In this conversation, taped at George's home in England on September 4, 1982, George reveals some memorable experiences he has had chanting Hare Krishna. George speaks frankly about his personal philosophy regarding the Hare Krishna movement, music, yoga, reincarnation, karma, the soul, God, and Christianity.
Mukunda Goswami: Oftentimes you speak of yourself as a plainclothes devotee, a closet yogi or "closet Krishna," and millions of people all over the world have been introduced to the chanting by your songs. But what about you? How did you first come in contact with Krishna?
George Harrison: Through my visits to India. So by the time the Hare Krishna movement first came to England in 1969, John and I had already gotten ahold of Prabhupada's first album, "Krishna Consciousness." We had played it a lot and liked it. That was the first time I'd ever heard the chanting of the maha-mantra.
Mukunda: Even though you and John Lennon played Srila Prabhupada's record a lot and had chanted quite a bit on your own, you'd never really met any of the devotees. Yet when Gurudasa, Syamasundara, and I [the first Hare Krishna devotees sent from America, to open a temple in London] first came to England, you co-signed the lease on our first temple in central London, bought the Manoryoga-aSrama for us, which has provided a place for literally hundreds of thousands of people to learn about Krishna consciousness, and financed the first printing of the book Krishna. You hadn't really known us for a very long time at all. Wasn't this a kind of sudden change for you?
Mukunda: George, you were a member of the Beatles, undoubtedly the greatest single pop group in music hisiory, one that influenced not only music, but whole generations of young people as well. After the dissolution of the group, you went on to emerge as a solo superstar. So, you had material success. You'd been everywhere, done everything, yet at the same time you were on a spiritual quest. What was it that really got you started on your spiritual journey?
George: It wasn't until the experience of the sixties really hit. You know, having been successful and meeting everybody we thought worth meeting and finding out they weren't worth meeting, and having had more hit records than everybody else and having done it bigger than everybody else. It was like reaching the top of a wall and then looking over and seeing that there's so much more on the other side. So I felt it was part of my duty to say, "Oh, okay, maybe you are thinking this is all you need-to be rich and famous--but actually it isn't."
Mukunda: George, in your recently published autobiography, "I, Me, Mine," you said your song "Awaiting on You All" is about japa-yoga, or chanting mantras on beads. You explained that a mantra is "mystical energy encased in a sound structure," and that "each mantra contains within its vibrations a certain power." But of all mantras, you stated that "the maha-mantra [the Hare Krishna mantra] has been prescribed as the easiest and surest way for attaining God Realization in this present age." As a practitioner of japa-yoga, what realizations have you experienced from chanting?
George: Prabhupada, acarya (spiritual master) of the Hare Krishna movement, told me once that we should just keep chanting all the time, or as much as possible. Once you do that, you realize the benefit. The response that comes from chanting is in the form of bliss, or spiritual happiness, which is a much higher taste than any happiness found here in the material world. That's why I say that the more you do it, the more you don't want to stop, because it feels so nice and peaceful.
Mukunda: What is it about the mantra that brings about this feeling of peace and happiness?
George: The word Hare is the word that calls upon the energy that's around the Lord. If you say the mantra enough, you build up an identification with God. 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. Like I said in the introduction I wrote for Prabhupada's Krsna book some years ago, "If there's a God, I want to see Him. It's pointless to believe in something without proof, and Krishna consciousness and meditation are methods where you can actually obtain God perception."