By Mathuraprana Krsna Dasa
brahmāṇḍa bhramite kona bhāgyavān jīva
guru-kṛṣṇa-prasāde pāya bhakti-latā-bīja
“According to their karma, all living entities are wandering throughout the entire universe. Some of them are being elevated to the upper planetary systems, and some are going down into the lower planetary systems. Out of many millions of wandering living entities, one who is very fortunate gets an opportunity to associate with a bona fide spiritual master by the grace of Kṛṣṇa. By the mercy of both Kṛṣṇa and the spiritual master, such a person receives the seed of the creeper of devotional service.”
- Caitanya Caritamrta, Madhya Lila 19.151
It was only my good fortune that allowed me to walk into a Hare Krishna temple one day in Denver, an experience that would prove to be life changing. At the time, I was feeling frustrated and unfulfilled in understanding who I was, who God was, and what my relationship with Him was. I had been doing yoga and meditation but getting nowhere on my own. I wanted answers to my questions.
I found the answers soon after, at the first kirtan program that I went to. I felt that I had finally come “home.” It was what I had been looking for all my life. I walked into the house, went in to one of the rooms and sat on the floor. I saw all kinds of instruments - a harmonium, drums, hand cymbals, gongs, etc. On the wall was a decorated wooden sign with the words “Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare” written on it. I had chanted this mantra before on my own, and listened to recordings of it, so it was not entirely new to me. I sat silently as more and more people came into the room.
Soon the program started. There was a monk who was leading the program named Bhakta Adam (now Ananda Murari Dasa). He explained that there was no pressure to chant and that we could just listen, but I was eager to chant.
As the kirtan started, I kept my eyes closed and chanted the whole time. I was completely lost to this external world. When the kirtan stopped about half an hour later, I opened my eyes and was mesmerized. I had never experienced such a thing before. There was a short class given by the temple president in which I was unable to do more than blink my eyes and nod in agreement to everything he said. I was finally home. That night I floated out with a Bhagavad Gita in one hand, prasadam in another, and a smile on my face.
It wasn’t long before I moved into the temple. I started following the regulations and chanting sixteen rounds of nama japa every day. I was still working a seasonal job but spending as much time at the temple as possible, participating in the morning program and classes and serving by cleaning pots in the kitchen.
Around this time I was regularly hearing the kirtans of Aindra Prabhu, a favorite of the temple devotees. His kirtans were unlike anything that I had ever heard and I was immediately attracted. One day they announced that it was Aindra Prabhu’s disappearance day and some of the devotees were doing a kirtan in his memory. At that time, I didn’t know anything about this devotee, and I wanted to learn more. As though my silent curiosity was answered, the next day a visiting devotee handed me a writing by Aindra Prabhu and suggested that I listen to some of his lectures, which I did. I was amazed.
Up until that point, my path in devotional service was cloudy and vague. I was chanting and reading, and doing service in the temple, but I was still quite confused about the meaning and purpose of it all. Aindra Prabhu made everything crystal clear. I now understood what I should be doing with my life. The overwhelming message was that I should be spending as much time as possible going out and doing Harinam Sankirtan, which is to say going out into the public and chanting Hare Krishna. I had no idea that this was the main activity that I was supposed to engage in. Unfortunately, Harinam Sankirtan was not a prominent activity at the temple. I prayed to Aindra Prabhu asking how I could be more engaged in this service and how I could deepen my Krishna conscious experience. I was beginning to understand what the goal of life was (Krishna prema, or pure love of God), and I wanted to take the proper steps towards that goal.
A few months later, I ended up in New York City by a wonderful and strange series of events. I was very soon in the association of Rama Raya Prabhu, who I understood was a close friend of Aindra Prabhu. I accepted this as an answer to my prayers that I was sent here to serve Rama Raya Prabhu. I remember the first kirtan that I sat in with Rama Raya. It was a dark October evening and he told me to sit next to him and he handed me a pair of kartals, which I was barely able to play. It was the most memorable kirtan I have experienced. The kirtan was like a fire and I was in that fire trying to give it everything I had. I was completely stunned afterwards and realized that I wanted to be here, in kirtan, forever.
Serving the NYC Daily Harinam has given my devotional life meaning. I don’t think that I would be a devotee without this service. When I think of devotional service or bhakti, I think of Harinam. Because of this service, I have been given the opportunity to go deeper into the chanting of the holy names and have been able to share this mercy with others. I am grateful for the association that comes with being part of the NYC Daily Harinam. I am eternally grateful to Rama Raya Prabhu for giving me service and I am grateful to all of the devotees that have come to serve the Harinam over the years (we just recently we celebrated 5 years of daily Harinam).
ānandāmbudhi-vardhanaṁ prati-padaṁ pūrṇāmṛtāsvādanaṁ
sarvātma-snapanaṁ paraṁ vijayate śrī-kṛṣṇa-saṅkīrtanam
"Let there be all victory for the chanting of the holy name of Lord Kṛṣṇa, which can cleanse the mirror of the heart and stop the miseries of the blazing fire of material existence. That chanting is the waxing moon that spreads the white lotus of good fortune for all living entities. It is the life and soul of all education. The chanting of the holy name of Kṛṣṇa expands the blissful ocean of transcendental life. It gives a cooling effect to everyone and enables one to taste full nectar at every step."
- Caitanya Caritamrta, Antya Lila 20.12