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"For we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not of ourselves."

A Search for God Unraveling

Jesus Revolution Group 6

by David Hoyt

S.F. 1967 - Storefront Replica of a Hindu Temple

Gradually, the inside of the large storefront room on Fredrick St. was transformed into a close resemblance of a temple from India. Bright colorful pictures of Rama and Krishna (two Hindu hero-gods) were displayed on the walls.

A tall altar was built with three large wooden statues called Juggernauts placed on a higher platform. They represented the Hindu Trinity of Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva.  Food and flowers were placed on this altar as an offering to these Hindu deities along with pictures of swami’s spiritual teachers.

juggernauts

Growing silent questions haunted me about these strange looking wooden Juggernauts, food offerings to them, and the uptight, unfriendly attitudes of some of the people who worked at, or attended the temple. Something wasn’t right but I couldn’t put my finger on it.

As Christmas approached, I asked the swami what he thought of Jesus Christ. He said, “He is a demi-god, one of the greatest sons of god.” But he never celebrated or acknowledged the birth of Christ as he did other Hindu gurus’ birthdays. When asking him why, he quickly changed the subject.  This became a growing response to pointed questions he didn’t want to answer.

I had one friend at the temple and we’d discuss issues we didn’t understand, which kept us going when the temple began to look like another dead-end to me.  Then out of the blue I met a new person to discuss spiritual things with.

An Unexpected Visitor

One evening a guy named Kent came to my apartment. He said he’d heard I was a seeker of truth and wanted to talk and ask some questions. He wore a plaid-shirt and jeans and looked a bit out of place in the Haight, but he seemed OK.  During this first encounter he asked questions about my beliefs in God – listening intently to my responses. I asked him about his faith. He said, “I am a follower of Jesus Christ.” I thought to myself, “That’s interesting – I’d never met anyone who’d said this before.” On leaving, we agreed to meet-up again.

During our next visit we discussed our views of God and probed each other’s thinking – talking for a considerable time. I found Kent interesting and knowledgeable in the Bible. As we continued to get together our friendship grew in a low-key way. On one occasion he brought me a pair of new house-slippers. His generosity seemed genuine.  During each visit, he would tell me more about Jesus Christ – showing me a couple of verses out of his Bible.

He saw my interest in the Bible and asked if I would like to learn how to study it. I was intrigued.  I’d never had anyone offer, or be willing to take the time to assist me in understanding the Bible – so I agreed.  I had a Bible in my collection of holy books – but it was unread.  Kent was enthusiastic and he decided we’d begin in the New Testament book of Ephesians.  Between studies, he suggested I begin reading in the Gospel of St. John, saying, “You can ask any questions that come up, and if I don’t know the answer I’ll tell you, or research and find one.” I wanted to share something in return but couldn’t think of anything. Suddenly it hit me, “I’ll invite him to the Krishna Temple so he too will learn things about Krishna and better understand my spiritual journey.”

He accepted the invitation and attended a ‘Kirtan’ worship service.  Devotees were present and visitors were welcome. The temple quickly filled with incense as the Harmonium hand-organ, Manjira hand-cymbals and Tabla drums came to life. In the course of a few minutes Krishna followers were lost into singing, dancing, and Krishna worship.

Watching Kent out of the corner of my eye I could tell he was experiencing something very foreign.  He appeared to be taking it all in but I sensed it was uncomfortable for him as the pace of music grew faster and faster – climaxing with the dancers near exhaustion.  On this occasion the lecture portion was abbreviated –because the swami was visiting another Krishna Temple.  As people were leaving, I connected with Kent briefly saying goodbye. I wanted him to experience a “Kirtan’ and wondered what he thought.

Before I’d met Kent, I had been initiated by Swami A.C. Bhaktivedanta in an elaborate ceremony called ‘Ritvik’. On this occasion, six of us had been accepted for initiation into Krishna Consciousness and the ceremony took place in the temple.

At the center of the event was a five-foot diameter rounded thick metal pan, approximately eight-inches high – shaped like a wok.  Swami carefully placed wood, kindling, food, bananas, flowers and other items inside the pan, chanting with Hindu words.  When finished, he lit the fire and spent time chanting over each new devotee, marking them with ashes from the fire and giving them a spiritual name.  He gave me the name ‘Davikanandana’ accompanied by personal comments to encourage and challenge me – doing the same for the others.   

This initiation bonded a devotee to his or her spiritual master and nurtured loyalty to lord Krishna and the Krishna Consciousness Movement. It was a great honor to be initiated by the Swami A.C. Bhaktivedanta, Srila Prabhupada and we all felt gratitude and devotion to him. My initiation had taken place about four months prior to meeting Kent. 

Swami Bhaktivedanta

Because of this bonding, I wanted to honor swami and maintain loyalty to him. He had come to the United States at age sixty-nine with only a few possessions to preach Krishna to the west.  His teaching in English was clear and marked by sincerity and many years of devotion. He’d already written a number of commentaries on Vaishnavas Scriptures and was currently working on the Srimad-Bhagavatam and a translation of the Bagavad Gita.

Swami’s Teaching

He taught, “Human beings have forgotten their true relationship to Krishna, and their liberation lies in a return to Godhead through the grace of Krishna. Human beings can remove the obstacles to that grace. This can be done by chanting the mahamantra. One need not understand it—its transcendental sound will have automatic results and raise one to a spiritual plane. One should also engage in holy association. Associating with non-devotees will have a bad effect and result in an increase of sense gratification.

One should also eat prasadam (food offered to Krishna). While preparing the food one should think only of Krishna. Eating the prasadam is a purifying act, equal to chanting the mahamantra. It is crucial that one accept a bonafide spiritual master who is in disciple succession from Lord Krishna. One cannot return to Godhead without submitting to Krishna, and one can approach Krishna only through his representative.”

Swami was that representative for us as devotees. I was amazed by his wisdom and knowledge and devotion of love to Krishna that one could not deny. This was the upside that captivated all of his followers.  The down-side for me was the gnawing uneasy thoughts and doubts that wouldn’t go away. I was reluctant to discuss these with anyone other than my close friend Wayne, also a devotee.  But even then I was guarded, not wanting to offend him and ruin our friendship.

Offering food and flowers to wooden Juggernaut statues still bothered me, regardless of being told that they represented various forms of God.  The swami dodging tough questions and opposing views and unfriendly devotees were the three central things I found disturbing.

His regulations for disciples were strict, which I didn’t mind. There was to be no gambling. This included frivolous games or sports. Second, the use of all forms of intoxicants or stimulants, including alcohol, drugs, tobacco, coffee, and tea, was prohibited. Third, there was a dietary prohibition against the eating of meat, fish, or eggs. The diet was strictly vegetarian and consisted of food that had first been offered to Krishna. For the most part Krishna Consciousness converts adhered.

During this time-period I was asked if I wanted to live in the temple and assist with various duties. Wayne already lived there and I decided it would be an opportunity to see what things were like on the inside. Perhaps this would help me sort out areas of concern, so I made the move.  The trade-off was extra work for the temple and swami, which seemed agreeable and an opportunity many would like to have.

After moving to the temple I kept in touch with Kent. We put off meeting during the transition but our next Bible study was in the temple basement where I now lived. I invited my Krishna devotee friend Wayne as well.  Swami lived above the temple, and neither of us thought anyone would mind, so we set up an evening time-slot for the Bible study.

Unfortunately with Wayne and I both present it changed the dynamics of the study, and we fell into interrupting and injecting our positions and beliefs more than trying to understand or learn. Kent was patient, but I knew he must have felt frustrated. At the close of our study, it felt awkward. I wondered, “Could the huge differences in philosophy and beliefs find a place of common ground?”  Reluctantly, I agreed for another study and we set a date.

In between Bible studies, daily life at the temple continued. One day the temple got an unscheduled visit from an older lady who lovingly encouraged saying, “Open your heart to Jesus Christ.” She suggested that I should “turn from idol worship to God and His Son Jesus Christ!” She spoke with sincerity and urgency, so I listened. Our temple director overheard the lady’s words from the kitchen and quickly entered the main room. He walked toward us, grabbed the woman by the arm, and pushed her with force out the front door.

A few days later I met a man in Golden Gate Park who went out of his way to talk to me. We dialogued a bit, and before I said goodbye he told me that Jesus Christ was sent by God and was the true Savior of the world. As I walked away, my mind traveled back to Grandma who prayed and believed God would touch my life. She was a Christian, as was my former neighbor, Barbara, who was still praying for me. Then there was my new friend Kent. Now, two more voices telling me about Jesus Christ. What was going on?

I felt unsettled and was not looking forward to the next Bible study, but did not call to cancel it. As the evening arrived, Kent brought a Chinese guy named Timothy Wu to join us for this study. He had jet-black straight hair and seemed very confident. As we began reading the Bible the subject quickly moved from an Ephesians passage to other New Testament Scriptures. Timothy had a different style than Kent – more direct. As the study progressed, the contrast between the true God and false gods, true prophets and false prophets became the focus.

Bible Study Confrontation

This raised the adrenalin level for Wayne and I, and our dialogue back and forth with Kent and Timothy became intense and heated. We’d looked at numbers of Bible verses spelling out the difference between the Living God and false religions developed by man which led us to an impasse.  I felt boxed in. Realizing the awkwardness, Timothy led us in a closing prayer. He appeared to know his Bible inside and out, but seemed pushy and arrogant – especially since he’d politely suggested that our temple was pagan without actually saying it. I knew Hinduism was a “strange mixture of gods” but I didn’t like being confronted like this.

Before Timothy left we got into an argument. I wanted him to answer some important questions like “Why would God exclude millions of people who seek him through other world religions? Why is Jesus the only way to God? And why was his explanation of God so narrow-minded?” Timothy responded, “I’d like to try and answer your questions, but this will take some time, and my ride home is waiting for me.” Kent had already left to get the car.

I said, “Go ahead. What you claim to have must not be that important. Your God must not care or love people very much, since you’ve blasted the entire Hindu faith and world religions. Now you won’t take the time to explain why you’ve done so.” “Wait a minute,” Timothy urged, and was gone. In several minutes, he returned saying, “Kent will wait.”

[ To be Continued ]


Read previous articles in David Hoyt's "Jesus Revolution" Series:

Part 1: Jesus People Days

Part 2: A Cry Rushed Upward to a Place Called Heaven

Part 3: Ripe for Change and Heart Revolution

Part 4: Recollections of My Search for Truth

Part 5: My Search - A Prelude to Finding God


David Hoyt

Dave Hoyt and his wife Ginny reside in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He grew up a troubled teen in Los Angeles. In 1966 he moved to San Francisco’s ‘Haight District’ seeking truth and God. Reaching a crisis of belief in Eastern Religions – he turned to prayer and came to a saving faith in Jesus Christ. He went on to be an early participant in the Jesus People Movement in the USA and Europe. He continues as a follower of Jesus Christ.

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Last Update: 2017-07-24 18:55