Hinduism is the oldest religion in the world. It has a history of more than
3000 years and it is a very philosophical religion. Although it is now mostly confined to South Asia only, in the past, it was spread across the whole of South East Asia. Hinduism has many branches and it is often very difficult to find the exact nature of this religion through any single book. The major scriptures of Hinduism are- the Vedas, the Upanishadas and the Gita.
On the one hand, Hinduism is a very liberal religion that accommodates different ideas and thoughts. While on the other hand, its caste system has confined the fate of a person according to his birth in a particular caste.
Another strong feature of Hinduism is its close relationship to mysticism.
George Harrison was greatly influenced with this mysticism and enjoyed its beauty. It is interesting to note that George Harrison embraced Hinduism at
such a time when the religion itself became under challenge from the western
educated Hindus in India. In fact Hinduism started to came under attack from
the beginning of the 19th century from great intellectuals like Rammohan
Ray, Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar, Keshobchandra Sen etc. These intellectuals
tried to reform and modernize Hinduism. They faced strong opposition from
the orthodox Hindus but, in the 20th century, with the spread of modern
education, a large number of Hindus embraced their modern outlook. Nationalism, Marxism, and Democratic Movements have became popular among the Hindus of India.
So it is really interesting that George Harrison became interested in Hinduism in the 1960s, when the Hindus of India were trying to have a more
materialistic outlook to the world, leaving the mysticism. Then George
Harrison sought refuse in the mysticism of Hinduism.
George Harrison was particularly interested in Hinduism because he found it difficult to adapt himself to rules and regulations of Christianity. He came into contact with Ravi Shankar and some devotees of Sri Krisna. According to Hinduism God came to this earth in the form of a human being, Sri Krisna. However it should be noted that not all Hindus respect Sri Krisna equally. The devotees of Sri Krisna are called Vaishnavas and they form a significant portion of Hindu population in India, Nepal & Bangladesh. George Harrison came into contact with one such group of devotees of Sri Krishna and was deeply influenced with their easy going attitude to life and religion. Hinduism gives emphasis on surrender to God through meditation.
Another significant aspect of Hinduism is that its Mantras or religious chants are musical. In fact Hindus worship their God through devotional songs. George Harrison, being a musician, surely found it to match his heart. Although he was a very successful musician, he was not like the other singers of his time. He did not like to show off; rather he was known as the quiet Beatle for his reflective mood. This also caused Harrison to get attracted to Hinduism, because Hinduism is perhaps the most philosophical religion in the world.
George Harrison was deeply influenced by Mahesh Yogi whom he met in the 1960s. Under his influence Harrison started meditation. Then in 1969 the, before the Beatles broke up, George Harrison produced Hare Krishna Mantra, which got instant popularity in America, Europe and Asia. (The Hare Krishna Mantra by George Harrison and London Radha-Krishna Temple devotees was featured four times on England's most popular television program, Top of the Pops, after rising to the Top 10 throughout England, Europe, and parts of Asia. CLICK TO LISTEN TO IT NOW.
That year he came into contact with Swami Prabhupada, the founder of the global Hare Krishna Movement. It cast a deep influence on George Harrison. His life changed forever. He contributed a lot of money for the development of this sect. George Harrison did not only engage himself in chanting Hare Krishna Mantra but also he tried to explore the philosophy related to this movement. He changed his life style and spent his days living in plain cloth dress and becoming a vegetarian. His words were often similar to a Hindu saint rather than that of a pop star. In an interview he said, "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."
We see that often many westerners embraced eastern religion (Hinduism, Islam
and Buddhism) but they had hardly any idea about the religion they embraced.
They only performed the religious rites but did not try to explore its
philosophy. George Harrison was a great exception in this regard. He not
only lived like a Hindu but also talked, acted and thought like a Hindu too.
He studied a lot about this religion and if we pay close attention to his writings then we will find that he had a deep understanding of Hinduism.
He once wrote, "From the Hindu point of view each soul is divine. All
religions are branches of one big tree. It doesn't matter what you call
Him just as long as you call. Just as cinematic images appear to be real
but are only combinations of light and shade, so is the universal variety a
delusion. The planetary spheres, with their countless forms of life, are
naught but figures in a cosmic motion picture. One's values are profoundly
changed when he is finally convinced that creation is only a vast motion
picture and that not in, but beyond, lies his own ultimate reality."
Reading this surely makes me feel that it came from a wise saint, not from a
pop star- what about you?
Razib Ahmed © beatlesnumber9