Question: When George Harrison was singing, “My Sweet Lord,” who was he singing to?

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!

  1. 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.
  2. 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!
  3. Guru Brahman – (gu-ru, literally means “darkness remover,” i.e., teacher) – the teacher/creator god.
  4. Guru Vishnu – the teacher/preserver god.
  5. 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.
  6. Guru Saakshaat Parabrahma – the incarnation of the supreme god.
  7. 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?
https://carm.org/hinduism-beliefs

36 thoughts on “Question: When George Harrison was singing, “My Sweet Lord,” who was he singing to?

    1. Thanks, Caroline. I’ve touched on this topic several times in the past. I entered the church when hymn books were still in the pews and we sang hymns accompanied by a piano. I left the church only to return many years later and it’s all Christian contemporary music. I like many of the contemporary songs but I miss the hymns, too. As you know, there’s been a huge battle in the church over this music issue. But as you say, why not use contemporary music to reach young people with the Gospel? Many/most would never listen to a traditional Gospel choir but they might listen to CCM music. Sure, there’s bad CCM music, but that doesn’t mean it’s ALL bad. Harrison, one person, obviously made a HUGE impact on the world with his pro-Hindu music and Christian artists can use their talents to spread the Gospel of Truth.

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    2. “A rose by any other name would still smell as sweet” We are all praying to the same God, sadly we are all too busy fighting about who is right while we do it.

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      1. Your “tolerant” viewpoint is widely disseminated and accepted these days, but watered-down-to-the-point-of-drowning religious “truth” is no truth at all. Read a New Testament. Jesus Christ is either who He says He is or He is the biggest charlatan of all time. If He is who He says he is, and He is, your religious opinions are worthless.

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    1. Wally, the Hare Krishnas were once quite noticeable in airports up here back in the 70s and 80s but I haven’t seen any since then. I’m guessing their peak recruiting years were back when Harrison was pushing it. Neo-Hinduism entered the mainstream with Deepak and Oprah so I’m guessing you have at least a few down there who believe in reincarnation, karma, and religious yoga. Probably Yankee transplants from the Rust Belt?

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      1. Actually, I had a conversation with my boss just the other day on that. He has actually been going to church, but is unclear about a lot of things. The other day he was asking me my thoughts on reincarnation, which I gladly shared what The Bible has to say on the subject. He’s been a project of mine for probably 5 years now. Pray for that actually.

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      2. It’s great that he’s open to discussion at least a little bit. Last night I was on the phone with our youngest son who’s based in Texas. We usually talk about sports, music, and movies and he commented on the recent suicides of a couple of “rock stars” from his era. I blurted out that they were looking for meaning to life because “success” and popularity didn’t cut it and that what they needed was Jesus. Dead silence on the phone. He’s not looking for the Lord but I pray the day may come!

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  1. Good post! Ive hummed this song a thousand times. Its very catchy with quite the hook. It keeps running thru my mind even now. Shutting it down now lol .Never really grasped what it was really about. The devil has many tools and weapons masked in the seemingly innocent name of religion and music. My daughter is same way Tom. She even claimed to be atheist a few years ago. But recently has made a few comments proving the fact that she believes God is real. I just keep living my life for Jesus in front of her and praying. I will pray for your son also. God bless.

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    1. Thanks, Jene! It was such a catchy tune that it was nominated for Record of the Year by the Grammys but lost to Carole King’s “It’s Too Late.” Many people would say, “What’s the big deal? The Hindus have their gods, you have your god. It’s all the same in the end as long as you’re a good person.” That’s the BIG lie.
      Thanks and we actually have two sons who are both unbelievers, if you could pray for them both. I have added your daughter to my prayer sheet. I’m grateful the Lord keeps giving us opportunities to proclaim Him!

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  2. I had no idea it was that big of a hit. I just remember it being on the radio all the time. My parents even had the album.”Thats the BIG lie”. You are exactly right. One day soon…every knee will bend and every head will bow. Jesus is the only way. Praise our almighty God! Both your sons will be in my prayers for sure.

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    1. Thanks for your prayers, Jene! I was 14 when that song came out and I liked it A LOT. I was a long ways from accepting Christ at that point and my attitude like most of society was, “You say to-may-to, I say to-mah-to, and in the end we all worship the same god.” How wrong I was!

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  3. Of course you are very welcome and thank you! I used to have that same view myself. Then i met Jesus! And everything changed! If only the world really knew what they are missing. I cant imagine living without Him. Ive enjoyed our conversation Tom!

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  4. A very intriguing post Tom! I am familiar with this particular song. Many listeners I’ve found consider this a general love for God type of song, but has your post brings out, that’s the furthest from the truth. Personally, I went from being an avid music person to not listening to music at all. It’s been a coming to understanding of what the music found in this world is really about. Well done!

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    1. Thanks, Nathan! I really enjoyed doing the research (and learning some things myself) and writing that one. After accepting Christ I started out in a hardcore, indy fundy Baptist church where the members hid their record albums before the pastor visited their house. But when a believer moves closer to the Lord under His grace and guidance, the pleasures of this world become less appealing, especially if the message is opposed to the faith. I don’t judge a believer who indulges in some secular entertainment because I certainly do at times, it’s going to be different for everyone, but we can’t expect to continually fill ourselves up with the world and love the Lord. After awhile you get tired of cleaning the mud off your boots so you start avoiding the mud.

      Yeah, Harrison’s promotion of Eastern spirituality was a pretty big deal in retrospect. It’s a bit ironic that Crosby, an atheist, was the one who gave Harrison a nudge toward Hinduism. Crosby later wrote a song that criticized Harrison’s conversion which I posted about last year:
      https://excatholic4christ.wordpress.com/2016/06/25/i-thought-id-seen-someone-who-seemed-at-last-to-know-the-truth-i-wasnt-mistaken/

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  5. Where have all the Hare Krishnas gone? “gone from airports, everyone.” Some things are not missed.

    I knew the Harrison’s song was about Hinduism. His blend of Christian and Hindu terms was deceptive. This practice is not unusual. Your previous post about the elephant-boy god is an unsubtle example of this syncreticism.

    How long did the Beatles’s guru period last? Does any still practice Transcendental Mediation? Why am I dating myself?

    ” Brahman, Vishnu, and Devo (Shiva) mentioned above are the “Tridev” or trinity of Hinduism’s major gods.” The more proper word would be triad, since the Trinity is unique to Christianity.

    For those who want to know more about India and its culture there is Kipling’s Kim and the non-fiction Jadoo by Keel. Sitar lessons not included.

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    1. Randy, thanks for the comments. I know that the rest of the Beatles – Paul, John, and Ringo – disassociated themselves from the Maharishi fairly quickly. From what I’ve read, they turned against the guru after he had sexually harassed actress Mia Farrow who was part of the Beatles’ entourage when they visited India in 1968. Lennon wrote a song critical of the Maharishi called “Sexy Sadie,” which appeared on the White Album. But in very recent articles both Paul and Ringo state that they have been practicing TM ever since the guru days.

      Many articles refer to the Hindu “Trinity” but as you state, there certainly is a difference compared to how Christians use the term in regards to the very nature of God so I’ll revise my post. Thanks for the observation.

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  6. I know very little about the Beatles and I think its unfortunate how they used their influence to promote paganism. I was just at a Hindu country and it is heavy to see how many need the Gospel still…

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  7. I found this page when i googled ‘which lord was george harrison singing about in my sweet lord’. Hopefully, after all this time, this page is still active and you have a chance to contemplate a twist in the previous discussion. Recently i have seen vintage photos of the beatles using illuminati symbols. I grew up thinking `my sweet lord’ was about jesus or God. Now im not convinced. The illuminati are known for leaving images of shiva and kali scattered about, btw. I dont know for sure when fame came at an evil price (like it so obviously does now) and the thought of such a beloved childhood memory be so tainted, turns my stomach. If you arent familiar with the symbols they are easy to find, check it out and tell me what lord you think he was singing about.

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      1. Thank you for resonding Tom. A very interesting topic here. And yes, i read what you posted about the dieties, interesting. I honestly dont think any respect for hinduism was the true intent of the song either. I think he was actually mocking both religions. The illuminati worship the devil

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      2. Thanks, sister! I recall that post requiring quite a bit of googling and research. It’s sadly incredible how Satan used one very influential person (George Harrison) to introduce hundreds of millions to false eastern religiosity.

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  8. I recently read an interview with George Harrison’s sister Louise that she wasn’t upset by his death because he and she both believe in reincarnation and that they would come back in another life. How tragic and foolish. I can only say as a believer in Christ what a tragedy George Harrison was believing in a false religion and in addition deceiving millions of his followers and admirers into following it was well… What a tragic day it will be for George Harrison on the day of judgment and I’m willing to bet he is in eternity right now cursing Hare Krishna for deceiving HIM.

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    1. Sorry for the delay in responding. I found your comments in my spam bucket.
      Thanks. Yes, Harrison was responsible for encouraging many to follow Hindu mysticism. What a tragedy.

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