A tribute to George Harrison from an old friend.
Los Angeles, December 2, 2001.
THIS WAS THE FIRST thing you said to me, George, in that winter of '68: "I've been waiting to meet you where have you been?" Well, here I am again, George and there you are. And from that time till now there never was an edge between us, so closely have we traveled the same trails through time…
Picking up where we had last left off, in that roomful of rock-stars, promoters, and delirious fans, we huddled shut off from their puzzle and envy and yakked about the Absolute, who you knew to be a Person yeah, yeah, and yeah, you said, and who am I to be telling you that Krsna is the Supreme Person, the All-Attractive Person "attracts me like no other lover" (later you said you had to say "she" or everyone would think you a "poof") and who am I to say the way to God's heart is through love (you, minstrel of love to the world)? Ah, but you must meet my master, Bhaktivedanta Swami, I said that day. He's so wise and beautiful . . .
O Prabhupada, my beloved spiritual master! I can't forget how you dress yourself slowly, and keenly observe each cloth before choosing, lifting your thread to drape on your shoulder while you tie and tuck your dhoti with care; nor can I take my eyes off your pink fingers at the buttonholes, knowing sometimes you lean forward for me to finish off the one at the neck.
Watching you shave always had me in stitches, and the wide intent eyes and grimaces as you swiveled the mirror to check that your tilaka was straight or to check on a possible loose tooth.
I remember the soft golden sesh of your shoulder and the surprising hard tissues below; the flow of blue veins under forearms, behind knees, how they throbbed with a cool even pulse as you lounged in the sun and roared with power when you danced all day!
The overwhelming beauty of your face and mouth, the mobile ease and perfect lines of cheeks and crinkles wrapping around and punctuating another perfect mood; your dancing eyes, now somber, unmoving in thought now wide and full of mischief and glee!
Like now! Late '60s London, reclined at ease on your embroidered bolster, both legs stretched out straight, it's times like this beyond all doubt I know there is a Perfect Person, and I am seeing you, and God knows why or how but somehow or other I'm explaining to you the American game of baseball or updating you on the price of gold or asking you to define "Being" or "Time" or introducing you yes, come in, come in to my new friend George Harrison, who approaches you now, bows down with his long hair sopping and with a grin as big as yours, says Hare Krsna!
With wonder and a pleasure so deep my shoulders tingle, I watch you two, ancient souls playing question-and-answer, posing this way and that, Prabhupada popping his eyes with delight, the Master of Charm himself and George, how you laughed and hooted at absurd reality stripped of mirrors and its neon shell, drinking in like a thirsty soldier everything he said
"Oops! Must go now, my chariot awaits, lunch with the queen, poems to polish "
"Got a lot of work to do, Try to get a message through!"
And off you dashed to save the world, attacking ignorance with your sword of satire, rescuing fallen souls from material dungeons, and singing your love songs to Krsna:
Give me love, give me love,
Help me cope with this heavy load, you sang,
All things must pass,
Keep me free from birth,
Help me Lord,
To burn out this desire,
To love you with more feeling,
That is all I'm waiting for,
To try to love you more,
What is my life without your love?
The Lord loves the one that loves the Lord
My Sweet Lord (Hare Krishna)
Oh My Lord (Krishna, Krishna)
I hope to get out of this place
By the LORD SRI KRISHNA'S GRACE,
My salvation from the material world…
What a brave young platoon we were then, Captain George and a handful of devotees: The chart-busting Radha Krishna Temple! with Prabhupada our Commander-in-Chief.
"What's the time now, Syamasundara?"
"It's 1968, George, 1969, 1970, 71, 72 and 3."
You've just phoned from Sicily to our freezing flat in Covent Garden, to sing me long-distance a little ditty you'd just cooked up, wondering if I thought anyone'd like it: "Here comes the sun, here comes the sun, ah say it's all right now dah dah dah dah dah . . ."
"Yeah, George . . ."
Or walking down Regent Street, you look at me and say, "That's a first more people are lookin' at you than me!"
How about that time in Paris, at Maxim's Restaurant, hounded by hordes of press-people, you and I sliding a hundred miles an hour down that laundry chute in our escape, to land in that huge pile of dirty sheets? And me slugging and dragging paparazzi off the cobble-stoned street in front of your get-away cab . . .
Or how about those early months at Friar Park, crashed out in our sleeping bags, a hundred rooms, no heat, no furniture. And those early mornings when you'd return from an all-night session, piling into the kitchen (the only warm room in the house) with your rock-n-roll side-men, alive with some new tune you'd hatched that night "What d'ya think of this one, Syamsundara we call it 'My Sweet Lord' Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna…"
Early days Friar Park when you sew the skull-and-crossbones: You and I strapping those silly same-throwers on our backs and attacking the ivy, brambles, Commies and Nazis with wild abandon . . .
Twelve cases of rubies I sent you from my mine in India you spread on the walkway around your swimming pool . . .
Or a couple years back when you scared the holy bejesus out of Mukunda and me flying down that Oxfordshire country lane at 150 miles an hour in your latest wonder car "Use my body like a car, Taking me both near and far, met my friends all in the material world" this car's body you had decorated at great cost with thousands and thousands of tiny Hare Krsna mantras . . .
And remember our days in India! How delicately you laid a tiny blossom at Lord Krsna's feet in Vrindavan and then grabbed a stick to chase away the monkeys! How you looked into my camera on that rooftop with all the trees and parrots and bells and temples of Vrindavan spread out below you, and said: "Still Krsna after all these years…"
A lot of adventures, pranks, and love we shared again this time around, George. You've always been the lucky one. Now I pray you've won the prize of prizes: Sitting or singing or dancing or driving a fast car somewhere with Krsna, playing with your Sweet Lord at last and Prabhupada nearby.
Well, drop us a line from time to time, George, give a ring.
I only pray someday I'll be back on that trail again, together with you and Prabhupada I just hope it doesn't take so long for me to find you again, next time.
Living through a million years of crying,
Until you've learned the art of dying.
From "Art of Dying," 1970
Syamasundara Dasa, one of Prabhupada's first disciples, joined the Hare Krsna movement in San Francisco in 1967.