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Harrison & Hinduism

The Spiritual Quest of George Harrison


George Harrison and Ravi Shankar

George Harrison and Ravi Shankar

Anwar Hussein/Hulton Archive/Getty Images Harrison & Hinduism

Cover of Harrison's 'Dark Horse'

Apple / EMI
"Through Hinduism, I feel a better person.
I just get happier and happier.
I now feel that I am unlimited, and I am more in control…"

~ George Harrison (1943-2001)

Harrison was perhaps one of the most spiritual of popular musicians of our times. His spiritual quest began in his mid 20s, when he realized for the first time that "Everything else can wait, but the search for God cannot..." This search led him to delve deep into the mystical world of Eastern religions, especially Hinduism, Indian philosophy, culture, and music.

Harrison had a great affinity towards India. In 1966, he traveled to India to study the sitar with Pandit Ravi Shankar. In search of social and personal liberation, he met Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, which prompted him to give up LSD and take up meditation. In the summer of 1969, the Beatles produced the single "Hare Krishna Mantra", performed by Harrison and the devotees of the Radha-Krishna Temple, London that topped the 10 best-selling record charts throughout UK, Europe, and Asia. The same year, he and fellow Beatle John Lennon met Swami Prabhupada, the founder of the global Hare Krishna Movement, at Tittenhurst Park, England. This introduction was to Harrison "like a door opened somewhere in my subconscious, maybe from a previous life."

Soon after, Harrison embraced the Hare Krishna tradition and remained a plainclothes devotee or 'closet Krishna', as he called himself, till his last day of earthy existence. The Hare Krishna mantra, which according to him is nothing but "mystical energy encased in a sound structure," became an integral part of his life. Harrison once said, "Imagine all the workers on the Ford assembly line in Detroit, all of them chanting Hare Krishna Hare Krishna while bolting on the wheels..."

Harrison recalled how he and Lennon kept on singing the mantra while sailing through the Greek islands, "because you couldn't stop once you got going…It was like as soon as you stop, it was like the lights went out." Later in an interview with Krishna devotee Mukunda Goswami he explained how chanting helps one identify with the Almighty: "God's all happiness, all bliss, and by chanting His names we connect with Him. So it's really a process of actually having a realization of God, which all becomes clear with the expanded state of consciousness that develops when you chant." He also took to vegetarianism. As he said: "Actually, I wised up and made sure I had dal bean soup or something every day."

Harrison didn't stop at that, he wanted to meet God face to face...

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