Kriya Yoga Masters on Sargent Peppers Cover. What? Why? and Where to?!

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I wasn’t born in the amazing 60s and 70s. I am part of the early Millennials generation. From the little I know about the 60-70s, it was a time of breaking walls, literal and metaphorical. Many ideas of boundaries, about races and colors, social status, economic stature, religious fixities, personal limitations, and ethical, moral rules were breaking down. But when I was growing up, in the early 80s, from what I can remember, it felt like things were going the other way: rigid and serious; the colorful Woodstock days were over. The theme of the times seemed to be U-turning back to the concerns of the physical plane–a new push for economical and technological growth, world dominance, improved standards of living, and so on.

My own impression is that the 60-70s era was too ahead of its time, and its appearance had no choice but to be a flashing glimpse of possibilities, then submerging back to the realities of our times, at least for the decades and centuries to come.

A few things and events in the 60-70s seem to serve as a shining, literally so in most cases, manifestations and emissaries of the energy of the era. Woodstock stands out, obviously. But another consequential beyond-imagination one, has to be the Beatles’ release of the Sargent Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band album. On it Rolling Stone commented:

Sgt. Pepper formally ushered in an unforgettable season of hope, upheaval and achievement: the late 1960s and, in particular, 1967’s Summer of Love. In its iridescent instrumentation, lyric fantasias and eye-popping packaging, Sgt. Pepper defined the opulent revolutionary optimism of psychedelia and instantly spread the gospel of love, acid, Eastern spirituality and electric guitars around the globe.

The cover, in itself, was nothing but a revolution. As seen here, on it the Beatles took a big family photo with real-life-sized cardboard cutouts of famous personalities, as chosen by themselves. George Harrison, who was at the time being introduced to the Yogic teachings of India and had just read the Autobiography of a Yogi, chose the faces of Paramhansa Yogananda and his Kriya Yoga lineage of gurus to be included. While devotees of Yogananda aren’t few, most of whom must at least be amused by the fact that their gurus appear on this, to the wider population this is an unknown fact, and for those who do know, holds little significance.

The significance, however, in my opinion, is colossal, and will reveal itself more and more in the decades and centuries to come.

The rest of this article, as was the beginning, is purely my personal impression. As I said, I’m no expert, no historian, nor well-versed in the matters pertaining to the Summer of Love culture of 60-70s.

As the downing of the walls of boxed-in ideas about self-identification, race, religion, and morality was happening, a kind of vacuum must have been forming—lots of space was being created in the consciousness of the participants of this new era, for a new way of being.

What were those old ideas being replaced with? Perhaps Rolling Stone summarized it best: “revolutionary optimism of psychedelia and instantly spread the gospel of love, acid, Eastern spirituality and electric guitars.”

George’s act of including yogic masters on the cover, was telling of the “Eastern spirituality” part. Philip Goldberg, the author of American Veda, describes the significance of the songs in this album [1]:

The lyrics announce George’s entrance to the Hindu path he would follow, and represent, for the rest of his life. The message is quintessentially yogic. Lines such as “Try to realize it’s all within yourself” and “When you’ve seen beyond yourself–then you may find, peace of mind, is waiting there” landed on listeners’ ears as mahavakyas, the Sanskrit term for the great utterances of sages. The lyrics presage the spiritual revolution that the Fab Four were about to usher in.

The down-pouring of revelations that “You don’t have to do and believe in the things your parents and society have done in the past” and “You can turn your views upside-down” on the consciousness of the youth was no small event. The idea of freeing one’s consciousness from the rigid ideas formed in oneself and hard-cemented in the society is the beginning of one’s opening to the spiritual path, as laid out by the sages of East.

But, as it always happens, when the wider population looks to and adopts an ideal so beyond the current reaches of its members, for most people only lower-consciousness manifestations of it can enter in. From the vedic ideals of expanding one’s consciousness towards the Infinite, mostly psychedelic trips into one’s subconsciousness became popular. From the ideals of Oneness with all creation, the motto closest to people’s heart and understanding turned out as “Make love, not war.” Instead of meditation, the supreme tool brought to us by the hoary yogis, as a promise towards soul’s final liberation, most folks settled with the lesser ideal of “Don’t worry. Smoke weed and be happy.”

Of course, I’m talking about the movement at large. No doubt, many souls from this era, breaking from the norms of the time, went straight for the real deal, diving deep into true spiritual teachings and practices, seeking nothing less than self-realization in God.

And so, I think, the Western culture as a whole had to rebound from going in that direction, noticing, at large, this weed-smoking, psychedelic trip dabbling, love-making culture isn’t quite in-tune with the Western ideal of untiring achievement and growth for the individual as well as for humanity.

But even if the visible movement of the 60-70s had to disappear, the lamp of the evolution of consciousness, of which the colorful era was a transient flash, has been continuing to burn from somewhere deep within humanity.

Now, we live in the late 2010s, and we have witnessed the surge of yoga, in every corner of the planet. Once again, the Western culture at first could only make friends with the superficial. Yoga as a way to have a bendy body became the new sexy. Yoga apparel has by now become a billion-dollar industry.

Nevertheless, the power of the yoga teachings seems to have a way of taking any sincere seeker by the hand, no matter at what level, however superficially they approach it, and gradually revealing to them the deeper path inside. As a yoga teacher and practitioner, I get to see this unfolding more and more. Hatha yoga teachers, through their own practice, start to discover the deeper benefits of yoga, and then impart that to their students.

And so, I believe, the Beatles act of hiding the images of, to the Westerners, unknown Indian yogis in the Sgt. Peppers cover was a prophetic symbol of a near future times. It hinted of a times, of which we’re already seeing some signs of, when the efficiency and practicality of the West is merged and harmonized with the ancient wisdom of the art and science of the Spirit from the East. Together they shall bring humanity to new peaks unheard of.

Hesam Samimi
Ananda Village, CA


[1] Philip Goldberg, A Big Day in the Life: When Sgt. Pepper Blew Our Minds, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/philip-goldberg/sgt-peppers-lonely-hearts-club-band_b_1545932.html

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