Shelter toured so frequently and played so constantly that Hare Krishna’s had become as common as stage dives at hardcore shows, especially in the North East. But besides taking the temple to the kids, we were taking kids to the temple.
In downtown Philly, a devotee named Hariyāśva had a vegetarian restaurant named Govinda’s. It was on the ground floor of a muti-story building, the fourth floor of which served as a temple room for kīrtan and Krishna conscious gatherings. Hariyāśva was happy to give us that space up there on Wednesday nights, where we would cook multi-course vegetarian feasts in it’s apartment-sized kitchen for a few dozen hardcore kids who would pack in wall-to-wall week after week for months. The similarities between traditional khol-karatāla kīrtan and the familiar hardcore mosh pit became evident on those sweaty and blissful Wednesday nights. Older but eternally jovial, Hariyāśva himself would often join us and gracefully leap around the kīrtan with a huge, effulgent smile, reminding me of a prancing black horse and erasing the border between “hardcore kid” and “non-hardcore kid.” So many people were jumping up and down in that small fourth-story room that the floor literally began to act like a trampoline, and the pictures and mūrti figures of Krishna started falling off the shelves!
Outside the city, the temple on Allen’s lane was also bustling with an influx of new full-time residents moving in from all parts of the country, eager to become a part of the Krishna Consciousness movement swirling thrillingly like a new hurricane around Shelter and, especially, Ray. Antonio Valladerez, Norman Brannon, Glen Karma, Dan Davis… these were just a few of the names bringing new life into a temple that had been practically deserted just a month or two before.
But things weren’t easy between me and Ray, and the tension between us became clear by the refreshing fragrance of its sudden absence when he went to spend several weeks in Vṛndāvana India. Obviously, Ray was the kingpin of all this spiritual revolution, the central hinge – the main reason all of this Krishna conscious stuff was happening at all. Maybe I was jealous of that, wishing I was #1 instead of #2? Maybe it was just the artistic tension that arose from my definite dislike and incompatibility with the musical direction Ray had steered Shelter towards? Maybe it was simply a personality clash – him being a classic extrovert and me a classic introvert?
I guess it was all of these, and probably more. Nonetheless, he and I always shared, and I think always will share, a deep and very real love for one another; a mutual admiration, respect, and, perhaps most importantly, a mutual willingness to forgive one another. He and I were becoming brothers not just because we soon became students of the same guru; we were brothers in a much more common sense: we fought all the time – but we loved each other.
Brotherhood aside, the tension was becoming too much. If Ray said left, I said right. And if I said left, he’d say right. In my eyes, he seemed so extroverted and superficial about sharing Krishna consciousness, as if our ultimate goal was to make the whole world move into a temple, shave up, wear robes, and eat a lot of burfi sweets. In his eyes I probably seemed like the incurable, stubborn pessimist, an ideologically elitist wannabe-bookworm, a self-made know-it-all. Truth is, both of us were ridiculously young and flawed, spiritually even more than physically – it’s no wonder both of our strong-willed ego’s couldn’t fit in the same band and live in the same building.
One day, a little bit after Ray returned from India with the name Raghunātha (something else to be jealous of), Bhakta Tony came into to the bunk-bed room and called me across the hall into the Equal Vision Records office. “Guṇagrahi Swāmī is on the phone. He wants to talk to you.”
Everyone just happened to be there, even a cool devotee from the Cro-Mags scene, named Kaustubha.
I picked up the phone, confused why all eyes were on me.
“I had a dream,” the Swāmī said.
“In my dream,” he continued, “There were two Krishna conscious hardcore bands.”
Oh, now everything made sense! I was getting kicked out of Shelter.
“Why don’t you come down to D.C.,” he concluded “and start a second band?”
It seems like Ray and the devotees made an effort to be gentle about kicking me out – but it wasn’t really necessary at all. I didn’t need a swami’s dream to sell me on the idea of getting out of Shelter and doing my own thing!
Back in my room, I took out my guitar, sat on the floor, and in all of fifteen minutes wrote Holyname – the first song for the first album of my new band.
Excerpt from an early draft of
Train Wrecks and Transcendence: A Collision of Hardcore and Hare Krishna
by Vraja Kishor