E.T. That's what I felt like as a child. Yes, I enjoyed playing with my friends and doing things with my family, but I always felt like I just didn't quite fit in. I always felt like I was just a little bit different than everyone else and that they felt it too, so I naturally spent more time by myself and was perfectly content with that arrangement. I spent lots of time thinking about God, heaven and why. I don't really know why I did. It was just where my thoughts went.
My father was raised Baptist and my mother raised Catholic. For as far back as I can remember, I had to go to church with my parents on Sunday mornings. Baptist church. I would sit there and watch the other people in church, watching their expressions or lack of expressions like they were there just for that brief period on Sunday mornings because it was what was expected of them. There was no excitement, no passion, no real energy. Just minutes ticking by until everyone was off to face the world again. Many times I'd sit there and draw, or even watch my father fight to keep his eyes open. I didn't get it.
For me, the best part of Sunday mornings was going to Sunday school. I thoroughly enjoyed talking about Jesus and the Bible. I really did. I remember giving our conversations, if they could be called conversations, a tremendous amount of thought even after Sunday school was over. Eventually, I began asking questions about God's appearance and the whole idea of going to heaven. Questions that weren't very well received by the teachers of Sunday school. They didn't have the answers, nor did they want to get into any deep discussions about what they were teaching. They just didn't know or didn't want to know, but I did.
When I was in first or second grade(6 or 7 years old) I spent a weekend with my older brother in Brookline MA. It was during the winter because I still remember walking to and from the ISKCON temple from his apartment while the snow was falling gently around us. The light from the low street lights reflecting off the snowflakes as they fell to the ground. That walk was one of the most memorable times of my life.
On Sunday nights the temple would put on an amazing feast of prasadam(food prepared for and offered to Krishna) and we were going to the Sunday feast. Upon entering the temple the first thing we had to do was remove our shoes. I remember this one guy who's feet smelled really bad. My brother told me later that the guy with smelly feet was a regular, everyone was invited and no one seemed to care. First, upstairs to the temple room where there were incense burning and devotees wearing robes passing out garlands of flowers. Garlands made of carnations. Every time I smell a carnation it brings me back to that moment.
We lined up on either side of the room and in the front of the room were curtains drawn in front of something. I followed along, mimicking what the devotees around me were doing as we all bowed down on our arms and knees. They were praying. I was watching, and the curtain opened to reveal two of the most beautiful deities (statues to me at the time) you could ever imagine. Lord Krishna and Balarama dressed in beautiful clothes, jewelry and wearing beautiful flowers. It was beyond anything I had ever seen before. We danced to incredible music and sang. It was totally alive. I was totally alive. My experience in that temple room, that night, changed my life forever.
After everything was finished we went downstairs to enjoy the feast. It was 1000x better than anything I could have imagined. I still remember the smell and taste of some of the milk sweets just like it was yesterday. That was 40 years ago. It was also the very beginning of my life connection with Krishna Consciousness. Thank you Bhokta. Hari bol!