A Burning Daughter at The Burning Man


Above: The Eponymous Man before the Burning

My daughter Jahnavi is at the Burning Man Festival in the Nevada Desert. Its quite a scene: 50,000 people, gallons of sun-block, wild, colourful, artistic installations, alternative philosophies, and, as the name suggests, a burning man in the centre and at the climax of it all.

As a father, I never really wanted to mention the words ‘desert’ and ‘daughter’ in the same sentence. Specially a redheaded girl in baking daytime temperatures of 115 degrees. I’d heard about this festival years ago – sort of a mudless Glastonbury without the bands – and I thought it to be a wild gathering of all the alternative types from all over America. Sort of Mad Max meets Easy Rider meets Alice in Wonderland.

But these days ‘alternative philosophy’ has become mainstream and, like Glastonbury, a lot of well-heeled weekend hippies go along to the event. The Hare Krishnas have a small camp every year and set up a temple, hold fire sacrifices (appropriately) and even a Chariot Procession. This year the devotees are part of a bigger ‘village’ and are doing most of the catering for around 2,000 people. Its what we do, after all, and people like what we do.

So I’m happy that she’s going to be preaching the message of Krishna through food, chanting and speaking with other festival-goers, but still a bit apprehensive about the white, powdery sands of the desert, the scorpions and poisonous spiders, and, of course, that burning man.

People doing their artistic thing in the Nevada desert

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “A Burning Daughter at The Burning Man

  1. d3

    i will start praying that my daughter stays out of the desert…even if it is for krishna 😉

  2. Burning Man is going to be amazing, wish I could have gone. If anyone else is wondering what Burning Man is like, check out these videos… http://www.redux.com/playlist/burning_man_101

  3. Lynne Langley

    Reading your blog about your daughter and the festival reminded me of a namahatta group that I attended in Grimsby quite a few years ago. My son had just started work as a sound engineer at a London theatre and I mentioned how I worried about him catching late night tubes to get home to his flat. A couple of the devotees who ran the group accused me of being too attached to my family and told me I would never be a devotee if I still thought of my children instead of concentrating only on Krishna. I left the meeting feeling really humiliated and thinking surely loving Krishna didn’t mean no longer being able to love my children. So I have enjoyed reading this blog and knowing that even a senior devotee can worry and have sleepless nights over what his children are doing.

  4. Sorry to hear about that Lynne. I hope that you managed to forgive them. Those devotees, most likely, did not have children themselves, and therefore could not understand what it means to be a parent.

    It is a curious fact that those who are relatively young and inexperienced in the world find it very hard to conceive of how Krishna consciousness does actually flourish in a wide variety of home or career situations. There really are no obstacles. For this reason the Bhagavad-gita was spoken by Lord Krishna to a man who had children – and who also had a very demanding job!

    As soon as you become a parent everything changes. You do worry about your children – you are supposed to: it’s a natural response of every parent. If Krishna had not made it that way children would not be properly cared for and human society would gradually fill up with hopeless and angry adults.

    Each of us has two sets of duties or dharmas, one for the soul and one for our life situation. For the soul our dharma is to become purified devotees of Krishna; for our life situation our dharma is to be a good version of the person we have chosen to be within the world, whether it be a parent, spouse or employee. The only people who do not have these two dharmas are those who have already attained liberation; and even then they often continue in a particular life situation for the sake of setting an example to others.

  5. J

    Just to ease your mind about next year, nothing lives in the Black Rock Desert. You can generally wander about free of scorpion and poisonous spider worries (or I certainly wouldn’t go every year!). Not to say you won’t find a scorpion or spider or some other life every once in a while, but they are exclusively brought in by humans, and rarely survive the entire week. In the 6 years I have been at the festival, I have never encountered a spider, and have found a single, poor emperor scorpion that looked like it was having far less of a good time than I was.

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