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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
Interviewee: David Walker
Interviewer: James Meier
Date: March 4, 1995
M: My name is James Meier and I am interviewing Daru Brahma Das
and were you born in Florida?
W: No, I was born in Boston but I lived there less than a year
so I don't call it home. I call Princeton, New Jersey home.
M: And when did you come to Gainesville?
W: I came to Gainesville in 1977 to come to attend school here.
M: Is your family still in the Boston area?
W: No. Actually we moved to Florida in 1975 or 1976 and that's
why I ended up coming to school here. I had originally
started in Philadelphia at Haverford College but when we
moved to Florida it was cheaper to go to school in the state
of Florida. So they've been in Florida ever since 1976.
M: In this area?
W: South Florida, more like Broward county.
M: What are your parents' names?
W: My father is Ian Walker and my mother is Lois Walker,
although they got divorced about four years ago.
M: And what do they do as a profession?
W: My dad is in stock-brokerage, investment, and my mother is
working with Sax Fifth Avenue in the accessories area.
M: Do you have any brothers or sisters?
W: I have one brother, fifteen months younger, and two sisters
three years younger and seven years younger.
M: Are they in Florida too?
W: One sister is in Montana, the other sister is down in South
Florida also and my brother is also down in South Florida.
M: So you said you got here in 1975, I think, to Florida
anyway. How did you end up in Gainesville?
W: Because I was going to go to school at University of
Florida. I did go for half a semester and then I dropped
out. At first, I wasn't in this [the Hare Krishna
Movement]. I joined another Christian group. I just really
wanted to seek God, so I joined a few groups and went very
quickly through them, fortunately, because I was very
serious. Quickly, I found myself here and I've never left
since. I threw myself into each group saying, 'God, you've
led me to this group. Now reveal to me if this is actually
[the path I should take to you] or not. And I saw that there
was something good [in each group] but something was
missing, and I kept moving to a few groups until I came here
and I didn't see anything missing and I still haven't. [The
only thing missing here is my] lack of purity because it's
not easy to do.
M: What was lacking from the first Christian groups that you
W: It was hard to find someone really following. I mean, the
average person in the church may have their foibles but you
expect that the leader at least should be a very Godly
person, yet often they're meat-eaters, and they themselves
don't seem to have the qualities of Christ. And I actually
wanted to follow Christ and I wanted to see where was
someone like Christ, so I came to this movement and I saw
Prabhupada [the founding spiritual master, Swami
Prabhupada]. I did not see him personally but I studied his
life and saw other people who had actually become very
saintly people. You could see it in the character. It was
pretty clear that they were living a renounced life, and you
cannot be a sense gratifier and be God-realized. It just
doesn't go together. So, that's what I was impressed by. The
two things that made me join this were 1) the amount of
knowledge and 2) the seriousness in the practice. That's
what most attracted me, those two things. [We worship] the
same God. [We] just [have] more knowledge of Him and a
[more] serious practice, which is obviously needed if you
want to attain something [valuable].
Well, how did you first get involved with the Hare Krishnas?
Interestingly enough, there was lunch out there in the
Plaza, but I wasn't open-minded enough at that time because
I was a meat-eater, and that really kind of clouds the
consciousness, so you stay on the material platform, and I
really couldn't see it. I said [to myself], who are these
bald geeks? So I understand how a lot of people [feel] the
same [way] about us. Anyhow I did not eat out there, and I
never talked to them out there. But I can only say that I
was a rare case. Most people kind of come gradually to our
programs or eat with us and say, 'What are you doing?' and
they finally come to programs and say, 'Maybe I should do
this.' But it so happened where the first time that I ever
came to the property [a temple], I never left. It was that
kind of situation because I was really in the mood of, as I
said, 'You've led me to this, God, and I'm going to throw
myself into it. [For example,] when I went to the Christian
church, I was going everyday practically and really got into
it. So when I came here, I also got into it, and then it was
so much the truth that I just never left. So the first time
I came, [I stayed]. It wasn't a gradual thing for me.
M: But what got you here in the first place? You say you had a
closed mind and saw them as 'bald guys' on the Plaza.
W: Well that's an interesting story, I guess if you want to get
M: Yes, by all means.
W: I was in that born-again Christian church where I was active
and then I just realized, 'This is not it, [because I saw
too much talk and not enough practical action], and the next
day I had left [that church], but I still wanted God, and I
was on campus and there was a guy in a robe and [he was]
barefoot and had a beard and he was under a tree and he [was
a member of what is called the Christ family. You don't
hear about them anymore. He was sitting under a tree, and I
was immediately attracted and I said to myself, 'Well,
here's someone who's living like Christ-renounced-and he's
not just talking it.' He was talking about 'no killing, no
sex and no materialism.' That was their 3 'keys to heaven.'
And I said, 'This is more like what I'm inspired by-somebody
who's trying to really live a renounced life.' So I was
still in that mood of 'Maybe this is it, God. You've brought
me to him.' And not only me. Another student and I were both
sitting there listening to him and some other people were,
and they all peeled away, but the other student and I were
both so fascinated. And he was an intelligent guy and I was
thinking, 'Wow, it's not just me that's being impressed.
This guy actually is intelligent, and he thinks this is cool
too. We both thought, 'Let's just do what he's doing.' We
were both actually at the point of wanting to give up
material life. So anyhow, we went back to this guy's house
to pick up a sleeping bag and stuff and his brother [arrived
and] said, 'What are you doing?!' And he said, 'Well we're
kind of going to follow this guy,' and his brother and his
brother's friend kind of grabbed him and deprogrammed him
immediately and it was a pretty heavy scene. They didn't let
him go, but I kept going with the guy and it wasn't long
before I started having doubts. I only stayed with him a day
or two and then by God's arrangement, there were other
people in the group coming to this area because it was
Christmastime and the Northern members were migrating from
the North [to get out of the cold], so I got to see others
in the group at their little camp, and I started having real
doubts because, despite the fact that they were vegetarians,
they were into smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee and
even smoking Marijuana, which I didn't do at all
practically, so I was really having doubts. 'God, I don't
think this is it, so please help me.' So what happened was
that the next day, they had to get gas in their van and so
everybody piled in and then we pulled up to a gas station
and [there was] another guy [in the van] who had just joined
who had been working at that same gas station, and they
filled up and the gas station attendant said, 'How are you
going to pay for this?' and [the guy who had just joined]
said, 'I was just working here last week. Take it out of the
money you owe me.' And the attendant said, 'No, we sent that
money to your parents. We want some money.' And [his boss
came out and] said, 'Well, who asked for the gas?' And [the
attendant] pointed at two people, me and another guy-and I
hadn't [actually] asked for the gas but I was in the mood,
'Well, take it as God's arrangement,' so I didn't protest
when they called the police on us. So the police threw us in
jail, in the Alachua County Detention Center. I was wearing
one of those robes-[these people wore] literally a sheet-
and they put me in solitary confinement and I remember,
interestingly enough, that the door said-someone had
scratched into it-Hare Krishna, Hare Rama, [in] real big
[letters]. I didn't know what [it meant], so I just
[scratched] in 'Praise God' because I was in that kind of
mentality. Anyhow, after a few days, they could see that I
was not a nut and thus I was moved in with the general
population. And I was just reading the Bible thinking, 'I'm
on the right track. I'm seeking God, but I don't know what
[the correct way to God] is yet. All I did was read the
Bible-no TV or anything like that. Anyhow, one guy came
upstairs and said, 'Hey, there's another guy in this cell
down there and he's preaching this 'undefeatable'
philosophy, and you should go down and talk to him. So I
talked to him, and he was a guy who knew the Hare Krishna
philosophy, but he was a street person and couldn't follow
it, but he knew it. So I was attracted. I thought, 'Wow,
this is pretty interesting,' but because he wasn't living
it, he didn't impress me enough to completely agree with
him. Anyhow, a few days later I left the jail. They just let
me go for time served. I had called mom and dad and said,
'I'm not coming home; I know I'm on the right track. I'm not
in the right group yet, but I know I am on the right track
of serving God.' So I left the jail still barefoot and in a
robe just coming down Waldo Road heading towards town,
thinking, 'I do not know where to go, God. Help me out.' I
[was getting right close] to 13th Street and University
Avenue, right at Leonardo's and said, 'God, help me out,
because when I get to the corner, I don't know what to do,'
and just as I was there, at Leonardo's, a girl called out,
'Hey brother!' And I thought, 'Oh, here's a girl who
appreciates that I am a saintly-type person.' So I went over
to give her what little spiel I knew, and she said, 'Isn't
it wonderful how God's everywhere and in every atom?' And I
thought, 'Wow, I never thought of that. I always thought God
was way up there, but I never thought God was everywhere,'
and I said, 'Well, what are you into?' because [I was
thinking], 'Maybe God has led me to you.' And she said, 'I'm
with the Guru Maharaja Jis,' and I had heard of it, and I
thought that was a crazy thing, but I thought ['Hold on. You
just prayed to God and here's this person with more
knowledge than you,' so I went with her]. I spent two days
of checking that out, and I was already having doubts on
that too because they had [shown] a video of Guru Maharaja
Jis on campus, and I was immediately not so impressed, but
it was the best thing I had found yet. I had just rented an
apartment for myself because I still had money in the bank
from when I was a student. I had dropped out just two weeks
ago and this was all happening like "bang-bang-bang," and so
I'm walking out of the apartment and all of a sudden I see
the guy who was in jail preaching the Hare Krishna
philosophy and I said, 'Guess what I am into now? I'm with
the Guru Maharaja Jis,' and he said, 'That is all bogus!
Come with me tomorrow to the Hare Krishna feast. And so
that's what happened. He brought me that next day, and I was
already in the mood of, 'As I've tried with so many other
groups, I will throw myself into this [and let God reveal
Himself as to whether this is right or wrong], and I never
left. [That guy] said, 'If you join, I will join too,' but
he couldn't do it. I did end up staying, but he's considered
one of my gurus because he led me here, so I always think
fondly of him because he led me on the path, even though he
was a street person.
M: Do you still keep in touch with him?
W: No, I've seen him like once or twice in the past since I
joined eighteen years ago. I ran into him after five years
and I've never seen him since. I don't know where he is. He
could be dead for all I know.
M: You said this was when?
W: I joined exactly on Christmas eve in 1977 when we walked on
the temple grounds and there happened to be a feast that
night and I prayed, 'God, you've given me the greatest
M: I forgot to ask you one question. When were you born? How
old were you at this time?
W: I was just about to turn twenty-one in two weeks. My
birthday is January 7. Now I am thirty-nine.
M: And so you became an active member or were you just a
W: No, I moved right in, and I've been 'brain-washed' ever
since, as they say.
M: What kind of activities did you get involved with?
W: Pretty quickly, I did what our major thing is-to go out and
harass people and pester them for donations. I'm joking
M: I was just about to ask. I've never seen this.
W: You never have?
M: Asking for donations, no.
W: Well, we're famous [for it], like the 'Airplane' movie?
M: I have seen the 'Airplane,' but I've never actually
witnessed [the collecting of donations] myself.
W: First of all, we don't really wear the robes out in the
airport, so we're a little under cover, you might say, not
because we're trying to trick anybody but just because
people are so much on the material platform that if I came
up to you with a robe and a shaved head, [who would stop?]
Just like when I was a student, I would never talk to them.
Similarly, many people would just want to say, 'Who is this
weirdo?' and they wouldn't talk to you. So we just put a hat
on and some clothes so that they can at least deal with us.
And, we're distributing books. We're not just selling
flowers, like in the Airplane movie, [where the people] say,
'Hi, we're selling for the Church For Higher Consciousness.
Would you like to give a donation?' I would go to the rest
areas and distribute books to people coming from Canada at
all of those rest areas on 1-75 and 1-95, and we did that
for many years. I did it. I've done airports many years, and
I did it for the first eight years that I was in the
movement. That's all I did, pretty much. I did it in the New
Orleans Airport and Miami Airport and Orlando Airport and
then, after that, I took this [center] over about ten years
ago. So I've been doing this now for ten years but I still
go out every weekend and go to Busch Gardens and distribute
books and on summer breaks I go out to the Disney World and
Wet-And-Wild and the people in the parking lots. I still
do it, but I don't do it as much. I'm cooking most of the
M: So what do you do on these occasions when you go to Busch
Gardens or wherever?
W: Well, I'm actually at the streetlight in front of Busch
Gardens, which is city property. I'm not on Busch Gardens
property. And I stop people at the streetlight and try to
give them books on vegetarianism and reincarnation
particularly, because I find that those are things that
people can get into.
M: What kind of reactions do you generally get?
W: It's good. You learn how to deal with people. It's not like
you are just a fanatic. 'Hey man, are you a vegetarian.
Well, you idiot, why aren't you?!' It's not like that.
You're just real friendly, like, 'Where are you from?'
First, you try to be a friend and say, 'By the way, I'm a
yogi teacher. Have you thought about reincarnation? Do you
think it's a possibility or no way?' And they will say, 'I
don't think so,' and I'll say, 'I don't mean you always come
back. It's just that if you don't make heaven, you get
another shot. I mean, God's a nice guy. He ain't gonna burn
you in hell forever. And a lot of people say, 'Yeah, that
makes sense.' [Then, I'll say] 'So, take a book. And we're
doing a benefit. We feed people and we're spreading this
knowledge, so can you help out?' And it's a lot of fun to
deal with people. Anyhow, that's what I do.
So you did that for the first ten or seven or eight years?
Eight years, full time.
And so you said you took over this place in 1987?
Do you have a formal title? I think I read that you are the
Yes, I am the president of this little center.
So, what kind of responsibility does that involve?
It's actually just trying to make people Krishna-conscious
in the whole area, you could say in all of North Florida, or
at least in Gainesville. I mean, of course, it's a great
responsibility and I am hardly doing a fraction of what I
should. I'm just concentrating on trying to do something at
the University. Even then, I could do more over there. I
mean, it's just an unlimited weight of what needs to be
done, and how can I do it? But at least that is what I
should be trying to do, is to spread Krishna-consciousness
to all the people here. I always feel very unqualified. I
mean, to be a qualified president, to be a real devotee is
so great. I'm just trying to be a devotee, because it's just
like any other endeavor, such as trying to be a better
musician or tennis player. Once you've started doing it you
realize, '0 my God! There's so much more to it.' For
example, with tennis, sure I can go out there and hit it and
play a little better than the average person but I now
realize that I'm still nowhere, especially when I compare
myself with college, and what to speak of professional,
players.' So when someone says, 'I'm real good at tennis,'
or, 'I am a real good guitar player,' it's like I'm thinking
[sarcastically], 'Oh yeah?!' In other words, anyone who's
really any good, they think they're not so good. So
similarly, anyone who thinks, 'Yeah, I'm a great devotee of
God,' that really just proves they're not because the real
devotees of God think, 'I'm not very devoted.' I certainly
know that I'm far from the standard and I don't want to pose
that I'm a good president or anything like that.
M: But why were you given the position? I mean, this is a
fairly large mission and presumably you have some skills or
some reason that they appointed you. Or was this seen as a
golden opportunity that you were offered this position, or
how did you happen into becoming president of this
W: Well, I had been working under the guy who was president.
Actually [to give a little history], I remember when I was
three years in the movement, I wanted to open a center
because, as we've all probably experienced, we all think we
could do better than the person in charge. But I wanted to
run a center and I remember my spiritual master said, 'Well,
that's very nice.' He didn't say, 'You are too young. What
do you think you are doing, you idiot?' He was very nice. He
said, 'Oh that's nice. But do you know how to cook?' I said,
'No, not really.' 'Do you know how to give class?' I said,
'No, I haven't really done much of that either.' 'Do you
know how to keep books [do accounting]?' I said, 'No.' 'Do
you know how to play the mrdanga, the drum?' I said, 'No.'
He said, 'Well, learn those things, and then you can become
president [or open a center] because you have to be able to
cook for the people, play those instruments and give
classes, and you have to be able to keep the books. So I
gradually started learning a little cooking under the guy I
was with and I learned all these other things, and he moved
on to something else and just turned the center over to me.
I heard that Dennis Miller was saying recently that America
has got its problems, but still it's the best in the world.
But we shouldn't be too proud because it's kind of like
saying you're the Valedictorian of your summer school class.
Big deal. You're the best of a bunch of idiots. In that way,
maybe I'm Valedictorian of this temple, but it's just a
summer school temple. I mean, you have to pick somebody to
be in charge, and I may not be very qualified, but I may
have been the best of whatever there is. That's how I
certainly feel. I really feel the place would grow a lot
better if somebody more sincere [were in charge]. Like when
I have free moments, what am I doing? I'm out there playing
racquetball. I could be going door-to-door, trying to make
people more aware of what we're doing. I always feel very
inadequate because there's so much to do because the world
the world has 'gone to hell in a hand basket,' as they say,
and all I do is sit here and watch T.V. I don't watch much,
mind you, and I don't watch Beverly Hills 90210 and all of
that crap, just 20/20 or something like that or PBS, but
even that. I could be doing better things. I always feel
M: Do you ever foresee the day when you feel that you will be
doing all that you can? Is that possible?
W: You'll always feel that you could do so much more, but at
least, I could certainly do a lot better than that. T.V. or
playing racquetball or going to a movie. These things are
not really very beneficial to the world or even to oneself.
For many people, they think, 'If I just did those things,
I'd be in good shape. For example, some people go to the
frisbee practices, and if they weren't, they would just be
partying. So for them, it's the best thing they are doing,
whereas for me, it's like one of the worst things I'm doing.
You know, it just depends on what your standards are.
D: I'm a school teacher, so when I watch T.V. or movies, I
think that I could be doing better things, but I'm at least
in touch with what they are talking about, where they're
coming from, the ones I'm trying to reach.
M: Please identify yourself.
D: I am Dirk Drake, another member of the oral history seminar.
Can I just bump in? I have a question.
M: Sure, go ahead.
D: What is the religious or spiritual significance of being on
the UF Plaza serving food, which I think is probably one of
the most profound things you do? Is that a sacrament?
W: Yes, the idea is we're not just offering food to people. We
are offering them prasadam. Prasadam means 'mercy of the
Lord.' And so all the food we eat, we offer first to Krishna
or God and thank Him for having given these foodstuffs and
then ask him to please bless them so that anyone who eats
them may become purified and come to appreciate His
greatness and love Him more. So we offer the food every day
before we serve it out, and people, whether they know it or
not, are getting purified by eating it.
M: Now, they can get purified even without appreciating the
significance of it?
W: Right. Just like we use the example, if I give medicine to a
medical student or a child, the same benefit will be for
both even if the child has no idea what's in the medicine or
why it works whereas the medical student may understand.
Similarly, people ask why we go and chant on the corner of
the street. Whether they know it or not, just by hearing the
Hare Krishnas chanting, it's purifying them. If you even
see devotees dressed as Hare Krishna devotees in robes or
saris, that is purifying, just to see that. Of course, the
more you [do] all these things with knowledge, that is so
much the better.
M: The food service has been going on for an awfully long time.
It's kind of unique here, isn't it?
W: Since 1971. It was unique here for the longest time, in
fact, just until about four years ago. We started a second
one at UCLA, where we go out twice a week, and at FSU about
twice a week now. But other than that, this is the only
campus maybe in the world that does it everyday, Monday
M: But it was not always Monday through Friday, was it? Back
in the 1970s and 1980s it was Monday through Thursday.
W: When I first started, it was Monday through Thursday, but
before I took over, I think it was Monday through Friday.
But when I took it over there was such a lack of man-power
that I had to go out on Friday, Saturday and Sunday to do
the book distribution in Orlando and Tampa and then when I
finally started getting enough donations from people on the
Plaza to cover the expenses, then I added Friday again.
M: I was reading that the average donations were considerably
less than, say, about a quarter at that time?
W: Where did you read that?
M: There's a lot of articles in the Gainesville Sun and the
Independent Florida Alligator. And the articles said you
were getting crowds of about two and three hundred by the
later 1970s. How many are you getting now in terms of people
W: About 400 to 450. And it always tends to be that whatever
you ask them, they give you half. If we ask for fifty cents,
we average a quarter. Now we're asking for a dollar, and we
average about fifty cents.
M: So that's your average take, about 200 dollars a day.
W: Yes, it's actually been less. The average is less than fifty
cents on average.
M: I'm surprised to hear that because when I go there, I see
most people putting in a single dollar bill.
W: Actually, I'm seeing when I come back here to count it that
there are about 150 of the ones. Now, if you say 400 people
are there, that means that the other 250 are giving a total
of fifty dollars. That means they are averaging twenty
cents. So really, there are many nice ones who give the one
dollar, but the rest of them are not. I see so many pennies
everyday. I've been recently getting somebody who has been
regularly throwing in some chewed finger nails. That's a new
one. I've had so many slips of little paper. They do it
because it looks to others that they are throwing in
something, but I find out it's just a piece of paper rather
than a dollar bill.
M: Is that enough to cover your costs?
W: Yes, enough to keep it going but it's not really enough. I'm
always struggling with a crummy vehicle [to transport it
over to campus with] and I have pots which are kind of old
and which are aluminum-I'd rather have stainless steel.
It's enough to get by, but not enough to make a profit.
M: You have the single van then?
W: That's all I have here. Other vehicles are of people who
rent rooms because we rent out rooms here. There are not
just full time devotees living here. We don't have enough of
M: Is that one of your major sources of income, renting out the
rooms to what, students?
W: It can be anyone, but sometimes there are some Indian
professors or grad students that like to live with us, and a
couple of them do now.
M: Would they be typically Hare Krishnas?
W: Not really. I mean, they're not so active. They're just
kind of favorable. But then again, to 'be a Krishna' is a
very broad thing. Just like being a Christian-some of them
go every week, some of them just go on Easter and Christmas
and they still consider themselves Christian. Or maybe don't
even go at all. Maybe they drink beer, but they still
consider themselves a Christian. They're not very good ones,
but they're still Christians. In other words, there's what
you should be as a Hare Krishna, and then there's what many
end up being.
M: Do they come from Hindu culture generally?
M: The people renting?
W: No, we only have two of them out of nine available
apartments. That's the most we've ever had at a time, two or
three. So the rest of them are just students or friends who
just are vegetarians and like living in this atmosphere.
M: How many devotees live here?
W: About four or five.
M: Do you have more living elsewhere in the community?
W: Yes, just down the road, seventeen miles in Alachua, there's
like the biggest Hare Krishna community in America. It's a
farm property we have there, and thirty people live on the
farm, and there is 250 people living in the area around the
farm. They moved here because the land is cheap and the
weather is nice and we've got one of the best schools in the
country. It grew up like that in the last five years. Before
that, it was just a small thing.
M: Is it bigger then New Vrindavan, West Virginia?
W: Yeah. The New Vrindavan community was off for many years. I
don't know if you know it, but it was excommunicated because
their leader was off and they followed him. Actually, in the
past year, they have again become bonafide. But how did you
know about New Vrindavan?
D: I went there.
W: You actually went there?
D: I got picked up and got a ride from a vanful of Krishnas and
got shown pictures of New Vrindavan.
W: How long ago was this?
D: Summer of 1982.
W: [Wow.] Oh, I think probably then it might have still been in
good standing in the movement.
D: They were wonderful people. I was very tempted to go but I
had an agenda.
W: I think Los Angeles and New Vrindavan were the biggest then,
but a lot of them moved over here, so Alachua is now the
M: As president of this center what kind of connection do you
have with the farm in Alachua?
W: We're completely financially independent. All of our centers
are. It's interesting. It forces us to be not lazy and just
say, 'O.K., Hare Krishna Central, we need some more money
over here.' No, we have to support ourselves, and each
center has to be like that. We have the same philosophy, [of
course], but I'm busy here, and we have our own programs.
They have their Sunday feast and we have our own one, too.
Only when there is a huge festival like Krishna's birthday
or another incarnation, then we will just shut down and
we'll send everybody out to the farm. That's about the only
time I have anything to do with the farm. They come in and
chant once a week, on Friday.
M: You get your food from the farm too, don't you?
W: Not really, it's a farm property but it's not like
everyone's out there just growing vegetables or something
like that. Most of the people who live there are actually
not farmers, and they're not going to become farmers. They
just like to live in the country though. We have a few
people growing a few vegetables, but certainly not enough to
supply what I need. It is a desire, eventually, to be self-
sufficient like that but we're not near there yet.
M: But at one time you did get most of your vegetables from
[the] Alachua [farm]?
W: No, you may have read an article that said that, but no.
M: Maybe it was misinformation.
W: I have gotten vegetables from Alachua before, but it wasn't
from there. It was actually a devotee who is on his own and
happens to be growing organic vegetables and he donates some
sometimes, and we still sometimes get some from him. But the
farm itself has never been a source of vegetables, frankly,
for me. They have enough for them because it is a much
smaller operation, to cook for the 30 people on the farm.
But I'm cooking for so many people, 400 a day. so I need so
M: Is it self-sufficient, the farm?
M: It doesn't pay its way? How do they make a go of it
W: Like any other church. All the people who live around it,
they're not full-time devotees. They have a job, so they
should tithe, or give part of their salaries or something to
the church. So that's how they get by, like any other
church, eventually even this one won't have to run down to
Tampa, but it's hard to get a congregation of students
because they're gone in a few years.
M: Where do you generally get the food that you serve on the
W: Well, I go down to Tampa. That's a double thing I do. That's
why I go to Tampa [to buy my vegetables] to save money
because I go directly and skip the middle-man here in
Gainesville, and I also distribute books down there. So I do
two things down there.
M: How often?
W: I go every weekend. I go every Friday. I like it though. I
enjoy it. It's like a nice change of pace. I'm here for five
days and then I go down for the weekend. Every week I go
back and forth.
M: Do you get wholesale potatoes?
W: Yes. [From] Mexicans. They sell them on the street corners.
Those are the cheapest. They pick them themselves and sell
them. You really save a lot.
M: What do you serve? I suppose it is a different dish every
W: We serve lunch five days but there are three different
dishes. Two of them we repeat twice. One is the spaghetti
with veggie balls and then the other two are Indian-type
dishes. One is basically a vegetable bean soup that we throw
rice in to thicken it up so we can plop it on the plate. And
then the other one is plain rice with vegetables like
zucchini, squash and cabbage steamed with fried potatoes and
then you throw a white sauce of flour and milk and spices on
top of it. That's the most favorite lunch.
M: You do a wonderful job with your steamed vegetables. I could
never get them anywhere as good as that. The zucchini really
has a special taste.
W: To be honest, I don't think it's my steaming it, because, I
mean, I just over-steam them. But what it is, is the spices
of the sauce over it is what makes it so good. I don't think
you're getting a dry zucchini by itself. It's because it's
mixed with the spices that it tastes good.
M: And you have some kind of apple sauce that is sweet, what is
W: That's also a favorite. It is called halava, and it's cream
of wheat, basically. It's not that we make cream of wheat,
but it's the same ingredients you start with, and then you
stir in butter and brown it and toast it and then you've got
water and sugar in another pot and then you mix it all
together and it's sweet.
M: How nutritious is this? I know it's vegetarian most
importantly, but in terms of, like you mentioned butter, I
mean, is it relatively low-fat or is it about average?
W: Not too much [low fat], [pointing to his own pleasingly
plump figure]. I do make a vegan dish, though, for anyone
who wants to be necessarily no-fat, and there are a lot of
people who eat it. This [the extra weight on my body] is not
just from eating Plaza food. We have feasts here at night,
and I use lots of sour cream and cheese, and I just happen
to be a fanatic. I'm a junk food Hare Krishna. So, again,
this [my body] is not just from eating Plaza food. But
anyhow, I won't tell you that it's light stuff unless you
eat the vegan dish.
D: I like the vegan dish.
W: You do? You like the TVP texturizedd vegetable protein] in
D: Is that the extra added protein in it?
W: Yes. Have you had it?
D: I have had it recently in the last couple of months. I'm
just back in school for the first time in nine years.
W: Oh, because I hadn't seen you out there.
D: It's been a long time. Nine years. But I had a vegan feast
at the Temple of the Universe and it was supposed to be top-
flight, but I've not been a vegan for eight years.
W: Really, you're a vegan all the way?
D: I slip up occasionally. I'm not part of the vegan reich. I'm
not as strict as my brother, Mick.
W: Did Mick get you into it first?
D: River Phoenix did actually.
W: No kidding, I met him in the plaza.
D: Yeah. I brought him out there for the first time. I turned
him on to Krishna lunch.
W: Well the first time I met him, [and] I don't know if it was
[his] first time or not, but he was with a lady from Teen
Magazine and they were doing a story on him and he was out
there. Maybe he'd already been out there with you another
time. You weren't out there that time?
D: That was rather staged. He'd already been out there and he
wanted to give them [the magazine people] some of the
W: That's kind of getting off of the subject.
M: I'm kind of curious of one thing, why do you tend to
congregate in university towns like Tallahassee or
W: Well, Prabhupada actually came to Gainesville and spoke on
the Plaza of The Americas, so it is a holy place of
pilgrimage. My spiritual master, who is his disciple, who's
right here [pointing to a photo in the room] once said,
'There has never been and there will never be anything more
important to happen to Gainesville than the fact that
Prabhupada came here.'
M: When did he come?
W: Prabhupada, this holy person, came here and spoke in the
Plaza of the Americas in 1971. The guy who started the Plaza
lunch program and brought him was trying to go the Student
Government to say, 'Give some money to bring him down,' and
they said, 'No, we are not going to give money,' and he
said, 'You fools! You're paying all this money to bring all
sorts of other people who are fools and speaking useless
things, and here's this saintly person and you're not going
to give a little money to bring him here!' And they actually
were shocked to be chastized like that and they ok'd it and
they gave like 1,000 dollars or 2,000 dollars to fly him
M: UF actually paid him?
W: That's my understanding. An honorarium was given to him.
Anyhow, he had a T.V. interview on campus and some girl
asked him, 'Why is it that there are so many young people in
your movement?' as if that was somehow a bad quality of the
movement. And Prabhupada would sometimes answer back with
another question. 'Well, why is it the University is so full
of young people?' And she was so surprised at being put on
the spot herself that she dropped her pencil and stammered,
'Well,....that's the time for education.' And so Prabhupada
said, 'Yes, and that's the time for Krishna-consciousness,
because actually young people are seeking, and we are giving
education. It's hard to teach an old dog new tricks.' So
this [college scene] is the best [place to spread this
knowledge]. People are not set in their ways yet. They're
still thinking, 'What am I going to do with my life?' and so
it's a good place to go and you might get them before they
get too contaminated, too materialistic. That's why my
spiritual master said that if you go knocking door-to-door
in a college town, people say, 'Oh, come on in.' But as soon
as they get their degree and they get their big $30,000 a
year or something, if you knock on the door they say, 'Go
away!' They change because they're not humble anymore.
Having money and being in the middle class just changes
them. But as college students, they're a little more
humble-they're forced to be. They [sometimes] don't have a
car, and they just have a cheap apartment. So they're
humble, and they're easier to deal with.
So as a result of his visit the Plaza is holy ground?
Plus, of course, all the prasadam we are distributing there.
I've noticed, like at night when I walk through it, it's
just something special here. That's because there is so much
spiritual activity going on. Just like this house. It used
to be a fraternity house, and when we bought the place there
were condoms stuck everywhere and beer cans everywhere. I
wasn't here when we moved in, but it was a real dirty place.
But now, when you come here to our temple room, you just
feel that this is a very good atmosphere, because it's been
spiritualized. Because of all that service in the Plaza of
the Americas, it has got a little bit of an atmosphere to
it, because it has been spiritualized. We use this nice
example. If you take an iron rod and put it in fire and you
keep it in there, it will become fire. You may say, 'No it's
not fire,' but touch it and it will [act as fire]. So if you
keep yourself in spiritual service [or use anything] in
spiritual service then you can get spiritualized, and you
can deal with people that are not spiritualized and can
'warm them up' or spiritualize them because you're in the
fire. Anyhow, that's what we're trying to do with the whole
world. We need to spiritualize the whole world, to engage
it, in Krishna's service. Anyhow, I don't know how I got off
on that. What was the question?
M: Just, why college towns? You find them more receptive. Is
the Plaza something special for you? Does it have any
significance in the sense that it is a place where you
encounter a lot of the potential students that you are going
to talk to and are coming into contact with the Krishna for
the first time through the food service?
W: We don't think that we're going to get them all to join. We
don't have any illusions like that. But if we can just get
them to appreciate what we're doing a little bit, that will
purify their lives and make them become happier. For
example, let's take Arnold Schwarzenegger. He's a big health
nut, and he's in charge of the President's Council on
Physical Fitness because he's convinced that kids should at
least do some exercise because it's very good for them. But
how many people are going to ever get as big as him? Very
few. Similarly, we don't expect everyone to become a full-
time monk, but at least we know that if you do something
spiritual it'll do good for you. So we're trying to say,
'Become vegetarian. Try and chant God's name. If you add
these to your life, your whole life will be better.' So
we're just trying to spread knowledge out, whatever the
students become. We've had many experiences, like this
famous story where some devotees went to a bank in Dallas
and they walked in wearing our robes and with their shaven
heads and immediately some bank employee came up to them and
said, 'Oh, welcome, welcome!' and the devotees said, 'We'd
like to get a loan,' and he said, 'No problem, no problem.'
And the devotees said, 'Well, we don't even have an account
here,' and he said, 'Well, that is no problem.' 'Well, it's
a big loan.' 'Well, that's no problem either.' So the
devotees said, 'What's going on?' and the guy said, 'When I
was a student at UF, you guys fed me, and I know you guys
are good people.' So these kind of things happen. We know
that they're not going to join us, but at least they'll be
favorable and can maybe help us in some way in the future.
They'll know that we're not some weirdos and cultists or
something like that.
M: Does that happen a lot in the community, in Gainesville? Do
you get a very positive reaction when you're on the street?
W: I said Gainesville. In other towns they would probably say,
hey Hare Krishnas and throw water balloons at us, but here
it is like you say Hare bol which is a greeting which only
somebody who knows Hare Krishnas would know. You probably
M: I used it on my way up the stairs. What does it mean?
W: Bol means to chant and Hare is a name of God. Basically, it
means chant the name of God. It is like in Spanish you
would say Adios or Adieu in French when you say goodbye or
hello, instead of some Howdy or see you later, you say
something that reminds you of God. Vaya con Dios, they say
in Spanish so it is a much more God-conscious way of
greeting someone or saying goodbye to someone, you say Hare
bol. It makes you think of God, that is why our names are
changed to be so instead of saying Heather or Biff or some
name which has no spiritual significance, just something
that sounds sexy, instead to have a name that reminds you of
God. That is why the Christians would name their kids David
or Sarah or Rebecca, something from the Bible. This is
religious cultures that name people. Anyhow, everything has
a meaning. Nothing we do is without meaning.
M: How did you come by the name Daru Drahna Das?
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W: Well, it is given at my spiritual initiation by my spiritual
master. I do not pick it myself.
M: Who is your spiritual master?
W: His name is Hridayananda Das Goswami or Acharyadeva for
short and he is one of the first disciples of .He
came in 1969 and the started in 1966, so he came
three years after it started but he immediately did so much
spreading and he opened up the whole South America. Before
he went there, there was no temples and he was very
empowered. Prabhupada's life work was translating
and he passed away before finishing it and everyone
wondered what was going to happen to it. Well, he actually
finished it because he is such a genius. In fact right now
he is getting his PhD at Harvard and he is just finishing it
up. He has gone through it quickly because he is really
materially genius, he picks up languages in practically a
month he can learn a language. He know like six or seven
languages anyhow he is just a very intelligent person
materially who speaks spiritually also. An amazing person.
M: Was he the man that brought Prabhupada to Gainesville?
W: Actually, he was one of them. he was the first temple
president and he was here at that time.
M: That is not David Lieberman is it?
W: David Lieberman was a student at the time and he went to
student government to get the money.
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M: But that is not another name for
W: No that is not him but they were together there at the time.
M: Where is he now is he still in Gainesville?
W: David Leiderman? Actually he is a lawyer in Los Angeles and
in fact we are having in the beginning of Summer A the
millionth plate served in Central Plaza. It is going to be
a big media thing and he is flying in for it, since he
started the Plaza he is going to be here for that. So you
might want to be out there for that. We will let you know
if you want. I am not sure exactly when, I think it will be
like the 12th of May.
M: Is he still an active devotee then?
M: Is there a contradiction between being active and being
W: No, not necessarily, but you could be the best Hare Krishna
and not wear robes and have a full head of hair and be
married and have a job, but it is rare. I mean, you can be
a very good one, but it is not say external things are the
answer but I am saying that it is really more difficult and
he is not doing only legal work for us. If he was, I would
say he is fully into it. But he also does other things too.
It is just one of the things he does. At one time he was
fully active so I would say that he is not what he was
before but he still is a good member but he is not as full
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as he used to be. he used to run the temple in Gainesville
and it was growing big.
M: This is the biggest temple in North America?
W: Not this one, of course, the Alachua farm community is.
M: I noticed when I saw some of the pictures that some of the
temples or the centers are enormous castles in Europe and in
India. I have not seen the Alachua center, but I take it
that is not the case.
W: Well some of the buildings are big, but there is not os many
people in them. Whereas her we have got maybe a smaller
building, in fact we did just open a bigger temple, for
years we just had a double-wide trailer that we built and
that was our temple. But finally last August opened a real
big temple. It is still small compared to some of those
castles, but it is a temple building. Anyhow, those other
buildings we still have them in Europe and so forth but
there are not as many devotees in the whole area. There may
be like fifty living in the temple, but not living around.
Whereas here we have got maybe thirty living at the temple
but like hundreds living around it.
M: Are most of them all students or have you recruited a lot of
your devotees to come from among the student population from
your activities on campus?
W: Not so many. There has been through the years a steady
stream of them, a few coming at a time and maybe one or two
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in a year maybe. But most of them come from other areas.
But actually, we stay out there. We are like the Marines,
we are looking fora few good souls. We are not looking for
quantity as much as quality and it is hard when you are
selling diamonds. I use this example, when you go to Wal-
Mart like works and every morning when you get there
there is a line of people waiting to get in. Now, if you
were to go to Tiffany's Jeweler's or whatever you would
probably get that many people the whole day because they are
selling something more valuable. So we do not get so many
because people are afraid because they know they are going
to have to give up stuff. We do not want sheep followers,
so we do not make a lot of students join and we do not get
so many, it is rare. There are so many nice example, I mean
prison life. How many prisoners actually are trying to
change their heart and get out. Most of them are just
trying to get better settled or how to get a few more extra
cigarettes, and just buy their time. So in this world, how
many people actually try and get out here. Most people just
try to get a better house, a better neighborhood. They just
want a better place within the prison. So it is a rare
person who wants to get out. So we never expect to get a
lot of people who are truly fully into it and that is always
going to be rare. Just like, Catholic priests, how many of
them are priests and how many of them are the laypeople. I
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mean one percent become nuns or priests. Most of them are
laymen. So very few of us will be the shaved-headed robed
type. Most of them will be have your hair, have a job, but
this is their religion. That is a major misconception I
find that many people think, I had too. I thought all Hare
Krishnas look like this. No, one percent of us do. Maybe
the guy you live with is a closet Hare Krishna and you do
not even know it.
M: Has the congregation grown quite a bit at least in the time
that you have been president here?
W: The congregation in the world has. As for Gainesville
itself, no because I am running it and I am lousy, frankly,
I am being honest, I am not just being funny. I am a decent
cook and I keep it going, but in terms of actually preaching
and trying to get this knowledge out to people, I do not do
what I should enough.
M: If that were true then why would you still be in charge? Is
their someone who oversees your progress?
W: Well, there is supposed to be. I do not really get a lot of
that. I mean America's first slogan, I think, was don't
tread on me. It is something weird kind of like Wesler's
question authority, it is like our whole mentality. It is
not by chance we were born here. Anyhow, we are probably
left with problems so powerful, but when he left he gave
everyone a chance to give up all authority. I do not have
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any faith in anybody else, I just have faith in I
fell apart for a while and that is natural in any religious
movement when any great leader leaves but the rest of the
world is still in good shape. It is going great in Russia
and Europe and so forth but America was having a bit of a
problem because many of those are slacking somewhat kind of
like seeing the problem left and start playing. So it is
hard to make devotees if we ourselves are weak and not so
strong. We are not so fired up. So we are not making so
many for that reason here. In other parts of the world,
they are doing O.K. But we have that problem, it is our
mentality. Also the advertising like you are the king at
King Olds, the whole idea is your are the greatest looking
girl and every man looks at you but there is one that is
not, so take our perfume and even he will be forced to look
at you. The whole thing is to puff you up as if you are the
greatest thing and it is the advertising culture and some of
us are very proud here and that is the problem with
spirituality, you have got to be humble. So it is how to
make people proud of the devotees, if they think there is a
humble culture and they think we are humble then it is
easier for them. Like when we go to third-world countries
we usually get people because we have to first go the whole
idea of love but you cannot preach first because these
people are poor and starving, you have to give them some
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food and make their material situation better and then talk
about God. We do not find that the people that have
everything materially are very God-conscious, in fact they
are the most Agnostic and Atheist. So of the people that
are suffering, they are actually the people who It
is a little hard in America, especially in Florida or
California and Hawaii, because the weather is always nice
and the whole point of the spiritual act is that you are
preaching that this is a miserable world, there is birth,
death and disease. We have got to get out of here. But
they say what do you mean miserable, the weather is great
here. If you preach in Canada or New York city where you
have to worry about getting shot all the time or the weather
is always cold, they will say yes, it is a miserable world,
so put a happy end. I am freezing my butt off. The people
can understand spiritual life, it is hard in Florida and
Hawaii and California. We have trouble because people just
cannot take it seriously because I am having a good time,
why should I think this is miserable. especially the whole
Western world where we have it a lot better off even like
the diseases and every one put away in the old folks homes
and everyone has got leprosy. You do not see leprosy here,
maybe you will see them walking down the street, somebody
with sores and you know what I mean. So if you do not serve
Buddha, the famous story is that he climbed over the wall
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and he saw an old person, he saw a diseased person, he saw a
dying person, he saw a birth and he said these things happen
to everybody, well this is miserable, I have got to get off
this world until it is sheltered from all of that he did not
realize that. Similarly, we a re all little Buddhas here in
this country who do not realize that there is problems her
and we need to wake up and get them over the wall and say
this is a little place and they can start to go for
M: Well, you must be doing something right because we have got
the largest number of Krishnas in Alachua county and that is
a fairly pleasant place.
W: We are doing something, it could be a lot better though. I
mean it is not due to our campus program that is the biggest
thing in America, that has no connection. It is basically
because of the school that that is big out there.
M: How many people are in that school?
W: I do not know.
M: But it is not a seminary in the way that some religions
have. It is not starting a new generation of Krishna
leaders, is it?
W: No. Actually, my spiritual master, that is why he went back
to get a PhD, is so that he could start a university. He is
actually going to be starting at the University of
California at Berkeley and the Graduate Theological Union is
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giving us a building and we are going to start giving out
degrees in our philosophy to people. But right now when I
say school, it is just an elementary school and a high
school, because no one wants to send their kids to public
schools, everyone knows they are so crazy and everyone wants
to send their kids to parochial schools and so we got our
own schools, we do not want our kids mixed with all these
drugs and promiscuous sex.
M: You have a very negative opinion of education. You referred
to your time at UF. You were only there one semester and
you got away from the brainwashing that went on there?
W: No I did not say that.
M: What did you say, that you were being brainwashed?
W: I kept talking about myself and jumping back about the Hare
Krishna being brainwashed.
M: I thought you were referring to the kind of education?
W: Well, I did not say anything about that and all I would have
to say, if you want to ask, is that there is brainwashing
going on. You take a Sociology course, they teach you
religion or just man trying to find meaning to his life
creates God. And that is what it is, God's just man-made.
That is what they teach over there and people think that is
why i should not be in a religion because it is really all
man-made and so much stuff is being taught as fact when it
is really theory and it is kind of subtle brainwashing. It
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is like if you are an envious person and you see that
everyone is envious because you are envious and you see it
in others and people will say, well you are brainwashing me
and that is because they are brainwashed. People get PhDs
in advertising and business in how to figure out how to get
people to buy things on T.V. and in advertisements. We are
not very good at brainwashing, we are not getting many
people to do what we want, but they are very good at that,
they are the real brainwashers.
M: Your earlier reference was to joke that the Krishnas
W: Yes, so I got brainwashed and I have been washed ever since.
I am not saying that the university is bad it is just that
we do not have anything wrong with Science itself, I mean it
is nicely created planes or how to use a or
something. These things are bonafide, but when they say
well we have created so many things now we also are going to
tell you about the cause and creation. There is no
objective bounds, that is not the only thing. Their whole
thing is that in Science we could show it, religion they
just have faith. Well then show me the big bang, they do
not show that. They have changed the rules in I guess in
that kind of stuff. It goes along with the evidence, it is
plausible. A lot of things are plausible and God is
plausible too. They do not show these things. Do you
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follow what I am saying? I am jumping a few steps here, but
I am just saying that people kind of buy at lock, stop and
barrel the whole thing. Practically everyone believes that
we come from apes and we do not really believe that. I mean
God could have made it that way. Some people try to say I
believe that there was a God, but he just happened to make
through evolution. He could have, but that is not what the
scriptures say. Our scriptures are a little more detailed.
He just did not do it that way. We think they were men all
M: I have a question.
W: You want to get to the Prabhupada part or we can get to that
later, but you could do your question now.
M: Prabhupada in Gainesville on the Plaza?
W: Just who he is. I do not know if that was important to you.
M: Yes, it is important.
W: Do you want to ask your question first?
M: No, I think it should come later actually. Prabhupada comes
W: So ask whatever you want about Prabhupada or what you think
should be asked, and I will answer.
M: As I understand, he was a scholar and he brought
Krishna-consciousness to the United States and Europe in the
1960s and came to Gainesville in the early 1970s and spoke
in Florida but you were not here when he was?
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W: No. Basically, he was a scholar and he came from a line of
disciple succession where he had his spiritual master, who
then had his spiritual master, and that is why he had
potency, he was not just some guy who studied the and
decided well I am just going to teach it. He presented a
pure, unchanged message to the entire world. Anyhow, he
came to America first, his spiritual master told him way
back in the 1920s when he was like twenty himself, because
he was born in 1896, that is why this year is his centennial
celebration, so many people are Prabhupada-conscious. He
was told to spread Krishna-consciousness in the West and so
he had a family and he could not do it for many years, but
finally in 1965, he came to the West and started in New York
and then he went around the world in the next twelve years
before he passed away, about sixteen times. He went
everywhere, Russia, just so many places and spread it. Was
there anything else?
M: He spent a day speaking here?
W: He was only here for like a day or a day and a half. A real
quick thing. It was amazing because there was no
Gainesville Airport at that time, so he had to fly into
Atlanta and switch and go to Jacksonville and then he had
to drive all the way here and so the first thing he said
when he talked to the students, he said, it is so nice to
see so many young people taking in this very remote
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corner of the world. To him it was very remote, but the
people living here it is like those T-shirts which I love
that says all the streets of Gainesville and then it says
the Pacific ocean, like this is the whole world. Anyhow, it
is just interesting that even my spiritual master said he
was shocked because this is a major college town, you are a
big college, and he was saying that it was a remote corner
of the world. Because it really was, there was not even an
airport at that time.
M: He had a question and answer period on the Plaza?
W: Yes, and then also spoke on the campus T.V. program and then
had a program here at the house. Not this house, of course,
at that time. Then he practiced throughout the next day.
It was really like one day practically.
M: Were you serving on the Plaza?
W: I think they started shortly after that, I cannot be
definite but I am pretty sure that was the understanding
that it did not happen until after that, later that year.
As you can see right here on the wall, Prabhupada wrote in a
letter in 1971 right before he came here. It says do
something wonderful there in Gainesville, wonderful means
simply chant loudly and receive the Prasadam, it is not very
difficult, it is very easy, simply if you do it
enthusiastically and sincerely, then success will be there.
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M: He did not himself establish this center? he did establish
most of the centers?
W: Not really, he often sent people out. He said why don't you
open a center here or there and then he would go to enliven
the people there, that was why he travelled around the
world, constantly enliven the people who were dissenters,
but he did not open that many personally.
M: It was then his suggestion that Prasadam was initiated?
M: How do you view your place on the Plaza with respect with
the people who are proclaiming different images, do you
think they are making a worthwhile contribution to people's
W: I often feel that it just makes us look so much better.
That is there contribution.
M: Is that true of all of them or do you see some virtue or
W: Some virtue, but unfortunately there is more probably not
because they actually reinforce the stereotypes of fanatics,
that religious people are just fanatics and think, we are
right and everyone else is going to hell. That is why
people do not want to be in a religion, when a real
religious person is not like that. They will see the good
in any other religion. There is a little bit of good, but a
lot of bad so it is not so good. You know how they say, you
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can drop a little poison. It looks good, butt hat little
poison is the whole thing. Anyhow, they poisoned and got
very little benefit.
M: It is not so much the faith that they profess to uphold.
Aren't Christians fairly tolerant of....
W: Well Christ's teachings are great, it is just that these
people follow it and that is the problem and they are such
bad representatives, I mean I myself that is the problem.
It is just so hard to be a real representative because
everyone is looking for a fault that they just see. Look at
Jimmy Swaggart and all of these guys and you will see that
even the so-called believers, they cannot do it any how,
this is why I am not religious. To be right in representing
God, you have got to be so that people cannot find fault in
you, otherwise it gives them reason to say, that is why I am
not religious at all. So it is tough that is why I always
feel like God, this is tough, I have this weight and people
look at me and say jerk, Hare Krishna.
M: Are you friends with any of the people that have been there
a longer time, at least on a personal level, at least, do
you interact with them?
M: No, I mean any of the religious preachers on the Plaza, or
do you just avoid them as best you can?
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W: First of all these new guys the Purple Cubs?, they in the
first year, they were never out here before. The other one
is and at one time he was doing his thing and
finally after years I just went out and decided to say
something and immediately everyone in the crowd just crowded
right around and it is just that this is what we want to
hear and they just like circled right around us, they had
been all spaced out. I was not worried because he is not
rational and I do not remember what I said, it was just one
quick thing that I said in this fun and very open-minded way
and I said I am not going to get anywhere with this guy, so
I just got out of it again. Maybe I should, even though he
is not rational, just for the benefit of the others trying
to do something, maybe I should. It is my failing, I should
try. Because I sometimes see that they have got circles
around these guys, so there must be a little bit of interest
to here, it is not just for entertainment and laughing at
this guy. I do not want to just get up and start, myself,
doing that everyday. I have got a little reading and I
advertise if you would like to hear. But they do not want
the real thing, you see. I am reading and I have got a sign
that says, would you like to listen?, but they do not do
that. Nobody is hardly coming to our side, we will keep it
up there but it is not like it drawing a lot of people. We
thought, before the sign was up that maybe they do not know
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that they are invited to come in that it is not just a
clique of you guys and they are not supposed to come. So we
put the sign up thinking that maybe we could get more people
to come, but it is not really happening. We get a few more,
but not many. Once in a while we get some, but someone not
that serious and not wanting real knowledge, they just like
to have a laugh and laugh at these guys and sort of listen
to somebody else make fun of them.
M: But the students will come down and sit with you and listen.
W: Some, mostly it is a group of people who already are very
favorable, like devotees who happen to be going to school or
there is a few every once in a while, it is not like a
regular that we have new people coming, we honestly do not.
M: But you also have gatherings here on Wednesday nights?
W: It is on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, but again, they
are sparsely attended. In college towns where we have been
before and did not do food distribution for whatever reason,
sometimes they do not allow us to do it. Fortunately this
happened so far ago in 1971 when it was still the hippie
days and it was a cool thing. When we tried to start it in
the 1980s, when it was more conservative, some schools said
no, we do not want you there. Anyhow, in other towns where
they have like cooking classes or a Yoga club on campus,
because that is the only way that they can get Hare Krishna
food and they like it, so they come to that but they can get
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the food out there and not have to hear any philosophy so
they do not come to our programs here so much. If we would
cut out the lunch and have only programs here, we would
probably get a lot of people who really were here just for
the food but they would sit through the program just to get
the food. I do not mind it, I like it this way. I would
rather keep people who are here for the program, to be here
for the program, they are not really just waiting for the
food to come. I cannot stand that.
M: Do you usually serve food on the Wednesday, Friday and
W: As always.
M: What else goes on? Is there dancing too?
W: Usually I do a sit-down chanting with and so forth,
But some nights, if I am not there, they do chanting and
dancing. We always do some kind of chanting first and then
a class in the a verse and then we serve out a
feast, questions and answers are in the class. It is a hour-
and-a-half program basically. You should come and see the
program some time.
M: Do you usually have the same core of regulars?
W: Basically, but we always get somebody who comes but not as
many as we would like. Then again, how many people wan to
buy the diamonds, so it is always like that. It has always
been like that.
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M: On Friday afternoons, you are always on the corner of
University and 13th. What is the purpose of that, the
chanting and music? Is there an addressed purpose for such
or why is it a tradition?
W: I was interviewed for a national public radio thing, it was
actually Florida public radio and I just got the tape back
in the mail and I will say what I said in that. A lot of us
have seen Monty Python and The Holy Grail. They have a
scene in there where the guys have lined up these monster
hooded and they are chanting and they have got their
bibles in front of their hands and they smack their faces
and they go on mumble again and they smack their faces.
This is kind of like Monty Python is always mocking
religions and that is what people think it is, you pray all
day and you are shrouded and dark and you are hurting
yourself, so that actually real spiritual life is very
joyful and blissful. That is why we go out there to show
people that it is a very blissful thing to praise God, it is
not that we are just sitting in church all day praying and
waiting for death to come or something like that. Also,
there was that song in the 1960s "Dancing In The Streets,"
and if you go in the cities and the streets of America, the
only ones dancing in the streets is a Hare Krishna. The
average person is just moping around because we are actually
enjoying life. So we do it to show that spiritual life is
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joyful and also, as I said, you get the chanting out just to
purify those that hear it. They get benefits. If they see
us dancing they get benefits. it is the way for self-
realization to save. Even the Bible says, you should chant
the Lord's name from the rising of the sun to the setting of
the sun. You should use drums and cymbals, it says, which I
do not see any Christians using those things, nor do they
chant God's name. It is not just a Hare Krishna thing,
every religious scripture says you should chant God's name,
it is the way of this age and so we are doing it.
M: I was reading in the holy names of God that is a very
important aspect, this whole idea of chanting. Just in the
act of chanting God's name, whichever of his millions of
names you choose to chant, one can purify oneself and get
closer to Hare Krishna consciousness.
W: To God.
M: To God-consciousness.
W: Yes, because God is his name. Just like the famous "Rhyme
of The Ancient Mariner," "water, water everywhere, but not
a drop to drink." You could chant water all you want and it
still remains dry because water is different from the
substance water. But in the absolute world, a Christian is
not different from his name. We do not realize that, but it
is God, it is not just referring to God, it is God amazingly
enough. So it is very purifying.
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M: Some of think it is the Christian concept too. The idea
that God is the word and beginning with the words.
W: Right, and "hallowed be thy name" means holy is thy name.
Why is it holy, because it is God. Why is the Bible holy,
because it is actually very much directly representing God.
You should not really put a Bible on the ground or
These are the sacred things that are directly related to
M: Why the name Krishna? Does it have a special significance?
W: For example, you have a first name, a last name, a middle
name, you have probably some nicknames. If you ever heard
somebody say, hey you, you would answer to that. There is
many names that even we, who are very limited people, have
many names. Well, to speak of God there is unlimited names
and some are more personal, like if I said, excuse me, Mr.
So-And-So, you would respond, but if I knew your nickname
that your girlfriend calls you like, Pookie or whatever.
But the point is that if I knew that and you heard me say
that you would say, this guy knows me more intimately. So,
if you say God, that is the Supreme Being, but He has a
name. You could say Mr.President, but he has a name, Bill,
Mr.Clinton that is more personal and whatever Hillary calls
him would be even more personal. So Christians are very
personal with God. It means you denounce an understanding
of God's own activity, his own spiritual world and many
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people do not know that. What is God doing? Is he just
sitting on a throne, judging O.K. heaven, heaven, hell, hell
as they walk up. That is how they picture him in cartoons.
he is not just sitting, he is enjoying in his own world.
He has got his own world and he is having a great time.
Krishna is a more intimate name of God. It is actually
interestingly stated that if you chant one name of Rama,
that is more than if you were to chant Vishnu 1,000 times.
If you chant Krishna, then you would have to chant Rama
three times to get the same potency as you would of one
Krishna. To speak of other names like Jehovah and all, you
would have to chant 10,000 of them to equal one Krishna.
M: Like twenty Hail Marys, two ?
W: Yes. Anyhow, I do not know if it is clear, I do not want to
run on and on or else we will waste time.
M: Do you take time everyday to chant the name of Krishna or
M: That is a daily routine?
W: In the initiation we promise four things to avoid which are
no meat, fish or eggs, no intoxication of gambling and no
illicit sex and positively to chant sixteen rounds of our
beads everyday, which is about two hours a day.
M: Is that broken-up?
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W: For me, it certainly is. Many people do not but with my
schedule the way it is I do it that way.
M: When you say, no illicit sex, what constitutes illicit?
W: In marriage and only for the sake of procreation, anything
else is illicit sex. The Catholics even say the same thing,
not many of them follow it, but that is what they are
supposed to. Every religion really is saying like that, it
is just who is following it. No religion says you should be
intoxicated or gamble or be a killer. So really, this is
not just Hare Krishna, if you think about it, every saint
said he followed these principals to really get anything
spiritually. Just be honest, if you cannot, then you are
not that spiritual.
M: In your experience, are Krishnas more devout in following
that precept of celibacy outside of marriage?
W: That is the toughest of them. it is not wishing that we
could go back to Burger King, that is easy to give up, but
the sex is the toughest because we have replacements. For
meat, fish or eggs, we have Prasadam, so that is no problem.
When we have the intoxication one, we chant Hare Krishna
and you get the same insights you see when you get high.
You say, wow I had not thought of that. When you chant
God's name, you get more insights than you would by getting
high, so you can replace that. The gambling does not need
to be replaced because many people do not have a problem
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with that, frankly, that is also an easy one to give up.
Some people go through Gambler's Anonymous and they know it
is hard, but if you never got into it, it is not a problem.
So sex, what do you replace it with? Well, we used to have
sex with anybody, now we just have orgies among ourselves
and so we still get sex, just spiritual sex. So, it is a
little tougher. Anyhow, that is a tough one and many people
have had problems because many of us, like you and me, have
grown up twenty years with bad training. We were not born
in this religion, so I am not saying that, I was not the
promiscuous type, but they had so many partners, it was hard
for them to ever get settled down, even though they become
Hare Krishnas. Anyhow, we are still having problems with
divorces and stuff like that which will probably take a few
generations to get that out. I would say that in
proportion, we are doing definitely better in terms of all
these things than the average society. I have got to go.
(Interview will be continued the following week)
M: This is Jim Meier, it is the eight of April, we are picking
up from last Thursday, and continuing the second part of our
interview with Daru at the Center For Krishna-consciousness.
W: The Hare Krishna center is the International Society For
M: Also present is Dirk Drake. Last week we discussed about
how the community perceives you and that you get a lot of
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positive feedback from people on the street and what not.
How about in terms of your relations with University of
Florida Police, I know there has been some sort of wrangling
with health authorities in the past too, what kind of
relations have you enjoyed at least in the last ten years
that you have been president of the Hare Krishnas?
W: The stuff that happened was before I came on the scene and
there has been no problem since then, in fact they did a
T.V. interview. As I was telling, I think last time, about
the Jacksonville station checking on if we were doing like a
Waco down in Gainesville or something. They interviewed,
the police, Angie Tiffen, you know we have all seen her name
and she is on the video saying the Hare Krishna are part of
the UF scene and when it is 12:00 and they are not there,
everyone is saying where are those Krishnas? because
everyone expects them. So she was basically saying, they
are part of the program and also we were that big
thing with Danny Rollins in that big thing with the
Gainesville murders and so forth, the policemen were doing
extra duty and we were serving them out, so I guess that
might have helped make them favorable plus, it so happens
that when that one of the UPD's policemen is actually a son
of one of our devotees, so I think we are pretty well liked
over there. I mean whenever I see one on campus, we have
friends on the police force. Anyhow, as for the University
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itself, it is funny, we do not check in every year and see,
it is just like assumed that we are there.
M: So you have never even been subjected to harassment either
from the police or from University authorities?
W: Not at all.
M: No one has ever approached you and said, you cannot do this
W: No. I have heard behind the scene that there is one of
these like anti-God groups and Atheist groups on campus that
are trying to do something, but I guess they have not been
able to but I would not be surprised that something should
happen at any time. There are a lot of envious people out
there, but nothing has happened yet. But I think it would
be a revolt if they tried to kick us off because we are just
part of the program here.
M: As well, they have to find a way to feed 300 to 400 people
alternatively, especially as inexpensively as you offer
D: Local fast food merchants have not complained that you are
cutting their business?
W: Yes, I have noticed that there was one time when I had been
sick for one day and could not go and someone from a
restaurant called me the next day and said
because we sure were busy today. You
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have to let us know if we are going to be prepared again
like that. It was funny. That was just one restaurant. I
guess, some of these vending machine guys are kind of out
some money and some of these other groups that have to pay
for spots are a little envious. I think said I
think back in the 1970s that somebody tried to say that it
was unhealthy and something about the cord and the judge
said leave them alone, they are having a pic-nic and that
was thrown out of court.
M: Yes, I think they contested the grounds for having the right
to serve on University property. The judge ruled, I think,
that it was a Constitutional right to practice your religion
because it was not a commercial transaction since you are
only asking for donations and that it was just Prasadam was
part of your creed. So he found in favor of the Krishnas
and said that to restrict their food service would, in fact,
be a restriction on their right to practice their religion.
Because that occurred to me when I first came on the
campus, too, that the University would be potentially liable
for any kind of complaints or lawsuits for anyone falling
sick as a result, presumably, of eating the food. Because I
thought they would be ultimately responsible for what goes
on, on their property.
W: I, personally, pay the insurance and part of the insurance I
pay is in case anything happens over there with our food.
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That is what I pay every year, it is insurance in case
anything happens, then we are liable, not the University.
M: Really, so you have specific insurance to cover the event of
anyone getting sick or dying and they cannot claim against
M: How much is that, is that expensive?
W: I pay about 2,500 dollars for the whole year, that includes
the building and that. How much of it is for that, I do not
know. I do not know if that sounds like a big figure or
not. It was set out by a devotee and I took it over and it
has increased gradually over the years with inflation, but I
do not know how much it is.
M: What 2,500 dollars for this building?
W: Yes, and the food distribution. All together is like 2,500
dollars for the years, something like that. I hope that is
M: It is not very expensive.
W: For me it is a chunk.
M: I guess a simple question is, people and authorities tend to
leave you alone, you have never had any kinds of
confrontation, similarly standing on the streets on Friday
afternoons at the corner?
W: Yes, no problems.
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M: I understand that one time health officials, this is going
back to the 1970s primarily and I think early 1980s, they
were calling to question the right to serve food on the
Plaza. I guess that has all been decided in the courts
W: Yes, we were getting really checked, I do not know why that
changed, but we were getting very regularly checked for
years, just health inspectors and then it went down to just
a check once a year. Even then, I have not had one in a
year or two. I do not know why it changed actually. But we
had to follow all the standards. Basically, we have not
lowered the standards since we are not getting checked, it
is the same standards. Basically we do not have so much
problems, mostly it is a problem of cutting borders
with decaying and so many things like that. That is
the real things I have more problems with. We do not have
any problems really.
M: Do you ever get feedback on people getting sick?
W; Actually, it is funny, I never get that.
M: Personally, I have encountered a number of times people say,
oh, you eat that stuff and I said yeah. Invariably, the
people that say that have never tried it themselves, because
maybe it does not look quite like a burger or a hot dog, but
it has never upset my stomach any.
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W: On that same video of the Jacksonville thing, they were
interviewing students and one of them said, it actually
tastes better that it looks and some other girl who was
black and never ate said I do not know, that food it looks
funny. So, I guess it does not look sometimes so
attractive, but it tastes a lot better than it looks anyhow.
It looks like goulash or the crusty's imitation gruel.
M: I heard one of Jed's evangelists say that you guys put mind-
control drugs in there to bring the children away from the
Christian God and to keep your sex drive down and he
was preaching that on the Plaza.
W: it is funny you mention that because just today, some guy
who was kind of helping me said that he got some questions
about the and we wondered where was this coming
from? Well it probably comes from Jed. I have never seen
in my life. It is an herb that does what, it kills
sex drive, or something like that?
M: Yes, they use it to make gun powder.
W: What can I say. We had better change our drug there or
brainwashing because it ain't working, we are not getting
D: I have a question on that, Jim was asking about
confrontations. Have you ever had any of the evangelists
get very aggressive or any of these de-programming, anti-
cult groups come and disrupt the services on the Plaza?
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W: Surprisingly no. There was one story where Jed was saying,
these people are going to hell and then the Hare Krishnas
are going to hell, and immediately everyone went, Boo! They
did not say Boo, when they said the other guys were going to
hell, but when they said that. When they try to do anything
to other people, they say get the heck out of here. It is
funny, I have seen this many times, people who have been
always real nice to me and real humble and help unload and
stuff and when Jed comes out, these same people who have
always shown a very meek side to me are out there
(bickering) and I never knew this person had this side to
them. But obviously it shows that they have so much respect
for us, I never knew they were like that.
M: Jed is part of the He has got to be defeating
his purpose. Does he have some pretty nasty things to say
about the Krishnas or are you the subject of some verbal
abuse from the preachers there?
W: I am sure. I kind of hear it out of my side, do not eat
their food off of their Pagan Gods and so many things they
will say, but what are you going to do? Get up and beat
M: Meanwhile they will probably come later and eat the food
W: They will not do that. Actually, there was one Christian
guy out there and he would eat it some times, but he is not
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out there anymore. He may come back, I do not know why he
M: Is that Ronald McDonald?
W: I do not know what the name is.
M: Ron. he used to carry a sign with starving children on it.
W: No, I do not know that guy. Anyhow it was Louie something-
or-other, he was a Christian guy. He would eat sometimes
and he was kind of nice.
M: I had another question about Govindas, was that a Krishna
M: Related with this temple?
W: No, it was a person who was a devotee and it was a for-
profit thing, trying to be, but not really making a big
profit but it was not linked to the Hare Krishna, it was
their restaurant and they tried to do it according to our
principles at least. Like not eating meat, fish or eggs but
it was not making it, it was going way down. It was a tough
location and it was expensive. Someday it will eventually
happen, I am sure, but it did not last too long.
M: Many temples around the United States do have restaurants?
W: I do not know about many, there are several. Not as many as
we would like, but yes. Many of them are right in the
building, like L.A. Yes, we have some.
M: I think I was in one in New York in 1985.
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W: We used to have a restaurant in New York in Times Square.
M: I went to a restaurant where I was being served by devotees.
W: It was not a Sunday feast, it was actually a restaurant,
M: Yes, I think so. In the Village, somewhere near eighth
street or something like that. My memory may have been
W: Your consciousness was altered with.
M: I know some guys who used to be in the Cro-Mags and they
were gravitating Krishna
W: Yes, I saw this article recently about a guy that was a punk
M: Hurley? Was his name Hurley?
W: I do not know which one it was but he had some bad logic,
but he was not active now. These guys are all in a
M: There was a wave of punk rockers in the late 1980s that got
into Krishna-consciousness on one level or another.
W: There is more of it now with this new, I do not know what
they call, I forget. Anyhow, we have several bands.
W: Yes, you know about those.
M: I talked to some of them on the phone occasionally and see
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W: The Shelter guys or followers?
M: Followers, and there is another band whose name I cannot
M: Yes, they were here last Fall.
W: You went?
M: To the utility house, yes. Good show.
W: I cannot get into that kind of stuff. I have seen it, but I
am an old man, about 39 or something, whatever I am. I just
was a Barry Manilow kind of guy. I was not a heavy rocker.
M: Is there any other temples or large communities in Florida?
W: There is a small center in Tampa, very small. Tallahassee
is a better, bigger size, kind of like this. In Miami, we
have kind of a big center there in Coconut Grove. So those
are the only ones in Florida.
M: Do you keep in touch with them much?
W: Not really. In fact I am going to Tallahassee this weekend.
they have their Springtime Tallahassee. It is kind of like
our homecoming day parade for them and we are going to take
these deities in a cart and cart it down. We do that now in
our homecoming parade here. Anyhow, I am going up this
weekend for that.
M: It is not structured or organized such that there is
conventions or formal times for get-togethers?
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W: Not really except that, as a matter of fact, again in a
month from now, in May 15, there is the national North
American, actually we hope Canada and Mexico with a couple
of temple presidents and leaders are all meeting here in
Alachua, right down the street actually and it has happened
twice in a row. Nest year it will probably be somewhere
else. Anyhow, that is once a year that the temple
presidents go and meet and it is going to be here.
M: You mentioned last time that, I think you described
yourself, relatively speaking any way as a material person.
In what way are you supposed to be non-material and is
there a certain program of life that you are supposed to
follow that maybe you do not adhere to as closely as you
W: Is that something to do with ?
W: Well, like I said before, watching T.V., seeing movies,
M: Well can't you argue that they lead to well-being and joy
and is there a logical inconsistency with obtaining Krishna-
W: In a way there is. I remember this movie, The Big Show.
There was a statement in the conversation where you cannot
go another minute. He says rationalization is more
important than sex. The guy said no, and he said, have you
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ever gone a week without rationalizing? You can go a week
without sex, so we are always rationalizing in our minds
that the activities we are doing are somehow good. So I am
not going to be a fool and rationalize that sports is good
because it keeps me healthy so I can keep serving Krishna.
I mean that is what we always want to do, but actually it is
dangerous. I play frisbee and I could bust my shoulder or
my knees out. The best exercise is actually an aerobic
walk. In an aerobic walk you can chant Hare Krishna at the
same time. But it is very hard when I am playing
racquetball or tennis or frisbee to chant Hare Krishna. I
am not thinking of Krishna, I am actually in danger. I can
stop the Plaza for a month or two if I bust my knee again.
Let's be honest, I should get exercise, no doubt, but you
can do it the way you can also think of Krishna. So we are
not against exercise, we are against frivolous exercise. So
it is the same as movies, ultimately, most T.V. movies are a
vast wasteland, so let's be real, most of it is not so
edifying. It is just because we want to be titillated and
M: Is that the in any conventional sense it is in?
W: Yes, in a sense. It is like if, for example, you date a
girl or are married to a girl, then if you say I spend most
of my time with you, but I like to still go out with other
girls. That is not chaste. if you really love somebody
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then you do not need to go to other people to get your
jollies too. So if you really love God, in reality God is
not just one little thing that there is so any others, God
is everything. So why can't you just get enough pleasure
just of God. You do not really believe that but it
is hard for us because we are so conditioned otherwise but
it its not that I have to, well, I am not getting enough
pleasure from Krishna so I have got to go and play frisbee
because there is a higher pleasure I am missing. It is not
that way, it is just foolishness. I have been that too, I
cannot speak for everyone else. We still think we are
missing something, that is our foolishness. God is the
source of all pleasure. Whatever pleasure there is, God put
it there. If you like a cheesecake, God put the pleasure in
cheesecake, or in sex or whatever you like, so if you
directly link with God, not just enjoying some energy of
God, then wouldn't it be greater? It is logical and that is
why I am seeing, frankly, that by giving more of my time, I
am certainly at least getting more pleasure than I was
before I was doing this. I was not born this. Still, I
want to hold back, but I am still attached with this
Krishna, I do not want to give it up.
M: Have you evolved a great deal in the time that you have been
here at least, in the ten odd years. Have you seen yourself
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grow in this respect that it is easier to resist these kinds
of temptations or just in a spiritual sense?
W: Yes, I used to play more frisbee and I have seen that I have
to do a lot of work here to make this place go and in the
beginning it was like, well why am I working so hard and
look at this guy, he is sleeping all day? You just have to
get over that and just think what, do I think he is getting
away with something? Do I think he is enjoying while I am
suffering? No, Krishna is giving him so much pleasure that
if he was awake or asleep Krishna would give him this much
pleasure. If you surrender to Krishna, you get more
pleasure. I have gone way beyond that point of like
worrying that I am working harder than him and this is not
fair. No, I am getting the reaction, I am feeling it. I
have got to enlighten the people who are sleeping. I have
more people I know who are very reluctant among
Anyhow, I have actually taken on a lot more wait as the
years go on. I could go more, but I have seen that as I do
it, my life is getting better.
M: Have you evolved a great deal in the time that you've been here at least, in the
ten odd years? Have you seen yourself grow in this respect that it's easier to
resist these kinds of temptations?
W: Yes, I used to play more frisbee. And I have to do a lot of work here to make this
place go and in the beginning [I often thought], 'Well, why am I working so hard
and look at this guy, he's sleeping all day?' But I had to get over that by thinking,
'Wait a minute! Do I think he's getting away with something? Do I think he's
enjoying while I'm suffering?' No! If he wants to [try to] cheat [Krishna] and just
sleep, then Krishna will give him only a little bit of pleasure. And if you surrender
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to Krishna, you get more pleasure. I've gone way beyond that point of worrying,
'I'm working harder than him. This isn't fair.' No, I'm getting the reaction [for
surrendering more]. I'm feeling it. I've got a better life than the people who are
sleeping. Anyhow, I've actually taken on a lot more responsibility and workload
as the years go on. [Of course] I could [take on even] more, but I've seen that as
I do it, my life is getting better.
M: What's your role with respect to other people here? Do you have any kind of
authority role as such?
W: Well, it's supposed to be. I don't ask every day, did you chant your rounds today?
There's even one guy living here who has a problem with cigarette smoking. He
still has a problem with that, but he's very humble about it. He's taking some
medication, and he's trying to give it up, but it's not like I'm going to kick him out.
He's basically a very nice person and does a lot of service. But even if somebody
did go to McDonald's and eat a burger, I'm not going to ask everyone, 'Did
anybody eat a burger today?' Even if I saw him over there, I'm not going to
excommunicate him. Krishna is going to give him a reaction. I just basically try to
see that people are pretty well engaged as much as possible. I could engage
people more, but I kind of know where people are at and I try to keep them happy
[and try not to be] a slave-driver.
M: Is the Plaza Prasadam the primary edification of this temple?
W: Yes, I'd have to say it is.
M: Is it the only [food distribution program] in North America?
W: No, I was saying [the other day] at FSU, they do two days a week and at UCLA
they do two days a week. But many temples have what they call Food For Life,
which is a program to distribute food to real needy people. For example, we go
out to the St. Francis House one day a week ourselves, on Saturdays. So many
temples have that [although they don't usually do it] five days a week.
M: Do you know why your other centers don't provide five-day service at other large
universities? You would think that UCLA would support such a program...
W: Well, they should, but the problem is that at UCLA they didn't allow it. They only
very reluctantly said, 'We'll let you have two days.' Again that program started
later. This one started back in the hippies days (I was saying this last time) so the
mood was a lot different, but now it's a little more conservative and people are
like, 'Alright. I guess we'll allow you to do one day or two days. Also, frankly, it's a
lot of work. If I stop doing this, it might continue, but only one day a week or two.
It really is a lot of work and it's hard to find somebody who's willing to work that
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hard. So we should be having them in every town in America. In every college we
should have a program, but people are lazy this age. Even Hare Krishnas, most
of us are more lazy than we should be.
M: Does that take up a large part of your time, working in the kitchen? I think you
had mentioned that when you were sick, they didn't serve food that day?
W: Yes, it was just one day. Frankly, in all the ten years, it was [probably] the only
one day I've missed.
M: But if you are sick tomorrow, they're not going to be serving food in the Plaza?
W: Most days I just go in there and sneeze in the food anyhow, you know.
[Laughter.] I always remember that Mad Magazine had a section called 'Don't
you hate...' [And one time it concluded with] 'people who go to work even when
sick' and it showed some guy is sneezing into the soup. I just loved that drawing.
That's the way I am. Not that bad, of course, but I many times forced myself to do
it even when I'm not feeling that great. I feel I'd rather do my work. I've never had
anyone say they got sick from it because if that ever happened, I'd never have
done that again. But again, I have never had anyone say, not ever, that they got
sick on that food.
M: Some people react to the spices because they're not used to it. They are not
cultured for it...
W: But most people who eat with us, even when I over spice it, they say, 'It was
spicy today, but it was good.' They never say, 'Man, I couldn't even eat it.' That
rarely, rarely ever happens. People who tend to eat with us are already into spicy
stuff. Anyhow, what were you just asking me?
M: Do you see expanding your role in any sense? With the university or the
community at large or on the Plaza?
W: Well, at some college campuses the professors regularly have the devotees
come in and speak at their classes. Because I'm so lame, I haven't developed
those relationships yet. I've never [spoken to] a class on campus here, and I
should be doing it with high schools locally, too. I should actually have [an
arrangement with teachers to come in and speak to a class whenever] they get to
the Hindu section. I should be doing that, but that's my foolishness. I haven't. We
do dorm programs. The RAs [Resident Assistants] have a People Awareness
Week and we're usually called in to the dorms that week. For example, they have
the gays come in and so many other groups come in and we come in, too, and
make them aware of the different kinds of people around campus. That's really
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nice, but we need to do that in classrooms and in high schools. There are some
devotees on the farm who are doing [a program at] Santa Fe [Community
College] now. They go out and do lunch one day a week and they're out there
with a book table at least twice a week.
M: They're doing lunch on a regular basis, too?
W: Yes, at least once a week and they're really selling out. Again, I think they're too
busy to do it more days. It's not that they don't want to or are too lazy, but they
have too many other things to do. They run the girl's school. They are the
teachers at our girl's school actually.
M: Do you have any personal connections with anyone in the religion department or
W: Not really. Again, it's a lacking on my part.
M: Your presence there ought to generate some interest among people in those
W: Yes, it should. Some of those people have met my spiritual master [such as Dr.
Sheldon] Eisenberg. They're already favorable. They've come out to our farm to
have dinners with him and discussions, but I haven't really followed up [on those
contacts]. Of course, I don't feel at all like on his [my spiritual master's] level.
He's such an expert. He's such a scholar and what can I do with these guys? I
don't even have a college degree. I mean I can deal with them in philosophy a
bit, but I really feel out of water a little bit with these guys.
D: You're more of a street-level leader? I know Dr. Thursby in the religion
W: Yes, he's another one who met my spiritual master.
D: He lived in India. He was a Vedic scholar for many years, and I had a History of
India class with him, which is where I learned a lot of Hinduism.
W: That's the type of class I should speak in.
D: He's very sympathetic. He spoke of you favorably a number of times and
encouraged everyone in class to eat Krishna lunch before they came to class so
that they would be digesting the food of what we were studying.
W: Hey, I have got to go talk to him.
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D: He's a neat guy.
W: Yes, everyone says he's a great teacher.
M: Who is Sheldon Eisenberg?
W: He's a professor, I do not know what he teaches either. I'm not so sure. Either
philosophy or psychology or religion, one of the three. There's Vasudha
Narayana. She's an Indian professor. She eats out there, but even in her case,
I've never really talked with her either.
M: Is there some sort of injunction to devotees to become more intellectually familiar
with Vedic literature or to grow in an intellectual as well as a spiritual way?
W: Yes. It's not necessary; I mean there are many stories that teach that you don't
need to become a Vedic scholar [to become a pure devotee of Krishna], but it
certainly helps. You're encouraged to read the books. We are not supposed to
just have on our shelves like [every Christian] has got a Bible but many never
read it. So we should read our books and become 'more fixed' in the knowledge
M: I'm only vaguely familiar with the idea of reincarnation and attaining a higher
state of existence and spirituality in this terrestrial existence and then being
reincarnated in another form. I mean, do you subscribe to views of that kind?
M: So it's sort of incumbent upon you to become as perfect and as spiritual as
possible so that you will attain a higher form?
W: The idea is to ultimately get out of the cycle of birth and death.
W: Yes, it's not that you just keep coming back for ever and ever, but you keep
coming back until you are pure enough to get out of here. So we're trying to do
that. But that doesn't mean necessarily that you have to learn all the Vedas
before you can get out or have to be able to quote so many verses or know
Sanskrit. If you just love God with your whole heart and soul-in other words,
you're serving because if you love, you will do something. hen you could go
back to the spiritual world even if you don't know the Vedas. If you're just a
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simple person who has a simple devotion to God, then you could go and get out
of the cycle of birth and death.
M: Do you have any knowledge of previous existence?
W: Personally, no. Devotees are generally not too interested in it. Frankly, we're
having enough trouble giving up our attachment to the identity we've formed in
this life, to what I was before; 'I'm an American, I'm a sports guy,' or whatever
you were. What to speak of if you had 300 lives you knew about. You'd want to
constantly read about it. 'This is where I was in the 1600s and this is what I was
in 1200s.' We have enough trouble giving up one false ego, what to speak of the
3 million we've had. So we're not so interested in that. We use the example, if
you're sick from a disease, then you could really research, 'Did I get it in a
bathroom or did I get it when I was at that party?' [but] who cares? You've got a
disease. Now, let's get rid of it. This body is a disease, so we don't really care,
'What was I in my last life that gave me this body?' Let's just get rid of this. But if
someone needs to do that just to be more convinced that there was a past life,
then they can go out to Cassadega and go talk to some spiritualists and they'll
tell you who you were in your past life and to prove that they're not lying, they'll
tell you a lot of things that happened in this life which will shock you to prove that
D: I'm skeptical of some of them. They use indicators. I've only talked with a few
and I've heard that there are people who can sit in the other room from you and
tell you things about yourself and I personally believe it's entirely possible, but I'm
still skeptical about it. I think a lot of the "spiritualists" are operators.
W: Yes. Did you see that thing on 20/20?
D: About Cassadega?
W: No, about the guy who tried to find fault in Uri Geller. The Tonight Show had Uri
Geller, who bends spoons [by psychic power] on with this other guy who kind of
tries to expose these as hoaxes, and Uri Geller never came back to the Tonight
Show because this guy [tried to expose him on national TV]. Anyhow, this guy
himself [had been a mystical] kind of guy and he kind of turned around and wants
to expose all of these mystics. Still, astrology, what you see in the newspapers is
junk. I mean I saw on the same show, they were saying that they did an
experiment [with] all of these students. [First the students were asked what
astrological sign they were. Then they were given a paper which told them what
kind of person they were according to that sign.] All the students thought, 'Wow,
this sounds [just] like me.' Then [the testers] said, 'Now pass the papers to the
guy behind you,' and when everyone read it, they realized, 'Hey, that was the
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same thing that I just read.' So that's the kind of stuff you read in the newspaper.
Everything you read makes you think, 'Yeah. That sounds like me!' But real
astrology is much more scientific. There's really something to it. The stars can tell
you when you were born and what you were and what you're going to be. Now
you're probably skeptical, and you're saying, 'Well I don't...
D: Well a lot of the past life interpretations, I think are just like you described, the
newspaper astrology. They hit a common denominator that every one can relate
to and confirm and be positive about, which validates it in people's minds on the
surface, but I'm skeptical. There's got to be something more. I haven't looked into
it, so I'm not criticizing it wholesale but...
W: A lot of scientists go into [the idea of reincarnation] skeptical about it and then
they meet some lady who says, 'In my last life, my name was Mina, and I had
these kids named [so and so]. They were these ages and the house I lived in
looked like this,' and then they go thousands of miles away, and there the kids
are now, older, but corresponding exactly to the ages they would have been
when she was in her last life. The house looks exactly like she described it, and
even these scientists who were very skeptical before are now thinking, 'Wow, this
is getting close to empirical knowledge.'
D: Yes, there is the fascinating case of a village in California. People were having
common memories of a village in Virginia during the 1860s during the
Confederacy. It was a farming community in the 1970s in California coming up
with details that were researched that fit almost identically to a small farming
community in Virginia in the 1860s, the assumption being that some kind of
memory came through. These people were not directly descended from the
W: Nor could they have possibly read about them either.
M: Yes, there's no way that they could've read about them because the knowledge
was in local records and archives in Virginia. It wasn't in books or history classes
in California and that's quite amazing. I can't dispute that. I don't know where it
comes from or how to explain it. And those are interesting things. Those are
things that I found in history studies that made me listen to a lot of the other
teachings that were along those lines. But I can't say, personally, how or what.
It's hard to explain. On the Plaza, do you have a lot of questions about the
teachings about past lives, reincarnation, vegetarianism. What are the most
common questions someone would ask?
W: What is in this food? How do you make this?
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D: It is about the food.
W: People are not, unfortunately, very seeking, very interested in philosophy.
They're mostly dull people. I don't mean just Gainesville or UF, I mean
everywhere people are dull. They're not seeking. It's very rare that anyone asks
anything deep, frankly. It's very rare, unfortunately.
M: That's a source of regret on your part?
W: Of course, because human life is a rare thing. We don't realize it. I mean, we
think, 'Oh, there's over-population,' but we [ought to stop and] think, how many
bugs are there? How many flies? How many trees? How many grasses? How
many cats? Dogs? I mean, when we think about how many humans there are,
there are very few of them, and what are we distinguished by? Our big brain. And
for what do we use that big brain? Just to figure out how to have better sex, how
to have better animal life. Animals eat. They sleep. They have sex, and they
defend. We've used our big brains to make bigger bombs, how to have a better
sex life-make better water beds-and how to eat more fancy in restaurants. We're
misusing this big brain which is meant to question, 'What is the purpose of life?
Where do I come from?' Animals don't do that. So it's a real waste. We use the
example. Imagine you go to elementary school and work real hard and get
straight As and then you go to college and get straight As. You get to grad school
and get straight As. You get in a PhD program and then you just start farting
around and just getting drunk away, taking drugs. A friend looking on would say,
'Come on, you've [gotten to such a high level] and you're just blowing it!'
[Similarly] we've come to this point in human life, and it's a rare chance to get out
of the cycle of birth and death. A cat can't get out. I can't speak to the cat about
the purpose of life, or a dog, or so many creatures. Only people can understand
that, and they're wasting it. They're just living like cats and dogs. It's a real
shame that they're ruining their chance to get out. They're going to go back in the
cycle, not just as another human, but down. If you just live like an animal, then if
that's what you want, then [God says] 'Here, take an animal body. You've got a
human brain that's saying, 'Come on, you idiot. What are you doing wasting your
time just having sex all the time?' [That human brain] is bothering you? O.K., I'll
give you a body where you don't have a brain that bothers you about that.' That's
what God says. So it's a real shame.
M: As a devotee, what are you doing to break out of that cycle of birth and death?
W: What am I doing? Well, I'm trying to perfect my own life and then help others
too. 'Physician heal thyself.' One thing we say, our 4 principles: no meat, fish or
eggs, no gambling, no intoxication, and no illicit sex. That's not even advanced
spiritual life. That's just being a human being. People think, 'Wow, that's really
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amazing, [to give up those things].' But no, when you do that, then you're a
human being. Now we can start to talk about advancing. So, I'm trying to come to
the human platform and help make others human, gradually. [We use the
example] that the souls in this world are like sparks that have fallen away from
the fire, and we're trying to get them back in the fire so they can become part of
the flame again, and we're fanning them. So every soul is like a spark that is
gradually dwindling and we're trying to fan it with a little knowledge and a little
Prasadam and get it glowing again. Does that answer your question?
M: Is your ultimate aim to break the cycle? Are you striving to go beyond the cycle?
W: Well, that's in the beginning stage. It's described that when you're really
advanced, you don't even care if you have to come back again, because you get
to the point where [you understand that] heaven without Krishna is hell, and hell
with Krishna is heaven. So no matter where you go, if you're actually serving
Krishna, it's heavenly. It doesn't matter. But in the beginning, because you're not
in that consciousness yet, you're thinking, 'God, help me get out of this world. I'm
seeing it's a pretty crazy place. I need to get out. I want to get more pure.' Do you
follow? At the beginning, the conscious attitude is like, 'I'm serving God because
I want to go to heaven.' That's still business. It's still not pure. 'If you let me go to
heaven, God, I'll serve you.' But in the higher stages, [one thinks] 'Even if I don't
go to heaven, I still love you. I want to serve you.' That's the platform of pure
love, not even business at all. So that's what I'm aiming for, not just to break the
cycle of birth and death, but to get to the point of pure love, where I'm thinking,
'No matter what, I just want to serve you, Krishna.' Actually, that's what got me
[to join this movement]. I mean, I am a little older so my favorite songs before I
joined were "You've Got A Friend," by James Taylor and "Ain't No Mountain High
Enough," by Diana Ross. These were my two favorites because the idea in those
songs was that, 'No matter what, I'm there for you and no matter what, I'll always
be there to love you.' We're all hankering [for this kind of loving relationship], and
there are so many songs like that. I know Whitney Houston is singing this song "I
Will Always Love You". These songs are big sellers because we all want to love
unconditionally, [to feel and have others feel toward us], 'No matter what, I love
you,' but we know that in this world it's not that way. A girl might love me, [but I
always have to worry thinking] 'But if I got in a car wreck and I became
quadriplegic, would she still love me? If I lost my money, would she still love me?'
Because nobody's really like that, nobody really loves you unconditionally. But
God does, and you can love God that way. That's what's so nice. For example,
when we first fall in love, we say, 'I'll love you forever; we're going to get married.'
But then she burned you or you burned her or whoever it was that first burned
you, and you never said that again. You never say, 'Oh, it's just you and me
forever.' You're always holding back because you don't want to get burnt like that
again. But we want to give unconditionally, everything we've got, and you can
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only do it with God. God is the most beautiful, anyhow, and He's not going to
M: So you're rather disappointed, for the most part, that the people you meet on the
Plaza don't really engage you on a spiritual level. They're only interested in
what's in the food or whatever?
W: Yes, a little bit. It would be nice to have a higher level discussion. We're planting
seeds as we say.
M: But you do have discussions out there with a few people. I've seen you with a
circle of people.
W: Yes, sometimes it gets to be [a circle] so that's what keeps me enlivened,
because I used to just serve out lunches and anybody could do that. I was
thinking, 'Is there something more I can do without being like a Jed and having to
[shout out], 'Hey folks, here's the Bhagavad-Gita, and it say...' I didn't want to do
that. So I was thinking, 'Well, what can I do in a nice way where people can listen
to us. And I didn't want to read the Bhagavad-Gita because it's so philosophical.
So I read the biography of Prabhupada because it was something that I found
very attractive, so I started doing that and people started coming around one day
and it has grown. It's real nice.
M: What do you see as your future here, both within the community and on the
Plaza. Do you see yourself doing this for some years to come? Do you have any
schemes for the future?
W: Not much. I've said many times that I could see myself doing this for many, many
years. I'm not hankering thinking, 'Boy, I wish I could do something else.' I really
enjoy doing it. As for whether I'm thinking, 'We need bigger buildings and [let's
expand in this or that way],' unfortunately, I'm very lacking in that. I have no
vision. But I don't think I have to have a lot of vision. I think if I keep doing these
simple things, things will grow. I mean Prabhupada, for all his life, just stuck to
the basics of his spiritual master's instruction that, 'If you ever get money, print
books,' and he did that, and he chanted and he gave prasadam out and [the
whole movement just grew from that]. And I'm even seeing that doing a little thing
like this [plaza lunch program], it is kind of growing. Basically, I think I'll stick to
the basic things, maybe we'll get a bigger building sometime, if we need it. Right
now we don't even have it full of devotees, so that's all in the future too. I'd just
like to communicate more like having more programs at the high schools and the
universities in classroom engagements. That would be very nice. Beyond that, I
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M: What is a full-load of devotees at this temple?
W: What would be?
M: Yes, what would be?
W: As I said, we've got about eleven rooms in the building, and we could have more
than one in every room.
M: There are four right now?
W: Approximately, and even all of them are not full-time devotees.
M: Has it been fuller in the years past?
W: When I joined in Gainesville, of course, Prabhupada had just left the planet, and I
joined in another building where the Waldorf School is, [on Depot Avenue], by
P.K.Yonge, and there was about forty devotees full-time, actually at that time. But
when Prabhupada left it was a big shock and so many people left, so we ended
up getting smaller in buildings. Anyhow, it's back on an upswing.
M: After where the Waldorf School is, wasn't the temple over here by the UF Press?
W: That was right before this [house], but we've had several after the Depot Ave.
property and before that even.
W: We've always had something. Actually, we had the farm and that building [on
Depot Ave.]. Then when we closed that building down, everyone went out to the
farm. Then a few years later, we opened up the little center back in town again.
Maybe a year or two, not much though, like a year later. So for a year there was
like nothing in town, I think.
M: People would come to the Plaza from the farm?
M: You would commute?
W: Yes. Is this stuff useful for this project?
UF 295, Walker
D: Yes, Oral History is anything that anyone says that's relevant to the topic and our
topic is Prasadam on the Plaza basically.
M: I put it in the context of what you're doing, in a way.
D: Your personal views, your philosophy, your analysis and your psychology or
whatever is involved or even anecdotal stuff about somebody who knocked over
your tables, anything like that is very useful. So whoever can go to the UF
archives and get a real personal picture of what you've been doing out there. I
want to ask you about Prasadam, does it require a certain type of food or a
certain type of chanting? Are there spiritual guidelines for what you do on the
Plaza that you must follow every time you set up the tables? Are there strictures-
I know no meat, fish or eggs?
W: I could make Japanese food or Italian. It doesn't have to be Indian or anything
like that, but before we bring it out, it has to be prepared with some strictures. For
example, we don't dip our finger in the sauce to see if I've spiced it right or does
it taste O.K. That's why we have to be conscious when we're making it, not
spaced out. You offer it to Krishna on the altar, on special plates, first. You put a
little bit of each preparation [on the plate] and then you say, 'Thank you very
much for having given us these foodstuffs to prepare and the [intelligence with
which] to make them and we hope you take them and enjoy them. And then after
you give them [the deities] a little time to eat-for example, if I give you a plate of
food, I don't just put it there and then immediately take it away-so I give Them a
little time to eat and then before I take it away I say, 'I hope you enjoyed it and I
hope you've blessed this food now [so] that everyone who now takes it may
become purified by taking it and may be more appreciative so that people will
say, 'Wow, this Krishna food is so wonderful,' and they'll get more attracted to
coming closer to Krishna. So that's basically the process I do and then I merge
the food from the offering plate back in the big, big pots and then the food is
considered Prasadam, because it has been offered first to Krishna and now it's
His mercy. Did that answer your question somewhat?
M: Yes, that is kind of the ritual and the spirituality before it goes to the Plaza. And
you're not to consume anything, you don't even dip your finger in?
W; Not before it has been offered. The person cooking it should be someone who is
second initiated. First initiation is [for] someone who for a year has been following
the principles and chanting, and a second initiate has been doing it for another
year and they've become more purified and therefore their consciousness is
more elevated, so that's another [stricture].
M: A first initiate and a second initiate?
UF 295, Walker
W: Yes. A second initiate is a brahman.
M: That's the higher level?
W: Yes, it's priest-like. They can go on the altar and dress the deities, and a first
initiate would not be allowed to do that. Also you shouldn't cook without second
initiation. Sometimes it happens because there's no brahman around, but it's a
good standard [we try to keep].
M: Are there higher initiates beyond brahman?
W: Yes, there's sannyasa, which is the renounced order of life. So beyond brahman,
the only next [level] would be if you are sannyasi, which means someone who
takes the order of celibacy for the rest of their life. So that's another initiation
ceremony. It generally happens at the age of fifty or after, generally.
M: What is your status?
W: I'm a brahman. I'm trying to be a real brahman, and I will probably take
sannyasa. I don't think I'm going to get married. I could. I'm at the stage where I
could go either way [get married or choose renunciation] but I'm such an old fogy
that I doubt I'm going to do it, because I don't want to have kids this late and
there's not much use in getting married if you're not going to have any kids.
What, is my wife going to cook for me? I know how to cook. I don't know what I
need a wife for. Krishna is more beautiful than any woman. I am probably going
to take sannyasa, but probably not until I'm about fifty years old at the earliest.
M: Is that considered a higher stage than being married?
W: Yes, because it takes so much energy and time to actually work and make
money so you're not as directly focused on serving God. You can't do it as much,
whereas sannyasi is a full-time preacher. They don't have all of that
encumbrance. They're free to do much more preaching and they do it, generally.
And if they don't do it, then they fall down and get married. It's a big fall down,
because they were given so much respect. It's called a vantashi, or one who eats
vomit. Imagine vomiting and then going back and picking it up and eating it. So
you've vomited this family life, and then you go back and go for it again. It's a
very big embarrassment and disgrace.
D: I had more questions about the food. Having a Catholic background, of course,
we're told that the minute the priest holds up the bread and breaks the bread, the
body of Christ is now inhabiting the bread and the blood of Christ is in the wine,
and you're familiar with all of that theology?
UF 295, Walker
W: I was brought up Catholic.
M: Are there similar spiritualities behind Prasadam? You said it's to show Krishna in
a favorable light and to extend Krishna's love to people. Is there anything when
people consume the food that they are beyond this positive light they've seen of
your movement, are they getting anything out of that? I remember Dr. Thursby
saying once that at the temples in India that he had studied at, when they threw
the food away, they considered even the amoeba or the bacteria that consumed
the food to be getting blessed.
M: Even when the food was rotting, it was being consumed by the microorganisms,
and that was part of the offering and that was part of the religion. So when
people eat this food, how is that interpreted along those lines?
W: I thought I had touched on this already, but the idea is that whether they know it
or not they're getting blessed and it's purifying them. Just like, even if a Catholics
child receives Holy Communion-I think they give it at almost any age. It wasn't
like it only happened when you were twelve that you could receive it, was it?
D: Yes, you had to go through Confirmation.
W: Even still, as we know, we got confirmed, we were still spaced out ten-year-olds
or twelve-year-olds. We didn't really know what it was all about. But certainly
[even a child] feels that by taking that, [he's] getting some spiritual advancement.
So similarly [people on the Plaza] are making some [spiritual] advancement by
eating food that's blessed by God.
D: There is no meat, fish or eggs in it.
W: Yes. Actually, many times people say, 'I try to make it like you do, but it just
doesn't taste the same.' We say, 'It's because you didn't offer it to Krishna.
You've got to get Krishna's saliva in there.' Actually, it's a fact. If you offer it to
Krishna it will taste [better]. It's amazing, you put it on the plate on the altar and
the little bit that's in the bowl [on the plate] has a little different taste than that
from the big pot, amazingly enough. You can try it. It just tastes a little special.
It's called Maha Prasadam. It's not just Prasadam. It's Maha Prasadam because
it is from the plate that was offered to the Lord.
M: That Maha is mixed into the rest?
UF 295, Walker
W: Or sometimes I'll just put it all on my plate and I'll eat all the Maha. It's not that it
has to be mixed in. Because you've got to transfer it to wash the [deity] plate. So
you may put it all on one paper plate and say, 'Here, you take the Maha,' or you
can give a little bit to each of the people. There's all sorts of things you can do.
It's not like it has to be mixed in the big pot or the rest of [what's in the big pot] is
not Prasadam. It's still Prasadam. Does that answer most of your questions?
D: Yes, I think so.
M: Any anecdotal stories about the Plaza or radical Bill or the preachers, or the
'Rainbow People' that are out there? It's such a cacophony some times.
W: It sure is. I can just think of one funny one. [Before I took over the program], they
had this guy cooking one day, and he didn't know how to cook and it was
supposed to be spaghetti. Anyhow, he boiled the noodles too much. They were
like mush, and then he just threw a can of tomato [paste and added water]
without spicing it at all. One devotee showed up on the Plaza just as it was being
unloaded and he said, 'Oh, great, I want some.' He immediately made a plate for
himself before everything was set up, and he started taking it, and he went, 'This
stuff is shit!!' He said, 'Get it out of here!!' So they were starting to take the pots
away, and all the students were going, 'No! No! We want it, we want it anyhow.' It
was just funny that they had so much faith that they just wanted our food no
matter what it was like.
D: That's good.
W: For example, if you go to McDonald's, they have standards, and you [can] go
anywhere in the country or in the world and it's going to be the same taste. So, I
feel that I try and make it so that they know when they come up that it's going to
be good. So, I had somebody else cooking it when I went to India [once for a
month], and when I came back, the students said, 'Boy, it wasn't the same.' They
couldn't count on it being the same kind of quality. So I take pride a little bit in
trying to do it right. I try not to think, 'Just get it out there,' but I try to make it
tasty. Actually, one guy was going to FSU in the Summer and going here and he
said, 'Man, their food up there ain't nearly as good as here.' It makes you feel
M: Have you sampled it yourself?
W: What, the stuff up there?
UF 295, Walker
M: At FSU.
W: Yes, I knew he would say that. I've had some of the stuff there because I know
they guy who cooks up there, and I know that he's not as good a cook.
D: You should give him a workshop or something.
W: Well, [the student who made this comment] said that dealing with the manager
[of that program] up there was like dealing with a manager of Denny's and I
actually knew what he was talking about, because the guy [running that program]
is a little bit more in the mood of watching [to make sure] everybody give a
donation. And I just never could get into that mood. I wouldn't want to have
someone watching me like a hawk and watching me, thinking, 'Are you giving?'
I've sometimes threatened [by handing out papers saying], 'Hey look, folks. I
need a little more donations. I could actually sit someone there and say, if you
give a quarter, you get a quarter's worth, I don't want to do that. I'd like to have it
[based on] love and trust.' And I've put a letter like that a couple of times, and it
actually helped to wake people up to realize that we needed their help. But I don't
want to have someone watching them. Anyhow, so his mood up there isn't quite
M: I can remember as an under-grad, about 1983, when donations became more
and more solicited. It used to just be a bowl and there was nothing said, and
sometimes there wasn't even a sign, and then it became more and more
apparent...I remember a tall, black devotee, telling the crowd, 'You're just not
going to get this food if you don't come up with the money,' and it made perfect
sense. I guess what everyone assumed, or at least my friends, is that you had
some big global organization that had trust accounts and it was just paying for all
of this stuff.
W: Right, that's exactly what I say in my letter. 'We're not funded by ISKCON
Central. We depend on you guys.' Many people don't realize it. It's not that we're
getting all government donated food either. Even on the days when we used to
get more government donated food, that still was only for a few things. It's always
been that none of my vegetables have ever been donated, nor any of my sugar,
nor any of my lemon juice. And I think a lot of the people who eat out there don't
know that. One devotee once told me that someone asked him, 'How do you
guys do this?' He said, 'Well, I was just in my room sleeping and all of a sudden I
heard a big bang and I looked out in the truck and there was all of this cooked
food sitting in pots, so I decided to bring it on out here.
M: ISKCON Central focuses on the literature and the art work. Is that what they do
with their resources?
UF 295, Walker
W: There is no 'ISKCON Central.' That's my point. Each center is independent.
There is an ISKCON BBT, the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, that publishes the
books which we all use, and that has to be centralized. What was the question
M: You answered my question. You had referred to ISKCON Central and I
wondered if they were just putting out the books, if that was their focus. So,
apparently, there are different cells of Krishna-consciousness that produce
different things. For example, you do Prasadam here and that is your primary
edification at this temple, on the Plaza, and somewhere else they're publishing
books and are at work....
W: Yes, even right at our farm they produce a magazine for America and the
M: Back to Godhead is produced in Alachua?
M: Oh, I didn't know that.
W: I mean there is a central organization, ISKCON, but still it doesn't fund anybody.
ISKCON is managed by a group of senior members who get together once a
year in India and make sure that all the temples maintain the same standards
D: Keeping the standard of Krishna-consciousness?
W: Trying to.
D: That makes sense.
M: Do you feel the need for a more controlling, central authority like most churches
have in place. Do you think that, that would make the Krishna movement more
effective, or do you think it would give you more strength if only from a financial
point of view, if not spiritual as well?
W: I don't think that centralizing financial authority more would be so beneficial, but
we probably need to become better managers. For example, we've started going
to these consulting firms to learn how to better manage our movement. We need
to do that better. There's a standard thing people say: 'I'm not into organized
religions.' So we say, 'Well, you'll love us, then, because we're real disorganized.'
UF 295, Walker
We need to become more organized just in terms of getting everything mobilized
but not in terms of having central funding. As I thought I said before, it's good that
we don't have central funding because it forces each center to actually work. No
temple can just be lazy, depending on some central funding and saying, 'We
need this or we need that.'
M: You do your service to survive?
W: Do we do our service to survive?
M: Yes, it sounds like it.
W: Actually, if one does the real basic programs of trying to distribute Prasadam and
books and chanting, everything comes. Frankly, we're not just barely getting by.
I'm seeing that Krishna's reciprocating because I actually have a little money in
the bank, because I have been doing this steadily. In the beginning I was
struggling for a while, but that was Krishna's test. Even Prabhupada was
struggling for many years to get anything going, but when Krishna saw how
sincere he was, then He gave him everything, such as palaces and money, but
he didn't' keep any for himself. He would just use it to open another big center or
something. I would say, frankly, if we keep going like this, it's going to grow.
Krishna is already sending enough. It's not just like in the old days, just barely
paying the bills. More than money, I actually need people to help me with some
good ideas so that I could say O.K., 'I've got some money, let's do that.'
M: Is the temple tax-exempt?
D: Were there any other anecdotes that come to mind from your days spent on the
Plaza in the sunshine and the rain.
M: If they occur to you, jot them down because we could add them later. Do you still
have the carving of the man with the cow's head chopping off the head of the
cow with the man's head. Is that still brought out onto the Plaza?
M: The cow had a human head, and the man had the cows head, I believe, and he
was about to butcher the cow. It was a Krishna statuette.
W: Showing reincarnation. If you kill an animal in this life, you will be the animal in
your next life and he will be killing you.
UF 295, Walker
M: And there was another beautiful one with the embryo growing into old age.
W: Yes, that one I do have. Maybe I should take it out to the Plaza more often. We
take it for granted. I've been thinking, 'If we take it out there, then everybody has
seen it and it's a trouble to take it out there.' I mean, we've already got a full van,
so I hesitate to throw in another big thing like that. That's why I don't do it. I've
had people whose service was to sit at the book table and to answer questions,
but I haven't had anybody qualified enough to do that recently. If I did, then that
would be something to take out. Now, the cow display, I think I gave it to some
other temple to use, and so I don't have that anymore. Did you like that at all?
M: Oh man, I know that generated a lot of conversation when I was an under-grad in
the mid-1980s. Your artwork, your book covers, the glowing deities-this is not the
kind of stuff your average American kid sees when they come here from the
suburbs to go to college. And those statues, what are they are called.
W: We call them diaramas.
M: Yes, the diaramas. They were serving your purpose without the spoken word.
W: Some people complained that it is pretty heavy. Maybe it was, but I think it's a
pretty good preaching point.
M: I agree with you. We would have our plates with Krishna food as undergraduates
sitting on the Plaza, talking about what we had just seen on your table. What
that meant, who was brave enough to ask you guys what that meant or where it
was coming from. I had seen Krishnas in London as a kid, but I hadn't been
exposed to Hinduism nor had most of my colleagues, middle American college
students, which is why you're there. So I thought that, that did a lot to get people
thinking, get people interested. I think I took that history of India class with Dr.
Thursby because of my Krishna lunches more than anything. I was actually
interested in what went on besides Rudyard Kipling's version of India.
W: Is his name Eugene Thursby?
M: Eugene Thursby, that is it. He was a religion and history department professor,
but he taught History of India before colonization because most of it was, aside
from the incursions of the Moguls and the Muslims, most of it was Vedic studies
that he was very familiar with, various levels of the Veda and the Buddha coming,
so it was practically a religion class. A lot of that is what was going on the
subcontinent before the British showed up and made their way with it.
UF 295, Walker
W: It's funny, I don't hear anyone ever mention his name anymore. I don't even
know if he's over there anymore.
M: I saw him on the streets recently. He may be retired, but I know he's a practicing
vegetarian and he talked about various restaurants in town that had this dish or
that dish, and he knew some of the East Indian restaurant owners in town, and
he encouraged our whole class to go eat your food. It was an interesting class.
He spent a long time in India, in the 1960s and 1970s. He was a renowned Vedic
scholar. I don't know what his particular practice was or anything like that but he
was very pro-Krishna-consciousness, which I thought was neat because most
professors will make deriding comments about now Krishnas are freaks.
W: One teacher of an economics class did an interview with me about us and made
a video and tried to show that not everything was motivated for money. I don't
know if you ever saw this. I don't even know which class it was exactly. I'm pretty
sure it was listed as an economics class. First, he starts out with Madonna
singing 'I'm a Material Girl' in the background and then he says, 'But some
people aren't after just material things, and then he showed scenes of the Plaza
lunch program and of him interviewing me.
M: Oh, this was a video?
W: Yes, and he still shows it. I still meet students who tell me they just saw it in their
class. It was made around five or six years ago, and he still shows it every year
to the class, so that's neat.
M: That's great.