(a letter written to the ‘Hemp Embassy’ in Nimbin)
Yesterday I went for a drive in the country with my family. I didn’t really have a destination chalked out and the drive was beautiful. I came across a roadsign that informed me that the town of Nimbin was only 13km away. So I turned and thought that we’d spend some time there.
Walking down the main street I came across your Hemp Embassy. It was hard not to notice being centrally located and colorfully painted. I was curious as to what a place named ‘Hemp Embassy’ existed for so I had a look around. I left your place with the idea that it was primarily an educational facility for the benefits of the Hemp plant. The information was much the same as the facts I used to broadcast when I started a university club affiliated with the NORML group in the US some years ago. I’m a middle aged person now and if the subject comes up I just summarily state “Nature wants to give us something useful – man gets scared of its potential and prohibits it.”
So before I dutifully request something you may not be comfortable with here, I wanted to show some support for your mission of educating people to the benefits of a very useful gift we’ve been given. The nature of this letter is not hostile or demanding. Its just a humble and friendly request – nothing more.
Later on I crossed the street and when I looked over at your shop I was taken back a bit by what you have painted on the front up near the top. It seems as if the artist was inspired to paint an elfish looking simile of Krishna in tribhanga form where, instead of holding his mystic flute, he’s holding a rather large spliff.
Whereas I can see some intended humour in this; I also have to point out that this sort of depiction of Krishna is offensive to many including myself. No, I don’t expect anyone in your establishment nor the artist to have the same values and adoration for Krishna as I hold but I do expect some congenial respect for worshipable icons of any faith. Some may feel that the ‘reformation of hemp legislation’ cause is so monumental and important that they can conscript even God to serve the mission but I challenge that view on several levels (not in this letter though).
I don’t think it makes me a ranting fanatic religionist if I become offended at this depiction of Krishna. The offense I take has further parameters as it really is on a deeper level – more a conflict of expectations. You see, I had a notion that those with enough thoughtfulness to push forward a worthy cause (to benefit society by educating them to the use of hemp) would also be conscientious enough to hold in some regard the teachings of the ancients and not carelessly misrepresent their central deity. “Holy Smoke”?
Instead of Krishna holding a joint, why not paint Siva smoking a hooka or something more authentic? Siva actually does smoke ganja but Krishna doesn’t and I feel your efforts would be less impeded by these divine personalities if you depicted them a bit more accurately. Even if you were to laugh this off as superstition and mythological dreaming I still feel that at least you’d gain some credibility by presenting things as they are. This of course requires a bit of education (as does your cause) and I’m happy to provide more if needed.
So my humble and well-meant request is that at your next repainting could you please paint something else up there?
Creating great tidal waves in the ocean of mercy, splendidly dressed in wonderful saffron garments as glorious as the sunrise, and glowing with the nectar of pure love of Krsna, may the wonderful and handsome moon of Lord Caitanya, which has risen from the milk ocean of Saci’s womb, enter the sky of your heart.
– From the Sri Caitanya Candramrita by Srila Prabhodananda Sarasvati (available here: /wp-content/uploads/gopala/caitanya_candramrta.pdf )