Love, Medicine, and Music: The Flipside of the Sixties

An Evening with Gurudas Prabhu 2018

Dear Devotees and Readers,

Please accept my humble obeisances, all glories to Srila Prabhupada!

Thinking back to the evening, amid the music and the stories, and the sense of shared space and warmth that comes with gatherings such as this, one quote from Gurudas Prabhu has remained with me above the others, “We have family, now we need community.”

In some ways the sentiment might be baffling.  What is a community if not a kind of family?  Yet, as Gurudas Prabhu spoke on a time gradually fewer will be able to remember, fondly wearing the hat of his beloved Guru, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, I began to understand.

Much like today in many ways, 1960’s America was nothing if not a time of change.  Revolution followed revolution as a disenfranchised youth sought change and reformation in every place that offered it, and some, like Gurudas Prabhu, sought a spiritual revolution, a revolution of the heart through a radical decision to be happy without everything American consumerism told people they needed.

Many encountering what came to be known as the “Hare Krishna Movement,” or Gaudiya Vaishnavism in non-colloquial terms, had families, but family, like many people find, isn’t always the same as community, isn’t always the same as a group of people from different backgrounds and experiences choosing to be with each other out of love rather than obligation.

As Gurudas Prabhu told stories and shared memories of meeting the Beatles, his friendship with George Harrison, and his personal relationship with His Divine Grace, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, what stood out was his gentle love and affection for everyone he spoke of.  In a time when practitioners were being kidnapped off the streets to be held by the police or their families, coming from a background of social and civil activism, Gurudas Prabhu seemed to have never hardened, instead telling story after story of how Bhakti Yoga became revolutionary to so many, as Srila Prabhupada taught his clumsy and heartfelt disciples that in Bhakti Yoga there would be no difference between the men and women, no value to be put on class or race, that to be gentle with themselves and to learn was enough.

With shining eyes, as he discussed his early memories, Gurudas Prabhu said, “don’t beat yourself up—do things sincerely.  We are children.” When many find it easy to stress the aspects of discipline or austerity in a practice, the urge to put rules above affection, Gurudas Prabhu painted a unique picture of the social stresses of the time through a distinctly personal lens, that allowed no room for distancing the people of the 1960s from the social and historical personalities it’s viewed through now.  Because for Gurudas Prabhu, as he recalled his friends, his journey, and his guru, what he shared were memories and all that comes with them, rather than a speech or a lesson.

As we closed the evening with more kirtan and food, everyone sought to make sure Gurudas Prabhu received his refreshments first.  Yet as other students and myself sat on the floor to sing more kirtan while food was being served, Gurudas Prabhu held a pair of kartals with great care and seated himself on the floor with the rest of us, food temporarily forgotten as he sang with all of us, his smiling face that of a joyful youth.

A man who learned that the permission to be happy and serve the ones you love was a revolution to last generations, carried on the back of a gentle Swami from Kolkata to California, to meet Gurudas Prabhu and so many others as they were.  “We are children”, he said.  “Just do things sincerely.”

Thank you so much to ASSG, SOAC, and the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, and everyone from CSI who helped out for sponsoring this experience and allowing this event to be possible, and thank you, most sincerely, to Gurudas Prabhu himself.  The evening you gave to our campus and our humble club was an experience as valuable as it was special, and truly an evening to be cherished beyond all words.  Being able to share these aspects of Bhakti Yoga with the CU Boulder community was an honor made possible by all of you.

Sincerely with Affection,
Your Servants,
Panchali Walford & The CU Boulder Bhakti Yoga Club

To order Gurudas’ books, click here.