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Krsna Culture in Music

Posted: 11 May 2012 06:30 AM PDT

Krsna Culture in Music
By: Jahanva devi
May 10, 2012 — CANADA (SUN)
Reprising a 2006 Sun series on the cultural impact of Krsna Consciousness on the western music scene.

Shortly after Srila Prabhupada’s arrival in the West a most astonishing phenomenon took place in the world of music. In the United States, Europe, South America and elsewhere on the planet, the Holy Name of Krsna manifested in musical offerings by devotees and non-devotees alike.

Without question, the Beatles’ interest in Krsna Consciousness helped to spark this revolution. But it was also the presence of the devotees, who brought Lord Caitanya’s Sankirtana mission to towns and villages on every continent, that caused this Krsna Conscious musical proliferation to occur.
By the early 1970′s, many records had been released that included song titles or lyrics featuring Sri Krsna or the Maha-mantra. These records manifested in all genres of music, from classical to jazz, blues, folk, pop, rock, and psychedelia. There were even releases of Beatnik poetry and comedy that played on the Hare Krsna theme.

Many of those who became followers of Srila Prabhupada in the 1960′s had connections to the counterculture movement. The counterculture comprised not only the hippies, but also the beatniks who preceded them, the yippies, and the anti-war peaceniks. The Krsna Consciousness movement was comprised of elements that were a common denominator amongst all these groups: sharing love and food, chanting, dancing, advocating peace and self-realization, and delving into the mysteries of the ancient eastern arts.

Personalities like Allen Ginsberg and George Harrison kept popping up in the popular media, and their association with Srila Prabhupada’s movement created important visibility for the Hare Krsna explosion. The devotees also gained attention by showing up at counterculture events, peace gatherings, be-in’s, and musical events that showcased personalities who are now famously associated with that era. Even Muhammad Ali shared the spotlight with Srila Prabhupada, at an anti-war peace concert Ali organized.

In retrospect, we find one very important common denominator, seen throughout this unique historical collection of artifacts. That is, that no matter when or where Srila Prabhupada and his Krsna devotees appeared, the mood and message was always the same — it was kirtan, bhajan, harinama sankirtana in the mood of Prabhupada and the Sampradaya Acaryas. No matter what sort of music was going on all around them, the devotees steadfastly preserved Srila Prabhupada’s mood in sharing our Krsna Conscious culture. Srila Prabhupada delivered the transcendental sound vibration of the Hare Krsna Maha-mantra purely and sweetly, and his disciples followed suit.

Collectors of early relics of the Hare Krsna movement can find an endless number of fascinating artifacts from these days. Event programs, concert posters and handbills, news clippings, audio and video recordings and other types of media preserve impressions of the widespread impact Srila Prabhupada’s mission had on the world through the milieu of music.

Over the course of this Sun series, “Krsna Culture in Music”, we will explore a number of these relics and look at the widespread imprint Srila Prabhupada’s movement had – and continues to have — in the field of popular music. We will begin with a few interesting examples of the Hare Krsna crossover into the 1960′s counterculture.

The New York Scene

While the devotees in Boston and Pennsylvania enjoy some precedence, Srila Prabhupada’s presence was first significantly manifest for the general public in New York City, where he arrived shortly after disembarking from the Jaladuta. In his letter to Hanuman Prasad Poddar, written 2-05-70 in Los Angeles, Srila Prabhupada tells some of the history of his arrival in New York:

“I was with them for three weeks in Butler, near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and then I came to New York. I was getting some money by selling my Srimad-Bhagavatam, thus I was maintaining myself in New York. After some time, I rented one apartment at number 100 71st Street West, but after a few months, all my things–typewriter, tape recorder, books–were stolen. Then for some time one of my students gave me shelter at Bowery Street.

I then rented one store-front and an apartment at 26 Second Avenue for $200 per month, but without any source of income. I started my classes and sometimes, on Sundays, I used to chant Hare Krishna Mantra in Tomkins Square Park from three to 5 P.M. During this time, all the young boys and girls used to gather around me, sometimes poet Ginsberg would come to see me, and sometimes a reporter from the New York Times came to see me. In this way, the Hare Krishna Mantra chanting became very popular on the Lower East Side.”

Tompkins Square Park has long been known as being the center for political demonstrations and radical thought in New York City. Over the years, protesters and activists have gathered and marched in Tompkins Square on issues ranging from the Vietnam War to police brutality, immigration, gay & lesbian rights, homelessness, affordable housing, and poverty. provides a walking map of New York which shows that the first Hare Krsna gathering outside of India took place at Tompkins Square Park in 1965, with poet Allen Ginsburg in attendance. On November 18, 2001, Srila Prabhupada’s Disappearance Day, a plaque was placed beside what has come to be known as the Hare Krishna tree, commemorating the spot.

On the musical front, the Grateful Dead also did their first East Coast gig at Tompkins Square Park, in June of 1967, where they played a famous half-hour “Dancing in the Streets” that was reminiscent of street sankirtana. This writer was one of many to be introduced to Krsna Consciousness through the Grateful Dead. I first saw the devotees at a Dead show at Madison Square Garden in 1971, where I happily received the mercy of Krsna prasadam in the form of a Simply Wonderful, along with a copy of “Easy Journey to Other Planets”. All I could say at the time was “far out”. It took many years before I was surrendered enough to join this transcendental party.

Another major ‘coming out’ event the Hare Krsnas appeared at was the 1st International Psychedelic Exposition, held in 1967 at Millbrook Woods, Dutchess County, New York. The catalog describes the exhibition as follows:

“The purposes of the First International Psychedelic Exposition are manifold. On one level we hope to give the general public a glimpse of the psychedelic world and the beautiful creations it has inspired. On another level we hope that open and forthright exposition of psychedelic phenomena by the people it has inspired will facilitate communication between those who are somewhat fearful of the mind expansion experience and those who have had the experience and found a method to present what they found most worthwhile, be it through music, art, visual techniques, or group events.” The catalog also promoted “a common drug available to anyone with $5.00 to spare – lysergic acid diethylamide”.

The list of exhibitors at the 1st International Psychedelic Exposition includes: League of Spiritual Discoverers, Timothy Leary, Louis Abolafia, Trina Williams of the Broccoli, who coordinated a fashion show, The Blue Rock, and the International Society of Krishna Consciousness. The catalog also mentions Yoga and chanting, HUM-M-M-M-M as meditation, Swami A.C. Bhakti Vedanta, Sri Ram Ashrama, Sri Aurobindo, Ahimsa-Non Violence, Blue Dome, Triplopedia by Peter Stafford, Society for Organized Mind Expansion, Artists: Peter Max, Peter Fosso, Robert Selby, Lawrence LeClair, Charles Giuliano, Martin Carey, Brothers Eckstein, Parks and Delsarte, Al Bonk, Bali Ram and David Stoltz, the Meher Baba Workshop, Neo-American Church, the magazines I-Kon and the Realist, along with shops including the “U” store, the Psychedelicatessen head shop, Paranoia, Illuminations, A Fly Can’t Bird But a Bird Can Fly, and The Fourth Dimension.

There’s an interesting listing for ISKCON in the Exposition catalog, which describes the Hare Krsnas as being “one of the best publicized psychedelic groups”.

Following is an excerpt from an unpublished manuscript entitled “The Acid Years” by author Merril Mushroom, describing her experiences at the 1st International Psychedelic Exposition. One can only imagine what New York’s weatlhy country club set thought when they first saw the yellow and saffron-clad Hare Krsnas amidst all the hippies. Merril Mushroom’s narrative about the Expo makes it easy to imagine what it was like for the devotees who attended this event.

“Our van-load of laughing, colorful beaded hippies was an unlikely sight to be seen driving through the gates of the Forest Hills Country Club, but, then, we were arriving for a rather extraordinary happening — an event billed as “The First International Psychedelic Exposition.”

We were going to set up a sort of historical village of hippiedom on the country club premises. There we’d provide an experience for all (and sell souvenirs to) the primarily white, rich, straight American people who were curious about this newest breed of weirdos emerging out of the 1960s. My two cohorts and I had a store in New York City’s East Village. It was called Paranoia, and we sold only handmade craft items which we took on consignment from local artisans. We also served free food and provided free clothing and a place for grounding and networking to neighborhood hippies and street kids.

One afternoon, this dude I’d seen before at IFIF [International Federation for Internal Freedom] meetings and at the Paradox [macrobiotic restaurant] came strolling into the store, checked out the items on the shelves, then moved in on the three of us where we sat behind the counter. “I’ll get right to the point,” he said. JJ held up his hand. “Wait a minute, my friend. Who are you?” “Name’s Dennis,” the dude says. “My partners and I are doing a psychedelic exposition- sort of like a World’s Fair of the hippie culture. Most of the other shops here in the East Village are gonna have exhibits, plus some folks from uptown and the West Side, and we were hoping you guys from Paranoia would join us.” “Only one of us is a guy,” Maria interjected. “We’re thinking like a five-day event,” Dennis continued without batting an eyelash. “We have this place, see, and you all will have, like, so much space in it to set up a replica of your shop. You can do some kind of experience if you want, and you can sell merchandise. Clean merchandise,” he emphasized. “The idea is to make the place look like a hippie village. We draw tourists from Long Island- the hip rich folks who come to the East Village to go slumming and have an adventure- and we give them a little atmosphere, sell our products, and have some fun.”

“Sounds sort of like a gigantic Be-In with an audience,” said JJ. “Where were you planning to have this party?” Dennis smiled smugly. “The Forest Hills Country Club.” “Yikes!” Maria yelped. “Come on,” I said, “this has to be a put-on. That snooty place wouldn’t allow the likes of us anywhere near them.” “Trust me, it’s for real. They want us to do this. They’re curious about us. Hippie is becoming fashionable.” I shook my head. “It’s an awfully long commute from here.” “Hey, then listen to the best part: They want us to create a total environment, so we’ll be allowed to live on the grounds and use the facilities during the whole expo. We can either camp out or sleep in our shop spaces. We’ll have a cooking tent, so we can do our own health food if we want. We can use all the facilities- swimming pool, showers, sauna, gym. Man, it’ll be the Ritz!”

It was the Ritz. Paranoia was assigned a long room with an L-shaped alcove and a door at each end. We set up a little light show at the L and the customers would enter there, then continue through the room where merchandise was displayed, and exit by the cash register at the other door. Enormous crowds of straight people showed up, and every day several of our buddies came out from New York City, dressed in their hippie drag, to help us.

I had never seen so many hippies in one place outside Central Park. We were all over the grounds and buildings, setting up tents and campsites outdoors and inside, utilizing the communal kitchen, and playing together everywhere. Perhaps what amazed me most during that week was how careful we were to keep the place clean, how nothing was trashed or damaged, how all of us were committed to leaving the grounds as we’d found them or even better.

The one matter above any other that we all had on our minds, the unspoken agreement we shared, was that there would be no dealing in substances on those premises. Even conversation about drugs was discouraged, at least with the straight people who were often disposed to ask us drug-related questions. We were all quite clear about the risks to everyone; we understood that there would be agents and law-enforcement officers mingling among us to obtain information, that thrill-seeking tourists would try to lure us into supplying. So the drug portion of our hippie culture was not on display during the days when sightseers swarmed the grounds. But at night, when the country club was closed to the public, we discreetly used what we had brought, hidden in the privacy of our own spaces, with people we knew and trusted.”

Part of the Cultural Fabric

The Hare Krsnas entered the pop culture not only through the hippie/rock backdoor, they also walked in the front door of straight-up America. Numerous Americana compilations like the following have included Krsna Conscious relics.

The presence of the devotees was memorialized on “The New York City Album”, published by Clark Records in the late 1960′s. The album was a collection of quintessential New York sounds including fire trucks, the subway, protestors, garbage collectors, the St. Paddy’s Day parade – and the Hare Krsnas chanting in the Bowery.

A similer compilation was published by Great American Audio, whose 1960′s collection includes audio artifacts from kids ‘finding themselves’ in the Hare Krsnas.

The Hare Krsnas also manifested in the Record Song Book, which was comprised of piano scores for tunes by popular artists. Here, the Radha Krishna Temple kept interesting company with the likes of Mary Hopkins, Bob and Marcia, The Tremeloes, The Four Tops, Stevie Wonder, Blue Mink, Jim Reeves, Val Doonican, and Creedence Clearwater. We’re not sure what song was included in this book, but it was very likely “Govinda” from the Apple label, which was up on the charts at the time, along with the above-mentioned artists.

While Srila Prabhupada exhorted his followers to avoid drugs and take up the brahminical life of a Vaisnava, drugs were a fundamental element of the counterculture. In 1969, the two were blended together in the lyrics of “Hare Krishna/Be-In”, a memorable song from the Broadway musical, “Hair”.


Hare Krishna/Be-In
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rame, Rama Rama Hare Hare
Love love, Love love, Drop out, Drop out, Be in, Be in
Take trips get high, Laugh joke and good bye
Beat drum and old tin pot, I’m high on you know what
Marijuana marijuana, Juana juana mari mari
High high high high, Way way up here, Ionosphere
Beads, flowers, freedom, happiness
Beads, flowers, freedom, happiness

Not surprisingly, rock stars of the day who were exposed to the Vedic culture and to Krsna Consciousness had a tendency to think that they themselves were God-like. After all, they were surrounded by throngs of ardent disciples. Poster art of the day reflects this phenomenon. In the classic posters above, Bob Dylan fancies himself as the Buddha while Jim Morrison poses in a wishful many-armed form.

The Hollywood Festival

On May 23-24, 1970 an extraordinary music festival was held in Madeley, Newcastle under Lyme, Staffordshire, England. This two-day event turned out to be a legendary gathering of some of the biggest names in rock history.

Among the artists featured in the program were the Grateful Dead, who gave their very first UK performance at the Hollywood, Black Sabbath, Free, Family, Ginger Baker’s Airforce, Traffic, Mike Cooper, Quintessence, Mungo Jerry, Screaming Lord Sutch, Jose Feliciano, Colosseum, and the Radha Krishna Temple. The program for this festival has become a high ticket collector’s item. The Hare Krsnas are included on the events bill in the Festival program.

The devotees who attended the Hollywood Festival were from the Radha Krsna temple located at 7 Bury Place, which preceded both Bhaktivedanta Manor and the Soho temple. The devotees were billed under the name “Radha Krishna Temple” at many other music gigs in the UK, as well.
The devotees at Bury Place had built their own temple, which was an interesting architectural structure that’s been described as being like the inside of the hull of a ship. The devotees were making absolute maximum use of every inch of space there. They had built little lofts, and people were sleeping in the corners. It was just packed out, and Srila Prabhupada’s sankirtana parties were in high gear.

The Radha Krishna Temple devotees came out in force for the Hollywood Festival, and had the distinct honour of opening the festivities on stage on Saturday, May 23rd. Following them was the first rock music act, UK’s Screaming Lord Sutch. According to the Festival Archive, the Radha Krishna Temple group came on stage again that afternoon in this line-up:

Lord Sutch And His Heavy Friends, Pete Townshend and Jimmy Page, Radha Krishna Temple, Demon Fuzz, and Family

The Hare Krsnas were not the only spiritual presence at the Festival that weekend. The Methodists also set-up shop, erecting a tent near the stage, from which the minister preached to his share of the 30,000 concert goers. He reported that “Quite a number have talked to me about their personal and philosophic problems.” Of course, the most potent spiritual medicine was distributed to the Hollywood assembly by way of the chanting of the Hare Krsna Maha-mantra. Devotees also distributed Srila Prabhupada’s transcendental books to the crowd. (You can just make out the picture of Srila Prabhupada’s face, wearing his swami-hat with the ear flaps, on whatever literature the devotee below is carrying.)

While little video footage exists of this rare gathering of the tribes, a four minute film was made by Bob Colover, who captured shots of the devotees along with the Dead, Family, and Lord Sutch. Following are still pictures from that video footage.

Various archival collections have been put together on the Hollywood Festival, including oral histories from festival-goer’s. One concert goer remembered the devotees opening the show, saying he recalls “the Radha Krishna Temple doing a large chanting, dancing performance dressed in Indian clothes and swirling incense in front of the stage that created a nice vibe.” Steven Thornton, said: “I vividly remember the [Hells] Angels bashing up the Radha Krishna temple in the early hours of Sunday for making too much noise.”

A vast quantity of information about this festival (although little else about the devotee’s presence there) can be found here.

In Part two of this series, we’ll look at concert posters and handbills that feature the Hare Krsnas at various live music venues, where they shared the stage with some of the world’s most loved bands.

Pasted from: Sampradaya Sun


Posted: 11 May 2012 05:08 AM PDT

Meditation means to engage the mind in thinking of the form of the Lord, of the qualities of the Lord, of the activities of the Lord and of the service of the Lord. Meditation does not mean anything impersonal or void. According to Vedic literature, meditation is always on the form of Viṣṇu.

The Nectar of Devotion 1970 Edition
By His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Chapter 10 “Techniques of Hearing and Memorizing”

In the Nṛsiṁha Purāṇa there is a statement about meditation on the form of the Lord. It is said there: “Meditation focusing on the lotus feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead has been accepted as transcendental and beyond the experience of material pain and pleasure. By such meditation even one who is grossly miscreant can be delivered from the sinful reactions of his life.”

In the Viṣṇu-dharma there is a statement about meditation on the transcendental quality of the Lord. It is said, “Persons who are constantly engaged in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, and who remember the transcendental qualities of the Lord, become free from all reactions to sinful activities, and after being so cleansed they become fit to enter into the kingdom of God.” In other words, no one can enter into the kingdom of God without being freed from all sinful reactions. Sinful reactions can be avoided simply by remembering the form, qualities, pastimes, etc., of the Lord.

In the Padma Purāṇa there is a statement about remembering the activities of the Lord: “A person who is always engaged in meditation on the sweet pastimes and wonderful activities of the Lord surely becomes freed from all material contamination.”

Meditation on Executing Devotional Service

In some of the Purāṇas the evidence is given that if someone is simply meditating on devotional activities, he has achieved the desired result and has seen face to face the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In this connection, there is a story in the Brahma-vaivarta Purāṇa that in the city of Pratiṣṭhānapura in South India there was once a brāhmaṇa who was not very well-to-do, but who was nevertheless satisfied in himself, thinking that because of his past misdeeds, and by the desire of Kṛṣṇa, he did not get sufficient money and opulence. So he was not at all sorry for his poor material position, and he used to live very peacefully. He was very openhearted, and sometimes he went to hear some lectures delivered by great realized souls. At one such meeting, while he was very faithfully hearing about Vaiṣṇava activities, he was informed that these activities can be performed even by meditation. In other words, if a person is unable to actually perform Vaiṣṇava activities physically, he can meditate upon the Vaiṣṇava activities and thereby acquire all of the same results. Because the brāhmaṇa was not very well-to-do financially, he decided that he would simply meditate on grand, royal devotional activities, and he began this business thusly:

Sometimes he would take his bath in the River Godāvarī. After taking his bath he would sit in a secluded place on the bank of the river, and, by practicing the yoga exercises of prāṇāyāma, the usual breathing exercise, he would concentrate his mind. This breathing exercise is meant to mechanically make the mind fixed upon a particular subject. That is the result of the breathing exercise and also of the different sitting postures of yoga. Formerly, even quite ordinary persons used to know how to fix the mind upon the remembrance of the Lord, and so the brāhmaṇa was doing this. When he had fixed the form of the Lord in his mind, he began to imagine in his meditations that he was dressing the Lord very nicely in costly clothing, with ornaments, helmets and other paraphernalia. Then he offered his respectful obeisances by bowing down before the Lord. After finishing the dressing he began to imagine that he was cleaning the temple very nicely. After cleansing the temple, he imagined that he had many water jugs made of gold and silver, and he took all those jugs to the river and filled them with the holy water. Not only did he collect water from Godāvarī, but he collected from the Ganges, Yamunā, Narmadā and Kāverī. Generally a Vaiṣṇava, while worshiping the Lord, collects water from all these rivers by mantra chanting. This brāhmaṇa, instead of chanting some mantra, imagined that he was physically securing water from all these rivers in golden and silver water pots. Then he collected all kinds of worshipful paraphernalia-flowers, fruits, incense and sandalwood pulp. He collected everything to place before the Deity. All these waters, flowers and scented articles were then very nicely offered to the Deities to Their satisfaction. Then he offered ārātrika, and with the regulative principles he finished all these activities in the correct worshiping method.

He would daily execute similar performances as his routine work, and he continued to do so for many, many years. Then one day the brāhmaṇa imagined in his meditations that he had prepared some sweet rice with milk and sugar and offered the preparation to the Deity. However, he was not very satisfied with the offering because the sweet rice had been prepared recently and it was still very hot. (This preparation, sweet rice, should not be taken hot. The cooler the sweet rice, the better its taste.) So because the sweet rice was prepared by the brāhmaṇa very recently, he wanted to touch it so that he could know whether it was fit for eating by the Lord. As soon as he touched the sweet rice pot with his finger, he immediately was burnt by the heat of the pot. In this way, his meditation broke. Now, when he looked at his finger, he saw that it was burnt, and he was wondering in astonishment how this could have happened. Because he was simply meditating on touching the hot sweet rice, he never thought that his finger would actually become burnt.

While he was thinking like this, in Vaikuṇṭha Lord Nārāyaṇa, seated with the goddess of fortune, Lakṣmī, began to smile humorously. On seeing this smiling of the Lord, all the goddesses of fortune who were attending the Lord became very curious and asked Lord Nārāyaṇa why He was smiling. The Lord, however, did not reply to their inquisitiveness, but instead immediately sent for the brāhmaṇa. An airplane sent from Vaikuṇṭha immediately brought the brāhmaṇa into Lord Nārāyaṇa’s presence. When the brāhmaṇa was thus present before the Lord and the goddesses of fortune, the Lord explained the whole story. The brāhmaṇa was then fortunate enough to get an eternal place in Vaikuṇṭha in the association of the Lord and His Lakṣmīs. This shows how the Lord is all-pervading, in spite of His being locally situated in His abode. Although the Lord was present in Vaikuṇṭha, He was present also in the heart of the brāhmaṇa when he was meditating on the worshiping process. Thus, we can understand that things offered by the devotees even in meditation are accepted by the Lord, and they help one achieve the desired result.

Shri Krishna

Amit Teli is the man behind the Chant Hare Krishna Blog.

He likes ISKCON, Pure Vegan Food and Devotes to Almighty Lord Sri Krishna who is his spiritual Master.

In his free time he mostly blogs, prays to the lord and sleeps.


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