“Are you here for the Hare Krishna too? It’s my first time.” A white face appeared in the crack of the door. The door opened wide. Her eyes wider.
“Please. Come in.”
We stood together in the entryway, a slanted landing in an old multi-family home. Her eyes bore into mine.
“It’s my first time too, but my friend said it’s in the basement. Let’s head down.”
“Of course. I brought these for prasad, the offering, you know, the feast, the sacred one.” Oreos. My first-timer friend had brought artificially manufactured cookies as prasad. Oreos.
We crept downstairs. Silent people shuffled through narrow hallways, cluttered but well-kept. We entered the room of worship, signaled by its gold-plated plastic relics, littered altar, slumpy pillows, candles, and incense. An old white man with an arm in a navy sling, an eye under a black patch, and a head wrapped in a yellowing headscarf sat in a folding chair. I wondered if he was god. Half-jokingly.
Others joined. Young children in colorful, handmade jumpers. They seemed to be there without parents. Middle-aged Indian men dressed in sacred garb. They seemed to be there for the sake of diversity and authenticity. Older white business men, dressed only slightly less professionally on a Sunday; they retained their weekday lives via designer lenses and bulky silver watches. They seemed to be there to remedy their material wants. A few older, sinewy, hippy women dressed in clothes too stereotypical to recount. They seemed to be there to keep up the alternative shtick they chose in their 20s and now cling to for fear of change.
We danced, smelt flowers, read the Bahgavad Gita, discussed wealth, humanity, mortality. Morality. Chanted. Prayed. Washed flame over our bodies. We sat. We chuckled nervously, shut our eyes tight, opened them wide, muttered words, and belted hymns. We fasted. We feasted, though not on oreos.
Three hours passed. I felt complete. Anxious. Ready to leave. Unsettled but grounded. I was out of my element, wide-eyed and white-faced. At least she brought oreos. I brought nothing but judgement.
I rode home. I bought a diet coke and a bag of candy on the way but only because they were out of oreos. I feasted on artificial sugar, flavors, and colors. I punished and pacified myself for the judgement I brought to a space designed for none. My body is not a temple. My body is not a temple if my spirit is unclean, heart dirty, mind muddled.