The Thing About Hair
Buenos Aires, Argentina
I was asked to speak from Canto 2 of the Bhagavatam on a verse in Chapter 7, entitled, “Scheduled Avataras”. Naturally, when asked to do so, the speaker attempts to draw from the verse and companion purport some main points that may have relevance to the audience. Interestingly, the verse (text 26) highlighted the coming of Krishna, who is described as Sita Krishna Kesha, and refers to His possessing beautiful long black wavy hair. So here is the thing about hair.
When I joined to enroll as a monk in the movement, it was the regiment to discard every hair on your head. Shaving the head for male members was a standard activity every fortnight at least. Hair was frowned down upon for those of us living in the ashram. At the same time, in the 70’s when I joined, it was totally fashionable to sport hair and lots of it, covering your scalp with adjoining sideburns, moustache, and perhaps a full beard. In fact, a clean shiny shaven head was regarded as the mark of insanity. The only people who were bald and regarded as cool were Mr. Clean, the squeaky clean caricatured man of a household cleanser, and veteran actor, Yul Brenner, who skillfully played the King of Siam.
Our guru, Srila Prabhupada, encouraged his male members to have the look of a pure Brahmin Vaishnav, or the look of a classic priest from India. Traditionally, hair was reserved for particular social roles, in the warrior, farmer, merchant, and worker categories.
So the paradox persists. Female students were encouraged to have long beautiful braided hair. Donning hair was for just about everyone, including God, with his fabulously gorgeous strands of hair. To the exception of initiated male members who were to be hairless. It sounded odd to me when I first heard the term, “Hare Krishna”, when I had to ask myself, “who are these hairless people who call themselves the opposite?”
Frankly, I gave brief mention about hair in the class. The thrust of the topic was more on the appearance of Krishna, who in this troubled age, comes without hair, in the form of pure sound vibration.