Never had I seen a place so clean. Never had I smelled a room so fragrant. Never had I felt the fine silk of a sari or seen such vivid hues of sunshine yellow, pea green or sea glass blue. Never had I felt so safe that I could ponder the names of the colors of a stranger’s dress. Never had I felt so safe that I could turn my back to a man. The temple filled me with Never Have I’s.
In the temple, there is only good. The bad is sniffed out and done away with–gently shuffled out the heavy wooden doors and directed down the street toward the alleys of Berkeley and UC, the temple doors shut again, closing off the world and the many things my kid self worried about: number one, strange men, number two, thirst and hunger, number three, mad things like crack cocaine-using hitchhikers and chronic cigarette-butters and alien-worshipers and space ships themselves and semi trucks a honkin’.
Every room in the temple is protected by Krishna or Ganesha or Rhada or Chaitanya or Prabhupada. More than just a painting or deity looking over us, I could actually feel the presence of the Gods, the air rich with spirit. My father and I both moved about the temple so light on our feet we might as well have been ghosts or angels, I remember thinking. Then again, you’d be surprised at the airy-ness that shoeless feet and hardwood floors create. It was always a struggle to let the ego go at the door. It was an unspoken rule that you do, unspoken that you leave your judgements with your shoes and let your bare, or socked, feet humbly guide you into the room that would show you the inside of your soul. Never before had I looked into myself like that. Never again has my being been so still and humble.
I’ve heard things. Bad things about the place, about the community. But my testimony of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) is positive. My testimony is–I’ve seen evil, but in the temple? Never had I.