Hinduism and Hippies. What’s the Deal?

by Aranyakananda

Though Americans have been interested in Hinduism ever since the time of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden was published in 1854, and took well to the message of Swami Vivekananda in the 1890s and Paramahansa Yogananda in the first half of the 20th century, this form of spirituality really was spread more widely in western culture during the hippie generation in the 1960s. In the ’60s the Hare Krishna Mantra, the Maha Mantra could be heard on Top 40 radio at one point. I am not a hippie, though I am, as you will see in my last posting, a great admirer of the work of George Harrison during his own spiritual awakening.
I have, over the last four years, come to know many young Americans of non-Indian ancestry who have been in a sincere search for something more that their spiritual upbringing could not offer them. I am one of them and I feel a sense of brotherhood with them. It has been such a divinely inspired and guided experience, that I found when I read the works of American Hindu Ram Dass (Richard Alpert) I was disillusioned to read the words “trip” and “far out” in the text. I know these are just words and they provide a context for what was a most exciting period in Alpert’s life (the ’60s), so they remain a part of his vocabulary. But he, and others from that time period (including Harrison) have been very open about how psychedelic drugs had colored their spiritual world back then. My intention is not to question the sincerity of these seekers, or anybody. It’s just that the imagery of the cloud of marijuana smoke hanging in the air during a kirtan, or reading about Dass dropping acid before meditation kind of distracts me from what they have to say about their experience.

This posting is for you, the American or British devotees who came to this great realization during that gilded age of Aquarius. I really  want to hear from you. In as great of detail as you feel like providing. I want to know what you saw. How did it change your life? What did it offer you that the faith of your upbringing could not? What did you hear or read that opened your eyes to something new? How does it continue to move you over the years? You were a part of a revolution that, the above comments notwithstanding, has opened the doors in the Western world for people like me to find what I otherwise may not have. Thank you.

Aum, Shanti.

This entry was posted in Bhagavad-Gita, Bhaktivedanta, Divine Consciousness, drugs, George Harrison, God, Hinduism, hippies, History, inspiration, Krishna, life, meaning of life, meditation, non-dualism, philosophy, Prabhupada, Sanatana Dharma, social commentary, Vaishnavism, Vishnu, yoga, Yogananda and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Hinduism and Hippies. What’s the Deal?

  1. Dhrishti says:

    This is intriguing. Something I’d be curious about would be the drug aspect, as you mentioned. I also am distracted when I read about that generation’s experiences mixing drugs and spirituality. A big question I have, in regard to any potential inadequacies that generation would have perceived in the religions of their upbringing, still pertains to drug use: What about the eastern religious paths seemed compatible with drug use? Those religions are largely experiential by nature… one would think drugs would be unnecessary. Why not try to enhance/correct one’s thus-far disappointing experience with Christianity with drugs instead? Why not drop some acid and head to mass instead of clogging the atmosphere of kirtan with marijuana smoke?

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