New York City -- "A rabbi, a Hare Krishna devotee, and the mayor of the most influential city in the world sit down to share a meal together..." No, it is not the set-up to a politically-incorrect joke; it is the true story of a chance breakfast chat that ISKCON devotee Radhavallabha Dasa recently shared with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Radhavallabha was one of six Krishna devotees invited to be part of the Hindu delegation to Mayor Bloomberg's annual Interfaith Breakfast held on December 31 at the New York Public Library.
The mayor entered the stately ballroom after the other guests -- religious and community leaders from all over the city -- had already seated themselves, and was greeted by a standing ovation. Reflecting the intentionally informal mood of the event, Mr. Bloomberg simply chose an open seat at one of the identical round tables in the room -- and ended up sitting across from Radhavallabha.
The mayor asked Radhavallbha, a brahmachari (monk) who teaches vegetarian cooking classes at New York University and heads up several successful outreach programs, what organization he was with. When Radhavallabha told Mayor Bloomberg that he was part of the Hare Krishna movement, the leader smiled and mentioned that he was proud that New York City was home to Hare Krishnas, Muslims, Jews, Christians, and other people of diverse faith. Radhavallabha also informed Mayor Bloomberg that the worldwide Hare Krishna movement started in New York City (since Prabhupada incorporated ISKCON in New York City in 1966) -- a fact that the mayor had been unaware of, but was happy to hear. The mayor continued to converse with Radhavallabha and the others at their table, including two rabbis, about a number of topics including the mayor's recent dialog with the Dalai Lama.
After several minutes, the mayor excused himself from the table, and took to the stage for his public address. Mr. Bloomberg reflected on the contributions of different faith groups to New York City's pluralism, and implored his audience of religious leaders to continue offering faith-based perspectives on the challenges facing the city.
The morning event -- featuring a breakfast of bagels, granola, and fresh fruit -- also included musical performances by the Mama Foundation for the Arts Youth Choir and invocation prayers offered by six religious leaders. Dr. Uma Mysorekar of the Hindu Temple Society of North America recited the prayer on behalf of Hindus.
The ISKCON devotees were invited to attend the event as representatives of the Hindu community. ISKCON belongs to the Gaudiya Vaishnava sampradaya, a monotheistic and devotional tradition within the broad Hindu family of faiths.