Could you describe what you know of George Harrison's spiritual practice most recently?
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So he was living a very simple kind of lifestyle. When he would engage in conversation it was all about spirituality. He was a very, very avid reader and not just an avid reader of Eastern spirituality, but a very avid reader of the Gnostic gospels, the other versions of the historical Christ, the Gospel of Thomas. When he signed a letter he would always put an eastern symbol and also put a cross. He very much had a relationship with Christ as well.
That's interesting. Was that true consistently for the last thirty years?
All along. He had a very personal relationship with Christ. When he signed off to his personal friends he would always put a symbol.
Early on he was most closely associated with transcendental meditation.
Right, actually I took him to meet Maharishi in 1993. He hadn't seen Maharishi for 30 years. He wanted to pay his respects once again to Maharishi and they had a very wonderful meeting.
George was very eclectic. He was associated with Mararishi, but he also at one time was very involved with the Hare Krishnas, he also studied Yogananda, he was very very interested in the more Eastern versions of Christianity--as I mentioned the Gospel of Thomas--and he was very well read, very well read.
No, but we would talk about it all the time. If you went to his house in England we would have long conversations. He had all kinds of pictures and artwork.
How would you assess his influence on the spiritual landscape?
The world would not have known Ravi Shankar if it hadn't been for George Harrison. He brought the sitar to the West, and along with that he brought Indian music to the West, he brought Ravi Shankar to the West, and he brought Indian spirituality to the West. So I would say that whether he was responsible for that or he was part of the tidal wave he was just part of the whole movement of consciousness that was occurring in the sixties--it's all kind of neither here or there. He was both a part of the movement, he was also an initiator of the movement.
And he got the rest of the Beatles interested. They weren't really interested in these things. He told me that the first time he decided to go to India in the sixties he was going to do it all by himself. He just happened to mention it to John--and John said I'm coming also, and then Paul said I'm coming also, and Ringo said, well I can't be left out. He was always the one taking the initiative. And ultimately they all did get interested. In some way or another, they're all very spiritual.
What was the reaction to the Beatles embracing the Maharishi or Eastern spirituality?
It made news. It made huge news at the time when they first came to India. and they left in a hurry because of some altercation John had with Maharishi. George didn't want to leave but they did leave. And then 30 years later he actually went with me to meet with Maharishi just to kind of say, we were young, so I hope you forgive us.
How did he react when George said I hope you can forgive us?
He said there's nothing to forgive--you're angels in disguise and he brought up that story. He said I could never be upset with angels.
Was George conscious of the impact he was having?
He was in a very humble kind of way. We traveled in India frequently and I remember once people gathered outside the hotel because they found out that George was there and he didn't like that attention, he liked to kind of be anonymous and mix with people and just hang out with people and musicians and poets in India. But he was aware and he had a very personal relationship with Ravi Shankar and lots of other musicians from India. He had a great sensitivity and knowledge about the origins and traditions of spirituality and music. In India there's a lot of attention given to music as a means to go into expanded states of awareness and he was very very familiar with that--more so than many Indians.
Was there an effect on Hinduism as practiced in India?
No, I would not say that. George was a realist, he was also quite cynical. He was cynical about Indians who were not familiar with their traditions and he would make fun of them. He was always very sober about it--he never exaggerated anything so he would never glorify Indian rituals or practices. In fact he would make fun of them if they didn't seem appropriate to him, so he was very selective in what he would take out.
No it would not. I'm being very honest with you, it would not have happened. What they did was overnight, they made the world aware of Indian spirituality--overnight. I remember I was in medical school when they came to India and it was in every newspaper all over the world--it was really an overnight awareness that people didn't have before.
And when did you meet him?
I met him in 1986 or 87 and we've been friends since. When my book "Ageless Body, Timeless Mind" came out he actually collaborated with me on doing the audio version of that where I read from the book and he sang lyrics that he had never published before.
And you stayed in touch.
Right, I was with him at the Mayo Clinic when he had his treatment, I went to visit him in England a few months ago. They were very private people-Olivia, George, and Danny.
And you said that he seemed to be approaching death.
He had totally accepted his death, and was at peace with it, and unafraid of it.
...He was very aware of mortality and of death at a very young age, he was totally comfortable with that. He always would say that when I die I want to be fully conscious of God, I want to be totally at peace, and I don't want to have any fear of death. And believe me, being close to him, I know that he died very conscious of God and in peace and not afraid of death.
I've read that he believed in reincarnation, I'm not sure if that's accurate.
No, it's true.
Did you ever talk to him about what he expected or hoped his next life would be?
No, we talked more in trying to figure out scientifically whether there is any validity in the concept and how would he explain the survival of consciousness after death.