Documentary Review: ‘HARE KRISHNA! The Mantra, The Movement And The Swami Who Started It All’

Review by LC Cragg

This film with adept editing, vintage footage and interviews reveals the twelve year quest of Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada’s spreading of the word of Krishna consciousness. In 1965, Prabhupada at the age of 69 arrived in New York City with only a pair of small cymbals. Initially as a homeless squatter, he had been charged by his guru to spread the writings and teachings written in the Bhagavad Gita. (Mostly now referred to as Gita.) This document a 700-verse, 18-chapter religious text which Swami Prabhupada translated and originally had printed to spread the word in the United States, is now the most used version in the world having been translated into dozens of languages.

Born in Calcutta, before the turn of the century, he saw firsthand the effects of British colonization. He also had been a follower of Mahatma Gandhi in his youth, and was looking to launch a powerful revolution against a materialistic civilization. Needless to say his timing was very close to perfect, the unrest of the United States in the late sixties provided a fertile platform for his then radically thought provoking teachings.

Prabhupada’s self-realization and spiritual gravitas in the face of set-backs and attacks is moving as the story reveals his followers’ experiences, as well as his influences, on musicians and writers, such as Paul, McCartney, George Harrison, and Allen Ginsberg, to name a few

While the film reveals not only the positive messages, but the fears and allegations against the Hare Krishna’s movement in that time period, with the overall backlash against NRM’s (new religious movements) of which Hare Krishna followers were included. Allegations which included kidnapping, mind control and refusing any contact with persons from their former lives while addressed are mentioned only briefly. The film stays more focused on the Swami’s unyielding belief in the power of God’s love, with more focus on his teachings through tapes, actual archival footage, and interviews.

Swami Prabhupada’s patience ,persistence and commitment to his unyielding belief in the power of the teachings, is inspiring and uplifting in itself, especially given his advanced age, and the obstacles that the movement faced. He understood not only the importance of the word and the love, but the importance of spreading the information. The film provides an uplifting spiritual experience, regardless of one’s beliefs or personal religion.

Hitting theaters nationwide starting June 16th in New York.

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