avināśi tu tad viddhi yena sarvam idaṃ tatam
vināśam avyayasyāsya na kaścit kartum arhati
That which pervades the entire body, know it to be indestructible. No one is able to destroy that imperishable soul.
– Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 2 Verse 17
The elegant Sanskrit words above lifted directly from the pages of one of India’s most revered scriptures are also to be found in Goose’s song Indian River, off of their 2015 album, Moon Cabin. Goose is an up-and-coming jam band from Connecticut, USA. In the few years that they’ve been active, they’ve managed to attract a large following through their fun, catchy and unique brand of improvisational music, closely inspired by bands like Phish and the Grateful Dead. They are one of the few bands that have actually gotten bigger during the pandemic, selling out a number of drive-in shows throughout New England and the East Coast. In addition to this reference to the Gita, they also have a song titled Madhuvan, one of the numerous blessed names of the Supreme Lord.
As an aspiring devotee at the ISKCON temple in Boston, discovering the connection between Krishna and Goose was a critical moment that intensified my love for the band and set me out on a journey to discover the story behind the song and the songwriter.
This was an idea that simmered in my head for many months. Finally, I decided to reach out to the press guy for the band to see if he could put me in touch with one of the band members so I could ask about their lyrics. He was excited by the idea and told me he would be happy to set me up with Rick Mitarotonda, who is the writer of both Indian River and Madhuvan.
A snippet of the interview follows:
So to start generally, how did you get into Krishna or Krishna consciousness?
So in 2014 I moved to Colorado and one day I was walking around town alone, sat a park bench and heard some really cool music, and I went closer and observed what was going on. And I was really impressed and kind of drawn to the music itself. I just kind of sat by them and listened for a while and they were awesome musicians though. So you know, the drummer took a break and kind of walked over and struck up a conversation, we got to talking, he invited me to the ISKCON center in Denver where they’re based. So you know, I got involved, sang with them, ate the food, and had the discussions which were really enriching. And was like wow, you know, this is great, and I started going every week. And as time progressed, I started spending more time with them. Started going down to the temple in Denver and helping out here and there and going to the different events and just got more involved with the whole program.
Would you say that learning about Krishna was the start of a spiritual acceleration or awakening for you?
It was certainly a phase of it. Really, the spiritual awakening for me personally started when I experienced some loss in my life and wondering about people that were so integral in my life went, who were no longer here anymore. I was always when I was younger- interested in the unknown, interested in mystery and occult ideas and things like that. But you never really need to dig, to need to seek when you’re comfortable. Life has a way of driving you certain places... At that point after a bunch of people that I looked up to were no longer here, I needed to know more about what’s actually going on here, you know. That’s really where the real spiritual quest, if you will, began. But it led down many pathways and opened many doors, and you know, the Krishna consciousness world was definitely one of them.
So as we know, you do have some songs that reference Krishna, so it must at least some part of, your current inspiration in your songwriting. So first I’m curious to hear a little bit about the song Indian River, and the verse from the Bhagavad Gita, which is a really beautiful and amazing verse about the imperishable nature of soul.
Sure. It has to do with experiencing loss, people that you are used to interacting with on a physical level no longer being able to do that. And seeking ways to communicate with them in other ways, which is you know, something I struggle with and strive for to this day, and will probably never stop that. And you know, it’s about signs. Synchronistic experiences, like you said.
The other song I wanted to ask you about is of course the song Madhuvan. When I first came upon the name of that song, I was like wow that’s a name for Krishna! Because as you might know, one of the teachings of the religion is that simply by reading or hearing or speaking one of the names of God, it’s actually a form of service and a form of worship.
What I find really cool about that song, is that because the title is one of the names of Krishna, is that you’re actually getting people closer to Krishna, whether they know it or not, by putting those vibrations out there.
So I remember one of the devotees ended up telling me that story of Dhruva, and it was sort of, you know a personal connection to the story. He told me the story and it really stuck with me. And it morphed into a metaphor for that song that I was working on. The way I understand it, so there was a king… Dhruva was the son of a king who had two wives. The second wife was really mean to Dhruva and very not accepting, and would say things like “You’ll never have the throne, like my son will inherit the throne and you’re nothing”. So a few things happened and eventually he got older and realized that this whole situation is messed up and he set out… he left the whole scene there, went into the Madhuvan forest, and started performing really, really intense… uh what’s the term you use? [the word is tapasya].
Thanks so much for sharing… I have this one crazy idea, that maybe sometime in the future once COVID is over, I could get a couple of my Hare Krishna friends together and do a thing where we go serve Prasadam before a Goose show. Cause you know, that would get people really fired up with the spiritual energy.
Oh yeah, yeah. I’m all about that. I’d get involved for sure. I’m just really, really into Prasadam.
Overall, the conversation with Rick was blissful and enlightening. Although Rick is not a regular temple-goer, he continues to spread a message of spiritual peace to his fans which are closely inspired by the wisdom he gained from associating with devotees. Long story short: the influence of ISKCON is still alive and well in American culture if you look just beneath the mainstream. Here’s hoping for more Krishna conscious music in the near future!
See my blog for the full interview: Satsangstories.com[ musician ] [ opinion ]