I’ve been asked to say a few words about the New York Museum of Modern Art exhibit featuring Chakrapani that paralleled the final days before his passing last October. The timing heightened the landmark event with even more significance for those of us who loved him, and was yet another example of the serendipity that followed him throughout his life. Even still, we were surprised that MOMA provided the stage for his final curtain call given that he was not really a patron of the arts, neither someone who sought the limelight. It was a recurring pattern, however, one I witnessed many times over the years since first meeting in 1980 — Chakrapani made no effort for recognition or prestige, it simply found him and insisted he come along despite his protests. We recognize that this was a man who was content within himself, and one who displayed a quiet simplicity and elegance that did not seek aggrandizement or distraction.
Chakrapani enjoyed the simple pleasures of life. He loved astrology and his loyal clients, and they filled his days with a sense of purpose right to the end. He loved the study and exchange of ideas with colleagues and friends that continued to inspire and stimulate his mind and kept him young despite his years. And he loved the community of like-minded souls that were looking to pierce the veil of illusion to know Truth. These were his passions, this and family were what he was about, and I believe he left this world fulfilled and at peace with his memories of the daily rewards that they brought him.
If he was an artist, his canvas was the reading itself, painted with facile grace using the horoscope and his knowledge and intuition as his palette and brushes. Like all artists that create something enduring, Chakrapani had a connection with a source from which he drew inspiration. It infused his readings with a depth and meaning that was beyond the intellect or anything quantifiable. If it’s true that the value of art is determined first by the artist’s grasp of the human condition, then surely, he qualified. And if the artist then must express that understanding in their art, transcending its significance to reflect universal truths, then perhaps Chakrapani was an artist in this respect as well.
But I’m not here to promote Chakrapani’s status as an artist. In fact, what could be better than being honored as an astrologer in one of the world’s most hallowed institutions for the arts? That is enough and says it all. How such a thing could happen, one can only imagine, but it’s been suggested it was proffered from somewhere on high as a fitting farewell to a favored son. If a path removed of any of the usual obstacles is any indication, then perhaps it was a venture blessed from above. For those of us who were a part of the plans and arrangements, there was a sense of ease, an aura of fait accompli in evidence from the beginning. There was a palpable presence that guided us along the way, making everything appear so utterly natural and easy that we never stopped to fully consider the distinction being conferred upon Chakrapani.
Each of us involved played our roles — Richard Cohen, a longtime friend made the introduction between Chakrapani and the artist, David Hammons, and worked with curator Esther Adler at MOMA after the exhibit opening to facilitate our subsequent visit. Hammons, who curated the exhibit flew into Los Angeles from New York with his artist wife and partner, Chie Hasegawo and Ian White (the painter’s son), to meet with Chakrapani. He then did the natal readings for Leonardo da Vinci and the other featured artist, Charles White, Hammons former mentor. Later, my son, Amiya arranged a group visit to the exhibit in December which resulted in a peak experience for everyone in attendance. Adler graciously stood in for Hammons, who was in Japan at the time, acting as the host for our fifty guests. MOMA essentially rolled out the red carpet for us, providing comfort and convenience in every way and treating us as VIP visitors.
David Hammons, if you’re not familiar with his work, is a contemporary artist with a known aversion for intellectualizing the creative process. He is an established artist with MOMA who agreed to his proposal for this unique show featuring the artists and Chakrapani. The exhibit included excerpts from Chakrapani’s audio recordings of the da Vinci and White readings, as well as their horoscopes that were mounted along one of the three walls. The da Vinci drawing, and Charles White portrait were on each of the other two walls. It is interesting that there are so few surviving da Vinci’s that it was necessary to borrow the featured exhibit drawing from the Queen of England’s collection.
Hammons preference that art speak for itself suggested he and Chakrapani were a good fit given that Chakrapani also often complained about intellectual discourse that reflected only a superficial understanding of the subject, or a lack of real inner resonance with what was being said. The importance of authenticity expressed by these two men, and the ease with which they were brought together for this project was a marvel to me. Chakrapani’s inner connection to truth expressed itself even independent of the words, despite the words, or without any words at all!
It was Hammons preference to offer little explanation of his intentions regarding the exhibit, but after meeting Chakrapani he volunteered that he was greatly moved by Chakrapani’s spirit. As an aside, I should share with you that Chakrapani was not feeling well that August, and in fact, he was in the hospital less than two weeks after the Hammons visit. But Hammons was not really interested in a primer or factual expose on astrology — this was not his purpose. He repeatedly said he was listening for the “essence behind the words” — the “spirit” which reflected the heart of the message. Apparently, this came through, loud and clear independent of Chakrapani’s health problems.
Since Hammons is not interested in intellectual speculation about his art he refuses to attend his own openings and has a known aversion to art critics. He prefers that the observer is left to reflect on their own regarding the meaning of his work. Hammons appears to be an artist who is seeking to reflect on the big questions — the purpose and nature of life, and the relationship of microcosm to macrocosm. He is not a student of astrology but is interested in how the whole of the cosmos may be linked together — Vedic astrology providing some insight as to how that might work.
The Hammons exhibit was held over until January 3 due to its popularity, and, by the way, it wasn’t a show tucked away in a corner. Rather, it was held on the most prestigious floor of the museum — the 5th floor, in a large central gallery with Rothko’s to one side and Monet’s to the other. It was an exhibit meant to be noticed.
Our group visit in December represented the culmination of our experience. It was truly a blessed evening — one full of love and warmth from all quarters, including from MOMA itself! Who could imagine feeling love from a museum — but we did! There was a tremendous feeling of support and kindness extended from MOMA, and such a lovely feeling of community within the group that was present. The whole proceedings felt inspired and sanctioned from above.
My hope is that reading this account will bring you some solace as your thoughts turn to Chakrapani, just as I feel comforted in recounting these memories. The experience helped me feel that Chakrapani is now in the embrace of other great souls who know and love him. I enjoy thinking of him as having rejoined his friends who would enthusiastically welcome him home and be congratulating him on a job well done. As one client said to me, “He surely fulfilled his dharma, and then some!” He was a shining example of a life of devoted service. God bless Chakrapani on his continued journey!