"Once" star becomes a Hare Krishna
Hare Krishna is a branch of Hinduism, but differs from other schools within the religion because followers worship a sole creator god – the Lord Krishna – above all other deities.
Hare Krishnas believe the religion dates back to the 16th century, and was founded by the Hindu monk Sri Chaitanya in Bengal, India. He focused on the worship of Krishna and encouraged chanting and celebratory dancing in his honor on the temple and on the streets.
The name of the order itself comes from its chant, a continuous repetition of the God’s names, which creates vibration patterns that followers believe bring them to a higher connection to the Almighty.
The religion was brought to the West in the 1960s when Swami Prabhupada, a Hindu monk, started finding converts to the precepts of self-renunciation, and founding temples worldwide.
Hansard himself was intrigued by the devotion of young Hare Krishnas who worshipped with every action in their lives.
“When I first was with young Krishnas my age they had brought back soils from Mathura,” he said, referring to the Indian birthplace of Swami Prabhupada and Krishna. “They were so passionate that they were eating the soil.”
Hansard admired the lives of the sadhus, the holy men in Hinduism who wear saffron robes and take vows of celibacy, and even contemplated joining the monastic order.
“What struck me about the monastic Hare Krishna life is that they were waking up early, praying, eating vegetarian food and singing,” he said. “When you're young, you want the needle to hit the record, you know?”
But he decided against becoming a monk to focus on his music career instead. While playing with the Irish band, The Frames, he continued looking for ways to reconcile his different journeys, spiritual and musical. Hansard performed for the 80th birthday of Swami Prabhupada in London, and stayed at a manor donated to the Hare Krishnas by The Beatles’ George Harrison, a Hare Krishna himself.
Although he identifies himself as a Hare Krishna, Hansard said he still feels a strong connection with the culture of mysticism that is so powerful in Celtic traditions.
“It's written in our history books,” he said. “I make art and that's great, but digging in the hole and growing potatoes is a higher calling. In Ireland, the land is pulsing.”
Perhaps it’s this cultural resonance that prompts Hansard to keep an open mind, including with his Catholic upbringing. He has walked the pilgrimage of the Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain, four times. While touring, he constantly meets fans from other religious backgrounds.
“You're defined by your beliefs, and I want to be fluid because there are so many people who follow different religions,” he said. “You have to give up a little bit of what you believe to understand that.”
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