Looking back, I realize that Lord Krishna has always been there. Before I met devotees, I knew Him as the Hindu god. As a child I thought that all Hindu Gods were blue, but all this time I was mostly mesmerized by Him.
I think He has always given me opportunities to prepare for this life as an aspiring devotee.
I came from a religious family. I would watch my grandmother wake up at 3 o’clock to read and pray, then spend her days serving and taking care of others at home or at church. She taught me how to pray on the rosary and forced me to go to church every Sunday. She made sure I went to Sunday school and go through some of my catholic rites.
I attended an evangelistic primary school. There was so much emphasis on a relationship with God through reading and hearing. Even when I walked away from Christianity, I still held on to sound vibration.
Years after I left the school, I would still spend every Friday at the school’s church “Youth Night” and I would allow myself to be hypnotized by worship music. I was agnostic at the time and exploring a bit of Eastern philosophy. I still prayed for a sign that God was there and real. He constantly sent people to tell me He loves me but that was not enough.
I believe the foundation my religious grandmother gave me helped my journey.
In high school, I was a Library assistant and I remember helping the librarian unpack books. She took out the Bhagavad Gita and I was excited about the spiritual diversity that we had. I remember looking at the back of the book and seeing the face of an old man but I did not think much of it. Eventually, he faded to the back of my mind but then after that things started happening.
I remember in my matric year, in music class, we studied a bit about Indian classical music and I was craving to experience the genre.
I had found a home within the art community of Port Elizabeth, where I would religiously attend as many art exhibitions, music events and theatre productions as possible.
One day, while attending an Indian themed miniature art exhibition at the local art museum, a man randomly gave me free tickets to a kathak performance. Kathak is a classical Indian dance style. I was elated to be finally getting the opportunity to experience Indian classical music AND dance performance!
The tickets included an introductory workshop which was on the morning of the performance day. That morning they asked us whether we all know who Lord Krishna is. I surprisingly answered yes along with the rest of the participants. We were then taught how to dance like Him, how to stand as He does and spin as He does, how to imitate His flute and hand gestures. Later that evening the performance was also about Lord Krishna. A few years later I would find out that there were devotees in the audience.
A while after that encounter, I was walking in the city center and I heard the sound of a drum. I thought the beat sounded close to an Indian classical beat and so I followed the sound. On a grassy patch I found a group of young men, one playing the Mrdanga. I asked them about themselves and Harinamanada Das (KKS) from Harinam Ruci spoke with me and told me about the temple and the philosophy. They were the first vegetarians I met. I had been vegetarian for years prior to the encounter.
I remember visiting the temple for the first time and I met a bramacari there named Krishna Caitanya Das (BCais). He gave me some prasadam, which was so much better than whatever I was cooking for myself and he gave me this fudgy sugary sweet. What he said was so sublime. Looking back, I now realize that those words kept me going even when I felt I had no faith.
That day we spoke of how he searched for truth in every major religion but could not find any greater truth than the Krishna conscious philosophy. I liked that it was an Eastern philosophy that was rooted in God consciousness. I loved that they were vegetarian.
The following year I started attending the Bhakti Yoga Society, that was such an interesting crowd. We were all seekers who were just not ready to conform to any faith but we loved the safe space that the temple offered. It was run by Vraja Basi Prabhu (BCS) and I would try to help with cooking during the daythen join Food fLife later on with Svetadwip Prabhu. I was still confused about whether I could be Krishna Conscious or not. Then one day at BYS we watched Life of Pi. I don’t know why but after watching that movie I felt that this was it, this is where I am supposed to be!
I then started visiting other temples and experienced so much more than I could ever imagine. There was ecstatic kirtan and interesting people from all walks of life. Gradually, Lord Krishna pulled me closer to Him.
I decided that I would like to move into the temple and two years later I ended up at Cape Town temple, which I stayed at for about four years.
Lord Krishna is still pulling despite my resistance sometimes. He still pulls me a little closer to Him every time.
BY: Thembi Masiza (now Tarini Radhika Devi Dasi)