By Gargamuni das
It was 1981 and early in my senior year of high school, I was walking out of the East Brook Mall in Willimantic Connecticut with two friends named Steve Walton and Clyde Hall. In my hand I was holding a bag with Jimmy Hendrix’s “Axis Bold As Love” album in it, that I had just purchased at Music World. I had loved Hendrix’s “Are You Experienced”. and had played it again and again over the summer as I delved deeply into the world of marijuana and LSD.
Though, by this time, I was burning out on drugs, so to speak, I was still anxious to get into this next taste of Hendrix. On the cover was a picture of Krishna’s Universal Form (never had I seen it before) but with Hendrix’s head super-imposed on the bodies. We had skipped last period and gone to the mall only months since Steve had escaped from security after trying to steal a music cassette. The security guard had grabbed him and was calling the police when Steve broke free with a snap of his wrist and ran out into the parking lot and through the woods to get away. Steve was understandingly paranoid when an official looking person approached us in the parking lot just as we got to our car. He said he was doing a survey for Yale and asked us how much we liked certain subject matters. When he got to science I said I hated it and thought their conclusions excluded metaphysics. At this point the man presented a glossy book called “Life Comes From Life” to us. Steve immediately acted indifferent but told the man to show it to me “’cause he’s into weird stuff like witchcraft and out of body experiences’.
As I held the book in my hand Clyde and I looked it over. It appeared interesting and other worldly. There was a picture of an elderly Indian man walking with a cane. I immediately felt drawn to what the book might say. When the man asked us for money Clyde and I pooled about $3 together in mostly change. The man said thanks and walked away towards his next car. Little did he or I know how much that two minute exchange would alter my life forever. Later I would meet him in Boston. His name was Vrajendra Nandana, an old time veteran book distributor. To this day, wherever he is, I thank him, for the bomb he dropped on my life that afternoon. A few years later I would go out to distribute books and understand the great sacrfice involved and the immense fortune that results from it. But now I was riding home from school in the back of Steve’s car, passing a joint around, listening to Rush’s 2112, and flipping through the new book with the far out paintings in it.
Both Clyde and I took turns with the book; and both of us were effected. The first thing I read when I opened it up was Srila Prabhupada saying something that sounded a little too far out for my spirtually virgin ears to comprehend. He was explaining the logistics how a god decended to earth via reincarnation to take a human form (those gurukulis who think they might have come this way take note). Although I don’t have a copy of “Life Comes From Life” handy, he stated something similar in his translation of the Gita. In the Bhagavad-gita As it is, 8.3 purport, he explained thus:
“In the process of sacrifice, the living entity makes specific sacrifices to attain specific heavenly planets and consequently reaches them. When the merit of sacrifice is exhausted, then the living entity descends to earth in the form of rain, then takes on the form of grains, and the grains are eaten by man and transformed into semen, which impregnates a woman, and thus the living entity once again attains the human form to perform sacrifice and so repeat the same cycle.”
“Incredible” I thought, although I didn’t know if I could believe it..sounded like American Indian stuff. As I read on the main thing that I noticed is how 100 percent Srila Prabhupada was convinced that Darwin was wrong. His arguments were the best I had ever heard against biological evolution. “What’s the difference between a living body and a dead body?” he asked. Of course the answer was that matter cannot move unless its touched by spirit, or the fact that when the soul leaves, the body is no longer animate. He challenged the scientists to create life in the labratory, even a single blade of grass. He referred to them as rascals for presenting their unproven theories as facts. How could something so organized as the universe and nature come into being by some accident or big bang? His presentation was heavy, but it seemed without anger or personal animosity. Another factor that attracted me was that although he was totally convinced (and convincing I might add) he didn’t come off as a fanatic like a born again Christian or something. His arguments were based in logic although he kept quoting the Vedic scriptures. He seemed to have access to some ancient knowledge that was just as relevant today as it ever was. I got the immediate feeling that he was the living example of it. At the time I was a practicing Rosicrucian to some extent and had dabbled in white witchcraft and different types of meditation. I had been a vegetarian of sorts for a little while as well. I had always dreamed of finding some source of ancient knowledge that would answer all my questions about life and make me some mystical wizard or something living in an enchanted forest. Perhaps this was it.
Clyde liked the book as well; but of everyone my brother got into it the most. He started adopting the philosophy immediately and we would talk about it often. Soon other books started to appear. My friend Mike found a softback Gita in an abanoned gym locker. Another friend gave me a copy of Search for Liberation which was a conversation between John Lennon, George Harrison and Srila Prabhupada. “Wow the Beatles met Srila Prabhupada and they were into him. Amazing!” I thought. If the Beatles were into Hare Krishna then it was definetly something I should delve deeper into it. After sometime I realized that the song “My Sweet Lord” had the mantra in it as well. I had been hearing it all these years and hadn’t even notice it. My interest gradualy became more than just casual. From the back of the books we contacted a store on the west coast and started ordering more books and beads for chanting. When they arrived we started chanting Hare Krishna in circle groups, getting many of our friends involved. There was my brother Kevin and I, Phil, Mark, Clyde, Randy, Donna, John and whoever else would chant with us from time to time. Chanting the maha-mantra became quite infectious for me. It was truly amazing how it changed my way of looking at things. Daily I was getting profound realizations about life. Krishna was obviously giving me a taste. I remember an edited yellow paperback Gita that arrived in the mail. I started making it my nightly practice to chant a round and then relax by smoking marijuana and finally reading an hour from Prabhupada’s Gita. I remember looking through the glossary and index to try to find the definition of illicit sex. Sex can be spiritual, I thought, so what is this illicit sex that is prohibited?
I vividly recall the scare I got one night when Prabhupada warned in a purport not to copy the isvaras or controllers like Lord Shiva by smoking ganja, like some of Shiva’s followers do. He wrote that Shiva drank an ocean of poison, but if we drink one such drop we would die immediately. Similarly those who imitate Shiva by smoking ganja are actually drawing death very near. I got the hebee gebees when I read that one. Marijuana makes you paranoid enough, but reading this while on the stuff… it was quite a wake up call. Suffice it to say, shortly thereafter, I gave up the drugs for good.
I also became frightened when I saw the painting by Jadurani of the half-man half-tiger face (a reincarnation promise for those who eat meat). Although I wasn’t eating meat by then it was startling to see how our activities send us to our next body. Other depictions showed humans turning into pigs and trees. The paintings moved me and hit me very powerfully. Like it or not this is the truth, I thought, and no opinion can change the truth. Another painting that effected me greatly was that of Gopal Krishna with his arm around a deer. It was stunningly beautiful. Here was my long lost friend I pondered as if being awoken from a dream. The first image I ever saw my entire life that made me feel that all would be alright in my life. Here was my shelter where none of the fears and dangers of the world could penetrate or ultimately harm me. I sent away for it and put it up in my room after I tore down my posters of Pink Floyd and Steve Miller.
Looking back I realize that a metamorphosis was occuring. I also felt I was picking up something from a previous life as it seemed very familiar and natural to me. Soon we would visit the temple, start preaching to others over zealously (but sometimes quite effectively) and face the polarization that ranged for several counties. In other words, the proverbial shit was about to hit the fan, and our early pre-temple Krishna conscious period was about to begin. Yes the dust was about to fly and all bets were off regarding who would be left standing when the dust finally settled.