Sridham Mayapur, West Bengal
19 March 2003
The entries I put into this journal about the Beat Generation, and about memories of my pre-Krishna conscious life, are in pursuance of this principle of mysticism:
Knowledge is an infinite series of images in the memory. Understanding, which penetrates into their significance, is the power to perceive their essence and interrelationship.
The point made in the above quotation is that all our life experiences that are now stored in the memory have something to teach us. Even unpleasant memories are lessons for one who understands their significance. That understanding comes from the Supersoul by way of guru , sastra and sadhu.
A couple of years ago I had an interesting conversation with HH Bhakti Tirtha Maharaja as we flew via British Airways from London to Calcutta. (He is a most understanding and sympathetic Vaishnava, I must say.) He told, "Every day I join ISKCON." He meant that every day he remembers how and why he made the transition from his former existence in the material world to the association of his Godbrothers and Godsisters.
That sort of meditation is very strengthening and fruitful, I believe. And so therefore I often thinking of those days when I was stumbling through life in search of meaning, catching a glimpse of what I was looking for in this book and in that poem, this piece of music and that talk with some insightful person. And I remember how it all fell into place when I read a Back to Godhead magazine, one (if I remember correctly) that had a painting of Garbhodakasayi Vishnu on the cover. I was in Detroit at the time. I was so impressed with the BTG that I decided to travel 500 miles to Boston simply because this magazine was published in that city. There was a temple in Detroit at this time, but I wanted to meet the devotees who produced this wonderful magazine. So Lord Krishna, in His mercy, arranged an easy passage for me from Detroit to Boston. But that's another story.
A little while back you saw a couple quotations from the autobiography of Leroi Jones, about his disillusionment with the life values of the Beats and the hippies. Actually, there was just one quotation I was looking to reproduce here in In2-MeC, and only today I found it. It really hits the spot.
In the wildness of our groping lives thre was a deadly hedonism that answered all questions. That offered all explanations. The pleasure principle. That finally was the absolute--what gave pleasure, and that alone. Our lives were designed (to the extent that they could arrange themselves according to our love of sponteneity) around pleasure. "Anything goes" was the word. Like Raskolnikov's line, "All is permitted." The same stance.
Flashes of what that was, a rush of sparks, kicks, comings, lies, sadistic exchanges, masochism, a swarm of individuals sucking on life for instant gratification. It didn't matter how. With the cover story of Art to provide an arrogance and sense of superiority for some really low sh_t.
Yes, that is the quotation I was trying to remember! It says everything about "the search for meaning" in the bohemian lifestyle that is still so prominent in cities like Amsterdam and Prague, Tokyo and Seattle, and of course good old New York. In his poetic words, Leroi transmits the virakti (disgust) that must rise in the mind before one can become serious about spiritual life. Please let us all never lose touch with that virakti.
Gaura Purnima Day I sent you two transcendental sound files in praise of Gauranga Mahaprabhu. Someone here in Mayapur suggested I also send out a not-so-transcendental sound file of a piece of music that I thought was transcendental when I was sixteen years old. All right, this could be fun.
I've named this MP3 file Pharaoh. Like the name for the kings of ancient Egypt. It was recorded in 1967 in New York. It is an example of what Leroi Jones called The Music. It was a new trend in jazz at the time, represented by such musicians as John Coltrane, Albert Ayler, and Sun Ra. Because I do not have official permission to distribute this recording over the Internet I shall not give the name of this particular musician. But he was a key figure on the scene.
The music goes for more than seven minutes. It starts off as a hypnotic, repetitive bass, drums, piano and guitar piece with layers of background percussion. A saxophone breaks in at last, sounding sometimes like an Indian shenai and sometimes like a wounded animal. It's loud! The saxophonist was trying to cut through the layers of the universe with his crazy sounds. Then he put the instrument down and started singing in what he imagined is some ancient Egyptian priestly language. At the end he sang "Aum" a couple of times.
In '67 other sixteen-year-old kids were listening to the Beatles; I thought the Beatles were bubblegum for the ear. This sound file, "Pharyaoh", was my favorite music. I listened to it every day for years. It was my meditation.