So afler almost a year and a half in India, what did you find there that you had not found in the West?
Allen Ginsberg: A more intimate awareness of the relation between people and God. Just the very notion of Ganesh with a noose in one hand and a rasgoolla in the other, and his trunk in the rasgoolla, riding a mouse…. Such an idea of a god, such a sophisticated, quixotic, paradoxical combination of the human and the divine, the metaphysical and the psychological! You don’t often get that in Christianity, except maybe in some esoteric Christianity. The idea of an entire culture suffused with respect for that mythology, that religion and its practices, that poor people could under- stand its sophistication and grant things that hard-headed West- erners are still trying to kill each other over. That was a revelation: how deeply the sense of a spiritual existence could penetrate everyday relations, the streets and street signs . . . Naga sadhus walking around naked—people who would have been arrested in America . . . or for that matter—I remember writing to Kerouac—everybody walking around in their underwear, in striped boxer shorts. What would seem outrageous or strange to Americans was just normal—it was hot and people wore very light cotton—it seemed so obvious. That showed me the absurd artificiality of some American customs. . . . And then just the notion of somebody being a businessman and then renouncing the world and being a sannyasi and going around with an intel- ligent expression looking for moksha, that was such a switch from the American notion of business, such a good model, but it doesn’t work for even Indians now. . . . A n d then the availability of ganja and its use in religious festivals and ceremonies was a great source of release for an American used to government dictatorship of all psychedelic drugs (even marijuana), to prohi- bitions, murders, beatings, corruption.8 At least in India there was some familiarity with what it was.