One of my main duties here at New Vrindaban is to assist with the college outreach programs we run out of our ashram. Each week we travel to a number of different universities, and engage the brightest and best in vegetarian cooking classes, spiritual discussions, and rollicking musical jams featuring the holy names of the Lord.
At Ohio University we host the Vegan Cooking Workshop, which has been running for four years and attracts a funky family of 75-100 kids a week. At Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh our favorite model of ecstasy Yugal Kishore Prabhu preaches to a very intelligent group of students going for their masters degrees in all kinds of technological applications and prowess. The next Bill Gates might very well be Krsna conscious.
Caitanya and I have been heading off towards the Steel City as well. In recent weeks, we have quietly invaded the Oakland Tea Room, a gathering of very open-minded kids hosting a tea-discussion-movie showing affair that occurs every Friday evening in the Student Union of the University of Pittsburgh.
Don't worry!...I chose the decaffeinated Original India Spice
We bring some great spiritualized food, wearing our traditional devotional gear, the dhoti, and our what-the-hell-is-that haircut, the sikha. We certainly look and talk unique, and while we freak out a few people, more often than not, we touch the hearts of some very sincere spiritual seekers.
One example of this is the young chap you see above hugging the bejesus out of Caitanya. His name is Richard and he is a sophomore at U-Pitt, hoping to become a medical student in the near-future. Like many at the Oakland Tea Room, Richard is a Christian who doesn't define himself to any rigid denomination.
I had the great fortune to tell him as much as I could about the practice of Krsna consciousness, and it was a very powerful experience on both ends. Richard was visibly blown-away and even moved by hearing about the Vedic model of existence, the eternal nature of the spirit soul, the adventures of Srila Prabhupada, and being more tolerant than a tree, more humble than a blade of grass...
Seeing how Richard was affected also moved me in a very deep way. For once, I actually got a glimpse of what it means to be an instrument for Krsna's will and Prabhupada's mission. To help Krsna bloom in the heart of someone who is very deeply seeking to strengthen his or her spiritual foundation is real magic, real mysticism, real charity, and real love.
So Richard, my man, if you are reading this, as I said, I just scratched the surface, and I have a beautiful hardcover Bhagavad Gita As It Is for you next time I see you.
We'd like to send a big-up and most humble gratitude to everyone at the Oakland Tea Room for tolerating and listening to us most unusual Hare Krsna kids. In this time of quarrel and hypocrisy, spiritual seekers of all stripes must band together to put this earthly planet on the right track. Friday nights at the Oakland Tea Room are a living example of this unity.