Would you care to comment about Indian music and drugs? The English singer-poet Donovan recently published this statement on his record cover: “Oh what a dawn youth is rising to! I call upon every youth to stop the use of all drugs and banish them into the dark and dismal places for they are crippling our blessed growth.”
Pt. Ravi Shankar : It is very strange, you know, because all this, ah, youngsters and all this, either Beatle or Donovan, who, they are saying the things which I have been saying for last many years. They are saying it a bit, you know, they are themselves a bit late. But I am glad they have understood it by themselves. Now the question is, just as themselves they took long time to come to this conclusion in spite of . . . many people must have told them, but they were not convinced. Something has made them convinced by their own experiences. And also now it depends upon their saying, and singing and composing all the songs, how much effect it will have on the young people who listen to them. If these young people who listen are are great fans of all these pop musicians who are now writing against drugs, it might have very good effect. There might be still a number of young people at large who might not be affected by this philosophy and still continuing to pursue, to find out things through drugs. Some of them, not all of them might go, you know, far out, and then, what is that word, point of no return. Something happens. I’ve been very strongly against this whole thing, you know, and I’ve been talking and writing about it, speaking often as I can to the young people. And I was concerned because of two reasons: All this big wave of Hare Krishna, etc., and beads, bells and joss sticks being carried in their ears or between their teeth like Carmen carries a rose, always sort of hurt me very much. I saw on one side their real willingness to feel something and get something out of the Indian cultural heritage, religious or spiritual. And also, music was there. I should have been very happy because I am very much loved by these people. But on the other hand I felt the whole approach. Either to religion or to music, the whole Indian concept, you know. And, drugs were sort of the bridge. It is now on its wane. Because now slowly that frenzy seems to be less. Of course, what I saw in California, especially San Francisco area, in Haight-Ashbury. It chilled me inside to see. India has the oldest hippies in this world, I think, before anywhere else. All this long beards, all this fantastic looking sort of types, you know, all drugged and mad things. This has been there always. But then, it’s not thought of for these young people. I have always felt that these young people today are the most sensitive, most aware, people, so much more than the young people in the old, you know, a few years ago. On the other hand it is some of these self-appointed gurus, as I say, in this country. I don’t like to take their names, but you know, who for the last few years have either been to India, or brought all this philosophy from India and tried to talk all the time. This had great effect on the youth, that everything you should do should be through drugs: in India everyone takes drugs, everyone smokes hashish or bhang, without taking marijuana you cannot say “Om,” you cannot sing, you cannot meditate, and all sorts of things. And then unfortunately, the whole mix-up of sex and spiritual exercise all became one, you know. All of a sudden I saw it was more like a pagan ritual like you find in those peculiar books or those peculiar films, you know, orgies and religious things together. And it makes me sad because I happen to be a Hindu, a Brahmin, and belong to a very religious family and I know what has happened in India and what is happening. And it is absolutely gross, I mean, a distortion of facts. As I said, you do find lots of this type, yes. But these are the types that we really look down upon. These are all what we call the worshippers of devils. These are the witchcraft people, you know, they have what is known as siddhi, those quick attainments, by doing the sort of rituals and they are the people, you know, who sort of go to help people to get certain little powers, which according to our true yogis are nothing, mere nothing. It is the most basic that one should shun all this quick attainment, you know, and it is all associated with this type of so-called ascetics or religious people who are really not. They are followers of devils, as we think. And this became more attractive to the youth here because that is what they were told. And this whole mixup with the Tibetan and the Dead and Tantra and philosophy. It really made me so disturbed. And then there was the Indian music. They get high and stoned after taking drugs and then they put my records on and they try to see visions. And just after a little they just like animals start, you know, making love, and all that association with the music, it made me feel very unhappy. I’ve been talking and talking since then, and I feel so happy to see the big difference already. Of course the whole thing has happened together, the other side, of course, Beatles and many pop groups are now all saying, denouncing rather, drugs, and talking about it and maybe it has helped also. I find a great difference. For instance the groups of listeners that I had even a few months ago in the month of May, in San Francisco. And now the group that I am having. Last year in New York Philharmonic Hall there were two young boys, they were so stoned, they were LSD completely, they were just like zombies, they walked on the stage and they came straight and they sat on the dais before I entered and then the police had to take them and they were sent to Bellevue Hospital. It was fantastic, almost 50 to 60 percent of the whole auditorium was stoned, you know. Almost to that ratio. But I found a great difference this time – you find really, that’s what I have been talking about, I want clear-headed, clean, physically clean and mentally clean people when they listen. Just as they would go to Bach or Beethoven, or any classical orchestra. They don’t go like that. Why do they associate Indian music with that? It’s so wrong absolutely. Here I’ve been trying to preach, and that’s what I’ve been doing in my school in Los Angeles, that’s what I tried to do in CCNY, and I think I have been quite successful in that, at least the group of people who have been hearing and talking about it to others. I think it will have very good effect, bring out the pure and clean side of our music and culture.