The Krishna Consciousness spiritual movement laid its roots in Athens over 50 years ago. What started as small meetings in College Green has grown into a community of spiritual healing.
Krishna Consciousness began in India and was first brought to the U.S. by Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in 1965. He taught from the “Bhagavad-gita,” an ancient Sanskrit text from which Krishna Consciousness developed.
Krishna Consciousness means devoting one’s every movement to God’s pleasure, which results in a karma-free life. Krishna means “all-attractive” in alignment with how everything Devine is all-attractive. Krishna Consciousness allows anything to be devotional.
Here in Athens the Krishna Consciousness center, 114 Grosvenor St., hosts meditations with free vegetarian meals afterward every Tuesday at 6 p.m. According to its website, the Hare Krishnas first came to Athens four years later than Prabhupada in 1969, and Prabhupada himself visited Athens in May 1969 to help spread the word. Thousands of devotees have practiced in Athens, but the current center was only permanently established last year, on Oct. 7, 2021.
Each week participants enjoy a meditation that involves chanting a mantra along with music from an instrument called a harmonia. During this, participants focus on their spiritual self and their connection with God.
Following the meditation, everyone reads and discusses an excerpt from the “Bhagavad-gita.” Then, a vegetarian meal is served.
Krishna Consciousness focuses on the practice of Bhakti Yoga to help participants explore their spiritual connection and self-transformation. According to Yoga Basics, Bhakti Yoga is mantra meditation. Bhakti means “devotion” or “love,” and this form of yoga serves as a direct path to unify mind, body and spirit. The goal is to center a person and bring them closer to God and their spiritual self.
“It’s an address to God,” said Rose Mary Rader, manager of the Athens Krishna Consciousness Center, referring to its mantra, the Hare Krishna. “In the Old Testament, they talk about chanting the names of the Lord from sunrise to sunset. So it’s along those lines that these are names of God.”
Rader has participated in the movement in Athens for 49 years and said people join Krishna Consciousness for different reasons, from curiosity to searching for peace.
The group also includes strong advocates for vegetarian diets, and part of their mission is to help others adopt this lifestyle. Part of this commitment includes offering vegetarian cooking classes at the United Campus Ministries Center, 18 N. College St. These took place on several Wednesdays this fall, and a $5 donation was requested to participate. Rader said more classes may be scheduled next semester.
Kim Clifton, a regular participant in the movement's activities, discovered them through her vegan diet and activism back in Houston in the ‘80s.
“I was doing animal rights activism and I planned some vegetarian events and there was a pretty large Krishna population there,” Clifton said. “They heard about some of the stuff I was doing, they wanted to participate.”
The Krishna Consciousness movement prides itself on its open-mindedness and acceptance of all people.
“The community of this Krishna Consciousness movement, they’re very open-minded,” said Alankara Das.
Das joined Krishna Consciousness seven years ago and said finding the movement completely turned around his relationship with spirituality.
Rader said they are willing to welcome anyone who is seeking their help and will offer them a sense of community.
“We want to be a haven for people that want to learn more about spirituality,” Rader said.