I used to go to LA’s FOLK (“Friends of Lord Krishna”) dinners on Wednesdays in the building right next to the temple. One night, a black devotee walked up the stairs to give the lecture while we ate, seated on the floor in front of our low tables. He looked incredibly cool with imposing muscles under his smooth and jet black skin contrasting so dramatically against saffron Krishna robes. I felt like I was going to hear someone from the Bad Brains talk to me about Krishna!
Sure enough he preached with charisma, confidence, and absolute conviction and I almost felt like I was at the Vedic equivalent of a Christian revival. At a certain point he turned the blast of his fire and brimstone upon the topic of abortion. In a booming, bass voice, he declared, “Anyone who aborts the unborn child in the womb will go to hell and never again see the light of day!”
Whoa, what? Yeah, OK, Abortion is nasty, but what’s this Christian shit about eternal hell doing in a Hare Krishna temple?
I raised my hand. He called on me.
“What about reincarnation?” I asked. “Won’t they eventually be reincarnated and leave hell?”
“In Bhagavad Gītā,” he rallied, “Krishna declares that he throws the demoniac into hellish births life after life. They will be reincarnated in hell, and never again see the light of day.”
I just wasn’t buying it. This guy was importing his biblical past and imposing it on Bhagavad Gītā. It wasn’t “Bhagavad Gītā, As It Is,” it was Bhagavad Gītā Through the Eyes of a Baptist.
“In Bhagavad Gītā, Chapter Eight,” I challenged, “Krishna says that heaven and hell are not permanent places. We go there temporarily and then get reborn again on earth after our rewards or punishments are done. So, how can you say that a person could go to hell and never get back out?”
This made him really mad. Here was a sassy little 19 year old kid, a guest at the Wednesday night FOLK dinner, trying to out-quote him and one-up his authority! I don’t remember what he said next, but it was loud, and I shut up.
– Excerpt from
Train-wrecks and Transcendence:
A Collision of Hardcore and Hare Krishna
by Vraja Kishor dās