Despite small size, Krishna Temple has large impact
At 6 a.m., the first hints of watery morning sunlight are just starting to touch the overgrown pastures and muddy roads. The town appears to be still. Standing outside in the briskly fading twilight, though, one might be able to hear faint drumming coming from a hill down the road. It’s Sunday morning in Utah Valley, which means that the majority of residents of this quiet town will soon be up and preparing for Latter-day Saint (LDS) worship services in one of the many chapels that dot the valley. For Nandarani Dasi and the small group of devotees at the Sri Sri Radha Krishna Lotus Temple, though, worship for the day has already begun. On the opulently decorated second floor of the modest temple, a man stands facing a large altar, keeping a throbbing beat on a long, thin drum. Nandarani, two men and another woman sit on one of the oriental rugs to his right, holding stringed instruments and chanting.
What they chant is called the Hare Krishna Maha Mantra, 40-year-old Nandarani conveys. “That’s for purification,” and they chant this two-hour-long mantra every day. Nandarani explains getting used to the daily chants as a jaundice-ridden human taking sugared candy to get better. “When they first start taking this sugar candy, it may taste a little bitter .... But once they keep taking the sugar candy ... then they start tasting the sweetness of the sugar. So it’s the same thing with chanting ... [soon] you don’t want to stop ... if you just discipline yourself and you chant your 16 rounds, and you keep doing it every day, then you can start tasting the sweetness of the Hare Krishna Maha Mantra.”
When asked about the ultimate aim of the practice of devotion, Nandarani discloses that the desire is to develop bhahti, or love and devotion for God. Chanting God’s names helps her and the other temple-goers to “re-establish our lost relationship with God,” she says. She hopes others learn to bring that change into their own spiritual life. She explains its importance through the story of our world. “We all have a relationship with God, but out of our immaturity, we wanted to enjoy without God, so he created this place [Earth] for us to enjoy. It’s never really that enjoyable .... Because God wants us to go back to the spiritual world with him more than we want to go back .... Through the chanting, we can realize our lost relationship with him, and get back to where we belong.”
In addition to chanting, the devotees give daily offerings of vegetarian foods, flowers and spices to the ornate altars that reside on the temple’s second floor. Along with daily chanting, these offerings are one of the most significant ways that the Hindus show their devotion to Krishna and their other deities. The worship services are open to anyone; they take place daily at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.
Nandarani, who goes by her spiritual name, joined the Hindu faith as a 22-yearold in California, participating in worship there until they moved to Utah in 2012. She is one of several members of the ashram, or community, that live on the temple grounds. Her two managers are the builders and owners of the Lotus Temple, husband and wife Vaibhavi and Charu, who funded the temple 12 years ago.
Considering its size, the Krishna Lotus Temple has a big impact on the nearby community; the Salt Lake Tribune reported last year that around 70,000 people attended the end of March Holi Festival, or festival of colors. When asked why the temple throws such huge festivals, Nandarani laughed and then became very serious. “We have these festivals because they are for the benefit of all .... People come here and get to hear the Hare Krishna Maha Mantra, and it is said that if someone even gets to hear the name of Krishna [God], they at least in their next life get a human form ... they get to start where they left off spiritually.” So, though the temple is small, the tiny Hindu presence in Utah Valley will continue, “for the good of all.”
The Sri Sri Radha Krishna Lotus Temple