A devotee couple, having imbibed Krishna-bhakti since childhood, is dedicated to spreading Krishna-kirtan around the globe. Residents of Gopinath Bhavan in Vrindavan, Sudevi Dasi and her husband Kishori Mohan are from California.
Childhood friends since their Gurukula days, they met Narayan Maharaj in 1996 and became devotees of Krishna. Although their parents are Christians, they chanted the Hare Krishna Mahamantra, attended Mangal Arati, and listened to the pastimes of Krishna since childhood. They have been practicing Krishna-bhakti and kirtans for the past 17 years.
Acclaimed for their Kirtans, their album Bhakti without Borders was also nominated for the Grammy Awards last year.
They wedded in the traditional Vedic manner 21 years back in the Rupa-Sanatana Gaudiya Matha at Seva Kunj.
The meaning of the word, Guru (Spiritual master), is very grave. If the word is analyzed it’s only two parts ‘Gu’ and ‘ru’ are obtained. Here ‘Gu’ signifies ‘Darkness’ and ‘ru’ means ‘Light’. It simply indicates that he who is able to save forever illusioned persons from the clutches of darkened maya (illusion) and is able to make them reach the sun or light-like God will be considered to be described as a ‘Guru’. Similarly the meaning of the word, ‘Sisya’ (Disciple), has its own speciality. A disciple promptly places on his head every order of all known as spiritual masters. He carries out the order in question with responsibility, regularity and pleasure and adds to the happiness of Krishna, the original Guru of all, and his Diksha Guru and Siksa Guru and all other Vaisnavas. The inherent meaning of the word Sisya, is associated with a person who always joyfully follows without any question the rules of all sorts of preceptors. In this age the difference between a preceptor and a disciple is going to be abolished forever. This article is presented in this context.
In the Gita Krishna, the Supreme Godhead, taught lessons to all living in the world by addressing Arjuna. In the very way, the saviour from Kali and the apostle of love, Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, addressed Sri Rupa Goswami and his brother, Anupam, when He was seated with them at Dasaswamedh Ghat in Prayag, and taught us that innumerable bounded up jiva souls wonder through 8 400 000 species in the fourteen worlds. There are two classes of jiva: mobile and immobile. Mobile creatures are of three types: aquatic, terrestrial and flying creatures. Among them terrestrial class is the best. Man is the best in this class. Among them the human beings are very small in number. There are many persons who are devoid of civilization and virtue and are atheists. One-half of those who are called virtuous, have reverence for the Vedas and accepts them verbally. Most of these religious persons who have attachment to the Vedas are workers. On analysis one wise person is found among many thousands of workers. In the same way one liberated persons will be detected among thousands of wise men. Similarly, one devotee of Sri Krishna is very scarce among one crore liberated persons.
According to Sriman Mahaprabhu, the apostle of love, devotee of Sri Krishna is very rare. But, in recent days so many rare devotees of Krishna are found all around. Is the utterance of the Lord a false one then? No, it can never be so. His words will never be false. Devotees of Krishna are truly very rare.
Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu instructed Nityananda Prabhu and Namacharya Haridas Thakur after observing the troubles of jivas struck by Kali:
suna suna nityananda suna haridas
sarbatra amara ajna karaha prachar
prati ghare ghare giya kara ei bhiksha
bala krishna bhaja krishna kara krishna siksa
“My dear Nityananda and Haridas, please, give ample publicity of my order to all places. Go to every house and beg for uttering Krishna, worshiping Krishna and learning Krishna.”
In order to follow the instruction and to place on high positions the flag signifying the conquest over all views in the foreign countries my Param Gurudev Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur, at first sent there his three competent disciples: Tridandi Swami Srimad Bhakti Pradip Tirtha Maharaj, Tridandi Swami Srimad Bhakti Saranga Goswami Maharaj and Srimad Bhakti Hriday Bon Maharaj, for propagating in every house the way to make lives significant by pronouncing the Name of Krishna, taking part in the service of Krishna and going through the books having bearings on Krishna. He also wanted to overflow the world by the Holy love of Lord Krishna through the above requests. After that Srila Prabhupada disappeared. In his absence nobody came actively to the foreign countries for a long time for preaching the lessons of Sriman Mahaprabhu. In 1965 Srila Bhakti Vedanta Swami Maharaj, my siksha Guru blessed by Srila Prabhupada and the Founder Acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, preached with the vigour given by Srila Prabhupada almost everywhere in the world as per the following desire of Srila Prabhupada and instruction of Sriman Mahaprabhu ‘Harer-nama harer-nama harer-namaiva kevalam’ (The Name of Hari, The Name of Hari, only the Name of Hari). He did so with the desire and grace of Sriman Mahaprabhu and Srila Prabhupada to make the following saying of Sriman Mahaprabhu a true one:
prithivite ache yata nagaradi gram
sarvatra prachar haive mor nam
“My name will be preached to all towns and villages in the world.”
He made it known to all that Hari-nam only is the natural faculty of the people struck by Kali. It is the only means to get peace by giving up quarrel and enviousness. As a result, at least a number of people having devotion to Mahaprabhu can be found out.
During the time of the prakasa-lila (life-time) of Srila Bhakti Vedanta Swami Maharaja, the founder of ISKCON, many enthusiastic foreign devotees of Sriman Mahaprabhu were available. In course of time with the disappearance of Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja and his class-fellows all Vaisnavas belonging to Sri Brahma Madhva Gaudiya Saraswat Sampradaya (community) and all other so called Vaisnava sects were griped by the awful seizure of Kali.
Men living in this material world lost their awareness about their abode and became devoid of religion. They believe in the so called worldly affairs, disregard the rules of religion and almost all of them are entangled in transgression. Now in the name of religion we, the devotees in the eyes of the worldly people have made the very flow of the preaching of the message of Sriman Mahaprabhu the way to earn our livelihood. Each jiva is after enjoying sensual pleasures. He never gave us the chance of such an enjoyment. The entrance of the British in India about 254 years ago with measuring instrument of a businessman can be taken up as an instance. They found that the hearts of the Indians are soft like flowers. Their measuring instrument gradually broke the said hearts by a magic power and they took over the ruling power in their hands with the aid of their enjoyment tendency.
In this way the religious arena is actually devoid of a true Guru today. We neglected the rules of the scriptures in the name of religion and like the British we made our religion a way to earn our livelihood. As a result, people living in this country and the foreign lands United themselves in the foreign lands and in this country respectively in the beguile of accepting Guru and preaching religion. By the attraction of Mahamaya we are detached from our religion and Varnasrama and gave religion an ugly form in connection with the relation of Guru and his disciples. Guru is the container and conveyer of religion. It makes us describe our Guru as the identical revelation of God. Previously we were proud of the judgment and characteristic of the practice of pure devotion by my Param Gurudev Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur. Afterwards my Gurudev, Om Vishnupad 108 Sri Srimad Bhakti Promode Puri Goswami Maharaj and his godbrothers showed the same ideal of Srila Prabhupada and taught us that the real home of every jiva is Bhagavatdham, Golok, where the Supreme Godhead Himself is engaged in lila (Pastimes) in company with His associates. Jiva is forever related with Him as His servant. They taught us this matter and showed us the way to return to our real home, Bhagavatdham.
‘Asakti rahita, sambandha sahita kara ucchaisvare Harinam.’ — ‘Pronounce loudely the Name of Hari by discarding attachment and embracing relation with Him.’ It is a matter of great regret that we have down-trodden those ideals of the mahajanas (Great saints) as very insignificant ones and have used their great names. On the other hand we bade good bye from the core of our hearts to the land of religion, India and came to the foreign countries to earn money by hook or by crook in the name of the service of God and Guru-Vaisnava. By getting money in this way we saved it giving birth to attachment and leaving our ideal of detachment. Finally we are very much engaged in fulfilling our greed for the enjoyment of our senses.
Some persons disclose, ‘after earning money in the foreign countries we shall go back to our Dham and accept strict Bhajan like Rupa and Sanatana.’ In the words of Srila Viswanath Thakur this type of alternative thinking is called byudhavikalpa. It means a plea to enjoy worldly possessions in the name of service to God by forgetting Saranagati. In fact, only Saranagati (complete surrender) and nothing else is the stair to reach to the door of the knowledge of Bhagavata. At the time of composing the kirtan ‘Vaisnava ke’ — ‘Who is the Vaisnava?’, Srila Prabhupada said ‘Kanaka, Kamini Pratistha baghini chariache yare, sei to vaisnava’ — ‘He who has discarded gold, female sex and the tigress, reputation is the Vaisnava’. Yet we being his prasisya (followers of the next generation) are worshiping the three hindrances to Hari Bhajan: gold, female sex and reputation. In fact, most of us made Srila Prabhupada and His initiated personalities the capital of our business, entrapped ourselves in the guise of Vaisnavas and after accepting materialistic views we are in the look out for making the number of Apasampradaya so many in place of only thirteen.
Srila Prabhupada always said ‘The condition of so called Guru and Sisya is very miserable. The condition of all Gurus is more regrettable than Sisyas’. In the words of Srila Prabhupada both Guru and Sisya of this type are blind while they follow the path to devotion. Gurudev is the pathfinder to the Bhagavat-dham. A blind can not show the way to another blind. If a person plays the role of a guru without practicing pure devotion and shows negligence to the scriptures he will receive two pushes at the time of trying to show the way to his sisya and his sisya will get one. His venture of this type will bring to him the first push. He will fall down in a ditch. His second push will come when his sisya will fall flat on him from behind having the first push.
In recent days another problem appeared very prominently. On getting in touch with different posts in religious organizations Guru and sisya both are now busy with these positions. Whenever they are asked of pure devotion, they being burdened with the posts say with wonder ‘What is that?! Now we are very busy.’ Srila Sukadeva Goswami told us to chant the Name of Hari for sixteen rounds on the beads and look after the property as the one belonging to Krishna. The exact time for taking Hari Nama sixteen times on the beads is not found out in view of the malice of property. Practically when a property is taken as one belonging to me instead of Krishna, jiva by unbiased strength of Krishna goes far away from Him and gets a burning sensation as a separate entity.
Now gold, female sex and reputation are our necessity in place of love to Krishna. What will be the consequence? Will our taking shelter of the lotus feet of Guru and endeavour or service be proved futile? Our taking shelter of the lotus feet of Guru will then be meaningful when we shall be able to follow with pleasure all the principles laid down by him instead of imitating them and chant the Name of Hari whole-heartedly. In this way, our venture to be united with the soul of our Guru chanting of Harinam everyday and measures to serve the Vaisnavas and the Lord will make us follow Bhakti-anga instead of playing the role of accepting pure devotion. If a Guru is engaged in the robbing of the wealth of his sisya instead of removing his miseries and a sisya is entangled in enjoying his Guru instead of rendering devotional service to him (that was described previously at the time of showing the attempt of Guru to earn his livelihood by making the Name as the capital and his engagement in enjoying the senses) then Yamaraj will construct a special naraka (hell) for both the Guru and his said sisya.
This dasadhama prays with a piece of cloth fastened around his neck to Srila Guru Padapadma, Srila Prabhupada and the Acharyas following the footsteps of Rupa ‘Please, wake every one living in the world, making them detached from Anyabhilasa (other aspirations) by defeating the two hindrances to pure devotion — knowledge and work, and give them that is conducive to the nourishment of pure devotion and allow them to be the eternal devotees of the Lord Krishna Chandra.’ They are also requested by him to allow the boat of his human body to serve the lotus feet of the pilot who takes us to the opposite bank of the ocean in the form of this world, to rescue us by creating the chance for establishing an eternal relation with the Lord and to make us liberated from our condition of confinement in Maya.
This Dasadhama politely submit to the readers to kindly forgive the Aparadha (offences) for his faults.
A short documentary about the significance of taking Sannyas Vow in Vaishnava Tradition explained by the prominent spiritual leaders of ISKCON. The documentary focuses on the inner journey of HH Krishna Kshetra Swami when he decides to take Sannyasa Initiation which will be his final vow. The movie is dedicated to His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Srila Prabhupada the Founder-acarya of ISKCON. Copyrights reserved. 2015
The Congress and BSP have decided to come together to protest against the state government’s decision to acquire the famous Banke Bihari temple in Vrindavan, alleging that it would monopolise temple activities and disturb the faith of devotees.
Presently, the temple is run by a private management committee comprising 80 members along with dozens of priests. The proposal for acquiring the temple was initiated by the state government after a senior IAS officer was fined by the committee for taking VIP treatment, temple administration claims.
“The officer used a table and chair and had food on the campus which is prohibited. We imposed a fine of Rs 7.50 lakh on ‘Sewayat Gosains’ (Saraswat Brahmins who serve Bihari ji) for this act. After reaching Lucknow, the proposal for acquiring the temple was initiated. This will result in corruption in the temple,” Nandkishore Upmanyu, president, Banke Bihari Temple Committee told The Indian Express.
“We are also going to start a free hospital, dharamshala, school and garden for Thakur ji’s Shringar. We cannot allow government interference as it will result in destabilising the set practices,” Upmanyu added.
Pledging their support to the Banke Bihari Temple Committee, local BSP MLA Raj Kumar Rawat and Congress Legislature Party leader and MLA Pradeep Mathur, along with various local Hindu organisations such as Dharam Raksha Sangh and Hindu Jagran Manch have come together to oppose the government’s decision.
“We are against the government’s move as ‘Thakur ji’ belongs to every Brijwasi and will remain for them. There should not be any government interference in ‘Thakur ji’s’ puja,” said MLA Rawat. Mathur said, “It is a harsh step which the government should not take. It will disturb the faith of devotees. All parties should sit down and work for improving basic facilities at the temple.”
Government officials dismissed the protest as handiwork of those with vested interest. “Our main concern is security and facilities to the devotees. Most of the time these people are fighting among themselves. Only those who have vested interests are protesting. They have sought time and we have given them time for hearing their representation,” Navneet Sehgal, Principal Secretary, Religious Affairs department said.
The temple receives nearly Rs 50 lakh per month as donation from devotees, while nearly Rs 1.20 crore is spent on private security and housekeeping. The temple is served by nearly 550 Saraswat Brahmins who trace their origin to Swami Haridas who had set up the temple nearly 550 years ago.
Swami Haridas was the guru of music maestro Tansen. Presently, the temple is visited by lakhs with waiting period of over a year for participating in Phool Ka Bungla (floral decoration) among devotees.
ISKCON's Minister of Communications, Anuttama Dasa, spoke in October at the World Parliament of Religions in Salt Lake City, Utah, on a Panel entitled "Understanding and Mitigating the Dangers of Manipulation, Undue Influence and Abuse within Religious and Spiritual Communities." Anuttama was joined by Dr. Michael Langone, the Executive Director of the International Cultic Studies Association. Both discussed potential problems of spiritual leadership and the means of avoiding abuse through training, accountability, and transparency.
“Joy” - KirtanRaga’s first album of live kirtan recordings. Kirtan Raga is an educational project dedicated to sharing knowledge about the philosophy and practice of kirtan. “Joy” is available on iTunes, Amazon, GooglePlay, Spotify, and other digital platforms. All profits will be used to fund worldwide promotion of kirtan through website development, publications, events, and educational initiatives.
A week-long festival seeking to unite different cultures and create an environment of peace and harmony will be held here from November 18 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the 16th century monk and reformer Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
Vrindavan Prakash Mahotsav is set to bring together at least 40 different styles of music from 25 states across the country.
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is said to have promoted the community-style devotional worship of Krishna with kirtans.
President to attend opening function
President Pranab Mukherjee, Uttar Pradesh Governor Ram Naik and Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav along with host of dignitaries will be present at the inauguration on November 18.
Of the various avatars of Vishnu, he revered Krishna and popularised the chanting of the ‘Hare Krishna’ mantra, also known as ‘Sankirtan.’
“India is known for acceptance and tolerance, and we want this festival to be known for that. The essence of this festival is to create love and harmony,” says Abhishek Goswami, the convener of the festival.
With Manipuri manjiras fusing with mridangams from Bengal and Manganiyar musicians from Rajasthan, the festival aims to “bring the whole country together in a single sutra.”
“The main objective of the festival is creating a bridge between all forms of culture, music and to emanate love,” says Mr Goswami.
Organised by Vrindavan based organisation, Earth Voice, with the support of Kathak Kendra, the Sangeet Natak Akademi and Dharmik Leela Commitee, the festival would host musical legends including Sanjeev Abhyankar, Kalapini Komkali and Trichur Brothers.
Devotee: Why do we celebrate Dipavali, and in what mood is it celebrated by Vrajavasis? Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja: Dipavali means a time of happiness. When Lord Rama defeated Ravana and reached Ayodhya, a big Dipavali festival was performed there. Sri Vamanadeva wanted to cheat Bali Maharaja. He did not cheat him; rather He gave His mercy, although it seemed that He was cheating. When Bali Maharaja was offered a benediction from the Lord, he requested, “Always remain in my home.” In this way the Lord Himself was “cheated.” Lord Vamanadeva was very glad, and He agreed to stay there forever. Due to great happiness, Bali Maharaja then asked all his associates to hold a Dipavali festival, and that was the first Dipavali. When Krsna defeated Duryodhana and returned to Dvaraka, a Dipavali was also celebrated there.
Lord Krsna Himself, along with Mother Yasoda, Nanda Baba and all the other Vrajavasis, came here to Manasa-ganga, and celebrated this festival with their own hands. In other words they themselves offered dipa (a lighted ghee wick) and rendered many other services.
Dipavali also means light. If there is no bhajana of Krsna there is darkness, and in Krsna Consciousness there is light. We celebrate this function in order to give up darkness and to bring the light of bhakti, pure devotion. This is the same celebration. Real happiness comes from playing karatalas and mrdangas. If one hears this, and if maya hears, maya will go away at once. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu brought the saìkirtana movement to this world to drive out maya. Sri Krsna and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu celebrate this Dipavali Themselves, and we should try to follow Them.
This year, under the leadership of Vaishnavacharya Padmanabh Goswami of the Radharaman temple, festivities this year will be much expanded, bringing together many prominent persons from various walks of life. It will be held from the 18th to 25th November.
The President of India, Hon’ble Shri Pranab Mukherjee, will inaugurate the celebration on the 18th November. Various dignitaries will also grace the occasion by their presence and the lineup will include Shri Ram Naik, the Governor of Uttar Pradesh, Shri Akhilesh Yadav, Chief Minister of UP and Smt Hema Malini, MP for the Mathura constituency.
On the 18th November, at the request of Acharya Shri Padmanabh Goswami, Acharya Shri Padma Lochan Goswami, Acharya Shri Anurag Goswami, the President of India and Guests of Honor will visit the Shri Radha Ramanji Temple and the Amiya Nimai Mahaprabhu Temple. They will then attend a stage program at the Parmeshwari Devi Dhanuka Saraswati Vidya Mandir.
21 Nov. 6.30 p.m. Installing the auspicious vessel, performance of the adhivasa kirtan, by followers of Ramdas Babaji of Path Bari, Barah Nagar, Kolkata, W.B. 22 Nov. 5-6 p.m. Bhaktamal discourse by Bhaktimali Ji. 23 Nov. 4.30 p.m. Mahanta Sri Sachidananda Shastri, lecture. 23 Nov. 5.30 p.m. Tridandi Swami Bhaktivedanta Madhusudan Maharaj, lecture. 24 Nov. 9.00 a.m. Akrura-lila kirtan, by followers of Ramdas Babaji of Path Bari. Followed by bhoga offering and Vaishnava seva. 24 Nov. 5.00 p.m. Mahanta Premdas Shastri, lecture. 25 Nov. 9.00 a.m. Sri Harigopal Goswami (Kolkata) will read from Chaitanya Charitamrita the section on Mahaprabhu’s arrival in Vrindavan. 25 Nov. 3.30 p.m. Nagar sankirtan. Followed by bhoga offering and prasad.
Vaishnavacharya Padmanabh Goswami, Sevait of Radharaman and Amiya Nimai temple.
The celebration will culminate in a grand procession on the 25th November, Kartika Purnima at 3.30 p.m. from Shri Amiya Nimai Gauranga Mahaprabhu Temple. On this full moon day of the Kartika month, a kirtana procession goes out to the places in Vrindavan that Mahaprabhu visited on the day he first arrived.
During this procession, various kirtanas are performed that describe what Mahaprabhu felt when He saw the various pastime places of Shri Shri Radha Krishna.
On the day of Maha-raas Leela i.e. Kartik Purnima, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu came to Vrindavan for the very first time. During His visit, he came to places where Radha and Krishna conducted their pastimes by doing the internal Parikrama of Vrindavan.
Every Kartik Purnima for the past 100 years, thousands of Gaudiya devotees and aspirants follow those footsteps of Mahaprabhu by going to those same sacred places, entering the mood of Vrindavan just as he himself taught his followers.
The procession starts off from the Amiya Nimai Mahaprabhu temple (also known as Boro Gaur or Big Gaur) in Gopinath Bazaar at 16:00, and continue through the streets of Vrindavan until 12:00 am, singing the kirtans of those lilas that signify the feelings Mahaprabhu developed as he went to each place, the moods he was in when he saw the places of Shri Radha Krishna’s pastimes. On this particular day, none of the main seven temples or any other temple closes until this procession reaches them.
Birbhadra Das Babaji Maharaj of Barahnagar Path Bari leading kirtan in Vrindavan on Karttik Purniima, 2013.
We would like to invite you to enjoy the divine nectar and the swim in the ocean of devotion. Radhe Radhe!! (Vishakha Dasi)
Govinda Swami, a senior member of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, during his recent visit to Hong Kong.
With a famous DJ as a father, and a grandfather who worked as a missionary in Africa, it’s not surprising Govinda Swami chose a path that balances music with religion.
“My dad was a disc jockey in Tennessee. He was Elvis’ first producer and managed him for a while,” he says matter-of-factly about his father Bob Neal’s relationship with the rock ’n’ roll star. Music producer Neal also helped launch the careers of Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins. “Elvis often visited the house; he would babysit me. He called me ‘younger brother Sean’.”
Today, Sean Neal is better known as Govinda Swami and is a senior member of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), founded in 1966 in New York by Srila Prabhupada.
He joined in 1971 and his devotion to the movement has taken the 64-year-old around the world, including to Hong Kong, where last month he held kirtans – a form of devotional chanting – at ISKCON’s temple in Tsim Sha Tsui.
First introduced to Hong Kong in 1972, the movement was officially registered here in 1981.
Receiving a blessing on the way into the temple.
It’s uncertain how many Hare Krishnas reside in Hong Kong because the temple is open to the public, says locally based devotee Vrishabhanu Kumari.
“In terms of regular practitioners, I’d say we have about 100 to 150, split between Chinese, Indians and a few Westerners – Americans, Aussies, British and Europeans, and a healthy mix of people in their golden years, young couples, youth and tiny tots,” she says.
One of the basic requirements for a devotee is daily chanting of the maha mantra (maha means “great”; mantra means “sound that liberates the mind”). The chant is supposed to cleanse the heart of greed, envy, lust, anger and other obstacles to peace. Chanting and singing – and meditation – help achieve a higher state of consciousness. The music is said to help bring about spiritual awakening.
WATCH Hare Krishna in Hong Kong:
To become fully initiated, says Kumari, devotees must train in various ancient texts, chanting and kirtan, as well as service. Devotees must also recite the mantra (at least 16 rounds daily) and follow the four regulative principles – no meat, no illicit sex, no gambling and no intoxicants.
The devotee can reach out to any “initiating gurus” they feel connected to, says Kumari. “The process of seeking out the guru is one of the most important steps for progressing in spiritual life and devotees are encouraged to take their time,” she says.
Most impressions of the Hare Krishnas have been moulded by movement’s often distorted portrayal in media and popular Western culture. In the 1960s and early 1970s, it became confused with the hippie subculture – in the 1967 hippie musical Hair, for instance, the Hare Krishna mantra is used in a song.
But its biggest mainstream exposure came via The Beatles, who came into contact with Hare Krishnas in 1969. Some of the Fab Four wrote songs that reference the movement, including George Harrison’s My Sweet Lord and John Lennon’s Give Peace a Chance.
Musicians including Boy George, Tenacious D, Thievery Corporation, Fleetwood Mac, Marc Bolan and Stevie Wonder have songs referencing the mantra. It has also featured in TV shows from Mad Men to The Simpsons, in films (in Blade Runner, Hare Krishna devotees are seen singing in the street) and even gets a mention in the game Grand Theft Auto.
Today the movement’s image is not of shaven-headed, garland-wearing devotees dancing in the streets, but is more toned down. And in Hong Kong, it reflects the city’s international demographic, as can be seen at the sixth-floor temple on Chatham Road South, in a room aglow from the gold statues and frescos on its walls.
We hold many activities, from teaching the public about Vedic scripture to promoting a healthy and spiritual lifestyle. We have a slogan – ‘simple living and high thinking’
Josephine Ng, Hare Krishna enthusiast
It’s a Sunday, the first night of Mid-Autumn Festival, and the swelling crowd is excited about Govinda Swami’s visit.
Hongkonger Vicki Ip, 26, glides past bunches of cut chrysanthemums in a blue sari and sits on a mat. Fellow Hongkonger Tiffany Chan, in a floral silk sari, sits beside her. Their foreheads are marked with tilaka, a mix of clay and water.
In front of them, sitting in the lotus position, is Indonesian-born fashion designer Ika Butoni. Holding her prayer beads, used for keeping count while reciting or chanting, Butoni says her interest in the movement stemmed from her business partner and friend Hans Keilman, who died this year from liver cancer. Dutch-born Keilman was the design coordinator for ISKCON’s flagship Indian temples in Vrindavana, Uttar Pradesh, and Juhu in Mumbai in the 1970s. An architect by trade, he first encountered the movement at a nightspot in Amsterdam where they were chanting Hare Krishna onstage with Eric Clapton’s backing band.
“I love the dancing, the music and holding the beads – I find them calming,” says Butoni.
Butoni also plans to get involved with Food For Life, an annual project started by founder Prabhupada in the ’70s after he saw poor children in India fight dogs for scraps of food. His vision was that anyone within a 10-mile radius of a Hare Krishna temple should not go hungry.
Josephine Ng, oncologist and Hare Krishna devotee.
Food For Life is one of the many events hosted by the movement, says oncologist Josephine Ng, a member since 2010.
“We hold many activities, from teaching the public about Vedic scripture to promoting a healthy and spiritual lifestyle. We have a slogan – ‘simple living and high thinking’. We also promote organic farming and natural cures,” says Ng, adding the movement provides respite from working for sick and dying people.
Other activities include yoga classes, street chanting, distribution of prasadam (vegetarian food with religious significance), educational programmes and concerts.
At the temple, Govinda Swami, dressed in flowing saffron-coloured robes, enters the room. Some devotees meet him with bows while others clasp their hands in prayer position. He sits, kartals (cymbals) in his hand, and starts the kirtan.
Govinda Swami and his musicians have mesmerised devotees worldwide, including at famous events such as Woodstock in Poland and concerts with orchestras from Russia to South Africa. He recently returned from the mainland, where he was a guest of the yoga community.
Vrindavan Kirtan Das, 21, starts with slow beats on the mridanga drum, a traditional instrument that’s said to be an incarnation of Krishna’s brother Lord Balarama. Das was born into the movement and has been travelling the globe with his drum since he was 15.
Making up the trio is New Yorker Akincana Krishna Das on the harmonium. Sitting in front of him is his Russian wife, who stands out from the crowd not just because of her height and canary-yellow sari but because she is one of the few Westerners in the group.
Hare Krishna devotees in Hong Kong celebrate the Janamashtmi festival, the birthday of Lord Krishna.
The kirtan starts with slow rhythmic beats building momentum until – two hours later – the audience, young and old, are dancing, singing and chanting, arms waving in the air. It’s almost rave-like, but with all ages. Here, everyone is on a natural high – a concoction of music and dance is their drug.
At the end of the session, the vegetarian prasadam – literally meaning “mercy” – is served. The next day, Govinda Swami does it all over again at Pure Yoga in Central. He also makes home visits before his final session at the Tsim Sha Tsui temple.
“There’s a yoga kirtan concert by Spanish singer Atmarama Dasa on October 22,” says Ng. “Would you like to join?”
With endorphins soaring from hours spent chanting and dancing, it’s an invitation that’s hard to resist.
Premananda Prabhu extends an invitation to everyone to attend a program
that is going to commemorate Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s 500th
anniversary visit to Vrndavana from Jagannatha Puri]
There is one program that is going to commemorate Mahaprabhu’s 500th anniversary visit to Vrndavana-dhama. After sannyasa, Mahaprabhu came from Jagannath Puri to Vrndavana. Hence, five hundred years have passed since Mahprabhu’s visit to Vrndavana. Now, our Prime Minister is arranging one program in Vrndavana. His representative has come to invite everybody.
Our program is from November 25 to 30. And also, the in-charge of Tota Gopinatha temple in Jagannatha Puri has arranged a party of Vaisnavas to come from Jagannatha Puri to Vrndavana. There are more than three hundred devotees who are walking from Jagannatha Puri to Vrndavana. They are near Kanpur now. They will come to Mathura on the 22nd. They will halt in Mathura for two days and then, they will come to Vrndavana. A program will be arranged in Vrndavana.
The Prime Minister said, “I will arrange everything.”
Bhaktimarga Swami, the Hare Krishna walking monk, stops for a break near the Pilot Truck Stop on Route 93 in Sugarloaf Township Wednesday after walking 8 miles of his daily 20-mile trek. Swami left Boston, Mass., on September 20 walking his way to Butler in western Penn. by walking 20 miles per day.
On Wednesday, the Hare Krishna monk passed through Butler and Sugarloaf townships on his 900-mile pilgrimage to western Pennsylvania in memory of his guru, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who founded the International Society of Krishna Consciousness.
Swami hopes his 20-mile-a-day hike will raise awareness to his spiritual teacher and all teachers. He started his spiritual journey in Boston on Sept. 20 and celebrated his 63rd birthday on Monday while on the road sleeping under the stars.
“This is the best time of the year to walk,” he said, sitting at a picnic table near the Pilot Travel Center in Sugarloaf Township. “It’s rare to see someone walking on the road.”
Bhaktimarga Swami stops for a break near the Pilot Truck Stop on Route 93 in Sugarloaf Township.
Most of his walk through New England and even Pennsylvania was among the mountains and trees, and on Wednesday opened up to the state’s rolling hills and rural farmland, he said. He joked his traditional orange garb blended in with the pumpkins.
Swami believes walking allows people to experience the world and see the sights, he said.
“I’m not a fan of the automobile,” he said. “The sights are there, but you whizz by. Life should not be a blur.”
Walking also lends clarity and gives people time to process their thoughts and future plans, and reflect on their past.
“We shouldn’t be walking faster than a donkey,” he said. “We should take time to slow down and think about things that are important as a human being. It’s easier to hit divinity.”
Plus, he meets new people on his journeys. The upbeat monk said he waves to people passing by and often shares a laugh with those who stop to talk.
“They can be fun,” Swami said, recounting the day a police officer approached him one morning, because someone called about someone in orange lying on the side of the road. The officer said he checked out the report because prisoners who escape would be in orange jumpsuits.
One of the folks he met along the way, Tre’von Stapleton of Windsor, Connecticut, joined him on his journey.
“I asked for a guiding light from the universe and a few days later we met,” he said.
The pair, who have a support vehicle following them, hoped to log another 12 miles before stopping for the night on their westward pilgrimage. After reaching Butler, they’ll return east to New York City.
The spiritual specialists say it is the process through which spiritual knowledge is imparted. Divyaṁ jñānaṁ yato dadyāt: new knowledge, new estimation about the environment, about the world, awakens in one’s heart. A new angle of vision arises within. What we saw was false. It was māyā. Now we want to realise what is reality.
Kuryāt pāpasya saṅkṣayam: the reactions that were due to me for my activities resulting from my false calculation, these are cleared off. Pāpa means the reaction I acquired because of my false estimation and transaction with the environment. That is cleared when I get a real estimation of the environment, of the world outside. This is the result of dīkṣā, divya-jñān [divine knowledge]. Not knowledge from my narrow standpoint but from the standpoint of the most wide view. I see with my narrow selfish outlook, but I must get rid of that false notion of selfish enterprise and replace that with the proper and true estimation of the environment, of the world outside. Accordingly, we shall learn to interact with the world. This is dīkṣā. By doing that, we are to understand what is the nature of the world we are living in.
I am not a master of what I see. I am not the monarch of all I survey. This is totally wrong. It is down right falsehood. But there is a monarch. I am not that monarch, but there is a monarch, and I am within His survey. “I am monarch of all I survey.” No. I am not the surveyor. Rather, I am an object being surveyed. The world is being surveyed, and I am a part of the world. I am also being surveyed by the monarch of the world. And what is the result of that survey? To know that and go on accordingly, to learn to go on according to the instructions of the surveyor proper, the absolute surveyor, that is dīkṣā, divya‑jñānam.
What is divine knowledge? Īśāvāsyam idaṁ sarvaṁ (Īu: 1): not only it is false that I am the owner, but no one is owner. There is only one onwer, and that one is not myself. The master of the whole is God, the Lord, Kṛṣṇa. Not only does the world belong to Him, but we also belong to Him. This is knowledge.
What are we? We are slaves to the master of the world. Divine knowledge means to feel that this is the truth.
jīvera svarūpa haya kṛṣṇera nitya dāsa (Śrī Chaitanya-charitāmṛta: Madhya-līlā, 20.108)
[“The soul is by nature an eternal servant of Kṛṣṇa.”]
I am very small and insignificant. My condition is very pitiful. I have to create mercy, help, from the higher for my misguided life, my misunderstood life. All these things are to be dealt with every day. This is the purpose of getting dīkṣā, divya-jñān. Divya-jñān means to do away with our local experience and to invite the perspective, the estimation, of the centre and the surveyor from the centre. What is what? Divine knowledge means to be introduced newly to the environment, to forget my previous estimation and to invite a new estimation about things and go on accordingly, control my conduct accordingly. What we see around us has an owner. It is not ownerless, and I am not the owner. I am not the owner of what I survey, and at the same time, no one like myself is the owner either. There is one owner, and He is also my owner. Now, how to go on? It is a mathematical calculation: this is His property, and I am also His property. I am His servant, and this is His substance. So, according to the master’s will, I am to deal with everything. That is, I am to serve. The Lord is to be served, not to be enjoyed, and His things are also to be served, not to be enjoyed. That will be the deduction. That will be deduced from divya‑jñān. I am a serving unit in this world.
I cannot take to the side of renunciation either. I have no right to renounce. A slave cannot go on strike: “I won’t do the work.” You are bound to do your duty. Neither can you go on with the work according to your own whim, nor can you go on strike, saying, “I won’t cooperate.” Only one side is open: you have to discharge your duty. If you do not do that, then you commit offence, and offences are punishable. So, you will be punished. The fact is so stark. The reality is so cruel.
We have no independence of our own. We must not think that we are an owner. We cannot think that we are the owner of our own self and that according to our will we can deal with our environment. No. You are duty‑bound to treat your environment in a particular way: in a reverential and serving way. Then, you are normal. Otherwise, you are abnormal and you are to be punished. That is aparādha, offence. Sevā [service] is neither bhoga nor tyāga, neither enjoyment nor renunciation. We have no right to enjoy and no right to renounce, to not cooperate. Only one side is open: to serve. We are to face this cruel reality.
At first, it may seem to be rough, cruel, but if we can understand the underlying purpose in it, then we shall gradually find, “This is the one and only key to a happy life.” We should not engage in self‑aggrandisement with the help of others. Wanting to live on others’ energy is insulting. It is cowardice, and it is improper. Or because we cannot utilise something only for our selfish purpose, we must leave it—that is also not honourable or justifiable.
We are living together. So, we must have some sort of duty towards the environment. I cannot see myself as a thing cut‑off from the environment. In an organic whole, the parts are correlated. So, we also have a correlation with our environment, with all things on all four sides. This is natural. We are a part of an organic whole, and we have got our respective duty to one another just as one part of our body has some duty to discharge for the whole of the body and through that performs a duty to every part of the body.
Neither the tyāga like that of the jñānīs, the Buddhists, and the Śaṅkārites, neither their formula or estimation is right, nor are the exploitationists: “Whatever I see is for me; I am the monarch of all I survey.” That view is also not true. We have to understand this deeply. Someone may be a good scholar but be perplexed or nonplussed by this. Intellect is not sufficient to make us understand all the difficulties of this life. Independent reading of the scriptures cannot impart us the necessary light to understand the things contained in the scriptures. yāha bhāgavata paḍa vaiṣṇavera sthāne (Śrī Chaitanya-charitāmṛta: Antya-līlā, 5.132)
Mahāprabhu says, “Go and study the Bhāgavat from a Vaiṣṇava. Try to get the angle of vision from him.” tad viddhi praṇipātena paripraśnena sevayā upadekṣyanti te jñānaṁ jñāninas tattva-darśinaḥ (Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā: 4.34)
[“Learn divine knowledge through surrender, enquiry, and service. Those who know and see the truth will teach it to you.”]
āchāryavān puruṣo veda (Chāndogya-upaniṣad: 6.14.2)
“You must have an Āchārya if you want to study the revealed scriptures.”
You can’t study alone, independently. Not in an empirical way will you be able to understand. Only by the descending method it is possible. Divine knowledge comes in a descending method, and it does not depend on our literary education. “A literate man will understand more, and an ordinary illiterate person won’t be able to understand spiritual truth.” This is not true. The illiterate can understand, and the literate may fail to understand. It is independent of worldly scholarship. Only praṇipāt [surrender], paripraśna [enquiry], sevā, a serving attitude, will help. These things are necessary to be illuminated by the higher revealed truth. Through Guru and Vaiṣṇava, it will come down to my heart and then to my brain, but really it will come down to my soul. The soul will be awakened, and the soul’s body will grow. We will see the soul come out from bondage.
Divya-jñān, dīkṣā, means all these things: to engage oneself in the quest of the revealed truth through a particular process. Praṇipāt, parispraśna, and sevā—surrender, honest inquiry, and serving attitude—we can acquire that sort of knowledge and understanding in this way, and we are to adjust ourselves accordingly to catch the benefit of dīkṣā.
It is not a mere formal thing. It is not that only we shall repeat the mantram we receive. The mantram wants to say something to us. The mantra has its meaning. The mantra wants to say something to us and asks us to do that, and we have to do that. Then, we will get the desired result. Then, the purpose of dīkṣā will be fulfilled. Mere repetition of a few technical sounds does not complete dīkṣā. Dīkṣā means knowledge is transmitted, and you must utilise that sort of knowledge in favour of your realisation of higher life, your real life, your proper life, your eternal life, your life after death, your life after so many deaths. This will continue: it is eternal knowledge. It is eternal knowledge of the eternal soul about eternity. The knower, the known, and the knowing—these three things are all eternal. You will find yourself: “I am an eternal part of this world, and I have a part in eternity also. An eternal relationship is there, and from that relationship, so many functions and activities are presupposed. They should be done.” This sort of duty should be discharged. This is dīkṣā, divya-jñān. Divya means ‘not mundane’; it means supernatural, transcendental.
The Sri Madhavendra Gaudiya Math, near Sri Dham Vrindavan, Khirchora Gopinath Dham, takes the pleasure to invite you all for the auspicious inaugural ceremony of a newly built temple on 3rd & 4th Dec 2015.
The devotees staged plays portraying episodes from Krishna's childhood life, besides singing and dancing late into the night to the beatings of tabla and dholak and as harmonium, jhaal and flute played for hours.
The festival of Janmashtami was celebrated with full fervor in Israel as hundreds of devotees, mostly Jews, chanting "Hare Krishna, Hare Rama" descended here from across the country to celebrate the birth of Lord Krishna.
Kibbutz Barkai, one of many agriculture-based collective communities in Israel, is located close to a small township of Harish, which has come to be identified with followers of Lord Krishna popularly known here as "Hare Krishnas".
Several devotees along with their families have settled down in Harish and religiously practice the tenets of the sect they learnt about during their visits to Vrindavan and Mayapur in India.
The fanfare surrounding the celebrations has also caught the attention of many others who see it as a must-see event. "I have a strong attraction towards Indian culture but this group has also contributed majorly to the strong inclination and I haven't missed out on these celebrations since I was introduced to them some 14 years ago," said Karen, who came from a small town near Jerusalem.
The devotees staged plays portraying episodes from Krishna's childhood life, besides singing and dancing late into the night to the beatings of tabla and dholak and as harmonium, jhaal and flute played for hours.
"This is probably the biggest gathering of devotees in years and we made adequate arrangements having sensed such a massive turnout. The popularity of the teachings of the sect has been constantly on the rise in Israel and it doesn't come as a surprise," a devotee said .
The practices of the sect "brings a welcome relief amid the chaos surrounding the region, lifting people's spirits", another devotee said. Krishna Prasadam, comprising 108 vegetarian dishes, was served to the guests after the cultural programmes.
Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math: 19 September, 2005
Reported by Sripad Bhakti Pavan Janardan Maharaj currently staying with His Divine Grace at our Dum Dum Park Temple, Kolkata.
Today is the Divine Disappearance day of Srila Haridas Thakur, and early in the morning, after Mangal Arati in Dum Dum Park in Kolkata, Srila Govinda Maharaj spoke of Srila Haridas Thakur's divine glories. The following are several of the themes His Divine Grace discussed.
Srila Haridas Thakur was an exemplary devotee who always preached by his words, his actions, and his mind. Even before the appearance of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu he was already known as a dedicated devotee and preacher, and after the appearance of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu he dedicated himself to Mahaprabhu one hundred percent.
Srila Haridas Thakur was an intimate friend of Sri Adwaita Acharya and Srivas Thakur. When Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu appeared, Srila Haridas Thakur could understand than an incarnation of the Lord had come because so many people were enlivened and chanting the Holy Names of the Lord.
After Mahaprabhu took sannyas, Srila Haridas Thakur told the Lord that it was impossible for him to continue living in Nabadwip and that his desire was to be with Mahaprabhu in Puri. In Puri, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu asked Kasi Misra for some place with a simple thatched hut, where there is a garden, and that place is known as Siddha Bakul. Kasi Misra replied that everything is for the satisfaction of the Lord Himself, and that Mahaprabhu did not have to ask, that he could have any place he desired. So Haridas Thakur was given that place, that garden house, in Siddha Bakul.
The Lord stayed in the Gambhir and daily he would go to visit Srila Haridas Thakur on his way to the ocean, where he would bathe at midday.
The society at that time was very strongly opposed to accepting anyone who was a mleccha, and Hinduism was very strong. Of course we are not Hindus, or Christians, or Muslims, or any of those things - but Vaisnavas. Srila Govinda Maharaj explained that everyone is coming from Vishnu, therefore all are Vaisnavas.
Haridas Thakur was the Nama-Acharya and always lived for the chanting and glorification of the Holy Names of the Lord. When he heard Srila Rupa Goswami's glorification of the Holy Name he was very moved:
"I do not know how much nectar the two syllables 'Krish-na' 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."
Haridas Thakur commented that he had heard many verses glorifying the Holy Names but he had not heard any verse like this glorification given by Srila Rupa Goswami.
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu lived for twenty-four years in Puri. The first six years He extensively travelled, and the last twelve years He was absorbed completely tasting Radha-Krishna lila in the Gambhir.
Haridas Thakur had a special ability that he could understand that soon the Lord would disappear and he commented that he did not want to see that final lila of the Lord. He asked the Lord to grant his desire: that he could leave this world before that final chapter of the Lord. In reply, Mahaprabhu assented, and said that Lord Krishna would satisfy Haridas Thakur's petition.
The next day Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu came there with His devotees and began the chanting of the Holy Names - a kirtan that lasted more than two hours. Then Haridas Thakur took the lotus feet of the Lord upon his chest and began chanting, "Sri Krishna Chaitanya, Sri Krishna Chaitanya, Sri Krishna Chaitanya...."
He had dedicated his entire life to the chanting of Krishna's Name. His vow was to daily chant three lakhs (300,000) Names of the Lord, chanting the Mahamantra. But at the time of leaving this world, he chanted, "Sri Krishna Chaitanya," Mahaprabhu's Name, while looking at the lotus face of the Lord.
Then Mahaprabhu began dancing while holding the body of Srila Haridas Thakur. After the soul passes away, the body must be washed with water, and Mahaprabhu took Haridas Thakur's body to the ocean. Then with His own hands, and with the help of the devotees, Mahaprabhu dug a hole near the shore and, after burying Haridas Thakur's body, a mound was made above the body for the samadhi. In this way the Lord was engaged personally and it was very miraculous. There, all the devotees had a big kirtan and then all went with the Lord to bathe in the sea.
Afterwards, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu went to the shopkeepers near the Jagannath Temple, held out his uttariya and begged Jagannath Prasad from them for the festival of Srila Haridas Thakur. They all wanted to give all their stock of prasadam to Mahaprabhu, but Swarup Damodar, who was so close to Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, told the Lord that he would collect the offerings for the festival. In that way he collected a few palmfuls of each preparation from each of the shopkeepers and accumulated a large quantity which was then carried back for the festival. Kasi Misra also sent a large quantity of Jagannath Prasad for the Lord and all the devotees.
When all the devotees were to take prasadam, the Lord wanted to serve them, but He wanted to give each person more than what five men could eat. Then Swarup Damodar told the Lord that unless He personally sat down to take prasad, no one would eat. The Lord was made to sit, and Swarup Damodar and others then served the devotees.
Today is the festival of the disappearance of Srila Haridas Thakur, and as Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita notes, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu gave the boon that all those who participated in this festival, and those who will participate in the future festivals, all will receive eternal benefit and go back to Krishna.
Our long awaited dream to visit Mongolia came true today. As our plane circled the airport waiting to land at Ulaanbaatar I was surprised to see that the barren brown landscape, which stretched as far as the eye could see, did not contain a single tree. I also noticed all roads leading out of the capital were simply dirt roads. During a quick tour of the city before arriving at our local ISKCON temple for our first program we found people extremely curious about us and very, very friendly. Our great adventure has begun!