A lecture given by HH Kadamba Kanana Swami Maharaja, 04 July 2010, Phoenix Ratha Yatra, Durban, South Africa
The chanting of the holy name is connected with Lord Jagannatha
So we are welcoming you all to the Ratha Yatra festival. It is a festival which is dedicated to the chanting of the Hare Krsna maha mantra. We are here in the temple of Lord Jagannatha. Lord Jagannatha is Lord Krsna and Lord Jagannatha is specifically worshipped through the process of harinama sankirtana. 500 years ago the worship of Lord Jagannatha reached a high point. We find the worship of Lord Jagannatha already described in the Skanda Purana and there it is mentioned that as early as the Satya Yuga, the worship of Jagannatha was going on. So Jagannatha has been worshipped now for over millions of years but 500 years ago that worship had changed because 500 years ago, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was there and firstly introduced harinama sankirtana in Jagannatha Puri. And at that time the chanting of Hare Krsna became connected to the worship of Lord Jagannatha and has never left.
If today you travel through Jagannatha Puri, on the coast of the Bay of Bengal in East India, you will see in Jagannatha Puri statues of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu because still, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is that much remembered in Jagannatha Puri. And along with Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu the chanting of the holy name is connected with Lord Jagannatha. This process of chanting Hare Krsna is not a new invention; it’s the eternal process, it is a natural process, which belongs to the original position of every living being because this chanting is at the very core of bhakti. Bhakti means loving devotional service to Krsna. There is no bhakti in relation to any other Deity but we see that people are apparently worshipping so many Deities in so many temples with a lot of devotion. Aren’t there people who show all kinds of bhakti for the devatas? No, that’s not bhakti because the devatas are approached for some benefit. One can worship with a lot of devotion but if it is for some benefit that is not the same. It is just like when someone in this world says, ‘I love you’ but if he actually knows that you have a fat bank account then that ‘I love you,’ if it is motivated by some money you have, then it’s only external. (Dramatic) ‘Yes, yes so nice what you say…yes, yes we love you very much (especially your money!)’
Chanting Hare Krsna- an expression of love
So in the same way in the worship of the demigods, there is no question of bhakti. But where there is love, it is selfless and where there is love there is a natural tendency to speak the name of the beloved. That is natural; that name will be spoken with great pleasure. If you love someone we repeat that name again and again. Therefore bhakti is naturally connected to the chanting of the holy name because the chanting of the Hare Krsna maha mantra is an expression of love. Of course, bhakti in the beginning stages is not only revealed by love; there is an earlier stage where one is engaging in bhakti, in devotional service in practice. So in the beginning we are following the chanting like a sadhana– sadhana means exercise or practice. But as we are getting purified and more advanced we become more attached to Krsna.
It says in the 7th chapter of the Bhagavad Gita,
mayy asakta-manah partha
yogam yunjan mad-asrayah
asamsayam samagram mam
yatha jnasyasi tac chrinu
It is said that attachment to Krsna is natural. It’s the essence that is there in everyone’s heart and it comes from simply hearing about Krsna, tat srnu.
Hearing- the essence of chanting
So therefore we are today discussing the process of chanting Hare Krsna and the essence of chanting Hare Krsna is hearing, tat srnu. The very essence of the chanting is tat srnu, is to hear the chanting. Therefore Srila Prabhupada also points that out. He says that if you want to chant attentively then simply hear the chanting. So the secret of chanting japa is hearing and once the hearing is there then everything else will follow and then the quality of chanting will be improved, then we will not be with the mind all over the universe, travelling here and travelling there and not staying with the name, if we hear. So the essence of the chanting is tat srnu or hearing the chanting. And the result is mayy asakta-manah partha, that we will develop attachment for Krsna. Therefore when we are chanting in practice we are simply practicing to hear ourselves chanting.
That is difficult because the mind is restless, cancalam hi manah Krsna. This restless mind is such that it is difficult to bring it back and focus it on the name and the mind is always distracted. But still, tat srnu, by hearing, we automatically develop attachment to Krsna because Krsna is indeed all-attractive. It is simply that we have become influenced by the illusory energy, Maya, that now our mind has become attached by Maya. By the covering potency Maya has brought about attachment in us. But the problem is that Maya is temporary and there is both happiness and distress in Maya therefore that attachment is not going to give us much satisfaction. But still we have that attachment therefore in the beginning when we start to chant the Hare Krsna maha mantra we are still attached to material satisfaction through the senses. And therefore it is difficult to come straight on the name. But as we continue to chant, our attachment to the name, to Krsna, is growing and our chanting will become more spontaneous.
Now it is said that as our chanting becomes spontaneous then it is said,
smrtyoh kramena rasana-manasi niyojya
tisohan vraje tad-anuragi jananugami
kalam nayed akhilam ity upadesa-saram
(NOI, Text 8)
that there is the name, then we realise the name is non-different from the form, Krsna. And we’ll become interested in the characteristics of Krsna. And then again, tat srnu, by hearing about Krsna we will also become more inclined to chant. I like to tell a story and I’ve told it often but I see many people who have not heard it. So before Krsna consciousness I was into music. I had lived in India also and I was learning some ragas on the sitar and the western guitar, basically the notes are in the same position as it is on the sitar, so one can play also the same ragas that are there on the guitar. And I met this piano player who was playing ragas. He had invited me for a jam session and then he said, ‘why don’t we do some mantra also?’ So I said, ‘why not!’ It is all sound, spiritual sound. So we did chant mantras and he started to chant the Hare Krsna maha mantra. It turned out that he heard that mantra from Srila Prabhupada and then I got it from him and in this way I received the Hare Krsna maha mantra. And I liked it and as far as I’m concerned the mantra was spiritual sound but at that time I didn’t know anything about Krsna, not very much. So I didn’t see peacock feather, yellow dhoti, flute, bluish-black complexion…that form of Syamasundara. I didn’t see that in front of my eyes but later, as I heard about the form of Krsna, then by hearing about the form of Krsna when I chanted, I also saw the form of Krsna. And when I heard more and more pastimes about Krsna and more and more characteristics of Krsna and more and more about the nature of Krsna, then when I chanted I remembered. And therefore the chanting got new dimensions and new meaning. In that way, by hearing about Krsna, gradually my taste for chanting increased.
The secret in chanting
This is the secret; this is an important secret. I gave two secrets so far; secret number one was tat srnu, that we must hear. It is the hearing that is the key and not the chanting. The chanting will follow the hearing. That is key number one. Key number two is that we hear about the name, fame and glory of Krsna and we bring it back to the chanting. And the result is that our chanting will become deepened and enlivened. Let it be known as secret number two. These secrets are not commonly known. Somehow or other we may chant for years and still not know these very simple and basic instructions that we are discussing now. Therefore if you are mindful to what I am presenting to you, you could save yourself 30 years! You could just save yourself 30 years of experimenting with the holy name just by tat srnu, just by listening, by hearing these two points. One is, hear yourself chanting. Number two is hear about Krsna and all His qualities and we will become attracted to the chanting and therefore it will become more natural.
Now many of us are experiencing that if we sing very sweet melodies, that naturally our mind goes to the name. I don’t think I can do sweet today…(Sings). So if we chant sweet then oh, we feel some bhava, we feel some taste and why can’t we just sing all day? Why do we have to chant japa? Why not just every morning two hours of bhajana instead of two hours of japa? Who falls asleep while we are loudly chanting melodious kirtanas? And if Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu gave harinama sankirtana, why are we also chanting japa?
Why chant japa?
Well, first of all He was chanting japa. He has a cord, a string around His waist with knots in it and He would chant on that string. That was His mala, His japa mala. He wasn’t chanting on Tulasi beads, He was chanting on a string with knots and pulling the knots. But why? What is the deeper reason? Why not just kirtana? But why also japa? Because kirtana we do together and together we are taking inspiration from each other. When all together we are chanting with lots of feeling, even someone who’s heart is made of stone is sort of melting. Even someone who’s cold like a frog will feel something. So even if we have no feeling, when the chanting is very sweet ad very melodious in bhajana, it touches us and even brings out some feeling in the heart of everyone. In this way, at that time, we are approaching Krsna through reciprocation. But in japa we are going alone before Krsna. That is our time, our time alone with Krsna and in japa we go before Krsna as we are. There is nothing to hide. We are as we are! In japa it is not the same as in bhajana. In bhajana we get swept up, we swoon, we feel the sweetness, we taste it, we say, ‘yes this is great!’ In japa it’s like a cold shower- at first we get faced with ourselves, with our lack of bhakti. We are facing that we actually have no devotion at all. In japa we get a mirror held up to ourselves and we fall short. Every little bit of bhakti that is lacking in us is just being mercilessly exposed and we have to face it, ‘I have no devotion at all…’ that is japa.
Of course, japa is more than that; that is japa performed in sadhana. But as we continue to chant japa, japa will remain with us; japa is the one thing that stays. Throughout the years everything goes; friends come, friends go. Friends that were so dear to us, we couldn’t imagine that we would be ever separated from them and then separated. And we never see them again, only sometimes but not too often. People come in our lives, people go. Situations come in our lives, places…you would have never imagined that you would have been in another country and then that happens to you too, suddenly like that, ‘take them out of South Africa!’ (Dramatic) ‘Oh, it can’t happen! Inconceivable!’ But it happened to many South Africans! I meet them in Australia, lots of them. Even the sharks in Australia come from South Africa! (Laughter) They swim all the way from the Cape to Australia. There is a lot of migration going on in that way!
The holy name is the one thing that stays
So things may change and things will change. Your children will grow up and they will leave home. Everything will change but the holy name doesn’t change, it stays. As we chant over the years, the chanting of the holy name becomes a constant factor in our life. It is something that stays with us and something where we can always turn to. We know that the holy name is Krsna. We may not be so advanced that we cry tears of ecstasy but we can turn to the holy name. We find shelter in the holy name. And by chanting every day, by going every day alone before Krsna, we make a very solid connection with Krsna and day by day that connection becomes stronger. Instead of devotion that is shown on Janmastami, oh yes on Janmastami we go to the mandir and we throw things on the altar, (Dramatic) ‘oh, he Bhagavan, Krsna Bhagavan’ we cry tears on Janmastami, ‘oh Krsna, Krsna!’ we chant on Janmastami and we dance in holi, throw colours in ecstasy, ‘Yes!’ but when we every day, in the peace of the early morning, sit down and making first the beginning of the day our connection with Krsna, when we shake off the ignorance of the night of deep sleep, shake them off and when we sit down and chant with Krsna, then our roots of bhakti are growing. Then we can be strong, then we can become fixed. Sa vai manah krsna-padaravindayoh, then we are fixing the mind at the lotus feet of Krsna.
This is the nature of bhakti, this is the nature of devotional service and this is why we must be chanting japa- to go alone before Krsna. And then in due course of time that japa will mature and when we are in it we will actually meet Krsna.
The offering and the Darsana
Japa has two aspects (I’m about to stop because my time is up); one aspect is the offering that we make. We are chanting an offering to Krsna. The other aspect to chanting is that at the same time Krsna gives us a darsana. It’s very interesting; we are chanting and we are offering to Krsna and while we are offering our chanting, at the same time He gives us darsana! He is there and we are receiving Him. So these two elements are there, of us making an offering and the darsana of Krsna. In the beginning a lot of energy goes into the offering and as we are getting more advanced in the chanting, more and more the element of the darsana takes over. And when we become deep, deep in our chanting of the holy name, then with Rupa Gosvami, we can pray for millions of ears and millions of tongues and one experiences Krsna dancing on the tongue! And the experience of the darsana now becomes overwhelming and predominant. This is the advanced stage of chanting.
So in the beginning we focus on our offering; let us make a nice offering to Krsna. And as we are trying to make that offering first class and we listen, tat srnu, then gradually comes the break-through and we will experience the darsana of Krsna little by little, more and more. First hesitant; Haridas Thakura described it like the rays of the sun appearing first hesitant but then setting in firmly. And then as the darsana in the chanting takes over, we will not be able to stop chanting. Then we will want to chant more and more and more and more until kirtaniyah sada hari, until the tongue is always chanting till it cannot stop. Hare Krsna Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare.