(Srila Prabhupada with George Harrison and Patti Boyd at Friar Park, 1969)
Tribute to George Harrison
by Prtha devi dasi
When the “wild, rebellious” Beatles hit our shore -- and others -- who would have thought one of the famous musicians of that group would become spiritual? Who would have dreamed that one of them would have turned to yoga, meditation, vegetarianism and Krishna Consciousness? What a wonder it was that amongst all that fame, George Harrison not only was able to do that, but went after it! Though it is also part of the sadness. Why? Someone with so much power to share Krishna with others is now gone. Of course, Krishna will take care of him, but if we feel sad it could be because, in addition to the loss of a devotee, we also lost a great preacher. The world will no longer have access to his many new creations of spiritual music and while some may not know it, he got some flack that his songs were “too preachy,” yet he kept making them because he felt they answered the most important questions of life, everything else is secondary. This is a preacher.
We fight so much amongst ourselves. Politics, politics. George Harrison knew what he was talking about when he wrote songs stating we should learn to love one another. “Isn’t It A Pity,” for example. George often spoke of love and peace, but we may have only connected it to a previous era of our youth. Whereas he, after reading Prabhupada’s books, spoke of it in the higher sense of meaning these words held.
For those who, for whatever reason may be unfamiliar with even his devotional rock; and for those who know of it and would enjoy reading his spiritual and Krishna Conscious lyrics, a web search turned up a site with all of his lyrics -- I am putting a bit throughout this article. Here are some words from “Isn’t It a Pity.”
“Some things take so long
But how do I explain
When not too many people
Can see we're all the same
And because of all their tears
Their eyes can't hope to see
The beauty that surrounds them
Isn't it a pity
Isn't it a pity
Isn't is a shame
How we break each other's hearts
And cause each other pain
How we take each other's love
Without thinking anymore
Forgetting to give back
Isn't it a pity”
Another song George Harrison wrote, one which became very famous was “My Sweet Lord.” Even a nondevotee, an acquaintance of his, commented (paraphrased here), "because this song was so famous many people forget this was a devotional song." Yes, a nondevotee noticed that. So although George was writing “rock and roll,” the average person was walking down the street singing, “Hare Krishna, Hare Rama.” !!!
Who dare to criticize?!
Some words from My Sweet Lord:
“My, my, my Lord (Hare Krishna)
Oh hm, my sweet Lord (Krishna, Krishna)
Oh-uuh-uh (Hare Hare)
Now, I really want to see you (Hare Rama)
Really want to be with you (Hare Rama)
Really want to see you Lord (aaah)
But it takes so long, my Lord (Hallelujah)
Hm, my Lord (Hallelujah)
My, my, my Lord (Hare Krishna)
My sweet Lord (Hare Krishna)
My sweet Lord (Krishna Krishna)
My Lord (Hare Hare)
Hm, hm (Guru Brahma)
Hm, hm (Guru Vishnu)
Hm, hm (Guru Devo)
Hm, hm (Maheshwara)
My sweet Lord (Guru Sakshaat)
My sweet Lord (Parabrahma)
My, my, my Lord (Tasmayi Shree)
My, my, my, my Lord (Guruve Namah)
My sweet Lord (Hare Rama)”
A few years ago, George created a remix of his tape/CD “All Things Must Pass.” He viewed his career / music in a spiritual manner. Here is an excerpt from a discussion about the, "at that time" soon to be released, remix:
“The point of 'My Sweet Lord' is just to try and remind myself basically that there's more to life than the material world," Harrison said. "Basically I think the planet is doomed," he said with a laugh. "And it's my attempt to try to put a bit of a spin on the spiritual side, a reminder for myself and for anybody who's interested." Harrison added that while pessimistic about the environment, he is positive about "my place in creation, and I don't have any worries whatsoever about that."
Another song from that album, “Beware of Darkness”, is worth a look-see, as a friend was initially surprised the word '"maya" in it upon a first hearing:
“Watch out now, take care
Beware of soft shoe shufflers
Dancing down the sidewalks
As each unconscious sufferer
Beware of Maya
Watch out now, take care
Beware of greedy leaders
They take you where you should not go
While Weeping Atlas Cedars
They just want to grow, grow and grow
Beware of darkness (beware of darkness)”
So much attention and credit is given to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi for George's interest and especially dedication to India’s spiritual path. Though that is who George first met, he spent much less time with the Maharishi, later accepting Srila Prabhupada as his guru for life. That gets so little coverage. At the moment I don’t recall the exact date when George Harrison accepted Prabhupada, but it was somewhere around 1969. George loved Prabhupada.
Srila Prabhupada asked young George Harrison if he would write the forward to his “Krishna Book” (Srimad Bhagavatam 10th Canto, told in story form). Of course George said yes, and here is an excerpt:
"Everybody is looking for KRISHNA. Some don't realize that they are, but they are. KRISHNA is GOD, the Source of all that exists, the Cause of all that is, was, or ever will be. As GOD is unlimited HE has many Names. Allah-Buddha-Jehova-Rama: All are KRISHNA, all are ONE.
"God is not abstract; He has both the impersonal and the personal aspects to His personality which is SUPREME, ETERNAL, BLISSFUL, and full of KNOWLEDGE. As a single drop of water has the same qualities as an ocean of water, so has pure consciousness the qualities of GOD'S consciousness... but through our identification and attachment with material energy (physical body, sense pleasures, material possessions, ego, etc.) our true TRANSCENDENTAL CONSCIOUSNESS has been polluted, and like a dirty mirror it is unable to reflect a pure image."
And let us not forget that in 1969 George produced the record/tape/CD, “Radha-Krishna Temple” in Apple Studios. If you live near a temple, etc., you may recall that song some of you hear every single morning during "Greeting of the Deities" called the Govindam Prayers. Yamuna devi dasi is singing them, George is playing guitar, and it is from the Radha-Krishna Temple recording.
George also donated financially for the entire first printing of Krishna Book, as well as donated a temple to ISKCON in England: Bhaktivedanta Manor. He was very charitable. Some may say that George did not live in the temple, did not rise early or attend the morning program regularly and so on. While I never read this, I was told that Prabhupada chastised the devotee who made such a comment and told him that George is doing more preaching and devotional service than we can do in many lifetimes. I know (from everything I have read) that George held a firm belief he was going back to Krishna upon his death and though he was quiet, he still was a preacher! Prabhupada’s instructions to George were that he should write songs about Krishna and publish them, which he did! Today all over, people are playing, “My Sweet Lord,” and so many are chanting Hare Krishna! Let us all find an approach to enliven people in such a way that they WANT to chant Hare Krishna.
Fortunately, there is a way out of the fear of death. Once, according to the Bhagavad-gita, in previous ages this knowledge was considered confidential and only certain “classes” were blessed to know of it. But as of the advent of Lord Chaitanya, an incarnation of Krishna, He has insisted that knowledge -- how to get out of the material world in one birth and not fear death -- now be given to everyone. I write this because we all may take it for granted sometimes. The solution is easy! Simply to chant Hare Krishna! Chanting, that’s it! Sounds too easy, too good to be true, but as we chant, since God is nondifferent than His Name, so we chant His Name, we are associating with Krishna!
And Prabhupada as well as Lord Chaitanya have asked us to share the chanting, to spread the Holy Name, and this too will free us. When we share the Holy Names of the Lord with others, we too get purified and that much closer to Home. Then, when we die we will be ready, we will feel secure about where we are going. Incidentally, George was very secure about his destination: returning to Krishna. Even when he was stabbed a few years ago, he was chanting Hare Krishna. I have not heard what George's last words were, but if he chanted the Maha Mantra at the time of death, according to the Srimad-Bhagavatam it states:
“By the grace of the Lord, if a devotee, at the time of death, can simply chant His Holy Names -- Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare -- simply by chanting this maha mantra, he immediately surpasses the great ocean of the material sky and enters the spiritual sky. He never has to come back for repetition of birth and death. Simply by chanting the Holy Name of the Lord one can surpass the ocean of death “ (S.B. 4.10.30, Purport)
Elsewhere in the Bhagavatam it is explained that even if one has trouble chanting the Holy Names at the time of death but tries, they are still given full benefit! I can’t and won’t speculate on where George Harrison is and I hope no one else does (with that said, the outcome does looks good). For the soft-hearted, (not the over-philosophical toughies), one way to and deal with sad feelings about his death could go like this: George was experiencing his pain yesterday, therefore that would have been the time to feel bad for him, and since most didn’t know, they couldn’t, nor could anyone have helped or changed the outcome anyhow. The worst is over for George now. However, it's OK to feel sad for yourself or his family, even for the world without him and his spiritual music in it. Grieving for the loss of a devotee is natural, but please know that at this very moment George is fine! The pain of the brain tumor -- gone, the pain of death -- over. While we are all sitting here feeling sad, George has been freed of a broken body that wouldn’t heal, moved on, and to a much higher spiritual level.
We all will miss you Sriman George (or is that "Hari's son"?) -- Prabhupada once jokingly called him this, meaning “son of Hari"). You have left the world a little better than you found it, you have put the sound vibration of “Hare Krishna” all over the entire globe too, as Prabhupada instructed you to do. And you will continue to get credit for that. People will continue to come to the temple because of your music/lyrics. May we all learn the lesson of kindness and getting along (“Isn’t It A Pity”) which in turn can help us increase our Krishna Consciousness. And may we use your passing, George, to inspire us to move forward in spreading the Holy Name of Lord Krishna, to share it with whomever we can, and therefore go back to home, back to Godhead. Hari Nama Sankirtana ki jai! (It comes in many forms.)
Prtha devi dasi