One of the most common freshman mistakes is being in classes from noon straight until 3 p.m.

Why? Hare Krishna.

With a mandatory $5 donation — see what I did there — this organization has been steadily providing one of the few sources of vegan and vegetarian lunch on campus. Even better: It’s all you can eat.

When I am finally able to look back and reminisce about college, I know that the Plaza of the Americas and a scoop of halava will be present in many of those memories, which is cute.

What’s not cute is that I have neglected to learn about Hinduism from these people who practice it.

Aparna Sethumadhavan, a Gatorship assistant director and biochemistry and women’s studies double major, is one of the people I should have deferred to. This junior, who identifies as Hindu, believes this is her space, and what she sees in Hare Krishna is problematic.

So let her hit you with some facts.

“Hare Krishna pushes one form of Hinduism — one that has been extremely white-washed. It encourages its members to convert others to Hinduism, while the Hinduism that most Indians practice does not allow for conversion,” Sethumadhavan said.

“They only worship one god, when a basic part of Hinduism is being able to see a higher spiritual power in every part of your life,” she said. “They even think that other Hindus are not worthy of their time. They exclude people and are condescending towards other religions, all of which goes against the basic tenets of Hinduism.”

If you are someone who only comes for lunch, this may be something you don’t really care to know. You’re probably thinking, “I’m just here for the salad and that bomb dressing, but that isn’t even Indian food.”

For Hindus like Sethumadhavan, what the Hare Krishnas are practicing is not true Hinduism.

With this much discrepancy, it’s no surprise there’s a few things Sethumadhavan would like the Hare Krishnas to know.

“Hinduism is not extreme; it is not organized. It is about practicing love and acceptance, about learning how to be a better human,” she said. “It’s about finding a spiritual connection to the world around you. What you are practicing is not true Hinduism.”

Each of the few times these people serving lunch have tried tricking me into buying their book, their message has been different. If that makes me feel concerned and lied to, imagine how that makes people like Sethumadhavan feel, whose religion is being improperly represented to a whole campus.

“It makes me sad that Hare Krishna is so many people’s introduction to Hinduism,” Sethumadhavan said. “There is a lot more to my religion that is lost when it is taught by members of Hare Krishna. It also makes me really angry to see my culture so badly appropriated and misinterpreted.”

By this point, you’re probably sad because you’re thinking now you have to find a new lunch spot. If that is true, there is not enough time in the day for me to tell you what’s wrong with the fact that you’re worrying about yourself instead of a whole entire group of people who feel misinterpreted.

Instead, I’ll just let you know it’s OK to eat the food. That’s not the point. Eat it, y’all. It’s good for vegans and vegetarians. But please recognize that, when they are handing you a plate, they’re doing it to represent more than just good, cheap food.

So it’s okay to get hyped for spaghetti Wednesdays. What you should not do is overlook how Hare Krishna only highlights one aspect of Hinduism in a very minimal way, because some people miss the fact the Hare Krishna is even supposed to be a form of Hinduism at all.

“The idea of Hinduism as a religion was created by the British. Until then, it was seen as a spiritual practice and a way of life,” Sethumadhavan said. “Hare Krishna takes this cultural imperialism one step farther by twisting Hinduism so that it fits into modern ideas of what religion should entail without giving a thought to the thousands of years of history behind Hinduism.”

So there. Think of how much more you can appreciate Krishna Lunch when you know the message it is truly supposed to send. I have never seen Indian people involved in Hare Krishna — although that doesn’t mean they boycott Krishna — but the thought of it puts a bad taste in my mouth.

I know that may not be enough motivation, but I’m just not OK appropriating the aspects of someone else’s culture that are convenient. I’m not OK with reducing a whole religion to one plate. Are you?

Brooke Henderson is a second year journalism and international studies student. Her columns usually appear on Mondays.

(3) comments


Your friend is gravely mistaken about the Krishna devotees. First of all they are following the concepts and regulations prescribed by their line of gurus which goes back hundreds of years before the British. Secondly the "Hare Krishna" philosophy itself comes from Srimad Bhagavad Gita as spoken by Sri Krishna in which the devotees are advised to abandon all varieties of religion." The sanatana dharma concepts are above all mundane religious philosophies in which devotion is mixed with the desire for either material enjoyment, spiritual knowledge, or liberation.
America is considered to be "bhoga-bhumi", a land where the pursuit of material enjoyment is predominate, vs. the holy lands of India which are "sadhana-bumi" where spiritual practices for the pleasure of God are predominate. For many years sadhus in India would cry at the thought of even traveling to America because of the lack of Vedic culture here. Unfortunately nowdays, most of the Indians which migrate to the United States are interested more in enjoying an opulent lifestyle rather than pursuing a lifetime of dedication to God. Indeed even in India, we see that the vast majority of "Hindus" worship in a manner which is mixed with a desire for material benefits. The Krishna devotees do not ask for a nice house, fancy car, beautiful spouse, long life, or other such perishable things. Their devotional desire is simply to have more devotion for original personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna. Why are they like this? Because their guru has given them the highest conception of a personal relationship with the divine which is devoid of the desire for material enjoyment, yogic powers, spiritual knowledge, and impersonal liberation. How easy is it to come by this knowledge? It is very, very hard. Very few people in this country have even heard of Srimad Bhagavatam, much less been exposed to its transcendental subjects. Having had the good fortune to obtain this knowledge in this lifetime, the devotees on your campus are simply attempting to honor their debt to Sri Guru for imparting this knowledge, by freely sharing it with others. It is often said the way to a person's hear is through their stomach, and so the devotees are preparing food, offering it to The Lord, and then distributing this prasadam to the students on your campus. Is this mainstream Hinduism? No. Is this traditional Vaishnava (devotees of Lord Vishnu) philosophy? Definitely. At a time when "yoga" is being pre-pended with all varieties of nonsense from goat-yoga, to paddleboard-yoga, with little if any specific connection to The Lord, the Hare Krisna devotees are arguably the only people in this country publicly promoting actual traditional Indian bhakti yoga philosophy that has not been diluted by materialistic concepts, following parampara (disciplic succession), and honoring the true wealth of Indian cultural heritage in a way meant to sustain it.
The following is a quote from my Gurudeva:
"There is only one God, or Supreme Being. Whether you call Him Allah, Khuda, Paramatma, Bhaghavan, or God, or any other name, He is the creator of this world. Because we have forgotten Him, we have fallen down into this cycle of birth and death.
"No one is Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, or Christian from birth. Due to our lifestyle, the society and country in which we are born, and our learned characteristics, we classify ourselves as Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, or Christian, and because of this, we are trying to gain each other's wealth and belongings. We are thinking that we are Hindu or Muslim. We are thinking, for example, that only by coming in the Muslim religion can one be benefited. With this idea we are even eager to kill other human beings.
"My message is that by birth we are not Hindu, Muslim, or Christian. We are the children of the same God who has given us birth so that we can worship Him according to our own way of devotion and attain His lotus fet. He will only be attained by love. That is why we should offer our love to our worshipful Deity, be compassionate to other living souls, avoid any fighting, and maintain peace. This is my message."
Hopefully this is a message that we can all (except perhaps the atheists) agree on, and we can recognize the auspiciousness of meeting someone attempting to remind us of this as we go about our days caught up in the issues and divisions of modern life.


The first thing that struck me when I read this article was, why didn't the article's author ask the Hare Krishnas what they're all about? Why go to her Hindu professor? Wouldn't the Hare Krishnas know more about their path (which is obviously not Hinduism, otherwise they'd call it that) than a Hindu professor? This is a logic I'd like to point out to Brooke.

As to professor Sethumadhavan, I am curious if she has ever been to a Hare Krishna temple, and experienced the nice programs featured there. They are very beautiful and seem to uphold tenets of Hinduism. They do not claim to be Hindus, so why does she want them to fit into her mold of what makes a good Hindu? Perhaps all she saw were some Krishnas telling someone about a book and got an impression that they are pushy. But there is more to consider than that. The Krishnas offer healthy, wonderful homemade food daily, they are spiritual people who are kind and humble - what's so wrong if they suggest a book to someone or invite people to their events at the house or temple? It's not like they're screaming at people with gigantic signs about hell...

I think this article has done a great injustice to a sweet group that does amazing public service and is integral to UF and Gainesville.

Zero stars for Brooke, sorry. And for Gator newspaper.


I was very surprised by this very one-sided, poorly researched article presented in the Alligator as factual statements, with the author of the article making very deliberate conclusions based on one ill-informed person. I think Brooks should volunteer to serve Krishna Lunch one day as an apology to the Krishnas for this poor sample of journalism.

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