Magical Mystery Tour
(The Beatles, EMI Records, 1967)
I remember the first time I heard the words, "Hare Krishna." I had just purchased my first record album, entitled Magical Mystery Tour, by The Beatles. The lyrics to each song were printed on the inside sleeve or cover of the L.P. The following sentence appeared in the song, "I Am The Walrus," written by John Lennon and credited to Lennon/McCartney:
"Elementary penguin singing Hare Krishna.
Man, you should have seen them kicking Edgar Allan Poe."
I distinctly recall staring at the words "Hare Krishna" in my backyard that day. Although the term should have been unfamiliar to me since its origin was Indian and not English, it somehow appeared recognizable in a vague sort of way. In fact, I wrote it down on a piece of paper and stared at it continuously as a new form of meditation, since I had already been meditating regularly on a candle flame and this seemed like a step further towards authentic yogic contemplation. At the time, all things Indian intrigued me, and so this was yet another attraction to the east and all its mysterious allurements. And after all, if The Beatles were into it, there had to be something to it, even if it was referred to offhand or somewhat facetiously, as Lennon later explained in an interview.
What strikes me most, thinking about it now, is how fast "Hare Krishna" spread around the world after Srila Prabhupada left India in 1965 to preach on behalf of his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saravati Thakura. In just two short years, the holy names of Krishna appeared on The Beatles' record album, reaching millions of people all over the world.
In the book, Chant and Be Happy, George Harrison describes how he and John Lennon had heard the chanting of Hare Krishna from Srila Prabhupada's first record:
George: Before meeting Prabhupada and all of you, I had bought that album Prabhupada did in New York, and John and I listened to it. I remember we sang it for days, John and I, with ukulele banjos, sailing through the Greek Islands chanting Hare Krishna. Like six hours we sang, because we couldn't stop once we got going. As soon as we stopped, it was like the lights went out. It went on to the point where our jaws were aching, singing the mantra over and over and over and over and over. We felt exalted; it was a very happy time for us.
To think that I, like so many others of the time, had heard the chanting of the holy names of Krishna through The Beatles, who themselves had heard it directly from the pure devotee, Srila Prabhupada, is a most humbling and inspiring thought even to this day. Such is the potency of Krishna's beloved pure devotee.
All glories to Srila Prabhupada.