In the News

In the News:
Hare Krishnas enjoy worshipping in Utah

by Lindsay Ercanbrack, BYU NewsNet
submitted by Caru das

Posted April 30, 2004

Being located in Utah County, it might seem like the Hare Krishnas have a hard time fitting in with the LDS community. But just the opposite is true.

[Hare Krishnas host 12 festivities a year, including the popular Llama Fest in July at the temple grounds in Spanish Fork.]

With their lengthy religious names and India-style temple in the middle of Spanish Fork, the Hare Krishnas live peacefully in a community that is predominantly full of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints'. Interestingly enough, these religions share more than just their neighborhood.

In the early 1980s, Caru Das and Vaibhavi Devi, the temple presidents, came to Spanish Fork to relocate their radio station, now known as KHQN. Little did they know 16 years later, with help in part from the LDS Church, they would be able to build a temple for worship.

Being located in Utah County, it might seem like the Hare Krishnas have a hard time fitting in with the LDS community. But just the opposite is true.

"There are a lot of people who go out of their way to be neighborly and friendly," Das said.

Tota, 21, from Orem, joined the Krishnas four years ago when he met up with a Hare Krishna member at a punk concert in Salt Lake City. He now lives near the temple grounds and works full time giving tours and answering questions for visitors who come to the temple.

Tota said living in Utah is a dream come true.

"We get to associate constantly with LDS people who are well known to be the nicest people in the entire world," he said.

LDS wards around the community frequently donate their time and services to the Krishnas.

"During nice weather, its not uncommon on a Saturday morning to have between 20-60 people here mowing the lawn, washing the windows and painting," Das said. "How could you not be full of gratitude for wonderful people like that?"

The LDS Church has done more than just service projects for the Krishnas. In 1998, they donated $25,000 to the construction of the Krishna temple.

"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Foundation, which made the donation of funds, serves to contribute a portion of earnings from church-owned commercial ventures to worthy causes," said Coke Newell, manager of media relations for the LDS church. "The donation to the Spanish Fork temple was seen as such a contribution. It was simply our gesture as a good neighbor."

Along with sharing the neighborhood, the Krishnas share some of the same beliefs with members of the LDS faith. Every member must live by four main principles, three of which are very similar to the LDS lifestyle: no illicit sex, abstaining from alcohol and drugs and their faith discourages gambling. Additionally, Krishnas live a strict vegetarian diet avoiding meat, fish and eggs.

Perhaps they are best known to the BYU community for the 12 festivals they put on each year. They invite anyone in the community to attend. Tota said these gatherings are a good way to educate people about the Krishna religion and bring the community together.

"The festivals not only expose people to the ancient religious traditions of India, but are also a well-rounded cultural experience for everyone that comes," he said.

The most commonly known festival is the Llama Fest in July. Because of this festival, Tota said some people think Krishnas worship the llama, but that's not the case.

"In reality, llamas have absolutely nothing to do with our religion or tradition," Tota said. "A long time ago, [church leaders] got a few llamas donated to them. We found out there was a big market for llamas, and started breeding them. We use them as a way to raise money for the temple. They are kind of like a pet."

The Krishnas provide daily tours from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and have a Sunday evening open house where they give the public a glimpse at their beliefs and traditions.