George Harrison and Hare Krishna.
Despite The Beatles incredible fame and fortune, due to the pressures of touring and the constant attention from public and media, peace of mind and happiness had escaped them. So, in 1967 they travelled to Rishikesh. This trip to India was part of a sudden fascination of everything Indian by the vibrant and searching youth of the late 1960s.
Soon, however, The Beatles returned to London, developing a taste for Indian spirituality, but not finding full satisfaction. George continued his search and meanwhile Shyamasundar das, Mukunda das and other disciples of Srila Prabhupada moved to London in order to establish a temple.
In 1969, both George and Shyamasundar das had their wishes fulfilled when they met at a function at Apple Records. After spending some time together, George invited Shyamasundar das to his house and the relationship began from there. When Srila Prabhupada arrived in Britain both George and John were deeply impressed by him. Once, on a car journey from France to Portugal, George and John chanted Hare Krishna for 17 hours non-stop!
George’s interest in Krishna Consciousness and the devotees continued to grow. By this time, The Beatles were married and started to work on their own separate projects. In 1970, George produced the Radha Krishna Temple album with the devotees, a track from which featured in the top ten record sales in that year. He also wrote many songs, which included devotional references. One such song was “My Sweet Lord”, which included the Hare Krishna mantra in the chorus.
In 1970 George donated ISKCON funds to pay for the printing of a book, Krishna the Supreme Personality of Godhead, which contains the pastimes of Lord Krishna, with commentary by Srila Prabhupada.
By 1972, ISKCON was growing very rapidly around the world. The London temple, which was then at Bury Place near the British Museum, was getting much too small. George asked a British devotee, Dhananjaya das, to choose a large property not too far from London. Several properties were investigated, but finally they settled on the building we know today, Bhaktivedanta Manor.
When Bhaktivedanta Manor was donated, Srila Prabhupada said of George, “Because he has given shelter to Krishna by providing this temple, Krishna will surely provide shelter for him.” Just before Srila Prabhupada left this world in 1977, he removed the ring on his right hand and said to the disciples around him, “This is for George, give it to him.”
Over the years that followed, George kept in contact with Shyamasundar das and Mukunda Swami, who always respected his wish not to be in the limelight. George became a loving father, worked on a great variety of films, studied landscape gardening and always kept Lord Krishna deep within his heart.
By the 1990’s, a campaign to save Bhaktivedanta Manor from closure by Hertsmere Council was well under way. George was observing the development of the Campaign and was giving his full moral support, although preferring not to be in the media limelight.
Unfortunately by the mid 1990’s George was suffering from various forms of cancer. On December 31st 1999, a terrible attempt on George’s life took place: Someone broke into his home and attacked him with a knife, to which he called upon Krishna’s name. Fortunately, his faithful and loving wife Olivia came to his rescue.
On Thursday 29th November 2001, George sadly passed away in Los Angeles. Naturally, people all around the world were deeply saddened by George’s passing. He was a truly remarkable person who touched the hearts of millions around the world through his messages of love and peace.