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Sixties Essay, Research Paper

Aviv Grill

The Sixties

From Recreation To Revolution

?Don?t worry, be happy.? This phrase for the most part summed up the philosophy of the hippie culture. People were to love each other, and there was happiness and bliss. The hippie philosophy, though, didn?t just create itself. The hippie movement was revolutionized by Eastern influence in the areas of spirituality, music, theater, art, and drugs. The views of the East made the hippie culture more than just a small group of extremists. The power of the philosophy made the movement a revolution.

In order to understand the role Eastern philosophy played in the hippie culture, one must first have background in the gurus and teachers of the East. Gurus are individuals who teach the world about their spiritual way of life. Meher Baba was one of many gurus who had a large following in the United States in the sixties. He preached about Eastern philosophy and was popularized with influential quotes such as ?Don?t worry, be happy.? He was one of the first people to bring Hinduism to a large group of Americans, although was a man of few words. 1920 through 1968, Meher Baba didn?t say one word, yet maintained thousands of followers (Bhairava p.210). ?He took a vow of silence, claiming that words and speech was a way of expressing lack of thought.? (Bhairava p.213)

Other guru?s who were influential in the Aquarian movement were Swami Satchadananda and Sri Satya Sai Baba. Satchadananda came to the United States often, and was popular with many musical groups in the 60’s such as The Beatles, Jefferson Airplane, The Police (Sting in particular) and Sweet Water (Kamenetz p.44). Sai Baba was another guru with many American followers, although he never left India. He had artists, such as George Harrison, go and see him. Sai Baba became most popular for his manifestation of objects out of thin air (Krystal p.32).

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was among the most popular of the gurus in the 60’s. He was the founder of a practice called transcendental meditation. He brought his new medical philosophy to the United States, claiming that meditation could heal the body. Thousands of American hippies experimented with meditation after hearing his teachings. LSD was one of the catalysts for the flower children’s turning toward meditation (Lee p. 96) George Harrison was a strong follower of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and talked a lot about his teachings during concerts and interviews (Lee p.102). Because of the extreme popularity of The Beatles, George Harrison?s ideas influenced many people, and brought more followers to Indian philosophers.

Without the guidance of Indian gurus, the actions of many hippies would be viewed as reckless rather than spiritual. These leaders portrayed a new way of life rather than a new way to party. This could have perhaps influenced those who were not part of the hippie revolution to take its ideas more seriously because the reasons for the hippie?s actions were based on intellectual beliefs.

Music had a large influence on the beliefs of the hippie culture, and was one of the best ways to protest the issues (war, hate, conformance, violence, etc.) that people felt were wrong with the country. The 60?s rock and roll era caused more people to listen to the protest; it appealed to young and old alike. along with all different types of people. There was a tremendous Eastern influence on the music of the 60’s. Many of the words of the songs written were preaching Eastern philosophy in some way.

The best example of a musical group being influenced by the East is The Beatles. They sang songs such as Hare Krishna ( the mantra of the Hare Krishna movement) in concerts and was recorded by George Harrison on an album of his. They would sometimes start out their concerts with this chant in order to help the audience become more receptive to their music (Pulomby p. 7). Songs such as Let It Be had messages very similar to the teachings of Indian gurus such as Swami Muktananda, who would say ?Let life flow. Just let it be, and learn from what you don?t know.? (Muktananda p.55) Other songs such as ?Tell Me What You See?have lines such as ?Open Up you eyes. Tell me what you see. What you see is free.? This line is almost exactly the same philosophy as that of Sai Baba. He worded the phrase like this; ?If you open your eyes to the world, you will see that we are all truly free.?

Some of The Beatle?s songs took on tunes similar to those of the East. They used instruments in their music such as dotara and khamak, both of which are native to Indian music (Pulomby p.7). Artists such as Ravi Shankar, an Indian sitar player, played with The Beatles in some of their concerts. The music used ragas (Indian scales) that were native to that of India (Grill).

The Beatles were not the only musical group whose art was influenced by the east. It?s A Beautiful Day is another group who recorded music similar to that of the east. They wrote songs such as Bombay Calling. The song included instruments such as gourd, tambourine, sitar, nupur, and dotara (Pulomby p.4), all of which were originally from Indian music.

Ravi Shankar was another influential musician in bringing eastern culture to the hippie culture. His citar playing brought Indian music to an audience that had never heard music so ethnically diverse. He was asked to play in concerts all over the United States, and his music affected many flower children. He played with acid rock bands in the sixties, and brought a new type of music to the popular world. This brought about a small musical revolution, showing musicians that rock and roll could be more than just noisy screams; it could be ethnic and eccentric.

A very famous musical called Hair was on Broadway during the sixties. The musical brought tunes to the legitimate stage that were never heard before. It was an anti-war story; all about hippies and Hare Krishna, and the fight against the Vietnam War. Many people were shocked to see a musical with so much eccentricity. At first most critics hated the musical, and the response from the most of the public was negative. People said it was too radical and the music didn?t show the skill level that should be performed on Broadway. Soon, though, people began to look at the musical as a new way to look at the Vietnam War. This changed a lot of people?s view on what the hippies were fighting for. More people were able to see that the hippie movement was more than just a big party; they were fighting for freedom and peace, both of which were always thought of as noble causes. This was turning into a revolution; a rebellion against the so-called fascist government. Many right wingers were afraid of the affect the musical might have on the public, so they tried to ban it. ?They took it to court saying it was too crude and should not be allowed to be done. Freedom of press is what won the case, and Hair was able to go on.? (Butler p.2)

Visual art in the hippie culture was also influenced by the Eastern culture. Album covers of many acid rock bands had images and icons of Eastern art called mandala. Icons and images such as the Yin Yang and circular, geometric patterns originated from mandala art. The Beatles, The Mamas and Papas, Bob Dylan, and other sixties musical artist had album covers with mandala art on it. It was also purported to be a form of art that produced soothing powers that could help one meditate. The hippie culture took to the form quickly, and soon the psychedelic colors of mandala were seen on everything from cloths to Volkswagen Vans. This became almost a trademark for the Aquarian movement (Dahlke p.29). The art also worked hand in hand with the images some people would see while on LSD, making the art even more popular.

Images of mandala had been rare in the United States, and soon became very representative of the hippie movement. Both the movement and mandala were new to the majority of the Western world, taking the world by surprise (Arguelles p.55). By making people uncomfortable with all these new experiences, the hippie movement forced people to listen to what they had to say. It?s very hard to ignore something that makes a person uncomfortable. Without all this uneasiness, the messages of the hippies wouldn?t have been heard as clearly as they were.

One of the biggest influences the East had on the United States was its role in the introduction of hallucinogens. Drugs were widespread in the hippie culture, and became a part of the hippie way of life. Many of the drugs used originated in the east, such as opium and psilocsybin (Lee p.4). Hallucinogens that weren?t from the east, such as LSD, were sometimes used as devices for meditation (Lee 22). The east played a large role in making drugs more popular in the sixties.

There were two people in the sixties that seemed to stand out from the rest as the founders of the drug revolution. These people were Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert. Their drugs experiences were greatly influenced by Eastern Religion and philosophy.

In order to fully understand these two professors, a little bit of background information is needed. Leary and Alpert worked together at Harvard University. They were early users of LSD, and started distributing it to their graduate students. Harvard University was fine with this until they started giving LSD to under-graduate students. They were fired for this, and both went on to write books that became ?instruction manuals? for many hippies on multiple subjects.

Richard Alpert and Timothy Leary worked together in writing an interpretation of The Tibetan Book Of The Dead called The Psychedelic Experience, and claimed that this book of Eastern philosophy was meant to be an instruction manual on the use of hallucinogens. Both Alpert and Leary were very much into Hinduism and Buddhism at the time (they both were followers of gurus from India), and were both looking for a way to link religion and drugs. They felt that both drugs and Eastern religion were spiritual paths one should follow.

The Psychedelic Experience taught different ways one should use LSD. It also gave instructions on how much LSD should be used, reasons for using it, and when it should be taken (Leary p.42). Millions of hippies read their book, and followed its teachings. The book didn?t only have instructions on getting high. It also talk about meditation while on LSD, and the power that meditation had. The book even preached about free love, and why people should all love one another (Leary: Book Of Dead p. 77). This book was an introduction to the Eastern way of life, and influenced huge masses of hippies to get involved in Eastern religions.

After The Psychedelic Experience was written, Leary and Alpert went in different directions. Leary got heavier into drugs, wrote 3 more books, and passed away while on hallucinogens (Grill). Alpert was the one that truly helped bring Eastern religion to the flower children. Alpert, after his book with Leary, was already viewed as a leader in the acid culture movement. In 1966, Alpert went to India to visit his guru, Neem Karoli Baba, and changed his name to Baba Ram Dass (Jones p.2). Because of his extreme popularity with the hippies, his transformation into Baba Ram Dass fascinated people, causing many to go to India to seek spiritual guidance (Jones p.3).

After his transformation, Richard Alpert (now known as Baba Ram Dass) wrote a book called Be Here Now in 1971 (Alpert). The book was more spiritual than The Psychedelic Experience, but it still linked drugs and Hinduism. Just as his last book, people viewed it as a manual for how one should meditate and use drugs at the same time. The book became popular quickly, and over a million copies have been sold to date (Jones p.3).

Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert impacted people with their sermons on drug use. Their beliefs on drug use were directly influenced by Eastern philosophy. Therefore, Eastern philosophy played a big part in guiding the hippie/drug culture and contributed to the drug revolution of the sixties.

The East influenced every aspect of the hippie movement, not just music and drugs. People began to use different medical procedures, such as holistic medicine. Many hippies became vegetarians because of the influence Buddhism and Hinduism played. The hippies were looking for something that the West had not been able to provide them. Eastern religion seemed fulfill the needs of the hippies who previously felt like something was missing (Grill).

Eastern culture took the hippie movement and gave it guidance; it took drugs and gave it meaning; took religion and made it fulfilling. Suppose for a moment that the East was not part of the hippie movement: One might speculate that the hippies would have been using drugs for the sole purpose of getting high, without giving it any spiritual value. Music might have sounded the same as the music of the 40s and 50s, causing the 60s music era to blend in with the rest of the century. Without the power of the 60s music revolution, a lot of the messages that the hippies were trying to get across might not have been heard as clearly by the rest of the world. One might speculate that without Eastern influence art wouldn?t have broken all the barriers the Western world had previously set up for it.

If the hippie movement didn?t have Eastern influence, it very well could have become a big party rather than a revolution. Eastern Philosophy took the hippie culture and transformed it, bringing a group of radical liberal extremist together and turning them into revolutionaries.

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