I’m not sure if this has ever been posted, but most of us have heard stories of Alan Ginsberg really liking Srila Prabhupada and chanting Hare Krishna. He was actually chanting Hare Krishna before he met Srila Prabhupada. He went to India and heard the maha-mantra and it stuck with him. When he met the devotees in 1966, he immediately took to Srila Prabhupada, though they didn’t always agree in everything.
Even so, Ginsberg would donate money and even the use of his harmonium to Srila Prabhupada.
Ginsberg even brought the maha-mantra to Robert Kennedy. When seeing Kennedy about other maters (relating to the Feds possibly planting drugs in Ginsberg’s apartment), he told Bobby:
“Oh, there’s something I forgot. I was going to sing you a little song.” He said, “Okay, I got a minute.” So I sang about eight verses of Hare Krsna mantra and he said, “What’s that?” And I said, “When you hear this, it’s supposed to bring immediate liberation.” So he said, “Well, the guy up the block needs it more than I do,” pointing up to the White House when Johnson was running the Vietnam war. That was Kennedy’s introduction to Hare Krsna.
In 1967, Ginsberg met Srila Prabhupada at the San Francisco airport and helped organize the Mantra Rock Festival.
When Ginsberg was in the hospital in 1968, Srila Prabhupada wrote him a letter hoping that he recovers and to (of course) keep chanting Hare Krishna.
They had long talks in Columbus, Ohio in 1969, which have been recorded and transcribed for posterity.
The devotees tried a couple of times to set up another such meeting, but it never came to be. Srila Prabhupada would usually speak fondly of Ginsberg and explain that though he isn’t really following, at least he is chanting Hare Krishna.
A few years ago, I came across a record recorded by The Fugs called Tenderness Junction. The Fugs were sort of the first punk band – not so much in sound as in attitude. But they were friends with Alan Ginsberg and often performed together.
The Fugs, in 1966, met Srila Prabhupada and liked the philosophy well enough – except for the “no illicit sex” parts.
In early 1968, The Fugs released Tenderness Junction on Reprise Records. On it was Alan Ginsberg singing “Hare Krishna.” Prabhupada was glad that Ginsberg was chanting, but thought his chant too complex for the new devotees. By today’s standards, Ginsberg’s Hare Krishna is a very simple melody.
Check it out.
Or download it here.