WATCH OUT! An Interview with Gaura-jïvana dāsa FKA Griffin Pyn
The complete interview with Gaura-jïvana dāsa. For an introduction, please refer to May’s newsletter.
Miles: How is LA?
Gaura-jï: Good. I’m in the outskirts, out in the Valley. It’s great.
M: How did you land there?
G: Oh man, I've been living here on and off since 2012, I just keep ending up back here. It's beyond my control. Practically, I ended up here because I was living in Colorado in my car from May to October of 2019 and I kept flip-flopping. I wanted to stay in Colorado because I was close with all the devotees there at the temple. But I have this intrinsic aversion towards paying rent, for a lot of reasons, that's a whole other tangent. But I was like I need to just be self-sufficient and I'm gonna live in my car through the winter in Colorado to prove that it can be done. There was a couple of blizzards where I was living in my car and I woke up half dead. I thought, Krishna gave me this car to live in so that I don't have to stay in one place. I can drive to San Diego. I had lived in LA in my car and that was gnarly and not that cool. It was cool for some reasons, but it was not cool for a lot of other reasons. I was like, I'll go to San Diego because it's chill there.
Long story short, on my way to San Diego I met somebody who told me that I should maybe get a room. That if I got a room, I could ground myself and get serious about the things that I'm passionate about. That's a paraphrase of what he said. I was like alright, whatever, man, I don't even know you. I went to San Diego, I applied at the health food store there. I called my friend to see if he knew of any spots. He was like you can move in here for $300 a month. And he's also vegan, he's also an ultra runner, and he's just badass. Rock climber, stoner, super chill stoner vegan friend of mine that I would run with sometimes. And I was like, Yeah, that's sick. We'll have our own little spot and we can go running and the kitchen is fully vegan, which is important to me. The fact it was $300, that's nothing.
M: So you’re paying rent now, but you have an aversion to it?
G: Yeah, well, there's this intrinsic thing within me. How can one person own the land and the sky and charge another person for that land and sky? I just think it's really the most disgusting sense of human entitlement. It’s bullshit. None of us own any of this. And someone creates property laws. You know Proudhon, the anarchist philosopher said property is theft. I take that to heart. There's this book called Sri Isopanisad that I'm very fond of that talks about it too. We all have our quota, it's all given to us on loan from God, we don't own anything. To charge people rent and force a huge part of the population to live on the streets, it's just unconscionable. It’s gross. Entitlement is what I'm crusading against at this point in my life. Within myself as well, obviously. I have to do the daily inventory about what am I taking for granted and not being appreciative of.
M: Do you come from an anarchist background and approach your spirituality from there or do these anarchist ideas come from your spirituality?
G: Both. When I was a teenager, I was reading Chomsky, Kropotkin, Proudhon. I was very into the Zapatistas. I still am, to some extent. I’m inspired by any proletarian movement where people are battling a greater evil that's compromising quality of life. Anarchism might be a very reductionist way of looking at it. There was a time in my life where I was like I'm gonna make Molotov cocktails and I'm gonna smash windows and be a part of the Black Bloc. That was when I was like 16, that was almost 20 years ago. So, that's within me somewhere down in there, but you couldn’t sum up my perspective by only speaking to that part.
M: I think anarchism is something that's open to a lot of perspectives, it’s where people get to the same conclusions in a lot of ways, I don't mean to use it in a reductionist way.
G: You're hitting on something that's definitely there, for sure.
M: Rent, though, is a huge issue. Rents are jacked up everywhere, people are sick from working to pay for the same thing over and over and over.
G: It’s getting worse for sure. When I was a kid, squatters rights, even though that was never a big thing in the States, I had an admiration for the punks in the UK and in Europe that were speaking to those issues. And it was something that I wanted to do. I wanted to be a squatter.
M: I’m interested in how this issue of figuring out how to live ties with your music. You make electronic music, which requires a lot of logistics, electricity for one, as well as time and space to focus on the equipment. How have you managed to keep making that kind of music while living a nomadic lifestyle?
G: I think because I'm not 100% set on specifically making electronic music. A lot of the time those are the tools that are available to me. When I was really in the thick of it, with Sewn Leather and Skull Katalog, I never ever had my own synth or drum machine. I had a four track, a digital four track that I would travel with, and a sampler. I would go to my friends, for instance, I had a friend in Austin that had a wall of modular synths. We would go in there and we would jam for hours and I would record all of it. Then I would take snippets and sample that and then I would use maybe an app on my phone or somebody else's drum machine or play drums at somebody's practice space over the snippet of the sample. It's kind of the other way around. The music is not electronic by intention. It's electronic because that is the easiest way to do it.
Even when I was doing Sewn Leather and I was using cassettes, people would be like oh, that's so gimmicky. Or that's really crazy that you're using cassettes, like why are you choosing to do that? And for me, it was never a choice. I had a cassette four track when I was a kid and that's what I learned to record on. You can mix down to a regular cassette deck from the thrift store that you buy for $13. It's just really malleable I feel. Being a nomad, it lends itself to that sort of expression, that creative style. I don't think I could have done it any other way. I always wanted to have a band, but I couldn't have a band because I was riding freight trains and hitchhiking and on tour.
M: You weren't gonna be arguing about who chips in what for a practice space and all the business of being in a band.
G: Yeah, it just wasn't practical. That was just the most practical way for me to do things and it still is that way, now that I'm settled more than I’ve ever been. It feels really good, I have a couple of bands, and that's cool.
M: Was the mutant beat electro-punk style that you developed only the result of not being able to be in bands? Did you find inspirations once you committed to electronic music?
G: Throbbing Gristle. So the first Influence was The Normal, their “Warm Leatherette / TVOD” 7 inch. Then Throbbing Gristle. I was really big into Crass and Zounds and the Mob and all the peace punk stuff from the same era as Throbbing Gristle. Rudimentary Peni. You can dance to a lot of that stuff. Zounds had songs with synthesizers in them. I guess those were the initial influences. Throbbing Gristle for sure, especially in 2005, was big for me. My bands at that point were the Germs, Throbbing Gristle, the Screamers, Screamers were big for me, and the Normal. I was super into “Warm Leatherette.”
M: A lot of British and LA bands. It’s strange that anarcho-punk from that era is dance-ier than you’d given the topics. Well, before the metal influence takes over.
G: I mean, even when the metal is there, Nausea has songs that I feel like you could like dance to, but that's just me, maybe.
M: So you have a new tape out now. I haven’t heard it, I don’t have a cassette or record player.
G: It's on Bandcamp.
M: What? I looked for a link and didn't find one anywhere.
M: How’d this cassette come about?
G: How did that come about? Wait, what is this interview for?
M: So, well I just started, but I review stuff I see that I think I want to process more. There’s so much stimuli it’s easy to let things effect you without really investigating them. Or write off things that might be great with a second glance. It’s just a newsletter, nothing official. I listened to a Hare Krishna kirtan in Washington Square Park and my stream of thoughts led me to revisit ISKCON and Sewn Leather cassettes for an afternoon. Your name pops up in conversations, there’s always rumors or legends. Oh, you have a lot of Antimaterial Worlds releases out. I need to get caught up.
G: I’ve been working on that project for over two years now. Yeah, check it out. That's cool that you're listening to old ISKCON recordings.
M: I lived with a guy that lived at C-Squat for a while, he was getting sober and witnessed his close friend overdose and die. When he was grieving he blasted this archive of ISKCON cassettes that are really gorgeous. He was never a Krishna Consciousness member, as far as I know, but the music helped his grief. He found something in that music.
G: Wow. Yeah. Do you know whatever happened him?
M: I think he relapsed shortly thereafter and moved to Northern California. The last time I spoke with him, it seemed like he was doing a lot better. Escaping the East Coast and being in nature.
G: Totally. Nature is like a panacea.
M: So, I’m pretty atheist, but I’ve flipped through the Hare Krishna books I picked up in the park the other day. Bhagavad Gita, Science of Self-Realization, and The Higher Taste.
G: Of course, that was the first book that I ever got from the devotees.
M: What were your impressions of it?
G: Well, I was 13. I’ve told this story a lot. When I was 13 I was getting really fired up about political activism. It was the year 2000, so there was a lot going on, there's always a lot going on, but that was kind of like this era where there was a convergence. I was also really into old school hip-hop and hip-hop in general. I had two turntables and a mixer and a copy of Wild Style and a giant piece of linoleum I would carry around with me to breakdance on. I was really into Rage Against the Machine. In their liner notes, they were talking about Mumia Abu Jamal and Leonard Peltier. I grew up in Kansas City and Leonard Peltier was in Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary when I was growing up. The coalition to free Leonard Peltier was in Lawerence, Kansas. I went to this thing, I thought it was just gonna be like a rap battle, but it turned out to be workshops about different political causes. This guy Upski was there, William Upski Wimsatt, he wrote a book called No More Prisons and he also wrote a book called Bomb the Suburbs.
M: I remember reading Bomb the Suburbs around this time too.
G: Yeah, so he was there and he was speaking and I had started a little group called Students for Liberation. We would have vegetarian potlucks... Well, I guess, I don't know, I don't know. The vegetarian policy must have been later because it wasn't till I met the devotees, but it was all around the same time. And I remember telling Upski, “I have an organization called Students for Liberation. Do you have any tips for me? Anything?” He said, “No, I don't have any tips. But you're gonna be somebody someday.” And I was really like, whoa, OK. And anyways, I don't know, I felt really like there was a lot of change in the air and people were fired up about abolishing the racist death penalty, political prisoners, the prison industrial complex.
M: The Seattle WTO protests were around then?
G: Those were leading up to that. This was around the time of the G8 in Italy, where there were protesters who were killed by the police. There was this radical thing going on. At least where I was growing up, it was intertwined was the local hip-hop scene, and through that I found out about straight edge, because all the straight edge advocates were political activists hanging out in that scene. I took a liking to that crew out of all of the crews that were assembled.
And I was straight edge, I was politically active. I felt like I was woke, even though that wasn't a term that was really being used back then. I felt like I had this feeling that I was like really radical, I'm fighting for the underdog or whatever. I don't know what I was thinking, but I met the devotees. And they gave me this book The Higher Taste. He says, check out this book. It's about karma and spiritualizing all the food that you eat. He talked to me about karma. He said, when you go to the grocery store, you see this packaged product as an object essentially, and it's really easy for you not to think about how that was a living, breathing animal that had a family and had a will to live, that didn't wanna die. That fought for its life until its last breath. They have a personality. They're an individual. And when he said that, I was like, Yo, I fucked up, how have I not ever thought about that? I've never even considered that there's this whole thing that's going on, that our society is set up to not let us think about it. That struck this nerve within me and spoke to the part of myself that I was cultivating to be about justice. I thought I'm not better than anyone else. I'm not acting in a mood of compassion or justice, just because I care about these political prisoners. There’s this whole other thing going on that I need to be incorporating into my fight for justice. He gave me The Higher Taste and I read that and I remember coming home, my mom was like, do you want me to make you a pasta with meat sauce that you love? I’m done. I'm done with meat.
M: Just like that.
G: Absolutely. I wish everyone would be like that. When you're shown injustice so clearly, how do you not just change right away? I can never comprehend that. People try to come up with all these rationalizations, but you can't rationalize it. Karma plays out. Heart disease is karma. There's this sloka in the Veda that says when you're killing an animal, you're supposed to whisper into the animals ear, “as I'm killing you, you will kill me”. And that's what happens, you kill a cow and then you die of heart disease. That's the cow killing you. That's your karma. if you get heart disease from a lifetime of eating meat that's your karma, you deserve that to some degree. No one can plead ignorance at this point. Everyone knows what happens. But I also have to extend myself and be compassionate towards those that are still acting in this way that's not rational at all. And making things worse for everyone else who's on the planet, all the animals. It’s totally destroying the planet, it's keeping a billion people starving.
One of the things that The Higher Taste talks about is the myth of scarcity. The Earth can supply enough to feed billions of people, billions more people than are on the Earth right now. But we're bleeding her dry. It’s because we have this entitlement. Oh, like all these grains, all these fruits. The seeds from a fruit grow another tree that grows more fruit. There's something set up to keep us nourished. All these political paradigms, socioeconomic paradigms that we design that are human designs are fucking things up. I guess that’s the anarchist in me.
This thing where we're gonna have a fruit farm and we're gonna charge and we're gonna put all these chemicals and really just wreck the soil for more of a profit. We’re so... Everything's so fucked at this point. How can anyone have hope without a spiritual lens or a spiritual perspective? Or how can you even know that all this is going on? I mean, for me, I take shelter in that. If I didn't have my spiritual practice from my spiritual life, I would just be like a total wreck.
M: To tie the concept of artificial scarcity to Krishna Consciousness theology, how does artificial scarcity fit with the concept of Kali Yuga?
G: It's not a concept, it’s what we're living in. I don't even know when it began. There's four Yugas: Satya, Treta, Dvapara, and Kali. Satya Yuga is the age of truth, the age of enlightenment and Kali Yuga is the age of entitlement. Entitlement just wrecks everything. It's the age of miscommunication, it's the age of quarrel, and where does quarrel come from? It comes from miscommunication, from an unwillingness to hear somebody else and really listen to what they're saying. Listening is like the antidote to that. Not living in fear, not signing on to any narrative that's based on fear, trying to create your own narrative that's based on love.
Most narratives that are spun by other people and fed to us are fear based. In the pandemic, there's all these people cashing in on being free thinkers, but they're selling their narrative. And then there's all these people signing on to their narrative and being like, we’re lions, not sheep. No, you're still sheep, you're just following a different shepherd. If you're signing on to anyone else's narrative about this stuff, you're not thinking for yourself. They’re like, we're all free thinkers, but we're all signing on to this one person's perspective. People get caught up in that.
It's so hard to develop your own perspective in the Kali Yuga and to respect that each person has their own perspective that's informed by their life. No one has lived the same life as anyone else. We all have to learn to live together and work together. I believe that we do all have the same goals inherently, people want to feel secure and feel loved and they don't want to have to stress out about the necessities of life. Kali Yuga makes it really hard. People will trip out about little things and they'll destroy relationships over it. They won't extend themselves and they won't do the work. There’s reasons that they wont do the work, there's a lot of trauma. Everything's upside down and backwards. And it keeps people fighting against each other when we should be united.
M: Does chanting Hare Krishna serve as a point of unity?
G: I don't think so. I don't know, I don't look at it that way. The chant - it cleanses the dust from the mirror of the heart. So for me, when I think about chanting, that's my lifeline, that connects me to Krishna, Radha. And what it does for me is, if I can cleanse the dust off my heart that I've accumulated over these lifetimes, it makes me have the ability to show up for others. If we can cleanse the attractions and aversions that develop over lifetimes and see the essential nature of ourselves, then we are better able to show up in the world. It’s like that cliche be the change you wanna see or whatever. Yeah, everyone says that. But it is that. It will carry over into all your relationships and in that you can be there for other people and you can show up in the world in a way that's really sincere and genuine and not negative. You can counteract.
Now, what they say is the one good thing about Kali Yuga is that in all these other yugas, we had to do so many sacrifices. But all we have to do in the Kali Yuga is chant the mahamantra. That's the upside about Kali Yuga. That's the one thing that we do and it's all we have to do. It’s the yajina for this yuga.
M: So, I have this misconception about Krishna Consciousness, that joining is an act of social withdrawal, world renunciation. You’re saying it’s the opposite. It’s a path to take care of yourself so that you can be responsible?
G: Yes, so that you can show up in a way that's helpful. There's aspects of renunciation, there's things that we renounce once you initiated. Yeah, I'm not gonna gamble. That is kind of open to interpretation, like gambling could be bungee jumping or it could be going to casino. It doesn't necessarily just mean playing the lottery. You don't eat meat, you don't take take intoxicants, and you don't have illicit sex. You are renouncing these things. That song “Out of Step” by Minor Threat, that's what he's talking about. He's like, there's these three things that the whole world is all about. It's like, don't drink, don't smoke, don't fuck, or whatever he says. At least I can fucking think. You're renouncing things that most of the world really cares about, so there is a renunciation aspect to it.
If you read the Bhagavad Gita, that’s the whole thing. Arjuna doesn’t want to fight, but that’s his dharma, is to fight. He's like the best warrior. Krishna is having to talk him down from this anxiety attack about it. Arjuna just wants to go meditate in a cave, turn back. Well, that's not really helpful. I mean, there's people that are definitely set up that have that proclivity towards going to a cave and meditating. But it's not the highest form of yoga. Bhakti yoga is the highest form because Bhakti is all about spiritualizing every aspect of your life, using every aspect of your life in service, and that's why there's that book The Higher Taste. Cooking can be a meditation, if you're acknowledging where the food is coming from and you're offering it back to God, you’re spiritualizing it. There’s a spectrum of renunciation.
M: You’ve experienced withdraw from social norms in trainhopping and through noise, punk, activist circles, and now through Hare Krishna, do you see any similarities or distinctions between the social withdrawal or world renunciation in each of those life paths?
G: Not really. The trainhopping, punk, noise stuff is very in the mode of ignorance, in the mode of darkness. If I could do it all again… I was vegan and straight edge after meeting the devotees for years and I fell off and got into all this really gnarly dark stuff. Which I think is helpful for me at this point in my life, but I don't know that it was necessary. I would say the closest thing is straight edge. That's why there's a lot of people that come to Krishna Consciousness from the straight edge movement.
M: Right there was a lot NYHC circles where people got into Krishna Consciousness.
G: Totally. I went on a 10 mile run this morning and I got super inspired, so I'm glad that we're doing this interview now. Some days I'm just not on and today, for whatever reason, I'm in rant mode. Hopefully I'm like coming through for you.
M: I'm trying to keep up. What is this darkness?
G: Look where the shows take place, man, it's in a dark, dank basement.
M: Sure, there's a lot of joy in those basements too. A lot of connections, a lot of expression.
G: Yeah, maybe that dank, dark basement is the cave of the Sadhu or something.
M: What’s that?
G: No, I'm just saying, I don't know, maybe there's a similarity between the sadhu going into the cave and someone rejecting the mainstream and going into the dark, dank basement. It’s like a cave.
M: Could be. Some people do use those spaces for self-destruction, they’re definitely environments where intoxication is unchecked.
G: Absolutely, yeah. For me, it's not productive or constructive. A lot of times it's pretty much just destructive. There’s connections that are made, but it's like to what end? Okay, cool, you're going to put out a record of power electronics, good for you. That's not doing anything. It's like you're getting to express yourself, you're yelling. I don't wanna see another angry white guy like yelling, trying to look tough.
M: Well, if you focus on the genre that is a magnet for that kind of nihilism…
G: Similar to me is hardcore too. I'm kind of over that. And I don't want to be that, I'm battling with this. Do I want be performing right now or do I want to put out my music and focus on the stuff that's actually important to me? I’ve bailed from a couple of shows, I don't even really want to play shows.
M: You don’t miss making music for a live audience?
G: We just played our show with Lightning Bolt last month. It wasn't doing anything, I was like, I do not need to be doing this. I love Lightning Bolt. All the people that I met at the show that came up and talked to us after our set were cool. I like performing, but when I go on a run, I feel the same joy in a more sustainable way. I’d rather put out music and maybe play a show, a few shows a year or something. I don't enjoy hanging out in those environments where you're forced to stay up. That show in particular was at this venue that, for whatever reason, cooks meat. We got there and it just reeked of meat. And I was like, I don't need to be here now. What am I even doing? Is having a book table at this event, well, that’s the positive.
M: Maybe you’re repaying some karma for the way that you were introduced to Hare Krishna?
G: Totally. Yeah, I think that's it. I think I would like to play five shows a year tops or something and make them really count.
M: That sounds sustainable. Did you maintain vegetarianism from the time you read The Higher Taste to now? And related followup, when did you decide to convert to Krishna consciousness?
G: Krishna is dormant within everyone, so it's not really a conversion, it’s just like waking it up and you're making the decision to fan that spark. Yeah, I was vegetarian/vegan after I met the devotees until I was about maybe 21 or 22, so nine years initially. And then going into that dark zone, I just kind of was... I don't know, man. I was on the road, I was in Wyoming, and I was really hungry. I hadn’t eaten in three days. I was at this gas station in the middle of Wyoming and someone came up and they gave me a bag of McDonald’s. I was like, fuck it, and I ate it. And then I slowly fell off from there. My alcoholism and substance abuse played into it. It made me apathetic and nihilistic. So, ages 21 until 27, I was eating meat again. When I was 27, Thanksgiving 2014, I was like, I gotta stop doing this. It's weird, I knew the way to live when I was a kid, but I guess I had to go through some dark night of the soul for whatever reason to reinforce that that really is the right way to live.
M: I think that if you were a fanatic from the start your story wouldn’t be as compelling. Do you think you have a message for people that are caught up in what you found to be a dark night of the soul?
G: Are you saying people that want out of it?
M: I’m not sure. Most people might not consider these things problems, but most people also can’t recognize the source of their problems. You know what I mean?
G: Yeah. I had to go through some painful experiences to get me to that point. A lot of it just has to do with taking inventory. And for me, I weighed the pros and cons. What positive things is drinking bringing into my life? And there was nothing. It was causing me to turn my friends into my babysitters and it was causing me to get into fights with people and get my ass kicked a few times. It was just feeding into every negative behavior pattern that I had within myself.
Luckily, when I was going through my formative years, drinking and smoking and doing drugs was not a part of that. I think most people get into that sort of thing when they're 13 and they're forming their personality, so it becomes way more ingrained into their personality. Whereas for me, I had the opposite. My personality, for better or worse, was tied to being this straight edge person, so when the time came for me to say I'm not gonna drink anymore, I already had this foundation of, oh, I’ve done this before. Life was way easier when you're 13 or whatever and you start drinking and doing drugs. When you're like 27 and you're like, I wanna stop, well, you've been working against yourself for so long at that point it's really hard. I mean, there's that song “Landslide” about being addicted to cocaine. And what does she say? “I’ve built my life around you.”
M: I thought that was about divorce.
G: Well, it’s up for interpretation, but she’s talking about seeing her reflection in the snow covered mirror.
M: Oh, it’s totally about cocaine.
G: And it’s Stevie Nicks, so.
G: Obviously about cocaine. So, “I've built my life around you.” For a lot of people, they've built their lives and their personalities around getting fucked up. For me, I just had to step back and be like, what is this doing? What is this bringing into my life that's positive? And there was nothing. I thought I should just do what I had been doing for years. It was not without a fight, I had to try multiple times. The pain of staying the same outweighed the pain of change. At some point I realize this is really bad, this is getting really bad. And I can see where this is leading and I don't wanna go there.
Part of it was being on tour and seeing these metal bands. Metal bands, for the most part, that I looked up to, who I'm not gonna name. Being around metal bands that I idolized forever and seeing that these guys were stuck in this lifestyle. I realize these guys couldn't really do anything else at this point. It’s never too late to change, but it's like, you’ve been on tour for 30 years. It's really hard to be 60 playing in a metal band and say, I’m gonna become a vegan marathon runner who gets into Ayurveda. There's hope for you, but I don't want to wake up one day and be 50 something years old and think, I've just been getting fucked up every night playing metal. I wanna do other things in my life.
M: Right, see what else you’re good at?
G: That was part of it too. Do you wanna play the same noise show over and over again for the rest of your life and then be like too old to really pursue anything else and have your body be so broken that you have to spend the rest of your life trying to improve the quality of your life when you've been totally destroying the quality of your life for the majority of your life? I don't wanna do that.
M: I hear you, though when I stopped drinking it was the first time since I was a child I really wanted to play music.
G: The thing about playing music is that you are super stoked and you're feeling so alive for that one hour. And there’s 23 other hours. When you're trying to play God, you're gonna suffer.
M: Well, if you fill the other 23 hours with drinking and fuck the world hangovers then, sure, you’re out of balance.
G: Now that hour is amazing. On top of the world, all these people going crazy, playing a sick riff, super loud, and then you come down, the other 23 hours, you're like, I'm a piece of shit. What have I done with my life? Like blah, blah, blah. It’s because you're trying to play God for one hour on stage, you’re giving all the glory to yourself and not to God who's giving you the talent make that music. That music isn't just from you. There's a bigger force. I mean, music is transcendental.
M: Speaking to playing God and playing music, how often do you chant, how often does the average Hare Krishna chant, how often do you all do kirtan?
G: It depends. They say different rasas for different dāsas, different flavors for different devotees. There are some devotees where kirtan is all they do. They just want to do kirtan and they have a proclivity towards it. They're good at it and it inspires people. There's people that are maybe better suited towards giving a class or doing deity worship or distributing books. It's all necessary, but kirtan should be the central focus of the Krishna Consciousness movement. The kirtan is what we are all supposed to be doing. I don't know that I can quote a statistic for the average hours an average devotee is kirtan. But it should be the central focus of our movement, because like I said, it’s this Yuga.
M: Comparing the ISKCON cassettes from the 1970s to the kirtan I saw in the park, it sounds like a lot of the music is the same. Triplets on hand cymbals, same swells in volume, it seems like they stick to the same form.
G: I thought you were gonna say trip hop and I got excited.
M: That’s for Antimaterial Worlds.
G: Yeah, definitely. There's been talk. A lot of talk. So what's the question?
M: Is much of the kirtan improvised or there is a set structure?
G: There's melodies. There's definitely established melodies. Yeah, I don't know how to speak to that necessarily. There's definitely established melodies, but there are millions. People might say a melody comes from a Bollywood song, but the Bollywood song actually came from this ancient melody. That's how music works in general. Different people will play the same melody in a different way, on different instrumentation.
ISKCON isn't the only game in town when it comes to the Krishna Consciousness movement as much as they like to make it seem that way. There's many Gaudiya Vaishnava groups. Gaudiya Vaishnavaism is the actual name of this spiritual process that we're participating in. There's groups that don't use harmonium. They only use the kartals and mridangam. So you go to their temple and they don't have any harmonium, but they might be playing the same melody as someone who's playing a melody on harmonium. There’s no harmonium, they just don't do that.
M: Is that out of an antagonism to Western harmony?
G: I can't speak to that, I'm not representing them. I'm initiated into the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. But yeah, Lord Chaitanya didn't have a harmonium, there was no harmonium in medieval India. They used kartals, cymbals, and mridangam. Lord Chaitanya didn't have a harmonium, that’s all I can say about that. You can hear ISKCON recordings of kirtan without harmonium. Generally, harmonium is pretty central in a lot of Gaudiya groups. Gaudiya is the part of India where Lord Chaitanya appeared. I got to go to the beach!
M: Is there anything that you feel like you weren't able to speak on that you wanna have heard?
G: Yeah, there's a lot that I wanna say. Try to be conscious of the effects of your actions and how the little things you do will affect the world around you. Not you specifically, but the world you. Everybody, we can all be doing that more. Be careful with being an atheist, you know? Because then you're asserting that there definitely is no God. It’s maybe a little bit more fun to go through life being like, I don't know, there could be. I’m not saying that to you directly. I spent years as an atheist as well. I didn't meet the devotes and immediately take the Krishna Consciousness. That came way later. I had an affinity for the devotees, I was like, Oh, that's cute. They're cool. They're telling me things that are relevant to my life and I have a lot of good takeaways. But I had an aversion to believing in God. I was like, nature is my God, and it's like, okay, well, then you believe in God, nature is your God, then you're not in an atheist.
I think a lot of people also think that they're atheists, but they're actually not. They do believe in some sort of higher power. When we totally deny that aspect of ourselves, it doesn't bring a lot of good and it doesn't bring a lot of room for magic to happen. Like, oh, I'm self-made, I did that, there's no higher power assisting me or giving me any sort of nudges. People will be like, oh, the universe arranged this. The universe told me to do this. Okay, the universe is just a euphemism for God. Like your way of using that term, the Universe, means God. I like the idea of “no gods, no masters”, but I think it's more about, no false gods, no false masters. Be discerning in who you are serving.
M: I agree it doesn't leave a lot of room for magic to work.
G: “There definitely is no God.” Come on, man. That means you’re God if you know that. You know everything, you know everything, and you can say that there's no God. I think there's a lot of false idols and there's a lot of fake gurus. That's another thing, kaitava-dharma, the cheating religion, is more prevalent than any sort of bonafide spiritual process in Kali Yuga. I would say that's true. There's a lot of false gods, a lot of false gods, a lot of false conceptions of God, a lot of people wanting to be like, God's got me in whatever I do, it's all good. I can do whatever I want. Think the Ten Commandments “thou shalt not kill.” People think God meant don’t kill people. No. God said “thou shalt not kill.” That means don't kill the Earth, don't kill animals, that means do not kill. That means don't take life. That means honor life. People want to twist the words of God and it's like they're playing God. I don't know. I’m dragging this interview on ranting. You just have to watch out.