This could be a touchy subject as the religions tend to be closed minded towards other religions. Most of them have some kind of God, but the definition of God, the practice, the lifestyle, and the philosophy are different. The fact is that you are normally born into a religion. You do what your parents and people in your geographical area do. That doesn’t mean that your ancestors from a few hundred years ago did the same. I was born in a place which was at the time predominantly atheistic, much like China. However, before the WW2, it was predominantly Orthodox Christian, and after the fall of the communist government, it went back to Christianity, although many kept their atheistic views, like my parents. No matter how much I try to prove to them that there is no way life came from matter, or that the whole creation happened by chance, they just don’t resonate with it. Some people accept the program and feel no need to change it. I like to analyze and challenge my views on a regular basis. We were given intelligence, logic, and reason, and in this mess of opinions, especially nowadays with much broaden access to information, you can find opposing opinions on practically any subject. You can either pick one of them, live un-opinionated, or rely on your own intelligence, logic, and reason. If you look at religions, you see different scenarios. Some want to impose theirs on others, even if they need to do it by force, some preach to others and try to save them, and some practice quietly. Some plaster together religion and nationality, but you always see some form of collectivism that governs all groups, including atheists. I could talk about collectivism for a while, but not right now. You should do some research on it as it is quite important because it’s been pushed on us again and again, different times and places. If you believe that there is no God, that’s also your religion, as you can’t really prove it, you can only believe it. Some try to coexist, or they are waiting for some new religion which will incorporate or replace all previous. I think that’s what social engineers are working on, but they know that they can’t work on the current generation, as they are hardwired, so the kids are the target, but I am not going to get into that and stir up more controversy. There is definitely an attempt to bring us to a “Brave new world”, and God help us if they succeed. Only a divine intervention can save the world if they get us there. This is just a quick scan of the world from my perspective. In thirst for knowledge and answers, I jumped into a religion I was attracted to at that point in time. I didn’t necessarily agree with everything Hindu, or Hare Krishna movement preached, but it’s like you want to use some software and you have to either click on “accept the terms and conditions”, or leave. I was curious and I subjected myself to the process. As a kid, I already scanned the rat race world, and I wasn’t very attracted to it. Getting ahead, gaining money and power, or living an ordinary life, going to school, then getting a job, home, car, wife, kids, maintaining everything, and getting entertained by games, TV, and movies, traveling for vacations and holidays… it wasn’t enough for me. I have read that humans were capable of much more. I wanted to learn about mystic powers, astral travel, wanted to see other worlds, get prepared for the next destination after the temporary life in this body and on this planet. I would look at the stars and think, wow, so many other words, so fascinating, so much to explore, how did all this come about, why are we here, why do we get only 100 years to live, what after that…? so I thought if I moved to the temple, I could find answers, I could meditate in peace, and things will become clear. Also, I would be “saved” as they advertised. Saved from hell, or from being stuck in an endless cycle of reincarnation in this world. I have no conclusion on that matter as of yet.
In 1986, I made up my mind, I packed a few things and went to Zagreb, Croatia to live in a Hare Krishna temple. I was done with the material world and the rat race. I got a warm welcome, and I was told I could feel at home. It was to be my new family. I liked the idea. I was one of maybe thirty members of the movement in the country, as it was just beginning. With so few people, it did feel like a family, and we did take care of each other. The organization was and still is the “International society for Krishna consciousness” or ISKCON. Krishna is God, then you have a few other eternal personalities beyond this world, and many spiritual and material worlds or universes with their structures and predominating deities, or governments. Every material universe has it’s three main figures, Vishnu, Shiva, and Brahma, the demigods, the citizens and all kinds of life forms which can vary from universe to universe. Brahma is the actual creator, or the engineer, and he has many assistants. It’s a position which anyone can theoretically assume, just like the demigods. Vishnu is the expansion of God in each universe, and Shiva is in charge of the destruction and other aspects of life. The total creation is cyclical, with each level having their own cycles, and the concept of time is tied to the cycles, otherwise you can’t really think of a time when it all started, as it’s eternal. They practice bhakti, or love and devotion, which is considered the highest level or feeling in your spiritual development, and all the other knowledge is actually secondary. It made sense and I was excited to learn more. Your day in the temple starts at about 3:30am, or earlier if you wish to beat the rush hour to the bathroom. There were 20-30 of us in one house, one bathroom for boys, and one for girls. We were all in our 20’s, and a few in their 30’s. Preachers would come from abroad, and they were usually in their 40’s. 4:15am everyone was in the temple room, already showered and in fresh clean robes ready to sing songs to the deities for about 45 minutes. Every morning the same songs. Being a musician, I was very sensitive, or rather it drove me crazy if there were people singing out of tune, and that was the case most of the days, as everyone was encouraged to sing, no matter how bad they were at it. So, it was heaven and hell mixed together for me during the morning chants. 5-7am was the time for individual mantra chanting. That was the time where you did your main work on the mind. Actually, it was the time when you ignored the mind and focused on the mantra, which is a way to detach yourself from the mind and realize that you are not it. You, the soul, are above the mind. The mind is like a processor in a computer. You are the one who controls it. To reprogram the mind, you have to clean it from all kinds of junk, which would be like reformatting the drive, to use computer analogy again. Also, the goal is to shut up the mind, so that you can experience the divine presence, the divine inside and outside of you. When the mind is quiet, you can perceive the world as it is, and yourself as you are, and just be. That’s all. Just be. It’s a wonderful feeling. For those two hours you are just being, nothing else. The mind will fight it, and it could be a struggle sometimes. At that point, you realize that the mind is like a separate entity. You want to sit and meditate, and the mind wants to go enjoy itself doing something else. The structure of your being is: the subtle body, or the ego, intelligence, and the mind, and the gross material body made of earth, water, air, fire and aether, then you have the five senses which channel all the information from the external world into the mind, the intelligence decides what to do with it, and the ego incorporates everything into your present personality, or as kids would nowadays understand as your “avatar” here, if you see life as a game in which you play as a character, or avatar you create for it. The soul is you, and above all other elements, actually from a different world and nature. These elements form the body in which the soul resides in order to express itself in this world. A total of 8,400,000 different forms exist in the creation. A soul can come to the material creation and experience life in all those forms of life repeatedly if it wishes, or it can decide to go back to the pure spiritual existence. You study this and many other things at the temple. There are two lectures per day, one in the morning, one in the evening, and there is more congregational chanting, 7am and 7pm, lots of singing and dancing. In-between you get to exchange your thoughts and experiences with others, study together, or just be friends. Everyone there had their own story and reasons why they became monks. You don’t necessarily need to be a monk. Some were married, or gay, but no sensual or sexual activity was permitted at the temple. The temple in Croatia as exceptionally clean. The temple president insisted on that, and I admired him for it. It felt so nice to live in a sparkling clean and neatly organized place. The temple is strictly vegetarian, and I learned how to cook there. A couple of years later I was made into a chef. They loved my music and my cooking, and those two things defined my life at the temple. They took me on tours around Europe, we were doing the “Festival of India” shows, where people came to experience Indian culture, music and food, but our hidden motivation was to turn everybody into Hare Krishna’s and take over the world! I was completely taken by the idea and I truly believed it, completely ignoring the fact that most people were not interested. When you live in a closed group, you get a feeling of being in a majority with your convictions and everything, and the world outside shrinks and becomes insignificantly small from your perspective. It’s quite fascinating how the mind and perspective work. This applies to everything, not just a religious group. I traveled to many places around Europe and India, and we had hundreds of performances, big and small. I met many people, and I got to travel with the most prominent gurus and members of the movement, so I in a way got the cream of it. Many wished they were as lucky as I was to associate with the top gurus at that time. I got to hang out and learn a lot directly from them thanks to my ability to play whatever instrument I got my hands on. We had a very good music school system in Yugoslavia, so after learning piano and flute there, along with harmony, solfeggio, theory of music, ear training, kontrapunkt, etc, I was equipped to learn any instrument and any kind of music after that. I learned harmonium, actually not much to learn after you already know piano, then mridanga, or Bengali hand drum, I learned how to sing or rather fake Indian style singing, and I played flute sometimes just improv, and sometimes fake Indian raga style. I say fake because the proper raga takes many years to master. What I did was good enough for them, even too good. They wanted me to simplify, so that they could follow. We were filmed and recorded in many places, but it’s a shame, most of it seems lost now. I had some VHS tapes converted to digital, and some others uploaded what they converted to youtube. My temple name was Bharavesh, so you can Google that if you wish.
After about six years of full time temple life, I decided that it wasn’t for me. I agreed with many things, and I also didn’t agree with other things, and the politics were unbearable. People are people, as I said before. Just walking into a temple doesn’t make you a saint. A thing that I couldn’t digest was the constant pushing of the feeling of guilt and a need to improve, cleanse, and submit, and there was no end to it, and they just by default preferred to position you as a neophyte, which was defeating the purpose in my view. What was the point if they thought that the true perfection was almost unreachable, and nobody’s really got it? Coincidentally, my guru also left the movement at the same time pretty much for the same reasons, and he was addressing this point of “you are never good enough” and the imposition of guilt, as a control tool, and something to keep you down. I actually got physically sick from it. The anxiety and guilt caused a chronic ulcerative colitis. In Ayurveda, the colon is the center of anxiety, so from disturbed energy in that region, you get chronic inflammation. It’s purely psychological, and the doctor at the military hospital where I went, actually told me that right away. He did give me pills, but told me it was in my mind. At that time, I didn’t want to admit that there was anything wrong with the Hare Krishna movement, so I left the hospital keeping my ulcerative colitis with me. Quite stupid when I look at it today. When I completely mentally, and emotionally detached myself from the movement, the colitis disappeared like it was never there, and if you ask doctors, they say it’s chronic and there is no cure. Well, not true. It’s been about 20 years and it hasn’t come back. The diet has nothing to do with it, I know for a fact. Only the mind and the heart. Another thing that I also studied at the temple a lot was Ayurveda, or the science of life, or what people today would see as the ancient Indian system of medicine. Psychosomatic illness was recognized there as it is still today in other systems, although the pharmaceuticals would want us to completely ignore it, and focus on their pills. Health is a big business, and our understanding of health has been distorted to a great degree for the purpose of supporting their business by being lifelong customers. I must admit that I stay away from doctors and pills, and I am not interested in all kinds of checkups they offer. My healthcare is my spiritual, mental, emotional and physical wellbeing, good food, enough rest, enough exercise, and being happy. Claiming that this is good for health would be heresy today, so I will shut up. You guys can continue your relationships with your doctors and hospitals in peace.
What I learned with the help of meditation, and also through traveling and meeting many people of different cultures, is how people operate, what the major motivations are, and what the common games people play are. If you understand motivations, many things become much more clear. In order to understand motivations, you have to understand yourself and the structure of your being, and that’s what you learn at the temple for sure, of course if you have some brain. Some people never learn anything. Not you, the other people 😉