Liberal Arts Blog — Hare Krishna, ISKCON, George Harrison, and Me
Liberal Arts Blog — Tuesday is the Joy of Literature, Language, Religion, and Culture Day
Today’s Topic: Hare Krishna, ISKCON, George Harrison, and Me
Yesterday afternoon I entered the check out line at the local Walgreens. The cashier appeared to me to be South Asian, either Hindu or Muslim. So I asked him, and, when he replied “Hindu,” I did what I am wont to do in such cases, I chanted for him the most sacred of Sanskrit prayers — the Gayatri Mantra. Then he asked, “Are you a member of ISKCON?” I was taken aback. I had no idea what he was talking about. I had never heard of ISKCON. Did he suspect I was a member of some sinister cult? Some conspiracy based in Ottawa, Moscow, or Calcutta? As he began his explanation, I soon realized he was referring to the Hare Krishna movement of which I was very familiar as for at least a decade Hare Krishna devotees were a fixture in front of the Harvard Coop in Harvard Square — with their bald heads, orange robes, dancing, bells, and their unforgettable chant. Time to update my knowledge and write a post. Highlight of my research: the link to George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord,” a song of praise to Krishna. This was the greatest hit of Harrison’s post Beatles career, the first #1 hit by an-ex Beatle, and the best selling single of 1971 in the UK. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.
THE BALD HEADS, THE ORANGE ROBES, THE BELLS, DANCING, CHANTING — founded in NYC in 1966, but now the majority of its members and temples are in India
1. “The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), otherwise known as the Hare Krishna movement, includes five hundred major centers, temples and rural communities, nearly one hundred affilated vegetarian restaurants, thousands of namahattas or local meeting groups, a wide variety of community projects, and millions of congregational members worldwide.” (from the ISKCON website, first link below)
2. “ISKCON belongs to the Gaudiya-Vaishnava sampradāya, a monotheistic tradition within the Vedic or Hindu culture. Philosophically it is based on the Sanskrit texts Bhagavad-gītā and the Bhagavat Purana, or Srimad Bhagavatam. These are the historic texts of the devotional bhakti yoga tradition, which teaches that the ultimate goal for all living beings is to reawaken their love for God, or Lord Krishna, the “all-attractive one”.
3. “God is known across the world by many names including Allah, Jehovah, Yahweh, Rama, etc. ISKCON devotees chant God’s names in the form of the maha-mantra, or the great prayer for deliverance: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”
NB: “Many leading academics have highlighted ISKCON’s authenticity. Diana Eck, Professor of Comparative Religion and Indian Studies at Harvard University, describes the movement as “a tradition that commands a respected place in the religious life of humankind.”
ABHAY CHARANARAVINDA BHAKTIVEDANTA SWAMI PRABHUPADA (1896–1977) was the charismatic leader and founder
1. Born in Calcutta to “devout Vaishnavas” who believe that Vishnu is the Supreme Lord — above all other Hindu deities.
2. “In 1919, at the age of 22, he was married to Radharani Devi, who was then 11 years old, in a marriage arranged by their parents. At 14, Radharani Devi gave birth to their first son.”
3. The first Hare Krishna temple was set up in New York City in 1966. The second in Haight Ashbury in San Francisco in 1967. The third in London in 1968.
NB: “Actually, it doesn’t matter — Krishna or Christ — the name is the same. The main point is to follow the injunctions of the Vedic scriptures that recommend chanting the name of God in this age.” (Swami Prabhupada)
THE HARE KRISHNA MANTRA — 3 words repeated — Krishna (Lord), Rama, Hare — four lines, 16 words in total
1. Hare Rama Hare Rama/ Rama Rama Hare Hare/ Hare Krishna Hare Krishna/ Krishna Krishna Hare Hare”
2. The mantra is traced back to Sri Chaitanya of Bengal (1483–1533)
3. “The word “mantra” means to deliver or free the mind. The word “Hare” refers to the divine feminine potency of God. “Krishna” means the all-attractive one, and “Rama” is the reservoir of all pleasure.” Got that? crystal clear? Enlightenment welcome.
NB: Do you have a favorite mantra? a cherished ritual dance? something analogous to the prayer beads of the Hare Krishna? By the way, the Krishna beads number 108, the rosary of Catholics has 59.
FOOTNOTE — George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord” — reached #1 again in 2002, when re-released two months after Harrison’s death
1. “Later in the 1970s, “My Sweet Lord” was at the centre of a heavily publicized copyright infringement suit due to its alleged similarity to the Ronnie Mack song, “He’s So Fine,” a 1963 hit for the New York girl group “the Chiffons.”
2. “In 1976, Harrison was found to have subconsciously plagiarized the song, a verdict that had repercussions throughout the music industry. Rather than the Chiffons song, he said he used the out-of-copyright Christian hymn “Oh Happy Day” as his inspiration for the melody.”
3. “Harrison performed “My Sweet Lord” at the Concert for Bangladesh in the Concert for Bangladesh in August 1971, and it remains the most popular composition from his post-Beatles career.”
NB: The song has been covered by countless artists including Andy Williams, Johnny Mathis, Nina Simone, and Elton John.
QUOTE OF THE MONTH:
“Happy the man, and happy he alone,
he who can call today his own:
he who, secure within, can say,
Tomorrow do thy worst, for I have lived today.”
- Horace (65–8 BC)
#2 “39 Songs, Prayers, and Poems: the Keys to the Hearts of Seven Billion People” — Adams House Senior Common Room Presentation, 11/17/20
Please share the coolest thing you learned this week related to words, language, literature, religion, culture. Or, even better, the coolest or most important thing you learned in your life related to Words, Language, Literature (eg. quotes, poetry, vocabulary) that you have not yet shared.
This is your chance to make someone else’s day. Or to cement in your own mind something that you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than otherwise about something dear to your heart. Continuity is key to depth of thought.