Q. Why do you chant in the streets?
A. Most scriptures of the world, and particularly the Vedas, extol the chanting of God’s names as a powerful means of spiritual realization. Someone who enjoys their spiritual life naturally feels inclined to share it with others. This enthusiasm caused the founder of ISKCON to not only teach Krishna consciousness, but to organize his early students as a formal society for the purpose of teaching others. Devotees of Krishna, therefore will often be found in public places performing sankirtana, by chanting with musical instruments, as introduced by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu 500 years ago.
Q. Where do the teachings come from?
A. Although the Hare Krishna movement has only been established in the West since 1966, its roots extend thousands of years into India’s past. The lifestyle and philosophical beliefs are based on ancient scriptures known as the Vedas. Originally preserved in the spoken word, the Vedas were written down in the Sanskrit language 5000 years ago.
Their compiler, Srila Vyasadeva, divided the work into various departments of material and spiritual knowledge, entrusting his disciples with particular sections. In this way, the scriptures developed into four principal Vedas, including the Vedanta Sutra, 108 Upanishads, and 18 Puranas, collectively known as the ‘fifth Veda’. The final Purana, the Bhagavat Purana or Srimad Bhagavatam, contains the essence of the Vedic wisdom in 18,000 verses. A further work was the Mahabharata, which includes the well-known Bhagavad gita. The process described in the Vedas is one of gradual elevation to the platform of God-realization. Vedic wisdom was then carefully preserved and passed down for centuries through the tutorial vehicle of guru-parampara, a disciplic succession of self-realized teachers.
In the early 16th century, a remarkable spiritual renaissance took place within India. This was led by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (1486-1534). He challenged the religious leaders of his day whom he felt were stifling the teachings of Vedic knowledge. Caste-conscious priests alone had access to the Vedas and considered spiritual life the prerogative of an educated minority. Taking religion out of the temples and amongst the people, regardless of their caste, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu propagated devotion to Lord Krishna and pioneered a massive movement which swept the subcontinent, gaining a following of millions.
The ancient wisdom of the Puranas and Upanishads, through the practical teachings of Sri Chaitanya is now finding expression outside India in the Hare Krishna movement.
Q. Can you explain me the significance of the mahamantra? Is it more effective than devotional songs and Vedas?
A. The sixteen syllable Hare Krishna mahamantra is a plea to the internal potency (Hare) of the Supreme Personality of Godhead (Krishna, Rama) – namely to Srimati Radharani, to be engaged in the service of Krishna. The Upanisads mention this mahamantra as the means of perfection especially in this age of Kali.
Singing devotional songs or chanting Vedic hymns are also forms of devotional service. However, the mahamantra has been empowered by Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who is non-different from Sri Krishna and is the yuga avatar and is therefore considered to be most potent.
Q. I have been in contact with ISKCON for one year, but I am still not happy. I believe that I have taken birth to serve India. I want to live and die for India. I don’t want to go to the kingdom of God until I feel that I have completed my job on this earth.
My problem with ISKCON is that the lectures teach only the ways to go to God, but I want to know the ways to live in this Kali-yuga. Of course, I will remain a devotee of Lord Krishna. But please give me some tips that will help me live in this Kali-yuga.
Let me tell you my aim in this life: I want to fight for justice. I want to serve the people of India. I want to serve the society.
A. Lord Krishna has appeared in this Kali-yuga as Lord Caitanya, who states that the duty of every Indian is to make his life perfect by becoming Krishna conscious and helping others become Krishna conscious. If you accept that as your service for India, you will make a great contribution. Because Srila Prabhupada took Lord Caitanya’s instruction seriously, he was able to greatly benefit the world by giving the perfection of India’s spiritual culture, pure devotion to Lord Krishna. If you follow in his footsteps, that will be the greatest service you can perform for Krishna, for India, for the world, and for yourself.
The best way to live in this world is the same as the way to go to the spiritual world: to fully engage in God’s service.
It is said that those who have lost their spiritual vision in this age of Kali can get light from Srimad-Bhagavatam. So you can study under the guidance of a realized soul and be enlightened and act in an enlightened way. The Srimad-Bhagavatam says that those who know the essence of things worship the age of Kali because in this age one can attain all desirable things simply by chanting the holy name of the Lord.
The greatest injustice is that because people lack real knowledge, they are being systematically slaughtered life after life as a result of neglecting their relationship with God. You can teach, by your own example, that life’s goal is spiritual realization, and you can also help educate others and end this slaughtering by teaching them Bhagavad-gita. If you want to do good to others, why not work for their eternal benefit? If you do this, you will be forever gloried and your soul be fully satisfied.
Q. Is it true that amongst Their Lordships Sri Sri Gaura Nitai, Gaura means Lord Gauranga who is considered Lord Krishna himself and Nitai means Lord Nityananda, incarnation of Lord Balarama?
A. Yes. Lord Gauranga is Lord Krishna Himself and Lord Nityananda is Lord Balarama. Both of them appeared in Kaliyuga to spread the chanting of the holy names:
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare
which is the most powerful way of reviving our God consciousness.
Q. Where can I find a list of disciplic succession starting from Krishna moving down?
A. The disciplic succession from the Brahma-Gaudiya sampradaya is listed in the beginning of Bhagavad-gita As It Is by Srila Prabhupada. There are four bona fide disciplic successions which all originate from the Supreme Lord Krishna, then coming respectively through Lord Brahma, Lakshmi-devi, Lord Shiva and the Kumaras. The principal acaryas who strongly re-established these four lines in recent times were Madhvacarya, Ramanujacarya, Vishnu Swami and Nimbarkacarya. Lord Caitanya took initiation in the Brahma-Madhva-sampradaya, and thus the disciplic succession following Lord Caitanya and His associates are called Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya sampradaya.
Q. When Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (He is Krishna Himself) came to this world, He preached in India only. Why did He not preach all over world (i.e. out of India)? Even though He is the all merciful incarnation of Krishna, why did He not show mercy to all the people in the world?
A. Lord Chaitanya issued the order five hundred years ago that His holy name will be heard in every town and village of the world. And we see that since then many great spiritual leaders have tried to execute this order in various capacities. In fact, this effort will continue for the next ten thousand years till the mission is completed.
One way to estimate the greatness of a person is by observing how many people work under him carrying out his orders. Usually, the legacy established by a great leader does not last beyond a few generations. But the order issued by Lord Chaitanya carries so much potency that even without His physical presence, His legacy continues to expand. If it were not His direct empowerment, how do you think today’s preachers are able to preach all over the world? The all-merciful Lords, Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai, continue to remain the real preachers under whom all others are acting as instruments.
As Paramatma, Lord Caitanya doesn’t even need to preach. He can make everyone a pure devotee simply by His will. However, it is our great fortune that the Lord did not finish the preaching work during His manifested lila. He has left the mission in our hands so that we can complete the mission on His behalf. The Lord in turn gives us all credit for helping His mission, just as Krishna gave all credit to Arjuna for winning the Battle of Kurukshetra.
Q. How did Chaitanya Mahaprabhu leave this material world?
A. Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu concluded His manifest pastimes by entering the Deity of Tota-Gopinatha in Puri.