Looking for a difference

Oct 7th, 2010 | By | Category: Spirituality

A follower of Hare Krishna?

In the light of the evening sun, a figure strode down the pavement – saffron trousers, white top, a short pigtail tied at the back.  It was a trick of the light, though, there were no finger cymbals; it was a woman with bobbed blonde hair tied at the back, and the trousers were orange and not saffron.

The Hare Krishna people were frowned upon by two blokes I once shared a house with – they went on to be Hindu monks for a while, before one returned to social work, Catholicism and got married, and the other went to work for an insurance company.  I think they regarded the Hare Krishna crowd as insufficiently serious, or perhaps it was the other way round and they thought them too extreme; it was all beyond my comprehension, (much like the church is to most people).

It would have been nice for it to have been a Hare Krishna person; not that I would share their beliefs, but just for a bit of variety.  There’s not much in the way of the esoteric in rural Ireland, and not much in Dublin either. There’s a low and dull Roman Catholicism, that doesn’t compare with the music and the liturgy of their counterparts in many parts of Europe – not for Ireland the Baroque churches and Mozart masses of Austria – and an even lower and even more dull Protestant tradition.

What about a bit of variety?  England is full of all sorts of esoteric groups; people who believe in crystals and pyramids and ley lines and rebirthing.  Maybe it is mostly fruitcake stuff, but it is different.

What do we have by way of the esoteric?  There are the Freemasons, but their stuff is all on the Internet anyway and wandering around with rolled up trouser legs, a noose around your neck, while muttering strange oaths is hardly very imaginative; and on the other side there are people who see apparitions in tree trunks.

Maybe there is a serious point.  The Bible is full of a sense of the numinous, sense of sacredness, a sense of moments and places that are in some way other than ordinary life; such a sense seems to have disappeared.  Even the new churches offer no such experience, they seem filled with wannabe rock musicians and preachers who think repeating propositions is a convincing form of argument.  Perhaps the loss of the old liturgies, the Latin Mass, the Elizabethan Prayer book, represented a recognition that a sense of the sacred, a sense of difference, had gone.

There are few opportunities now of finding that which is different; few things equivalent to the sort of thinking that would make you dress up in baggy saffron trousers and go dancing down the street.

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  1. I’ve always considered the Hare Krishnas to be summer people. Their bell-ringing and chanting brighten up humdrum shopping trips; but I imagine that they have to retreat indoors when November chills start blowing from northerly places. One strong point your piece touches on, however, is the lack of flair in much Irish church liturgy. Yes, definitely, continental Sunday masses with their well rehearsed choral singing and good French or Italian diction by celebrants exude a flavour of exuberant formality often lacking in Irish churches. One gets the impression that continental congregations are involving themselves in the collective celebration of something dynamic. African and East European asylum seekers and immigrant workers have noticed a dead atmosphere on Irish Sunday mornings. Some of them have tried to liven things up by getting active in choirs. Good for them.

  2. Congregationally, I prefer modern liturgy, but I find that privately I prefer the Elizabethan English of our traditional liturgy – it has a stronger sense of the ‘other’. (Don’t telly my bishop!)

  3. I remember with fondness the Hare Krishna restaurant in Dublin – not sure how extensive the menu was – I always had dahl and chips. But it was lovely dahl and chips and lots of it and dead cheap.

  4. Was that the place near the former offices of the Irish Independent? Did chips not upset one’s karma?

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