Here’s a surprisingly rare document. Allen’s introduction to the 1968 Collier-MacMillan edition of A.C.. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada‘s Bhagavad Gita – Bhagavad Gita As It Is – Swami Bhaktivedanta Chanting God’s Song in America (thanks to Steve Silberman for the scan).
“Kali Yuga we really are in it, heavy metal Age, where Spiritual common sense seems like magic because we’re ensnared in brain-wash network – the mechanical conditioning of our unconditioned consciousness.
I grow old and see that renunciation is what happens. The “action” leads there – calm realization of sense-desire illusoriness in youth, or on deathbed at worst.
Even Tantric path (exploration of sensory limits) leads to liberation (relaxation) from sensory grasping (i.e. desire). Because senses are mechanical and repetitious. Infinite in sensation during their apparent minute, in that sense Blakean Eternal.
But trapped in that Infinite, who needs it? As bad as being Srivaka Buddha, the Nirvana-junkie.
neither life nor death is the answer
— Ezra Pound, Canto 115
How terrible to be trapped (Ourselves!) in that worst the Kali Yuga. Well at least nothing more bad can happen, we’re at the bottom of the material barrel. All them rotten apples of knowledge!
How funny also, given the illusory nature of all this cosmic planet-history. America, Rome, China, Maya! And how lovely that nobody else in other Yugas will suffer as much as we! Everybody else already saved, but us! What an honor! And even we’re saved by Vishnu the Preserver if not Shiva the Great Changer or Buddha the Great Emptiness or Christ the Great Sufferer-for-us or Chango the Great Red Creator or Allah the Great Compassionate One or Jaweh the Great Unspeakable Word or Tao the Great Undefinable or Whitman the Great Self-Contradictor!
And here is Krishna with his Magic Mantra, sung by Swami Bhaktivedanta in America, in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, 100 Years after the Emersonian Transcendentalists.
Before this age of linear media conditioned our minds, nobody had to learn to read and pore over Ancient Tomes describing the Ignorant Blissful Mind – from Vedas to Einstein the same waves of Illusion are described in detail as relative Illusion. In fact, the first printed text on Earth, Chinese version of Prajna Paramita, announced that all language to be printed and multiplied henceforth was a giant Vanity in as much as the Great Phenomenon as we see it neither exists nor does not exist.
Now XX Century, many versions of Bhagavad Gita appear on our shores, sophisticates such as Sri Isherwood and other princes of prose help turn the Wheel of doctrine-teaching.
We’ve reached the end of Matter…What
do they think they will attain
by their ships
that death has not
them? Their ships
should be directed
inward upon …But I
am an old man. I
have had enough.”
W.C.Williams – “For Eleanor and Bill Monahan”
The Text (Bhagavad Gita) is awesome. The vision of the Universal Form (Chapter XI) is equal to any Sublime poesy of the West, superior in detailed image to Dante‘s final Cantos” Paradise vision. Many bellies, many leaves.
The purports, or explanations of Swami Bhaktivedanta are transparent and exquisitely detailed – expositions presented here for the first time to common public Western mind – a storehouse of old age, experience, devotion, learning, scholarship, Hindu granny-wisdom, sincerity, gaiety, and sweet transcendental insight.
Condemnation of the World is harsh. Transvaluation or transcendental transformation is unutterable relief. Swami Bhaktivedanta came to USA and went swiftly to the Archetype Spiritual Neighborhood, the New York Lower East Side and installed intact an ancient perfectly preserved piece of street India. He adorned a storefront as his Ashram and adored Krishna therein and by patience and good humor singing chanting and expounding Sanskrit terminology day by day established Krishna Consciousness in the psychedelic (mind-manifesting) center of America East. He and his children sang the first summer through in Tompkins Park. Upaya – skilful means- is the Sanskrit word for this divine Tact. To choose to attend to the Lower East Side, what kindness and humility and intelligence! And a second center for chanting Krishna’s Name was thereafter established in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury at the height of the spiritual crisis and breakthrough renowned in that city, mid-sixties, twentieth century.
The Hare Krishna Mantra’s now a household word in America (through the appointed Beatles among other Musicians and Bards). Or will be before the end of present decade, “this Prophecy, Merlin shall make, for I live before his time.” “Covers The Earth”, said an old media advertisement for a household paint. The personal vibration set up by chanting “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare” is a universal pleasure: a tranquility at realization of the community of tender hearts; a vibration which inevitably affects all men, naked or in uniform.
It seems like Magic because we are so locked into our heads, so hung up in the metallic illusions of Kali Yuga that manifestation of our natural Sacred Heart desire is a rare fortune. This rare fortune (as Thoreau and Whitman our natural-hearted forefathers prophesied) is our heritage, our own truest Self, our own community of selves, our own true America.”