George Harrison was spiritual his whole life, not just after working closely with his friend Ravi Shankar. While he was still in The Beatles, George wrote “The Art of Dying” in 1966. It’s about George’s ultimate goal. The ex-Beatle wanted to scrub away all the loose ends in his life and to leave his body peacefully. He didn’t want his soul reincarnated and forced to walk the Earth to perform the tasks he’d left behind.
George had been working the art of dying his whole life, and the results paid off. His wife, Olivia, said he lit up the room when his soul left the material world.
George Harrison wrote ‘The Art of Dying’ about the dangers of reincarnation
In his 1980 memoir, I Me Mine, George explained what influenced him to write “The Art of Dying.”
“Everybody is worried about dying, but the cause of death (which most can’t figure out unless they are diseased) is birth, so if you don’t want to die you don’t get born!” George wrote. “So the ‘art of dying’ is when somebody can consciously leave the body at death, as opposed to falling down dying without knowing what’s going on. The Yogi who does that (Maha-samadhi) doesn’t have to reincarnate again.”
George explained, “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction,” which is called Karma. “And the only way you escape the chain of Karma, going round and round again, is if you get the seed and you roast it so it can’t germinate (or fry the egg),” he wrote.
“We have to first of all not create more Karma – that is, more actions and reactions – like throwing a pebble into a clear lake, the ripples keep on going. Every thought, word, action or deed that we have is like sending a ripple out across the Universe and it does eventually come back. Whatever you do, it comes right back on you.”
George explained you don’t want to create significant reactions (like being in The Beatles) because “everything comes bouncing back and ties you up forever, or for as long as it takes to untie it.” Those reactions could be what ties you to the Earth for eternity.
George said if you don’t undo all the knots in your life your soul will be force into reincarnation
The “Awaiting on You All” singer continued to explain his thoughts on dying. When you’re born, your life (past Karma) is like a knotty piece of string. You have to try to undo them before they die. However, “you tie another twenty trying to get one undone.”
George continued, “So in ‘Karma’ we try to burn it out (fulfil desires) and that finally is only possible when we have reached a very advanced spiritual level. The ‘Saviour’ – the ‘Sat-Guru’ – comes at that point in time, and He takes on your remaining Karma.
“They say ‘a strong man can help carry a weak man’s load,’ so the spiritual masters take on their disciples’ Karma and ‘burn’ it out sometimes through their own bodies, in order that it will no longer recur, in order we become perfected. That is another reason for Christ’s suffering. He took on others’ Karma in his own body as the ‘Saviour.’”
George then cited his lyrics, “‘There will come a time when all of us must leave here’ (death) – and whatever anybody tries to do about it there is no way you will be able to avoid that eventuality. The last verse says: ‘There will come a time when most of us return here (reincarnation)/ Brought back by our desire to be a perfect entity.’
“Well our soul’s desire is perfection. The last thought or desire that we have as we are leaving our physical bodies, that (thought or desire) is the motivation for rebirth. It’s all right going through your life forgetting about God and then, as you are dying, hoping to be able to remember Him then, or remember something that is liberating.
“You have to practise all your life as you are likely to be in great pain as you are leaving your body – which could be at any moment.
“I mean I don’t want to be lying there as I’m dying thinking ‘Oh s***, I forgot to put the cat out,’ or ‘I didn’t get a Rolls-Royce’ because then you may have to come right back just to do those things, and then you have got more knots on your piece of string.”
The musician turned into an artist of dying
Even though George had some pretty big reactions in his life, he died with very few knots in his string. He practiced the art of dying for most of his life. In the end, he was able to leave his body like a true artisan. His wife Olivia touched on George’s skill in Martin Scorsese’s documentary, George Harrison: Living in the Material World.
She said George was furious that John Lennon didn’t “have a chance to leave his body in a better way.”
“George put so much emphasis and importance on the moment of death, of leaving your body,” Olivia said. “That was very–that’s really what he was practicing for. It’s like the Dalai Lama said something that really made him smile. He said, ‘And what do you do in the morning?’ He said, ‘I do my practice, I do my mantras, I do my spiritual practice.’ ‘And how do you know it will work?’”
The response was: “I don’t. I’ll find out when I die.”
That experience was almost taken away from George during a home invasion in 1999. However, when it did come time for George to leave his body in 2001, Olivia said it was profound.
“There was a profound experience that happened when he left his body,” she explained. “It was visible. Let’s just say you wouldn’t need to light the room if you were trying to film it. You know, he just lit the room.”
“The Art of Dying” is about living a good life, so you’re able to move on when you die. George did that.
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