Srila Prabhupada’s England Visit

Srila Prabhupada Bury Place Morning Walks

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Srila Prabhupada’s England Visit
by Kulashekara Das

The journey with Swami Prabhupada has been the most satisfying aspect of my life. His values of life has given a new dimension to the world and has helped people in all the facets of life.

Advent

In the late 1960’s I first came in contact with practitioners of the Vaishnava tradition. Several American disciples of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada had arrived in the UK to establish a Radha Krishna Temple.

I was quite impressed with the depth of Vedic philosophy and especially with the chanting of the Holy Names of God. Almost overnight I quit my entire Rock n Roll lifestyle and my job and began my life as a Brahmachari. I soon found myself living at John & Yoko Lennon’s eighty plus acre estate – “Tittenhurst” and ended up staying there for six months.

A New Name

During this time I met and personally received Diksha or spiritual initiation from Swami Prabhupada. I was, in fact Prabhupada’s first initiated European disciple.

Born as Colin I was now named “Kulasekhara Das”. I had been named after one of the eight Alvars or mystic poets of an ancient Vaishnava line, and a great Emperor of South India.

Swami Prabhupada’s England Visit

On September 11, 1969 Prabhupada arrived in London. After a short press conference, he was driven to the Beatle John Lennon’s Tittenhurst Manor. John Lennon had personally sent his white Rolls-Royce and chauffeur to drive Prabhupada from the airport. After arriving at the Manor,Prabhupada’s first visitors were the Beatles George Harrison and John Lennon and Yoko Ono. He took off the garland he was wearing and gave it to George Harrison. George smiled welcoming him to England.

Prabhupada’s Simplicity

Prabhupada smilingly spoke,”You are anxious to bring some peace to the world. Every saintly person should be anxious to bring peace to the world.” When John and Yoko left Prabhupada’s room a short time later, they were overheard noting Prabhupad’s simplicity. They said to each other, “Look how simply he’s living, could you live like that?” In fact John and Yoko chanted Hare Krishna for a while.
In June 1969 a reporter from the Montreal Star asked them, “Where do you get your strength?” John Lennon replied, “From Hare Krishna” and Yoko joined and said, “That’s where we get it from, you know. We’re not denying it.”

Historic Chants: Hare Krishna

One day John Lennon walked into the kitchen as several devotees were cooking breakfast. He greeted us, strolled over to the piano and began chanting the ‘Hare Krishna’ mantra to a rock and roll tune. Then he switched into a blues version. We stopped what we were doing and began to sing along. Joyfully John continued into a bluegrass version of the mantra and even did a classical version. He also played several Beatle tunes but rather than the normal lyrics he sang Hare Krishna.

This was like a dream come true for me. Here I was blissfully chanting Hare Krishna with the Beatle John Lennon, one of the world’s most talented singers in the service of my beloved Spiritual Master who sat a mere room or two away. These were indeed historic times.

The Final Photo Session

Earlier just 3 weeks before the arrival of Prabhupada, the Beatles had assembled at their last ever photo session. The Beatles’ company Apple Records wrote in this regard,“On 22nd August 1969, The Beatles assembled for a photo session, their last ever, at John Lennon’s new country estate, Tittenhurst Park, a Georgian manor house set in 27 acres within the village of Sunninghill, near Ascot, Berkshire. One of the photographs taken that day was used for the cover of their American compilation album Hey Jude. With dark colours and muted tones, it shows The Beatles standing in the doorway of what became known as The Temple. The name applied to the Radha Krishna Temple, the central place of worship for members of the Hare Krishna Movement in Britain. When the Radha Krishna Temple arrived, Tittenhurst Park came alive with a new colour, the vivid saffron worn by male devotees that signified a chosen path of abstinence. The temple members opted for a vegetarian diet, meditation, the studying of scriptures, and the chanting of the holy names of Krishna.”

An Adventurous Morning Walk

I remember once at John Lennon’s estate, Prabhupada went out on his morning walk and there were only 3 people with him including me, my fiance Visakha, and another devotee. Normally devotees were over-protective of Prabhupada which he knew and so he enjoyed finding himself with just the 3 of us. We came to a field where the golden grass had grown up to about six feet tall. There were two tire tracks through this grass and it created a small passage-way through the field. Prabhupada stopped at the entrance and turned to me. He shook his head a little and asked pointing his cane to the field entrance,”Can we go through here?” I thought for a minute, and decided that if there was going to be a tractor coming through that field from the opposite direction, we would hear it ages before it could reach us, as it was early morning and there was nothing stirring. I said “Yes, Prabhupada!” And he beamed: AN ADVENTURE!!

The Magic Hour

We set off through this tunnel, completely surrounded by this golden grass. When we got to the middle of the field, there was a small hill – right in the center of the field and as we walked up we were standing about five feet higher than the grass in the field, and it was very beautiful. The Sun had not risen yet. This period is what the Photographers call the ‘magic’ hour. There is a special quality to the light at this time that is especially great for photography due to the soft bright natural light.As we were walking up the hill I asked Prabhupada what the song meant that we had recorded the day before in his room.

The Mridangam Lessons

Every afternoon I would go to his room and he would teach me Mridangam and then we would record. Sometimes with Purushuttom, sometimes just me and Prabhupada, while sometimes Mukunda or Gurudas would sit in. The first of these recording was the 18 minute Sikshastakam, where Prabhupada taught me the very first beat “Ghee Ghee Tuk Ta.” I played it four times and he said “Good, now we will record!” It was 18 minutes, which is a lifetime in recording. I had no idea and tried to keep the beat. I went off at some point very early on and was playing a mutated version of the beat which somehow worked!

Treasurable Moment

In answer to my question Prabhupada replied, “That song was about Lord Chaitanya’s Sankirtan party. They would go out for kirtan at this time. This is the time when Lord Chaitanya would go out for Sankirtan. When the Sun has risen, yet is not yet in the sky. And He would dance.” And then he hooked his cane over his forearm and raised both hands in the air, and started dancing. Standing on one spot and swaying back and forwards, putting one foot across the other with his arms up in the air in ecstasy, and Prabhupada again said “And He would dance like this.”He beamed at me as he danced there on that small hill in the middle of the field. The light reflected off the golden grass made his skin look effulgent and golden. This has always been one of my most treasured moments shared with my Guru Maharaja, and I miss him so much.

The Temple

Three or four times a week, Prabhupada gave public lectures in a building at the northern end of the property. The building had previously been used as a hall for chamber-music recitals, but now several of Prabhupada’s disciples, installed a small Deity altar and a speaking dias for Prabhupada. The building never really had a name, but after Prabhupada’s stay everyone referred to it as “The Temple.” And they still call it “The Temple” to this very day.

Remuna Gopinath

In exchange for living at John Lennon’s manor we worked our tails off. Some of the hardest graft I ever did. I had a look at Tittenhurst on Wikipedia, and it said that John built the Studio there, and I thought that he never lifted a brick. It took 3 days to sledgehammer through an old fireplace, the bricks were an inch thick, crisscrossed3 feet thick and had been there since Shakespeare’s time. I once asked Prabhupada what the place should be called and he said “Remuna Gopinath”.

I asked in return, “What does that mean?” He smiled widely and replied “That which Krishna has stolen for his devotee!”

Recording Studio

The fireplace and adjoining wall had to be removed to build the Recording Studio. I never saw any money. Not sure if the American’s did, or Prabhupada. As far as I knew we were allowed to stay there in exchange for work, hard work and by no means a Vacation Resort.

We had to sledgehammer our way through a couple of walls and a fireplace to build the recording studio.

Hanging Out at Apple Records

I was senior among the British devotees with some experience of show business from the two years when I did psychedelic lighting for bands that included The Byrds, Electric Flag and Pink Floyd.

Because of these considerations I was chosen to hang out at Apple Records and talk to Rock Stars about Krishna. This was one of the best gigs I have ever had in my life!

Apple Records; The Radha Krsna Temple

Song Recordings

It was during this time that we recorded the “Radha Krishna Temple” Album. George Harrison was in fact already aware of the devotees of Krishna before meeting Prabhupada. He had purchased 20 copies of the “Happening” album, the first professional recording by Prabhupada and his disciples. In 1969 George first met Shyamasundar Das in the London offices of Apple Records, The Beatles’ record company. George geeted him and said, “Where have you been? I’ve been waiting two years to meet you fellas.” This initial meeting led to the recording of “Hare Krishna Mantra”, credited to Radha Krishna Temple (London), with George, Paul, Linda McCartney and Ginger Baker all in the studio helping. George produced the song and further recordings, as well as attended an Apple-organized press conference for the Temple in a park at Sydenham, South London and they made an appearance on BBC-TV’s Top of the Pops, where they performed “Hare Krishna Mantra”. The single reached the charts in twenty countries, doing particularly well in Czechoslovakia and Germany and was even sung one afternoon by 40,000 people at Wembley.

Yamuna Devi sang the lead with Shyamasundar singing back up. I played Tablas on this and blew the conch at the end of the song. Earlier we had a 3 hour Kirtan at George’s house as practice for this recording.

Billy Preston played keyboards. This took 34 takes to finally make it.

Govindam Prayers at ISKCON

In the late 1800s, the great-grandfather of the Hare Krishna movement, Bhaktivinode Thakur, had predicted a day when the Maha Mantra and songs of Krishna would be sung throughout the world in the local musical style and in the local language. George Harrison would be the first to help towards making that prediction come true. When Prabhupada first heard George Harrison’s orchestrated version of the Govindam prayers, tears began streaming from his eyes. He then mandated that the song be played every morning in each and every ISKCON temple, a tradition that continues to this very day.

The ‘Hairy Krishna’ Incident

After recording the album we had to do a cover shoot. Paul McCartney was at the back doing the engineering with George Martin. He came out once to adjust some mikes and then came over to where I was sitting cross-legged on the floor, shaved-up wearing robes, and said “I saw it on the News you know Hairy Krishna! Hairy Krishna!” George flew down to the Woodstock – Isle of White in a Helicopter, with a copy of 45, and played it for 4 hours straight before the concert! So it was broadcasted on the news and they said “Hairy Krishna” because of all the long hairs. We were all chanting the Hare Krishna mantra for four hours on that ride!” Then he went back into the mixing room. After the session they all left except George and the rest of the devotees arrived to record the ‘B’ side of the “Hare Krishna Single” and “Prayers to the Spiritual Masters.”

The Girls Hive

After the cover shoot, George had sent Terry Doran – his driver/personal assistant to get me from Apple Records and bring me to Abbey Road in his 600 Mercedes. It took ten minutes to get through the gate due to 60 girls all over the carlike a swarm of bees. Then one looked in through the windscreen and saw me and they all started chanting “Hare Krishna.”

Memorable Moment at Apple

The 3 hour session which I did alone with George at Apple is one of my favorites. Here I was 18 years old, doing lights for Pink Floyd, living with Prabhupada on John & Yoko’s 87 acre estate. The 3 hour session was to overdub the 3 hour mantra rock jam that we had in his house with Billy Preston on keyboards, George Harrison on Bass etc. George also played tambourine and I played Tablas. We were alone in a 10′ X 10′ sound room in apple for the whole 3 hours straight and completed the whole tape in one take. I sent a photo of this session to Prabhupada with my beads for initiation and his servant Nanda Gopal told me that Prabhupada carried it with him in his spectacle case.

The Lasting Impression

Prabhupada had made a lasting impression on George Harrison.

George later explained that most of these yogis say ‘Look at me, I am the divine incarnation, let me help you,’ while Prabhupada said, ‘I am the servant of the servant of the servant.’ When George once asked if he should also shave his head and join the temple, Prabhupada advised him not to and insisted that he could do more for Krishna through his music.

The Uncanny Approval

In 1967 Prabhupada had experienced a severe heart attack and all wondered whether he would live long enough to finish his translation of the 10th Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam. He had translated the second canto of the Srimad Bhagavatam, but knew that many years of work remained. He decided to immediately write the book entitled “Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead”. He then asked Shyamasundara to request George Harrison to publish it.
Shyamasundar was concerned and did not want to disturb his friendly relationship with the Beatle by asking him for money. Prabhupada had instructed him not to ask much of George or from any other wealthy or famous personality. However Shyamsundar knew that he had to follow his Gurudeva’s order. Thus he sat with George one evening and skirted the issue.A thunder-storm raged outside, and just as he brought up the courage to discreetly ask the question, lightning flashed. George’s face grew livid with a sense of hurt.

Suddenly there was a loud clap of thunder and all the lights went out. The two sat in complete darkness with-out saying anything for a minute or two. The lights came on. George looked at him stunned and said: “I suppose that means Yes! Who can argue with Krishna?”

Letter of Thanks

Prabhupada later wrote George Harrison thanking him for his sponsorship of the printing costs of “Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead”.

“My Dear George, Please accept my blessings. I am so much obliged to you for your valued cooperation in spreading my movement of Krishna Consciousness throughout the whole world. I beg to acknowledge receipt herewith of your contribution of nineteen thousand dollars for publication of my book, Krsna, now going to the press within the week. Please note that every farthing of this money will be employed in the service of the Lord, and the Lord is so kind and grateful that He will bestow upon you benediction at least ten times more than that you have done for Him…I know that both you and John are very good souls. Both of you are pledged to do something for the peace of the world. By the grace of Krishna, you have already realized to some extent about the necessity and importance of Hare Krishna movement in the world. Similarly, if John also does so, it will be a great event. John and his wife were very kind upon me when I was staying at Tittenhurst Park as their guests. I always prayed for them to Krishna for understanding this great movement.

Please inform him this message on my behalf. I have dreamt something very nice about John which I shall disclose in proper time. In the meantime, please ask him to cooperate with this movement as you are doing, and he will be very happy.”

Homage and Gratitude

These times with the Beatles and my beloved Gurudeva, Prabhupada represent a historic moment in time. While many are familiar with the 1960s counterculture and the societal breakdown that is associated with it, few scholars or historians have investigated the impact of India’s spiritual traditions upon the times. The fact is that India’s ancient Vaishnava culture was at the epicenter of the entire 1960’s phenomenon. any famous songs can be directly linked to the ancient philosophy and outlook of the Saints of India. Many common concepts such as Yoga, Mantra Meditation, TM, Karma, Vegetarianism, Animal rights and diversity of religion began to find wide acceptance throughout the World during the 1960s. This influence can be directly linked to the efforts of the great Saints and Traditions of India like Srila Prabhupada and Vaishnavism. Undoubtedly the world owes a great debt of gratitude to the people of India for maintaining and preserving this great treasure house of wisdom and culture.

About the Author

Colin Jury was born in Barking, Essex, England. He was the youngest person accepted at the British School of Film Technique in 1964, however he was too young to start and worked in film as an apprentice and projectionist. In 1969, he took spiritual initiation from His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Colin was named “Kulasekhara das”. Named after one of the eight Alvars or mystic poets of their line, – great Emperor in South India

Text pasted from; Prabhupada News

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