Friday, December 20, 2019

George Harrison and Merry Christmas

When George Harrison passed away in 2001, his widow Olivia said, "George left this world in the same way he lived in it - in the consciousness of God. There was a profound experience when he left his body. It was visible. He just lit the room."

George's spiritual path was based on Hinduism, which he first embraced through the influence of Pattie Boyd and an encounter with Swami Vishnu-devananda, founder of Sivananda Yoga, who gave each member of the Beatles a signed copy of his book, The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga. The Beatles were on location in the Bahamas filming Help! From there, George learned to play the sitar, with Ravi Shankar as his teacher. Shankar was not only a musical mentor, but a adviser as well.

Though the other Beatles lost interest in the Maharishi after Rishikesh, George remained committed to his spiritual practice. In its popular form, Hinduism may seem to be polytheistic, with many gods, when actually, Hinduism teaches that there is only One Reality, the foundation of our being. Our task in life is to realize our divine potential, our union with this One Reality. In Hindu scriptures, Ultimate Reality, God, is called Brahman.

George followed a path of devotion the rest of his life. Following this path, one must choose an image of God, and devote oneself to that image. For George, it was Krishna, God in human form.  
George was also ecumenically minded. He believed that Jesus was a manifestation of God, and said in an interview in the early eighties, "The Greek word for Christ is Kristos, which is, let's face it, Krishna, and Kristos is the same name actually." During his 1974 American concert tour, George encouraged his fans to "Chant Krishna! Chant Jesus! Chant Buddha!"

George's spiritual practice was largely based on saying a mantra and chanting the Name of God. His big #1 hit from 1971, "My Sweet Lord," features the chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra, and chanting the Divine Names of Vishnu and Lord Rama. "Awaiting on You All," from All Things Must Pass proclaims that by "chanting the Names of the Lord you'll be free.."

You don't need no passport
And you don't need no visas
You don't need to designate or to emigrate
Before you can see Jesus
If you open up your heart
You'll see he's right there
Always was and will be
He'll relieve you of your cares.

Though God has been scientifically rooted out of fashion, George's life seemed full to its end. Maybe we aren't ready to lose our spirituality, no matter what the science dictates. With that in mind, Merry Christmas, Hare Rama.