On most days, you can find the rooms in Atterbury Hall hosting student meetings, debates or lectures. Wednesdays in Room 237 however, are not like most days.
You’ll find the room transformed into a peaceful den. The windows are covered. A circle of lights enclose a circle of yoga mats. Standing in the center of it are two young monks. It’s definitely not what you’d expect walking into the Student Success Center.
The two monks, Chris Aleman and Miguel Ley, visit from the Rupanuga Vedic College (RVC). RVC is the Kansas City branch of the International Society of Krishna Consciousness, which was founded in the 1960s by Hindu spiritualist A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, who famously introduced spiritualism to John Lennon and George Harrison.
“We’re doing Maha meditation,” Almean explained at the start of the meditation session, “where we repeat the Maha mantra, which is the most powerful mantra.”
The maha mantra is a simple 16-word phrase. As beads were passed out to everyone, the chant began.
“Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna. Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare. Hare Rama, Hare Rama. Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”
This was repeated over and over again for nearly 15 minutes. When the first chant was over, instruments were passed around: maracas, chimes and even a mini gong.
The chant began again, this time sung and with a beat. With shocking speed and solidarity, the entire group was quickly in a groove. Kanye West’s Sunday Services only wish they were this good.
After the music, the group went outside and sat on the grass to eat lentil curry over rice and talk about the meditation.
As people sat on colorful rugs eating curry, the range of emotions expressed on the faces of the club members varied widely from person to person. Some were calm and relaxed, while others seemed exhausted and legitimately emotional.
This is exactly the point of the meditation.
“We all experienced what we needed,” Ley said as he led the post-meditation discussion. “People tend to say ‘I needed that’ after they meditate. I’ve been saying that every day for six months.”
The ideology of the Hare Krishna is simple. It promotes a non-materialistic lifestyle in an attempt to strip away distractions and promote thought that is beneficial to mankind by helping all learn who they truly are.
“That’s a big statement,” Ley said. “But this is a science.”
While the science of the Hare Krishna isn’t delved into deeply in these meetings, the monks provide the core basics of their beliefs.
Depsite the practice being based in the Hindu religion, it’s not conversion therapy. Take away all of the religious aspects, and you’re left with an hour and 15 minutes that calms the nerves and frees the mind of stress.
“We’re all interested in self-actualization,” Ley told the group.
If you’re interested in self-actualization, Almen and Ley will be in Room 236 in the Atterbury Success Center every Wednesday at 5:30 p.m., eager to act as spiritual guides.