The question we face on a
daily basis is, does true happiness come from temporary sense gratification or
is there a higher level of complete happiness?
Woodstock initiated the “hippie”
exposure and the alleged complete happiness of sense gratification.
Before we can get into how
the hippie movement turned America and the rest of the world into self
gratification, we have to first take a look at the “hippie” culture.
The hippie movement began in
America in the mid-60s, though its roots go back several years earlier. Within
four or five years the movement had spread to all of Europe, the Scandinavian
countries, Australia, New Zealand, Southeast Asia, Japan, the Philippines,
Africa and South America.
This movement was a unique
cultural phenomenon and had far-reaching influence and impact not only on
American society, but also in practically the entire world.
Understanding the attraction
that the hippie movement had to a way of life that was so foreign to the one
that they were raised in is not rocket science.
You’ve got to appreciate the
social and economic climate of mid-60s America. One critical factor was that
most of us had already experienced the American dream, were a bit frustrated by
it and wanted something more out of life.
Our fathers and their fathers
worked and slaved to improve their quality of life. They wanted nice houses,
new cars, and other modern conveniences, which they originally didn’t have.
This provided a great incentive for them.
So they worked very hard and
struggled to get what they wanted, always thinking they would be happy when
they got it.
By the time I was in my late
20s and early 30s I had already experienced these things and still wasn’t
I had a nice house with white
picket fence and a lovely wife, wore nice clothes, had money in my pocket,
owned a nice car, and had a nice stereo, a big TV and two little “rug
rats”. Despite living the “American dream”, I was miserable.
Not only was I miserable on
one hand, while experiencing material happiness, but also on the other hand
there was this gnawing feeling inside telling me “this was not enough, I
needed something more”.
Besides the fact that I
wasn’t completely satisfied with my material prosperity, there were other
social factors that made me question whether the picture of life that my
parents and teachers painted for me was really that good.
There was the Vietnam War,
for example, which was, in my opinion, a senseless conflict that I could not
understand. Young people were being drafted right left, but for what?
Our parents were raised under
different circumstances and most of them had unflinching faith in America and
anything America did. But, somehow, I couldn’t accept this and couldn’t blindly
commit myself to a cause I felt was wrong.
Also new was the racial prejudice
issue – the oppression of blacks, Chicanos, and other minorities – not just in
the South, but also in every major city in America. Because of material
prosperity we had time to look at things going on around us, and we didn’t like
a lot of what we could see.
In the beginning, there were
young people who rejected the values of society and who dropped out of the rat
race to try to live a more carefree existence. They left the comfort of their
homes and families, left the luxuries, etc., and moved to the country or to the
older, lower rent sections of the cities.
Hippies stood out like a sore
thumb. They had long hair and wore outrageous clothing. The rejection of the
clean-cut American image was symbolic of rejecting society and what it stood
for. It was the same thing with paka (crazy) lolo (weed) and LSD. You have to
understand that smoking dope every day and taking lots of acid wasn’t just a
protest, it was the purpose. That being, trying to understand ourselves and see
where we fit into a society we felt alienated from.
As I look back on it and
reflect while writing this, the idealism of the early hippie movement was
fairly superficial. In many cases that led to both escapism and profound sense
gratification. That’s a bit of a generalization because there actually were a
lot of sincere people who were not trying to just escape, but who are actually
very responsible and who worked very hard to try to make things better.
There were a lot of
humanitarian minded young people working for the civil rights movement and
trying to end the war. Their mutual desire to help others made them feel a
strong sense of brotherhood among themselves. Of course, they used to get
stoned together regularly, and this took on an almost ritualistic meaning
because that activity helped reinforce their common bond. It came to be
symbolic in the minds of the idealistic hippies of a concerned, liberal-minded
mentality, as opposed to the beer drinking redneck with the “my country,
right or wrong” attitude.
Then there came a time where
there was an obvious split in what was happening. The superficial idealism went
one of two ways: it either developed into real idealism or turned into
histrionic sense gratification. . At that point, the hippie movement snowballed
quickly. In a matter of a few years, tens of thousands of young people grew
their hair out, dropped out of college, quit work, etc. They were attracted to
the hippie lifestyle because it seemed different and exciting to them.
Although many of them were
attracted at first by the struggle to end the war in Vietnam, etc., they just
got swept away in the rising tide of sense gratification at all costs.
There were protest songs
against the war by Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, etc., being played on the radio and
they were very popular. So the youth identified themselves with this cause. But
there was lots of dope around and it wasn’t just grass and acid anymore. People
were using speed, smack, downers, sniffing glue – anything they could get their
hands on. And drinking also became very widespread, which is a very significant
turning point since the earlier, more idealistic hippies completely stayed away
from alcohol. They equated alcohol with the mentality of a society they were
trying to change.
Somehow or another the
idealism got buried in the drug scene. As more and more of the youths got
heavier into dope, they just lost sight of anything positive. They knew they
couldn’t be perfectly satisfied with material luxuries, but instead of seeking
out some higher purpose, they became like animals, just doing anything they
Their philosophy was really
just an outgrowth of the society they had supposedly rejected. In other words,
they saw sense enjoyment and physical pleasure as the goal of life.
They were more or less
saying, “If TVs, stereos, and cars can’t give it to us – what will”?
So they got into trying anything and everything that felt good, regardless of
the future consequences, either to themselves or others. Then, certain sayings
became popular that perfectly reflected the absolute self-centeredness that
hippie-ism was becoming. Sayings like, “if it feels good, do it” and
“do your own thing (regardless of the consequences to others)”.
Rock music played a big part
as well. There were different rock groups who had different
“messages” and they had a tremendous influence over their audiences.
On one hand, there were the Beatles who were singing about love, peace, and
meditation, and who were personally involved, at that stage anyway, in the
search for more meaning to life.
On the other hand, there were
groups like the Rolling Stones and the Doors who sang about and glorified sex,
drugs, anarchy, and absolute pleasure of the sense gratification.
Unfortunately, it was groups like the Rolling Stones and others who had the
most influence. By this time, there was very little idealism left.
There is another angle by
which the rock groups influenced the development of the hippie subculture as
well. In the beginning, hippies used to get together at beaches and parks and
sit in groups together, talking and playing music. These gatherings were called
“Human Be-Ins”, and everyone who went was an active participant in
making the event successful.
As the gatherings got bigger
and bigger, rock groups started coming to play their music. This had the effect
of cutting down on the creativity of the participants. Since rock music was
completely overwhelming, it was impossible to sit around and talk or play music
or exchange ideas with your friends anymore. You were not a “participant’,
you were an “audience”.
You just sat there and got
more stoned and listened to the band play, or you got up and danced to their
music. The entire atmosphere was controlled by the bands and the kind of music
Someone from the stage would
say, “Take off your clothes”,
and 500 or 1000 people, out in the audience, would do it!
The death knell for these
gatherings came at a Rolling Stones concert in Altamont, California, where the
Hells Angels (the notorious motorcycle gang) beat and stabbed a man to death
right in front of the stage as the Rolling Stones sang their hit song,
“Sympathy for the Devil”. After that, even the most optimistic of the
hippies could see that the whole movement had turned into a horror show.
Those hippies who were really
concerned about improving society and who weren’t just escapists, looking for
cheap thrills, became a bit disillusioned with the concept of the hippie
movement as a whole, or as a positive social force. They continued in their own
ways either as individuals or as groups to try and implement positive changes.
Many of them are still working from within society today for the betterment of
In many ways, the hippie
movement affected the rest of society, although superficially. They affected
clothing styles and hairstyles. They made long hair, ‘in”, and popularized
bell-bottom pants and shoulder bags for men, etc. Probably the most obvious
social change they brought about was public acceptance of drug use.
Before the hippies, only
social misfits, hardened criminals, and the like, used drugs. Now, everyone in
America was using drugs. Not every single person of course, but people from all
walks of life. Drug use was now entirely socially acceptable and this
hedonistic attitude spilled over to all parts of America and other parts of the
Toward the end of the hippie
movement, the idealism and exuberance was gone and the emphasis was more and
more on the individual.
This tendency to be more
concerned about “my” own happiness, “my” pleasure, getting
what “I” want, not doing anything “I” don’t want to do,
influenced psychologists, psychiatrists, and other medical misfits.
They in turn used their
influence to spread the “if it feels good, do it” philosophy of the
hippies in a more respectable way than the hippies did. They got the
“message” across to people in social positions and from certain walks
of life that the hippies couldn’t reach.
Books like “Looking Out
For Number One” and dozens of others like them appeared on the scene and
became immediate bestsellers. These books emphasized getting what you want, and
told the reader not to feel guilty in suppressing or exploiting others in
search of “your” own happiness.
In short, the hippies laid
the foundation for the “there is nothing more important than pleasing your
senses” of America, and then the “new-age” psychologists took
over and turned nightmare into a refined art, making it socially acceptable.
The problem with the quest of
pleasing the senses is that not only is it temporary and leads to great frustration.
Look at all the actors and the like that had “everything” that
committed suicide out of frustration and misery.
The solution: take time to
connect with God, meditate upon Him, dovetail your will with His, and you will
experience true happiness and satisfaction.
Take it from a former hippie that found that to be true.
How is that done? Follow His instructions. Doing that takes
a bit of work and some knowledge. First, you have to understand who you
actually are. Next you have to understand what your diet is specifically
designed by your body to eat. Next you have to understand that if you offer
certain foods to Him before you eat them, He will take away the karma involved
in the taking away the life of the foods. That results timely purification of your
Here’s the reality: the soul transmigrates form body to body
with the human form being the highest form. The human form provides two
- Turn to Him and have the possibility of going to the
spiritual planets in one or two lifetimes. Or,
- Let your senses dictate your pleasure and have the soul
going back to lower forms and being there for
- lifetimes before acquiring the human form again.
My experiences in life.
“Who Are You” by Chris Butler
Bhagavad gita-as-it-is by