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By Sebastian Shehadi (Deputy Features Editor) and Taryana Odayar (Features Editor)
George Bernard Shaw – that bastion of all things great and LSE – once said that, “There is no sincerer love than the love of food.” And whilst we may be one of the most politically opinionated and ideologically diverse student bodies in London, if not the UK, there’s one thing we are all equally passionate about and which we all support – free food.
And at LSE, we get free vegetarian meals every day.
Thats right. In fact, if you head in the general direction of Saw Swee Hock between 12 and 2 pm on a weekday, you will invariably find a Hare Krishna food cart, followed by a long queue of students waiting for their free veggie meal – usually a plate of rice with dhal or curry. But have you ever wondered how or why those free veggie meals magically and conveniently appear on our campus everyday? Apart from the tell-tale Hare Krishna logo on the side of the food cart, no one seems to really know much else about this phenomenon, such as why the food is distributed on campus, or why its only vegetarian, or who the people behind the movement actually are. So in the spirit of RAG week, the Beaver set out to unravel the mystery of the gift that keeps on giving.
We chatted with Rakshana Radik, aka the Hare Krishna guy who was here on campus last Thursday, about .
(Q) So firstly, what’s your name?
(Q) And where are you from?
I’m from Hare Krishna – that’s what I like to say. A group of people. Its ok to have countries, borders. But uniting people is more important. We have similar spirits, souls, similar to everyone.
(Q) So that’s one of the main philosophies of Hare Krishna?
Yeah, Yeah. We are like brothers, sisters, even more not only as human beings, as living entities which have souls, some spiritual energy who can feel the pain, who can feel the happiness.
(Q) And what’s this dish that you cook for us everyday?
Oh it’s a curry. Everyday is different – difficult to say what its gonna be tomorrow! Today is chickpea curry and rice.
(Q) And I understand its re-used food?
No, these are vegetables we are getting from supermarkets and they give it to us for free. And they whole-sale in supermarkets, and they are selling in packages, and in a package sometimes the vegetables and food is damaged, so they have to throw the whole package. So we are just taking the fresh food from them and we are just cooking it.
(Q) How big is Hare Krishna? Is it based in the UK mainly or is it a worldwide movement?
Actually Hare Krishna is a style of life. So its when you love the nature, love everyone, and you live harmonically with nature. Some practicing people right now are mostly in the countryside. Because this movement started in ’67 by Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. He established a movement by the name of ISKCON – International Society for Krishna Consciousness – so everyone can come and learn something more about this philosophy.
(Q) Do you go to other universities as well and if not why LSE?
We do two more universities and three places for the homeless at the same time. At the beginning, we used to do this just for the homeless. In this movement no one is supposed to be hungry for the 50 miles around the temple. So we used to do just for the homeless and then we see the students coming and asking for food and we thought, why don’t we do this for the students separately? So we started at UCL, and we found more volunteers and more food sources and started to do more universities like SOAS. And then after I moved here to LSE – I didn’t know which university it would be; I just wanted to be a little far from SOAS.
(Q) Why? What’s wrong with SOAS?
I want to be a bit far from SOAS because I have girlfriends there and every time it became like a date!
(Q) A change of scenery eh?
Yeah, I said I was gonna go to UCL. And then I had to walk a little far from there. But with this situation, LSE people can also have food. I didn’t know which university it was, I just saw that there were more students here than at the other place and I needed to come to a place where students can stay, and I can park and give the food.
(Q) Do you have a message or anything you’d like to say in particular?
I wish everyone to have success and I wish that what I can do will make them happy. I think Hare Krishna philosophy is gonna be helpful for all the people of the world. Because now I realise how important people here are at LSE, and they’re gonna be some leader, and they can change the world in a better way; to be friendly to each other and stop the wars and stop cruelty. We have a mother Earth and there’s enough space for everyone if we use it intelligently.
(Q) Where is the temple or a place where we can learn more about Hare Krishna?
We have a couple of places in London. We have a farm where we have cows and the nearest temple is near Soho street, just 10 minutes walk, and everyone can come. All are welcome.
(Q) And you made this food yourself?
Yeah, sometimes I do. We have a team. So we do everything starting from 6 in the morning; chopping vegetables, listening to music, talking. So the idea is food contributes to your mood. So each one who is eating the food is getting positive energy. So even cutting is done with this this positive energy. So we have rules where we have to be in positive moods and be clear from inside and outside.
(Q) You don’t get paid do you? This is all voluntary?
Yeah I do voluntary work. I used to live in a temple for 10 years. I wanted to know more about life. Before I studied as well, I studied medicine. So I need to know more about the world and I went to the temple and lived there. Now I have a goal of doing something good to others. Not working like dogs so I will have money, I will have everything. Actually I have worldly things, I have enough for my living. So I don’t have to worry. I want to do something good for people around me. Of course this is not from birth but I have to work to develop as a person in that way.
Thank you very much!
Following the interview, we did our own research into the Hare Krishna movement. Here’s what we found out: The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), otherwise known as the Hare Krishna movement, is a religious organisation which was founded in New York in 1966 by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Hare Krishna Food for Life happens to be the world’s largest vegetarian non-profit food relief movement. It has projects in over 60 countries with volunteers distributing up to 2, 000,000 free meals a day (ffl.org). The main aim of the Food for Life project is to distribute vegetarian meals for free, such that, “No one within ten miles of a temple should go hungry”, as instructed by Bhaktivedanta Swami. The practice originated in India, and stems from the Vedic beliefs of equality and hospitality. It has been praised by the New York Times, Vegetarian Times, Paul McCartney and Nelson Mandela amongst others.
Food for Life Global Goals (ffl.org):
- To support plant-based (prasadam*) meal distribution to the disadvantaged, malnourished and victims of disaster (natural or manmade), wherever there is a need in the world.
- To help establish pure food prepared and served with loving intention as a viable means to create peace and unity in the world.
- To produce promotional and training materials for the development of Food for Life projects worldwide.
- To represent Food for Life to the government, media and public through public lectures, newspaper articles, the Internet, and email.
- To promote a food culture of hospitality based on spiritual equality
- To raise funds on behalf of Food for Life projects worldwide and to support them with grants
- To coordinate and sponsor emergency vegan relief efforts conducted by Food for Life volunteers