Sankirtan; The Yoga for the Modern Age

..When Rupa Gosvami first met Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu at Prayag, Lord Caitanya was chanting and dancing in the street “Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna.” At that time also he offered one prayer. Namo maha-vadanyaya krsna-prema-pradaya te. “O You are the most munificent of all incarnations because You are distributing love of Godhead.” Krsna-prema-pradaya te krsnaya krsna-caitanya-namne gaura-tvise namah. “You are Krsna Himself because if You were not Krsna You could not distribute Krsna-prema or love of God, for love of Krsna is not so easily acquired. But You are distributing this love freely to everyone.”

Hari Kirtana: The Yoga for the Modern Age
By His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Excerpted from ‘Back To Godhead’ Magazine
1970, Vol., 1 No. 34

Ceto-darpana-marjanam bhava-mahadavagni-nirvapanam sreyah kairava candrika vitaranam vidyavadhu jivanam anandambudhi-vardhanam pratipadam purnamrtasvadanam sarvatma-snapanam param vijayate sri-krsna-sankirtanam. All glories to the sankirtana movement. Param vijayate sri-krsna-sankirtanam. Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, when He was only a sixteen-year-old boy, introduced this sankirtana movement 500 years ago in Navadvipa, India. It was not that He manufactured some religious system, just as nowadays so many religious systems are being manufactured.

Actually religion cannot be manufactured. Dharmam tu saksad-bhagavat-pranitam. Religion means the codes of God, the laws of God, that’s all. Certainly we cannot live without obeying the state laws, and similarly, we cannot live without obeying the laws of God. And in the Bhagavad-gita the Lord says, “yada yada hi dharmasya glanir bhavati bharata abhyutthanam adharmasya,” and there is a predominance of irreligious activities, “tadatmanam srjamy aham,” at that time I (Krsna) appear. And in the material world we can see the same principle demonstrated, for whenever there is disobedience of state laws, there is the advent of some particular state officer or police man to “set things right.”

Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu is worshiped by the Gosvamis. There were six Gosvamis: Rupa Gosvami, Sanatana Gosvami, Raghunatha Bhatta Gosvami, Jiva Gosvami, Gopala Bhatta Gosvami and Sri Raghunatha Dasa Gosvami. There are three meanings of go. Go means land, go means cow, go means senses. And svami means master. So gosvami means that they were masters of the senses. When one becomes master of the senses, or gosvami, he can make progress in spiritual life. That is the real meaning of svami. Svami does not mean that he is servant of the senses, but master of them.

One of these six Gosvamis, Rupa Gosvami, was the head, and he compiled a nice verse in honor of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. He says, anarpita-carim cirat karunayavatirnah kalau samarpayitum unnatojjvala-rasam sva-bhakti-sriyam harih purata-sundara-dyuti-kadamba-sandipitah sada hrdaya-kandare sphuratu vah saci-nandanah. Kalau means this age, this age of Kali, the Iron Age, which is very much contaminated, an age of quarrel and disagreement. Rupa Gosvami says that in this age of Kali, when everything is disagreement and quarrel, “You have descended to offer the highest love of God.” Samarpayitum unnatojjvala-rasam. And not only the topmost, but a very brilliant rasa or transcendental humor. Purata-sundara-dyuti. “Your complexion is just like gold, like the luster of gold. You are so kind that I bless everyone [The Gosvamis can bless because they are masters of the senses] that this form of the Lord, Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, may always remain dancing in everyone’s heart.”

When Rupa Gosvami first met Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu at Prayag, Lord Caitanya was chanting and dancing in the street “Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna.” At that time also he offered one prayer. Namo maha-vadanyaya krsna-prema-pradaya te. “O You are the most munificent of all incarnations because You are distributing love of Godhead.” Krsna-prema-pradaya te krsnaya krsna-caitanya-namne gaura-tvise namah. “You are Krsna Himself because if You were not Krsna You could not distribute Krsna-prema or love of God, for love of Krsna is not so easily acquired. But You are distributing this love freely to everyone.”

In this way this sankirtana movement was inaugurated in Bengal, India, and in Navadvipa. In this sense, the Bengalis are very fortunate that in their country this movement was inaugurated by Lord Caitanya who predicted, Prithivite achhe yata nagaradi gram sarvatra prachar haibe more nama. “In all the villages and towns all over the world, everywhere, this sankirtana movement will be preached.” That is His future prediction.

So by the grace of Lord Caitanya, this movement is already introduced in the Western countries, beginning from New York. Our sankirtana movement was first introduced in New York in 1966. At that time I came and began to chant this Hare Krsna mantra in Tompkins Square. I was chanting there for three hours with a small mrdanga (drum), and these American boys assembled and gradually joined, and so it is increasing. First of all it was started in a New York storefront, 26 Second Avenue, then we started our branches in San Francisco, in Montreal, Boston, in Los Angeles, in Buffalo, in Columbus. We now have twenty-four branches, including one in London and one in Hamburg. In London they are all American boys and girls, and they are preaching. They are not sannyasi, nor are they Vedantists, nor Hindus, nor Indians, but they have taken this movement very seriously. Even in the London Times there was an article headlined, “Krsna Chant Startles London.” So we have many in the movement now. All my disciples, at least in this country, are Americans and Europeans. They are chanting, dancing, and are issuing a paper, Back to Godhead. Now we have published many books, Srimad-Bhagavatam, Bhagavad-gita As It Is, Teachings of Lord Caitanya, Isopanisad. It is not that this movement is simply a sentimental movement. Don’t think that these boys are dancing out of some religious sentiment or fanaticism. No. We have the highest philosophical and theosophical background.

As an illustration, let us consider Caitanya Mahaprabhu. While He was preaching, He went to Benares, the seat of mayavadi sannyasis. The followers of Sankaracarya are mostly seen in Benares. When Caitanya Mahaprabhu was there, He was chanting and dancing. Some of the people very much appreciated this, and so He quickly became famous. One prominent sannyasi, Prakasananda Sarasvati, leader of many thousands of Mayavadi sannyasis, was informed: “Oh, from Bengal one young sannyasi has come. He is so nicely chanting and dancing.” Prakasananda Sarasvati was a great Vedantist, and he did not like the idea. He said, “Oh, he is a pseudo-sannyasi. He is chanting and dancing, and this is not the business of sannyasi. A sannyasi should always engage himself in the study of philosophy and Vedanta.”

Then one of the devotees who did not like the remarks of Prakasananda Sarasvati came back and informed Lord Caitanya that He was being criticized. So the devotee arranged a meeting of all the sannyasis, and there was a philosophical discussion on Vedanta between Prakasananda Sarasvati and Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. These accounts and philosophical discussions are given in our Teachings of Lord Caitanya. It is remarkable that Prakasananda himself with all his disciples became Vaisnavas.

Similarly, Caitanya Mahaprabhu had a great discussion with Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya, the greatest logician of that time, who was also Mayavadi, impersonalist, and he was also converted. So Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s movement is not mere sentimentalism. There is a very rich background if one wants to understand this sankirtana movement through philosophy and logic. There is ample opportunity, for this movement is based on science and on the authority of the Vedas. But it is all simplified. That is the beauty of this movement. Whether one is a great scholar or philosopher or a child, he can take part without any difficulty. Other systems of self-realization, the jnana process or yoga process, are also recognized, but it is not possible to practice them in this age. That is the verdict of the Vedas:

krte yad dhyayato visnum
tretayam yajato makhaih
dvapare paricaryayam
kalau tad dhari-kirtanat
(Bhag. 12.3.52).

In the Satya-yuga, the Golden Age, it was possible to execute the meditation process. For instance, Valmiki Muni meditated for sixty thousand years to get perfection. But where is our old age? Besides that, for the meditation process, as described in the Bhagavad-gita, one has to select a secluded place, he has to execute it alone, he has to sit down in a rigid posture, he has to lead a life of complete celibacy and so on. There are many rules and regulations. Thus astanga-yoga meditation is not possible. But if one is satisfied by imitating, that is a different thing. If one, however, wants perfection, then he has to execute all the eight stages of astanga-yoga. If this is not possible, then it is a waste of time.

What is the ultimate goal of the yoga process or meditation? Contact with the Supreme, the Supersoul, the Supreme Lord, is the aim and object of all yoga processes. Similarly, philosophical research, the jnana process, also aims at understanding the Supreme Brahman. These are recognized processes, undoubtedly, but according to authoritative description, they are not practical in this Iron Age of Kali. Therefore one has to take to this process of Hari-kirtana. Anyone can practice without pre-qualification. One doesn’t have to study philosophy or Vedanta. This was the purport of Lord Caitanya’s meeting with Prakasananda Sarasvati.

When the Vedanta philosophy was thoroughly discussed between Lord Caitanya and Prakasananda Sarasvati, Prakasananda Sarasvati first of all asked Caitanya Mahaprabhu, “I understand that You were a very good scholar in Your early life [Lord Caitanya was actually a very great scholar. His name was Nimai Pandit, and at the age of sixteen He defeated one great scholar from Kashmire, Kesava Kasmiri.], and I understand that You are a great Sanskrit scholar, and that especially in logic You are a very learned scholar. You were also born in a brahmana family, and now You are a sannyasi. How is it that You are chanting and dancing and not reading Vedanta?” This was the first question asked by Prakasananda Sarasvati, and Lord Caitanya replied, “Yes, the reason is that when I was initiated by My spiritual master, he said that I am fool number one. ‘You don’t discuss Vedanta,’ he told me. ‘You will simply spoil Your time. Just take to this chanting of Hare Krsna, and You will be successful.’ ” That was his reply. Of course Caitanya Mahaprabhu was not a fool, and certainly Vedanta is not for fools. One needs sufficient education, and one must attain a certain status before he can understand Vedanta. In each and every word there are volumes of meanings, and there are many commentaries by Lord Sankaracarya and Ramanujacarya, huge volumes in Sanskrit. But how can we understand Vedanta? It is not possible. It may be possible for one person or two persons to understand, but for the mass of people it is not possible. Nor is it possible to practice yoga. Therefore, if one takes to Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s method, chanting Hare Krsna, the first installment of gain will be ceto-darpana-marjanam: all the dirty things will be cleansed from the heart simply by chanting. Chant. There is no expenditure, and there is no loss. If one simply chants for one week, he’ll see how much he will progress in spiritual knowledge.

Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

We are attracting many students simply by chanting, and they are understanding the entire philosophy and becoming purified. This Society’s movement started only four years ago, 1966, and we have so many branches already. The American boys and girls are taking it very seriously, and they are happy. Ask any one of them. Ceto-darpana-marjanam. They are cleansing the dirty things from the heart, simply by chanting Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare.

The next point is bhava-mahadavagni-nirvapanam: as soon as the heart is cleansed of all dirty things, then all the problems of material existence are immediately solved. This world has been compared with davagni, which means a blazing fire in the forest. In this material existence no one wants unhappiness, but it comes by force. That is the law of material nature. No one wants fire, but wherever we go in a city the fire brigade is always active. There is always fire. Similarly, there are many things that no one wants. No one wants death—there is death. No one wants disease—there is disease. No one wants old age—there is old age. They are there, against our will, against our desire.

Thus we should consider the state of this material existence. This human form of life is meant for understanding, not for wasting valuable life like animals by eating, sleeping, mating and defending. That is not advancement of civilization. The Bhagavatam says that this body is not meant for working hard simply for sense gratification. Nayam deha dhabhajam nrilike kastan kaman arhati bidbhujam ye. To work very hard and satisfy oneself by sense gratification is the business of hogs, not human beings. The human being should learn tapasya. Especially in India, so many great sages, so many great kings, and so many brahmacaris and sannyasis have passed their lives in great tapasya in order not to go further to sleep. Lord Buddha was a prince who gave up everything and engaged himself in tapasya. This is life. When King Bharata Maharaja, under whose name India was named Bharatavarsa, was twenty-four years old, he gave up his kingdom, his young wife and young children and went away for tapasya. When Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu was only twenty-four, He gave up His young wife, mother, everything. There are many, many examples. India is the land of tapasya, but we are forgetting that. Now we are making it the land of technology. It is surprising that India is now no longer propagating this tapasya, for India is the land of dharma: dharma-ksetre kuruksetre.

But it is not only in India; everywhere in this Age of Iron everything is degraded, degraded in this sense: prayenalpayusah sabhya kalav asmin yuge janah. In this age of Kali the duration of life is diminished, and men are not moved to understand self-realization, and if they are, they are invariably misled by so many deceitful leaders. The age is very corrupt. Therefore Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s process of chanting Hare Krsna is the best and the simplest method. Harer nama harer nama harer namaiva kevalam/ kalau nasty eva nasty eva nasty eva gatir anyatha. “In this age of Kali there is no other religion than glorifying the Lord by utterance of His holy name, and that is the injunction of all the revealed scriptures. There is no other way, there is no other way, there is no other way.” This verse appears in Brhad-Naradiya Purana. Simply chant Hare Krsna. There is no other alternative. Harer nama harer nama harer namaiva kevalam. Kalau … in this age, Kali, nasty eva nasty eva nasty eva gatir anyatha. There is no other alternative for self-realization. So we have to accept it.

There is another version in Srimad-Bhagavatam. Pariksit Maharaja was informed by Sukadeva Gosvami of the faults of this age in the Twelfth Canto, third chapter, and now all the symptoms of the age of Kali are apparent. In the conclusive portion, however, Sukadeva Gosvami says, kaler dosanidhe rajann asti hy eko mahan gunah. “My dear King, this age, Kali, is full of faulty things, but there is one good opportunity.” What is that? Kirtanad eva krsnasya mukta-sangah param vrajet. “Simply by chanting this Hare Krsna mantra, one can become liberated and go back to Godhead.”

This is practical and authorized, and one can also test himself to see how he is advancing simply by chanting. This Krsna consciousness movement is not something new, something that we have introduced or manufactured. It is authorized on the Vedic principles, authorized by acaryas like Caitanya Mahaprabhu and others. And the method is very simple; there is no loss. We are not charging anything, we are not asking for fees and giving the people some secret mantra and promising them that within six months they will become God. No. This is open for everyone—children, women, girls, boys, old people—everyone can chant and see the results.

To further this end we not only are establishing New Vrndavana, our commune, but are establishing New Navadvipa and New Jagannatha Puri in America. We have already started New Jagannatha Puri in San Francisco, and the Ratha-yatra Festival is going on. This year also there will be a great ceremony of Ratha-yatra in London. There will be three cars for Jagannatha, Subhadra and Balarama, and They will be taken to the River Thames. And in America they have imported New England and New York, so why not New Vrndavana? We should especially establish this New Vrndavana because Lord Caitanya recommended aradhya bhagavan krsna tad dhama vrndavanam. Krsna, the son of Nanda Maharaja, in the Vrndavanadhama of Vrajabhumi, is the Supreme Worshipable Deity, and His place Vrndavana is also worshipable. The Western boys and girls are taking to Krsna consciousness, and they should have a place like Vrndavana. Svami Kirtanananda, who went to Vrndavana with me two years ago, knows what Vrndavana is like, so I have instructed him to construct at least seven temples. In Vrndavana, there are 5,000 temples of Radha-Krsna, but the most important temples are seven, established by the Gosvamis. Our program is to live in New Vrndavana, depend on agriculture and cows as an economic solution, and peacefully execute Krsna consciousness, chant Hare Krsna—that is the Vrndavana scheme. Yuktahara-viharas ca yoga bhavati siddhidah. This human form of life isn’t meant for increasing artificial needs. We should be satisfied just to maintain the body and soul together, and the rest of the time we should enhance our Krsna consciousness so that after leaving this body we won’t have to take another material body but will be able to go back home, back to Godhead. That should be the motto of human life.

Material life means eating, sleeping, mating and defending, and spiritual life means something more than this. This is also the difference between animal life and human life. In animal life, the common formula is eating, sleeping, mating and defending. A dog eats, a man also eats. A man sleeps, and a dog also sleeps. A man has sex life, and the dog also has sex life. The dog defends in his own way, and man also defends in his own way, maybe atomic bombs. These four principles are common to human beings and animals, and advancement of these four principles is not human civilization but animal civilization. Human civilization means athato brahma-jijnasa. In the Vedanta-sutra the first aphorism is athato brahma-jijnasa. “Now is the time for inquiry about Brahman.” That is the human life. As long as one is not spiritually inquisitive, jijnasu sreyo uttamam, he is an animal because he lives according to these four principles, that’s all. He must be inquisitive to know what he is and why he is put into these miseries of life, birth, death, old age, disease. Is there any remedy? These matters should be questioned. That is human life; that is spiritual life.

Spiritual life means human life, and material life means animal life. That’s all. We have to make the adjustments that are recommended in the Bhagavad-gita. Yuktahara-viharasya. (Bg. 6.17) For instance, this does not mean that because I am going to be a spiritual man I shall give up eating. Rather, my eating should be adjusted. Bhagavad-gita describes what class of food is first class, in goodness, and what class of food is in passion, and third class, in ignorance. We have to raise ourselves to the sattvic (goodness) platform of human civilization, then revive our transcendental consciousness or Krsna consciousness. Everything is there in the sastras. Unfortunately we do not consult them.

Evam prasanna-manaso bhagavad-bhakti-yogatah bhagavat-tattva-vijnanam mukta-sangasya jayate (Bhag. 1.2.20). Unless one is liberated from the clutches of these three modes of material nature, he cannot understand God. Prasanna-manaso. He must be a Brahman realized soul. Brahma-bhutah prasannatma na socati na kanksati (Bg. 18.54). These injunctions are there, so one should take advantage of these sastras and preach. That is the responsibility of intelligent men. The mass of people know that God is great, but they do not know how great God actually is. That we will find in the Vedic literature. That is our duty in this Iron Age. That is Hari-kirtana, param vijayate sri-krsna-sankirtanam: glorification of the Supreme.

“Excerpted from ‘Back To Godhead’ magazine, courtesy of The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International, Inc., http://www.Krishna.com.”;

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