What is a Hare Krishna Anyhow?

Hare Krishna Devotees on Sankirtan at ISKCON Mayapur in 1975

The purpose of this Krishna consciousness movement is to keep our minds constantly on Krishna. Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead and He is a person…

Receiving Krishna consciousness means receiving light. People are exhausted with the materialistic way of life especially in the West. Now the Krishna consciousness movement is giving new life to Western society… The great souls are always chanting about Krishna. Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare/ Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare. They are also endeavoring with great determination in their devotional service. For instance in the Krishna conscious temples the devotees rise early in the morning at 4:00 A.M. and they immediately bathe. Then they go to mangal-aroti at 4:30 and after mangal-aroti they study the Vedic literatures. These are the processes by which we can awaken our dormant love for Krishna.

Because we are part and parcel of Krishna–just as the son is part and parcel of his father–there is a natural love between us. However somehow or other the son leaves home and forgets his father. The father of course never forgets his son. He thinks Oh, my son has left. If he would only come back! Krishna thinks in this way. We are all sons of Krishna and Krishna is more anxious to get us back home back to Godhead than we are to go. Therefore Krishna comes and says: “You rascal! Give up all this nonsensical material enjoyment. You have manufactured so many religions and dharmas. Just give them all up and surrender unto Me.” Krishna comes Himself and leaves behind His words. His words are also Himself because His words are absolute.

Presently we do not see Krishna but if we actually advance we will see Him. When we see the Deity in the temple we think: “Oh, this is an idol. It is not Krishna.” If we think in this way we have not seen Krishna. Krishna is also present in His words in Bhagavad-gita. That is krsna-vani the message of Krishna. The stage of awareness of Krishna can be attained when one is advanced in Krishna consciousness. Then one can understand that Krishna is present in the Deity, in Bhagavad-gita, in the taste of water, in the sunshine, in the moonshine and in all sound. Krishna is present everywhere but one has to acquire knowledge in order to know how to see Krishna. That is mukti, liberation. That is Krishna consciousness. That is also the process of bhakti-yoga–sravanam kirtanam visnoh smaranam… Deity worship is arcanam, chanting is vandanam and dasyam is working for Krishna and spreading this Krishna consciousness movement.

Generally we experience that people are primarily interested in seeing Krishna but why is the emphasis on seeing? Let us hear about Him. We must come with a little faith and as we hear that faith will increase. One should come to the temple to listen to talks about Krishna and then after some time officially take initiation into the service of the Lord. That is called bhajana-kriya. At that time one has to abandon illicit sex, intoxication, meat-eating and gambling. If one is still attached to all these habits he should know that he is not making progress. When one is actually advanced in bhajana-kriya all the anarthas (unwanted things) will be finished. Param drstva nivartate. When one appreciates something better he rejects all kinds of nonsense. Once one gets a taste of Krishna consciousness he cannot remain without it. A drunkard cannot remain without a drink but a devotee is drunk with Krishna consciousness. He can not remain without Krishna.

The immunization against all material diseases is this Krishna consciousness. To become immune to the infection of the modes of material nature we have to engage in bhakti-yoga. Once we attain the perfectional stage we attain ecstatic love of Godhead. In that state we cannot remain without Krishna for a moment. That is called bhava and that bhava may increase to maha-bhava. This is not possible for ordinary human beings but it was possible for the gopis and Radharani. Indeed they could not live without Krishna. This is the highest stage of liberation.

Attachment to matter is the greatest entanglement of the spirit soul. But the same attachment when applied to self-realized devotees opens the door of liberation.

Attachment for one thing is the cause of bondage in conditional life and the same attachment when applied to something else opens the doors of liberation. Attachment cannot be killed; it simply has to be transferred. Attachment for material things is called material consciousness and attachment for Krishna or His devotee is called Krishna consciousness. Consciousness therefore is the platform of attachment. If we simply purify the consciousness from material consciousness to Krishna consciousness we attain liberation.

Despite the statement that one should give up attachment desirelesness is not possible for a living entity. A living entity by constitution has the propensity to be attached to something. We see that if someone has no object of attachment, if he has no children, he transfers his attachment to cats and dogs. This indicates that the propensity for attachment cannot be stopped; rather it must be utilized for the best purpose. Our attachment for material things perpetuates our conditional state but the same attachment when transferred to the Supreme Personality of Godhead or His devotee is the source of liberation.

It is recommended that attachment should be transferred to the self-realized devotees, the sadhus. And who is a sadhu? A sadhu is not just an ordinary man with a saffron robe or a long beard. A sadhu is described in Bhagavad-gita as one who unflinchingly engages in devotional service. Even though one is found not to be following the strict rules and regulations of devotional service if one simply has unflinching faith in Krishna the Supreme Personality of Godhead he is understood to be a sadhu. sadhur eva sa mantavyah. A sadhu is a strict follower of devotional service. If one at all wants to realize Brahman or spiritual perfection his attachment should be transferred to the sadhu or devotee. Lord Caitanya has also confirmed this: lava-matra sadhu-sange sarva-sidhi haya, “simply by a moments association with a sadhu one can attain perfection.”

The sadhu’s business is to be very tolerant. When one becomes a devotee many people become one’s enemy because in this age people are asuric, demoniac. Even one’s father may turn into an enemy like Hiranyakasipu, the father of Prahlada Maharaja. Prahlada was only five years old and was chanting Hare Krishna but his father was prepared to kill him because he was a devotee. Hiranyakasipu was saying: “Why are you chanting Hare Krishna? Why are you speaking of a separate God? I am God.” That is the meaning of asuric, demoniac. Rascals who claim to be God themselves are simply demons. Although Prahlada’s father was insisting he was God, Prahlada Maharaja could not accept this. He simply accepted his father as an asura and consequently there was a quarrel between them. When Hiranyakasipu asked Prahlada Maharaja: “What is the best thing you have learned from your teachers?” Prahlada replied: “O best of the asuras, as far as I can understand, because we have accepted this material body we have to accept death, but this is not the object of human life. Human life is meant for moksa, liberation.” Unfortunately, foolish people do not understand this. Krishna says: mrtyuh sarva-haras caham, “I am death and I will take away everything you possess.” (Bhagavad-gita 10.34)

Hiranyakasipu was such a powerful demon that even the demigods were afraid of him still Krishna took everything away from him in a second. Hiranyakasipu was looking for security and was thinking: “I will not die in this way and I will not die in that way.” But he did not think he would be killed by the Lord in the form of Nrsimha. However intelligent we may be and however much we may try to cheat Krishna Krishna is always more intelligent than us. When mother Yasoda tried to bind Krishna with a rope she found the rope was always two inches too short. Our intelligence is like that. We want to cheat God and surpass Him but that is not possible. People think themselves very advanced in knowledge but actually due to their pride their knowledge is taken away by maya. Krishna actually takes the knowledge away from atheistic demoniac people like Hiranyakasipu. Atheists do not know that Krishna’s intelligence is always at least two inches greater than anyone else’s.

Those who are mahatmas are always engaged in chanting Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare/ Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare. Bhajana is chanting of Hare Krishna. If we serve a mahatma like Haridasa Thakura who was always engaged in chanting Hare Krishna our path of liberation is opened. However if we associate with materialistic people who are simply mad for sense gratification we take the way of darkness.

A sadhu (devotee of Krishna) is tolerant, he is merciful and friendly to all living entities. He has no enemies, he is peaceful, he abides by the scriptures and all his characteristics are sublime. His concern is to enlighten people in devotional service; that is his mercy. He knows that without devotional service life is spoiled. A devotee travels all over the country from door to door preaching: “Be Krishna conscious. Be a devotee of Lord Krishna. Don’t spoil your life in simply fulfilling your animal propensities. Human life is meant for self realization, or Krishna consciousness.” These are the preachings of a sadhu. He is not satisfied with his own liberation. He always thinks about others. He is the most compassionate personality toward all fallen souls.

While engaged in preaching work he has to meet with so many opposing elements and therefore the sadhu has to be very tolerant. Someone may ill-treat him because the conditioned souls are not prepared to receive the transcendental knowledge of devotional service. They don’t like it; that is their disease. The sadhu has the thankless task of impressing upon them the importance of devotional service. Sometimes devotees are personally attacked with violence. Lord Jesus Christ was crucified, Haridasa Thakura was cained in twenty-two market places and Lord Caitanya’s principal assistant Nityananda was violently attacked by Jagai and Madhai. But still they were tolerant because their mission was to deliver fallen souls.

At the present moment it is very difficult to avoid the company of asadhus, those who are not sadhus. It is very difficult to find a sadhu for association. We have therefore started this Krishna consciousness movement to create an association of sadhus so that people may take advantage and become liberated. There is no other purpose for this society.

A sadhu does not create enemies. If there are enemies they become envious out of their own character not out of any provocation on the part of a sadhu. A sadhu simply teaches: “My dear human being, my dear friend, just surrender to Krishna.” Enemies arise due to man’s envious nature. Canakya Pandit says that there are two envious animals–serpents and men. Although you may be faultless either may kill you. Of the two Canakya Pandit says that the envious man is more dangerous because a serpent can be subdued by chanting a mantra or some herbs but an envious man cannot be subdued. In Kali-yuga practically everyone is envious but we have to tolerate this.

Envious people create many impediments to the Krishna consciousness movement but we have to tolerate them. There is no alternative. One must be peaceful and depend on Krishna in all circumstances. These are the ornaments of a sadhu. We should find a sadhu and associate with him. Then our path to liberation will be open.

Krishna consciousness is our original consciousness but somehow or other it has become covered by material attachment. The question is how to give up material attachment and become attached to Krishna. The process is sadhu-sanga, association with a sadhu. We have many attachments in this material world but we cannot make these attachments void. We simply have to purify them. Some say that if the eye is diseased it should be plucked out but that is not treatment. Treatment is removing the disease. Somehow or other there is a cataract and if the cataract is removed one’s eyesight will be revived.

We have described the symptoms of a sadhu and we have stated that a sadhu should be accepted by his characteristics. It is not that we accept anyone who comes along and says, “I am a sadhu.” The characteristics of a sadhu have to be present. Similarly it is not that anyone is accepted who comes along and says, “I am an incarnation of God.” There are characteristics of God given in the sastras (scriptures). Sadhu-sanga, association with a sadhu, is very essential in Krishna consciousness. People are suffering due to contamination of tamo-guna (darkness ignorance) and rajo-guna (passion). The sadhu teaches one how to remain purely in sattva-guna (goodness) by truthfulness, cleanliness, mind control, sense control, simplicity, tolerance, full faith and knowledge.

Instead of thinking, “Unless I have a drink, I will go mad,” one should think, “Unless I associate with a sadhu, I will go mad.” When we can think in this way we will become liberated. Caitanya Mahaprabhu has stated that He wants every village in the entire world to be a center for Krishna consciousness so that people can take advantage of sadhus and in turn become sadhus. This is the mission of this Krishna consciousness movement. We simply have to voluntarily undergo some penance in the beginning. It may be a little painful in the beginning to refrain from illicit sex, intoxication, meat eating and gambling but one has to be tolerant. To cure a disease one may have to agree to undergo a surgical operation. Although the operation may be very painful we have to tolerate it. This is called titiksavah. At the same time we have to be karunikah–that is we have to take compassion on the fallen souls by going from town to town to enlighten others in Krishna consciousness. This is a sadhu’s duty. Those who are preachers are superior to those who go to the Himalayas to meditate. It is good to go to the Himalayas to meditate for one’s personal benefit but those who undergo many difficulties in order to preach are superior. They are actually fighting for Krishna’s sake and they are certainly more compassionate. The sadhus who leave Vrndavana to fight in the world to spread Krishna consciousness are superior sadhus. That is the opinion of Krishna in Bhagavad-gita (18.68-69):

ya idam paramam guhyam
mad bhaktesv abhidhasyati
bhaktim mayi param krtva
mam evaisyaty asamsayah

na ca tasman manusyesu
kascin me priya krttamah
bhavita na ca me tasmad
anyah priyataro bhuvi
For one who explains the supreme secret to the devotees, 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.

If we want to be quickly recognized by Krishna we should become preachers. This is also the message of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. It is not that one should remain in India; rather one should travel all over the world to preach Krishna consciousness

Not only is a sadhu everyone’s well-wisher, he is not an enemy of anyone. He is santa peaceful. These are the primary characteristics of a sadhu. He is also attached to no one but Krishna, mayy ananyena bhavena. These are the external and internal symptoms of a sadhu.

A sadhu simply takes pleasure in hearing about Krishna and talking about Him. There are many pastimes enacted by Krishna. He fights and kills demons and He performs His pastimes with the gopis. He plays as a cowherd boy in Vrndavana and as a King of Dvaraka. There are many books about Krishna, krsna-katha, and this Krishna consciousness movement has already published many of them. Apart from Bhagavad-gita, which is spoken by Krishna, we can read these other books. In this way one can learn the art of becoming a sadhu. Simply by hearing about Krishna and speaking about Him we will be immediately relieved from the suffering of this material condition. This symptom will be visible when one no longer has material attachment. A sadhu does not think of himself as Hindu, Muslim, Christian, American, Indian or whatever. He simply thinks, “I am the servant of Krishna.” One need only learn this process in order to render the best service to humanity. (from Teachings of Lord Kapila, Chapter 11.)

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna
Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama
Rama Rama Hare Hare

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