Founder Acharya His Divine Grace
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

George Harrison 20th Anniversary held at Bhaktivedanta Manor
By Louise Guthrie   |  Dec 05, 2021
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“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, Jehovah, Rama: all are Krishna, all are ONE.”

– George Harrison

It was twenty years ago today. No, not when “Sergeant Pepper taught the band to play”, but that George Harrison, (the most spiritually inclined of the Beatles), left this world – in the words of his family – “as he had lived in it, conscious of God, fearless of death, and at peace“. A lifetime of dedicated transcendental practice had prepared him for whatever lies beyond the material realm.

Of course, this planet of ours, and civilization as we know it, has recently shifted on its axis in the vice-like grip of a worldwide virus pandemic. So what would the ‘Spiritual Beatle’ have made of the first global mass trauma event to afflict mankind since World War II?

Well, George Harrison would doubtlessly have looked at the bigger picture. As the former Fab Four member said during one of his last ever on-camera interviews in the late nineties:

“I’m unhappy about the world being concreted over and all the forests chopped down, and the air being polluted and the fact that the planet is in control of mad people ….but I have a long-term view, which is that all things must pass. Before it used to be, maybe they are going to blow us up with H-bombs. But even with that I thought it doesn’t really matter, they can’t destroy what’s in ourselves.

Krishna said, there’s no time when we didn’t exist, and there will be no time when we cease to exist. The only thing that changes is the body. So even if they blew us up with H-bombs, our soul will stay in our astral body, and the only thing that won’t be here is the physical.”

(That’s a pretty lofty thing to say during a light informal chat, George….)

All Things Must Pass 50th Anniversary – A Timely Reminder 

And August 2021 saw the (as it turns out) rather fittingly timed 50th-anniversary re-release of George’s 1971 chart-topping Hare Krishna-inspired triple album, the aptly titled All Things Must Pass. This cleverly repackaged musically philosophical masterpiece climbed back into the Top Ten charts around the globe (and recently picked up a Grammy nomination). It’s as if the former Big Fab is reminding us once again of the duality that defines our very existence – good/bad, day/night/, dark/light – while never letting us forget just how temporary it all really is.

We know All Things Must Pass is the best-selling Beatle solo album of all time, but could this actually be George, some 50 years down the line, telling us to proverbially ‘hang on in there”?

Now the darkness only stays at night time
In the morning it will fade away
Daylight is good
At arriving at the right time
But it’s not always going
To be this grey

All things must pass
All things must pass away

But back to the here and now – 29th November 2021 – and an eager crowd of us are busy congregating on a Hare Krishna-owned estate in Hertfordshire (donated by Harrison himself), to mark exactly two decades since the Liverpool lad’s passing.

Like most of the 2020’s best social and cultural events, last year’s accolade to the late musician was, by (dire) necessity, a purely online affair. But, with lockdown restrictions (mercifully) lifted, we are, able to gather with impunity in the spacious and recent ‘modern architectural’ addition to the estate, a shiny new sacred oasis named Sri Krishna Haveli, right next to the original Grade II listed mansion known as Bhaktivedanta Manor that was gifted by George in 1973.

But it is still, sadly, indicative of the times we are in when we learn that tonight’s sound engineer is suffering an adverse reaction to a covid vaccination and unable to attend. And scheduled guest speaker Dhananjaya dasa has also been forced to bail out at short notice because of sickness. However, host and MC Sakshi Gopal das sets an upbeat tone, brilliantly carrying the can with anecdotes, readings and musical homage to deliver a heart-warming, consistently absorbing and thoroughly enjoyable event.

“Do you know who the three people were who George felt could have been his brothers in a previous life?” our host asks us. We take a couple of educated guesses – only to learn it was actually Shyamasundar dasa (one of the founders of the UK Hare Krishna movement), sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar and, (no, not Eric Clapton!) but Bob Dylan, the poet himself.

Tribute band The Inner Light bring some of George’s best compositions to life and the audience to their feet, ensuring that spirits remain high.

Holding the Fort with The Inner Light – Sakshi Gopal das (right)

“The memorial night was in full swing and the words ‘Here Comes the Sun’ were never more true” says Vicky Rochford of Watford “The Inner Light has never shone more brightly and the climactic rendition of ‘My Sweet Lord’ was so worth waiting for. The audience were on their feet in communal euphoria.”

We wish Dhananjaya dasa the best possible recovery from his illness. The Scottish devotee was very much involved in those early pioneering days when a Northern working-class pop-star first took Krishna Consciousness into his life and, in return, lent his practical support, his trust and the (not inconsiderable) cultural clout of a Beatle to help the spiritual crusade from India take shape and find its first firm foot-hold here in the UK.

George could see how much the original band of UK-based disciples were struggling to secure themselves decent and roomy enough accommodation in which to not only house their steadily expanding numbers, but also to allow their philosophy to comfortably take root and flourish. He charged Dhananjaya Dasa with finding a large property not too far from London, a brief which the devotee was only too keen to fulfil.

Using the proceeds from his 1973 album Living in the Material World (a best-seller which set his quest for inner enlightenment against his status as a superstar), Harrison, in collaboration with Dhananjaya dasa, bought and donated to the mystical mission the mock-Tudor Piggot’s Manor (renamed Bhaktivedanta Manor) set in this beautiful estate, now long familiar to Hare Krishna philosophy followers as UK *ISKCON headquarters (*International Society for Krishna Consciousness). It’s also a retreat center, an eco-farm, and a place of pilgrimage and learning.

November 2021 – Deep in Thought in George Harrison Memorial Garden 

Srila Prabhupada said of George Harrison “Because he has given shelter to Krishna by providing this temple, Krishna will surely provide shelter for him”. Just before Srila Prabhupada drew his last breath in 1977, he removed a ring from his right hand and told the followers around him “This is for George. Give it to him”.

We know that, of all the Beatles, George Harrison was the one least comfortable with fame, and the keenest of them to drop the ‘Beatle’ label. In later life, he would, by preference, define himself as ‘a gardener’ (who just happened to have been in a band). But he was never shy of lending his name to the Hare Krishna movement, and with his music, helped make ‘Hare Krishna’ a stock phrase.

Sakshi Gopal reminds us just how appreciative Srila Prabhupada was of George, saying of him “he is more than my disciple”.

His name was Harrison – he was Son of Hari.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the older you get, the faster time goes. Hard to believe it’s been twenty years since George Harrison moved on. (Let’s not talk about death, but of onward journey.)

Wherever he is now, George got off to an auspicious start. Some years after his passing, his wife Olivia divulged:

“There was a profound experience that happened when he left his body. It was visible. Let’s just say, you wouldn’t need to light the room if you were trying to film it. He just lit the room.”

 

To read more from Louise Guthrie, visit her blog Black Cohosh

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