this story to a friend Printer
Part II: San Francisco, 1967
By Hayagriva das
The days of
February are beautiful with perfect temperatures in the seventies, fog
rolling off early, skies very blue and clear, sun falling bright and
sharp on the lush foliage of Golden Gate Park. The park encloses the
largest variety of plant and tree life to be found in any one spot on
earth. We are at a loss to identify plants for Swamiji.
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu passed through the forests, all the plants, trees
and creepers were delighted to see Him and rejoiced in His presence.
Plant life is like that in the spiritual sky—fully conscious.”
trees, Swamiji? How conscious are they?”
soul is there, but consciousness has been arrested temporarily.
Perception is more limited.”
strolls by men playing checkers, passes beneath the tall oaks, past the
shuffleboard court, then stops and turns to speak.
Old people in this country don’t know what to do. So they play like
children, wasting their last precious days, which should be meant for
developing Krishna consciousness. Since their children are grown and
gone away, this is the natural time for spiritual cultivation. But no.
They play games, or get some cat or dog and lavish their affection on
it. Instead of loving and serving God, they love and serve dog. But
love and serve they must.” He shakes his head, and again looks at the
shuffleboard court. The old men shout as they slide the disks toward
the numbered squares. “This is most tragic,” Swamiji says. “But they
don’t want to listen. Their ways are set. Therefore we are speaking to
the youth, who are searching.”
further into the park, we pass through the rhododendron dell, where the
bushes are heavy with clusters of white and pink flowers. We pass a
tennis court, then arrive at the park museum. Swamiji suggests
introducing a Krishna exhibit. Our artists, Jadurani and Haridas, can
be represented. They must paint more pictures.
beautiful park,” he says. “Here in America you have all facilities. All
you lack is Krishna consciousness. If everything here is used in the
service of Krishna, that would make a first-class country.”
the temple, we pass “Hippy Hill,” a favorite spot where young people
sunbathe, chat, sing, make love, and smoke marijuana. The cops have
given up on Hippy Hill. It’s the one place the hippies can go and be
Americans are striving so hard for happiness,” Swamiji says. “But there
is no need to strive. Happiness and distress come and go. Just as
distress comes without our searching, happiness comes also. We don’t
have to search for either. But if we cultivate Krishna consciousness,
our distresses will be mitigated.”
across Golden Gate Bridge to Muir Woods, home of 3,000-year-old
redwoods. Walking down the path under the tall, blue-green canopy,
Swamiji reads the little signs before the largest trees, then looks up
reflectively at the boughs.
are made to stand here for thousands of years because of their
attachment to sex,” he says. “We do not know what kind of body nature
is going to give us next. Perhaps she will put us in a body like this.
Then we will have to stand for so many years in one place.”
He then tells
the story of Nalakuvara and Manigriva, sons of Kuvera, the treasurer of
the demigods. These two brothers, although great demigods, fell prey to
wine and women, and one day, when drunk, entered the Ganges and sported
naked with young girls. While they were thus frolicking, the sage
Narada passed by, but Nalakuvara and Manigriva were too drunk to hide
their nakedness. Desiring their welfare, Narada turned them into trees,
immobilizing them so they could do no further harm. With their full
consciousness intact, the brothers stood long years as twin trees in
Nanda Maharaj’s courtyard, where the child Krishna often played. One
day, because baby Krishna had been a naughty butter thief, His mother
tied him to a large, wooden mortar. When this mortar lodged between the
two trees, baby Krishna, with His superhuman strength, pulled the trees
down. Out of these trees the two demigods, suddenly liberated, arose
with bodies shining like fire, and praised the Lord with prayers and
“Being a tree
is a kind of curse for those overly sinful,” Swamiji says. “But for
Nalakuvara and Manigriva, it was ultimately Narada’s blessing.”
hour’s stroll, we leave Muir woods, returning along a winding seacoast
road. The abrupt curves and dips cause Swamiji to get carsick. When he
complains of dizziness, we have to slow down.
“When I first
came to America on the Scindia boat, I was seasick,” he says. “But on
the plane from New York, I felt only a little popping in the ears. The
plane is better.”
Back at the
temple, Swamiji feels quite sick. Kirtanananda and Ranchor tend him in
his apartment, where he rests until the evening lecture.
material world, we are captured by sex life and put into prison,” he
tells us. “Just today I saw one prison in the bay surrounded by water.
What was that?”
“Yes. So many
arrangements are made there to keep the prisoners entrapped. Now we are
in the prisonhouse of the body. And what is our entrapment? Sex life.
As long as we do not know that our happiness is with Krishna, we will
try to enjoy this material world, and so be bound by sex life.
Actually, we are suffering, but we think we are happy because of sex.
Here we are subject to miseries arising from the mind and body, from
other living entities, and from calamities of nature. These miseries
cannot possibly be avoided. Just like this afternoon, when I was coming
from Muir Woods, I felt uncomfortable due to some bodily pains. This is
going on, and it is always the same: sometimes bodily pains, sometimes
mental anxiety, sometimes national disturbance, or someone else giving
us trouble. Now you are thinking that if you just end the Vietnam war,
you will have peace. But there can never be peace here. This place is
meant for misery, and so misery will come in one form or another. That
is the nature of this material world.
sage Rishabadev said that this material atmosphere is nothing but sex
attachment. That’s all. You will find this attraction not only in human
society but in animal society, bird society, insect society, every
society. And if you go to the upper planets, to the abodes of the
demigods, you will also find sex attraction. Even Indra, the king of
the demigods, was very sexually inclined. And Lord Brahma, the highest
living entity, had a beautiful daughter to whom he was attracted. And
when Krishna, playing tricks, appeared as a very beautiful girl before
Lord Shiva, Shiva became mad with lust. So when Lord Brahma and Lord
Shiva become mad, what is our position? We are cats and dogs in
sit quietly, eyes opened wide, surprised not to hear Swamiji advocating
sex, drugs, rock and roll, and passivism. They are used to so-called gurus
from India telling them, “Enjoy! Enjoy!”
is not some pet, some fad,” Swamiji says. “He is not a conversation
piece. No. One must find the bona fide spiritual master and surrender
to him. That is the injunction of Bhagavad-gita. Guru
must be followed.”
“Are you an
authority on self-realization?” someone asks.
Swamiji says. “Of course, I do not know whether I am an authority, but
my spiritual master has authorized me to do this. I ... I...” Swamiji
hesitates a moment, seeming almost embarrassed. “I don’t think myself
an authority. I am just trying to serve the order of my spiritual
master. That’s all. But being an authority is not very difficult.
Simply, if you try to understand Bhagavad-gita as Arjuna
understood it, you will become self-realized. It is not a very
difficult job. Unfortunately, people apply their own scholastic ideas
in different ways, and so murder the whole process.”
radical hippies and Vietnam war resisters want more than peace in
Vietnam. They want a recognition of the “solidarity of man,” the
institution of a new world state conceived in planetary instead of
accuses the hippies of placing man before other
planetary inhabitants, other citizens.
“You talk of
peace while eating meat,” he says. “You speak of peace while
slaughtering your mother cow. And you are surprised when there are
means more than talking of universal brotherhood while eating an
animal. There will never be universal brotherhood until we recognize a
universal Father and all living entities as His sons. That is the real
basis for solidarity.”
Once the mantra
rock dance honeymoon is over, Swamiji escalates his attacks against
sense gratification, insisting in every lecture that spiritual progress
is incompatible with drugs, laziness, and illicit sex.
not tell Arjuna, ‘I will fight. You just sit on the chariot and smoke ganja.’
No. Although Krishna is God and can easily kill everyone on the
battlefield, still He wants His devotee to act on His behalf ‘Just be
My instrument,’ He tells Arjuna. ‘And fight with detachment.’ Fighting
is Arjuna’s duty as a kshatriya. By fulfilling his duty, he
does not incur sin.”
the draft?” someone asks.
are being trained as brahmins,” Swamiji says. “They should not
be forced to act as kshatriyas, or warriors. Besides, a kshatriya
fights on religious principles. Now, people are just dogs fighting over
bones. That’s all.”
takes place on a battlefield, and Krishna tells Arjuna to fight.”
done for Krishna becomes immediately spiritual,” Swamiji explains.
“Arjuna’s duty as a kshatriya is to fight. If he fights for
Krishna, following Krishna’s instructions, then his fighting is
spiritual. It is his salvation.”
people walk out in protest, a few show more than a passing interest.
When the hippies become more serious, Swamiji discourages listening to
mundane music and encourages shaving off hair and beards and exchanging
bellbottom dungarees for robes.
people see you, they are reminded of Krishna. That is the meaning of sadhu—one
who reminds others of Krishna.”
Swamiji is not insisting on robes and shaved heads. These are mentioned
in passing. A few choose to shave and wear robes; most do not. No one
service you can render to Krishna—that is accepted.
more initiations: Gurudas and Janaki’s sister Joan, who takes the name
Yamuna-dasi, Subal and his wife Krishna-dasi, Goursundar and his wife
Govinda-dasi, Haladar-dasi, Ramanuga, Uddhava, Upendra. They all help
Haridas and Harsharani manage the temple. Shyamsundar and Mukunda are
always planning some Big Event to surpass the mantra rock
dance. Rabindra-svarupa loafs around and dabbles in the Ouspensky cults.
I rent an
electric typewriter, set it up in the back temple room, and continue
typing up stencils for Back To Godhead, writing and
editing while Harsharani sends people after food, and cooks noon prasadam.
We take a
poll and discover that all thirty of our full-time members are
unemployed. When Swamiji suggests that we get jobs, there is some
shuffling. Some members hawk The Oracle and other
psychedelic newspapers to the tourists on Haight.
feel, the Radha Krishna Temple will survive the whoop and holler, the
ephemeral glitter of psychedelia.
February, Kirtanananda returns to New York with instructions from
Swamiji to go to Montreal and open the third ISKCON center.
Janardan is there,” Swamiji tells him. “You can join with him and form
a temple. He speaks French and can translate nicely, and you can guide
the temple. It is not difficult. Just follow the program that we have
here, and when you have a place ready, I will come.”
When we see
Kirtanananda off at the airport, we wish him good luck opening the
first center outside the United States. “Maybe we’ll become an
international society after all,” I tell him. We speak of centers
multiplying all over the world, like chain letters.
and his wife Govinda-dasi, from Texas, are new devotees who have never
been hippies. Every morning at six-thirty, they knock on the temple
door to awake me. I tie on my dhoti and run to let them in.
Sometimes there are two or three visitors waiting with them, hippies
who have stayed up all night and are just coming down from LSD and
following Ginsberg’s advice to “stabilize their consciousness on
“stabilization” occurs at two in the morning, when I’m awakened by
pounding and screaming and police lights. As I open the door, a young
man with red hair and beard plunges in, crying, “O Krishna! Krishna! O
help me! O don’t let them get me! O for God’s sake, help!”
A cop sticks
his head in. “We brought him by here,” he smiles, “thinking maybe you
can help him.”
comfortable in this body!” the boy screams.
leave, and the boy starts chanting furiously. He turns white and sweats
profusely. Sheer terror. I spend the rest of the early morning chanting
with him until Goursundar and Govinda-dasi knock.
stabilization becomes an ISKCON community service.
when Swamiji arrives in the early morning, Goursundar, Govinda-dasi,
and I are the only ones in the temple.
the others?” Swamiji asks.
embarrassing to try to answer. Haridas, Shyamasundar, and Malati live
but a fifteen minute walk away. Mukunda and Janaki live just upstairs.
Gurudas and Yamuna are ten minutes away. Where are they?
sleeping is not good,” Swamiji says. “It is in the lowest mode, the
mode of ignorance. Life is meant for learning about Krishna
consciousness, but most of our time is wasted—the first eighteen years
in childishness, the last ten or fifteen in old age. So what does that
leave us? Some thirty good years at the most. And if half of that is
spent in sleep, what do we have?”
morning attendance picks up.
only person living in the temple proper, and one of the senior devotees
besides, I’m naturally looked to as the temple commander, a role I
often find myself regretting. Apart from re-entry cases, there are the
little black boys hanging around the back of the temple, waiting for a
hippy girl to go into a trance so they can snatch her purse. Chasing
the boys away is as futile as trying to keep flies from dung. Finally,
I have to caution the women to guard their purses.
here to have their consciousness raised,” Haridas protests. “You can’t
be telling them that.”
of course. I have to stand guard at the door. The Negroes blow smoke
Hell’s Angels occasionally enter like storm troopers, demanding ham
sandwiches and beer, threatening to kill me when I ask them to take off
brighter side, I’m in charge of organizing the daily sankirtan
party. After noon prasadam, we walk down Haight Street chanting
Hare Krishna, pounding drums, and ringing cymbals. By the time we reach
the Print Mint—only two blocks from the park—a dozen hippies are
following us, strumming guitars and shaking tambourines. Sometimes I
play an old trumpet, and sometimes a horn made from the kelp I’d found
on the beach. The kelp horn is my favorite, its be-dooo be-doooo
resounding for blocks.
No one on
Haight Street is over thirty. The hippies have hardly had time to
degenerate. Fresh from LSD visions, they follow us with springy gaits,
smiles, shining eyes—all somehow mythic, romantic, naive.
The record we
made in December, called “Krishna Consciousness,” is finally released,
and the Psychedelic Shop often plays it. We stop by their meditation
room and chant while the shop fills up. Then we circle back to Golden
Gate Park, past the little pond at the entrance, and onward to a big
field where boys play baseball and throw frisbees. We set up flags and
a rented kettledrum, and the people on Hippy Hill join with flutes and
bongos. After the kirtans, many return to the temple. And some
eventually become initiated devotees.
Apart from kirtans,
I find myself spending many sunny hours in the park, walking past the
tennis courts to large, quiet bowers surrounded with hybiscus and
eucalyptus. And at times I sit in the shade beneath the white and pink
rhododendrons and edit Bhagavad-gita. After editing, I
sometimes visit the museum and stroll through the replica eighteenth
century gardens, chanting my daily rounds while perusing the curlicues
of rococo art.
avoid the Japanese Gardens. They are glutted with out-of-state tourists
who look on us as drug-crazed hippies. Defending middle-class America,
the cops try to keep the hippies out of the area.
Rabindra-svarup, Haladar, Subal and Krishna-dasi insist on going there.
I join, and am soon shocked to see Rabindra-svarup suddenly fall on his
knees and offer obeisances to a bronze statue of the Buddha.
excited cop I’ve ever seen runs up, flailing his club. “What do you
think you’re doing?” he shouts. “Come on! All of you get outta here!”
man was trying to worship a statue,” a little boy says. “But the
policeman got him.”
seems to enjoy all the attention, as if it’s a chance to preach.
it’s against the law to worship Lord Buddha?” he asks.
glowers and checks identifications. His face is fiery red. The people
about us are also smoldering.
“The mind is
on fire,” I recall the Buddha saying. “Ideas are on fire. Mind
consciousness is on fire. Impressions received by the mind are on fire
spiritual master says that Buddha is an incarnation,” Rabindra-svarup
continues, intent on being martyred, “and is to be paid all respects.”
swallows his anger and finally escorts us out.
Americans are always setting Lord Buddha out on the lawn,” Swamiji
comments when I mention the incident. “But you shouldn’t put your
superiors where birds can drop stool on them.
We drive down to Palo Alto for an engagement in the student lounge of
Stanford University. Swamiji sits on one of the lounge’s coffee tables
and starts leading the kirtan, chanting into a microphone. At
first, only twenty students are present, but as we chant and dance,
something miraculous happens. The chanting and dancing sweep across the
room. Students who have never heard the
mantra before are jumping up and down, shouting the words with
abandon. Again, Swamiji weaves magic. He chants for an hour before
bringing the clamorous kirtan to an end.
he explains the words of the mantra and the basic philosophy of
nonidentification with the material body.
“If you want
real happiness, you must abandon the illusion that ‘I am this body,”‘
he tells the students. “This Hare Krishna dance is the best process for
getting out of this illusion. You did not understand the words, but you
still felt the ecstasy of dancing. Language is not necessary. The sound
itself will excite the spirit. If you practise this, your life will be
perfect. It is not expensive, and you don’t have to undergo hardships
and exercises. You don’t have to put your head down between your knees.”
we do this dance?” one student asks.
good for you,” Swamiji says.
“Why is it
good for me?” the student persists.
dancing, and you’ll find out.”
some questions about the philosophy. Then someone asks whether or not
students should respond to the Vietnam draft. I brace myself.
country orders you, there’s no harm in going,” Swamiji says matter of
Icy stillness. Both students and faculty look at one another.
“How is there
no harm in killing people?” a bearded professor asks warily.
“There is a
difference between killing in war and murder,” Swamiji says. “If a
soldier kills in war, following the order of a superior, he is
decorated. If he kills on his own account, he is hanged. So there is a
difference. On the Battlefield of Kurukshetra, Arjuna was following
Krishna’s orders to kill; therefore he did not incur sin.”
“No! No!” the
students begin to shout. Some walk out. Swamiji looks calmly at his
suddenly irate audience.
transcendental platform, nothing is wrong, nothing is right,” he says.
“When you do what your government orders, then how can you be
responsible? You’re simply following orders given by your superior.
Your superior is responsible. You’re responsible only in so far as you
elect that superior. When you had monarchy, you had to do what one
person told you. But now you have abolished monarchy and have
instituted democracy, a government of the people, and now you elect
your own officials. So now that you are making your own government, why
do you complain when that government tells you to go to war?”
becomes more heated. Students begin to raise their voices in anger.
someone shouts. “Fascist!”
degenerates as everyone shouts his opinion at once. Swamiji picks up
his cymbals to start another kirtan, and we begin chanting. The
students and faculty look bewildered. No one takes up the chanting. A
few stay and argue, but most leave.
morning, we read Swamiji the front page account in the Palo Alto
TRANCE DANCE FEATURES SWAMI’S VISIT TO STANFORD
There’s a new dance about to sweep the country called the Swami.
It’s going to replace the frug, watusi, swim and even the good old barn
stomp. Why? Because you can do any old step to it and at the same time
find real happiness. You can rid yourself of the illusion that you and
your body are inseparable.
goes on to describe the kirtan:
the night was over, the audience of 250 was stomping, swinging and
chanting to the beat of Indian instruments and the words of the holy
Sanskrit Vedas, Hare Krishna, Hare Rama. They chanted
this without interruption for seventy minutes.
I’ve never seen
Swamiji more pleased with a news article. Fortunately, there is only
brief mention of the war issue.
he says. “You can make copies of this. What are they calling that
dance? The Swami?” He laughs. “Yes. Now we must make more engagements
at universities. This is our first, and now I’m thinking that there is
beneath the newspaper photograph of students dancing at the Palo Alto kirtan,
Swamiji types: “Everyone joins in complete ecstasy when Swami
Bhaktivedanta chants his hypnotic Hare Krishna.”
early March, unannounced and unexpected, Lord Jagannatha, the Supreme
Lord of the universe, graces us with His presence, transforming San
Francisco into New Jagannatha Puri.
is most extraordinary. A longhaired, barefoot young man enters one
morning with a curious wooden carving tied to a string around his neck.
Only two inches high, the artifact cost the boy seventy-five cents at a
local import warehouse.
viewpoint of Indian art, the carving is an anomaly, more in an African
or American Indian primitivistic style. The long, semicircular head is
flat, and the arms are but tiny sticks jutting out from the sides. The
torso is a legless rectangle, and the eyes are big black disks. Two
dots serve for a nose, and the mouth is a curved line drawn upward in a
smile. We guess that the carving has something to do with Vaishnavism
by the white tilak markings on the face.
“There are a
lot of them in stock,” the boy tells me. “You can have this one, if you
the tilak marking, I take the carving to Swamiji.
this, Swamiji?” I ask, setting it before him on his footlocker.
eyes widen in surprise, and he smiles. “Oh, that is Lord Jagannatha,”
he says. “That is Krishna.”
look hard at the carving, trying to catch some remote resemblance to
other depictions of the Lord. I see none, but it somehow seems
appropriate for the Lord of the universe to look out on His creation
with such a blissful, superhuman smile.
“This is Lord
Krishna as He is worshipped in the great temple of Jagannatha Puri,
Orissa,” Swamiji explains. “There, He resides with His sister Subhadra
and brother Balarama.”
relates the history: One King Indradyumna of Puri had commissioned
Visvakarma, the master sculptor who worked for the demigods, to carve
him statues of Lord Krishna, His brother Balarama, and sister Subhadra.
Visvakarma agreed on one condition: that he would be allowed to
complete his work in seclusion. No one was to look at the Deities
before They were completed; if They were seen before completion, he
would quit work altogether. When the King agreed, the sculptor began
his work behind closed doors. At the end of a month or so, the King
became impatient and asked Visvakarma when he would be finished. “A
little longer, Visvakarma told him. Months passed, and again the King
received the same reply. A year passed, and the same reply. Finally,
after waiting for such a long time, the King’s patience ended, and he
burst into the sculptor’s room. Visvakarma, who was an incarnation of
God, immediately vanished, leaving three incompleted statues in the
center of the room. Although unfinished, the statues were so esteemed
by the King that he had Them placed in the temple and worshipped
carved in wood?” I ask.
every year the Lord leaves the temple for the beach, and in Jagannatha
Puri there is a great procession. People come from all over India to
see the Lord travelling to the beach in His car.
“A kind of
car. Great carts. It is a yearly procession that thousands and
thousands come to see. When Lord Chaitanya first walked into the temple
and saw Lord Jagannatha, He said, ‘O, here is Krishna!’ and fell down
in a trance of ecstacy, and did not come out for days.”
“Can we have
Lord Jagannatha here?” I ask.
“Oh yes! We
must! We must welcome Him. After all, He has come of His own accord. We
did not have to search Him out. This is most auspicious. It is
Krishna’s will that we have Lord Jagannatha in San Francisco.”
notes that this is most appropriate because of Lord Jagarmatha’s
special benefits: His compassion extends even to those addicted to bar
and brothel, and His worship does not entail all the elaborate
strictures of Radha-Krishna Deity worship, a worship, he says, that he
will one day teach us when we are more advanced. But for now, Lord
Jagannatha is the perfect Deity form for Kali-yuga America, and
especially hedonist California.
the two-inch carving is too small to serve as anything but a model;
therefore Swamiji asks Shyamasundar, a very competent sculptor, to
carve a much larger Jagannatha. Hoping to find a better model,
Shyamasundar and I search through the stock of the import house and are
delighted to discover a more detailed sixteen-inch Jagannatha. We also
find two similar Deities. We rush them to Swamiji.
Subhadra, Krishna’s sister,” Swamiji explains, “and that is Balarama,
Krishna’s brother. So, Shyamasundar, you can carve all three and make a
special altar in the temple. Then I will install Them.”
buys three wooden blocks, each three feet high, and begins carving on
the roof of his Haight Street apartment. I stop by daily to watch the
progress. His work goes remarkably fast. In a very short time, by
mid-March, the Deities are ready and brought to the temple. Above
Swamiji’s dais, Shyamasundar constructs a plain redwood altar. At
night, we raid Golden Gate Park and return with boxes of flowers for
Jagannatha Deities are beautiful indeed, and amazingly accurate
reproductions. Swamiji is pleased.
given you the intelligence,” he tells Shyamasundar. “You have done it
so nicely.” At the installation, Swamiji performs a new ceremony in
which he offers incense, fire, water, cloth, and flowers to Lord
Jagannatha, circulating these items while ringing a small bell.
called aratik,” Swamiji explains, passing the candle around.
Following his example, we briefly feel the flame’s heat with our hands,
and then touch our hands to our foreheads. “In this ceremony, we take
the heat of the flame. This is the advent of Jagannatha Swami, and now
the temple is ready for this worshipping process. Krishna is a person,
and we have to make friendship with Him. Just like we have to make
connections if we want to see someone very great, we have to introduce
ourselves in a friendly way, a loving manner, to Krishna. If we want to
transfer ourselves to that supreme planet, Krishna-loka, then we have
to prepare ourselves to love Krishna. Love of God. We must be
intimately in touch with God by love. We cannot claim any favor from
the Supreme unless we are in love with Him. There are six loving
reciprocations by which we can understand that we love someone. First,
you must give something to one you love. And then you must accept
something from him. Then you must give him something to eat, and accept
what he gives you to eat. Then you must disclose your mind to him, and
then listen to what he has to say. According to
Shastra, these are the six loving exchanges between Krishna and His
“So I request
you devotees, when you come to the temple, to bring one fruit and one
flower to offer Lord Jagannatha. It need not be costly. Whatever you
can afford. Now, distribute prasadam.“
Malati and Janaki hand out paper plates. It is a candlelight feast, and
Swamiji insists that we give
prasadam to spectators on the sidewalk.
preparations,” he says. “All glories to the cookers!”
Jagannatha Himself is an instant success. In the morning, devotees run
out to buy the two-inch version to make into a necklace. Soon Lord
Jagannatha is dangling about everyone’s neck. The problem, however, is
attaching the string. A small eye-screw in the top of the head is soon
“You must not
put holes in the Lord’s head,” Swamiji tells us.
resort to glue.
teaches us a new mantra especially for Lord Jagannatha,
chanting it to a beautiful melody:
Jagannatha swamin nayana patha gami bhavatume. Translation:
“Lord of the universe, kindly be visible unto me.”
Late at night, when the temple is empty, I sit happily before Lord
Jagannatha chanting this mantra.
The next day,
thinking that everyone would like to see Lord Jagannatha, we carry Him
to Golden Gate Park for a kirtan. The hippies love Him. Within
minutes, just below the shadow of Hippy Hill, hundreds are dancing
about Him and chanting. Jagannatha’s large, round eyes stare out at the
bizarre American spectacle. His smile seems even more amused. Seeing
the large crowd He has attracted, I run back to get Swamiji.
Lord Jagannatha to the park,” I say, “and everyone’s chanting.”
Swamiji hurries with me to the park. When he sees Lord
Jagannatha on the grass, surrounded by hippies dancing, he offers
obeisances, touching his forehead to the ground. Seeing this, we also
offer obeisances. Then Swamiji sits on the grass beside Lord Jagannatha
and starts chanting with us. More people come. Shyamasundar and Mukunda
rush back to the temple and return with an amplifier and speakers,
kettledrum, our array of colorful flags on poles, and a cushion for
Swamiji to sit on. Leading the chant, Swamiji strikes his cymbals
loudly and sings into a microphone: “Hare Krishna! Hare Krishna!
Krishna! Krishna!” Dancing around Swamiji and Lord Jagannatha, we chant
into the late afternoon.
Back at the
temple, Swamiji tells us that Lord Jagannatha is arca-vigraha,
the Lord manifest in the material world for our worship, and therefore
should not be treated like an ordinary statue made of wood. His
chastisement is mild but final.
should never leave the temple,” he says. “The Deities don’t go out to
see the people except on special occasions. If you want to see the
Deities, then you have to visit Them.”
Jagannatha’s presence quickly beautifies the little Frederick Street
temple. Garlands are made for Him daily, and also for Subhadra and
Balarama. Vishnu paintings by Jadurani arrive from New York, and
Govinda-dasi paints a large portrait of Swamiji, which we hang beside
the dais. We also hang up Krishna prints distributed by India’s
Brijbasi Company and sold at Haight Street psychedelic shops.
consider the Brijbasi popular religious art somewhat garish, but
Swamiji tells us that the technique doesn’t matter. What is important
is that the pictures are of Krishna and consistent with scriptural
descriptions. Although they may be imperfectly drawn, they are
beautiful for the devotee because they remind him of Krishna.
One print, a
special favorite called Murli Manohar, depicts Krishna as a dark
cowherd boy, holding His flute to His lips, standing in his famous tribunga
posture, one leg crossed in front of the other. In the background, the
River Jamuna flows in the moonlight, and peacocks sport along the river
sees this picture, he smiles and quotes a Sanskrit verse:
vamsi-nyastadhara-kisalayam ujjvalam candrakena
govinddakhyam hari-tanum itah kesi-tirthopakanthe
ma preksisthas tava yadi sakhe bandhu-sange ’sti rangah
dear friend, if you still have an inclination to enjoy material life
with society, friendship and love, then please do not see the boy named
Govinda, who is standing in a three-curved way, smiling and skillfully
playing on His flute, His lips brightened by the full moonlight.”
theologian may call this a super-romantic conception, Krishna certainly
appeals to California youth. His boyish sports contrast sharply with
the asceticism of Buddha and sufferings of Christ. While Christ
suffers, and Buddha fasts and meditates, Krishna dances with a hundred
and eight cowherd girls in the Vrindaban forests. For many in the
Haight-Ashbury, Lord Krishna—with His adolescent good looks, long hair,
peacock feathers, garlands, bare feet, rings and beads, flute, girl
friends and companions—is none other than the Ultimate Hippy.
End of Chapter 8