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.