From Back to Godhead
By Sivarama Swami
What is the effect of chanting Hare Krishna?
The names of the Lord in the maha-mantra Hare, Krishna, and rama are invested with His full potencies. Singing God’s names, therefore, is to contact Him through the medium of transcendental sound. Thus, the effect of chanting is the same as the effect of directly associating with the Lord. The following beautiful verse, written by Lord caitanya, describes the seven effects the Hare Krishna mantra has on chanters.
“Let there be all victory for the chanting of the holy name of Lord Krishna, 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 Krishna expands the blissful ocean of transcendental life. It gives a cooling effect to everyone and enables one to taste full nectar at every step.” (Sri Siksastaka 1)
Although many books have been written explaining the theological implications of this verse, the following is a simple summary of the seven effects of chanting Hare Krishna:
(1) The chanting of Krishna’s name is a purifying agent that cleanses our hearts of envy the root cause of our descent to this world and other bad qualities we have since acquired, like lust, greed, and anger.
(2) As it purifies the heart, Krishna’s name also protects sincere chanters from any further contamination from the worldly energy and those affected by it.
(3) chanting awakens pure devotion to Krishna, the soul’s dormant propensity to serve the Lord with love; and further chanting revives the loving devotion that qualifies one for the greatest good fortune Krishna’s association.
(4) A result of acquiring devotion is that devotees become illuminated with spiritual knowledge. Further chanting matures that knowledge into realization, which in time reveals the devotee’s original position in one of the five relationships with Krishna.
(5) To the degree that the heart is relieved of unwanted habits, we become devoted to Krishna; to the degree that devotion is firmly fixed in our heart, we acquire realized knowledge; to the degree that the heart is illumined by both devotion and knowledge, we taste spiritual happiness. In this way the ocean of bliss swells.
(6) chanting frees conditioned souls of the illusion of identifying themselves with their body and mind and establishes them in the cooling reality that they are eternal spiritual entities.
(7) When devotees finally achieve the perfection of chanting, they taste the full nectar of loving devotion to Krishna a nectar that makes the bliss of liberation seem insignificant.
The Spiritual Sound Vibration
When we chant Hare Krishna, we are meant to be in contact with Lord Krishna and His associates. That is the nature of spiritual sound, which is different from the kind of sound that is only heard. Hare Krishna written on a piece of paper is as much a sound as when you speak it. It is sabda-brahma, spiritual sound, and it is not limited to something communicable only from the mouth to the ear. The spiritual energy or potency manifests itself in sabdabrahma. And because it is spiritual, it doesn’t have the restrictions we have here in the material world.
Generally when we speak of sound, it means something we must hear with the ear. And certainly that is also the characteristic of spiritual sound, but it is not limited to that. material sound is something we generally relate to as being a transmission of information. but Hare Krishna is a transcendental sound vibration. If I say some other words, these are material sounds. The difference with the spiritual sound is that it does more than just communicate a message. It contains within it and is empowered with a spiritual potency, and that means it represents the spiritual realm or energies, either in part or whole.
Caitanya Mahaprabhu says, namnam akari bahudha nija sarva saktin: Krishna’s holy name has all spiritual potency. When you ask, “How are youn” how much potency is in that sentencen but when you say, “Hare Krishna,” then everything that exists within the spiritual world is present, compressed within that sound vibration. And that presence is there whether you see it on paper or hear it in your ear.
The spiritual world also exists in the reality of Srila Prabhupada’s purports. Srila Prabhupada uses the same words we use. He also asked, “How are youn” but because he’s speaking from the spiritual platform, his words are saturated with spiritual potency and therefore have more impact than just a mere question. Aside from posing the question, his words also purify the heart, free one from material contamination, are liberating, and bring about spiritual realizations.
When Srila Prabhupada asked, “How are you?” it was a lot more than just a question. It was not a mere enquiry about well-being. behind it was the intent of someone coming from the spiritual world to liberate us, to bring us closer to Krishna, and that in itself comes across. This is a complex and detailed subject.
Connecting with the Sound
In the Vedanta-sutra it is said that sabda liberates us. When we say Hare Krishna, all the potency of Godhead is there. It is like being in the presence of the Lord, like reading all the Vedas, like seeing the spiritual world, like hearing all of Krishna’s pastimes, like understanding the philosophy if you know how to connect with the sound. That is the challenge: connecting with the sabda. because with any kind of relationship there has to be more than transmission; there has to be reception. If the other person isn’t receiving, then the relationship is not working. If the receiver is no good, you don’t get the message. All our modern media communication is based on information coming from one side and being received on the other. If the receiver is faulty, the whole thing fails. When someone sends a kirtana to your computer, the file appears as a bunch of squiggles if you don’t have the right program to receive it. Similarly, the effects of spiritual sound will be impeded if we’re not tuned in.
The challenge of Krishna consciousness is to be proper recipients of spiritual sound. We have ears, and those are the general instruments, but those are not enough. because sabda-brahma is not just sound. Sabda-brahma works on the level of consciousness. It is not just a sound vibration, though we use that terminology. You have to have the proper consciousness to connect with that sound vibration. Purification of consciousness needs to come about so that there is no obstruction. When we can hear Hare Krishna without offense or interference, then, Srila Prabhupada says, we come directly in contact with God.
Sometimes people say, “Show me God.” This is how to see God: by hearing Hare Krishna. but you have to hear it in a certain way, because your consciousness perceives, not your ear. my tongue is speaking, and the sound is going through the microphone. but the microphone isn’t hearing anything, because it is not conscious. It is transmitting sound, but it is not hearing. Similarly, my ear is an instrument, but I am hearing. The soul is hearing. but if the soul is contaminated, it cannot pick up the message of Hare Krishna. It is interfering.
Purification of consciousness is necessary. How is it donen by chanting Hare Krishna. chanting and hearing purify the consciousness more and more until it is completely pure. Then one can recognize that there’s no difference between Krishna and His name. And then when one says Hare Krishna, the whole spiritual world unfolds, because nija sarva saktin all the potencies of Godhead are present within the sound vibration. nothing is held back. It is a wonderful experience.
We are practicing. We are trying to purify our consciousness to perfectly hear and chant the holy name of the Lord. Then what happens when we can do thatn We continue to chant, because there is nothing more pleasurable. Srila rupa Gosvami expresses the mentality of the perfect chanter: “I do not know how much nectar the two syllables ‘Krishna’ have produced. When the holy name of Krishna is chanted, it appears to dance within the mouth. We then desire many, many mouths. When that name enters the holes of the ears, we desire many millions of ears. And when the holy name dances in the courtyard of the heart, it conquers the activities of the mind, and therefore all the senses become inert.” (Vidagdhamadhava 1.15)
That is the experience of the transcendentalist. We are getting a taste in our conditioned state, and for transcendentalists the experience is millions of times greater. And the nature of the experience is that it makes you want to have more and more and more. We must keep these points in mind and appreciate the divine nature of the Hare Krishna mantra. despite the fact that we don’t have to pay for it, or that we can take it anywhere, or that it is not secret, none of these things diminish its sanctity. We should see what a wonderful thing Hare Krishna actually is.