Hari-kīrtana

Hare Krishna Mantra

harer nāma harer nāma
harer nāmaiva kevalam
kalau nāsty eva nāsty eva
nāsty eva gatir anyathā

In this Age of Kali there is no other means, no other means, no other means for self-realization than chanting the holy name, chanting the holy name, chanting the holy name of Lord Hari.
[Adi 17.21]


This hari-kīrtana was started five hundred years ago in Bengal by Lord Caitanya. In Bengal there is competition between the Vaiṣṇavas and the śāktas. The śāktas have introduced a certain type of kīrtana called kālī-kīrtana. But in the Vedic scriptures there is no recommendation of kālī-kīrtana. Kīrtana means hari-kīrtana. One cannot say, “Oh, you are Vaiṣṇava. You can perform hari-kīrtana. I shall perform śiva-kīrtana or devī-kīrtana or gaṇeśa-kīrtana.” No. The Vedic scriptures do not authorize any kīrtana other than hari-kīrtana. Kīrtana means hari-kīrtana, the glorification of Kṛṣṇa.

So this process of hari-kīrtana is very simple: Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare. Actually there are only three words: Hare, Kṛṣṇa, and Rāma. But they are very nicely arranged for chanting so that everyone can take the mantra and chant Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare. Since we have started this movement in the Western countries, Europeans, Americans, Africans, Egyptians, and Japanese are all chanting. There is no difficulty. They are chanting very gladly, and they are getting the results. What is the difficulty? We are distributing this chanting free of charge, and it is very simple. Simply by chanting, one can have self-realization, God realization, and when there is God realization, then nature realization is included also. (from The Science of Self Realization)

…In this age, Kali-yuga, one cannot execute any process of self-realization or perfection of life other than kīrtana. Kīrtana is essential in this age.

In all Vedic literatures it is confirmed that one must meditate on the Supreme Absolute Truth, Viṣṇu, not on anything else. But there are different processes of meditation recommended for different ages. The process of mystic yogic meditation was possible in Satya-yuga, when men lived for many thousands of years. Now people will not believe this, but in a previous age there were people who lived for one hundred thousand years. That age was called Satya-yuga, and the meditation of mystic yoga was possible at that time. In that age the great yogī Vālmīki Muni meditated for sixty thousand years. So that is a long-term process, which is not possible to execute in this age. If one wishes to conduct a farce, that is another matter. But if one actually wants to practice such meditation, it takes an extremely long time to perfect. In the next age, Tretā-yuga, the process of realization was to perform the various ritualistic sacrifices recommended in the Vedas. In the next age, Dvāpara-yuga, the process was temple worship. In this present age the same result can be achieved by the process of hari-kīrtana, glorification of Hari, Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

No other kīrtana is recommended. This hari-kīrtana was started five hundred years ago in Bengal by Lord Caitanya. In Bengal there is competition between the Vaiṣṇavas and the śāktas. The śāktas have introduced a certain type of kīrtana called kālī-kīrtana. But in the Vedic scriptures there is no recommendation of kālī-kīrtana. Kīrtana means hari-kīrtana. One cannot say, “Oh, you are Vaiṣṇava. You can perform hari-kīrtana. I shall perform śiva-kīrtana or devī-kīrtana or gaṇeśa-kīrtana.” No. The Vedic scriptures do not authorize any kīrtana other than hari-kīrtana. Kīrtana means hari-kīrtana, the glorification of Kṛṣṇa.

So this process of hari-kīrtana is very simple: Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare. Actually there are only three words: Hare, Kṛṣṇa, and Rāma. But they are very nicely arranged for chanting so that everyone can take the mantra and chant Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare. Since we have started this movement in the Western countries, Europeans, Americans, Africans, Egyptians, and Japanese are all chanting. There is no difficulty. They are chanting very gladly, and they are getting the results. What is the difficulty? We are distributing this chanting free of charge, and it is very simple. Simply by chanting, one can have self-realization, God realization, and when there is God realization, then nature realization is included also. For example, if one learns one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, and zero, then he has studied the entirety of mathematics, because mathematics means simply changing the places of these ten figures. That’s all. Similarly, if one simply studies Kṛṣṇa, then all his knowledge is perfect. And Kṛṣṇa is easily understood simply by chanting this mantra, Hare Kṛṣṇa. So why not take this opportunity?

Take this opportunity that is being offered to human society. It is very ancient and scientific. It is not that it is a concoction that will last for only three or four years. No. In the Bhagavad-gītā Kṛṣṇa Himself says, “This philosophy is inexhaustible and indestructible. It is never lost or destroyed.” It may be covered for the time being, but it is never destroyed. Therefore it is called avyayam. Vyaya means “exhaustion.” For example, one may have a hundred dollars, and if they are spent one after another, the next day it will come to zero. That is vyaya, exhaustible. But Kṛṣṇa consciousness is not like that. If you cultivate this knowledge of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, then it will increase. That is certified by Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Ānandāmbudhi-vardhanam. Ānanda means “pleasure,” “transcendental bliss,” and ambudhi means “ocean.” In the material world we see that the ocean does not increase. But if one cultivates Kṛṣṇa consciousness, then his transcendental bliss will simply increase. Ānandāmbudhi-vardhanam. And I shall always remind everyone that the process is very simple. Anyone can chant, anywhere, without taxation or loss, but the gain is very great.

Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu has explained this kīrtana movement in His Śikṣāṣṭaka. Śikṣā means “instruction,” and aṣṭaka means “eight.” He has given us eight verses to help us understand this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement, and I shall explain the first of these instructions. The Lord says, ceto-darpaṇa-mārjanam: [Cc. Antya 20.12] one should cleanse the heart. I have explained this several times, but it does not become monotonous. It is just like the chanting of Hare Kṛṣṇa; it does not become tiresome. Our students can chant the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra twenty-four hours a day, and they will never get tired. They will continue to dance and chant. And anyone can try it; because it is not material, one will never get tired of chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa. In the material world, if one chants anything, any favorite name, for three, four, or ten times, he will get tired of it. That is a fact. But because Hare Kṛṣṇa is not material, if one chants this mantra, he will never get tired. The more one chants, the more his heart will be cleansed of material dirt and the more the problems of his life within this material world will be solved.

What is the problem of our lives? That we do not know. Modern education never gives enlightenment about the real problem of life. That is indicated in the Bhagavad-gītā. Those who are educated and are advancing in knowledge should know what is the problem of life. This problem is stated in the Bhagavad-gītā: one should always see the inconveniences of birth, death, old age, and disease. Unfortunately no one pays attention to these problems. When a man is diseased he thinks, “All right. Let me go to the doctor. He will give me some medicine, and I will be cured.” But he does not consider the problem very seriously. “I did not want this disease. Why is there disease? Is it not possible to become free from disease?” He never thinks that way. This is because his intelligence is very low-grade, just like that of an animal. An animal suffers, but it has no sense. If an animal is brought to a slaughterhouse and sees that the animal before him is being slaughtered, he will still stand there contentedly eating the grass. This is animal life. He does not know that next time it will be his turn and he will be slaughtered. I have seen it. In a Kālī temple I have seen that a goat was standing there ready to be sacrificed and another goat was very happily eating the grass.

Similarly, Mahārāja Yudhiṣṭhira was asked by Yamarāja, “What is the most wonderful thing in this world? Can you explain?” So Mahārāja Yudhiṣṭhira answered, “Yes. The most wonderful thing is that at every moment one can see that his friends, his fathers, and his relatives have died, but he is thinking, ‘I shall live forever.’” He never thinks that he will die, just as an animal never thinks that at the next moment he may be slaughtered. He is satisfied with the grass, that’s all. He is satisfied with the sense gratification. He does not know that he is also going to die.

My father has died, my mother has died, he has died, she has died. So I will also have to die. Then what is after death? I do not know. This is the problem. People do not take this problem seriously, but the Bhagavad-gītā indicates that that is real education. Real education is to inquire why, although we do not want to die, death comes. That is real inquiry. We do not want to become old men. Why does old age come upon us? We have many problems, but this is the sum and substance of all of them.

In order to solve this problem, Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu prescribes the chanting of Hare Kṛṣṇa. As soon as our heart is cleansed by chanting this Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra, the blazing fire of our problematic material existence is extinguished. How is it extinguished? When we cleanse our heart we will realize that we do not belong to this material world. Because people are identifying with this material world, they are thinking, “I am an Indian, I am an Englishman, I am this, I am that.” But if one chants the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra, he will realize that he is not this material body. “I do not belong to this material body or this material world. I am a spirit soul, part and parcel of the Supreme. I am eternally related with Him, and I have nothing to do with the material world.” This is called liberation, knowledge. If I don’t have anything to do with this material world, then I am liberated. And that knowledge is called brahma-bhūta.

excerpted from:
The Science of Self Realization
by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda
Chapter Five

Practicing Yoga in the Modern Age

text pasted from Causeless Mercy

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