Cultivating Self-Knowledge: ‘Swami in a Strange Land’ Author Joshua M. Greene talks God and Beatles

By Jon Kelly

Vancouver, BC – An exclusive new video published to YouTube on May 6, 2016, explores the lives and teachings of Krishna and Prabhupada, a yogi from India who founded the Krishna Consciousness movement in the West during the 1960s. Bestselling author Joshua M. Greene recently spoke about his new book “Swami in a Strange Land: How Krishna Came to the West: The Life of A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada” with’s Jon Kelly. During his one-hour interview the PBS and Disney filmmaker told of an encounter with his teacher at Beatles headquarters in London that convinced him to follow a spiritual path.

Described by the New York Times as “a storyteller who traces journeys to enlightenment,” the director of strategic planning for the United Nations Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders portrayed the 1960s as a period of transition. “We were flexing new muscles, looking for alternative solutions to war and inequality. The message which Prabhupada brought (the millennial teachings of Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita) spoke directly to those issues.”

The former adjunct professor of religious studies at Hofstra University in New York suggested that his teacher’s mission revealed “knowledge of the self as the immortal spark of God, a Divine essence different from the external body and the race/religious background of the body. By cultivating knowledge of ourselves as eternal souls we could know the peace that had so eluded us through other channels: military, economic, governmental etc.”

“All of these teachers were coming into America. The Asian Exclusion Act had been repealed. Teachers from India and Asia who otherwise had no access to America were coming and setting up their shops, their schools and their teachings. There was this marketplace of spirituality in the 1960s.

“Prabhupada among all of those many teachers was the one who insisted that the purpose of yoga, the purpose of all spiritual disciplines is to know ourselves as eternal beings and our relationship with the Supreme Being through love and devotion.”

“There was a universalism to his teachings,” the author further reflected. However he later cautioned viewers, “That knowledge of the deeper dimension of reality is not something you get like a gold ring on a carousel. It is something that is revealed when we become qualified to understand it.”

According to the edition, “In 1965, a seventy-year-old man set sail from India to America with a few books in his bag, pennies in his pockets, and a message of love in his heart. He landed in New York at the peak of the revolutionary counterculture movement of the ’60s, and went on to spark a global spiritual renaissance that led to the creation of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.”

The following partial transcript records one highlight from an exclusive interview featuring bestselling author Joshua M. Greene in conversation with’s Jon Kelly discussing the new book “Swami in a Strange Land: How Krishna Came to the West: The Life of A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada”.

What were the circumstances under which you first met Prabhupada?

I was a lost child of the 1960s and wondering what it’s all about (Mrs. Jones). At the time I was a student at the Sorbonne in Paris. A devotee who had been there to start a Krishna Center in 1969 said, “My teacher Prabhupada is in London right now. Why don’t you go and meet him? It’s very rare to meet a pure devotee of God.”

I had no idea what he was talking about. But when he said that Prabhupada was living with John Lennon I got on the next boat train to London and showed up at the Krishna Temple (on Bury Place off Little Oxford Street by the British Museum) and walked in.

They were having lunch, this beautiful vegetarian spread. I sat down and they asked me about myself. I said that I was in school studying literature.

“Really. What else?”

“Well, I play organ in a rock band.”

“Really? Come with us!” So we traipsed out and got into this Volkswagen Minibus. Probably the worst car allowed on the roads. We’re rocking back and forth on our way to someplace.

I said, “Where are we going?”

They said, “You’ll see, you’ll see. You’re welcome to Krishna’s band. You’re in Krishna’s band now.”

So we show up about 15 minutes later. They open the door and there in front of me is a door with the number three on it. I’m thinking about three and I’m looking up and down the street when I realize it’s Savile Row.

3 Savile Row: This is Beatles headquarters.

The Beatles were pretty much the wise men of our age. Whatever they were into we wanted to know what it was.

I walked in and we go down to a studio in the basement of the building and there’s George Harrison, stringy as a string bean, hair down to his waist wearing badges. Krishna badge and a Yogananda badge and a Prabhupada badge and he’s got beads around his neck; the whole paraphernalia.

They hand me a harmonium, this hand-pumped instrument and I start playing along as they’re recording an album of Indian devotional music.

I’m thinking to myself, “Okay, let me get this straight. If I hang out with these people I get God and the Beatles.”

“Alright, I’m in!”

“Swami in a Strange Land: How Krishna Came to the West: The Life of A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada” by author Joshua M. Greene is available on Amazon. For more information readers may visit the author’s website

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