Flowers for Lord Jagannatha (Chapter 8)

The Hare Krishna Explosion
by Hayagriva das

Part II: San Francisco, 1967
Chapter 8

Flowers for Lord Jagannatha

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.

“When 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.”

“And these trees, Swamiji? How conscious are they?”

“Oh, spirit soul is there, but consciousness has been arrested temporarily. Perception is more limited.”

Swamiji strolls by men playing checkers, passes beneath the tall oaks, past the shuffleboard court, then stops and turns to speak.

“Just see. 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.”

Walking 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.

“Such a 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.”

Returning to 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 granted peace.

“You 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.”

We drive 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.

“These trees 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 hymns.

“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.”

After an 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.

“In this 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?”

“Alcatraz,” someone says.

“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.

“The great 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 comparison.”

The hippies 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!”

“A guru 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.

“Yes,” 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.”

The more 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 “tribal” terms.

Swamiji 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 wars.…

“Solidarity 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.

“Krishna does 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.”

“What about the draft?” someone asks.

“Our students 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.”

“But Bhagavad-gita takes place on a battlefield, and Krishna tells Arjuna to fight.”

“Anything 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.”

“No! No!”

Although some 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.

“So when people see you, they are reminded of Krishna. That is the meaning of sadhu—one who reminds others of Krishna.”

Still, 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 is pressured.

“Whatever service you can render to Krishna—that is accepted.

There are 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.

Somehow, we feel, the Radha Krishna Temple will survive the whoop and holler, the ephemeral glitter of psychedelia.

In early February, Kirtanananda returns to New York with instructions from Swamiji to go to Montreal and open the third ISKCON center.

“That boy 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.

Goursundar 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 re-entry.”

One such “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.”

“I’m not comfortable in this body!” the boy screams.

The police 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.

Re-entry stabilization becomes an ISKCON community service.

Sometimes, when Swamiji arrives in the early morning, Goursundar, Govinda-dasi, and I are the only ones in the temple.

“Where are the others?” Swamiji asks.

It is 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?

“All this 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?”

Gradually, morning attendance picks up.

Being the 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.

“People come here to have their consciousness raised,” Haridas protests. “You can’t be telling them that.”

He’s right, of course. I have to stand guard at the door. The Negroes blow smoke rings in.

And the Hell’s Angels occasionally enter like storm troopers, demanding ham sandwiches and beer, threatening to kill me when I ask them to take off their boots.

On the 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.

I generally 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.

One morning, 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.

The most 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!”

A crowd gathers.

“That crazy man was trying to worship a statue,” a little boy says. “But the policeman got him.”

Ravindra-svarup seems to enjoy all the attention, as if it’s a chance to preach.

“You mean it’s against the law to worship Lord Buddha?” he asks.

The cop 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 .…”

“Our spiritual master says that Buddha is an incarnation,” Rabindra-svarup continues, intent on being martyred, “and is to be paid all respects.”

The cop swallows his anger and finally escorts us out.

“You 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.

February 27. 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, more congregate.

Then 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.

Afterwards, 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.”

“Why should we do this dance?” one student asks.

“Because it’s good for you,” Swamiji says.

“Why is it good for me?” the student persists.

“Keep dancing, and you’ll find out.”

There are some questions about the philosophy. Then someone asks whether or not students should respond to the Vietnam draft. I brace myself.

“If your country orders you, there’s no harm in going,” Swamiji says matter of factly.

Faces drop. 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.

“On the 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?”

The issue becomes more heated. Students begin to raise their voices in anger.

“Nazi!” someone shouts. “Fascist!”

Order 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.

In the morning, we read Swamiji the front page account in the Palo Alto Times:

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.
The write-up goes on to describe the kirtan:

Before 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.

“Very nice,” 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 great potential.”

Later, 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.”

Then, in 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.

His arrival 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.

From the 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 like.”

Curious about the tilak marking, I take the carving to Swamiji.

“What is this, Swamiji?” I ask, setting it before him on his footlocker.

Swamiji’s eyes widen in surprise, and he smiles. “Oh, that is Lord Jagannatha,” he says. “That is Krishna.”

“Krishna?” I 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.”

Swamiji then 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 opulently.

“They were carved in wood?” I ask.

“Yes. And 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.”

Swamiji also 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.

Of course, 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.

“This is 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.”

Shyamasundar 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 the installation.

The Jagannatha Deities are beautiful indeed, and amazingly accurate reproductions. Swamiji is pleased.

“Krishna has 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.

“This is 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 devotees.

“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.“

Harsharani, Malati and Janaki hand out paper plates. It is a candlelight feast, and Swamiji insists that we give prasadam to spectators on the sidewalk.

“Very nice preparations,” he says. “All glories to the cookers!”

Lord 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 nixed.

“You must not put holes in the Lord’s head,” Swamiji tells us.

We finally resort to glue.

Swamiji 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.

“We’ve taken Lord Jagannatha to the park,” I say, “and everyone’s chanting.”

“You’ve what!?”

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.

“The Deity 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.”

Lord 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.

I personally 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 banks.

When Swamiji sees this picture, he smiles and quotes a Sanskrit verse:

smeram bhangi-traya-paricitam saci-vistirna-drstim
vamsi-nyastadhara-kisalayam ujjvalam candrakena
govinddakhyam hari-tanum itah kesi-tirthopakanthe
ma preksisthas tava yadi sakhe bandhu-sange ’sti rangah

“My 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.”

Although a 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.

Pasted with permission from

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: The Hare Krishna Explosion « The Hare Krishna Movement

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

108 Imporant Slokas from the 1972 Bhagavad-gita As It Is

Click on image to go to Post

Click on image to go to Post

The Hare Krishna Cookbook

Songs of the Vaisnava Acaryas

Bhagavad-gita As It Is 1972 Edition “Online”

click on image

click on image to visit site

Srimad Bhagavatam Online

click on image

Raja-Vidya the King of Knowledge

click on image

click on image

Blog Stats

  • 3,601,188 hits

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 3,883 other subscribers

Important Slokas from the Brahma-samhita

click on image

click on image

Slokas from the Sri Isopanisad

click on image

click on image

Prayers By Queen Kunti (Slokas)

click on image

Gajendra’s Prayers of Surrender (Slokas)

click on image

A Short Statement of the Philosophy of Krishna Consciousness

click on image

click on image

July 9th Letter

click on image

click on image

The Hare Krishna Explosion

Reference Material/Study Guide

click on image

click on image

%d bloggers like this: