By Greg Allard
Imagine joining an organization as a teenager and suddenly finding yourself regularly associating with the Beatles and other famous musicians while living at John Lennon’s home. That was the life of Kulashekar das, aka Colin Jury, in the late 1960s.
Of course, that was far from all his life. During the 62 years he walked the earth, his multi-talents engaged him in producing 3D-art, recording music, giving vegetarian cooking classes, putting out a cooking spice line; spreading Krishna consciousness and hobnobbing with celebrities, even though he was broke and practically homeless by the time he left this world in early 2013. I became acquainted with him in the last three years of his life as a kind of a kindred spirit who he attempted to take under his wing. We shared common musical passions and he wanted to engage my writing ability in his memoir project. Although he was a man with a sensitive and big ego, he had a bigger brain and an even bigger heart, and no matter how hesitant I was to work with him, he seemed to keep on liking me despite my sometimes lukewarm interest.
I can testify that although he struggled toward the end of his life with financial difficulties and a debilitating case of diabetes — he always conveyed a spiritual richness in his heart that kept his enthusiasm on full burning optimism until the end.
Colin Jury, aka Kulashekara das, was the first European disciple of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder and guru of the Hare Krishna movement. He joined the movement at the rambunctious age of 19 in London during the late 1960s and was given the service by his spiritual master of hanging out at Apple Records and sharing his knowledge about Krishna with the workers and musicians who passed through and hung out there. Although I never actually met Kula in the flesh, we regularly corresponded via Facebook and email, and he wanted me to ghostwrite his memoirs for him about his personal association with the Beatles and the early Hare Krishna movement in England.
Kula was a musician and singer for the George Harrison produced Radha-Krishna Temple album that hit number one in 1969, an event that George Harrison described as the biggest thrill of his life. He also appeared on Top of the Pops with the Hare Krishna chanters, which included such stalwarts as Yamuna Dasi, Mukunda Das and Chris O’Dell (the woman Harrison refers to in the song “Miss O’Dell”) and joined forces with the Beatles to help bring Hare Krishna to the UK and
the rest of Europe.
During that general time and before the devotees got their Bury Place temple in London and George Harrison donated his estate to the movement, which later became known as the Bhaktivedanta Manor, the devotees and their guru Srila Prabhupada spent some time living at John Lennon’s Tittenhurst estate on the invitation of Lennon himself. In early 2013, Kula wrote me that he was moving to my area in North Central Florida from Eugene, Oregon and was looking forward for us to meet so I could help him write his memoirs of those early days. He was suffering from diabetes and a devotee friend agreed to let him live in a room at his home in Alachua. I lived in Gainesville and considered helping him because I knew his accounts might one day be added to musical history:
Gargs, How would you like to consider being the ghost-writer on my memoirs? My Manager is the Director of Internal Communications at ConocoPhillips, and will be the final editor, but I have a lot of juice. They already want to make a movie of the book before it’s written. If you have an email address, I can send you 30 pages I have written so far, but it deserves excellence, and my diabetes/neuropathy prevents me from typing too much. Today a one-inch section of a vein in one of my fingers started to swell until I was screaming, and it receded two minutes later, but left a bruise. This may happen at different times at random in different places in my body. I believe it is Magellans, I have been heavily sprayed for the last few years wherever I have lived, even 40 miles from any town, they would spray my house daily! At 14 I was the youngest person accepted at the London School of Film Technique. At 16 I began a Printing Apprenticeship and attended the first Love-In at Hyde Park with Allen Ginsburg chanting Hare Krishna Mantra, then moved in with three guys who had a 1/2 Gallon of Sandoz ~ Pharmaceutical LSD. Over the next three years I turned half of London onto acid. Did Lights at Middle Earth and private gig’s like The Byrds & Pink Floyd. Then I became the first disciple of Srila Prabhupad’s in Europe and was a strict devotee for 12 years, hanging with the Beatles and Living with John & Yoko. I led the exorcism of the Royal Ghost on John’s Estate, and one at The Manor owned by George. Since leaving ISKCON, I have won awards in almost all disciplines of my profession: Advertising/Publishing/Marketing/Printing Technologies/Design/etc. and lectured at NASA Mac User’s Group, with a 9th grade education. Anyway let me know…it can be at your pace, as I am sure you are already busy. If we get 6 chapters we can approach a Publisher. –Kula
We came close to meeting once. He was going into Gainesville to do some grocery shopping and he called me to ask if he could stop by. Unfortunately, I was heading out of town when he called but we agreed we would hook up later and discuss organizing the book. Sadly, he left his body in his sleep a couple of weeks later and we never got to meet. While he never sent me the 30 pages either, he did send me some excerpts involving his pastimes with the Beatles that I will include here. The first one, which he entitled, “Abbey Road Afternoon,” includes a far out description of George Harrison’s 600 Mercedes:
George had sent Terry Doran – his driver/personal assistant to get me from Apple Records where I was hanging out ~ my daily gig as a devotee…hang out at Apple Records and preach to Rock Stars. Richie Havens is still a close friend from a meeting in 1969 when he visited Apple with Ray Charles Band. We rode over in George’s 600 Mercedes. The most amazing ride ever! When you got inside and closed the doors it was completely soundproof. The seats were like giant comfy armchairs. The carpet was a deep pile Indian rug and your shoes just sank into it. When Terry put the stereo on it sounded like you were inside the Royal Albert Hall. The ride was so smooth you felt like you were floating on air. We finally arrived just after they finished the photo shoot for the Abbey Road cover. It took ten minutes to get through the gate due to 60 girls all over the car. On the roof, the hood, the back, like a swarm of bees. Then one looked in through the windscreen and saw me and they all started chanting the “Hare Krishna Mantra.” Ringo, his wife Maureen and two friends said “Hello ~ Goodbye!” and shook my hand with an honest friendliness. Then we went in the studio where John & Yoko had a King-size Brass Bed sprayed white, with white sheets and they both wore white. John like in these photos in his white suit, and Yoko in a white dress. They has had a car crash in Scotland and hurt their backs, so they were taking it easy between takes. George was on a Bar-Stool in the center of the room playing through a huge Leslie Amp., and John would come over and join him every now and then when they were recording. It was a nice sunny day and extremely pleasant to be there. I sat crossed legged on one side of the studio on my own while they recorded the Guitar parts for “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window.” Paul was in the back doing the Engineering with George Martin. He came out once to adjust some mikes and then came over to where I was sitting and joked with me. He said “I saw it on the News you know ~ “Hairy Krishna! Hairy Krishna!” as George flew down to the Woodstock – Isle of White in a Helicopter, with a copy of your 45, and played it for 4 hours straight before the concert! So on the news they said “Hairy Krishna” because of all the long hairs (and he grabbed the side of his hair in a gesture as he bent over me) all chanting the mantra for four hours!” Then he went back into the mixing room. [It was a few minutes to Paul, but a kindness I have replayed and relished my whole life!]. After the session they all left except George and the rest of the devotees arrived to record the ‘B’ side of the “Hare Krishna Single” ~ “Prayers To The Spiritual Masters.”
I really liked what Kula had sent me but I didn’t know how much time I could devote to something that I had no way of knowing would ever make money. I was already doing a regular radio show and a music webzine without pay and to take on another project without any way of knowing whether it would ever help pay my bills was making me doubtful. On top of that, I wondered how I would be able to corroberate all he was telling me. I was sure he was sincere and wasn’t embellishing, but doing all that research to make it as authoritative as I wanted to would have completely engulfed me. At the same time, I didn’t want to disappoint Kula. Shortly after sending me that excerpt, he wrote me another note:
I can record and send you the digital sound files…we can talk on Google Hangout…let me know ~ it will definitely sell due to the outrageous life I lived ~ always over the top! We used to take 30 hits of pure Pharm-L every other day! Many stories during a magical time…it’s a trip that many will not believe could be real ~ like Forest Gump. I have lived 4 lifetimes in one. True Pygmalion. Born bottom of the East-End working class, I have been a pioneer of Electronic Publishing in the US for the last 30 years. I started the first course at LSU in Electronic Publishing. My Manager is about to approach Tate Modern for a showing of my large 3-D paintings…my new Rock album is almost complete (all Krsna). Each thing will feed of the other, it is time. I am 62 and in bad health ~ trying to get better by eating a half-Raw, half-Vegan diet. Here are some pictures…Kula. (Kulasekhara das).
Hi Gargs, Could I get you email to start sending you audio files? Your expertise is going to be critical in figuring out how to present this story. There are definite sections. Birth to 16, Hippie 16-18, Diksa Guru Devotee 18-30, Businessman 30-52, Siksa Guru/Business/Artist/Musician 52-62. The juicy stuff is early: Hippie to devotee then Beatles. I want to captivate the reader into the story, with enough Beatles filtering through to keep interest. It is all captivating, but there has to be a thread to draw them in. I would like to take advantage of the Kindle phenomena as outlined here. This dude is a devotee! Smart fucker! I have been in publishing 48 years, and he is ahead of the curve. You can have the first installment on a Kindle book ready to publish in a few days with the amount that I have already written. That’s 12.5 Kindle Books of 32 pages, @ $2.99 = $37.38 total, 70% = $26 profit per book. This will keep us flush while writing and could finance a nice vacation in Fiji to complete the writing? If captivating enough to get people to buy in, they will be hooked, and there are a Billion Kindle’s out there Globally. There are a lot of people still want to hear about the Beatles.
All the while, Kula kept sending me little gems, like this one of a conversation he had with John Lennon:
It was towards the end of my stay at Tittenhurst and I was finally alone with John Lennon in his living room. I cannot remember the circumstances that took me in that room to be alone with John, however I thought “I have to say something intelligent as he has heard everything. You cannot impress this dude ~ he has heard it all!” I said “John, I was born on the same day as you – ten years after!” I thought this was the most significant fact I could present to justify my interaction with him. John was sitting almost sideways to me, after I spoke he turned to face me when the telephone rang. This was obviously a call that John had been waiting for – it was Paul McCartney and John had just heard the Abbey Road Album for the first time. John jumped-up and ran over to the phone. “Hey Fucking Pauly! I just heard the fucking album and you fucking mixed me right fucking off the fucking thing! Then he slammed the phone down and ran upstairs to Yoko.
Kula was a longtime friend of Richie Havens, who he said used to drop by Apple and ask if Srila Prabhupada was in town. He was also a friend of Billy Preston and many other famous musicians from that time period. He told me he had enough wild stories to fill a several volume biography but sadly many of those stories will remain untold — except perhaps in the hearts of the many people Kula befriended and reminisced with throughout the years. There are many stories involving Kulashaker, that would add to his legend if they could be confirmed, but ones I could not find sufficient answers to for this feature. One that Crispian Mills named his successful 1990s rock group Kula Shaker after Kula and another that Richie Havens wrote his song “Run Shaker Life” after his friend. Mills has said in an interview that he named it after an 8th century king from India who went by that name, but that it was inspired by someone who had just come back from a trip from India. Could that someone have been Kula? I cannot further speculate on the matter. Du
When Kula passed, he was working on an album, and he would ask me my opinion of some of the tracks he was recording for it from time to time. Here’s one straight out of the Bhagavad-gita:
Once, when we were chatting online, he quoted Gilda Radner and I said, “I miss Gilda being alive.”
“Me too,” Kula said. “But she is still alive somewhere — brightening lives, touching souls.”
And so are you, Kula — so are you.
One of Kula’s friends, Vaish Erhlichman, who lived with him for five years, wrote this very touching and startingly candid open letter to Kula’s child Chandra after Kula’s death:
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A Tribute to my Friend Kulashekar (Colin Jury) Dear Chandra, Your father was a dear friend to me. We originally met decades ago in the 70’s when I was a 3 year old child, bored and wondering the Hare Krishna temple halls. He would put me up on his shoulders and give me airplane rides and show me pictures around the temple room walls and let me climb and wrestle on him. Many years later, he lived here in OR at my place for nearly 5 years, from 2003 to 2008, except in ’06 he had his own place for a while. During these year, I got to know the full spectrum of his life, his stories, his successes, his struggles and his incredible talent. Mostly though, I got to see what his greatest loves, inspirations and dedications were. You were among his most cherished of all. He beamed with pride and profound love as he spoke of you and the connection that was at long last forming with you and your brother. He had pictures of you both that he would gaze at and touch with great affection and show off to his friends, as he marveled at the beautiful people you were becoming… and raged at not being able to have any contact with you both during your childhood years… due to your mother’s decisions. His greatest pain, beyond all the physical suffering he endured from poor health and a breaking down body, beyond the financial struggles he could never seem to break out of, was not having been able to be more part of your lives… to be there for you both more. Time, place and circumstances just never let up for him in this regard. There were times when he started to make some money in ’05/06, doing some projects for Ray Scippa and insisted on sending whatever he could to you both directly, rather than to the courts for child support to your mom, who was already supposedly married to a very wealthy man… who waited for decades to slap a $145,000+ arears child support lawsuit in CA, on him, which he had no way of ever affording a defense against, nor ability to pay. When his work opportunities ended (due to unfortunate circumstances in the economy), I saw him continue for a while, to try to send you both something, despite the huge costs of bank overdrafts, that eventually stole everything that went in, resulting in closed accounts, ruined credit and apartment evictions. It was so important for him, to do something, though he had no money for food, rent, medicine or clothes, to somehow make that gesture… Back at the end of 2007, upon being evicted from his apartment due to financial problems, he had what appeared to be some minor heart attacks. That’s when he came back to my place again, having no other options. Though his life was full of struggle and suffering, he always had a great sense of humor, a huge appreciation for life, for Krishna, for Srila Prabhupada, for Srila Narayan maharaj, for you both, and for his art, music, stories and writing. I remember when he sent his most prized possession, his base guitar, to your brother, for his birthday. He tried so hard to get ahead. Several times, he almost succeeded. Success was always just around the corner, just in site, just out of reach, and then like a mirage, would crumble and vanish. “Such is the nature of the illusory material world” he would say… “We try to control, we think we are the controllers, but really, we are not… everything is by the grace of Krishna”, he would say… So many times, he battled severe pain, depression and illness but would rise early, chant, read, reach out to others, send out resumes, try to make ends meet. Like Van Gogh and other talented struggling artists, it seems it was his fate to live in abject poverty and strife, despite being so talented and capable of management and executive level functioning, perhaps so that he could constantly be dependant upon Krishna for his very life. And he was… He held onto Krishna and Prabhupada for dear life, as his greatest source of hope, strength and sustenance, though he did not consider himself a good devotee. He felt his struggles were blessings in disguise, to keep him humble from his pride, to keep him at the mercy and dependency of Krishna and the angelic souls who would miraculously manifest in his life, thru Krishna’s grace, to help him in some small way… to survive another day, week, month or year. His family had completely disowned him decades ago when he took Srila Prabhupada as his spiritual father… and chose NOT to help him in his greatest times of pain. He gave up even bothering to ask. He had risen to the top of the publishing world in his time and also to the bottom of despair at other times, which he never recovered from. To his sister, who lavished in material wealth, it is your loss to not have recognized your brother for the wonderful soul he his. It is your loss, despite all your material wealth (which you cannot take with you in death), to not have had the opportunity to know him, to help him, to discover his talents, nor the love he had… To his parents, whom he maintained love for, despite your lifelong rejection and lack of affection, it is your loss to not have cherished this wonderful soul as your son, whose life will no doubt bless yours for many lifetimes to come. Perhaps his family viewed him as lazy and unmotivated and wanted to see him succeed on his own? He was Not Lazy, nor unmotivated. He genuinely tried and tried and tried, to get ahead, despite terrible health, endless pain, no credit, no bank account, no hire-ablity at his age… and a crushing debt from his ex wife, that he could not afford to defend against. At least he maintained some sweet connection with his brother, which was a great source of joy for him and to you especially Chandra, who was the heart of his heart and probably his greatest manifested success in this lifetime. Though he was a proud and opinionated man, he also had deep humility and surrender to the Lord, who he always viewed as his salvation. He did not fear death. Life was harder for him than death, yet after every failure, and every loss of home, and personal possessions, he would find his courage in Krishna, to start all over again. He loved deeply, he cared deeply, he was a political activist, an environmental and animal rights warrior. He knew more about George Harrison and John Lennon, than most historians will ever know… and had stories of them worth being documented for histories’ sake. He could be such a damn pain in the butt at times and frustrated the hell out of me and no doubt, some of you who were close to him. Though I loved and cared for him, he was not easy to live with, and no doubt he sabotaged numerous living situations and opportunities, despite his best intentions… But, knowing your father Chandra… having been challenged and blessed with the opportunity to help him, to care for him, to put up with him, to learn from him, to befriend him truly… to laugh with him and reminisce about his life and experiences… to be inspired by him… to witness the greatness that he also had in him… has no doubt made me a better person… Has no doubt been my good fortune and part of my own growth. To those of you who have been touched by him, you are lucky indeed. I would urge you to discover his music, his art and his special Kula’s Royal Curry spice blend, if it becomes available someday… which can magically make any average dish taste great… He was a great cook and could make the most meager ingredients taste great. To those of you who own and love the Giclee prints of Syamarani’s art, it was Kula who manifested that project to fruition, from the love in his heart… despite broken contracts and agreements that resulted in no monetary compensation to him… even though he only asked for 1 percent compensation to support himself. He chose to view this as his service to Srila Prabhupada and to Srila Narayan maharaj. So when you look upon these beautiful works of art and devotion, remember the love Kula manifested into them as well and know that it was his dedicated efforts that brought these windows of the spiritual world, into your homes. Though I could share so much more about your life dear friend, space here will not permit. I will remember you with love and gratitude for the friend you are, for the vision you held and for the love you shared. I’m sorry I was not able to help you more, to see you break thru your struggles and manifest your visions during your life time. Rest in peace dear friend… Your troubles are at long last over… You have finally broken thru to the other side… No more pain, sorrow, struggle or want. Fly high and fast back to your eternal home, with your eternal family and take your rightful place next to your beloved Srila Prabhupada and Srila Narayan Maharaj… Hopefully someday, your children will get to have the opportunity to meet you and be properly loved by you and you by them. Chandra, I will separately send Aravinda my contact info. should you or your brother ever want to reach me for any reason. To those kind hearted souls who found it in your hearts to give him the shelter of your homes, your time and your finances, during his hardest times… may you be blessed with not only good karma, but may you be blessed with true spiritual love, success and fulfillment in this life time and on your spiritual journeys as eternal souls… sons and daughters of the Divine Source of All. My respects go out to you all… for the love and care you showed to Kula. In loving memory, your friend and brother, Vaish