Second Avenue Fire Sacrifice (Chapter 4)

The Hare Krishna Explosion
by Hayagriva Prabhu

Part I: New York, 1966
Chapter 4

Second Avenue Fire Sacrifice

September 8, 1966. Janmastami. Lord Krishna, we learn, is not born like an ordinary child. He appears. Five thousand years ago, in Mathura, India, He appeared as four-armed Narayana, attired in His transcendental garments. At His mother’s request, He assumed a two-armed form, like an ordinary child. Sri Krishna is most obliging to His devotees.

“Today we will fast,” Swamiji tells us. “Normally we do not fast all day. Krishna consciousness is not for one who eats too much or too little. Gandhi fasted many days for political reasons, but we don’t. In Bhagavad-gita, that kind of fasting is considered rajasic, or passionate. We fast according to regulations: Ekadasi, the eleventh day of the full moon, we take no grains. That is a partial fast. And Janmastami, there is complete fast all day until midnight. So today we will fast and chant, and tomorrow there will be initiation.”

There are eleven of us to be initiated. Roy buys us beads for chanting, a hundred and eight round wooden beads the size of marbles. Standing in the courtyard behind the temple, I string them into a rosary called a japa-mala. While chanting, I carefully slide each bright, red bead up the string and then knot it. It takes hours to complete knotting all the beads. When I ask Swamiji why there are a hundred and eight, he tells me that they represent the gopis, the Vrindaban cowherd girls beloved of Lord Krishna.

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