Lennon/Harrison: Music as Consciousness

In the twentieth century two towering figures reshaped the world, it’s meaning and our minds. George Harrison and John Lennon (shown here on Bob Spitz’s excellent account of The Beatles). Their list of accomplishments is staggering. Simply put, though, George and John introduced Asian culture to Western youth. In 1966 John was reading The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead by Timothy Leary. This wonderful book is itself based on The Tibetan Book of the Dead the classic teaching by Padmasambhava, Guru Rinpoche. Tomorrow Never Knows was the first recording made for what became the Revolver album. To Lennon, the book cried out for a soundtrack. He set this road map to the mind with the ultimate garage-rock conceit; a single chord driven furiously from beneath by bass and drums, with only two shifting modal harmonies up top . . . Tim Riley Trying to achieve the effect of Tibetan monks chanting John inspired EMI’s engineers at Abbey Roads Studio to develop two new techniques that were introduced on Tomorrow Never Knows. ADT (Automatic Double Tracking) used two tape recorders to capture one vocal and this was coupled with Flanging, a term applied when one of the tapes is deliberately delayed. The song was styled on Indian classical music using the C note as a tonic and dispensing with traditional chord changes. George supplied the drone effect by playing a tamboura. As radical as the musical concepts on Tomorrow Never Knows it is the thought stream on which the musical scheme floats that reverberate to this day . Turn off your mind relax and float down stream It is not dying, it is not dying Lay down all thoughts, surrender to the void, It is shining, it is shining. Yet you may see the meaning of within It is being, it is being Love is all and love is everyone It is knowing, it is knowing And ignorance and hate mourn the dead It is believing, it is believing But listen to the colour of your dreams It is not leaving, it is not leaving These lyrics, written by John Lennon, inspired by Timothy Leary are actually the teachings of Guru Rinpoche/Padmasambhava, who lived in the eighth century and is credited with bringing Vajrayana Buddhism to Tibet. Padmasambhava was both yogi and magician. He subdued the many wrathful, craved, demonic elements that held dominion over much of the rugged Himalayan ranges. In doing so he secreted many treasure teachings (ter chos) to be discovered by subsequent followers at more appropriate times for the message. The Great Liberation by Hearing on the Intermediate Steps (known in the West as The Tibetan Book of the Dead) is a manual that details the nature of the after-death state  and provides meditation practices to understand the nature of mind and prepare practitioners for travel through the Bardo realms. The first English translation was made in 1927 by Lama Kazi Dawa Samdup and W. Y. Evans-Wentz who wrote the Preface to Autobiograophy of a Yogi. Bardo means gap; it is not only the interval of suspension after we die but also suspension in the living situation; death happens in the living situation as well. The bardo experience is part of our basic psychological make-up. There are all kinds of bardo experiences happening to us all the time, experiences of paranoia and uncertainty in everday life; it is like not being sure of our ground, not knowing quite what we have asked for or what we are getting into. Chogyam Trungpa – The Tibetan Book of the Dead, Shambhala Dragon Edition The term ‘treasure-teachings’ is generally extended to include not only concealed ‘earth-treasures’ (sa-ter), but also revelations discovered in a telepathic manner directly from the enlightened intention of buddha-mind (gong ter), and pure visionary experience (dag nang). From The Tibetan Book of the Dead translated by Gyurme Dorje and edited by Graham Coleman with Thupten Jinpa. Sung Juk yuganaddha/unification/union/non-dual attainment of Buddha’s form/wisdom body, union of bliss/emptiness, attainment of clear light mind/illusory body Sangye Tenzin Rinpoche a Nyingma/Kagyu Lama from Kham who spent twenty years in Chinese captivity. His earnest willingness to transmit the Dharma experience to young Western practitioners will forever be cherished by all who knew him. Kindness is the essence of Dharma. He carried many rare transmissions and passed them on to the 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje among others. He exemplified the Guru Rinpoche lineage. In 1971 George, with encouragement from Ravi Shankar, organized the first rock mega benefit concert at Madison Square Garden for the people of East Pakistan/Bangladesh who had been ravaged by a cyclone and civil war. Ravi Shankar, Ali Akbhar Khan, Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton and Bob Dylan were among the performers. By 1985 over $12 million had been sent to Bangladesh. To this day all sales of the Concert for Bangladesh CD and DVD benefit the George Harrison Fund for UNICEF. In return for your investment you will hear the finest Bob Dylan set ever recorded. For a thorough history of the Bangladesh horror and the United States’ complicit role read Gary J. Bass’ excellent study, THE BLOOD TELEGRAM: Nixon, Kissinger, and a Forgotten Genocide. Read it and weep. George Harrison gave generously throughout his life to spiritual causes. He exemplifies the Artist/Yogi. Throughout his life as a closet yogi, chanting served as Harrison’s conduit to the mystical world, his favored method of remaining God-conscious and acruing good karma. In a conversation with Mukunda Goswami, he likened life to a piece of string with knots tied in it. The knots represent a person’s karma from previous lives, and the object of a person’s life is to untie the knots already there in order to be free. However, not being aware of that fact, people tend to create more knots while failing to untie the previous ones. Chanting and God-consciousness, Harrison believed, have the power to untie the knots. The key is accepting the truth of the old axiom “As you sow, so shall you reap.” We have no one to blame but ourselves for the situation in which we now find ourselves, but on the other hand we can earn our way back to daylight through positive actions now. And positive action can be as simple as chanting. As Harrison says in “Awaiting on You All”; “But here’s a way for you to get free/ By chanting the names of the Lord and you’ll be free.” Working Class Mystic by Gary Tillery.

There’ll come a time when all of us must leave here Then nothing sister Mary can do Will keep me here with you As nothing in this life that I’ve been trying Could equal or surpass the art of dying Do you believe me? There’ll come a time when most of us return here Brought back by our desire to be A perfect entity Living through a million years of crying Until you’ve realized the art of dying. George Harrison
The time of death arrives for all, uninvited, sudden . . . final.
No tradition has unraveled the intricacies of the death state like Vajrayana (Diamond Thunderbolt) Buddhism. Death and the Art of Dying by Bokar Rinpoche is one in a series of concise elucidations on the principles of Tibetan Buddhism published by Clear Point Press.
In June 1969 Timothy Leary, Tommy Smothers, Allen Ginsberg, Petula Clark, Dick Gregory and others joined John and Yoko in their room at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal. Their ensemble recording of Give Peace a Chance reshaped history. The citizen activist we see in the Occupy Movement are the organic flowering from John and Yoko’s seed ideas. This is it boys, over the hill. Stop the killing, Do It Now.
Subliminally at least, most of us who are old enough, remember when we first heard Give Peace a Chance. Released on July 21, 1969, three weeks before the Woodstock Festival. I was going to summer school at the University of Kansas and thinking of visiting my friend Clippy in Tuxedo, New York. I hadn’t heard of the festival until I arrived in NYC. I though it was a hoax, nobody could assemble those acts. But Michael Lang did, I had actually attended one of his three day festivals in Miami the previous December. Thank you for that and more, Michael.
The Beatles - Love 001Its hard to believe that one of the most imaginative and magical Beatle albums would not come out until 2006. LOVE is an editing collaboration between George Martin, his son Giles and Dominic Champagne from Cirque du Soleil. The second cut opens with the chords from A Hard Day’s Night then Ringo’s drum solo from Abbey Road and seques into Get Back. The effect is phenomenal. But the real tour de force is the drumming from Tomorrow Never Knows mixed with George’s vocal from Within You Without You. C’est Magnifique.
In September, 1969 John performed with Yoko, Alan White, Eric Clapton and Klaus Voorman as the Plastic Ono Band at the Toronto Music Festival. Voorman on bass was an old friend from the Hamburg days who also illustrated the awesome Revolver cover.
Mind Games has never been popular with music critics, it’s one of my favorite John Lennon songs.
We’re playing those mind games together Pushing the barriers, planting seeds Playing the mind guerrilla Chanting the mantra, peace on earth We all been playing those mind games forever Some kinda druid dudes lifting the veil Doing the mind guerrilla Some call it magic, the search for the grail Love is the answer and you know that for sure Love is a flower, you got to let it, you got to let it grow So keep on playing those mind games together Faith in the future, outta the now You just can’t beat on those mind guerrillas Absolute elsewhere in the stones of your mind Yeah we’re playing those mind games forever Projecting our images in space and in time Yes is the answer and you know that for sure Yes is surrender, you got to let it, you got to let it go So keep on playing those mind games together Doing the ritual dance in the sun Millions of mind guerrillas Putting their soul power to the karmic wheel Keep on playing those mind games forever Raising the spirit of peace and love For me this song resonates with many of the qualities which I love in Lennon’s music . . . druid dudes . . . the karmic wheel . . .  chanting the mantra peace on earth . . . absolute elsewhere in the stones of your mind.Critics suck! Like what makes you feel good.John Lennon received inspiration from dakinis. His poetic chorus in Number 9 Dream,  “Ah! böwakawa poussé, poussé” came to him in a dream.
Dakinis are Feminine Wisdom/Sky Dancers, the guardians of the gates to the Pure Lands. To meet a dakini is to face our own enlightened mind. The great yogis who blazed the paths we follow were all taught by dakinis. Tilopa and Naropa, founders of the Kagyu lineage, both had old hags appear to them and declare that their spiritual attainments which they were so proud of came to naught. Water may wash away stains but never water itself. Perhaps, as Vessantara suggests, “they had so lost themselves in scholarship, that the upsurging forces of inspiration, which dakinis embody, had become dull and neglected. Dakinis are the Dharma felt in one’s gut.”
Simhamuhkha, The Lion Headed Dakini, Sengdoma in Tibetan, was one of the principal teachers of Padmasambhava. Her nature embodies the wrathful force of anger redirected as joy, i.e. enlightenment. Even the most realized teachers do not immediately recognize the dakini, whose ambiguous, semiotic quality accounts for the richness and variety of her lore. Judith Simmer-Brown
Without any production whatsoever, mind itself is the self-liberated dharmakaya within which arises self-liberatred mahamudra: this key, of self-liberated samaya, I possess. Calligraphy by Tai Situ Rinpoche.
This teaching by Tilopa contains the essence of the Kagyu (transmitted mastery) lineage he founded.Tilopa lived in Bagladesh over one thousand years ago, during the day he pounded sesame seed to extract oil, by night he procured customers for a prostitute. Full time, he was an enlightened yogi who trained Naropa who in turn trained Marpa who took the Kagyu transmissions  into Tibet from whence we receive the pure essence of enlightened wisdom from Tai Situ and the Karmapas. For more on dakinis read Dakini’s Warm Breath by Judith Simmer-Brown.The greatest source book for information on Tibetan Buddhism is Meeting the Buddhas by Vessantara (Tony McMahon).Thank you George and John – Life goes on within you and without you.
Aspiration prayer from the Long-Chen Nying-Thig (Heart Essence of the Great Expanse) Assemblage of Vidyadharas translated by Tulku Thondup. Vidyadharas are Knowledge Holders, heart sons of Padmasambhava.
Yeshe Tsogyal, consort and principal student of Padmasambhava. She was the principal steward of the terma tradition that hid spiritual teachings in both physical and spiritual realms to be retrieved by future students. Adverse conditions are the true wealth of the practioner – Guru Rinpoche.
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