|"The maha-mantra contains sixteen holy names of the Lord and is
composed of thirty-two syllables. If you continually chant this
maha-mantra, the seed of love of God will sprout in your heart. Then
you will understand the goal of life and the process for achieving it."
(Caitanya Bhagavata 1.14.145-147)
Q. Why do we refer to congregational chanting of the Hare Krsna
maha-mantra as Harinama rather than Krsnanama?
A. Hari is a name of God that means "he who takes away." This name is
used with the understanding that ultimately God takes everything away
from us except our relationship with him. However, in the nitya lila of
Vrndavana, the residents refer to Krsna as Hari because he has stolen
their hearts. We want Krsna to steal our hearts as well, thus we refer
to the chanting of his name as Harinama. If you think like this and do
Harinama, pure love of God (prema) will come quickly. It's that simple.
Jaya Jaya Harinama cid-anandamrta dhama!
Q. In the scripture it says that if one chants the name of Krsna then
prema will come quickly, but this is not my experience. Can you explain
A. Sometimes scripture makes statements like this because to
realized souls the material conditioning of others appears to be
insignificant and temporary in relation to that which practitioners are
now connected with--the grace of the holy name of Krsna. From the
realized soul's perspective, it appears that prema will come quickly,
if one's heart is truly stolen by Hari.
I encourage devotees to actually think of how Krsna charms the
inhabitants of Vrndavana in the hope that this ideal will inspire them
to attend to the serious work at hand--cleansing the heart. Cleansing
the heart through spiritual practice (bhajana kriya) does take time,
but it is important to know why it is worth doing. Furthermore, a
little experience goes a long way. However, a little experience is just
that, and to get more taste for hearing (sravanam) and chanting
(kirtanam) there is a lot in the way of heart cleaning to be done.
Through chanting, one's negative impulses are overcome (anartha
nivrtti) and one becomes fixed in devotion (nistha). Continuing on in
devotion, one attains a genuine taste for chanting (ruci) and becomes
fully attached to Krsna (asakti). Then love for Krsna begins to dawn in
one's heart (bhava), which is followed by prema--pure love for Krsna.
Only after one passes through all these stages of devotion will prema
come--so get serious about chanting and devotional practice. Then you
can be sure that Krsna will show his full mercy in time and prema will
Q. I was told that if one chants the Hare Krsna maha-mantra on beads
out loud, the mantra loses its spiritual potency. Will you comment on
A. Srila Rupa Goswami has written in his Caitanyastaka of Stava-mala
that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu chanted the Hare Krsna mantra in a loud
voice--hare krsnety ucchaih--while counting the names that he chanted
on a string with knots tied on it. So there should be no objection to
loud chanting of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra on beads, and certainly the
mantra does not lose any spiritual potency from this.
Q. The scriptures say that there are nine processes of devotional
service--hearing, chanting, remembering, etc. In my understanding the
most effective type of devotional service in this age is to chant the
holy names of God. What then is the importance of the other eight
processes of devotional service?
A. In Kali-yuga the other eight expressions of bhakti are subordinate
to nama-kirtana and should thus be performed in conjunction with
chanting Krsna nama. If they are performed in this way, they will have
more power. If not, they will still be beneficial even in this age.
Q. Why is the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, which is central to our practice,
not specifically mentioned in the main texts of Gaudiya Vaisnavism,
specifically Bhagavad-gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam, and
A. Both the Gita and the Bhagavatam extol the virtues of Krsna kirtana.
In Bhagavad-gita Sri Krsna describes great souls as devotees who are
constantly engaged in Krsna kirtana, satatam kirtayanto mam. The
Bhagavatam begins and ends with emphasis on Krsna kirtana. Indeed,
Krsna kirtana is stressed throughout the book, kirtanad eva krsnasya
mukta sanga param vrajet. However, it is true that the Hare Krsna
mantra is not mentioned in these scriptures. One reason for this is
that the scope of these scriptures is broader than other texts that
minister directly and exclusively to Gaudiya Vaisnavas. While the Gita
and the Bhagavatam emphasize kirtana, specific information about
kirtana for the followers of Mahaprabhu will be found in
Gaudiya-specific texts. Along with Caitanya-caritamrta, the Caitanya
Bhagavata of Vrndavana dasa Thakura is a core Gaudiya Vaisnava text.
There we hear Mahaprabhu speak through the pen of Vrndavana dasa
Thakura about what names he personally recommends chanting in kirtana.
Therein, while explaining the import of the famous harer nama harer
nama sloka, Mahaprabhu cites the Hare Krsna maha-mantra and says, ei
sloka nama bali' laya maha-mantra sola-nama batrisa-aksara ei
tantrasadhite sadhite yabe premankura habe sadhya-sadhana-tattva janiba
se tabe: "This verse is called the maha-mantra. It contains sixteen
holy names of the Lord and is composed of thirty-two syllables. If you
continually chant this maha-mantra, the seed of love of God will sprout
in your heart. Then you will understand the goal of life and the
process for achieving it." (CB 1.14.145-147)
Later, Vrndavana dasa writes, jaya jaya `hare-krsnera'-mantrera prakasa
jaya jaya nija-bhakti-grahana-vilasa: "All glories to the one who
inaugurated the chanting of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra. All glories to
the one who enjoyed the pastime of accepting his own devotion." (CB
Later still in the same book, he writes, apane sabare prabhu kare
upadese krsna-nama maha-mantra sunaha harise hare krsna hare krsna
krsna krsna hare hare hare rama hare rama rama rama hare hare prabhu
bale kahilana ei maha-mantra iha japa' giya sabe kariya nirbandha: "The
Lord personally instructed everyone, 'Hear the Hare Krsna maha-mantra
and be happy, "hare krsna hare krsna krsna krsna hare hare hare rama
hare rama rama rama hare hare." This is the maha-mantra. All of you go
and chant this mantra according to the prescribed number.' " (CB
Q. Is the subtle body consisting of the mind, intelligence, and false
ego gradually transformed to a spiritual mind, intelligence, and real
ego to accompany the soul to the spiritual realm or is the subtle body
simply dissolved? Does the spiritual body, which is dormant, consist of
its own mind, intelligence, and ego?
A. Srila Rupa Goswami explains
that one's material mind becomes spiritualized in bhava-bhakti just as
an iron rod placed in fire becomes like fire. Through chanting and
devotional service, one's heart is softened by the ingress of suddha
sattva (pure goodness), which consists of the samvit and hladhini
saktis, and thus one's mind and intelligence begin to function
spiritually. At this stage they no longer get in the way of the soul's
communion with Krsna. Such a mind and intelligence are eternal in their
own way, as a spiritualized mind and intelligence. Therefore, we place
the bodies of great souls in samadhi and worship their forms, their
thoughts, and their insights.
At the same time, one's nitya svarupa (eternal identity) in Krsna lila
is wholly spiritual, rather than spiritualized. It has a mind and
intelligence of its own. However, while we may distinguish between a
spiritualized mind and a spiritual mind, the practical reality is that
they are both spiritual. Indeed, Dhruva Maharaja went to Vaikuntha in
his spiritualized sadhaka-deha. Similarly, one may appear in Gaura-lila
in a fully spiritualized, eternally youthful sadhaka-deha. This is a
Q. Is thinking of Krsna the same as chanting his name?
A. The nature of the mind is such that it is not very conducive to
spiritual culture unless it is harnessed by bhakti (bhava-bhakti). In
discussing dhyana (meditation), Bhagavad-gita 6.5 says as much, atmaiva
hy atmano bandhur atmaiva ripur atmanah. Before the mind is harnessed
by bhakti, one's ability to meditate on Sri Krsna's form, qualities,
and lilas is limited, as deep meditation begins at the stage of asakti.
It is one thing to think of Krsna with the mind and another to meditate
on him. Actual meditation brings the soul in direct contact with Krsna,
whereas thinking of Krsna with one's mind does not. This is especially
true in Kali-yuga. While Krsna's form, qualities, and lilas are
nondifferent from him, they are not more merciful than he is. However,
Krsna's holy name, while nondifferent from him, is nonetheless more
merciful than he is.
Thus we see the glory of nama-sankirtana, the mercy of Harinama! Simply
chanting Krsna nama with the tip of one's tongue brings about actual
meditation. Therefore, our meditation should begin with chanting--nama
smaranam. This in turn is followed by meditation on the form and
qualities of Krsna (rupa smaranam, guna smaranam) and ultimately
meditation on Krsna's pastimes (lila smaranam), all of which are
present in Harinama. Meditation is the fruit of kirtana in Kali-yuga
and thus represents an advanced stage of bhakti.
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