[Advaita-l] What does "Hare Krishna" Mean?

Aravind Mohanram psuaravind at yahoo.com
Fri Jan 2 21:14:07 CST 2004

Thanks for your kind reply. 

"Jaldhar H. Vyas" <jaldhar at braincells.com> wrote:
> >Because it can't. There is no "magic spell" that can give anyone moksha.
> >Bondage is caused by ignorance so only the opposite of ignorance can
> >result in liberation. It's not a question of whether one recites one name
> >or 100,000, if it is done without jnana it will not avail.
> May I know the sastric basis for the above statement?

As Vidyashankar wrote, there are no end to them because the idea that
jnana is the cause of moksha is the very purport of the upanishads.

>>I'm not doubting jnana as a means to moksha. I was asking the sastric basis for the statement that there is no magic spell that can give moksha. 

> jnana and bhakti go hand-in-hand.

Advaitins say that jnana is the highest type of Bhakti.

>>Yes, I understand that. Vaishnavas (and I can speak for Chaitanyites) consider bhakti mixed with mental speculation and desire for fruitive activities as not perfect. It is not selfless/pure devotion.

> As Krishna says in the Bhagavad-Gita,
> tesam satata yuktanam... (10.10) - to those who are constantly devoted
> to me, I give the understanding by which they come to Me.

Exactly. Note that it is "understanding" which causes "coming." Also
note the text doesn't say "constantly devoted" it says "satata yuktanam"
i.e. "constantly _joined_" This is why it is important to learn sanskrit
rather than rely on someone elses say-so.

>>It's not that we accept because someone says so - we accept the authority of the acharya alongwith that of sastra and sadhus. Srila Prabhupada's Gita As It Is is perfectly consistent with the devotional conclusions of scriptures and his parampara acharyas. He does not invent his own philosophy/and try to differ with his guru parampara. As much as understanding Sankara depends on following his instructions and developing a strong faith in the acharya's words, understanding Srila Prabhupada's Gita requires development of faith and a desire to follow his instructions, which includes chanting, serving Krishna constantly (Gita 8.7, tasmat sarvesu kalesu...). If one tries to understand his Gita based on pure sanskrit scholarship, of which most members on this forum maybe rightly proud of, one is expected to find contradictions - it is like bee licking on the outside of a bottle of honey. I strongly believe the same holds true for understanding any bonafide acharya's works.

> There have
> also been cases (when people are not able to understand the imports of
> sastras), pure chanting has made people advance in spiritual life or
> achieve liberation.

Advance in spiritual life yes. As I said, there is no objection to this
as a practice. But as a direct cause of liberation no. If it were the
case we could just put on a tape 24/hrs a day and be done with it.

>>My statements were based on devotional scriptures. I'll be glad to provide references, if I find time. 

> Chanting is one of the nine processes of devotional
> services.

Yes *one* of nine. 

>> Yes, but it is particularly effective as stated in devotional scriptures and by all Vaishnava acharyas. Even a person who chants or hears the Holy name develops attraction for the Lord. Try doing it for a week/month with sincerity and you will see the effects for yourself. 

> In ISKCON, chanting is emphasized because of several reasons.
> First, nama-sankirtanam is considered the means for self-realization in
> this age of Kali.

By whom? There is a popular saying quoted by Bhaskara Raya "kalau
chandivinayakau" which suggests that in Kaliyuga worship of Mataji and
Ganesh Bhagavan is the means of moksha.

>>>I'll try to get the exact scriptural reference for this. I have heard it emphasized by followers of Chaitanya. Wherever Chaitanya went, he induced people, even the most fallen to chant the Holy names, and to understand and accept his instructions, one has to develop faith in his parampara. 

> Further, it can be done at anytime
> and by anyone. And, is especially meant for people in this age because
> people are always disturbed and anxious.

Personally I don't feel either disturbed or anxious. In fact most people
around me are not disturbed or anxious.

>>>Good for you. Most fallen souls are. You just have to go outside your circle and look. Anyway, I don't think this is an important point for this discussion. 

> But, one should try to do this
> chanting without offenses. Ajamila chanted the name of Narayana and was
> saved from the pangs of death - it is important to note that this quick
> result was possible because he chanted without offenses, in a state of
> helplessness. So, one should strive to chant the names of Krishna
> concentrating well on the sound vibrations and avoiding offenses. By
> constant chanting, one's consciousness is purified of material
> contamination and the chanter raises above the three modes.

Ajamila was a wicked man his entire life and at his death was calling his
son whose name happened to be Narayana not God. So he was in a state of
both sin and ignorance. So how do you think he was without offenses? Or
are you saying Bhagavan arbitrarily decides who is offensive and who is
not? If so there is no pointing in chanting or anything. You'll get
saved or damned regardless of your actions.

>>>Please try to understand what I said. Ajamila's life was not without offenses. I just said that Ajamila chanted the Holy name in a "helpless" state without any offenses during chanting (in Gita, 8th chapter, Krishna says, whoever at the time of death remembers, go to Him and Ajamila was fortunate to chant the Holy name - Krishna being Absolute (Gita 7.7), His name and Himself are non-different). If you are interested, I can refer you to the ten offenses of chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra (or for that matter any authorized name of Krishna/Vishnu). 

> The moksha of Vaishnavas is different from that of Adavitins. There are
> 5 kinds of moksha, that I have heard of.

The moksha we refer to is the final release from the cycle of birth and
rebirth. It is the only moksha worthy of the name.

>>> I meant life after moksha. For Vaishnavas, individuality persists after liberation from the cycle of birth and death. 

> But, interestingly, the goal of
> Krishna conscious devotees is not even moksha which is considered the
> final goal of life by Hindus. They actually look down upon
> liberation!!!. All they long for is eternal service for Krishna and His
> devotees, either in hell or heaven (please read the prayers of Prahlad
> Maharaj and other devotees in Srimad Bhagavatam). This is why chanting
> and Krishna conscious activities are purely selfless activites if done
> with proper consciousness and in a mood of service and humility.

This is why anyone who who is seriously practicing Bhakti will come to
jnana. What kind of service can you give if you don't understand who you
are serving? Take the example of a servant. The loyal servant will not
just wait for orders but hasten to ascertain his masters wishes. In the
case of Dharma the master wishes us to understand that in truth we are a
part of Him. Even this is not incompatible with Bhakti. Take the example
of lovers. When two people are deeply in love a slight to one will seem
like a slight to the other. Seperation will seem like torture. You get
the idea.

>>>Right. One needs knowledge about Krishna to serve Him. No one is disputing that. And, as I said before, the bhakti-yogi acquires jnana through Krishna's grace. Studying a scripture is different from "understanding" what is said. For example, when we say we understand something, what do we exactly mean? sometimes, it so happens that even after reading several times, we may not get the real meaning, but suddenly the understanding comes - who provides that? one gets that understanding by the grace of guru and Krishna. Not by any other means. It is by Sankara and Lord's mercy can one understand his philosophy, not just by our tiny intelligence. 

> The Hare Krishna Maha-mantra means,
> "On, Internal Potency of the Lord (Hare), Please Engage Me in the
> Service of Hari".

That isn't the grammatical meaning.

>>>But, that is the meaning provided by Srila Prabhupada and his parampara and we accept it. 

> The mantra is found in the kali-santarana upanishad
> (which some may consider not authentic, although I haven't come across a
> good reason to reject). It's not "invented" by someone but given and
> made popular by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.

If this "mahamantra" and "upanishad" is part of the most ancient Vedic
traditions don't you find it rather suspicious that staunch Vaishnavas
such as Ramanuja or Madhva have completely failed to mention it? Or
openents of Vaishnavism -- even if only to refute it. That even a
contemporary of Chaitanya like Vallabha have failed to mention it? That
foreign travellers to India like Hsien Tang and Al Biruni who have written
descriptions of contemporary religious practices fail to mention it?
There seems to be no evidence whatsoever that either mantra or upanishad
existed prior to Chaitanya.

>>> Good point. Even I have thought about this. And, this is my understanding - The Hare Krishna mantra is especially meant for developing love of Krishna (Absolute truth) and it is Chaitanya who emphasized the most on serving Krishna in 5 kinds of relationships, especially the topmost one of conjugal love. While Ramanuja and Madhva emphasized on bhakti to Krishna or Vishnu in a mood of awe and reverence, Chaitanya emphasized madhurya (or devotion in conjugal love) and that's why understandably you see more emphasis on Bhagavata Purana by His school compared to those of Ramanuja and Madhva. Having said that, the South Indian Vaishnava saints, the Azhwars did glorify Krishna in His different rasas, including Madhurya. Vallabha's emphasis, if I'm right was on parental rasa (similar to the one experienced by Yashoda and Nanda). Followers of Chaitanya chant the Hare Krishna maha-mantra, while the other Vaishnavas chant other bonafide names of Vishnu/Krishna - the essence is same,
 however, to achieve eternal service to the beloved Lord. As far as western scholars are concerned, I don't consider them as authorities of Vedic knowledge, as long as they don't come under any particular guru parampara. 



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