio, Hare Krishna philosophy was founded in the 16th century and brought to the United States in 1966 by Swami Prabhupada. Like the Hare Krishnas on campus, the chanting and dancing characterized these new converts.
Students who listen to the Hare Krishnas as they chant can hear the lines:
Hare Krishna Hare Krisha, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare
The “Krishna” in both their name and chant is a supreme entity to the organization. Like the Hindu faith from which they originated, Krishnas believe in karma and reincarnation. Krishna oversees all living things, which have the ability to advance in the world. When the Hare Krishnas prepare vegetarian food, they ensure that it does not contain the violent act of killing another of Krishna’s creatures, which could one day become spiritual beings.
Like many students, Hintenlang appreciates the atmosphere the lunchtime music creates. However, according to Lorince, this chanting serves as a way to further serve Krishna and draw students to their practice. When describing these musicians, Lorince was enthralled with the joy that each of them portrayed, stating that these displays of euphoria are demonstrated in other places around Gainesville to draw more followers and serve Krishna.
While the Krishnas distribute literature during lunch and throughout town, Lorince emphasized that the group does not push their beliefs onto anyone. Rather, it is “very open; take what you like, and leave the rest.”
Lorince herself was born to Krishna parents; however, they were surprised to learn that she joined the organization when she previously expressed no interest. After feeling disillusioned with the circumstances of her life, she decided to try it and found that it resonated with her and answered her spiritual questions.
While some members like Lorince are born into the tradition, the Hare Krishnas are welcoming to new members. As for Hintenlang, she is willing to “go for some meditation” and observe their practices.
Next time you devour your Krishna lunch with friends, remember that its preparers made it with love.
214 NW 14th St.
6 AM-Sunrise Meditation
6 PM-Evening Meditation
6:30 PM- Bhagavad Gita Class