Lennon ’69: Search for Liberation Featuring a conversation between John Lennon and Swami Bhaktivedanta

I picked up Lennon ’69: Search for Liberation Featuring a conversation between John Lennon and Swami Bhaktivedanta [1] over thirty years ago as a rejected library donation. It was from the old Central Library in Mississauga so it must have been before 1991. A small tract of 66 pages from 1981, I suppose I avoided reading it because it was published by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness and didn’t want to deal with religious theory. When I pick up a book I read it cover to cover, so just reading the conversation transcripts was never an option. The conversation involved not only John Lennon but also George Harrison and Yoko Ono. Ono was the most inquisitive, often challenging Śrīla Prabhupāda for clarity and never accepting his dogma as is. 

Lennon, Harrison and Ono were not religious scholars–although George would become more learned–so the conversation turned comical at times. Instead of nodding in reverence they often wouldn’t let certain statements pass. In a conversation about the English translations available of the Bhagavad-gītā, many of which are supplemented by the translator’s own notes, Śrīla Prabhupāda tells John about the importance of reading it unencumbered by any author commentaries at all, for they are biased and taint the text. He recommends:

“If you seriously want to understand this, you should study the original Sanskrit text.”

to which John replies:

“Study Sanskrit? Oh, now you’re talking.”

In another irreverent example of John’s humour, one of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s disciples compares what it says in the Bhagavad-gītā to what it says in the Bible: 

“In Psalms it says, ‘Praise the Lord with every breath. Praise the Lord with drum and flute.'”

To which John replies:

“But they haven’t got very good tunes. They haven’t been passing on any good chants, have they? [Laughter.]”

In spite of my initial fears of this religious book, it was not plodding and Śrīla Prabhupāda’s preaching and quotes from the Bhagavad-gītā made for a flowing read. However I can see how John and Yoko grew disillusioned with the swami as John did with the Maharishi. They wanted more evidential proof and were not a couple to sit back and accept any dogmas without a challenge of ideas. 

[1] The first printing has this title, yet by the third printing, which I also own, the names are reversed: Lennon ’69: Search for Liberation Featuring a conversation between A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda and John Lennon.

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