My Early Days, Part 3

(continued from My Early Days, below…)

Upananda – the shaven-headed Hare Krishna monk that was giving me my first unofficial cooking lesson – had not long before been long haired Bill Willis, ‘California Bill’ to his friends.

He had started reading mystical literature at a psychedelic book shop in Berkeley, California at the end of 1969. One day, in return for a small donation, Bill received a small card with the mantra and a message on it from a shaven-headed monk on Telegraph Avenue. The card had read:

Please chant:


And your life will be sublime!

Bill had started chanting straight away, eager to experience the promised sublimity. Shortly after, he met the same shaven headed devotees as they chanted outside the University of California, Berkeley campus, and yet again in San Francisco at an avante garde outdoor ‘art-fest’.


Bill was becoming more and more disgruntled with his shallow, hedonistic life of drugs and sex. His father was a Pan Am pilot and had offered Bill a free ticket anywhere in the world. His friends had headed off to Europe, but Bill, now a vegetarian and macrobiotic, decided to head to Hawaii, Auckland and Sydney.

Renting a flat on Darlinghurst Road Kings Cross, Bill sometimes found himself wandering the streets, past the seedy bars and strip clubs.

Kings cross strip joint:

One day he sighted a Hare Krishna monk in a knitted cap and sweater and as they both crossed paths, the devotee smiled warmly and said “Hare Krishna.”

They talked, and the devotee, who introduced himself as Upendra, invited Bill to their temple. Bill was happy to discover that it was only a few minutes from his apartment.

Bill had started visiting the temple daily and was impressed by Upendra’s convincing presentation of the philosophy of Krishna consciousness. Some days he would join them in their street chanting, and especially enjoyed visiting the temple for the food, which he found delicious.

Not long after, Bill moved into the temple, and received the new name Upananda.

I stood, still in my school uniform, rolling our batch of sweets in that cramped kitchen, as Upananda continued his fascinating tale.

to be continued…
Posted by Kurma on 4/2/07; 11:21:16 AM

Life and Travel

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