JOHN LENNON '69: Search For Liberation
Devotees at John Lennons
Estate in Tittenhurst Park, 1969
Prabhupada Room Conversation With John Lennon
Search For Liberation
In 1969 John Lennon invited Śrīla Prabhupāda (the Founder-Ācārya of the Hare Krishna Movement) and some of his disciples to live at his Tittenhurst Park Estate near London.
Search for Liberation is mainly comprised of interviews and conversations between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda, John Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono, and George Harrison.
The Beatles questions about liberation and spirituality and ŚrīlaPrabhupāda's answers led to the publication of this fascinating book.
The featured conversation takes place at John’s Tittenhurst estate in mid-September of 1969, when Śrīla Prabhupāda and some of his students were staying there as guests. Many topics were discussed, including how to attain peace and liberation from material existence, the eternality of the soul, re-incarnation, the qualifications of a bonafide spiritual master, the importance of the Bhagavad-Gītā, and the supremacy of the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra. Śrīla Prabhupāda handles all the inquiries with personal concern, while addressing the issues of the times with great relevancy.
Included is a short essay by Śrīla Prabhupāda called “The Peace Formula” that was written in 1966, during the time of widespread anti-war protests, and originally distributed as a leaflet.
There is also another essay, spoken by Śrīla Prabhupāda in 1966, on the meaning and value of the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra. It was originally recorded on the first LP produced by the students of His Divine Grace. This album caught the interest of many young people of the time, including George Harrison of the Beatles, who then desired to learn more. There also is a very insightful letter of Śrīla Prabhupāda regarding a past birth of John Lennon.
Even though the contents of this small, paperback book are set in a very specific and interesting period of history, with prominent personalities of the time, the teachings are fresh, new, and eternally relevant. It is a fun and easy read, and spiritually inspiring.
On a cold December night in 1966, an elderly Indian Swami climbed into a Volkswagen van with about fifteen of his followers and their instruments (including a harmonium loaned by Allen Ginsberg) and drove uptown to a recording studio near Times Square. They weren't professional musicians, but in a few hours they'd recorded an LP that even the producer was excited about. it was a special album, more than just music. it was chanting and meditation; it was worship. A few months later a letter arrived at a small storefront temple on New York's Lower East Side. Someone had heard the album and told the Beatles about it. They ordered one hundred copies.
George Harrison would later recall in a November 1980 interview the impression Swami Bhaktivedanta's album, Krishna Consciousness, made on them. "I remember singing it [the Hare Krishna mantra]. just for days, John and I, with ukulele banjos, sailing through the Greek islands--Hare Krishna. Like six hours we sang, because you couldn't stop once you got going. You just couldn't stop. It was like as soon as you stop, it was like the lights went out."
In September 1969, Swami Bhaktivedanta, the founder of the Hare Krishna movement arrived as a house guest at Tittenhurst Park, the beautiful eighty acre British estate owned by John Lennon. Three or four times a week, the Swami, who later became known to the world as Śrīla Prabhupāda, gave public lectures in a tall, stately building at the northern end of the property a hundred yards from the main house, in which John and Yoko lived.
The building had been formerly used as a hall for chamber music recitals, but now several of Śrīla Prabhupāda's disciples, who resided along with him in a block of guest houses on the property, installed a small Deity altar and a podium for Śrīla Prabhupāda. The building never really had a name, but after Śrīla Prabhupāda's arrival, everyone called it "the Temple."
They still call it "the Temple" today, and except for the recent addition of an enormous crimson-and-gold pipe organ nearly covering the towering west wall, it exists unchanged, now surrounded by a recording studio complex owned by Ringo Starr.
Nineteen sixty-nine was for John Lennon a year of intense search for social and personal liberation. He had already been to the Maharishi and later would enter primal therapy and left-wing politics. He was in a major transitional period; he had married Yoko Ono in March, and the Beatles were about to break up.
On September 14, John, Yoko, and George Harrison, after enjoying an Indian vegetarian meal prepared by the devotees at the Temple, walked over to Śrīla Prabhupāda's quarters for their first meeting. Three months before in Montreal, some of the Hare Krishna devotees had sung with John and Yoko during the recording of "Give Peace a Chance." And now they were about to meet the guru who brought the Hare Krishna mantra to the West.
Their lively discussion with Śrīla Prabhupāda, deals with the path to peace and liberation, the eternality of the soul, reincarnation, the nature of God, qualifications of the guru, and the authority of Bhagavad-gītā (the Indian spiritual classic still sacred to 600 million people.
In a conversation sometimes lightly humorous, sometimes intense, the reader will be struck by Śrīla Prabhupāda's prophetic use of President Kennedys assassination to dramatize the temporality of human life and how the soul lives on after death, subjects that John would explore in his later songs. Explaining that John should have nothing to fear either in life or death, Śrīla Prabhupāda declares:
"When this body ceases to exist, you will continue to exist... The soul is eternal and the body is temporary.... But that minute quantity of the Absolute within us [the soul] is very great when compared to material knowledge. Material knowledge is practically no knowledge whatsoever. It is covered knowledge. But when one is liberated and attains liberated knowledge, his knowledge is very much greater than the greatest material knowledge."
John had searched for a guru in India and was anxious to understand how one could recognize a genuine spiritual master,
John: Yes, we should go to a true master. But how are we to tell one from the other?... That's what were doing. Were going around. Actually, Yoko never met the Maharishi. So, were asking for advice about how to know what's real.
Yoko: We want to ask your advice on that. In other words, what is your answer to this question of authority?... What is the authority, and who has the authority? » more here «