by Jim Webb
Friday, December 30, 2011, Philadelphia, USA — I have had a long standing interest in the Hare Krishna movement since the first time I bumped into them outside of the Spectrum arena in Philadelphia. They were distributing their magazines and selling incense on a hot summer day in July of 1975 before the rock band Yes played later that night.
Through the years I’ve read a lot of their books and visited the Radha – Krishna Temple in West Philly a number of times, I haven’t tired in keeping track of what has happened to “them” these last 35 plus years. There is something fascinating to me about this large group of American devotees that have renounced meat eating, alcohol, gambling, and sex ( other than sex for procreation), and also accepted a 16th century Bengali holy man from India, Caitanya Mahaprabhu, as the incarnation / avatar of God (Krishna).
Krishna appeared as Caitanya to bring the singing and chanting of the Lord’s holy name to the masses during these harsh godless times known as Kali – yuga (which we are still in). Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare. Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare.
Fast forward to December 28, 2011 and I’ve been reading up on all of the recent ISKCON ( International Society for Krishna Consciousness) related news. Two or three times a year I’ll check out the numerous web / blog sites and try and get a feel for the current issues that they are dealing with.The whole modern Hare Krishna movement was begun single handily by a 69 year old Indian reunciate preacher In a small Second Ave. N.Y.C. storefront in 1966. It slowly splintered apart almost from the day the founder of ISKCON, A.C.Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada, died in November of 1977.
Before passing away he named eleven senior devotees to be in charge, but all too quickly there were various power struggles and conflicts that still haven’t been totally resolved as of today. The late 1970′s, and into the 1980′s sadly had numerous cases of young children being sexually molested in the movement’s school system, and many of the original eleven handpicked disciples that formed the Governing Body Commission (GBC) had either quit (” fell down” ), died, or been forced to resign over various sex, drugs, and money issues.
ISKCON today is very vibrant in its native India, and has had varying degrees of success in finding new devotees in Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia. The U.S. temples have gradually changed from a proselytizing emphasis based on distributing Prabhupad’s books, to one of retrenchment that now largely caters to the local Indian communities that are their major support group. The counter – culture in 1966 was ready to throw off all of the “Establishments” views including having a career focused life, with traditional Christian values and rituals. More than a few people decided to tune in, turn on, and drop out. But it wasn’t all drugs that they were turning on to.
I googled Santa Fe, New Mexico ( where I now live) for things related to Hare Krishna and got a wide assortment of choices to investigate. I wasn’t surprised at all to see that in 1968 Santa Fe had one of the first ISKCON temples opened in the U.S.A. on Water Street, not far from the historic downtown plaza. New Mexico has been home to many religious denominations, hippie communes, art communes, writer groups and just about every alternative life style choice that North America has to offer.
Currently the Vedic Cultural Center is one of the few Hindu related organizations active in nearby Pecos, NM and is led by Hamsavatar Das (Howard Beckman), and his wife. He was a disciple of Prabhupad in the 1970′s/80′s and has commented through the years on all of the changes ISKCON has gone through, and is also an esteemed Vedic astrology and gem specialist.
His website led me back to google where I found another Krishna devotee named Hrisikesh (Richard Shaw Brown) who also currently specializes in gems, but has an interesting footnote in his personal biography. Richard Shaw Brown was the lead singer in a legendary California psychedelic rock band from 1966 named The Misunderstood.
The Misunderstood have a great web page at www.themisunderstood.com/band, and you should definitely check that out, loads of audio clips and info there to bone up on. I immediately sent that weblink to my friend and Secret Museum founder Mike Mooney, knowing that he would appreciate all things related to psychedelic/garage bands circa 1966.
After emailing him, I suddenly had the feeling he might had heard of them, even though they were a very obscure group with little recognition. Mike is currently the lead singer/guitarist in the New Mexico garage rock band Manby’s Head with Peter Greenberg. I then decided to google – The Misunderstood, Manby’s Head, and was surprised to find on the 6th entry on the page a link to LOFTHOLDINGSWOOD, MY OWN BLOG SITE WITH MR. MOONEY!! Mike had indeed mentioned The Misunderstood in a piece he had written a year before on guitarist Randy Holden.
So what does this all mean? I guess anyone can play an Internet version of six degrees of Kevin Bacon, but I didn’t think my googling of Hare Krishna would lead so quickly back to my own blog site! Maybe it means Mike is destined to join up with Richard Shaw Brown and create some intense music with him in 2012 ( I just hope we get more Greenberg / Mooney music in the new year).
The Mayans were right, we have to expect a lot of big changes this coming year, and Hamsavatar Das agrees wholeheartedly with massive changes due based on where the planets are aligned right now. I was thinking of having Hamsavatar Das work up a full astrological reading on me, the real advanced type where they need not only your exact date and time of birth, but your parents exact date and time of birth as well. It’s not a bad deal, for $175.00 I’ll know what to personally expect in 2012. Instead, maybe one of these days I’ll finally realize that all you have to do is chant Hare Krishna, … and be happy.
Happy New Year,