Jonas Mekas‘ 1966 four-minute short documentary film featuring a kaleidoscope of images, anchored, to some degree, by Allen and Peter chanting Hare Krishna, is the next (seventh) in our series of Annotated Streaming Videos. Here’s Mekas’ note from the catalog of the Film-Makers’ Cooperative: “A “documentary” – one Sunday afternoon in New York – beautiful new generation – dancing in the streets of New York – singing “Hare Hare” – filling the streets and the air with love – in the very beginning of the New Age – Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky (on soundtrack) singing “Hare Hare”. Mekas incorporated this footage into his diary film, Walden, three years later – “Filmed 1964-68. Edited in 1968-69. Since 1950, I have been keeping a film diary. I have been walking around with my Bolex and reacting to the immediate reality: situations, friends, New York, seasons of the year…Walden contains materials from the years 1965-69 strung together in chronological order. For the soundtrack I used some of the sounds that I collected during the same period: voices, subways, much street noise, bits of Chopin (I am a romantic) and other significant and insignificant sounds..”
Walden Reel 2 (from his “Diaries Notes and Sketches”) with the Hare Krishna footage and with more fleeting images of Allen and Peter (and Tuli Kupfefberg, Gerard Malanga, Ed Sanders, Andy Warhol, Barbara Rubin, etc, etc ) can be viewed uninterrupted (courtesy the remarkable Virtual Circuit site) here. (Mekas’ Scenes From Allen’s Last Three Days on Earth as a Spirit (1997) can also be viewed here – as well as on – we cannot praise it enough – the nonpareil of avant-garde film sites, Ubu Web).
Jonas Mekas’ filmed observations on Allen (“Allen’s beard”) can also be noted here.
“Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare” – the Hare Krishna mantra.
Interviewed in 1968 by Peter Barry Chowka in the New Age Journal, Allen clarified the lineage:
AG: Since ’66 I had known Swami Bhaktivedanta (leader of the International Society of Krishna Consciousness) and was somewhat guided by him, although not formally – spiritual friend. I practiced the hare krishna chant, practiced it with him, sometimes in mass auditoriums and parks in the Lower East Side of New York.
PBC: You really did a lot to popularize that chant. Probably the first place I heard it was when I saw you read in ’68.
AG: Actually, I’d been chanting it since ’63, after coming back from India. I began chanting it,in Vancouver at a great poetry conference, for the first time in ’63, with (Robert) Duncan and (Charles) Olson and everybody around, and then continued. When Bhaktivedanta arrived on the Lower East Side in ’66 it was reinforcement for me, like “the reinforcements had arrived” from India.
Richard (& Susan) Witty’s historic footage (“Matchless Gifts”) of Swami Srila Prabhupada (A.C.Bhaktivedanta) chanting in Tompkins Square Park, New York, in those early days, may be viewed here.
Allen’s popular involvement with/dissemination of the chant can, to some degree, be traced to the recording he made of it for The Fugs 1968 album, Tenderness Junction. Even more famous, perhaps, is this, Allen on national tv, chanting Hare Krishna to William Buckley:
The Ginsberg-Prabhupada connection has been documented not only in New York in 1966 and San Francisco in 1967, but also a gathering in Columbus, Ohio, in 1969.
Hayagriva Dass (Howard Wheeler) has a first-hand account in his The Hare Krishna Explosion: The Birth of Krishna Consciousness in America 1966-69.