newly discovered entries of In2-DeepFreeze       First Generation Animations

Sridhama Mayapur, West Bengal
5 March 2003

Since the end of the GBC meetings (March 1) I've been giving a class at my Tarunpur bhajan kutir between 4 and 5 in the afternoon. Yesterday I spoke about Lord Nityananda's mercy, and my memories of His Holiness Tamal Krishna Maharaja.

Unfortunately today I feel ill. It was moonless last night, very cool, with a chilly breeze that kept blowing through the chettai (woven bamboo walls) of my house. I did not have sufficient blankets. This morning I awoke from bad dreams feeling sick in my bones and in my stomach. I believe I will cancel today's class.

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I hoped to publish in In2-MeC a photograph of the school that my good friend, HH Bhaktividya Purna Maharaja, is constructing in Mayapur. I asked Madhu Puri to take a picture of it but as he has been busy I don't know if he got the chance. Anyway, the project looks impressive. He is building it on a mound of raised earth to lift it above the flood level. (Every few years, Mother Ganga floods the Mayapur project, sometimes with waters nine or ten feet high). Maharaja is bricking the sloping sides of the earth mound; so from a distance the construction looks like an ancient fortress.
The basic work should be finished in a year--that's when Maharaja and his team are planning to move into the new school. I will play a part in the project, though my exact involvement is at present not defined in detail. I did, a few days back, sit with Maharaja and Sri Prahlada to guide them in planning out a history class. Sri Prahlada, who tours with HH Indradyumna Maharaja about six months out of the year, is the principal of school.

Bhaktividya Purna Maharaja's school is on the eastern side of the ISKCON Mayapur land (i.e. it is several hundred meters further from the Ganges than the main complex of Mayapur Chandrodaya Mandira buildings); my Tarunpura asrama is even further down the same more or less straight path that begins at Srila Prabhupada's samadhi and carries on eastward behind Sri Sri Radha-Madhava's temple into the fields and then across the paved Tarunpur road. Leaving Maharaja's school and stepping onto that path, you would turn left and walk another five to seven minutes to reach my place.

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I say "my place" because from the Vastu point of view, the land on which the kutir is built is actually separate from Murari Gupta Prabhu's property. He is the legal owner of all the land, but since Vastu says it is not auspicious for that front piece on which I live to be connected to the piece on which he and his family lives, the two plots have been separated by a line of brickwork that is buried beneath the topsoil. This separation was done within the last few months. So in the Vastu sense, the property on which the bhajan kutir stands belongs to me. Interestingly enough, this fulfills an astrological prophecy from a couple of years ago that in the year 2003 I will acquire land.

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Now that I am free from GBC responsibility, I am dedicating myself to deep study of Vaishava sastra. I want to learn 900 new verses within the next 2 years, and preach to devotees about their internal life in Krishna Consciousness. The latter seems to be greatly needed. I received a letter a couple of days ago in which I was informed that in a very successful ISKCON farm project in Europe, only 10 percent of the large number of devotees who live there are satisfied to commit themselves to remaining there. The other 90 percent, despite all the advantages of living within that nicely developed ISKCON community, want to move out and live on their own, even if it means working in the karmi world. I suppose that most of these devotees will continue to serve Krishna at some level or other. But are they missing something from their internal spiritual development that prompts them to work out their own independent existence? This is a question I shall try to delve into deeply, so that hopefully I can give a seminar on it at some point in the near future.

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A GBC Deputy from Russia spoke with me a week ago or so. (You, dear reader, may not be informed that ISKCON's top management consists of two parliamentary houses, the upper one being the traditional Governing Body Commission or GBC, and the lower one being the GBC Deputies who are local leaders--like temple presidents--from various countries.) Anyway, this Russian devotee told me he finds In2-MeC most interesting. He mentioned he liked the explanations I gave about "beatniks and hippies."

Well. One point is, I never used the word "beatnik." The Beats did not like that word. Here's the history. On 4 October 1957--one day after Allen Ginsberg's poem Howl was cleared of obscenity charges in a San Francisco court, and one month after the publication of Jack Kerouac's On the Road--the Russians launched Sputnik One into orbit. As I pointed out in an earlier entry in this journal, Sputnik was a great shock to American self-complacency. A week or two later, a newspaper columnist named Herb Caen wrote about the mad young bohemians who could be seen hanging around in coffee shops on San Francisco's North Beach. Herb Caen declared these Beats to be as "far out" as the Sputnik, hence they were "beatniks." The word immediately caught on in the American press. Suddenly any young male who wore a beard or goatee, and any young woman who kept her hair long (at least down to the middle of her back) and natural (not artificially styled by some beauty salon), and whomever--male or female--affected casual dress, especially black turtleneck sweaters and blue jeans, and who enjoyed the honks and bleats of modern jazz, the word-mash of modern poetry, the color-blotches of modern art, and who mumbled an argot of terms like "cool," "man," "wow," "far out," "dig it," was now labelled by the media as a beatnik.

The founder-acaryas of the Beat movement were suitably dismayed. Allen Ginsberg protested in The New York Times that beatnik was "a foul word." Very ironical, since he himself had been taken to court for publishing foul words (of the more traditional Anglo-Saxon type) in his poetry.

Now that I'm on the subject of the Beats again, and now that I am in Mayapur where I keep my very eclectic library of books I have gathered over many years, I'll remind you, o dear reader, of an entry in this journal I made in January in which I referred to the autobiography of Leroi Jones. He was an influential Beat poet and jazz critic who, after the assassination of Malcolm X, became a controversial figure in radical black politics. As an affirmation of his African roots, Leroi Jones converted to Islam and changed his name to Amiri Baraka.

He was one of my great heros when I was a teenager. Now he is an elderly professor in some university somewhere; or maybe he is retired, because at this date he is about seventy years old. But even after so many years, Leroi Jones remains a smoking pistol. In the aftermath of the worldshaking events of September 11, 2001, when Muslim terrorists crashed two hijacked aircraft into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, he published an impassioned poem excoriating the American government for its sins against the oppressed people of the world. ("Who killed the Rosenbergs? Who? Who? Who?") This man has not mellowed with age!

Anyway, the reason I am bringing up Leroi Jones is, as I mentioned in an earlier entry in this journal, he criticized the bohemian lifestyle of the Beats as being ultimately nothing more than sense gratification. That's significant, since he used to be one of the big guns of the Beat movement. I wasn't able to give you the exact quotation because I did not have his autobiography before me. But now I do. I keep it in my Mayapur collection.

On page 177, as he traces out his conversion in the 1960s from Beat-ism to black nationalism, Leroi remembers:

I also wrote a piece for Kulchur called "Milneberg Joys, or Against Hipness as Such," taking on members of our various circles, the hippies (old usage) of the period who thought merely initialing ideas which had currency in the circles, talking the prevailing talk, or walking the prevailing walk, that that was all there was to it. I was also reaching and searching, life had to be more than a mere camadarie of smugness and elitist hedonism.

He states here that he criticized "the hippies (old usage)." Leroi means the jazz era hippies. The era of American jazz music began in New Orleans in the late 1800s. The long-haired rock music freaks of the 1960s, whom Srila Prabhupada once said were "our best customers," were the embodiments of a new usage of the word hippie.

American jazz-slang words like "hippie," "hipster," and "hepcat," go back to the Wolof language which is still spoken in West Africa. It was the language of the first slaves shipped to Virginia in the early 1600s. In Wolof, a hipikat is a sage or intelligent fellow, someone who is alert as to what is really going on. Another Wolof expression is bugal, to annoy. Thus speakers of jazz-slang warn others, "Don't bug me, man!" Deg or dega  means to understand or appreciate; thus speakers of jazz-slang ask one another, "You dig me?"

So dig this. The word "hippie" was not invented in the 1960s. Its roots go back 400 years.

There is a rather odd little movie made in 1950 of the title DOA. This stands for Dead On Arrival, which is American police jargon for an injured or sick person who dies en route while being transported by ambulance to the emergency ward of a hospital. Hence the victim is written into the police report as DOA, dead when the ambulance arrives. So anyway, in this old black-and-white movie starring Edmund O'Brian, there is a scene shot inside of a jazz club on Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. We see a bebop combo--saxophone, piano, upright bass, drums, played by black musicians in baggy suits--wailing away on stage. The audience is all white people. At one table a quite ordinary-looking young guy turns to a girl and says, "Man, am I hip!" She laughs and replies, "You are nowhere, nowhere!" (Translation: he's telling her that the frenetic sounds of the jazz band are lifting him up to some higher state of awareness; she's telling him that no matter what he thinks the music is doing for him, he's still just a jerk.) We also see a scruffy-looking bearded character wearing an odd hat who shouts ecstatically at the saxophonist, "Blow! Blow!" (Translation: he is encouraging the player to get the most out of his instrument.)

These were the hippies (old usage) of the jazz era. Leroi's characterization of their culture as "a mere camaderie of smugness and elitist hedonism" is brilliant. Later, on pages 316-317, he writes about the artistic intellectualism of the bohemians of New York's Greenwich Village, which was the birthplace of the Beat movement.

Art. It pushed around me...It fought. It ran. It shivered. It screamed. That was art. I could feel myself touching it to understand...just sweet simple beautiful art. I came to New York then [in the 1950s] in search of it. I thought it had something to do with intellectuals, intellectualism, white people, "classical" music, the smell of coffee downtown late fall. ...There are several hundred explanations and rationales for not dealing with reality such artists, intellectuals, poseurs have...Certainly when I was downtown the "mass line" was hedonism.

Deeply influenced by Leroi's insightful critique, which exposed hedonism (the doctrine that the ultimate ethical good is whatever pleases the senses) to be at the heart of the meandering rhetoric of the Beat intellectuals and the posturing of hippies old and new, I started looking for a spiritual alternative in the late 1960s. And at last I found what I was looking for at Srila Prabhupada's lotus feet in 1971.

I remain grateful to Leroi Jones/Amiri Baraka for publishing his own soul-searching while I was growing up. Reading his writings as a teenager dislodged me from my own smugness and elitist hedonism. Of course, though he turned his back on bohemianism, Leroi embraced leftist politics and academia, which is just another trap of maya.

Too bad. On page 119 of his autobiography, Leroi mentions his visits in the 1950s to Orientalia, a bookshop that used to be located around 12th Street in the Village. This shop specialized in the religion and philosophy of Asia; it due to his readings of books purchased here that Leroi became very interested in Buddhism.

In the Prabhupada Memories video series, Pradyumna Prabhu recalls the same Orientalia bookshop. It was here, around 1967, that he and another early disciple of Srila Prabhupada purchased Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura's edition of Sri Brahma-samhita. Srila Prabhupada was happy to learn that his American disciples found this book of his Guru Maharaja in a New York bookstore. He told them that Sri Brahma-samhita was a favorite book of his; while still in householder life he had learned all the verses by heart. This inspired Pradyumna to learn Sanskrit so that he could prepare Roman transliterations of the Brahma-samhita verses ("the Govindam prayers") for recitation by devotees in ISKCON. Prabhupada was most pleased by this effort, and engaged Pradyumna Prabhu as the Sanskrit editor for his own translations of Srimad-Bhagavatam.

Poor Leroi Jones did not have the bhakti-sukriti to take up study of the Brahma-samhita during the 1950s, though the book was there on the shelves of the Orientalia. Perhaps he touched the book, even lifted it off the shelve and scanned the pages. Srila Prabhupada said that anyone who even touches his books would be assured of human birth in his next life.

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My beloved disciple Gaura Bhagavan das wrote me a few days ago about another January entry in this In2-MeC journal. There I proposed that while on a morning walk in Boston in 1971, Srila Prabhupada gave a special spin to the word "intoxicants." In normal English usage the word refers to substances that bring about a state of intoxication: drugs, alcohol, etc. But I noted that on this walk Srila Prabhupada seemed to use the word as a designation for persons who take intoxicants. There is a word, "dilettantes," for example, for people who dabble in the arts or some other sophisticated pursuits, who put on airs of being very expert in such pursuits, but who are actually just poseurs. And there are other words for people that end in "-ants" (e.g. savants). Such words have a genteel ring to them. So it seemed to me that Srila Prabhupada was playing an ironic word-game by styling the drunks who staggered out from under a Boston bridge as "intoxicants," echoing these high-class words. Now, Gaura Bhagavan Prabhu has drawn my attention to a 1969 lecture by Srila Prabhupada in which he clearly uses that word in just this way. Here is the relevant quotation:

Don't you see that the intoxicants, intoxicated person, they have become automatically? There is no university. There is no educational system that "You become... Take LSD like this." No. That is a natural tendency."


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