Monday Morning Greetings #8 – The Republican Vaisnava

February 22nd, 2016

The Republican Vaisnava*

In New York we have a joke about Pennsylvania. “What is Pennsylvania? It’s Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with Alabama in-between.” For those of you who are not from the USA, Alabama is, or a least was, synonymous with Hicksville, a place where people are backward or provincial, or who didn’t vote for Obama. Why am I telling this? Because I am about to share something with you from someone from Alabama –  I mean Pennsylvania. Even worse than that, a social conservative and a Republican elected official for twenty-five years, but a person who by his example taught me something about my own prejudice: that enlightened thought is not an east coast or west coast monopoly, or the property of someone cast in a political persuasion, but something that rests solely in the heart of those who are sincerely searching for truth and humble enough to rule their lives by it. I will let the letter from my friend speak for itself. Usually I don’t share Vyasa Puja offerings to my humble self publicly, but the humility and depth of this offering inadvertently says more about the person writing it then it does about the person it is written for.

Introducing my good friend Graham Hetrick:


My daughter stood at the landing of the stairs.  I had recently picked her up at the airport as she returned from a trip to India.  She actually extended her trip to spend more time with an individual named Dhanurdhara Swami.  She started with some hesitation and asked;  “Dad you know that Swami I was talking about?  I would like him to come here to the farm for a few days, if that’s ok with you?”

My reply was immediate: “Sure Hon, have him come. I would love to talk with him.”

Now for those who don’t know my cultural background or me; this immediate acceptance of my daughter’s journey was unusual for someone who was born and raised brethren and evangelical Christian.  Upon my entry to college I started to define God differently than my parents.  Ultimately through the expansion of my ego I even denied that existence of any creator.  I was like Nietzsche’s Übermensch, screaming: “Man created God not the other way around.” 

God is so great and his grace beyond limits.  Over the years God has put me on a course to a meditative lifestyle.  About a year before my daughter’s trip I started to immerse in the Jesus prayer.  I was seeking the Christian church in its earliest form.  This search brought me closer to Eastern Christian thought.

My goal was to take God out of the confines of religion and the concept of otherness.  I wanted my God to be bigger than how God was defined by the Western Church.  In each phase of my journey God was softening my heart.  He was leading me to a teacher, a brother, and a mentor.

The days with Dhanurdhara Swami were wonderful.  I found an immense commonality between his understanding and devotion to God and my direction – trying to communicate and worship God in every aspect of my life.

It was all so new.  This man in orange robes seemed immediately to be a family member.  I later called him my brother from another mother.  We talked, we sang praise to God, and there was no separation between our faiths and our lives.  God once again bestowed his grace on me and gave me this lifetime teacher and friend.  God knew the student was ready so he had the teacher appear. 

Each morning I sit at my altar.  Yes, this once Brethren, evangelical, agnostic built his own altar, sits there, and reads the Bible, the Gita and thanks all his bhakti friends for helping him make his God so much bigger.

Hare Krishna and may Christ be with you my brother from another mother.

Your Loving Servant,

* Graham is a Republican elected official, but I don’t think Republican is the right moniker for him. Probably a better fit is libertarian or social conservative.

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