I was drawn in.
My daughter asked me to help her choose a sari for a wedding celebration. In our quest for a store that sold saris, we wound up at a Hare Krishna temple. I haven’t been to a Hare Krishna temple since I left the movement over thirty years ago. My daughter saw that I was visibly shaken. “I’m okay,” I said, “let’s go,” and we walked inside. My daughter was five when I left the Hare Krishna movement. She doesn’t have a conscious memory of that life.
The Govinda gift shop and the ladies who worked there were lovely. Their faces were welcoming and effulgent, and they were kind and helpful to my daughter. The shop was filled with saris and cholis and dhotis and kirtas. Brass dieties. Incense. Dr. Bonner’s soaps. Baby Krishna.
I asked if there were discounts for devotees. I found myself compelled to tell them I was a twice initiated disciple – by Srila Prabhupada – a devotee like them! I had this odd longing to belong again to so much memory.
We heard music in the temple room, so we slipped our shoes off and went inside. A devotee was leading kirtana. Another devotee was placing an offering of food at the feet of a life-size statue of the guru, Srila Prabhupada. I stood with my daughter wrapped in my arms against my chest, remembering ten years of this life. We both wept.
And then I was angry. I remembered the children who were separated from their families and sent to the Gurukula schools, and who were abused and mistreated. There are so many deeply disturbing stories. I remembered the corrupt behavior of the leaders that we all rationalized as acceptable because we believed everything they did was in the service of God. I remembered the tricks we were taught to play on non-devotees to coerce money from them because we were convinced that taking from their pockets for the service of God would only benefit them. I remembered the cruelness inflicted on me and how vulnerable and devastated I was. They will say things are different now. If they are, where is the apology?