(Original hand-written lyrics from the "Give Peace a Chance" recording
session at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal, Canada, 1969)
John Lennon (1940-1980)
No Loss or Diminution
I first heard the phrase "Hare Krishna" sung by John Lennon on the Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour album in 1967. It piqued my interest and I later read about the chanting from Allen Ginsberg in his book, Indian Journals. At the time, I hadn't realized that Srila Prabhupada, the founder of the Hare Krishna movement in the western world, would meet these and other notable heroes of the youth culture and significantly influence them on their spiritual quests. John Lennon in particular was noted for his advocacy of peace and love. So when John Lennon and Yoko Ono staged their famous "bed-in" at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal in 1969, the devotees were there singing Hare Krishna during the recording of "Give Peace a Chance":
Although over the years, Lennon had an on-again/off-again relationship with the Krishna movement, he nonetheless rendered a lot of service to Srila Prabhupada and his mission. John Lennon invited Prabhupada and some of his disciples to stay at his estate in Tittenhurst Park in 1969, and Srila Prabhupada was grateful:
"Our temple here is not yet finished, so I am staying in the house of Mr. John Lennon. He is very much kind upon us. Here also there is a nice big hall, exactly suitable for a temple, and the devotees are enjoying the opportunity by chanting there twice, thrice daily." (Srila Prabhupada letter, 14th December, 1969)
In reference to Lennon's efforts to bring peace to the world, Srila Prabhupada wrote the following:
"Mr. John Lennon is anxious for peace in the world, so also is everyone anxious for peace in the world, but it should be known how that peace can be attained. If we keep the human society as it is, there is no possibility of peace. It is not a question of simply accepting God as the center of everything and peace will be achieved, but the question is how to live in God. Mr. Lennon wants to stop war, but the war is the creation of different politicians. So unless on the summit of administration there are actually Krishna Conscious men, we cannot stop war. Therefore people in general must understand the importance of Krishna Consciousness, and they must in this democratic day send their real representatives who can make right decisions whether there should be war or no war. We find from the history of Mahabharata that the battle of Kuruksetra was because of the belligerent attitude of Duryodhana. So such war as is was conducted under the advice of Lord Krishna is not bad, but war declared and executed by demonic politicians is certainly very bad. A Krishna conscious person like Arjuna is not inclined to the activities of warfare, but when there is a necessity for peace in the world to educate men to become Krishna Conscious, a Krishna Conscious person does not lag behind. Therefore the first necessity for peace in the world is to instruct men how to become Krishna Conscious, because as soon as one becomes Krishna Conscious all the good qualities in human society are manifested. So if it is possible that the party of Mr. Lennon and Mr. Harrison cooperate with this Krishna Consciousness Movement, I am sure we shall be able to stop all this nonsensical war."
Further in the same letter, Prabhupada concluded: "So I am very hopeful of Mr. John Lennon because he has several times chanted the word, Krishna." (Srila Prabhupada letter, 12th June, 1969)
In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna states: "In this endeavor there is no loss or diminution, and a little advancement on this path can protect one from the most dangerous type of fear." (B.G. 2.40)
Srila Prabhupada explains in the purport: "Activity in Krishna consciousness, or acting for the benefit of Krishna without expectation of sense gratification, is the highest transcendental quality of work. Even a small beginning of such activity finds no impediment, nor can that small beginning be lost at any stage. Any work begun on the material plane has to be completed, otherwise the whole attempt becomes a failure. But any work begun in Krishna consciousness has a permanent effect, even though not finished. The performer of such work is therefore not at a loss even if his work in Krishna consciousness is incomplete. One percent done in Krishna consciousness bears permanent results, so that the next beginning is from the point of two percent; whereas, in material activity, without a hundred percent success, there is no profit."
So although we mourn the loss of a "very good soul" as Prabhupada referred to him, we can also feel grateful and hopeful for Mr. John Lennon, just as Srila Prabhupada did.