How two Co Down sisters left their Methodist church to become Hare Krishnas and live on an island in Fermanagh

Karuna and Sukhada attended Sunday school at their place of worship, while their mother sang in the choir. They tell Stephanie Bell why they turned their back on their Christian beliefs to embrace the Hindu religion, reincarnation, meditation, and chanting

3Sukhada Smith-Repass (left) with her sister Karuna on Inis Rath island in Fermanagh

By Stephanie Bell October 18, 2019

Two sisters from Northern Ireland who left their family and faith to live on an island in Fermanagh with the Hare Krishna community in the 1990s today share the story of their spiritual journey.

Originally from Bangor, sisters Karunesvari Smith-Ryan, known as Karuna and formerly Karen Smith, and her younger sister Sukhada Smith-Repass (formerly Suzann) grew up as active members of the Methodist Church.

The sisters were in their early 20s when they moved to live among the Hare Krishna community on Inis Rath in Lough Erne.

They both now live close to the island where they are active members of the Hare Krishna community.

An ancient Indian religion, the Hare Krishna movement came to the western world in 1966, and its members were best known in Ireland for their street singing and chanting, as well as vegetarian restaurants

Since the 1990s the number of Hare Krishnas living on Inis Rath has dwindled to just 12 devotees, and there are around 200 followers of the faith in Northern Ireland.

The small community is presently fundraising to maintain the temple on their island, which is open for retreats.

Hare Krishna followers worship the Hindu god Krishna as the one ‘Supreme God’.

Followers are vegetarians and spend two hours every day in meditation, chanting the Hare Krishna mantra.

The Smith sisters raised their children in the Hare Krishna community, although they were educated in local schools in Fermanagh.


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