Way, way back in time (long before what’s recorded in the thickest McGraw-Hill history book) a simple soul sat cross-legged on the clean earth, emanating sound vibration.
Retrace your steps through the ages and arrive at a time when the waters are fresh, the air is pure, the people are peaceful, and the earth is bountifully green. Tread the soft dirt path into the village, past gently roaming cows, through clean courtyards of smooth-walled huts. Enter the Vedic Age.
A crackling fire is fueled by butter and sesame, encircled by the fair, noble population. In unison, they punctuate the air with exacting rhythms of vibrantly precise sound. They are chanting the Hare Krishna mantra.
In the ancient language of Sanskrit, man means “mind” and tra means “to free.” So a mantra is sound that has the power to liberate our mind from conditioning and illusion. Sound is the most powerful force in the world. Go to any concert for proof. Sound brings hundreds of thousands of people together and makes them dance and jump and scream. Sound can change nations. Sound is power.
From that remote village up to today, the Hare Krishna movement has been based on music and sound. The power of Krishna conscious sound can completely emancipate anyone and everyone from the shackles of mundane existence and give direct experience of sublime spiritual pleasure.
Material sounds nail you down deeper and deeper into the material world. Talk about the rich and famous. Sing about the sleek and sexy. Poison the brain with sounds about people’s bodies, and how they exploit the world for the gratification of those bodies.
Spiritual sounds break you out of the rut and return you to your original spiritual consciousness. Talk and sing about the true self—that is spiritual sound. The most powerful of all such sounds is that which focuses on the most powerful of all selves—the Supreme Self, Krishna.
There are no rigid rules or restrictions. Anyone can take advantage of this mantra meditation thing, no strings attached. This sound vibrates directly from the spiritual platform and is heard by the inner ear of the soul. When heard or sung with attentiveness and sincerity, the mantra begins to wipe the dust from the mirror of your heart, until you can finally see yourself again—and Krishna.
It works. You might as well see for yourself.
Doubt: Chanting…..Isn’t that brainwashing?
Answer: Don’t fall for that scare tactic. Of course it’s brainwashing. So what? So is everything else. Everything that goes into your brain is going to wash or stain it in some way.
If my clothes are dirty, they should be washed. Chanting the mantra will wash away the dark stain of materialism and selfishness that’s been so deeply ingrained in our minds by years of social indoctrination.
Doubt: That’s just because there’s a whole elaborate philosophy behind the chanting. People can convince themselves that they like chanting and that it’s helping them in all these different ways. If you had that kind of philosophy behind chanting Coca Cola, it would work just as good.
Answer: OK, prove it. Write up a line and psyche us up to chant it over and over again, for hours on end, every day, over thousands of years—so that we feel happier and more fulfilled the more we chant. If you just take a sound, put some philosophy behind it, and have it be as successful as Hare Krishna, I’d like to see somebody do it.
Musicians are constantly trying to do just that, to write a song that people will want to listen to over and over again, deriving fresh inspiration every time. They all fail. Their songs fall off the charts.
Why are the mantras (such simple jingles) the only ones to ever succeed? There’s clearly something unique about them which sets them apart from mundane sounds. “Hare Krishna” is a spiritual vibration, not a mind hype.
Maha means “great”
Mantra means “sound that frees the mind from ignorance”
You can chant the mantra anywhere and at any time, but it is best to set a specific time of the day to regularly chant. Early morning hours are ideal.
The chanting can be done in two ways: singing the mantra, called kirtana (usually done in a group), and saying or reciting the mantra to oneself, called japa (which literally means “to speak softly”). Concentrate on hearing the sound of the mantra. As you chant, pronounce the mantra clearly and distinctly, in a prayerful mood. When your mind wanders, bring it back to the transcendental sound.
It is good to chant on japa beads. This not only helps you fix your attention on the mantra, but it also helps you count the number of times you chant the mantra daily. Each strand of japa beads contains 108 small beads and one large bead, the head bead. Begin on a bead next to the head bead and gently roll it between the thumb and middle finger of your right hand as you chant the full Hare Krishna mantra. Then move to the next bead and repeat the process.
In this way, chant on each of the 108 beads until you reach the head bead again. This is one round of japa. Then, without chanting on the head bead, reverse the beads and start your second round on the last bead you chanted on.
Initiated practitioners chant at least sixteen rounds of the Hare Krishna mantra daily. But even if you can chant only one round a day, a good principle is that once you commit yourself to chanting that round, try to complete it every day. When you feel you can chant more, then increase the minimum number of rounds you chant each day—but try not to fall below that number. You can chant more than your fixed number, but do your best to maintain a set minimum each day.
The japa beads are considered sacred, and it is therefore recommended to keep them in a clean place. To keep your beads clean, it’s best to carry them in a special bead bag. (available from the temple store)
Kirtan is a form of devotional chanting. Its roots go back over 500 years to India. It is a form of Bhakti Yoga, the yoga of devotion, and has the power to open the heart. The singing is accompanied by musical instruments and rhythmic drumming. The audience is encouraged to participate by chanting, clapping and even dancing. It is hard to resist the urge to join in! In its heartfelt expression, kirtan can induce profound states of meditation, bliss, and ecstasy.
There is a sweet sound vibration that penetrates through all layers of coverings and makes God dance. That sound vibration is kirtan. It is a mysterious connection that draws people to each other.
Kirtan is a boon and blessing that can awaken the perfection of one’s life and carry one over the ocean of miseries that are abundant in the material realm, the realm that is filled with tings that we cannot understand. There are wars and disease, death and people in constant anxiety. Kirtan transports the soul out of there.
Without kirtan life is empty, meaningless, devoid of anything substantial. It is the best friend, shelter, water to quench thirst. You got to try.