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Life gettin' you down? Now there's Krishna

This article, "Life gettin' you down? Now there's Krishna," was published in Arizona Republic, February 15, 1969, in Phoenix, Arizona.

London Sunday Times Service 

LONDON - Hare Krishna is good for you. What it means, more or less, is "take heed of Krishna." Innocuous, you may think. But say it sincerely and wonderful things can happen, according to believers. 

It helps to cure insomnia. It aids concentration, It takes your mind off sex. 

"It is a chant which sets God dancing on your tongue," says Guru Das, of the society for Krishna Consciousness lnc., a missionary group from America which has lately arrived in London. "It has a cleansing effect."

Extravagant claims, maybe, but the Krishna people are walking, talking testimonials. 

There are six of them, three husbands and their wives, all from San Francisco. The men have shaven heads - a sign of renunciation - with scalp lock dangling at the back. Their foreheads and noses are daubed with white paint, signifying the footprint of Vishnu, and the banyan leaf - a symbol of strength and spirituality. They wear yellow dhotis, and around their necks they have slung a bag containing beads of tulsi-wood. 

At present they all live in an old newspaper office in Covent Garden, where they've turned one room into a temple. 

The locals, says Guru Das, don't object to the way they look. 

"Their only reaction seems to be just 'wow!'

He's 27 and trained as a photographer. He was born Robin Roger Siegel, but these days he rarely uses the name. 

"Our Indian names - my wife is called Uamuna - are our spiritual identities, but we still have to use our other names for passports, that sort of thing."

What's likely to earn them a public is their chanting. What they chant are mantras - incantatory prayers accompanied by harmonium, drum, conch shell, finger cymbals - which can last from 30 minutes to 24 hours. 

They'll chant whenever and wherever they're invited, but already the police have turned them out of Trafalgar Square and Hyde Park, where the playing of musical instruments is forbidden. 

Guru Das is now negotiating with the Ministry of Works for permission to perform in the streets, and it's possible his application will succeed. 

"I hope it does, because our chanting can bring nothing but good," he said. 

"At the time of the Grosvenor Square demonstrations we went along there and gave a couple of short chants which may have helped the situation. But the most striking example was at Oakland, in California, when a group of Hell's Angels was all set to beat up a number of anti-Vietnam demonstrators. Alan Ginsberg, the poet, asked everyone to chant a mantra, and the mood of the crowd changed totally. When some of the Hell's Angels came to London the other week, we asked them if they remembered that day. They said yes, they did, but they'd like to forget it. It wasn't good for their reputation.

The Krishna people also want to try their chants on tourists, derelicts, and businessmen. They're quite prepared, they say, to go into action outside the stock exchange. It's an intriguing idea, and what it might do for the economy, Krishna only knows.

Reference: N/A