The perfect blend of East and West

On my way to the East Village last night, I stopped by a store which is arguably ground zero for shameless Orientalism in NYC, East-West books.

This store is exactly as over the top and ridiculous as the name suggests. It’s the kind of place where one (White) salesman was dressed in a very handsome lime colored Chinese silk jacket while another (white again) had 3 sandalwood malas on one arm, several around his neck, and at least one on the other arm. Their list of books and other offerings is very left coast, the sort of thing I encountered regularly when I lived in the Bay Arya, but rarely see in skeptical, ironic NYC.

Soon after I entered, in the CD rack, I found Jaya Lakshmi’s “Jewel of Hari.” I love the blurb that introduces the album: Yoga! Mantras! Flamenco! Veils! It’s nearly a perfect listing of New Age clichés, it has everything except Zen, Native Americans and gnostic wisdom.

My favorite item on sale, however, was the image of Obama as transcendant being, his third eye of wisdom a glowing globe. You see, this way he’s both seer and seen, because instead of an eye, we have the world which is perceived by the eye …. no, I didn’t get it either but then I’m still working on one hand clapping so more advanced koans (and Cohens) are beyond my meager capacity.

Still, I know that somebody, somewhere has this up on their wall, perhaps garlanded and on an altar, and this thought provides me with an endless source of mirth.

p.s. apologies for the poor image quality, these were surreptitious cell phone shots, not photos from a real camera.

56 thoughts on “The perfect blend of East and West

  1. “…somewhere has this up on their wall, perhaps garlanded and on an altar..” Either that or using that eye for target practice… depending on which side of the political spectrum that person is !

  2. What will be next? Obama in a sadhu dress? or holding a trishool? I can already imagine the scene where Obama is hurtling the trishool towards the monster who is labeled recession :) Soon after we will get Obama action figures of the Hanuman nature: Kridana toys.

  3. I don’t know if they’re related, but East West Books on the West Coast (Sacramento, Mountain View, Seattle) is run by Ananda, the society that Kriyananda (disciple of Yogananda) founded. They seem to be very similar in content and tone… I wonder.

  4. I am not sure what the fuss is about. Just about every gym has a yoga class. Paul McCartney thinks children should be taught meditation. They are showing interest in other cultures and non-mainstream religions that includes Gnostic Christianity and Native American religions. If you look down upon them, then don’t go to that store. Why mock them? They are not harming anyone. They are peacefully exploring their own spirituality. I appreciate those “White” people far more than people like Rush Limbaugh, or Pat Robertson who publicly denounced Hinduism as demonic.

  5. Thats a great bookstore with lots of excellent titles – Aurobindo’s entire writings, Ramakrishna-Vivekananda, Ramana Maharshi, Chinmayananda, an extensive collection of Buddhist and Jain works, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, Kalidasa, Sanskrit and Hindi dictionaries, and many works of western scholarship on Indic religious/sociological subjects …in addition to healing crystals, prayer mats, zen-sufi fusion cds and white guys who wear prayer beads and greet you with “namaste.” But so what? Better than any temple bookstore in the US.

  6. another east meets west.

    I had only one criterion at that time: my teacher must have long hair,” Singh recalls. “And this one did, so I became a student.” But the thirst for wisdom remained. It was this search for enlightenment that led him to Sikhism.
  7. If you click on “News” on the artists website and scroll down he explains the Obama picture. Grey has been featured in the NY Times and is pretty well know in the art world and music world – he has done covers for some popular bands.

    OBAMA Anatomy of a World Leader by Alex Grey

    After hearing Barack Obama’s speech in BerIin, and noting the degree of excitement and hope that he generated throughout many countries besides the US, I started to see him as one of the first true “world leaders.” This may be partly because of his extraordinary childhood and political life that has bridged many cultures. Obama’s restraint and intelligence, exhibited as foes were bating him throughout the campaign, his heartful clarity coming through in his talks are all qualities of a highly evolved person.

    We need to consider our planetary citizenship, because solving the world’s ecological and economic problems, and creating a culture of peace and reconciliation will require the co-operation of all nations.

    Perhaps you can use this symbol of Barack Obama to send him a prayer of support, to send all the loving hopeful healing and creative energy that we can focus on him so that he can perform the task of leadership in the most effective and powerful way for the greatest good, for the greatest number.

    At most, he is saying not to pray to, but to pray for Obama. Well wishing.

  8. So from what I gather you had a negative experience at east-west, came away from east-west with negative feelings, or just have negative feelings regarding east-west in general. I don’t know man! There are not a lot of stores in New York that service one’s spiritual needs. And I speak of this as someone who wanted to open such a store, and then open additional stores in every major city. Where else do you go to buy a mala in NY, or clear quartz crystal, candle holders made especially for tea lights, and of course books relating to spirituality – all under one roof. Or ruf as they say elsewhere, meaning not in NY. It has been a while since I was by there, close to my old hood – where I was born. Kind of miss the place. There are not a lot of spiritual bookstores in NY, I believe East West sets the standard. Kind of like that one in Chicago, now what is the name of that?

  9. Why mock them?

    Because they mix yoga and flamenco on the grounds that all things “exotic” go well together. And because we’ve been mocking this sort of thing on this blog for over 4 years now.

  10. I agree, that CD is corny to me and I would not buy it. Some people like such CDs. Good for them. I would not have given it a second thought. There are plenty of ridiculous CDs in mainstream music stores. That SM has been mocking such things for 4 years is not important. I think that store is doing far more good than bad. It is one of the few places where you can get information on just about every form of spirituality. The people who go there obviously are spiritually curious, and that store can expose them to numerous faiths. Maybe one will click with them and their needs. Some things are corny. Some things are excellent. People have different tastes. And they are incorporating music and knowledge in ways that makes sense and appeals to them. It may not be the way we like it, but I think that is okay. It doesn’t affect my life, and it may make their life better.

  11. “New age” stores have been around since the late 60s and probably before, selling mainly books but also candles, crystals, sometimes “health foods.” The books range from orthodox texts acceptable to the most serious theologian, to self-help, find-your-inner-Hindu paperbacks. An interest in eastern religions has been a feature of “bohemians” in West since the mid-19th century. In general, people always get the original message of a religion sort of wrong–prophets are always most reviled in their own country. They got Christianity sort of wrong, Judaism, Islam, Zoroastrianism, and I’ll be damned if they didn’t get Hinduism sort of wrong, long, long ago. The dissonance between the original teachings and certain behavior has given all religions a bad name, IMHO undeservedly so. Being brown doesn’t make you born with the inner light. If you read the original message of a religion it sounds nothing like people actually live it today. That is to say, most religions sound like a good idea. It’s like playing postman, whispering the message to the kid next to you till it gets round to the tenth person, and it’s totally distorted. That’s why the same religion can take different forms in different cultures. I have never seen flamenco before on the spiritual new-age menu. Flamenco is a lively Gitano–Spanish gypsy–dance, which in Mexico is the La Cucuracha dance, literally stepping on cockroaches. Could that be the connection? That Gypsies orginally came from India and Flamenco is actually the dance of Krishna, stamping out the invasion of insectoids? Where am I going with this? Just that I have never, in decades, seen flamenco dancing offered as an alternative to yoga, meditation or Buddhism. It’s a quirk. If I hear rap in a store, I leave. That’s my allergy. We all have them. Nothing in this country is ever, ever going to get it just right for you.

  12. world’s embrace of hollywood and american pop culture is equal to america’s embrace of new age stuff..so it doesn’t bother me much

  13. “Because they mix yoga and flamenco on the grounds that all things “exotic” go well together.”

    I actually saw an amazing special in Canada on a multicultural channel with two women, one white and one indian, who put together a performance which combined flamenco and bharat natayam, (white lady performing the former and the indian the latter) with spanish guitars and tablas – it was actually very powerful, with the two dance forms complimenting each other quite well – wasn’t a tacky east meets west thing – just beautiful art.

    But I know what you mean – it can be very grating when you see people emulating something because they think all things x, y or z = spiritual or ancient. I guess it can also be a great form of flattery, and as some have already stated, better blissful reverence than blind intolerance. Reminds me of my first visit back to India, at one of the regional airports I saw a group of white kids in their late teens or early twenties and I couldn’t help but wince – hemp-type skirts, bare navels, dreadlocks, etc. Now I am not a prude at all, but I assumed they were there to experience ‘mystical’ India, find a yogi or spiritual awakening. Or maybe just go to Goa and get high. A bit amusing.

    You could play a drinking game for every show that comes on TLC, Discovery, PBS, National Geographic and take a shot or chug a beer every time they use the words: ancient, mystical, exotic or spiritual. Like the one Jeremy Piven did (Padma Lakshmi appeared in that one). Now that guy is known to be a huge man-whore, so it was funny seeing him discuss purity and spirituality at length.

    The best one I’ve seen is the newer one with Michael Wood – as it delves into some great history re: India’s achievements which you don’t hear about much (atomic theory, physics, astronomy, etc): http://www.pbs.org/thestoryofindia/

  14. For some unknown reason the yoga and new age communities have made Obama their poster child. I mean, the guy is an unabashed meat-eater! In Jan/Feb world renowned YOGA magazine had him on their back cover in padma-asana and dhyan-mudra with a big OM bama behind him, in manner of his election logo – the circular (global) red white blue setting sun for the “O” in the OM.

    Go figure.

    Ironically enough, just as Obama once claimed “I am a desi” he has also been credited with claiming “I am a vegan”, but research has put both claims to shame. Anything for a vote much?

    As far as Jaya Laxmi, I know her. She is an ex Hare Krishna. I have the CD (somewhere) and like most of the tracks because she sings traditional hindi bhajans, the maha mantra and chants to flamenco music and it works quite well for an upbeat listen during a long car ride.

    Never thought of using it for yoga though, and I don’t know where y’all get the impression that this is a “yoga CD”. I mean, it could be used for yoga or any kind of exercise, but the CD itself does not say “yoga” on it.

    If you have a problem with a white musician fusing her religious chants with genres of music that are not traditionally associated with such chants, well, what can I tell you?

    You would probably be shocked out of your wits to hear Buddha Bar series or anything from the Asian Underground.

    I mean a Buddha Bar CD traditionally has a pic of Buddha on the cover but it’s tracks include music from as far as the Middle East to East Asia – muslims, sikhs, hindus, etc.

    Or would that be OK for y’all as long as the music is performed by more melanated folk? But what if they got a white guy on bass or something? Or worse yet, what if the white dude is on sitar?

    In that case you will probably appreciate the music of AZITIZ – hare krishna hip hop by a black girl found here;

    http://www.myspace.com/spiritsoulja

    and here;

    http://www.myspace.com/aztours

    Or the Kuru Dynasty, more melanated Krishna kids mixing it up;

    http://www.myspace.com/kurudynastymix

    Mind you, these kids aren’t desi, but they are melanated. Do they get a pass?

    You see, kids who have grown up in the Hare Krishna Movement or other Eastern cults in the USA want to remain true to their faith but they do not dig listening to traditional Indian style bhajans all day long like their parents might (or might not).

    So they take various genres which they DO like, such as hip hop, reggae, rock, flemenco, whatever, mix it with some traditional chanting and voila – you have CDs like Jaya Laxmi countless others.

    They can also rock a mean traditional kirtan too – kartalas, mridangas and all.

    Don’t hate, appreciate.

  15. The Hare Krishna Movement has given birth to some interesting music.

    Not only the Krishna Kids, “gurukulis”, who were born and raised in or around the movement, but some of the old folks too are making quite a name for themselves in the music world, either on the kirtan circuit, or in the fusion genres.

    A small list is below, and so y’all don’t get ur chaddis in a twist, the first one on the list is a HALF DESI.

    1. Krishna Rose (the artist formerly known as Anita Mehngi, desi name). Krishna’s sound is much more mellow than the hip hop I posted above. New agey and celtic sounds fused with devotional poetry and some Sanskrit/Bengali chants. Check her sounds out here;

    http://www.myspace.com/krishnarosemusic

    1. Rasika – African American Krishna girl. Her first CD is a traditional Bengali kirtan CD. Check out this talented teenager at;

    http://www.myspace.com/rasikadasi

    1. Rashik Priya – Latin American lass who fuses trad hindi bhajans with pop sounds. Check her sounds out at;

    http://www.myspace.com/vrsni

    1. Navasha Daya – African & Native American funkster. Check out her sounds at;

    http://www.myspace.com/navashadaya

    1. Jalebi – African American “Krishna neo soul”. Check her here;

    http://www.myspace.com/jalebimusic

    1. Nitai – native Hawiiaan electronica/hip hop/krishna fusion. Check this teen out here;

    http://www.myspace.com/nitaidas

    and here;

    http://www.myspace.com/solidgooold

    1. Govinda Sky – check out this “Krishna Trance” band here; (warning: white dudes)

    http://www.myspace.com/govindasky

    1. Dass – devotional flutist – another white dude. Here;

    http://www.myspace.com/dassmusic

    1. Raga – another electronica/trance/mellow white Krishna fusion;

    http://www.myspace.com/raga108

    1. And last but now least, we turn you on to the old school “KrishnaCore” bands that are still screaming and jumping into the throsh pit 20 years after their inception. Keeping hardcore punk alive with a compassionate (vegan) and Krishna bhakti fused message – we give you Shelter and 108;

    Shelter

    http://www.myspace.com/eternalshelter

    108

    http://www.myspace.com/robert_fish

    All these musicians are bhaktas of Krishna, associated with one Indian guru or another.

    This list in not exhaustive. It just scratches the surface.

    Perhaps the most famous of the all is British actress Haley Mill’s (the original “parent trap” film) son, Crispian Mills, (Krishna Kanta Das) and his band “Kulashekar”.

    Crispian singing for his Indian guru;

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xhfX7N2pqM8

    Crispian and the School of Braj performing at a school;

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q8Ws7HfAoO8

    Oh yeah, Crissy Hines of the Pretenders name is Krishna-mayi dasi. She is a disciple of the same guru as Crispian.

  16. The link I provided above for African-Native American Krishna bhakta and musician – Navasha Daya (Nandini Dasi) does not have samples of her music. Sorry. For that go here;

    http://www.myspace.com/fertilegroundmusic

    Nandini took initiation into a Vaishnava lineage from the same guru as Crispian Mills (of UK weird pop band “Kulashekar”), and Crissy Hines (of the Pretenders).

    Oddly enough I could not find any videos or samples of “Kulashekar’s” music. They have changed the band’s name to the JEEVAS and here is a sample of their weird British music and videos.

    http://www.myspace.com/thejeevas

    A dream that some of the western Krishna bhaktas have is to do a comprehensive all-in-one tour where the public at large can get exposed to the many different genres of “Krishna music”.

  17. If the above list of non-desi Krishna musicians doesn’t get your chaddis in a twist, THIS guy will.

    A dread-locked African American Krishna bhakta who plays in a – get this – hardcore punk band.

    Sacrilege!

    What are these foreigners doing to our culture?

    Making part of it their own?

    Shameless, I tell you!

  18. Music and art transcend countries, peoples, and time. They seem sincere in their artistry, not like some, even desis, who treat Eastern cultures like a fad, and are annoying. What they do doesn’t take away from traditional art and music by desis. Just another flava in the diaspora. This is positive diversity. Frankly there are plenty of non-desis who are better Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs that desis born into those faiths. There are plenty of people of other races who know a whole lot more of yoga than I do and do it regularly. I heard of one yoga instructor who begins the class with song accompanied by acoustic guitar. Unorthodox – most definitely, but people who go there really enjoy it and probably enjoy yoga that much more. Who knows maybe if I went to such a class I’d get really into yoga. Ombama thanks for the links. Pretty cool. I think of Matisyahu – who is a Hasidic Jewish convert Reggae singer. Great fusion of Reggae and orthodox Judaism spirituality. George Harrison of the Beatles also come to mind – he did a rock song about Krishna, but you don’t know it is about Krishna until later in the song when they chant his name. I think that was a pretty good song. Not traditional, but a song that touched many people, and it probably felt good to GH to sing a song about Krishna. Different strokes for different folks. They are making it their own, and if that makes them happy and others happy, it is all good.

  19. Seriously, Ennis? You’re just going to phone in cheap, re-hashed, non-specific mockery? Did you dig out an old post and cut and paste in new photos and album-names? It’s so easy to assume that the flamenco was mixed in with the bhakt-yoga Gaudiya Vaishnav singing just because there’s no way a white person could possibly have a deep appreciation of both classical Spanish guitar and Indian hymns, and maybe perhaps sincerely feel the two might go together well.

    According to her website she’s been playing guitar and been part of Gaudiya Vaishnavism for more than 15 years. My educated guess (more educated than yours, I can confidently say) is that she takes both guitar and Vaishnav singing pretty seriously. I doubt she just threw this together one day on a lark. If you want to make fun of the sound, then go through the trouble of actually listening to a track and putting some thought into what you’re making fun of. She might not take cover art or marketing seriously enough for your taste–but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t craft your snark. This is beneath you.

  20. Hmmmm…. OMbama and Saheli you peaked my curiosity in Jaya Laxmi’s fusion music. I think I want to hear some tracks, and if I like it I just may buy it (and just ignore the corny cover)….

  21. Saheli, cara mia, since I know you IRL I will reply in the same vein as your comment and trust this does not endanger our real life, non-pseudonymous friendship:

    Seriously, Ennis? You’re just going to phone in cheap, re-hashed, non-specific mockery? Did you dig out an old post and cut and paste in new photos and album-names?

    If the shoe fits … yes. I’m happy to rehash classical themes of tasteless orientalism wherever and whenever they appear. Yes, it gets old for me too, but it is a staple of this blog and when it is as egregious as it was at this store, I feel compelled to return to the subject.

    That said, snark, like love, needs no reason, it is its own justification. If an object is ready-made for mockery, yeah … it’s gonna be mocked if I feel like it. However, if you reread the post, you’ll see that I didn’t mock the things you’re irritated about.

    It’s so easy to assume that the flamenco was mixed in with the bhakt-yoga Gaudiya Vaishnav singing *just because* there’s no way a white person could possibly have a deep appreciation of both classical Spanish guitar and Indian hymns, and maybe perhaps sincerely feel the two might go together well.

    You’re projecting here, and I’m puzzled as to how or why. I said nothing of the sort. This is what I said:

    I love the blurb that introduces the album: Yoga! Mantras! Flamenco! Veils! It’s nearly a perfect listing of New Age clichés, it has everything except Zen, Native Americans and gnostic wisdom.

    I have no idea how you got from there to your characterization of my remarks. I am aware that she has extensive training in devotional music, that’s why I linked to her site. And now that you’ve brought it up, I’m quite puzzled as to how one gets from yoga to flamenco. When I was in Andalucia, I learned a wee bit about flamenco, namely that (like the tango) it’s a dance of passion, a “hot” dance. This is the opposite of what my yoga teachers tought me yoga was about. One is about stirring the sensual passions the other (mainly) about cooling and controlling them. But I didn’t even start down this path in my post at all.

    According to her website she’s been playing guitar and been part of Gaudiya Vaishnavism for more than 15 years. My educated guess (more educated than yours, I can confidently say) is that she takes both guitar and Vaishnav singing pretty seriously. I doubt she just threw this together one day on a lark.

    You’re making assumptions here. I have no clue what motivated her, which is why I didn’t speculate on it.

    If you want to make fun of the sound, then go through the trouble of actually listening to a track and putting some thought into what you’re making fun of.

    I didn’t make fun of the sound at all. I never said a thing about it. Again, I really have no clue why you’re getting upset other than that she’s a fellow Vaishnav and you’re defensive about her and therefore you’re hearing things that I haven’t said. Manish used to make the sorts of comments you’re suggesting that I made here, but honestly, you never replied that sharply to his posts, which makes me wonder if there is a double standard at work. More generally I’m perplexed.

    She might not take cover art or marketing seriously enough for your taste–but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t craft your snark. This is beneath you.

    And yet the cover art, and the marketing of her music is precisely the point. This subject is hardly beneath me or any of us. To the contrary, it provokes a response. You might not care about it, but it’s part of this industry that packages and markets exotic orientalism to the crystal wearing masses. She may be the real deal, but she’s also a participant.

    Sameer asked why I’m reacting to this stuff in general since East-West books isn’t hurting anybody. It’s tedious to have to spell this out (takes the fun out of making fun if you have to explain a joke) but for those of you who haven’t been reading for the last 4+ years, here’s my issue:

    This sort of generic exotic orientalism is promiscuous and therefore fails to discriminate between the different varieties of non-Western other. To East-West books, it’s all the same: Gnosticism, pseudo-Egyptian mysticism, the I Ching, Taoism, Buddhism, Yoga, “Africa”, Martial Arts, Flamenco, Flamingos, and bathtubs full of brightly colored power tools.

    How can it be all the same? Well, ironically, hippies are extremely Eurocentric. They divide the world into the Western and the Other, and all forms of anything which isn’t from the West (which they reject) is all the same and all connected. Basically, we all look alike to them. The fact that they put all the wogs on a pedestal is no excuse, it’s actually just an extension of putting them all in the basement.

    Until places like East-West can see that, I’m going to mock them for their naive ooohing and aahing. It may be a more benign form of racism, but racism in reverse is racism nonetheless.

    Saheli, maybe Jaya Lakshmi knows better. I hope she does after decades of study of Hinduism. All I have to work with is her cover, and I’m going to judge that, seeing as it fits perfectly with the rest of the store and the industry.

  22. Ennis, what exactly is it that you have against the cover of Jaya Laxmi’s CD?

    That corny line; “the new sound of yoga” is NOT on the original CD. You can google for yourself and see.

    So, do you have something against her name? Her name was either given to her by her Vaishnava parents at birth or later in life by her guru.

    Her clothing? What’s wrong with it?

    The title, Jewel of Hari, perhaps? She is a Hari bhakta, what do you expect?

    Your righteous, idignant ignorance would be offensive if it wasn’t so funny.

    But I am not offended, just amused and curious.

    By the way, I know some of the Krishna musicians personally and they also laugh and make fun of new age mish mash, however a few (very few) of them use it to their publicity advantage to make money. They know what sells and they milk it. So what? That’s show business honey.

    And some of them are single mothers for whom their music business is the only source of income. If you wish to criticize them for milking the corny new age scene for what it’s worth, think twice before you do, unless you are willing to contribute financially to their cause.

    However, I don’t see Jaya Laxmi doing that because she was NOT the one to put the “new sound of yoga and susbsequent corn” graphics on her CD.

    And how do you know all hippies divide the world into us and them? I mean, are there even bonafide hippies in this day and age?

    And what do hippies have to do with East West Books or Jaya Laxmi’s CD? It’s 2009 afterall.

    I think her main audience is Western Vaishnavas and people associated with them.

    Where do you get your info? From whom exactly?

    And…what do you think of the CD covers of all the other Krishna-bhakti-oriented artists listed in my post above?

  23. And Ennis, in addition to my above questions, I would be really curious what you think of this artist Krishna Rose i.e. Anita Mehngi Wing at: (http://www.krishnarose.com/)a diasporic desi, half-Kashmiri artist who writes about herself;

    “May you always listen to the subtle teachings of your heart, follow them and forever blossom at Her feet.” My new CD “Beneath The Rose” is a female divinity album, bringing together concepts and musical sounds that are dear to me. From my classical roots, and my fondness for Celtic and traditional music from India, I’ve found a personal fusion of music that supports lyrics that ask the listener to meditate on the divine feminine. Brought up in England, I learned classical music at an early age. I played violin and piano in orchestras throughout my childhood and teen years. I loved to dance, and was fortunate to have been sponsored by Margot Fontaine (world-famous prima-ballerina) at the age of 10, and was accepted as a student into the famous City of Hamburg’s Opera & Ballet School (Staats Opera) in Germany. I studied dance there for the Royal Ballet, a wonderful priceless gift. I spent most of my life working as an assistant / promoter / manager to many famous rock stars. I worked with Bon Jovi, Fleetwood Mac, Aerosmith, The Osbournes, along with a whole host of other world famous musicians. This deepened my hearts desire to express myself through my own music. I was personally moved by the music of The Doors, The Beatles, Pink Floyd, and Queen, and started writing lyrics at a very early age. I started developing my own unique style & sound. I am seeker of Truth, a follower of my heart. Being half Indian (from Kashmir, India) I have a big love of Indian philosophy, and am especially devoted to the Goddess Sri Radha. I feel my music reflects my deepest devotional sentiments. I have a love of ancient English tales which seem to naturally inspire my voice to have a subtle Celtic feel, blending the East / West romantics beautifully. Whilst I was living in India during 1995 and 1996, I was fortunate enough to go to Vrindavan and Mathura (Holy villages where Radha and Krishna’s pastimes go on). There it was that I met my beloved spiritual guide (Gurudeva) and took initiation from him. On my second day staying in his temple, he told me that I “should write and perform English songs.” I was quite surprised because at that point I had no plan to sing for anyone! It was by his inspiration alone that my songs have been written and sung with any devotion at all. Without the love I feel in my heart for this great personality I would not be able to sing one note with emotion. I give thanks for this great blessing in my life. (For more information on my beloved Gurudeva, please look at my links page).

    Now if she’s not milking new-age-hindu-east-west-fusion, I don’t know who is.

    But does she get a pass for being 50% brown?

  24. Again, y’all are projecting. I’ve got nothing against white people. Nor was this post about Jaya Lakshmi. I’ve never heard her music, so I can’t judge it. It’s about this whole exotic! oriental! mystical! crystals! flamenco! yoga! mantra! I Ching! didgeridoo! thing that East-West has going on.

    I’ve actually been stopping by the store since I was 15 (so … ten years or so ;) ). I find it endlessly fascinating; it reveals a tremendous amount about how some people (mainly white) see the world since it’s largely a projection of their fantasies on top of a diverse assortment of materials.

  25. I find it endlessly fascinating; it reveals a tremendous amount about how some people (mainly white) see the world since it’s largely a projection of their fantasies on top of a diverse assortment of materials.

    Oh so you’re a mind reader too?

    Interesting.

  26. To those commenting – no – speculating about Ennis’ motivations and qualifications: this is a blog. A person writes about something he/she finds amusing/ridiculous. You may not find the same amusing/ridiculous and so by all means, comment about why you think you agree/disagree with the contents of the post. But why comment about the blogger’s personality? Such comments say nothing about the blogger, but only reflect the commenter’s (lack of) skills in refined public discussions. Hey, maybe someone should blog about the funniness that is ISCKON! Sure to get lots of hot comments!

  27. Hey, maybe someone should blog about the funniness that is ISCKON! Sure to get lots of hot comments!

    That was tried before but some people got offended and thus the comments were closed, or something.

    Equal respect for all religions and what have you.

  28. …Flamenco, Flamingos, and bathtubs full of brightly colored power tools.

    LOL! Now that’s just funny right there!

  29. It’s about this whole exotic! oriental! mystical! crystals! flamenco! yoga! mantra! I Ching! didgeridoo! thing that East-West has going on.

    That’s capitalism son, deal with it.

    Even Obama can be a desi and a vegan and a supporter of Big Beef in this system.

    It’s all about the buck, the vote or the babe. And in his case, all 3.

  30. Interesting how some browns and blacks think they can make any condenscending remarks about whites and it is “not racism”. What is it then, evolutionary insights?

  31. Manish used to make the sorts of comments you’re suggesting that I made here, but honestly, you never replied that sharply to his posts, which makes me wonder if there is a double standard at work

    awww, ghosts of a love triangle past.

  32. Seems pretty clear that OMBama is just Pardesi Gauri come back for more, hence her detailed knowledge of the personal lives of various Vaishnava singers including Jaya Laxmi and her claim that many of these singers are single mothers.

    PG trolling under a new handle is just PG once more. Nothing new to see here folks.

  33. Interesting how some browns and blacks think they can make any condenscending remarks about whites and it is “not racism”. What is it then, evolutionary insights?

    Without turning this into a brown vs. white and black yogis, hindus or hare krishnas thread, I think it’s more how Ennis was unable to answer any of my questions, especially now that he knows Jaya Laxmi was not the one who put the Yoga! Mantras! Flamenco! Veils! blurb on her CD. Ennis added the “veils” himself by the way.

    The CD itself just says, Jaya Laxmi Jewel of Hari. Bas.

    So the only thing that I can surmise he has an issue with is a the fact that she is a non-desi with a desi type name, chanting sanskrit and hindi devotional lyrics over flemenco music which Ennis says is supposed to be “hot” and being that yoga is about “cooling” one’s hotness, he thinks it is sacrilege to mix anything to do with “yoga” (though the CD itself is NOT a yoga CD, unless you take into consideration that the singer is a practicioner of bhakti-yoga, I guess) and that desi spirituality or yoga or what have you does not mix with “hotness”, or something like that.

    I got lost in the reasoning somewhere.

    So there’s a box for “yoga” and a box for “flemenco” and a box for “hotness” and a box for everything and we can choose which box we want to confine ourselves to but at no point are any of those boxes supposed to shape shift or merge.

    Um, is that it? Help me out here!

    I’m all for mixing it up, but I will draw a line here; THE YOGA OF WINE

    I kid you not.

    (there’s some eye candy for the guys in the above vid)

    And this dude is HILARIOUS. I’m sure we’ve all met him at some “full moon flow” class at one time or another. I know a few guys like that actually. “Gojeee beeerrriiieesss”. LOL!

    (there’s some eye candy for the girls in this above vid, if you can mute him)

  34. Ennis,

    This is basic marketing. It’s not targeted at you. It’s for HK-friendly and other groups related by affinity. Set in this context it’s not ur-Orientalism but rather an entirely different world in which it’s really not unusual (or creepy in any way) that all your friends have sanskrit names, praise some sort of bhagwan and worry about sufficient camphor, ghee, kumkum and holy ash stocks for the next puja –nor is it remarkable that these proto-pujaris have interests entirely outside of that cultural milieu which are maintained in a both a traditionalist and syncretic fashion. Since you obviously do not (and have never) inhabit that world (which I continue to do), I would rate the curio-value of such as nil.

    That being said, I have heard the preeminent live kirtan-leader, Jai Uttal, and while fervent, energetic and FWIW ‘into it,’ it’s not my leisure-time choice for audio accompaniment. I’m no singer but I thought he could have done with a few more notes and practice in capturing the gamakas which made the bhajans of my childhood come alive.

    http://jaiuttal.com/live-from-yogaville/

  35. I don’t know why everyone’s in an uproar. I for one support Ennis’ ability–nay, right–to clown the hell out of this cd, store, and movement. If everyone else is free to borrow from and exoticize and Indian religions and culture, why can’t we make fun of them? When did everyone get so sensitive?

  36. If everyone else is free to borrow from and exoticize and Indian religions and culture, why can’t we make fun of them? When did everyone get so sensitive?

    I’m neither sensitive nor pc, but he is making fun of something that does not exist on the orginal CD itself. Just pointing that out, as a civilized wo/man.

    Now back to reading the message of the Bhagavat and feeding my baby Gopal some laddhus.

  37. “How can it be all the same? Well, ironically, hippies are extremely Eurocentric. They divide the world into the Western and the Other, and all forms of anything which isn’t from the West (which they reject) is all the same and all connected. Basically, we all look alike to them. The fact that they put all the wogs on a pedestal is no excuse, it’s actually just an extension of putting them all in the basement. “

    Which hippies are you talking about Ennis? Those you don’t know or those you REALLY don’t know and are grasping at reductionist straws to characterize?

    I grew up with many hippies, their kids and the successive generations of hippies (if by which you mean those who feel rootless or insufficiently rooted and find fulfillment in finding favorable and complementary methods of rooting in places and methods outside of their upbringing.) who found some measure of happiness in an Ashram. This required not just a substantial money commitment (lost wages) but also time and educational costs (in the wilderness, time off from school). That they could remind themselves of such an experience by buying a trinket or cd at their local new age shop should not concern the entirely disengaged desi commentator at all–YOU are not invested. You are not share or stakeholder in the phenomenon you denigrate as free-associative racism and irredeemably racist culture shopping. Tarring all with the brush of orientalist wog-pedestal-placing tokenizers is repeating the mistake of those you think are doing just that.

    This life, their life, may be incomprehensible to you but who are YOU to lay value-judgements at the feet of children who had no part in bringing Prabhupada or any other swami here in the heady decades which preceded their childhood. Even the first generation, your originators of Sin, are guilty of little but unrealistic expectations for the physical and mental benefits of their ‘eastern’ practices. One of the things a seeker finds as they go through different meditation methods and faith traditions is that discovering commonalities deepens the practice of all and cheapens nothing.

  38. Haribol Wow, I am just uh… reveling in the commotion my CD and its cover are causing y’all! A friend emailed me on my MySpace and suggested I go to your link and read what’s going on. I find it truly fascinating. First of all, I have had some struggles with my record company about their tendency towards corny-ness, and I tried my best to not let them describe the CD Jewel of Hari that way, because I totally agree, it sounds corny and like a mish-mash of new age words and it’s true, the music on the CD is not really for yoga – maybe yoga dance, or Nia or something like that because it’s a bit upbeat

    The cover photo was taken in ’93 and ok, it’s a bit flashy, I was at that time involved as a lead singer in Lost at Last and kind of merging all those concepts together a bit. But hey, I didn’t show any cleavage! I mean, it’s really a mellow photo compared to some of the stuff I’ve seen that is supposed to be ‘spiritual’ or even ‘bhakti’. (And by the way, I am a single mom, and I have not made any money yet from my record company, I do have another job now.)

    It’s all a really great discussion, though about the music. I love the flamenco guitar and Gypsy music because of the beauty and passion in the music. Honestly, it reminds me very much of the feeling I have when think of Lord Krishna and Sri Radhe. Especially when the Gypsies sing, it sound like a cry for God, right from the guts. It reminds me of the way some of the Vaisnava gurus sing. It’s all the same thing, to me, that deep hankering for God. And, that’s why I like to combine the Flamenco sounds with Vaisnava chanting and harinam style. For me it has nothing to do with the more mundane level of passion, it is just human expression of beauty calling for and reflecting aspects of God. It is such a deep expression, that, I don’t know about you guys but when I hear it it stirs my soul. (and, by the way my band-mate Priyo is the one playing all the flamenco stuff)

    Anyway, I’ve made 2 CDs since then, Sublime in 2008 and I just came out with ‘Radiance’ this month. They were the last Cds with my current record contract so now I am free to create my art more in alignment with my own vision. As an artist, I’ve always had a style that seems to go towards pop a little – or call it, the ability to create catchy melodies – and I like trance music and folk and celtic and I love George Harrison and yes I am a modern artist that is just wanting to express what is coming through me – it is a lot of love, and I certainly don’t want to offend anyone… I took initiation in 1992 with Govinda Maharaj and although I have drifted away from the movement and the society I wouldn’t call myself an ex-Krishna, for I find that everyday is filled with God’s love and beauty and I am grateful and inspired… It’s true, too, I have wanted to try and reach out to the masses more and turn them on to the Maha Mantra, only through Guru’s grace of course… and how does one do that these days? Thank you and Blessings

  39. “How can it be all the same? Well, ironically, hippies are extremely Eurocentric. They divide the world into the Western and the Other, and all forms of anything which isn’t from the West (which they reject) is all the same and all connected. Basically, we all look alike to them. The fact that they put all the wogs on a pedestal is no excuse, it’s actually just an extension of putting them all in the basement. “

    Dont see it that way at all. In fact, I found going to places like that truly revelatory, and it gave me a radically different perspective on my parent’s traditions.

  40. “How can it be all the same? Well, ironically, hippies are extremely Eurocentric. They divide the world into the Western and the Other, and all forms of anything which isn’t from the West (which they reject) is all the same and all connected. Basically, we all look alike to them. The fact that they put all the wogs on a pedestal is no excuse, it’s actually just an extension of putting them all in the basement. “
    Dont see it that way at all. In fact, I found going to places like that truly revelatory, and it gave me a radically different perspective on my parent’s traditions.

    Exactly, Jibbler.

    And Ennis, nobody puts all the wogs on a pedastal, to use your somewhat offensive terminology.

    Old hippies and people who have been into one eastern religion or another usually get over their idealization and over-romanticizing of people and cultures within like a year or so. Especially if they have the oppurtunity to travel and meet enough people to be disappointed.

    So…

    1. don’t flatter yourself, and
    2. cut humans beings some slack. we are more complex than you give us credit for

    And oh, it would be nice to see you address Jaya Laxmi’s comment above, as well as Nayagan’s.

  41. WOW! Since when is it so wrong to have a chuckle about American New-Age afficionados and the related marketing? New Age spirituality is big business, with cds, videos, retreats, etc. I really think everyone taking Ennis to task should lighten up. Those of you who take it seriously, that’s fine. But quit the ad hominem attacks. It betrays a lack of humor.

  42. I’m usually the first to laugh and make fun of new age stuff but in this case he attributed motives to Jaya Laxmi that just weren’t there.

    And the air was one of “cultural superiority”, quite frankly. As if by being desi somehow gave him an “in” into various Indic religions that were not his own (Sikhi).

    Just as a test, how would the following sentences written by Ennis sound if the words were replaced;

    Example 1:

    This store is exactly as over the top and ridiculous as the name suggests. It’s the kind of place where one (White) salesman was dressed in a very handsome lime colored Chinese silk jacket while another (white again) had 3 sandalwood malas on one arm, several around his neck, and at least one on the other arm.

    Replace “white” above with “black” or “desi” or “Mexican”.

    Does it feel the same to you?

    Example 2:

    This sort of generic exotic orientalism is promiscuous and therefore fails to discriminate between the different varieties of non-Western other.

    Ever been sterotyped and otherized by a desi, as is exemplified in this entire thread? I have.

    Therefore check out this switch up and see where I and many others may be coming from;

    This sort of generic exotic Occidentalism is promiscuous and therefore fails to discriminate between the different varieties of non-Eastern other.

    Example 3:

    Then onto the un-identifed “hippies” he supposedly is tight with;

    “How can it be all the same? Well, ironically, hippies are extremely Eurocentric. They divide the world into the Western and the Other, and all forms of anything which isn’t from the West (which they reject) is all the same and all connected. Basically, we all look alike to them. The fact that they put all the wogs on a pedestal is no excuse, it’s actually just an extension of putting them all in the basement. ”

    Replace “hippies” with desis. Replace “eurocentric” with “asiancentric”. Replace the “West” with the East and replace “wogs” with “pardesis”, and you get the picture.

    “How can it be all the same? Well, ironically, desis are extremely Asiacentric. They divide the world into the Eastern and the Other, and all forms of anything which isn’t from the East (which they reject) is all the same and all connected. Basically, we all look alike to them. The fact that they put all the (rich) pardesis on a pedestal is no excuse, it’s actually just an extension of putting them all in the basement. ”

    To be fair, I know that Ennis did not put too much thought into this particular blog and analyse all these factors like Nayagan and I have, so his offenses are not conscious, planned, malicious ones. Most likely upon reflection he would change the way he worded things a bit.

    HOWEVER, I do find his statement to be racist AND religiously biased (against a religion he knows nothing or close to nothing about).

    In this day and age we don’t stand for religious bigotry. You got something bad to say about a religion? Say it about your own.

    Clean your own house first then come over and clean mine.

    Word?