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Shaven headed Upananda had
not long before been long haired Bill Willis - 'California Bill'
to his friends - and 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:
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
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. One day he sighted a Hare Krishna monk in a knitted cap
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. He 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,
received the new name Upananda.
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