Answer: No one
Yesterday, I wrote about the Hindu god, Ganesha, being worshiped in a Roman Catholic church. See here. Really strange stuff. That got me to thinking a bit more about Hinduism.
Readers of this blog know I was a big fan of The Byrds rock and roll band way back in the day. They were a pretty innovative bunch and explored many musical styles. One of the band’s members, David Crosby, was a big fan of Indian sitar player, Ravi Shankar. This was before Shankar got a lot of recognition at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. Crosby would constantly play Shankar’s albums to bandmate, Roger McGuinn, which influenced the lead guitarist to attempt to mimic the drone of the sitar on his twelve-string Rickenbacker guitar on several songs featured on the band’s third album, “Fifth Dimension” (1966).
Crosby had also shared his enthusiasm for Shankar with Beatles guitarist, George Harrison. To say Harrison became infatuated with the sitar and Hinduism would be an understatement. Harrison introduced the sitar to rock and roll audiences with “Norwegian Wood” (from “Rubber Soul,” 1965), “Love You To” and “Tomorrow Never Knows” (from “Revolver,” 1966), and “Within You, Without You” (from “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” 1967). Harrison was indoctrinated deeply into Hinduism by Maharishi (“great seer”) Mahesh Yogi and subsequently embraced the Hare Krishna sect. Literally hundreds of millions of Westerners were introduced to Hinduism and Eastern religions through the music of one person, George Harrison.
Perhaps Harrison’s most famous ode to his new religion was the song, “My Sweet Lord” (from “All Things Must Pass,” 1970). If you’re a Baby Boomer then you know the melody and words of this one pretty well, but I’m guessing many of the lyrics sung in the background went right over your head as they did mine.
Let’s take a look at the lyrics of the last half of the song, with the backing vocals in commas, accompanied by reference numbers that link to notes further below. Got all that? It’s actually pretty simple once you see how I have it laid out. Okay, here we go…
Hm, my lord (hare Krishna) – 1
My, my, my lord (hare Krishna)
Oh hm, my sweet lord (Krishna, Krishna)
Oh-uuh-uh (hare, hare)
Now, I really want to see you (hare Rama) – 2
Really want to be with you (hare Rama)
Really want to see you lord (aaah)
But it takes so long, my lord (hallelujah)
Hm, my lord (hallelujah)
My, my, my lord (hare Krishna)
My sweet lord (hare Krishna)
My sweet lord (Krishna, Krishna)
My lord (hare, hare)
Hm, hm (Guru Brahman) – 3
Hm, hm (Guru Vishnu) – 4
Hm, hm (Guru Devo) – 5
Hm, hm (Maheshwara) – 5
My sweet lord (Guru Saakshaat) – 6
My sweet lord (Parabrahma) – 6
My, my, my lord (Tasmai Sri) – 7
My, my, my, my lord (Gurave Namah) – 7
My sweet lord (hare Rama)
Those are a lot of really strange words you’ve been humming along to all these years, right? But guess what? You’re about to find out what all those strange words mean, thanks to the internet and a little perseverance!
- Hare Krishna – Is an appeal/prayer to the supreme energy (hare) of the Hindu god, Krishna, the eighth incarnation of the god, Vishnu, and also a supreme god in his own right.
- Hare Rama – Is an appeal/prayer to the supreme energy (hare) of the god, Rama, the seventh incarnation of the same Vishnu mentioned above. My, so many different incarnations to keep track of!
- Guru Brahman – (gu-ru, literally means “darkness remover,” i.e., teacher) – the teacher/creator god.
- Guru Vishnu – the teacher/preserver god.
- Guru Devo Maheshwara (also known as Shiva) – the teacher/force of destruction or transformation god. Brahman, Vishnu, and Devo (Shiva) mentioned above are the “Trimurti” or triad of Hinduism’s major gods.
- Guru Saakshaat Parabrahma – the incarnation of the supreme god.
- Tasmai Sri Gurave Namah – means, “Teacher god, I bow to you from my soul.”
Notice that Harrison alternated the “hallelujah” familiar to Christians and “hare Krishna” throughout the song. That was no accident. In his autobiography, Harrison stated that his intention was to convey to the listeners that the two terms meant “quite the same thing,” as well as prompting them to chant the Hindu mantra “before they knew what was going on!” “My Sweet Lord” climbed to #1 on the U.S. singles charts in December 1970 and remained there for four weeks. Millions of teeny boppers and young adults all over the world were moved to chant “Hare Krishna” over and over again along with the song.
Anybody remember all those bald-headed Hare Krishna dudes in saffron robes who used to hang out at airports asking for money? One evening back in the late 70s, I was coming out of a Lum’s restaurant (remember the Ollie Burger?) and a young Hare Krishna member wearing a woman’s wig and an army surplus jacket tried to recruit me. He kept bringing up George Harrison’s connection to the sect as a selling point, but I didn’t want anything to do with shaving my head and wearing those saffron robes. I’m glad I didn’t fall for that stuff, but I was already on my journey to accepting Jesus Christ as my Savior a few years later.
Hinduism has certainly gone mainstream with all those Deepak Chopra books, yoga, transcendental meditation, the growing popularity of reincarnation, and the belief in karma. Can you think of any other examples?
They say there’s 300 million Hindu gods so you would need a computer to keep track of them all. But the bottom line for Hinduism is it’s another works religion just like all the rest of them (including apostate Roman Catholicism). Only Biblical Christianity proclaims the genuine Good News! of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.
“Salvation is found in no one else (besides Jesus), for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” – Acts 4:12
What are the beliefs of Hinduism?