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Cover 06/19/2013

Girl in a Coma Singer Nina Díaz' Spiritual Makeover

Photo: All Photos By Daniela Riojas, License: N/A

All Photos By Daniela Riojas

Photo: , License: N/A

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Though not initiated, Díaz does, however, carry her bead bag everywhere, which is the life and soul of a devotee. Inside the bag, there is a rosary of 108 beads, and devotees chant the Hare Krishna mantra on each bead. Initiated devotees chant a minimum of 16 rounds (108 mantras being one round) a day; Nina chants two rounds a day. She attributes chanting on the beads as the reason behind her giving up drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes.

“When I got my japa [meditation] beads I was still smoking, and I just told myself, ‘I don’t want to smoke with my bead bag,’” she said. “It’s like having your child in your arms and smoking in its face. So since then, I haven’t been smoking, and I had been smoking a lot, like a pack a day.”

“I took her to get her japa beads and bag as a gift for her birthday,” said Palacios, who along with other devotees visited Díaz and her family for some time to give them prasadam, or vegetarian food that’s cooked by the devotees, offered to Krishna at an altar, and then distributed. Sometimes self-described as “the kitchen religion,” cooking and distributing food is another key component of Krishna consciousness. Strict devotees won’t eat anything unless cooked and “offered” to Krishna by other devotees, then distributed to temple visitors or friends at their homes. Prasadam is a Sanskrit word meaning “the mercy of God,” as if one was eating the remnants from God’s plate.

“I felt she was ready to start chanting and start focusing on bigger things. She knew it too! When we did kirtan,” said Palacios, mentioning congregational chanting integral to the Hare Krishna experience, “[Díaz had] the biggest smile I’ve seen!”

At first, Díaz took a cautious approach. She had been struggling with drugs and alcohol, and Palacios took her to the temple a couple of times, starting in 2011.

“At first I was like, ‘OK’…” Díaz said. “I was going through a lot of different changes as far as substance and alcohol abuse, which I’m not afraid to admit, so early this year I went back and this time it stuck.”

When she went back, she experienced first-hand another key belief of Hare Krishna: that sound, hearing transcendental vibration, is a powerful purifying tool. Díaz was deeply moved.

“Tears came down because I was ready to give in and [tell God] ‘I’m here,’” she said. “I was rock bottom, in a way. There were a lot of things going on in my life, but at that point I said, ‘I’m ready for you to love me, and I’m ready to love you. I’m ready to accept I’m not in control — you’re in control.’”

It sounds like typical 12-step work, but for Díaz the music, vegetarian food, the incense, and philosophy had a special magic she hadn’t found elsewhere. In addition, the basic tenet of Krishna consciousness (the soul, the real self, is eternal, while the body is temporary) took her back to her pre-GIAC days.

“My real father is a mortician, so I grew up thinking this body is temporary,” said Díaz, who was mostly raised by her mother and stepfather. “He would literally pick us up sometimes and there would be a dead body in a bag [in the car].”

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