I´m not sure exactly when I met the Hare Krsnas but around 18 years ago, my brother was a „Hare Krishna“ so to say. My grandmother who raised me was a Vaisnava and taught me as a child the Hare Krishna Maha Mantra and fundamental Vaisnava teachings as well as the basic faith that Krsna is God. Also when I was around 7years old, some devotees came to the house and gave a Srimad Bhagavatam Canto 1 – I still remember seeing the book like some glowing treasure. I tried to read it, but as a 7 year old could not make sense of what I was reading. I can still remember the frustration of trying to get the nectar but not despite my best (7 year old) endeavours being able to reach it.
I´m 37 in a few weeks, so I guess Krishna blessed my family members to be instrumental in my spiritual development from about 30 years ago.
I´m not such a natural devotee so it`s been a gradual process along the way. My life changed significantly when friends brought me to the German temple, Goloka Dham where I met my Guru Maharaj (H.H. Sacinandana Swami) around 13-14 years ago. This gave me the faith to chant and that this process was above other processes. When I, (thanks to him) found the German farm, Simhachalam, I found a real spiritual home. The change was that before spiritual matters were something just to dream about or to solitarily contemplate – not to find such a group of people (devotees) who also want to aspire for something beyond all the material matters that surround us.
My favourite verse is:
Bhagavad Gita, 10.11
„To show them special mercy, I dwelling in their hearts, destroy with the shining lamp of knowledge the darkness born of ignorance.“ This is so significant to myself as often I feel myself surrounded in darkeness and somehow a torch beam strikes through – be it through a good friend, or Guru Maharaj, or kirtan or reading – and with this one patch of light, ones whole life fills with both joy and life. This is certainly Krsna’s mercy.
Bhakti Yoga gives a practical step out of all the material nonsense of life. So its stops me being so materialistic.
Without Srila Prabhupada many of us in the West would still be lost. I was born and raised in London, England. When I went to India, after some days, I kept wondering when I would return. There would be no hope for me to have stayed long term in India and possibly I would never have joined the movement so to say. The Western devotees brought together by Srila Prabhupada are therefore my saving grace.
The movement even in the last 10-15 years has become more mature and reflective. We learn from our mistakes and as more generations of devotees are born, there is a sense that the seva to the Lord deepens. On the other side, we are still babies and there is so much space for the movement to grow and mature.
This must be the trick question! One cannot coincide both in the spiritual and material worlds. Mostly I sit in my material walls (maya) but a daily Sadhana and living in the most beautiful land of Simhachalam (Bavaria, Germany) keeps me looking or longing for the spiritual world that does not care for or bother with any aspects of the material world.
I am not sure that the Hare Krishnas have changed society. Those who are not so much into society and all it attains to – have another option – the option of the Hare Krishna way of life. Personally I would say we aspire only to change ourselves and to aid others. Go for the spiritual and say goodbye to the material way.
Sorry if I dont understand the question properly – but I would say that the movement gets stronger and stronger and I wish it grows more and more spiritually and less and less commercially… Personally I will try to distribute 50 books on the streets (with a child in tow) and hope to continue to serve in the temple where I have stayed for the last 4.5 years…