George Harrison, known for his gentle spirit quite unlike any of the other Beatles, tread a path of his own till the end. G. DWARAKANATH writes on the legend's search for spiritual solace.
GEORGE HARRISON, often called the quiet or modest Beatle, hit the headlines in the world press with his death recently. Every newspaper highlighted one aspect of his life his search for spiritual solace which took him to India. The Hindu spiritual atmosphere captivated him. He spent many days in cognito in Varanasi with his spiritual friends. He was a member of the Hare Krishna movement and often talked of god consciousness. It is said that after dealing with friends, money and other mundane matters, he would often say: "What matters in the end is God consciousness."
In this quest for spiritual solace he had by any standard made much progress. He had forgiven and even continued to be a friend of the man for whom his first wife had left him. He had had a serious rift with another Beatle, Paul McCartney, whom he hated and had vowed he would have nothing to do with thereafter. This hatred he overcame and resumed singing with McCartney. He donated liberally to the Hare Krishna movement and raised funds for the suffering Bangladeshis.
Overcoming anger and hatred was only a small thing compared with how he reacted to his fame. John Lennon, who was out and out a worldly man, had boasted in the late 1960s, "We are as famous as Jesus."
This fame and adulation however was a big embarrassment to George. He had started asking himself questions like ``Who am I? Where am I? From where did I come and to where am I headed?'' His inquisitive thinking had lead him to one finding that the musical sound was spiritual, that it was the sound that mattered not the words. In any case the songs they sung had little spiritual content in them.
The unfortunate truth is that when he came to India, he could not meet the right person who could guide and explain to him how music had developed here and that music and spiritualism were two sides of the same coin. He met Ravi Shankar from whom he learnt Indian music. For spiritual solace the Beatles went to a teacher who, they found was unable to live up to the standards he preached. Disappointed and disgusted, they returned with bitter memories. While the other three Beatles ended their spiritual quest, George could not do so. He joined the Hare Krishna movement from where he learnt about god consciousness of which he spoke so often later.
In many ways Purandara Dasa did in the 16th Century what the Beatles did in the 20th Century. He reformed and reshaped the music system itself so that common people could sing with basic training. He changed the way the sahityas were written. Till then the compositions merely recalled stories from mythology and such other sources. He wrote lyrics that encouraged and guided people in their spiritual search. Indeed his efforts made him and his music so popular that it could all be compared with what happened to the Beatles five centuries later. It is another matter that while the music of Purandara Dasa has been further developed by a succession of giant musicologists cum spiritual men into the greatest system of its kind in the world through which countless people, men and women, have found solace the music fostered by the Beatles progressed rapidly in the opposite direction.
Thyagaraja explains the spiritual basis of our music system in many of his compositions. The three components of a song are the swaras, sahityas and taala; from swaras we graduate to the raga, from sahitya to Bhava and from taala to laya. Each of these can be explained shortly as under.
1. Swaras merely indicate the broad contours of a raga which is not constricted in any way by that. It has a form or swaroopa that transcends the swaras. When a good raga is sung well,``it assumes a delightful form and dances beautifully.''
2. Words themselves mean little if they do not take us to the next stage of Bhava. For example, while ``Hey Rama, protect me'' are just words, the meaning or Bhava is that Rama is powerful enough to protect us and that we deserve to be protected. This point is stressed by Purandara Dasa in "Kelano, Hari taalano" which says god would not listen to or even tolerate music that has no love for him. Almost every song of Thyagaraja is a reiteration of this principle.
3. The taala is merely a time measure. Sometime after the taala counting begins, rhythm takes over and the entire body starts responding to it in an effortless way - this is laya (or unification).
When we thus graduate from swara to raga, from sahitya to Bhava and from taala to laya and these three are combined in the correct proportion the music becomes ``Sudharasam'' nectar. It is this nectar that leads to tranquillity and constant god consciousness (Bhava, raga, layaadi soukhyamuche chiraayuvulai, niravadhi sukhatmulai .... Endaro mahaanubhaavulu).
How this progress to god consciousness happens is also explained in another krithi Intakanna Aanandamemi. The last charana explains that as the seeker sings the glory of god, the entire creation appears to him/her as a manifestation of Rama himself. All the lower order of feelings like you and me, yours and mine disappear.
If George had met someone who could have explained all this to him, perhaps he would not have returned to England and America, but would perhaps have become a great musical saint himself.
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