Belfast Telegraph

Krishna: Tim and Carmen ... a life of love

Tim McEvitt (30), from Dublin, lived in the temple of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness on Inish Rath, Co Fermanagh, for 12 years. Yesterday, he returned there to marry Carmel Elena Padilla Quiel (29), from Panama. The couple, who now live in nearby Derrylin, tell Judith Cole about their beliefs

Tim says...

I found my wife Carmen on a Hare Krishna marriage website and, although there was no picture of her, I was struck by the words she had written. I could see we had a lot in common, including having spent much of our lives in a temple, and I knew I had to get to know her.

We started corresponding and, after about two months of e-mails back and forth, we met for the first time last November, when I got her a ticket to come to Northern Ireland.

We talked some more - quite a lot, actually - and got on very well. It happened so quickly. We did get advice from people to be careful about rushing into things, but we both knew it was right.

I had never had a girlfriend before, because I lived in the temple of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness on Inish Rath island from the age of 18 to 30. One funny moment occurred just after Carmen arrived in Dublin - when we were walking along she touched my hand slightly and was looking at my face as she did so. I was a bit shocked and jumped slightly - it was very funny.

Our wedding was a traditional Hindu ceremony which involved a lot of exotic colour, smell and atmosphere. Flowers, water and fire were offered to the deity while songs and mantras were chanted.

A huge fire was lit in the temple and all the windows were opened. There was a lot of decoration and coconuts, pineapples and flowers were arranged outside. Mantras were chanted over the fire. It was thought a very long time ago that mystic people could start the fire by chanting certain mantras, but nowadays no-one can really do that so we light it the ordinary way.

The priest chanted mantras again and said some things in English to explain what was happening.

Carmen and I then exchanged flower garlands - the equivalent of rings. After that we had a big vegetarian feast. Vegetarianism is very important to us because we believe that living beings are conscious - the higher up the chain they are, the more feelings they have. Also, reincarnation occurs when all of us die. Our soul leaves our material body and goes to another body if your Krishna consciousness is not perfectly developed. Although you go to another body you are still the same individual.

There were about 50 guests at the wedding, some from my family. Carmen is from Panama in central America but it was too expensive for her family to come. She has three brothers and a sister and they keep in touch by telephone - they're a very close family. When they were growing up they lived in just one room. When Carmen was 15 she joined a temple, and a short time later her family also became Hare Krishna devotees.

As a teenager I, too, was searching for something that could answer all the questions I had. I was studying philosophy at the time and one day, in 1993, I was walking down the street in Dublin and saw in a shop window a well-known work on Indian philosophy which was quoted a lot on my course.

I went into the shop, which was actually a Hare Krishna centre. I was fascinated by what I saw and, after attending it for some time, eventually joined the temple.

The main thing which attracted me was its teachings on the philosophy of the world situation and the meaning of the universe, which I believed was very sound.

I was brought up a Catholic and, while its teachings were clear, I found that Indian philosophy helped me understand the supreme being much better. It offers more explanation of love and the cycle of reincarnation.

I undertook a training course in the Hare Krishna main centre in London to learn about the philosophy and understand the mantras, and then I came to live on the island in 1995.

In the temple we had communal prayers, chanting and meditation from 4.30am to 8.30am, and, at 10.30am, a class in philosophy. After that I worked on the property to help maintain it, did some office work and sent letters to people. I also guided visitors and guests around the island.

It was very much a monastic lifestyle. For years I didn't go anywhere and, for clothes, I would get something to wear when people came to stay and left a pair of trousers or shirt behind.

My family - I have one brother and one sister - were a little apprehensive when I joined. They just didn't know what I was getting myself into. But my mother came to the island to stay a few times and everything was fine.

I had always thought I would get married, and I was really looking for someone with similar experiences to me. There were about 70 girls on the website, but Carmen stood out because of the words she had written about herself.

Even though we come from different parts of the world we have a lot in common because we spent so many years in a temple.

Hare Krishna devotees meet their spouses in all sorts of ways. Sometimes there are arrangements between different temples, or they meet just by working in the same place. At the moment, we are renting a house on the mainland. Once you live off the island you are independent, so I'm setting up a business called Lake Island Retreat through which people can come for a weekend and enjoy vegetarian cookery and yoga among other things.

We get on well with the local people here. In 2001 there was a proposal to sell the island as it was so expensive to maintain, but the local papers published stories which said that the general mood was favourable towards us and that people would think it a pity if we had to go. I've also found organisations like Fermanagh District Council and the Tourist Information Centre very helpful. The centre got a grant of £10,000 from the Council to set up toilets for the visitors, and we were also given £50,000 by Fermanagh Local Strategy Partnership for rural tourism. The island is eco-friendly and there are people living on it from all over the world.

I work from home and plan to buy some land to build an eco-friendly house and do most of the work myself. I still get up early, at about 3am, and write text for my website. I did a course with Fermanagh Enterprise Centre in which I learned how to set up a website.

I pray and chant, meditating on the being of Krishna. I want to develop a love of God, and a relationship with the supreme being. People who accuse Hare Krishna of being a cult maybe don't know much about the philosophy, which is the oldest body of knowledge in the world. The International Society for Krishna Consciousness began in the late 1960s, and in the following years some people in the society acted in a fanatical way but elements like that aren't there any more.

÷Tim's weekend retreat website will be launched in July

Krishna certainly changed my life ...

Carmen says...

Our wedding was everything I dreamed of. My dress was red and gold and I was wearing flowers in my hair.

There was a big fire lit to receive Kristna's blessing from Krishna for our marriage. The temple was elaborately decorated and many prayers and mantras were offered, to ask Krishna to come and bless us.

Like Tim, I spent many years in a temple of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. I was very interested in spirituality and looked into different philosophies before Krishna.

When I was 15 I asked my father about Krishna and I found that the life which devotees led was fascinating.

I entered the temple when I was young teenager, and I remained there for 15 years. At 4am each day we had prayers and, later, services. There were two or three young girls like me at the temple.

We made food which always had to be blessed because it was for Krishna, not for us. I come from a poor family but, when my father, mother and brothers joined the society, life became better.

Krishna certainly changed my life. For one thing, I stopped eating meat. Also, when you are young you might want to drink or smoke, but Krishna gave me strength not to. I'm not interested in doing things like that - Krishna has given me a very healthy, very beautiful life and I enjoy it so much.

Everyone looks for happiness, but often they don't find any.

They drink, but it only brings pain and sadness, and makes you feel very ugly. And if you smoke for years you end up in hospital, seriously ill.

But with Krishna, there is nothing but love.

It's very important to me that my family also have Krishna consciousness, and I wanted to get married to someone who shared my beliefs, in order to preserve that.

I am looking forward to having a family. The first intention of getting married is to have babies. It is not only to have personal gratification.

From what I've seen of Northern Ireland, it is a beautiful, interesting land, if a little cold! My country is very warm and I miss the sunshine but there have been one or two warm days here.

Also, the people are very nice. In Panama there is a different culture, so I don't understand many things here, but I think I'll be fine.

I hope to see my parents perhaps next year if we can make the trip to Panama.


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