Yeah, yeah, I’ll admit it. Once upon a time, I ran with a bunch of Hare Krishna monks. You know, the weirdos in orange robes who smell like Nag Champa harassing you to “donate” money for their religious books? The guys with shaved heads and odd pony tails? Those guys.
It all started when my buddy Hip (yes, short for Hippie) in Ft. Collins, Colorado got into the whole Krishna movement. Let’s just say Hip was (obviously) a big dope smoker who was fascinated with the occult and strange stuff in general. Great guy. Always a trip to hang with.
So he’d be preaching on and on about Krishna and his radical conquests in the Bhagavad Gita while I’d be knocking back a few 90 Shillings, when it occurred to me that I was partially interested in what he had to say.
“I’m headed to the Krishna temple tomorrow if you’re interested,” Hip said.
Next thing I know, I’m standing outside a temple on Cherry Street in Denver wondering how the hell I got there, when a little bald guy in his orange robe approaches me.
“You must be Hip’s friend. Welcome,” little bald guy said.
They gave me the tour, fed me tasty food, let me in on their hypnotic chanting sessions, taught me a thing or two about Krishna. After an hour-long, super boring prayer session, about 15 of us hit the sack in the adjacent house that belongs to the temple.
The first thing I learned is that Krishna monks don’t sleep in beds. Whatever, I’ll take the only bed in the house. Works for me.
The next thing I learned is that Krishna monks get up at 4:30 (!!) a.m. to chart chanting and annoying people who don’t get up at 4:30 (!!) a.m.
I reluctantly rolled out of bed to find a dozen or so monks pacing the hallways like lunatics. Man, they were in the zone. Me? Not so much.
We headed over to the temple after I’m able to locate my pants, and right away it’s full on deep meditation time. Intense does not describe a roomful of Krishna monks meditating at 5 a.m. The small of incense was intoxicating. Chants echoed off the walls, creating a disorienting dome of sound.
Hip was eating this stuff up. He was totally blissed out.
Eventually meditation power hour was over. I only managed to doze off four of five times (what, I was in a trance!). We ate some grub downstairs in the kitchen, and then it was time to work.
That’s right, work. I’m working at a Hare Krishna temple on my day off. Thanks Hip.
Apparently my jeans and T-shirt ensemble wasn’t going to cut it, so a spaced out monk retrieved an outfit from the gift shop for me that wasn’t too far off from a full-on dhoti.
“Here, put this on. Go help the landscape crew now,” spaced out monk said. Playing dress up and taking orders from a dazed and confused monk? Unreal.
You are undoubtedly wondering, did you dig in the dirt with a dhoti on Eric? Yep, sure did. I figured I owed them for at least the two meals and a night’s rest. But man, this outfit!
After we toiled for hours on end, it was time for a parade. Not just any parade, but a full on “dancing freaks beating drums and screaming Hare Krishna chants at passerby” parade. Good times!
The weekend came to an end with a lot of hugs and good vibes and preachings and whatnot. What you would expect from a religious gathering, only magnified tenfold. Normal religious folks on strong doses of acid, maybe.
As we were driving home on the 25, and Hip was reliving the experience over and over like a madman, I realized I enjoyed these quirky monks. Sure, they’re far out and they smell funny, but they’re the nicest people I’ve ever met.
In fact, I stayed in contact with the monks from the Denver temple. I’d see them around town. We’d have dinner, catch up, talk about life. I learned that many of them were former addicts, or came from rough backgrounds. Chanting Hare Krishna was their quiet salvation.
One night they needed a place to crash while they were in town. It just so happened to be my last night in Ft. Collins. My old man was helping me move with his truck. When he finally arrived there were a slew of monks in the house, cooking, chillin’, playing drums, reading the Bhagavad Gita.
Dad slept in his truck.