Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

Indian Journals

Notebooks, Diary, Blank Pages, Writings

by Allen Ginsberg

“Ginsberg is both tragic and dynamic, a lyrical genius, a con man extraordinaire and probably the single greatest influence on American poetical voice since Whitman.” –Bob Dylan

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 224
  • Publication Date September 16, 1996
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-3475-2
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $15.95

About The Book

The leading poet of the Beat generation and late-twentieth-century American letters, a spokesman for the antiwar generation, an icon of the counterculture, Allen Ginsberg led a movement that profoundly altered the American literary and cultural landscapes. Indian Journals collects Ginsberg’s writing from a 1962-63 stay in India. It is wonderfully far-reaching, imaginative, at times intensely private, and always in possession of a hallucinatory clarity that affirms Ginsberg’s truly great ability, as well as his ebullient spirit.

Indian Journals took half a decade to transcribe and edit; when it was originally published in 1970 it catalyzed a large movement of young Western pilgrims to explore India and Eastern thought. This perfect combination of text and images, Indian Journals is testimony to Ginsberg’s passionate interest in Eastern religion and mysticism and contains the initial ideas that compose some of his greatest poems. Published more than thirty years ago, Ginsberg’s intimate writings on India will be reissued in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of Howl’s publication.

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“One of the most influential poets in America in our time.” –The New York Times Book Review

“Ginsberg is both tragic and dynamic, a lyrical genius, a con man extraordinaire and probably the single greatest influence on American poetical voice since Whitman.” –Bob Dylan

“The average tourist is not likely to see the India described so graphically by Ginsberg . . . He is a thoroughly accurate observer of India‘s street life: the smell of the ghats as he conveys it and the sickeningly precise description of the burning bodies attest to his uncompromising realism. We never lose sight of the man, a seeker of further self-awareness.” –Library Journal


7 November, 1961 –
Dream, after week of unhappiness and mood arriving by Ship on the Shore and walking along vast boulevard by Sea, Street of Lucknow Chickens in INDIA – first dream of India – huge red and brown night boulevard by water, I walk alone several miles in night along ox-meat market street till I go thru fairyland gate to the Rashbehari Rich Section with modern Apartments on the Seaside – a beautiful front street rich waterfront like vaster Chicago – I wonder what city I’m in, I’m deliriously happy, it’s my promised land (I’m writing this in the promised land) – the night street has few people, I see chain of lights like Riveria hotel facade facing the ocean – I’m coming to a big church front – at last; it’s the Sign Christian all India Church – fantastic Door, just made for me

in concrete, like a blind one-eyed skull, with Sacred hearts in the bottom concrete declivity – as I bend to kiss the S.

Heart, I read the Funeral inscription – “Well it’s too bad but good-by” – I feel happy, it is like a sign thru death here for me – the cosmic joke’s come true in happy way – the wonderworld where Man knows he’s in a dream – I pass on to a square where with big candles the bodies are on display on wooden scaffolds, covered with white sheet & guarded by Army soldiers in White – I’m amazed by this street display – Next I realize this front Street is only the thin layer of money people, but there are great probably cheap apartments for rent here – I’ll settle down like Gregory in one, with my own kitchen, and a white suit, and live free – Then behind these streets must be the filthy hovels I’ll explore, I’ll walk there tomorrow, I shiver with fear and say, The Bombay seems endless, I never realized how it would feel, first those nites of old city waterfront, then the Great All India Gate to the New City I’m in now which goes on miles too – here’s a big hotel, I enter later & get lost in green lobby-garage – I’m wandering in India, it’s like a new earth – I’m happy – I wake – Morning in Haifa, my ass aches from a colitis or clap or Amoeba – morn light – time to get up soon it’s 6:45 – light to write this prophecy by.

March 19, 1962, 3:30 AM – The Left Hip
Visit to Delhi O Den – Classic alley with broken down old Palanquin made by a street charpoy (bed wove on rough wood frame) cover’d by miniature tent, with flap open and grizzled thin fellow attending two huge transvestite Eunuchs in red rags & veils who swished up to buy a spoonful – and we in an adjoining foyer door, human stable, up the smooth wood ladder to loft-platform in the dark, a small shelf cubicle with the mustached serious cook crosslegged tending a flame in a bottle covered with donut holed cap – spinning amber bubbles of O on the tips of iron needles, droplets lifted from a broken teaspoon of black liquid – twirled over the fire, near burnt, dipt back in the spoon, twirled & bubbled again till a gnoblet drop is formed, and laid aside for use – till the moment it is lifted, fired liquid, and stuck in the tiny hole of door-handled size pipe bowl – Inserted with needle to fill the rim of the hole & make a miniature donut circle – This held to flame again till bubbled away into smoke sucked in like choochoo train by smoker thru the doorknob & pipestem to lungs & held there deep unmixed with nostril air.
The smoker recumbent on left hip, relaxed on burlap rug of cosy shelf, a few married Indian onlooker friends attending, head resting on cloth over a brick – does nothing but lay out, hold & suck when given the pipe to lips by right hand of cook – whose hands then hold the doorknob down near the flame wick & keep needle attention to the small O hole, clearing it as it bubbles, – and after a long locomotive suck, smoke filling nostrils & throat & lungs – gives a rap on the steel pipestem with disciplined steel needle to say the pipe is smoked thru & time for a refill.
The original O half liquid in brown glass vial, warmed to flame & dropped down into spoon from which operations proceed as defined above – leading an hour or more later (till now from Midnite to this 3 AM) to dreams spun of so fine a gossamer that the threads snapped ere I woke to fix them in notebook. Coleridge’s milk of Paradise a description of interior micro-cosmic thoughtful organism in hypnogogic reverie – a long delicious pleasure – unlike eating O or shooting H or M – an assured constancy of imagination and repose – all proceeding from the classical sordid Muslem alleyway in Delhi, where children drag their dresses and wiggle chanting below low roofs & old householders stand in group or sit in doorways in the early night, unnoticing the familiar neighborhood scene & dreamy public charpoy and shabby stoop of local dope fiend. Who pays off the cop each day & has peace for aye. The shopkeeper who brought us there from his nearby dank little 2 room house and mother-daughter cooking chapatties in an ashy glow, thru alleyways & haphazard bazaar stalls round and round anonymous mazes – accompanying us to nearby main street after, to find a 2 seater put-put cycle taxi & send us on home overawed, relaxed & joying in an older novelty.
Thousands of scenes like this in India I haven’t writ, but saw.
Dream 19 March 1962
” Slowly the whole cabin moves upward on a hillside, I look back in the rain and see we’re moving upward on a track, pulled by a wire like a funicular – I worry if we’ll fall backward but am assured it is an old tried godly system supported by Eldest Authorities – when we get to the top, I go out searching in the springs cans old rusty car seats & rosebushes thorns for my possessions – I am climbing about on a pile of refuse when a young married couple spies me & says “Ah, this garbage-haunting is what you represent.” I sit crosslegged Buddha style over the wires & refuse & bless it and say “I am here to make the Refuse sanctified” and smile cheerfully at the refuse as if it were a big happy religious redemption.
21 March 1962 – Rapid Morphine Sequence
Two old men with grey streaked black beards driving up in a horse cab – a finagle whip – sitting side by side for no reason – both drivers, themselves.

An old newspaper seller hysterically waving his papers at the crowds on the sidewalk, selling his papers with a personal combat appeal, “He’s against me! He’s gonna win!” You got to buy his papers! It’s his life or Death! The news he’s selling refers to himself and he’s a great paperseller because he’s got a personal motive and appeals to the sidewalk crowds to be with him in his struggle & buy his papers & read all about it.
A Trotskyite streetcorner lecturer with checkered cap & cape, and bent back, stabbing his fingers into air to make his point, turns round toward you in the crowd – his face is possessed, dark piercing supernaturally intelligent eyes – haranguing with uncanny vehemence & swiftness – no roadside burbler he! – He’s a real professional in Hyde Park or 14th St. Union Square – What’s he doing here like a unicorn borne up out of opium reverie in Jaipur India RR station bed?
Jaipur March 25, 1962 – on Morphia –
Lying from 8 PM to 11 on charpoy (rough rope spring woven on wooden cot frame) in Tourist Bungalow, after spending the day in bazaar and streets Jaipurish –
As lying there in my familiar body, a subtle detachment took place as usual and I lay outside my fleeting life surveying its twinkling away – that now more and more as this life approaches its meridian of 37 years and being half gone by becomes more sure of its mortalism, the chance of the life tho marked by shows and pageants, poetical & airborne – consisting in sexualities & all sorts of fame – as it were – were not much to go by. After all, what’s all that experience limited as it is, to a Henry James of the entire Kosmos? So flit as I go by – all I’ve seen is my own life go by, swift as a mosquito with climactic buzzings of aestheticism & self congratulatory Rhapsody & morphia inactions & musings furthermore. An open closet door – I’ll return to the States, take an apartment – where with thinning hair & more tentative soul, arrange my possessions, type up my notes, discharge them for posterities, place my statues in order – one Japanese scroll of medium quality, one Korean print of an awakening Roshi, several cheap Nepalese tantric small figures, Tara, Avaloketesvara, the 1000 armed Destroyer of Death, Ganesha with a red belly button, Hanuman Pious & praying, Krishna fluting, Shiva whirling his arms & dancing, Kali with a necklace of skulls on Shiva’s belly astride – an orange wool Tibetan Blanket, a few Amazon cloths & pipes, a Mexican basket, a straw hat and whatever other Persian type miniatures I collect – and that’s the accomplishment of a life searching and travel wherever I can go on my earth.
Kali, Durga, Ram, Hari, Krishna, Brahma, Buddha, Allah, Jaweh, Christ, Mazda, Coyote, hear my plea!
Avaloketesvara, Maitreya, St. John, Ho-Tei, Kuan-Yin, Satan, Dipankara, Padma Sambava – whoever there is – is there ever anyone but me?
Lying in bed in Jaipur on morphine, lone in Denver awake on Benzedrine, flat on my back in Puccallpa wrapped in Death Vines, Valparaiso or Santiago enthralled with atropine – Shamans’ herbs or modern Somas absorbed & vomited – not yet comprehended to any Eternity. A mosquito buzzing near my ear again. My face sweating having covered itself with thin film of mosquito repellent.
There is no direction I can willingly go into without strain – nearest being lotus posture & quiet mornings, vegetarian breathing before the dawn, I may never be able to do that with devotion. And if it is a matter of Karma and reincarnation, when will I ever learn? All the saints like Shivananda handing me rupees & books of yoga and I’m no good. My hair getting long, wearing a huge thin silk shirt, useless to perfect my conscience. A smoking habit my worst Karma to overcome.
Ill the other day, my bones in flu or grip of ache, sleeping from 5PM to 9AM with supper break & a few cigarettes & dreams and barefoot it down twice to pee – I didn’t fear death or think of it. Maybe that’s an improvement.
Self Conscious, I have nowhere to go. Maybe might as well leave it at that, continue to travel and die as I am when I die.
Avaloketesvara, Kuan Yin, Jaweh, Saints, Saddhus, Rishis, benevolent ones, Compassionate Superconscious ones, etc, what can you do for me now? What’s to be done with my life which has lost its idea?
If it’s a matter of each being has to create its own divinity, far be it from me to know what to do or be. I don’t even have a good theory of vegetarianism. As for love & sex, I don’t know what to say, Peter sleeping on his side in the next bed, still faithful tho I must be poor company to old beauty. And lying on my own back in the dark, the world just keeps revolving as before.
At least I’m down in possessions to Peter & a knapsack. I still am loaded with Karma of many letters & unfinished correspondence. I wanted to be a saint. But suffer for what? Illusions? The rain, were it to rustle the leaves, would seem more friendly than before & more reminiscent of an old dream. But all the connections are vague, machines make noise & lights across the road I’ve never investigated. Next the rest of India & Japan, and I suppose later a trip: England, Denmark, Sweden & Norway, Germany, Poland, Russia, China & then back home again. And that’ll be the end of that world, I’ll be about 50, the relatives’ll all be dead by then, old ties with the boys of yore be loosed or burnt, unfaithful, in so many decades it’s best to let it all go – is Jack drunk? Is Neal still aware of me? Gregory yakking? Bill mad at me? Am I even here to myself? I daren’t write it all down, it’s too shameful & boring now & I haven’t the energy to make a great passional autobiography of it all – for who’s all that autobiography for if it doesn’t deliver heaven or reasonable equivalent? Anyway, who is that autobiography for? Young kids after the movies? I guess I have nothing to contribute to general edification by this vague haphazard slow motion death. ‘red Cats’ a fine title anyway.
Noted on edge of Bombay map –
Stop trying not to die
fly where you can fly
What do you want to know about your mother?
Anything that gets you high,

eat an orange with your eye,
any movie you see is as good as any other.
It is your business what you buy
Picture postcards apple pie
aren’t such a bother –
Upside down the birds are floating thru the sky.
May 4 – Eyes closed,
Thinking about Phipps –
Lightning flashes in
the front of my mind.
Yoga is good for making an entity sit down on the ground & wait.