xxx Interview de Ray Cappo xxx

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The zen of punk: an interview with Ray Cappo (Raghunath Das) from the punk/hardcore band Shelter.

By Sunanda dasa


What is Ray Cappo's lifestyle now ?

I try to live a pretty natural life, I practice yoga every morning for an hour and a half, I also practise brazilian ju-jitsu 5 days a week. I follow a strict, but not super strict raw food diet, I eat mainly raw fruits and vegetables, and fasts on juices.

I have found that this diet give me the most energy, more ability to get closer to nature, and I feel more in tune with my body. I feel I could develop extra strength and actual endurance, it's a little adventure !

After 15 years of practicing Krishna Consciousness, what is your opinion about the evolution of the movement in western countries, good sides, bad sides ?

I think when you take something from the ancient world, and try to adapt it to the modern world, it can come out sort of crazy. At the same time in the old world they had some interesting ideals, and I think that the older world was a little more intelligent than the modern world in some aspects.

So I think when you take a healthy balance of wisdom and intelligence from the old world and blend it with practical life in the new world, I think you have a really progressive lifestyle.

Like for example yoga: no one knows when yoga actually began, but all these books in the world are talking about yoga. So when you practise some things like that in the modern world, it's like an amazing thing. Yoga, acupuncture, even martial arts are very cool because it comes from an ancient culture that had a deep wisdom and understanding about the body.

But there are great things about the modern world as well: I can get organic fruits from South America if I live in NYC.

That's very cool ! My biggest joy is to get more back to the nature. To get back with Krishna Consciousness, I met the coolest people and also the craziest people. It's been a really fun adventure, that's for sure! I met the coolest, artistic, thoughtful people I met in my life. But I also met some crazy people !!

For example right now I'm gonna hang out with my friend, he's a devotee who teaches yoga to Madonna everyday !

How many people teaches yoga to Madonna !?

Krishna Consciousness can appear to be a difficult religion to follow, with strict principles. Young westerners can feel like they cannot relate to devotees when they go to a temple, for example. What would you say to encourage the average young westerner, who drinks, smokes, eat meat…?

I would just say "look !", if you're interested in eastern culture, I think the Krishnas have a really deep understanding of what is going on. I've been into a lot of yoga groups, and I know them, but I'd say the Hare Krishnas have a lot of knowledge about India, they really understand the philosophy.

I would say "have a look and then you can ask me a question, but you have to go in with a broad mind because… you know we are used to the western culture…" I mean, I'm not into drinking and partying and all that stuff, for me it's uninspiring, it sort of go nowhere, even at its best it goes nowhere: big deal, you stay home, watch TV, drink beer, you forget about life.

I don't wanna forget about life, I wanna get deeper into life. I want to figure out things about myself, know myself better. Things about intoxication is that it's just like putting your head into the ground and think about nothing. It's like life is a challenge and it's fun and it's joyful. I think we have reduced our pleasure to really simple things… We eat, we sleep, we mate… Big deal… I think when you get into Indian culture you find happiness again. Life is not just about having fun, it's about being really happy, I think there's a difference.

I know some people, they're interested into spirituality, but they still have bad habits and are not ready to give them up. It discourage them to engage into a spiritual practice, which I think is sad because you can practice anyway and grow gradually, what would you say to someone who still have bad habits but who want to grow spiritually ?

I don't think God hates people who do such things. Sometimes we say "oh this people are sinful !" but you know, I think there's a natural way to live, and the more we live according to the nature, the more we get closer to God. My understanding of God is that He doesn't hate, for anything. In certain religions there is different principles to follow, that help to understand yourself better, in relationship to nature. As far as Krishna Consciousness goes I would just say "just get into a meditation, chanting or prayer or stuff like that" and eventually I think you'll really realize that these things that appears to satisfy us don't really satisfy us that much, and then they'll naturally be given up.

When I stayed with you these 3 months we talked a lot about your work on your resentment with people, can you tell us more about this work, why did you feel that need ?

I think it's important in my own spiritual growth to work threw the problems I had with my past, so therefore part of my spiritual practise is to deal with resentment. I don't like to have any resentment to anyone. I find that if I'm carrying some type of anger to somebody, in one sense I feel like I'm torturing them. Suppose I'm angry at my mother, because she mistreated me… This isn't not true but suppose it is… I'm resenting her and I refuse to speak to her anymore.

I feel like I'm punishing her, but really I'm punishing myself because I'm carrying around this anger. It's like carrying around a heavy suitcase: it's my own problem, not her. Sort part of the work isn't just like we want everybody feels good and a nice relationship.

That's also good, but the real thing is it burdens me for carrying around al this weight. It's horrible to carry around anger.

People who have a lot of resentment, they tend to be very miserable people. So if I could I went through a daily process, I actually called every person I had resentment for, I honestly wrote a list of people, since I was a little boy, and I called and I said "look! I don't know where I feel cheated, but I know where I was responsible in bad relationships, failed relationships" when I stop blaming and accept some responsibilities , then a lot of the resentment goes away.

It doesn't mean that people haven't cheated me, but I had a part in it also, I can't do anything about what they did to me, but I can do something about how I'm reacting, I can honestly admit what I was responsible for. There are times where we blame everybody around.

If my career doesn't go well I blame my girlfriend, maybe I'm not happy with something so I blame the weather, I blame my work, my boss, my friend. It is related to materialism. Materialism means "I'm the center, everything works around me" which is just bullshit. Basically I'm not the center, I'm a tiny little piece, and because I'm so self centered I can't see what is actually true. I only see things that make me look right. I feel more peaceful and closer to God since I've done that work..

It's a method inspired from the Alcoholic Anonymous handbook, do you have any other books to advice ?

No, I think people have to search out and look for their own path. In my life I had to search things out and I think people should do that themselves.

What do you see as the most potential destructive force on this Earth ?

I think selfishness. Same things as the Buddha talk about: lust, greed, anger. With evolve around selfishness: "how can I please me above anybody else ?". The other day I was on the beach, it was a beautiful day, there was dolphins in the water, and people were surfing it was really nice, and then this guy, with his gigantic boat, made so much noise with this boat, it was so disturbing.

Everyone was so disturbed just because of this asshole, some rich guy, who bought his 400 000 dollars boat at least. It was the perfect example of I'm selfish, I'm bored so what can I do ? I'm gonna enjoy at everybody else expanse.

If someone told you "I don't need a guru, they're all cheaters, I can learn things by myself", what would you answer ?

I don't think a guru is necessary, but I think they are necessarily helpful. I think a lot of things you can learn by yourself, that sometimes people take a guru because they need to be told what to do, they can't figure out themselves. I think that if a guru acts that way: "Do this, do that, go there !", giving a lot of instructions, its takes away the power of the individual.

At the same time, I think it's important for people who have learned things to teach other people. For example I learn Ju-jitsu, I could figure out by myself but not as well as with a good teacher, cause teachers have walked the same path.

It's not necessary, necessary, but it is necessarily helpful. But then you have to make sure who is your teacher, if he's qualified, if he's intelligent and know what he's doing because you really make yourself vulnerable, you're giving yourself to this person. But I think it's important to have a teacher.

Is it easy to be a hardcore singer at the age of 37 ?

Yes and no. I do it just enough not to be bored ! the way I do it, like 3 month a year, it is still fun. I don't see myself doing it all my life bit it's still fun.

Do you have the feeling that you are still "True til Death" ?

To be really true and genuine to me, it's a minute by minute choice, you know what I mean. All day long today I've maybe been on the Internet and being true…

I think every time you become pretentious or fake, maybe for a moment, you're not true. It was a straighedge slogan and I don't think people really think deeply what it means… to me when I say true, it's sort of an important thing and… I don' tknw if I'm true at this very moment, it would takea little of self-analysis.

News/ projects?

-touching water: it's a new record I'm writing, I'll sing on it, hopefully we'll have something done before the end of the year.

-the zen of punk: it's finished, I'll don't know yet who will publish it. It's a short story, kind of a fiction, like the Little Prince. It's the story of a guy who moves to the streets of NY to start a punk band. He meets this homeless man who is a sadhu, and they become friends. This guy's distressed, so the sadhu gives him these magical glasses in which he can see the world as it really is. Then begin some adventures in NY, he travels around… It's written like a comedy but there are a lot of spirituals ideas in it.

-Youth of Today tour diaries: I'm still working on it but something happened: I've become involved into a film. This one is a documentary of the 80's punk scene in NY and it should be finished in October.
Supersoul Camp: I had to sell it. It was not like I was thinking. I think I'm gonna keep doing something like this, but maybe in something like 8 years from now. The concept is that people come and take a vacation from their life, their jobs, their families…come and concentrate, think about their priorities in life. It's sort of what I did with my spoken words CD.

-teaching yoga: I study and I teach yoga and I also started Ju Jitsu. These are my 2 passions. I also do American boxing, kick boxing.

Connexion between spirituality and martial arts ?

Spirituality can be everywhere, everything have its mundane side. Martial arts can be macho, but I'm searching for the spiritual side of it. You know I love Krishna Consciousness, and I don't do martial arts and think: "this is my body, what a beautiful body!" I see it as a gift. It's like your mother give you a car, and you can drive it hard, knock the car, but it's not the proper way to appreciate the gift. A body's just something special, so in the same sense, when I was into the ashram, devotees overlooked it, but body and mind are working together.


Krishna Consciousness and brahmanical standards ?

I don't have the standards of a brahman, that's for sure, you can see it I'm eating a salad at a club !! My goal's not to be a brahman, my goal's to be a devotee of Krishna my whole life. I keep contact with my spiritual master, just today I did. I got through different stages in my life, some years ago I was a monk. I'm definitely not a monk anymore.

Some people think when you're not a monk you're disqualified from being spiritual. Prabhupad was never a monk his whole life.

I like to use the example of a sailboat: when you're focused, you go where you wanna go, you keep your true north, even if the boat doesn't go straight, sometimes you're just cruising around but keep the direction. It's natural. You just have to be focused on what you wanna do, what you wanna be.

You get into different things in your life, some are much spiritual, some are less, you just have to think of what you want to become. I think I'm lucky, devotees are always encouraging me, and I'm still popular to the Vaisnavas.

Sexual problems in spiritual life ?

Child abuse… these problems are everywhere. If you drawn a circle around50 people sitting out there, I'm sure you can find at least 10 girls that where molested, not by priests, not by Hare Krishnas, not by Catholics, just by people and you know why? Because things like pedophilia, molestation, beating up your wife exists in human society.

And it's horrible, even worse when it exists within a church 'cause there you're looking to trust somebody. The problem is that a lot of times people get into religion, not because they want to molest children, but because they have problems sexually.

You guys know anorexia ? I think sometimes people have been so hurt sexually that they are sexual anorexics, and I think some people join churches because they're scared of sex: "they don't do sex here, I'm so scared of sex, I've had so many hard times through sex, here, they don't even talk about it!"

Sometimes they join religions, not just Krishna religion, many religions, because they don't want to deal with it. But the thing is that it's a real problem. Sexual anorexia is unhealthy too.

It's like anything, if you indulge too much or refrain… If I eat too much that I throw up, that's not good, if I never eat food that's not good even. So I think what happen that people are joining religion because of wrong reasons because they're running away from sexual problems. In the name of being celibate, peaceful (but they're not peaceful), they keep it behind and one day when they're not ready, they abuse someone because they've been abused. In the sastras they talk about eating, sleeping, mating and defending.

These are the 4 things that human beings do. When you become over indulged in, it destroys who you really are, when it become totally neglected in an unhealthy way, that's not good also. The idea is that things have to be regulated. What Prabhupad tried to do, from what I understand, is to institute a religion. But when you institute anything, it's pretty much impossible.

Why ? because everyone's different. My parents could have beaten me, your parents could have loved you, you could be an orphelin, you all come from different backgrounds, with different desires, so why join a club ? In my book In Defense of Reality I did with Satyaraj, he points out different classes of people according to the Vedas, some people are 1st class, 2nd class, 3 th class 4th class.

That's not in Prabhupad's books, Satyaraj knows that 'cause he has studied Indian literature, and he know that there are people who have a lot of sex, and they're devotees of Krishna. Like Chintamani, she was a prostitute, but she was a devotee of Krishna, she was a guru to Bilvamangala Thakur. Sometimes people are dealing with different things: some have bigger eating appetites, bigger sexual appetites, some are very violent, you know what I mean ?

None of these things are great, but it is the things related to the karma they have to deal with.

Kids considering you as their guru ?

You know what ? I think a lot of people say: "Prabhupad is the only guru", stuff like that… It's a nice sentiment but basically everyone you learn from is a guru, a teacher. If people learn from me, does it mean I'm a pure devotee ?

Does it mean I'm a guru ? No ! Chintamani was a prostitute, she was a guru for Bilvamangala. I'm not telling the whole story but it's about one guy who's coming to see her and she tell him: "you worship me like I'm God, but if you just worship Krishna like the way you do with me you'll go right back to the spiritual world." If people learn from me that's great, if people learn from you, that's great. In your mind you might think: "I'm the guruuuu !!!" but you gotta just think :"I'm the servant of the servant of the servant" of the gopis.

You learn from other people and you spread it around. I might know something for only one week, I can tell it to other persons. I do it as the singer of a band. Think about what some other bands say, it's unbelievable. So if I can teach the knowledge of the Bhagavad-Gita that's wonderful, that's a great thing.

About these words: " I care about hardcore but I hate the scene" (ignite)?

The scene is a scene, like any other scene. I don't like to see myself as "hardcore". I just look myself as a soul, and I play music…

There are many different communities, like martial arts community, punk community, Krishna community and it's all the same in the sense that there are heroes, enemies, love affairs going on, good and bad people…

Just do your best and deal with it. I think all the problems start when I begin worrying about your problems. When I become obsessive with you problems, then I become co-dependant and irresponsible with my own life.

That's why in all the spiritual teaching they say things like :"don't fight with another people". Why?

Because part of spirituality is to become responsible for who we are: in relationships to my wife, to my brothers, to my family… I know my father beaten me, I know my mother have been bad to me, I know my brother always have been abusive to me,…, but where was my role, where did I go wrong ? It starts with becoming responsible, not blaming everybody.

That's why they say that resentment is a poison we take to kill other people. So the first thing to do is to find who we are resentful for and ask ourselves where we are responsible: how can I rectify the picture ?

My face on a T-shirt?

You just have to think :"I'm a servant", not: "I'm a cool guy" because it destroys you. Face reality, reality means I'm small, not big.

In 20 years from now ?

Close to Krishna, close to the devotees. Hope I'll be an artistic and spiritual person, that I'll write poems, other things.

Something more ?

There's a greater plan.


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