May Sankirtan Address
By His Grace Rama Raya Prabhu
Srimad Bhagavatam 9.4.64
nāham ātmānam āśāse
mad-bhaktaiḥ sādhubhir vinā
śriyaṁ cātyantikīṁ brahman
yeṣāṁ gatir ahaṁ parā
"O best of the brāhmaṇas, without saintly persons for whom I am the only destination, I do not desire to enjoy My transcendental bliss and My supreme opulences."
The Supreme Personality of Godhead is self-sufficient, but to enjoy His transcendental bliss He requires the cooperation of His devotees. In Vṛndāvana, for example, although Lord Kṛṣṇa is full in Himself, He wants the cooperation of His devotees like the cowherd boys and the gopīs to increase His transcendental bliss. Such pure devotees, who can increase the pleasure potency of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, are certainly most dear to Him. Not only does the Supreme Personality of Godhead enjoy the company of His devotees, but because He is unlimited He wants to increase His devotees unlimitedly. Thus, He descends to the material world to induce the nondevotees and rebellious living entities to return home, back to Godhead. He requests them to surrender unto Him because, unlimited as He is, He wants to increase His devotees unlimitedly. The Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is an attempt to increase the number of pure devotees of the Supreme Lord more and more. It is certain that a devotee who helps in this endeavor to satisfy the Supreme Personality of Godhead becomes indirectly a controller of the Supreme Lord. Although the Supreme Lord is full in six opulences, He does not feel transcendental bliss without His devotees. An example that may be cited in this regard is that if a very rich man does not have sons in a family he does not feel happiness. Indeed, sometimes a rich man adopts a son to complete his happiness. The science of transcendental bliss is known to the pure devotee. Therefore the pure devotee is always engaged in increasing the transcendental happiness of the Lord.
This is a verse spoken by Lord Narayana of Vaikuntha, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, in chapter 4 of the 9th canto, “Ambarisa Maharaj offended by Narada Muni.” Here, the Lord is telling Durvasa Muni the position of His devotees. Even though He, the Lord, is self-sufficient, He actually requires the help of His pure devotees. He wants the cooperation of His devotees, like the cowherd boys and the gopis, to increase his transcendental bliss. Such pure devotees who can increase the pleasure potency of the Lord are most dear to Him.
This verse is an insight into the actual identity of every living entitity.
Jivera svarupa haya krsnera nitya dasa.
"Living entities in their pure condition are transcendental lovers, servants, and friends of the Supreme Personality of Godhead."
- Caitanya Caritamrta, Madhya 20.108
The ultimate goal of life is to come to this original stage of purity and self-realization. Not only does the Supreme Personality of Godhead enjoy the company of the nitya-siddhas, those who are eternally situated, but because he is unlimited, he wants to increase his devotees unlimitedly. Thus, he descends to the material world in a variety of incarnations to induce the nondevotees, the rebellious living entities, to return home back to Godhead. Our position in this material world, identifying ourselves with this gross material body or subtle material mind, is a mistaken idea. This human form of life in particular is meant to recognize that mistake and return our consciousness to its original position of pure Krishna consciousness.
This Krishna consciousness movement is an attempt to increase the number of pure devotees of the Supreme Lord more and more.
The supreme topmost method of this rectification and reinstatement in the Lord’s eternal loving transcendental pure devotional service is made possible by the process of Harinama Sankirtan. Indeed Krishna came as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu to give this supreme yuga dharma.
Golokera prema dhana harinama sankirtana
"The treasure of divine love of Goloka Vrindavan has descended into this material world in the form of the sankirtan movement, the chanting of the maha-mantra. "
- Narottama Dasa Thakur
It is certain that a devotee who helps in this endeavor to satisfy the Supreme Personality of Godhead becomes indirectly a controller of the supreme lord.
That control is by transcendental love. Prabhupada goes on to say how a pure devotee understands this science of transcendental bliss. The pure devotee, in this world, is always busily engaged in increasing the transcendental happiness of the Lord. The Yuga Dharma Ashram is dedicated to the direct and purest possible propagation of Harinama Sankirtan which automatically includes brhad-kirtan, the distribution of transcendental literatures which are expansions of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra and are ultimately meant to bring everyone to the point of full participation in complete purity in chanting and dancing in Lord Caitanya’s sankirtan movement. Vidya vadhu jivanam - this sankirtan movement is the life and soul of all transcendental knowledge.
We are upon the New York City Ratha Yatra festival, which is coming up on June 10th. This began 41 years ago in the presence of Srila Prabhupada in 1976. This transcendental festival has very deep significance. Krishna was separated from His beloved pure devotees of Vrindavan, the cowherd boys, gopis, his mother, his father, and all the residents. A very emotional reunion took place 90 long years after Krishna had left the place of his childhood and youthful pastimes, Sri Vrindavan Dhama. Of course, Krishna and His associates did not age as we would expect a normal person - they were still freshly youthful, but during those 90 years, they increased their transcendental love for each other unlimitedly.
The purport of pulling the Ratha Yatra cart with Jagannatha, Baladeva, and Subhadra is the emotional experience of bringing Krishna back home to Vrindavana. The attempt to bring the fallen conditioned souls out of their forgetfulness of Krishna back to their fully revived position of being transcendental lovers, friends, and servants of the Lord is in the same qualitative experience as bringing Krishna back to Vrindavan. Srila Prabhupada put great emphasis on this festival and its establishment in all the major cities in as many places as possible all over the world. We should worship Lord Jagannatha, take part in this festival, and remember the deep significance which is based on the distribution of Krishna consciousness. The Yuga Dharma Ashram is dedicated to make this experience happen 365 days a year. Especially in the human form of life, we should help the forgetful souls to revive their original Krishna consciousness and perfect their human mission by going back home back to Godhead in this very life by taking part in Lord Caitanya’s sankirtan movement. This is the most recommended practice (sadhana) given by Srila Prabhupada that guarantees siddhi/perfection (prema bhakti).
ya idaṁ paramaṁ guhyaṁ
bhaktiṁ mayi parāṁ kṛtvā
mām evaiṣyaty asaṁśayaḥ
na ca tasmān manuṣyeṣu
kaścin me priya-kṛttamaḥ
bhavitā na ca me tasmād
anyaḥ priya-taro bhuvi
For one who explains this supreme secret to the devotees, pure devotional service is guaranteed, and at the end he will come back to Me. There is no servant in this world more dear to Me than he, nor will there ever be one more dear.
- Bhagavad Gita 18.68-69
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
By Mahotsaha Dasa
The Transcendental Chain Effect
A few years ago in the Times Square subway station at harinama, I met someone named Chase. He sat down, took a book and we exchanged numbers. We tried to stay in touch, but it was tough because we didn’t see each other regularly.
A few months ago, Bhakta Josh, a brahmacari in our ashram, was walking up to the harinama in the subway while dressed in his saffron robes. By a higher arrangement, Chase ran into him. Chase asked Josh if he knew someone named Nihal and if he was still around. He remembered Nihal very fondly.
Josh brought Chase along with his few friends upstairs to the harinama. They took some more books and were all very enthusiastic to meet up with Nihal (myself, now Mahotsaha Dasa) and the harinama party again. Over time I developed a friendship with them. One of his friends, Frank, also took mantra beads and I invited them to some Temple programs and kirtans.
Months passed again without much communication, until recently I ran into Frank. He was very apologetic that he didn’t have time to come to the Temple programs, but told me he was reading Prabhupada's books every day and chanting the Hare Krishna mantra on his beads every night.
He’s an actor and for one class he had to do a 5 minute introductory presentation for everyone. He went up on the stage and started chanting the maha-mantra on his beads and the whole audience was enlivened by it. They all started clapping and many were inquisitive to learn more about the Hare Krishna mantra and the chanting. The teacher was also very pleased and gave him an A!
The Indian Bible
Nearing the end of the day, I had just two books left to empty my book bag and the book table. I was tired after a long day, praying to be able to share these last couple of books with others.
Then this black gentleman with a suit, tie, hat, and beard walked up to me and we bumped fists.
I commented, “Man you look like James Brown!” I asked him if he liked spirituality as I took out a Bhagavad Gita.
He said, “Yeah – I grew up in a church. Do you have a Bible for me?”
I told him it’s the Indian Bible.
Then he took the Gita and said “Bro, we both be praying to the same God in different ways.” He gave a donation for a Bhagavad Gita and a Science of Self Realization and left with a smile on his face.