The Hare Krishna Tree in Tompkins Square Park Is Where the Religion Was Born in the West

Posted On Mon, May 9, 2016 By

Posted On Mon, May 9, 2016 By In East Village, History

New York City is often referred to as a concrete jungle, but that doesn’t mean it’s 100-percent void of vegetation. Throughout the city you’ll find beautiful pockets of lush city parks that often have a special history of their own. Tompkins Square Park for example is home to the Hare Krishna tree and the birthplace of this modern religion.

Tompkins Square park, HareKrishnaTree

The elegant American elm located next to the semi-circular arrangement of benches in the park’s center has been there for over a hundred years, but it wasn’t until 1966 when it gained its religious importance. As the story goes, on October 9, 1966, the “Hare Krishna” mantra was chanted publicly for the first time outside of India, beginning the now popularized spiritual movement in the West. The movement now considers the tree to be a sacred site.

The event unfolded when Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, along with a group of robed followers, spent over two hours chanting, dancing, and playing tambourines and cymbals in the pursuit of Krishna—a sanskrit term meaning pure and blissful consciousness. In the group was Beatnik poet Allen Ginsberg, who lived close by at the time. Ginsberg later wrote about the event, “The ecstasy of chant or mantra has replaced LSD and other drugs for many of the swami’s followers.”

[Via Atlas Obscura]

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