On Harināma Saṅkīrtana

Krishna-Balaram Temple

The main fault of this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is that, especially since the time of Srila Prabhupāda’s departure, harināma saṅkīrtana has been neglected, terribly neglected, all over the world, and on account of that, there are so many problems in this movement. If only the leaders of this movement would just wake up to that and actually realize the great value of performing saṅkīrtana-yajña together as a community – devotees together, and also, beyond that, taking it out to the streets the way we used to.

Srila Prabhupāda wrote a letter to us at the Washington D.C. temple in 1974, lauding us for our fourteen-hour saṅkīrtana days. He said, “I’m so pleased with your fourteen-hour saṅkīrtana days!” We were going out on harināma saṅkīrtana and book distribution side by side in dhotis and shaved heads for fourteen hours a day, every day except for Sunday. Every day, we were going out. And then after Prabhupāda left, harināma saṅkīrtana and book distribution practically collapsed, especially in America. In Russia and other places they’re still carrying on – there was a revolution in Russia. But in America and in many other places in the world, it practically collapsed. And everyone is aware of that, but it’s just a question of having faith in the process that Lord Caitanya has given to the fallen conditioned souls in this age and actually doing harināma saṅkīrtana.

Book distribution is there to philosophically convince people to come forward and join the saṅkīrtana movement and engage in the yuga-dharma. But if they come here to the movement and see a dearth of saṅkīrtana performance, they may not be so encouraged or so inspired to remain with us. Why are so many devotees leaving? Why is it that we are not “making” so many devotees in many parts of the world? Simply because we’re not doing the yuga-dharma the way we’re supposed to – due to a lack of faith, a lack of faith.

Devotee: Can we make it to the spiritual world this lifetime?

That depends on whether you surrender to the yuga-dharma! If you surrender to the yuga-dharma and give up all the anarthas, the material attachments, the unnecessary programs for so-called comfort and happiness on the material platform, then certainly you can go back home, back to Godhead in one lifetime. Of course! Anyone can do it! If Aindra can do it – rascal Aindra dāsa – if he can do it, then anyone can do it, because I’m as fallen as anyone else. It’s just that by Srila Prabhupāda’s grace, by Lord Caitanya’s mercy, somehow or other, enough su-medhasaḥ has come to my brain for me to at least recognize the value of doing the yuga-dharma, Kali-yuga dharma harināma saṅkīrtana. In this Kali-yuga, I recognize that it is Kali-yuga and I recognize that there’s a yuga-dharma, and therefore I put the two together and understand that there is nothing more important for me or anyone else to be doing than somehow or other either directly engaging in the yuga-dharma or seriously facilitating the yuga-dharma, encouraging the performances of yuga-dharma so that the devotees who have the desire can get the inspiration and push forward the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement on the basis of inculcating the masses of the people of this world with the process by which the masses can be delivered, namely harināma saṅkīrtana. That’s what our book distribution is all about. It simply facilitates encouraging people to come forward and engage in nāma-bhajana and become first-class niṣkiñcana bhajanānandīs.

Without becoming a bhajanānandī, you can hardly expect to be a real goṣṭhānandī. Goṣṭhānandī is really a first-class bhajanānandī, a real goṣṭhānandī. He is a bhajanānandī who breaks open the storehouse of love of Godhead and distributes it. But if he is not tasting the fruits of love of Godhead himself, he may not have that inspiration to distribute it to others. So therefore we have two important missionary responsibilities: to taste or at least to endeavor to upgrade our bhajana to the platform of actually, by Their mercy, tasting the fruit of love of Godhead, and to distribute that fruit of love of Godhead. If you don’t have that fruit of love of Godhead, then really you don’t have it to distribute.

So it’s important for all of us to focus on the goal of life, which is Kṛṣṇa-prema, love of Godhead, and doing everything we can, you know, by way of the performance of the yuga-dharma, simultaneously encouraging others and doing the needful. Actually, Prabhupāda told us that kīrtana is our bhajana. Kīrtana is our bhajana because kīrtana helps to generate within our own hearts that para-upakāra mood of a Vraja-vāsī. Without actually developing that mood, we can never enter into the real essential nature, spirit, of a genuine Vraja-vāsī. Vraja-vāsīs are never selfish. They are never self-centered. They are always absorbed in serving others, doing good to others. So, practicing that principle, serving the Vaiṣṇavas, and extending the principles of devotional service for the benefit of the people of this world help us to actually capture the spirit of a Vraja-vāsī and simultaneously internally worship Kṛṣṇa from our heart of hearts in terms of our own natural inspiration, inclination, aspiration, to attain an eternal relationship with Kṛṣṇa in one of the five rasas.

We must have all these things – because there’s no question of prema without experiencing the intrinsic constitutional rasa of the soul. The attainment of the goal of life, Kṛṣṇa-prema, automatically includes the endeavor to discover the natural constitutional position. That is called self-realization – discovering the eternal identity of the self, coming to the position of svarūpa-siddhi, from which we can at least hope to even dare to approach the platform of Kṛṣṇa-prema. If we don’t come to the platform of svarūpa-siddhi . . . svarūpa-siddhi is realized at the stage of bhāva, and bhāva comes before prema. So we have to come to the position of svarūpa-siddhi before we can even hope to get Kṛṣṇa-prema. And svarūpa-siddhi is realized by the culture of that bhāva. If we don’t have our sight, our eyes, in the spiritual world, how can we expect to get our feet in the spiritual world? So we have to at least have our eyes in the spiritual world! Not that both our eyes and our feet are grounded to the material platform as prākṛta-bhaktas, struggling with our anarthas for the rest of our lives.

So we have to go forward. Whatever it takes. Whatever surrender it takes. It’s an absolute must for anyone who is really genuinely serious about going back home, back to Godhead in this lifetime. Otherwise, you can start in the next lifetime from 29 percent, or 59 percent, or whatever.

Devotee: I don’t want to take birth again in this world.

Anyway, whatever! If Kṛṣṇa wants us to take birth, that’s His prerogative – to keep us here for whatever reasons, even if it’s just to increase our anxiety to attain Him. Jīva Gosvāmī, in his commentaries to the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, says that Kṛṣṇa may keep the devotee for a million lifetimes in this material world just to increase his anxiety more and more and more. So we have to be ready for that, but our only prayer should be that if He does choose to keep us in this material world for as many births as He desires, then at least in every lifetime we should have the facility and the opportunity to remember Him in devotional service.

It’s just a question of how much we are mahātmā. If we are broadminded and intelligent, we’ll understand these points. But if we are small-minded, narrow-minded, less intelligent, then we’ll have so many arguments: “What about this? What about that?” But no matter how neophyte we are, we all have to do our level best to do as much surrender as possible in this lifetime, with a goal in mind. At the beginning . . . if you’re walking a tight rope, from the very beginning, as soon as you step onto the rope, you have to keep your eyes fixed on the goal. From the first step, second step, third step, all the way to the last step, you have to keep your eyes fixed on the goal. If you deviate and turn your head toward mental speculation, or if you turn your head toward sense gratification, or if you look down – looking down means the apprehension that you are disinterested in pursuing the goal, or you’re afraid to take the next step – then you can easily fall off the path. So from the very beginning, from the time we enter into this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement and begin to pursue the path of bhakti, we have to keep our eyes fixed on the goal of Kṛṣṇa-prema, with understanding of sambandha-tattva, abhidheya-tattva, and prayojana-tattva in order to properly, scientifically, pursue that path. So it’s essential that we’re educated properly, that we have the receptivity to accept that education, and that, if necessary, we seek high and low in this world to find out where we can get that education.

Because not everyone, even among those who are taking responsibility for managerial positions and leadership positions in this movement, is sufficiently edified to impart that knowledge, although they may have some grasp of the philosophy but not be focusing themselves. Because many devotees who jockey for positions for gratifying whatever egoistical vanity they may be harboring due to insufficient anartha-nivṛtti may not be so seriously focused. And because of that lack of focus, they may not be able to actually penetrate and glean the essence of what the sāstras are saying to us.

So it takes association. That’s why it is mentioned that to advance in Kṛṣṇa consciousness one has to seek out advanced association – with devotees who are actually advanced, off the prākṛta-bhakta platform, beyond the neophyte platform, at least in madhyama-adhikāra – and hopefully, if possible, look high and low to seek out those who are on an uttama-adhikārī platform and receive guidance from them. It’s a very practical consideration for our progress to the ultimate goal of our life. Don’t try to go high; try to go deep – deep, deeper, and deepest in your quest for the soul of your soul. And because Kṛṣṇa is ultimately a merciful entity, He will reveal all these things in due course of time. He will reveal everything. By the mercy of the Holy Name, by the mercy of various representative agents of the guru-tattva, everything will be revealed in due course of time. It’s not a question of just having faith, as if we were waiting to be able, at some point in the course of eternity, to cash a post-dated check. We’re not interested in post-dated checks. There’s a here-and-now-process by which we can make tangible, recognizable advancement in our discovery of our eternal relationship with Kṛṣṇa. And that is ultimately expressed in our endeavors to perform harināma saṅkīrtana.

Other aspects of internal bhajana may be there, and that will gradually come to us by the Lord’s grace – how to do, when to do. But from the very beginning of our course of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, harināma saṅkīrtana is ever-applicable. It’s not only applicable for the masses; it’s applicable for the classes. The classes, or the intelligentsia, should have more brain substance to understand the importance or the value of the performance of nāma-saṅkīrtana. And not only for the classes, but for the elite, you can say, inner core, of intimate devotees who are eligible, who have the adhikāra, for intensified Vraja-bhakti-bhajana – they will be the most appreciative of this saṅkīrtana performance, because they actually have the qualification to relish rasa, just as Caitanya Mahāprabhu and his associates would perform saṅkīrtana yajña, prema-nāma-saṅkīrtana, saṅkīrtana kīrtana rasa. There is no question of kīrtana-rasa, there is no question of any rasa, without prema.

Those who are actually on the terrace of prema and those who are prema-rurukṣu, on the stage of bhāva, they are eligible to enter into the relishment of nāma-rasa, saṅkīrtana-rasa, in the most real way. So it’s not just a question of masses. Saṅkīrtana is for the masses because it can be distributed in a generic sort of way to the masses, but then it becomes more and more relishable as we make advancement in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. If someone is not intent on relishing the happiness of engagement of direct performance of saṅkīrtana-yajña, then we may question his or her level of advancement in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. The more advanced you become, the more you relish the performances of saṅkīrtana and the more determined you become to engage in that yajña – not only for one’s own relishment, but to assist in the communal relishment of Kṛṣṇa consciousness via saṅkīrtana of the Holy Name.

The more you advance in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, the more you want to taste the nectar of the Holy Name – the more you desire it, the more you can’t live without it. How can you live day in and day out without performing saṅkīrtana-yajña on the spontaneous platform? It’s like a lifeless, flapping corpse! We don’t want the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement to become a lifeless, flapping corpse, simply going through some external motions without actually having the internal substance that inspires us to become fully absorbed in the relishment of saṅkīrtana-rasa. This is the saṅkīrtana movement of Lord Caitanya; it’s Lord Caitanya’s saṅkīrtana movement. It’s not Lord Caitanya’s Deity worship movement, although Deity worship is included in the saṅkīrtana movement. It’s not Lord Caitanya’s bathroom-cleaning movement; it’s not Lord Caitanya’s pot-washing movement; it’s not Lord Caitanya’s institutional-management movement. It’s Lord Caitanya’s saṅkīrtana movement. And everything else has to center around that principle of serving the yuga-dharma.

harer nāma harer nāma
harer nāmaiva kevalam
kalau nāsty eva nāsty eva

nāsty eva gatir anyathā

[Bṛhan-nāradīya Purāṇa; Cc Ādi-līlā 7.21]

kali-kālera-dharma harināma saṅkīrtana
kṛṣṇa-śakti vinā nahe tāra pravartana

(Cc Antya 7.11)

We can’t become empowered with Kṛṣṇa-śakti – by which we can have the capacity to preach the Holy Name of the Lord via the performance of śuddha-nāma-saṅkīrtana – unless we are actually chanting śuddha-nāma. For that, we have to intensify our endeavors and cry out to Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityananda to actually bestow the Holy Name. By Their grace, harināma will descend from Goloka-dhāma and dance in the core of our heart and dance on our tongue as unadulterated śabda-brahman, the personality, sound incarnation, of Lord Kṛṣṇa who is identical with Kṛṣṇa Himself. Without Kṛṣṇa’s appearance as śuddha-nāma, where is the . . . because nāma is inclusive of Kṛṣṇa’s antaraṅga-, or spiritual, śaktis. Where’s the actual question of giving or influencing? It’s not that we are influencing. The Name is influencing and we are the servants of the Name, cooperating, assisting in the Name’s Divine Incarnation within this material world. We are servants. The more we realize that, the more Kṛṣṇa will recognize us as viable instruments in the hands of His Holy Name. So we should take it seriously. It’s not just the externals, not just a question of building big temples. These things are meant to attract the public, but when the public arrives on the basis of their attraction to such grandiose exhibitions, we have to actually have the substance to give them. That means purity. That requires our purity. Purity is the force. Otherwise, purity is a farce.

We should take that to heart and do the needful. Prabhupāda said Kṛṣṇa consciousness means to do the needful. So we have to ascertain actually what is the needful. And do it. That is surrender. Śaraṇāgati, which has six aspects, means to accept those things that are favorable for the cultivation of prema-nāma-bhajana, to reject those things that are unfavorable for the cultivation of prema-nāma-bhajana, and to know that Kṛṣṇa is our supreme protector, to be completely dependant on the mercy of the Holy Name and to have no interest separate from the interest of Kṛṣṇa in the matter of propagating the Holy Name for the deliverance of the fallen conditioned souls in this world, and to always remain meek and humble. Meek and humble means that we don’t try to screw out some other idea, that we accept that we don’t know what is best for us and simply hear from the sāstra what is best for us, what is the best process by which we can do good for ourselves and do good for others. And that’s by engaging in saṅkīrtana-yajña!

Su-medhasaḥ simply means to recognize that we’re patita, that we’re fallen, and that we require taking shelter of the process that was propagated by Lord Caitanya for the deliverance of the fallen. By doing that, we do good to ourselves and we do good to others. So it’s essential. It should never be neglected. We may have so many other services, and that’s all right, because the army runs on the belly, so someone has to cook. The devotees take inspiration from the association of the Deities, and after all, why have the Deities come? The Deities have been installed by the chanting of the Holy Name, and They have come for the purpose of hearing or blessing, placing Their favorable glances upon our performances of nāma-saṅkīrtana, to inspire our performances of nāma-saṅkīrtana.

So many other services may also be there in the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement, but everyone, as far as possible, should engage in saṅkīrtana-yajña as much as possible. It’s not just that we should file in and file out of the stipulated temple programs. Practically speaking, in the maṅgala-ārati, how many times do we even chant the mahā-mantra? You know, there’s Gurvaṣṭakam, or other prayers, and then, by the time you get to the end of the maṅgala-ārati, you might have chanted the mahā-mantra three or four times. That’s what I have observed. Most of our temple programs are like that. There’s very little chanting, so really, mahā-mantra nāma-saṅkīrtana – there should be extra facility, because the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra – Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare – is the tāraka-brahma-kīrtana-mantra for this age of Kali. There is no other tāraka-brahma-kīrtana-mantra in the śāstras meant for this age of Kali. This is the tāraka-brahma-kīrtana-mantra, which is ordained, and that’s why Caitanya Mahāprabhu emphasized this mahā-mantra saṅkīrtana. He did give other mantras, like hari haraye nāma-kṛṣṇa yadavaya namaḥ gopāla govinda rāma śrī madhusūdhana, and they would chant other songs; they are considered to be extensions or expansions of the mahā-mantra. But the maha-mantrā is the tāraka-brahma-kīrtana-mantra for this age of Kali.

Therefore, mostly we should be chanting the mahā-mantra, and more emphasis should be given to this chanting of the mahā-mantra. If we only chant the mahā-mantra a few times and the rest of the time we are chanting this and that . . . they may be bona fide mantras and they may not be bona fide mantras. Half the time, they are not mantras that were given to us by Srila Prabhupāda, but one thing we can always rest assured of and feel safe and sound about in the matter of chanting any mantras is that Srila Prabhupāda gave us the Hare Kṛṣṇa maha-mantra to chant. If we don’t take shelter of the Hare Kṛṣṇa maha-mantra, then we’re missing out on the best mantra for the deliverance of our own lowly selves and the deliverance of the fallen conditioned souls. So we have to share that substance: mahā-mantra nāma-saṅkīrtana. It is the best bhajana. It is our greatest facility for advancing in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. So we should recognize that. Don’t neglect it. Otherwise, what kind of fool are we if we come to this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement for exploitative purposes or what?

Devotee: Aindra Prabhu, can you bless us so that we can remove our obstacles?

Removing obstacles? Removing obstacles means ceto-darpaṇa-mārjanaṁ . . . paraṁ-vijayate śrī kṛṣṇahare kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra nāma-saṅkīrtana.

Kṛṣṇa says dadāmi buddhi yogaṁ taṁ, that He gives the intelligence. But to whom? He doesn’t give the intelligence to everyone, He doesn’t give the intelligence to people who are God-fearing individuals engaging in fear-based devotional practices. He gives the intelligence to those who are satata yuktānāṁ bhajatam. Satata yuktānāṁ means constantly engaged in bhajatāṁ prīti pūrvakam. Prīti-bhajana. Prīti-bhajana means with love. You can’t love someone that you are not attracted to. Attraction means rāga. So those who are doing nāma-bhajana on the basis of the natural rāga, or at least the inclination to pursue that natural rāga, they can actually do prīti-bhajana, because there is that natural inclination toward rāga, that attraction to the beauty and sweetness of Kṛṣṇa, honeymoon-faced Kṛṣṇa. Because when there is that attraction, there’s a natural inclination to satata yuktānāṁ. Continuously engage – how can you give it up? Day and night absorbed in worshiping Kṛṣṇa and worshiping the Holy Name, because that’s the way to worship Kṛṣṇa. That’s the most recommended way of worshiping Kṛṣṇa in Kali-yuga. In this Kali-yuga you cannot think to please Kṛṣṇa without pleasing Lord Caitanya. The real way to please Kṛṣṇa in Kali-yuga is to please Lord Caitanya.

yajñaih saṅkīrtana-prayair
yajanti hi su-medhasaḥ

[SB 11.5.32]

That much good brain substance we have to have. Saṅkīrtana-yajña.

Devotee: I would like to spend six months in Vṛndāvana, because here I feel the concentration.

Because the dhāma is a very powerful, unlimitedly powerful, abode, it’s easy to get spiritual inspiration here. Aside from that, the benefit, or the result, of our devotional bhajana is amplified a thousand times. So it’s easy to make rapid spiritual progress here – if you have your eyes on the goal. If you’re deviated to sense-gratificatory pursuits in the dhāma, then still there’s benefit because Kṛṣṇa easily awards the fruits of bhukti and mukti to the residents of the dhāma. But there’s the chance of doing dhāma-aparādha. Even if you do dhama-aparādha, the reactions to dhama-aparādha are temporary, but the benefit of residing in the dhāma is eternal. So you still get an eternal result by residing in the dhāma even if you do dhāma-aparadha, but the benefit of the eternal result, the outcome of our bhajana, may be delayed for a lifetime. In other words, we may take our birth in monkey bodies or in dog bodies or hog bodies or insect bodies or whatever, as the reaction, as punishment for our dhāma-aparādha.

So therefore it is not recommended, because monkey-body or the insect-body is a very suffering condition. We have already suffered enough. In this human form of life we’re also suffering. So we should wise up and take it seriously – come to the dhāma, do our level best to avoid any conscious offenses. Pray to Lord Kṛṣṇa and Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī to forgive us for any inadvertent offenses. We may worship śalagrāma-śilā if you have, or govardhana-śilā, take shelter of the Holy Name, relish the inspiration to absorb ourselves in prīti-bhajana by hearing bhāgavata-kathā. All these things are inter-supportive to our ultimate attainment of Vraja-prema by the process of nāma-saṅkīrtana. Actually, nāma is everything. The most powerful, the highest, the most beneficial process of devotional bhajana is kīrtana. Kīrtana of the Holy Name, saṅkīrtana, congregational kīrtana, śuddha-nāma-kīrtana. That is considered to be the most perfect and the most complete process of worshiping Lord Kṛṣṇa in this age of Kali.

The more you recognize, the more you understand; the more you see things in this light, the more chances you will have of making tangible spiritual progress in this lifetime. Actually, Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura says that in Caitanya-Śikṣāmṛta, that the most exalted devotees, the most determined devotees, focus almost entirely, if not exclusively, on the service of the Holy Name among all the different aṅgas of devotional service. They have singled out that this process of nāma-kīrtana, that this worship, this type of bhakti, this aṅga of bhakti is the supreme facility, and therefore, they direct their energies to perform nāma-saṅkīrtana, practically leaving aside other aṅgas of bhakti as relatively inconsequential although, especially in the beginning, they may be assisting, or supplementary – helpful. But those who are highly advanced take full shelter in nāma. So the more we become attentive to the process of nāma-saṅkīrtana, the more we can understand that we’re actually making progress in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, making advancement.

That is just my way of encouragement. I don’t mean to deprecate anyone on any level, because every journey starts with its first step. Even if they are miśra-bhaktas, or even if they are prākṛta-bhaktas or, you can say, chāyā-bhaktas – whatever – they may be attracted to other engagements in devotional service, and that’s good for them because Kṛṣṇa has a multi-faceted personality and bhakti has multi-faceted features for the purpose of attracting different living entities with different psycho-physical natures. But ultimately, the highest transcendental platform of loving service is found in the Jaiva-dharmanāma-saṅkīrtana.


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