News - Surfing swamis
by Life Positive
As the 61-year-old surfer cuts left and races down the face of the wave spiralling toward the wastewater treatment plant up the beach, half a dozen local fishermen
look on with bemused fascination at the aging white dude, who also goes by his given name of Jack Hebner.
On a wave and a prayer Though India has 4,500 miles of coastline and gets 20-foot waves during the monsoon season, fear of the ocean and beaches that double as toilets have prevented surfing from catching on. But Hebner and his followers – who call themselves “the Surfin’ Swamis” – are seeking to change all that with India’s first surf ashram, or religious community.
“Surfing isn’t just about getting in the water and catching a few waves,” Hebner said. “It’s about something much deeper than that. It’s about a spiritual experience.”
Hebner – a Hindu monk from Jacksonville Beach, Florida, who doesn’t drink or smoke and took a vow of celibacy 30 years ago – isn’t exactly what you picture when you think of a surfer.
But it’s that unlikely combination that in 1991 brought Jack to India’s southwestern coast, where he’s working to start a surfing community that reveres the ocean, helps the poor and wakes up every day at 4:30 am to chant “Hare Rama, Hare Krishna.” Hebner has been a disciple of A C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, founder of the Hare Krishna movement in America.
However, like many Krishna devotees, he severed his association with the official inheritors of Prabhupada’s American movement, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), not long after the guru’s death in 1977.
He didn’t give up his beliefs, though. He came to India, where Vaishnavism dates back thousands of years.
With more than 200 Indian disciples in Mangalore and Mysore, Hebner has shown that Krishna consciousness can still find an audience among lifelong Hindus.
In addition to renting rooms (and boards) to surfers, the monks do web design work contracted through a San Francisco company called Alian Design, and they run a Bangalore-based art gallery and a local bottled water company.
“We don’t go out and ask for any money,” said 21-year-old Kunjabihari, one of Hebner’s Indian disciples. “To support the ashram, we start businesses. That’s where the surfing comes in.”
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