Om Sweet Om

Om Sweet Om


Halloween-Hare-Krishnas

posted by Vineet Chander

Halloween has come and gone, without incident. Heidi Klum played it safe this year dressing as a crow, none of the neighborhood kids donned Lil’ Ganesh costumes after all, and my daughter Shruti’s first Halloween costume (an adorable pumpkin) was a hit. 

But fresh on the heels of my Halloween hypothetical about the bona fides of dressing up as a Hindu deity, a real-life example of the ultra-fine line between good-natured fun and tasteless pot-shot. I give you…

HareKrishna_costume.jpg
… the Hare Krishna Halloween costume.


Yes, this is a real Halloween costume.  I know because every year,
around Halloween time, my inbox gets hit with a couple of emails from
outraged Krishna devotees about it. Usually, they demand that I help
spearhead a campaign against this blatantly offensive stuff.

(In
addition to my work with the broader Hindu community, I also serve as
the North American communications director for ISKCON, the Hare Krishna
movement.)

Personally, I don’t like the costume. I think its a
rather tasteless cheap shot at a misunderstood religious minority. And
adding insult to injury, its not even an accurate rendition — the
orange “robes” are all wrong; the tuft of hair (called a sikha) that monks keep is not usually braided like that; and that pseudo-Egyptian dance move is just lame.

But
does it cross the line? Is it offensive? Tasteless as it may be, does
it warrant the protests, boycotts, and letter-writing campaigns that
some would like to see?

I’m not sure, but my hunch is no.

I
doubt that manufacturers of such Hare Krishna costumes intended to
single out one faith to mock; I think they just saw an outlandish look
that — thanks to the fact that Krishna devotees zealously took the
faith to the streets, especially in the 1970s — is recognizable
enough to get spoofed.  Seeing it in that light, having a Halloween costume modeled after you may even be seen as a bit of a compliment.  

Oh, and contrary to what my outraged Hindu friends
might think, other religions have been getting lampooned on Halloween
for years. Here are some examples (I’ve spared you the “naughty nun”
variety, but I trust you can use your imagination):

priest costume.jpg
rabbi_halloween_costume.jpg
HK_costume_vertical.jpgAs for the folks wearing the
Hare Krishna costume… I imagine that very few of them mean any ill
will towards real Krishna devotees. Most of them probably know very
little about Krishna consciousness or Hinduism. As reader LinZi
commented on my previous post, “Halloween…doesn’t take itself
seriously… Halloween is about playing around,
dressing in costumes, and eating too much candy…” I tend to agree. In
fact, over the years I’ve bumped into more than a few
Halloween-Hare-Krishnas. They are invariably excited to learn that I am
the Real McCoy, a bit embarrassed by their choice of costume, genuinely
appreciative of my having enough of a sense of humor to be friendly
with them, and grateful for a crash course in what the Hare Krishna
movement is really all about.

So
when it comes to the Hare Krishna costume, maybe the best response is
to remind ourselves that Halloween and all its wackiness only comes
once a year, and to not take ourselves so seriously that we can’t enjoy
it.

What do you think?

Post-script: File this one
under “Krishna gets the last laugh”… I remember reading an article
about two guys who decided that it would be funny to dress up as Hare
Krishna devotees for Halloween and hit the streets. As fate would have
it, they ran into the real Krishna devotees (who were amused by their
imitations) and hung out with them. They were so impressed by the
experience that some years later — you guessed it — they ended up
joining the Krishna devotees for real.


 



  • Vrajanath Krsna Das

    HARE KRSNA !!!
    watched an interesting documentary on the origins of Halloween and turns out that it was a truce call by the church towards the pagans who worshiped spirits… later to stop this, some orthodox chritians started calling it a devils thing… but it was too late and the festival was a major event in the calendar of contemporary westerns…
    Halloween comes from HALLO Eve(ning) which is actually ALL SAINTS DAY… so no need for devotees to get upset… if they are dressin up then they are doing the right thing b yrepresenting saints…
    yis
    vraja

  • Hari Sauri dasa

    I just saw a text from a devotee saying that we should protest this. Why? According to the Chaitanya Caritamrta if a person somehow chants the holy names, even in joking, they get transcendental benefit:
    Adi 17.200
    sei haite jihva mora bale ‘hari’ ‘hari’
    iccha nahi, tabu bale, — ki upaya kari
    TRANSLATION
    “‘Since that time, my tongue also always vibrates the sound “Hari, Hari.” I have no desire to say it, but still my tongue says it. I do not know what to do.’
    PURPORT
    Sometimes demoniac nonbelievers, not understanding the potency of the holy name, make fun of the Vaisnavas when the Vaisnavas chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra. This joking is also beneficial for such persons. Srimad-Bhagavatam, Sixth Canto, Second Chapter, verse 14, indicates that the chanting of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, even in joking, in the course of ordinary discussion, in indicating something extraneous, or in negligence, is called namabhasa, which is chanting that is almost on the transcendental stage. This namabhasa stage is better than namaparadha. Namabhasa awakens the supreme remembrance of Lord Visnu. When one remembers Lord Visnu, he becomes free from material enjoyment. Thus he gradually comes forward toward the transcendental service of the Lord and becomes eligible to chant the holy name of the Lord in the transcendental position.”
    Vineet Chander’s article got it right, although he didn’t fully explain why the ‘halloween Haris” is Ok. Srila Prabhupada gives the explanation above. To chant Hare Krishna is better than to not chant Hare Krishna, even if it is done in jest, which the Halloweeners most certainly do. They are chanting Hare Krishna throughout the Halloween festival which they may never have done otherwise.
    Think about it–they spend at least a few hours imitating a Hare Krishna devotee. Now think about Putana and the result she got…
    Your humble servant,
    Hari-sauri dasa

  • http://www.costumzee.com/tag/hare+krishna/ Sri Kisore Das

    I was amazed to see the wonderful description of the Hare Krishnas that this costume store had put up. It was really inspiring that people describe us for who we are!
    http://www.costumzee.com/tag/hare+krishna/

  • Sri Kisore Das

    I was amazed to see the wonderful description of the Hare Krishnas that this costume store had put up. It was really inspiring that people describe us for who we are!
    http://www.costumzee.com/tag/hare+krishna/

  • aditi

    i think hari sauri prabhuji is right !
    hare krishna!

  • http://blog.belifenet.com/omsweetom Vineet

    Thanks for the input, everyone.
    Hari Sauri Prabhu: thank you for sharing the perspective of the tradition itself on dealing with imitations and parodies.
    Sri Kisore: I agree, that description is respectful, well-written, and shockingly accurate. I’m guessing they used wikipedia. :-) Either way, I’m tempted to buy the costume just to support them.
    Just curious… are there are any non-Hare Krishnas out there who have an opinion about this costume? Write in!

  • Stritama dasi

    Srila Prabhupada once said ” any publicity good or bad is good publicity”
    Yes let them wear, see and chant Hare krsna to Their hearts content!!!

  • Buddy

    Initially I was upset,after reading your view on the subject I am glad to say I am in your corner. Thanks for the insight.

  • http://www.quality-papers.com Ellen28HG

    When you pursue the excellence, you should complete the distinguished sociology essays writing. But, if don’t realize a proper way to do this, the assignment writing services will definitely support you.

  • http://elwirecostume.org ms El Wire Costume

    Those costumes should turn some heads!
    Light it Up!
    El Wire Costume

  • http://www.sexylingerienights.com Sexy Costumes Sexy Lingerie Nights

    This is a great blog and I really enjoyed it. Halloween-Hare-Krishnas
    who would of thought of that. This is great. Not exactly what I sell for Halloween Costumes, I sell sexy costumes and theme costumes more for the adult Halloween Costume Parties and adult costume parties. I have always had great respect for the Hare Krishna movement. I respect that fact that they have a sense of humor obviously and that always goes a long way with anyone. Again really appreciated this story. Lets hope Halloween 2010 is fantastic and make sure you wear a fun costume.

  • http://www.zoogstercostumes.com Halloween Costumes

    Halloween costumes seem to be a bigger deal each and every year. Everyone seems to be way more into Halloween. The unique costumes available now are awesome.

  • http://www.angeldevilcostume.org Terry Kamerer

    Very good post. My little angel went as a princess and I got some awesome pictures I will endure forever.
    Very cool costumes by the way.

  • http://red-queen-costume.com Renee the Red Queen Costume Gal

    I think the author has made a very good point here. I dressed as an Indian (Native American) princess for Halloween last year because I thought it would be cute, and the costume could be executed without spending much money. I never thought about whether or not people would find it offensive. Fortunately, I got a lot of compliments on it. Perhaps dressing as a movie character like the Red Queen from the Alice in Wonderland movie will not ruffle any feathers this year.

  • http://www.bestbuzzcostume.com buzz costume

    In order to avoid controversy I think people should dress up as movie characters only on Halloween. Some people takes their faith very seriously and mocking their deity never help the situation. Instead it incites hate which then produces violence. We just want to have fun on Halloween and not have a good laugh at someone else religion’s expense.

  • http://www.bestpeacockcostume.com peacock costume

    This is America people should dress as whatever they want. If I want to dress as a monk I will or if I want to dress as cross dresser that’s should be my choice and anyone who has a problem with it can go else where.

  • http://chunlicostume.com Corey Altman

    Avoid offensive costumes for Halloween and dress up as your favorite video game character. The Chun Li costume is a fun and unique idea that is safe from any controversy. The only thing you’ll have to worry about is having too many people stop you to admire your awesome costume! If you want to be the center of attention, this is your kind of costume.

  • http://buycostumescouponcode.net Sam Hartwell

    There are so many costume ideas available that people should be able to dress up as something that is not going to offend somebody else’s religion.

  • http://princessbabycostume.org Princess Baby Costume

    I agree that we need to respect other cultures, but most people wear like this because they want to have fun, and possibly want to feel ok dressed in these costumes too!

  • http://groovycostume.org Groovy Costume

    Fun groovy costumes for sure, I would never wear one of these silly costumes, but that is why Halloween is so fun

  • http://infantbearcostume.org Infant Bear Costume

    It will never change that there will be protests from others when it comes to dressing up like other cultures, not necessarily to mock their beliefs. It is not the same when one dresses in an Infant Bear Costume

  • http://www.bestfinance-blog.com CalhounWANDA23

    That’s cool that people can receive the loan and that opens up new opportunities.

  • http://hypoallergenicdetergent.blogspot.com Hypoallergenic Detergent

    I can’t see why anyone would want to wear something like that.

  • Hypoallergenic Detergent

    While I talk mainly about Hypoallergenic Detergent on my site, I personally think that Halloween costumes should be cool stuff like werewolves or something. Whats the point as dressing up as another person

  • http://Mythoughts... Random Person

    Man, if I were to dress up like a person from a different faith and/or culture, I’d at least do it right. I’d make sure I got decent quality outfits and accessories that were actually accurate and would do my best to portray the culture/faith accurately, because then it would be real dress up! I’d get to wear something beautiful and unique, but not have to wear it all of the time/subscribe to that faith or culture. I’d get to pretend to be someone else for a night and look great! I don’t think those costumes are offensive, and I AM a Hare Krishna, more appropriately known as Gaudiya Vaisnavism, but I do think they’re kind of ugly and tacky. Let’s promote multiculturalism and awareness of beauty instead of just mocking everyone and everything in a cheap and lazy way! Blah! So boring! :P Ok, that’s my two sense. Done now. Take care everyone! Cool post, regardless.
    Hare Krishna! :)

  • http://scsmath.com No one of consequence

    Man, if I were to dress up like a person from a different faith and/or culture, I’d at least do it right. I’d make sure I got decent quality outfits and accessories that were actually accurate and would do my best to portray the culture/faith accurately, because then it would be real dress up! I’d get to wear something beautiful and unique, but not have to wear it all of the time/subscribe to that faith or culture. I’d get to pretend to be someone else for a night and look great! I don’t think those costumes are offensive, and I AM a Hare Krishna, more appropriately known as Gaudiya Vaisnavism, but I do think they’re kind of ugly and tacky. Let’s promote multiculturalism and awareness of beauty instead of just mocking everyone and everything in a cheap and lazy way! Blah! So boring! Ok, that’s my two sense. Done now. Take care everyone! Cool post, regardless.
    Hare Krishna!

  • Pingback: Halloween Hare Krishnas, take two - Om Sweet Om

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Jim Schwartz

    Yes, I think it is offensive. The rich theology of the “Hare Krishnas” dates back to the 15th century: the teachings of Sri Caitanya. Unfortunately, the street performances of its adherents in the 70′s and 80′s may have appeared to “water down” its authenticity in the public eye. Yet theological scholars, even Christian scholars, have appreciated the religious insights of this movement.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Genuine Chocolate Face

    Does anyone remember when that Hare Krishna guy set Charlie Manson on fire? I think there’s a good costume idea there but I also think it might be too obscure a reference.
    What do you guys think?

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