Hare Krishna: Good Food and Good Faith

    Every
    Wednesday at noon, students and faculty are drawn to Student Center when it
    smells of bean curry and sweet rice aromas. They dish out a mere $3 to taste
    religious group Hare Krishna’s offerings to their Lord, and wash down the
    savory meal with mint iced tea mixed with lemonade.

    Students help themselves to the buffet-style lunch cooked by Hare Krishna every Wednesday. Meals are relatively cheap, providing a main course, a small dessert and refreshments for $3 a plate. (Jaclyn Snow/Guardian)

    Followers of Hare
    Krishna, a religion inspired by an ancient mantra composed in Sanskrit, believe
    that one has an eternal soul, not a body, and that Krishna is an omniscient
    seed-giving holy deity that delivers gratitude for food.

    The weekly luncheon
    provides an alternative choice for vegetarians on campus, in addition to
    fostering a stronger community spirit.

    “Vegetarians get
    together and eat,” said Kevin Smith, a liaison for the eatery. “We offer our
    food on our altar, cooked under strict rules, like no tasting before it is
    offered, and distribute the blessings. We call this spiritualized food
    prasadam, or mercy.”

    While fans of the luncheons
    appreciate this weekly event, few understand why Hare Krishna followers cook
    all morning to deliver such a delicious, yet inexpensive, meal.

    “We are a missionary
    organization distributing the science of self-realization,” Smith said. “[And
    because] the self-soul is a servant of God, we are also distributing God realization. Our founder thought
    it was very important to introduce this spiritual knowledge available to the
    educated class of people, as there are no such courses offered. Being a Hare Krishna [and] recognizing my
    eternal position as a servant of God is the most fulfilling activity in my
    life.”

    While the usual crowd
    of Hare Krishna devotees are graduate students and Student Center junkies, some
    are long-time fans of the Hare Krishna movement. Gerald Currinncione, a patron
    since 1995 and a statistics professor at San Diego State University, met Smith
    when he worked at UCSD and has known Smith for about 12 years. As a vegetarian,
    Currinncione was naturally interested.

    “People here feel a
    bond toward one another,” he said. “This is an alternative … people are more
    international.”

    Because the low-priced
    food is popular for staff and students, nearby restaurants find it hard
    competition.

    “We’re a non-profit, or
    as I joke sometimes, never-a-profit,” Smith said. “The infrastructure is
    already there at the temple so renting [a place to make the food] and other
    expenses are already incurred. This has caused other vendors to complain,
    rightfully.”

    Whether attendees of
    Hare Krishna’s Wednesday lunches are students looking for a cheap bite to eat,
    vegetarians honing in on a tasty meatless option or patrons fascinated by the
    Hare Krishna religion, they can all agree that food quality at that price is
    hard to beat.

    “The food is a giant amazing plate that is orgasmic
    and the desserts are amazing,” Sixth College senior Lisa Bendelstein said. “And
    for the price, the food is healthier and tastier than other foods on campus.”

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