Prabhupada's appeal as a teacher and the simplicity of his lifestyle served as a powerful fund-raising device. Within a few years, brownstones like the one in Boston, as well as a London mansion owned by devotee George Harrison, were donated to the movement.

The movement is full of contradictions. Though many attracted to the tradition were more interested in alternative lifestyles--including hippies intent on exploring drugs and free love--Hare Krishna demanded a strict moral code and a renunciant lifestyle. And despite the ascetic requirements, its members often lived in tony settings like Beacon Hill. And though it seemed a radical expression of the youth counterculture, the Hare Krishna movement was in fact an extension of a long line of Hindu Krishna worship.

I took a long glance at the beaded necklace Kisna was wearing, which resembled a rosary. As I adjusted my legs, I surveyed the paintings and the statues, which had the feel of icons in a Catholic church. I paused to craft my question. "Was there a sense, when you began in this tradition, that it was familiar to you?"Kisna rubbed his long, slender fingers together. "I think many younger people tag along to church without understanding what the philosophy and the real practice are." Given my own experience in Hebrew School, I could amen to that. "But when I came to Krishna consciousness, what Jesus taught opened up for me. I'd go to church with my parents, and I'd think, 'Hey, that sounds familiar.' Like something that Srila Prabhupada said, or something from Bhagavad-Gita."

"So are you more of a Christian now that you're a devotee of Krishna than when you were a Catholic?"

"It's kind of a far-out thing," Kisna admitted. "I don't see this as opposed, even if a Catholic may. This isn't a sectarian movement. We may look a certain way, and chant 'Hare Krishna,' but we believe everyone is worshipping the same God.

"Some people think that when you leave one practice and take up another," Kisna pointed out, "that you're totally rejecting the other practice. Some people wonder, why do Catholic priests live like that? Now I see. They're trying to focus on spiritual life. After being exposed to Krishna consciousness, then everything kind of fell into place."