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In the News:
Hare Krishna Home to Monks, away from World

by Heather Bowser,
Daily Universe, BYU

Posted October 1, 2004

[Gyani Dasa is the youngest monk at the Hare Krishna Temple in Spanish Fork. He is experiencing the simple life of a monk there]

SPANISH FORK - Gyani Dasa closed his eyes and touched his newly-shaved head to the frigid marble floor of the upper temple room. The dawning sunrays bathed him in gold as he rose to greet the statue of Lord Krishna at the front of the temple.

"Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna," rolled off his lips and into the early morning air.

While most people in Utah Valley lay snugly wrapped in warm comforters, Hare Krishna monks like Gyani are gathered for morning worship.

"Hare Hare Krishna Krishna Hare Rama," Dasa continued as other monks joined him in the rhythmic chorus. "Hare Rama Hare Hare Rama Rama."

One down, 1,727 more to go.

At 23, Gyani is the youngest monk at the Spanish Fork Temple and has dedicated his life, dress and speech to worshiping Krishna and bettering the world around him.

"When I was 16, I knew there was something I was looking for that I just couldn't find no matter where I looked," Gyani said.

Gyani spent his teenage years traveling the western United States, studying various ancient philosophies and searching for peace.

"Then one day I read this book called 'Journey of Self Discovery' by a Hare Krishna spiritual leader," Gyani said. "It changed my whole life."

Although Gyani was engaged to be married, he separated himself from all worldly desires and relationships, became saturated in the Hare Krishna beliefs, and set off to the Spanish Fork Temple.

"I kept visiting the temple every weekend," he said. "Soon, I got so involved I just moved in."

After a minimum of 12 months, Hare Krishna converts, called devotees, will seek a spiritual leader to guide them in the ways of the Lord Krishna. Once a devotee is proven worthy, they enter into higher covenants with the Lord. The ceremony is called initiation.

Monks are always referred to by their first name because their surname is a spiritual title. For example Dasa (pronounced "das") is a title meaning "servant." The title signifies their devotion to their faith, said Balarama Dasa, 43, an active Hare Krishnan from Orem.

"We covenant to avoid meat, addicting substances, gambling and sexual intercourse -- except within the bonds of marriage to procreate," Balarama said.

Monks and active members of Hare Krishna chant Lord Krishna's name thousands of times a day. These members chant to develop a relationship with Krishna and to detach themselves from all sinful desires.

On a day-to-day basis Gyani wears simple clothing called Dhoti Kurta and with the exception of one lock of hair in the back, he is totally bald.

"Well, I don't have to worry about fashion," Gyani said and smiled. "My dress is a spiritual reminder of who I am. Plus, it's a teaching tool. If I am walking in Wal-Mart and people see me like this, they will stop and ask me questions. I wouldn't get that if I were wearing blue jeans."

Similar to the beliefs of Buddhists, Gyani's baldness represents his detachment from the world. The single lock of hair symbolizes his only attachment -- Lord Krishna.

Hare Krishna monks also have clay painted from their nose to their forehead in the shape of a sacred basal-type tree in India. The marks denote spiritual lineage, and remind them of humility.

"If I had it my way, I would do all kinds of abominable things," Gyani said. "But the difference is, I try to follow Krishna."

**Hare Krishna Monk schedule:

4:30 a.m. Arise.

6 a.m. Morning services and worship.

7 a.m. Chanting and rounds.

8 a.m. Chant hymns or scriptures

9 a.m. Set up buffet and greet visitors until 7p.m.

7 p.m. Laundry or shopping or errands.

8 p.m. Study scriptures.

9 p.m. Relax. Play the guitar to the hymns.

10 p.m. Retire.

*Monks maintain schedule for 1 year to a lifetime.