Sharon Meadows, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco
41st Annual Ratha Yatra Festival, Sunday 19 August 2007

There is something very wonderful about the Hare Krishna movement in North America. When you go back to where everything began, so to speak, you get a sense of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami’s extraordinary achievements. The Caitanya Caritamrta states that the seed of the creeper of devotion is planted in the heart of the conditioned soul by the spiritual master or guru – guru-krsna-prasade payi bhakti-lata-bija. In other words, by the mercy of guru one gets Krishna; and, by the mercy of Krishna, one gets guru.

It is forty years since the Summer of Love began here in 1967. The 2007 San Francisco Ratha Yatra marked the 41st anniversary of this annual event in the town. Today I took a walk around Hippy Hill. It was here that George Harrison strummed on his guitar with heart-shaped sunglasses; and it was here that that Swami Bhaktivedanta chanted Hare Krishna as the young hippies held hands and danced.  A few die-hards remain.  Are they still looking for the saviour (who already came)?  Devotees sit on the grass below Hippy Hill, forty-one years later.  Jagannatha is here.  And so, too, is Srila Prabhupada…in his murti form.

Thursday 24 August, Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco

The Haight-Ashbury is still very hip. I passed a shop called “Reincarnation”, organic food wholesalers, Hippy-era tee-shirt shops and a host of Oriental shops selling incense and murtis of Lord Buddha and Ganesh. I met a boy named JT who said he already got some books about Krishna. I asked him, ‘Where?’ And he said, ‘When I was in South Africa.’ I asked, ‘Whereabouts in South Africa?’ He said, ‘Pretoria.’ Then it all came back to me. I had met him in a mall in Pretoria during the December book marathon. I was the only devotee distributing books there, so it could only have been me. He had, incidentally, visited the Pretoria Temple. This was amazing. Here we were, meeting on Haight Street in San Francisco.

I also met a couple of teenage girls on the tram. They were both wearing Beatles tee-shirts, so I gave them each a Chant and Be Happy (a book about mantra meditation with pictures of the Beatles on the cover). They were delighted to receive the books and each gave $5. I walked around, bumping into all sorts of interesting people and ‘creatures’ on the Haight. I met two boys, Nick and Colin, at “The Peace Cafe.” With rucksacks and a guitar, they were on a pilgrimmage of their own. They were going through “The Burning Man” Survival list (“Burning Man” is an Extreme Art function out in the Nevada desert). The devotees are, by the way, installing a Krishna Camp at “Burning Man”. Anyhow, Nick and Colin had trekked over to to the famous bridge in Aberdeen frequented by Kurt Cobain (remember ‘Something in the Way’?). Nick’s sister is Maha-Laxmi, a devotee from New Zealand who is staying at the LA Temple. He was really interested in knowing about the philosophy and gave $20. I gave him and his friend a Science of Self-Realization and a Chant and Be Happy.

I took a little detour off Haight, from Cole, and made my way to 518 Frederick Street, site of the original Hare Krishna Temple. The Frederick Street Temple was second base for Prabhupada in America. It was also home to Jayananda and Vishnujana Swami.

Visiting all these places evoked sweet memories of a special time in history.

Seems like we’re celebrating the Summer of Love all over again.

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