Thousands of people quit one job for another, and tons of people quit one band for another, but usually they do so because they think they are getting into a better job, a better band. Quitting Inside Out for Shelter wasn’t like that – it felt like an artistic downgrade, and was a severance from my family, the end of my education, and a permanently shut zipper on my pants.
To play in Shelter I would live with Shelter. We weren’t sure yet exactly where that would be, but it wasn’t going to be Southern California. That meant no more living with or near mom and dad. But I was almost 20 years old, so it wasn’t hard to convince myself that moving away from home was completely normal…
To play in Shelter I would have to quit college, which went a long way towards killing whatever hopes I might have one day had for mainstream employment and financial stability. But then I never really even knew what I wanted to be when I grew up anyway…
To play in Shelter I would become a brahmacārī living in temples (whenever I wasn’t living in a van). “Brahmacārī” is a Sanskrit term Hare Krishna’s use mainly to indicate someone who is asexual, celibate. Oh well, not a big deal – to be honest. I had already given up on Marianne in favor of Krishna, and, with the exception of Serena in high school, I had never had any other girlfriends or even much flirting. Giving up girls was like giving up a million dollar bill I didn’t have…
So, the hardest part of joining Shelter was quitting Inside Out. Yes, everyone knew Shelter would be an extremely popular and important band, but Inside Out was already very popular and important and it wasn’t too hard to imagine that we would soon wind up at least as popular as Shelter. After all, Zack was, at least in my mind, a far better singer and song-writer, and Inside Out had members like Alex Baretto, one of Hardcore’s all-time best drummers and all-around musicians, while Shelter didn’t even have a permanent drummer or bass player at all.
So why did I do it?
Because I just didn’t care about which band was artistically better, or destined for more popularity and success. All I wanted, with all my heart, was to be a Hare Krishna. Fully. Completely. Absolutely.
But why? Why was I so in love with Krishna that I bent over backwards to almost obliterate everything else in my life for his sake?
It’s surprisingly hard to answer.
In a sense there was no “why” – it was simply a reflex. But even reflexes have roots…
Since I was old enough to think, I didn’t think much of the world that presented itself to my five senses. Lots of little boys get into dinosaurs, but most of them do so because dinosaurs are huge monsters with big teeth. That wasn’t why I loved dinosaurs. I loved them because they were unreal; they didn’t exist anymore. After dinosaurs I became obsessed with with whatever it was that might exist beyond the blue sky – out there in the stars, far away from this plastic and boring world of humans. Then I became completely fascinated with high fantasy: Lord of the Rings and any half-decent knockoff thereof, and Dungeon’s and Dragons and the emerging genre of computer-based fantasy role playing games. I never had much interest in anything real, or, better put, in anything common or obvious.
The closest I came to normal boyish obsessions was little-league baseball. I hated the other sports – so brutishly warlike, muscle bound, or just pain exhausting. Even baseball wore off before I got out of elementary school, and I studied piano instead. Piano was dull, so from junior high, I got into subculture – the unreal, unseen, uncommon social groups. It started with BMX freestyle, morphed to Skateboarding, and from there, as I went into high-school, transformed into punk, hardcore, and eventually hit the zenith: Krishna.
Maybe now I can answer the question, Why did I throw so much away to become a Hare Krishna? Well, because I didn’t feel like I was throwing anything away. No one asks why you take out the trash. Everyone knows trash is stuff you don’t really need, and you get rid of it when the opportunity presents itself. Trash is stuff without value, and for me, nothing normal had much value. Maybe that’s part of why becoming a Hare Krishna felt so simple, natural, reflexive, and unavoidable.
But why did I wind up a Hare Krishna instead of in some other subcultural, trans-realistic, quasi-culty group? What was it about Hare Krishna, specifically, that attracted me?
It wasn’t Krishna, the person. Not at first. That came a few years later, in Vṛndāvana, India.
One thing that captivated me was the “revolution” of it all. I wanted to be different – not because I was silly and shallow, but because everything was silly and shallow and I wanted to be different. Stopping short of abject lunacy, I couldn’t imagine anything much more different than the Hare Krishna’s. That really appealed to me.
And there was something philanthropically attractive about it, too; I felt that the Hare Krishna’s could really change the world for the better. There’s irony to that since it was obvious that they couldn’t even manage their relatively tiny society without obvious and explicit exploitations and sexism. Yet still through the Hare Krishna’s I came into touch with Vedic culture and thus with concepts that seemed capable of making the world such a better place.
That sort of thing always mattered to me, ever since I can remember. When I was a kid, my parents took me into New York City for the first time. I started sobbing in the back seat of the car, looking out the window and the endless ugly, stupid nicknames scrawled all over the walls of beautifully carved buildings – symbolizing everything I instinctively knew made the world such a dangerous shithole. Humans were turning a beautiful universe into something selfish, ugly, and hellish. Krishna philosophy appealed to me because it seemed to cry over the same things I cried over, and it seemed to present reasonable and deep solutions. Well, not “solutions,” because nothing in the external world can ever be completely solved, but the Vedic philosophy presented remedial measures that seemed sure to make the world a much better place than any other proposed revolution I had ever encountered.
But the real clincher was the logic. That might sound strange, since Hare Krishna’s as a majority are hardly the most logical, systematic thinkers you’d hope to meet, but they exposed me to Vedāntic and Upaniṣadic culture – with its use of rigorous logic to communicate metaphysical topics so far outside the common purview of logic. This was just so attractive, so sexy, such a turn on. The idea of being able to answer questions was just so tempting, so irresistible.
Sanskrit and the wizard robes didn’t hurt either.
I needed to “become a Hare Krishna” (whatever that exactly meant, and why-ever that seemed to absolutely necessitate me abandoning my current situation to live in a temple, wear strange clothes, and so on). I needed to become a Hare Krishna, and Shelter was the perfect opportunity.
– Excerpt from a draft of
Train Wrecks and Transcendence:
A Collision of Hardcore and Hare Krishna
by Vraja Kishor
Did I just Insult Raghunatha / Ray Cappo? My thoughts on it.