FOCUSING ON KRISHNA
“I was involved in a child custody case for six or seven years and I couldn’t see how the thing would ever end very well. The whole scenario was all about my involvement with, and my attempt to raise my daughter in, Krishna consciousness. I thought about it very carefully after I was able to get up off the floor from my catatonia and my complete feelings of helplessness and utter bewilderment about what was going on. I said, ‘OK Krishna, this is your business. I’ll take care of it; just show me how to do it. I’ll execute your plan but you’re gonna have to show me something.’
And He did, He carried the thing. It was very very difficult. I have to say that I learned a lot about myself, other people, about the world that I live in. But my daughter was returned to me. It was not without the exaction of some price—I don’t mean money, but emotionally, mentally—heartbreak. So many difficulties along the way. But in my own way, I managed to keep the faith and maintained my sanity by focusing on Krishna throughout those years. And we all got through it.”
Kardama Muni Das was born Carl Mink but was given his name by his spiritual master, the founder of the modern Hare Krishna movement, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. In the way that only the universe works, Carl and I became close friends when studying for our accounting degrees at Georgia State University in 1983. This was many years before I embarked on this spiritual exploration and seeking. I recall Carl reading a text in Sanskrit and hearing stories of his long, protracted custody case for the right to raise his daughter as a Krishna devotee.
In my teenage years in Jewish youth group, we were often warned about “religious cults,” like Hare Krishna, which seem to attract a lot of seekers. Kardama Muni Das does agree that, “We are shamelessly evangelical!” But that said, these many years later, I have personally experienced the beauty and the sacredness of chanting the names of God: Hare Krishna Rama. And I have experienced at the New Raman Reti Hare Krishna Temple in Alachua, Florida the love and depths of a community that comes together to be grateful and to be of service to God and each other.
Kardama Muni Das has been a constant and important friend since our undergraduate studies. He has been there for me in times of exasperation when spiritual perspective was needed. He has suffered from Tourette syndrome, from which he never complains, but is ever the most grateful person in the room. And his now adult daughter, Rupa, lives with him on farmland right down the street from the largest Hare Krishna community in North America.
The most important lesson I learned from Kardama Muni Das is that each of us has a path to God that is unique to us and over which only we ourselves can be the arbiter. And when that choice results in a person becoming more grateful, more moral, more serving of others in need, our job is to embrace them and love them and respect the choice they have made.