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George Harrison loved chanting just as much as singing. However, he didn’t realize it until he began his spiritual journey in the 1960s. George had reached the top of a wall. He saw so much more when he looked over it and never turned back. George put all of his energy into spirituality, and he claimed it helped him live in the material world.

He also claimed his spirituality helped save him from a plane crash.

George Harrison and friends from the Hare Krishna Temple on top of Apple Studios in 1970.
George Harrison and members of the Hare Krishna Temple | Keystone/Getty Images

George Harrison turned to spirituality in the 1960s

In the mid-1960s, George had become disenchanted with many things, including fame. Being a Beatle had essentially extinguished the light inside him and had wrung him out. There was not much more he could do, and he grew bored.

That’s when he met Ravi Shankar. George often said that the legendary sitar player was the first person he met that wowed him.

According to Quartz India, George said, “Ravi was my link into the Vedic world. Ravi plugged me into the whole of reality. I mean, I met Elvis—Elvis impressed me when I was a kid, and impressed me when I met him because of the buzz of meeting Elvis, but you couldn’t later on go round to him and say, ‘Elvis, what’s happening in the universe?'”

In 1982, George told a leader in the Hare Krishna movement, Mukunda Goswami (per the Guardian), that his spirituality started once he saw what was over the wall he’d hit at the time.

“It wasn’t until the experience of the 60s really hit,” George said. “You know, having been successful and meeting everybody we thought worth meeting and finding out they weren’t worth meeting, and having had more hit records than everybody else and having done it bigger than everybody else.

“It was like reaching the top of a wall and then looking over and seeing that there’s so much more on the other side. So I felt it was part of my duty to say, ‘Oh, OK, maybe you are thinking this is all you need – to be rich and famous – but actually it isn’t.'”

That’s when George started to read about Hinduism and chanting. He never looked back, and it might have saved his life.

George said chanting to Krishna saved him from a plane crash

Goswami asked George if he’d experienced an incident where he felt God’s presence strongly through chanting. George replied that he felt Krishna was with him the strongest during a pretty scary moment on a plane around 1971. Chanting helped him through it. George believed that it saved his life.

“Once I was on an aeroplane that was in an electric storm,” George explained. “It was hit by lightning three times, and a Boeing 707 went over the top of us, missing by inches.

“I thought the back end of the plane had blown off. I was on my way from Los Angeles to New York to organise the Bangladesh concert. As soon as the plane began bouncing around, I started chanting Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

“The whole thing went on for about an hour and a half or two hours, the plane dropping hundreds of feet and bouncing all over in the storm, all the lights out and all these explosions, and everybody terrified.

“I ended up with my feet pressed against the seat in front, my seat belt as tight as it could be, gripping on the thing, and yelling Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare at the top of my voice. I know for me, the difference between making it and not making it was actually chanting the mantra. Peter Sellers also swore that chanting Hare Krishna saved him from a plane crash once.”


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The former Beatle once spent 23 hours chanting during a trip

The scary plane ride wasn’t the only time George chanted through a long journey. When Goswami asked him how he felt after chanting for a long time, George replied that he felt invincible after chanting for 23 hours straight during a trip from France to Portugal.

“I find that I sometimes have opportunities when I can really get going at it, and the more I do it, I find the harder it is to stop, and I don’t want to lose the feeling it gives me,” George replied. “For example, once I chanted the Hare Krishna mantra all the way from France to Portugal, nonstop.

“I drove for about 23 hours and chanted all the way. It gets you feeling a bit invincible. The funny thing was that I didn’t even know where I was going. I mean I had bought a map, and I knew basically which way I was aiming, but I couldn’t speak French, Spanish, or Portuguese.

“But none of that seemed to matter. You know, once you get chanting, then things start to happen transcendentally.”

Many people doubted whether George’s spirituality was genuine. It wasn’t a passing phase. George remained spiritual for the rest of his life. Members of the Hare Krishna movement, George’s good friends, chanted at his bedside during his last days. George’s wife, Olivia, said he was not afraid of death in his last moments because of his spirituality. He lit the room when he left his body.