George Harrison--A Link to Our Future

by Stephen Knapp

Many were mourning the passing of George Harrison on November 28, 2001, an occurrence which is a significant and symbolic loss for those of us who grew up with the Beatles and the soundtrack they provided for the early part of our lives. It also represents the loss of a link that we had to our own past, an era in which we learned much about ourselves, an era that was part of the adventure of discovering who we were and in which direction we should take our lives. For many of us, George Harrison was our first Siksha Guru, or Vartmana Pradarshaka Guru, the person from whom we first heard the chanting of Hare Krishna, the holy names of the Lord. So even though we may not have realized it then, he was a link to our future. And though many may mourn the loss of his presence, I feel that he is still a link to our future, showing how we should prepare for the experience of crossing the threshold of leaving the body in which we presently reside.

I distinctly remember when I was in High School, there was little in this world that interested me. When the Beatles came along, finally I had a reason to be enthusiastic about something, and that was music. It motivated me to take up playing the guitar, especially the bass guitar. I and the other musicians I would hang out with would study the music and the messages within it, and the musicians and the changes they would go through, especially the Beatles. When they went to India and started incorporating the Eastern influence into their music, we were right there ready for it. It also invoked changes within ourselves. It carried us along as we reached stages of asking particular questions about life, how we fit in, and what we were to do.

After a few years I reached a time when I had to put the guitar down and do some serious study into the spiritual side of life. It was also at that time when George Harrison came out with his "All Things Must Pass" album. I distinctly remember in 1970, for a while, I would take time every night to quietly sit and listen, study and meditate on the words and songs on that album. The songs about God, the art of dying, about the need for chanting, about the need for seeing the unity between us, and singing Hare Krishna, which I had already become slightly familiar with through my study of Eastern philosophy. I loved it. However, what I didn't know was that in a few short months I would be studying "The Bhagavad-gita As It Is," reading George's words in the "Krsna Book," and going to Hare Krishna temples. When I look back at it now, George Harrison had pointed the way. He was a link to our future, though I wasn't aware of it then.

Similarly, with the passing away of George, although many people mourn the loss of his presence, I feel that he is not merely a good musician and a sentimental connection to our past, but is still a link to where we are going. He has shown an example of how to prepare for our final journey at the time of death. However, this time it is not 1970, and I am fully aware that this is also what is going to happen to me in the future, which is not as distant as it used to be. He had shown how to prepare for the end. By his visit to India to bathe in the Ganges a few months before his passing, by his seeing friends for a final farewell a few weeks before his death, by chanting Hare Krishna while death was approaching, by having devotees around him chanting Hare Krishna while he left his body, and planning that his ashes to be poured into the Ganges in India, and giving a portion of his assets for spiritual purposes, are all facets of making death a part of the process for reaching our spiritual destination. As they also said, he left this world conscious of God, fearless of death, and at peace. Plus, he passed away in the afternoon during the bright fortnight of the full moon, additional signs, according to Bhagavad-gita, for an auspicious birth in the next life, if he even takes another birth in this world. Although I've written a small book on this topic, called "Facing Death: Welcoming the Afterlife," it is nonetheless an inspiration to see someone of George's stature to take the process so seriously. In this way, George is still a link to our future. He has not left us as much as he has only gone on before us.

A Global Pattern for the World's Upliftment

Another thing I have noticed is that George's passing is a part of a pattern of events that is happening for the upliftment of all mankind. Not long ago we had the occurrence of September 11th, when the World Trade Center buildings were brought down by terrorists. Certainly it was a horrible act. However, it lead to a global change in humanity's consciousness. It lead to numerous people asking why and what is most important in life. It lead to people understanding that tomorrow is never promised to anyone. Therefore, what is of most value in life? What is it for which we are working so hard? Why should we spend so much time working for money that we may not be able to enjoy? And maybe our whole aim of life needs to be adjusted.

A few months later, for those of us who are tuned into this pattern of encouraging change, we hear the words of George Harrison as the radio and television stations show recaps of his life. Therein he specifically says, "We need to understand the purpose of life, why we are here, where we came from, where we are going, and what happens to us after death. Everything else is secondary." Now, from an artist that people respect, and at the time of his death when everyone is more willing to listen to his advice, and when people are realizing that we are all getting older and closer to facing the same situation, we hear the words that provide us with some spiritual direction. Here, after all the confusion following the terrorist attacks, and the questions of what we should do and where we fit into all this, we have these most important words of George Harrison to help guide humanity. I am sure that Lord Krishna plopped George Harrison onto this planet at just the right time to be in the most popular band in the world, and then to use his fame at a time when Srila Prabhupada would be coming to the West in order to assist in the Lord's mission of spreading genuine spirituality and the holy names around the globe. And even though George has left us, his preaching continues through his music and his past interviews as presented on radio and television.

This to me is simply part of the pattern of events that is providing a means for the consciousness of mankind to reach higher levels of consideration, sensitivity, awareness and spirituality. I am not sure what may happen next, but I do know that this ongoing process is not over. It will continue in a series of events that will affect the whole planet. Of course, this does not mean that we exclude innumerable smaller occurrences that take place in the lives of each of us that are meant to bring particular changes in our own individual progress in spiritual consciousness. For those of us who are tuned into these changes, it is a very interesting and encouraging time to observe and participate. And this event of the departure of George Harrison is one of them, effecting many of us, showing the proper spiritual direction, and bringing us together and uniting us in particular ways.

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