Something Forever

- Chapter 3 Part 1/5 -

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Sir George and the yogis

Dear reader, here in the third part, we are now moving towards a direction and an aspect that  also comes under the real true affairs of George Harrison's heart. George's relationship with Krishna yogis should get a brief illumination in the context of that time here, however we will continue to monitor this aspect of Master Harrison's life and see if Sir George Son Of Hari further operates the transformation into the Phoenix.!

Before I undertook this section of Harrison's master life, I visited the popular, always positively charged Dr. Ko, a super Psychiatrist -Analysist -Alienist and with a very good karma. During the usual waiting in friendly surroundings, my eyes roamed over the literature that, as usual in waiting rooms, were draped nicely on a table, and got stuck at the nice-looking  Pranahaus catalog. All the best for body, mind and soul, I read there, and made the experience that a good new-age mail order catalog can be made even better. About the Amrita catalog I  already was surprised, but this one from now probably was the real culmination of exhaustion in the field of esoteric spectrum of our day. Oh, how tempting, it escaped me, and oh, how much this also is a sign of human fatigue, sign of advancing their own individuality and of progressive   enlightenment.

The crown of exhaustion

Not only I found here Edward Schur's immortal theosophical masterpiece, "The great initiates' in a beautiful new edition and with a good introduction, but to my surprise the works of Swami Paramahansa Yogananda, too. I remembered that George Harrison was very excited about his book "The Autobiography of a Yogi", and I saw that Yogananda had written a book called "The Yoga of the Bhagavad Gita," which again was appealing to me, because the fabulous Bhagavad Gita (a kind of Hindu Bible) represents the esoterica maximus for us Hindus.

God talks to Arjuna, and Yogi Yogananda reveals in his work, the essence of the Bhagavad Gita. A brief introduction to the spiritual truths of the most popular of all the holy scriptures of India. Yes, George Harrison has always had a good taste, good sense of the truly great yogis and Svamis of his age, only they were appealing to him and or mostly became friends or his eternal wellwishers.

Leafing through and wondering about the really well-chosen content of the catalog came to me involuntarily the Beatles song "Can't Buy Me Love" came into my head, and I somehow remembered a great parody of Peter Sellers, where he is singing duet with himself, but money, money, can't buy me love, played magnificently by Sellers. But just that is promised by the catalog, that with money we could afford the really important things in life ie physical sex, wealth and prestige, home, farm and children and provide much more, but the truth is, but money, money can't buy you love.!

In spite of all the great diversity, all the great deals and super low prices, bargains, we must never forget one thing, it's always the honest and sincere simplicity of the heart that helps us to become charitable and to affirmate life with open arms.!

(Peter Sellers "Can't buy me Love" at YouTube)

Druids and Shamans

Dr. Ko. was, as always, a source of inspiration and motivation, and he confirmed that my chronic ataraxia, in my particular case, would be the best Arcanum to interprete the story of Sir George a little further. My objection that I disclose so much of the most intimate thoughts and feelings that employed me and Sir George,  and might overwhelm the reader, he put away with the remark that the whole point of writing therapy is to leave my dormant memories free,  to make room and space for new impressions and findings, may I have the patience and proceed step by step, as it is stated by an old Indian saying: "To the patient things run square, from the hurrying they run away, and time extends for those who know how to use it." Besides, I said, I struggle with the fact that much of my original manuscript, which has a too private nature, has to be left out by me, because I think it might be too intimate for the reader. Dr. Ko. also countered this argument by pointing out that after my virtual appearance, I even could consider a publication on paper, where I could work up the whole complete manuscript, with all my family things, the scandals and all my hippie-esque drug parties, which belonged to my bizarre past. Look at it positively, said Dr. Ko., let your positive votes wander in your mind, do  affirm the circumstances and write your heart free.! All the world wants to learn, wants to get rid of the darkness of ignorance. Our whole human progress points towards that direction, no matter whether it is about physical, spiritual or technological progress, to learn something new, we are here, that's the whole point of life, of our existence, of our whole being here and now, to learn new things and to expand our consciousness, and not only that, no, also in order to cheer it up properly.! Let's hope so, by goodness, I thought, here are the old sages talking out of the doctor. And basically today's good psychologists, psychiatrists and counselors are the druids and shamans of the past. See Eugen Drewermann or the writer Hermann Hesse, Rabindranath Tagore, or Friedrich Rückert, in his 'Weisheit des Brahmanen' (wisdom of the Brahmins), they are all something like the modern day shamans.!

Back to the musical medicine men and their modern customs. Yes, we now return to the Beatles' headquarters in Baker Street, Paddington Street talk corner, where a young Krishna Yogi from America is eagerly waiting for meeting one of the Beatles in person once in a while.

A kind of spiritual revolution

In the meantime, Beatle George made the acquaintance of the Krishna devotee Syamasundara Das in the Apple tower in spring 1969, who had come to London on the instruction of his Guru to open a temple. Syamasundara waited for hours in Apple Tower for the opportunity to speak with one of the Beatles. He remembered that 1968 the Beatles had ordered 100 pieces of the mantra-LP "Krishna Consciousness", in which their Bhaktivedanta Swami was singing with the devotees and gave a nice purport about the chanting and singing of the holy names. This purport had attracted Beatle George and John very much, and had aroused their interest in Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

Yogesvara alias J.M. Green recalls in his book "Here Comes The Sun" (*):
"Once the Beatles had stopped one of their business meetings for hours, George appeared as one of the first in the foyer, where always  various guests, press and people were waiting, who wanted something from the Beatles. George looked around and precisely headed for  Syamasundara to ask with a smiling expression on his face, '... were have you been? Hare Krishna', he said and smiled at the astonished American.'Where are you.? I've been waiting to meet you sometime.' George sat down, and the Krishna follower introduced himself with his spiritual name. Shyamasundar, he said, meant
'a servant of Krishna with a dark complexion (Shyama), who is very beautiful (sundar).'

George turned to the people who had spread out in the room. 'Do you know all these people', he asked. Shyamsundar nodded in the direction of the Hell's Angels and said that he knows them from Haight-Ashbury, where he 'together with a number of other ex-freaks like me' has become a disciple of Swami Prabhupada. George laughed and said he knew Prabhupada from his recordings of the Krishna chants. He was even sure that the Hare Krishna mantra once saved his life on a flight from San Francisco to London. The American explained that he, his wife and two other couples were living at present in an empty warehouse, and that they planned, however, to open a temple in London one day. George wanted to know more about their guru, and the American told that Prabhupada was standing in a line of masters that could be traced back to the beginning of creation, when Brahma, the first living creation, was provided directly by Lord Krishna with divine knowledge."

(Srila Prabhupada's first journey to America at YouTube)

The Fountainhead of Godhead

'But what I not understand is, why only Krishna?', asked George. 'I mean, there are also Shiva, Ganesha and Brahma.' He mentioned other deities of the Indian pantheon. At least according to all that he had read so far, Krishna was only one of many manifestations (incarnation) of a formless higher energy. 'They are all one and the same, aren't they?', he asked. "So why there is no singing of 'Hare Shiva' or something?' The supporters would pay  tribute to Krishna as the original incarnation of God, Shyamsundar said, as the source from which all other deities were created. Shiva, Ganesh, Brahma and other personalities were revered as gods, as assistants, but only Krishna would be accepted by the Krishna followers as a source of life. Krishna would be of matchless beauty, and in the religious tradition of India the impersonal power of God would be knocked down a peg by this extremely attractive appearance.
'It's like right now: What would I prefer here",  Shyamsundar said. "To sit stoned in my room listening to your music, or to meet you just here in person and to laugh with you? Your music is great, but I'd rather be here and talking personally with you.' George told Syamasundara that, while listening to the album 'Krishna Consciousness', there was a revelation in such a way that it felt like a door opened in his subconscious and remembered him of something from a previous life, which seemed so familiar and took this mantra sound up in his heart, like something very familiar and very natural.

Immediately understanding and affection for each other was there, George Harrison told of his love and affection for India and Hinduism, he explained how he had visited his first Ravi Shankar in Concert at the Royal Albert Hall in 1966 and discovered his passion for the sitar. He described how wonderful it was to suddenly be a disciple again, to be a student of the sitar under the tutelage of his new mentor, the sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar. From then on, a lifelong devout devotion shaped this special musician friendship between George Harrison and the more paternal Ravi Shankar.

("I am missing you -rare live-" at YouTube)

Yogesvara Prabhu further recollects in "Here Comes the Sun" (*):

"George had listened to Shyamsundar with great concern and nodded interestedly." If you have time, we go on talking at my home on next Sunday. "He scribbled a directions sketch on a napkin, jumped up and waved goodbye and said softly goodbye. Shyamsundar stopped and stared in disbelief at the napkin, now he really had a date with George, it was amazing. The following Sunday, George and his wife Pattie welcomed the shaven American in their house in the suburb of Esher.  Shyamsundar arrived with a rickety pickup truck - "the donation of a sympathetic Indian", he said. The three retreated to his office, where the sunlight fell through large windows that reached from floor to ceiling. The scent of sandalwood filled the room. They sat on cushions and talked casually for a while. The twenty-three years old American said he was a Fulbright scholar and professional skier, but hadn't found fulfillment in the academic life and on piste. He was living in a fire watch tower with views across the forests of Oregon, read books about Eastern mysticism and wondered what would happen next, when an old friend was coming out of college and convinced him to visit Srila Prabhupada in Haight-Ashbury. When he heard Srila Prabhupada speaking about the group singing and the Bhagavad Gita, this had convinced him that all his previous life had been nothing but a preparation for an awareness in Krishna.

George was eager for this kind of philosophical discussion. "I want to know what it is about with all this", he said. "To meet you and learn about  Krishna and Srila Prabhupada, happens at a perfect time in my life. A whole lotta is changing now. My head is full of individual particles and fragments, but the way you explain it, all these particles seem to finally merge into one image.!"

Shyamsundar quoted a text from the Sanskrit, which states that God sends a teacher to show you the way, if one really looks for him. He talked about his own encounter with Srila Prabhupada and how it had changed his life. Pattie served tea on a tray and followed the exchange of ideas. George asked how the disciples see their determination after death. If you have served Sri Krishna with devotion (bhakti yoga), Shyamsundar said, then the soul would be freed  from the load of further rebirths in the moment of death, and return to Sri Krishna in the immaterial and spiritual world. Pattie stood up. "You do it with your chanting," she said to the American while she went back towards the kitchen. "Other people do this through meditation or some kind of yoga."

Pattie was preparing some snacks, while George asked a question after another. They talked about India and Hinduism, about the Beatles and George's desire for a fuller life. It lasted over an hour and took several plates of vegetarian dishes, until the conversation came slowly to a halt. George admired the ability of the American, looking back with a smile on his life, and you hadn't to ask him extra to laugh. George put on a record of Bob Dylan and told some anecdotes they had experienced together. Shyamsundar got ready to go now, and invited George to visit him and the other followers of Srila Prabhupada in their warehouse temple. George joyfully accepted the invitation. His life as a Beatle had shown him that there exists some higher power out there, he said, that gave him the freedom and the courage to find this out for himself. It was a good chance one have earned after a million lives. Especially after his visit to Haight-Ashbury, he had felt a responsibility to set a good example for others. "If I do not seize this opportunity," he said, "then I'm wasting my life, am I not?"

At five o'clock on a frosty winter afternoon, George drove his Porsche into the warehouse temple of the Krishna followers, dressed in jeans and a fluffy Afghans jacket. He got out and looked up. Some Krishna followers waved to him from an open window on the second floor. Shyamsundar appeared on the front door and escorted George up the steps. As they approached the loft, George smelled the scent of marigold flowers, blended with a touch of cumin and mustard seeds. He took off his shoes and entered a large copious room, where five Americans stood together. Shyamsundar introduced him to his wife Malati and her little daughter Sarasvati. With her free hand, Malati laid George a wreath of marigolds around hÝs neck. As a sign of gratitude, George laid the palms together, as he had seen in India so many times, and said Namaste. A woman with warm eyes and hands full of flour came from the kitchen area in the back of the loft. Shyamsundar introduced George to Jamuna, who greeted him with a joyful smile and a slight bow, and then returned to their vegetables she cooked in a wok. As she put into the fritters,  the dough made a noise as if someone lit a firecracker in the distance. One by one, other  Krishna followers came forward. George also shook Mukunda's hand. He narrowed his eyes and tried to classify the name. "Haven't you wrote a letter to me some time ago?" he asked. "I think it was about mantras." Mukunda seemed stunned. His letter had actually reached George, and he even remembered it. He nodded, and a broad smile overspread his face.

Gurudas, a great disciple with apple cheeks, introduced himself. He had been five years on the road with Dr. Martin Luther King on the peace marches in Alabama, he said, before he returned to San Francisco to work for the people in the slums of the city. George spread his hands to indicate the group, "I saw a picture of you all in the Times last Sunday - the baby just chewing on your beads", he said and turned to Sarasvati. "You looked so, well, so transcendentally." George knew the effect he had on other people, and spoke gently, as if to assure them that he was not here to judge them or because he is privileged and would appear extraordinary, but only to enjoy their company, and perhaps to learn something. Years later, the followers still remembered how George was extremely cautious at that first meeting. "Come in and look at our altar," said Gurudas. On a shelf covered with cloth on the back wall of the loft, frameless, postcard-sized photos of shaven men in long robes were standing. In small brass vessels, candles and incense were burning. On the altar were two eight-inch wide brass figures, one male and one female, dressed in ornate miniature garments, which were filled with sequins and colored stones. Gurudas said that the Krishna tradition knew both a female and a male manifestation of God. The devotees, he said, are worshipping Radha, the feminine side of God, with even greater reverence than Sri Krishna himself. "Hare is another name for Radha", said Gurudas. "The mantra Hare Krishna Radha asks us to be included in the service of Krishna. And when Radha asks Krishna to take someone," he added with a grin, "then Krishna is unlikely to reject him."

In India, George had seen larger versions of the deities Radha and Krishna. The deity Radha was shown smiling. The right hand was even to the waist with the palm outward, to bless the viewer. In her left hand she held a tiny lotus flower made of brass. The image of Sri Krishna had put one foot casually over the other. Prior to his lips he held a miniature brass flute in his hands as he would like to start playing. Their necks were decorated with small wreaths, and candlelight was flickering on their brass faces. On the altar there also was a small painting of a golden figure with hands raised in ecstasy. "This is Krishna Chaitanya, the Golden Avatar," said Gurudas. "Krishna Chaitanya started the street singing in Bental in the sixteenth century. One day we were singing in San Francisco in the open, as Chaitanya had done it. When their guru Srila Prabhupada heard about it, he said." Saint Chaitanya has inspired you", and urged us to practice the road singing daily from now on. When we came to London, we have just done what we had done in the States so far, too. It may be in a certain historical context, but we do it mainly because we feel good while doing it, and the people on the street apparently like it. "

George bent down to look at the photos, which were arranged in a row on the altar, with greater accuracy. "These are then probably your gurus?" Mukunda nodded and called the name of each guru in historical order. A couple of Krishna's disciples came from the small kitchen of the loft. They carried trays with small portions of food in dishes made of stainless steel, and placed them on the altar. Yamuna bowed and offered the food in prayers to the deities. Gracefully she knelt down and touched her head to the floor. Her submission had nothing humiliating about it, she was not embarrassed to perform such a gesture of humility in front of someone she had just met. George watched with silent admiration. After fifteen years in company of selfish egotistical musicians and business people who he called "shufflers", such unconditional devotion was unfamiliar to him. Mukunda took a Mridanga drum in hand, covered on both sides. "Let us sing a kirtan, while Krishna is eating." Cushions were passed around, and all sat down cross-legged in a circle around the altar.

Gurudas opened a wooden rectangular box and lifted out a keyboard instrument that was in it. "Can you play on that?" He pushed the box over to George. "A reed organ," George said, nodding. He knew the instrument well from his sessions for the soundtrack of Wonderwall in India. He unfixed the bellows on the back of the keyboard and began to pump, thus ensuring the supply of air which the pipes needed. His fingers flew over the ivory keys of the instrument as he played down some Indian scales. Shyamsundar opened another box and pulled out a Esraj, a long-necked stringed instrument with a round body. He placed the instrument upright on his lap and played a few stretched notes, while other Krishna disciples took cymbals. One by one joined in the playing and the singing of the mantra that George knew so well: "Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare." The minutes flew by, the beat of the drum became faster, and finally the Kirtan ended in a dizzying crescendo of sounds and vocals.

(Beatles "The Inner Light" at YouTube)

The disciples bowed. George followed suit, while Yamuna spoke the final prayers. The group got up, filled with energy and joy through her singing. (Strength Through Joy). "This was indeed something divine," said George and brushed the hair from his face. Among these people he felt like a different person. Until now he had not known whom to approach in his quest for society, there had been no one who shared his growing passion for spiritual philosophy. In many respects, these disciples were like him: They had about the same age, their life experience and awareness of their importance in history were similar. They had pursued parallel roads on their journey to God, lived their childhood through the war, made their experience with Rock 'n Roll, LSD and now with the mystic India. Because he felt comfortable in their company, George ate with great appetite, inquired the name of each dish, and identified those he knew from his time in Rishikesh: the lentil soup Dahl, Basmati rice and vegetable-stuffed samosas and pakoras. Srila Prabhupada taught "kitchen religion", the disciples joked - how you could eat your way to God, so to speak. After the meal, all were lying  around on the floor, fed and giggling like children. Gurudas led George to a sink, where they washed their hands. "Singing is like washing," said Gurudas. "Both are a cleansing process."

It was incredible. These people were educated Americans from wealthy families. For all George knew about them, because of their education they should have matured into fully-fledged members of the consumer society. The American appetite for possessions was a world-renowned personality trait, it runs in their blood, so to speak. But here they were, sleeping on the floor, living from hand to mouth, animated by faith and truly happy. They were perhaps the happiest people he had ever met. To him, who made music in the spotlight of the world and spent money without thinking about it, luck seemed to be a hard-to-reach luxury. These people were totally unknown and apparently had no reserves, and yet they shined. In all objectivity, didn't make their simple, happy life devoted to God more sense than selling millions of records?

"I feel very inspired here," said George to Gurudas with a smile, before returning to the main room. "You guys have anything that you want. Beautiful music, beautiful things around you, great stuff to read, topics of conversation and families. - It's a very unique way of life, right?" Then he apologized, said he had another appointment in the studio, turned to the door and invited them to visit him soon at his home. Maybe a little of this lifestyle could rub off on him and Pattie. He got in his car, waved good-bye to the couples who stood at the window, and drove down the street in a wintry London night. And, he could not wait to see them again.!

(*) Quotations in short excerpts:


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