Origin of the Hare Krishna Movement
By His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Back to Godhead Magazine Volume 01, Number 20, 1968
Lord Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the Great Apostle of love of God and the Father of the Sankirtan Movement, advented Himself in the City of Nabadwipa in Bengal, India. This was in February, 1486, by Christian reckoning.
By the will of the Lord there was a lunar eclipse on that evening. It is the custom of the Hindu public to bathe in the Ganges of any other sacred river during the hours of eclispe, and to chant the Vedic mantras for purification. When Lord Chaitanya was born during the eclipse, then, the whole India was roaring with the holy sound of Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
These sixteen Names of the Lord are mentioned in many Puranas and Upanishads, and they are described as “Tarak Brahman,” the Names for this age. It is stated in the “Shashtras,” the accepted Scriptures, that offenseless chanting of the Holy Names of the Lord can deliver a fallen soul from material bondage. There inumerable Names for the Lord both in India and elsewhere, and all of them are equally good because all of them indicate the Supreme Personality of Godhead. But because these sixteen Names are especially recommended for this Age, called Kali Yuga, it is better for people to take the path of the great Acharyas, the saintly teachers who attained success by practice of this system.
This coincidence of the Lord’s Appearance and the lunar eclipse make it clear what the mission of the Lord was to be. That mission was to preach the importance of chanting the Holy Names of God in this Age of Kali, or Quarrel. The present age witnesses quarrel even over trifling things, and therefore the Shastras have recommended that a common platform can be found in the performance of Kirtan, also called Sankirtan, the congregational chanting of the Holy Names of the Lord. Accompanied by melodious music and dancing, people can hold meetings, Kirtans, for glorifying the Lord in their respective languages. And if such performances are executed in an offenseless manner, it is sure and certain that such persons will gradually attain spiritual perfection without any of the effort of undergoing rigid methods of Yoga or asceticism.
During Sankirtan the learned and the fool, the rich and the poor, the Hindu and the Moslem, the Englishman and the Indian, the common man and the priest—all can give aural reception to the transcendental sound vibration of Hare Krishna, and thereby cleanse the dust from the mirror of the mind.
In the Srimad Bhagavatam it is stated that, “in this Age of Kali, people who are endowed with sufficient brain substance will worship the Lord and His associates by performance of Sankirtan Yajna (sacrifice).” So Lord Chaitanya and His inauguration of the Sankirtan Movement were not concoctions, but present the fulfillment of what is stated in revealed Scripture, just as the Appearance of Lord Buddha, Shankara Acharya and all such Avatars are foretold in Vedic literature. And to confirm the Lord’s mission, all the people of the world will accept the Holy Name of God as the common platform for the Universal Religion of Mankind.
The Advent of the Holy Name thus took place along with the Advent of Lord Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. When the Lord was on the lap of His mother, the Child would at once stop crying as soon as the ladies surrounding Him chanted the Holy Name, clapping their hands. This peculiarity was observed by the neighbors of the Lord with awe and veneration. Sometimes the young ladies took pleasure in making Him cry, so that they could stop Him by chanting Hare Krishna, Hare Rama. From His very childhood, then, the Lord began to preach the importance of the Holy Name.
At the age of 16 He becamse the greatest scholar in all India, know as Nimai Pandit. He was then married with great pomp, and began to preach the Hare Krishna Movement as Nabadwipa. Some of the Brahmins there soon became envious and put many hindrances in His path, at length complaining to the Moslem magistrate about Him. The Kazi, as the official was called, took these complaints seriously, and he at first warned the followers of Lord Chaitanya not to chant the Name of Krishna loudly. But Lord Chaitanya asked His followers to disobey the orders of the Kazi, and they went on with their Sankirtan parties as usual.
The Kazi then sent constables who broke some of the mrdangas (drums) while Sankritan was taking place. When Lord Chaitanya heard of this, He organized a civil disobedience movement at Nabadwipa. He was the pioneer of civil disobedience in India—and for the right cause. He organized a procession of a hundred thousand men, with thousands of mridangas and khartals (hand cymbals), and the procession passed over the roads of Nabadwipa without any fear of the Kazi.
At length the party reached the house of the Kazi, who fled upstairs in fear of the masses. The men assembled there showed hot tempers, but the Lord asked them to be peaceful. At this the Kazi came down, and a very nice discussion was held, concerning the Koran and the Hindu Shastras.
The Kazi questioned the Lord about cow sacrifice, which is prescribed in the Vedas, and the Lord replied that the method mentioned in the Vedas is not cow killing. In that sacrifice and old bull or cow is killed to give it fresh, younger life by the power of the Vedic mantras. In the Kali Yuga, however, such cow sacrifice is forbidden an account of the absence of learned brahmins who can conduct the ceremony. In the Kali Yuga all sacrifices are forbidden because they are useless attempts when undertaken by the unlearned. In the Kali Yuga only the Sankirtan form of sacrifice is recommended for all practical purposes.
The Kazi was convinced by the authority of Lord Chaitanya, and at once became a follower of the Lord. He declared that, thenceforward, nobody might put hindrances in the way of the Hare Krishna Movement.
Following tis incident, the Lord began to preach and propagate Sankirtan more vigorously than ever. In the course of His preaching work, He used to send out all His followers every day, including Srila Nityananda Prabhu and Thakur Haridas, two chief figures of His party. They would go from door to door and preach the cult of Srimad Bhagavatam, the science of love of Krishna. One day, as they were out on the road, these two cam upon two brothers named Jagai and Madhai. Born the sons of a respectable brahmin, the brothers had fallen to the most despicable position through low association. They were debauchees of the first order, meat eaters, woman hunters, and dacoits.
At once, upon learning of these two, Thakur Harida and Nityananda Prabhu decided that, if they could be delivered by the Holy Name, Lord Chaitanya would be all the more glorified. With this in mind they at once approached the two brothers, requesting them to chant the Holy Name of Krishna. The drunken brothers became enraged at this, however, and attacked Nityananda Prabhu. Both Nityanana Prabhu and Haridas Thakur hurriedly left the place, with the drunkards chasing them for a considerable distance.
The next day Nityananda Prabhu again came to see the brothers, but as soon as he approached them he was struck on the head with a piece of earthen pot, and blood spilled forth. Srila Nityananda Prabhu was so kind toward them that instead of protesting against their heinous act, he said, “It doesn’t matter that you have thrown things at me. Still I request you to chant the Holy Name of the Lord.” One of the brothers was atonished at this behavior of Nityananda Prabhu, and he at once fell down at his feet, asking pardon for his sinful brother. The other was again attempting to hurt him, but Jagai checked him and implored hom to also fall down at the feet of Nityananda Prabhu.
Meanwhile the Lord, having heard of His devotee’s injury, at once rushed to the spot determined to kill the pair, but Nityananda Prabhu reminded Him of His mission—namely, to deliver the hopelessly fallen soulds of the Kali Yuga. The brothers Jagai and Madhai were, after all, typical examples of the present day population. Because of Nityananda’s intervention, and due to their own sincere surrender at that pure devotee’s feet, Lord Chaitanya at length was pacified, and the brothers became welcome devotees of God.
For this purpose of delivering the debased population of the Kali Yuga, Lord Chaitanya appeared, and out of His causeless mercy He gave us the simple method of self realization: chanting the Holy Name of God: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. And, He said, there is no other way in this era.
When the Lord was once asked by the great Mayavadi sannyasi, Prakashananda Saraswati, what was the reason for His diversion to the Sankirtan Movement, instead of studying the Vedanta Sutras, as is the duty of a sannyasi, the Lord replied very humbly as follows:
“The reason for My diversion to the Sankirtan Movement from the study of Vedanta is that I am a great fool. And, because I am a great fool, My Spiritual Master forbade Me to play with Vedanta philosophy. He said it would be better for me to chant the Holy Name of the Lord, and that that would deliver Me from material bondage.
“In this Age there is no religion other then glorifying the Lord by the utterance of His Holy Name, and that is the injunction of all the revealed Scriptures. So on the order of my Spiritual Master I chant the Holy Name of Krishna, and I am now mad after this Holy Name. Whenever I utter it, I forget myself completely: sometimes I laugh, somtimes I cry, and sometimes I dance like a madman. I thought within Myself that I may have actually gone mad by this process of chanting the Holy Name, and there fore I inquired from My Spiritual Master about it. I told Him, ‘I have become mad by chaning the Holy Name. What does this mean” Please let me know.’
“My Spiritual Master then informed me that it is the real effect of chanting the Holy Name that it produces transcendental emotion, which is a rare manifestation. This transcendental emotion is the sign of love of God, which is the ultimate end of life. The love of God is transcendental even to liberation (mukti), and as such it is called the fifth stage of spiritual realization—standing above the stage of liberation. The actual result of chanting the Holy Name of Krishna is to attain the stage of love of God, and it was good that I was favored with such a blessing.”
Although Lord Chaitanya is Krishna Himself, for our example He has presented Himself as a great fool. God is full in six opulences, including all knowledge, and therefore He is never a fool. We can, however, follow the merciful example of Lord Chaitanya and take up this chanting with all determination, and we will in that way reach the ultimate perfection of life, which is love of God. Everything is there. We need only accept what is coming down to us in the line of disciplic succession from Krishna and from Lord Chaitanya.
When the Lord was traveling through the jungles of Jhalikanda (Madhya Bharat) on His way to Vrindaban, all the wild animals also joined with His Sankirtan Movement. The wild tigers, the elephants, bears, and deers all accompanied the Lord, and the Lord attracted them into His Sankirtan Movement. By this He proved that by propagation of the Hare Krishna Movement, even the wild beasts can live together in peace and friendship—what to speak then of men, who are supposed to civilized? No man in the world will refuse to join the Sankirtan Movement when he actually understands it, nor can the Lord’s Sankirtan Movement have any restriction of caste, creed or color. Herein is direct evidence of the greatness of His mission, for He admitted even the wild animals to partake in Sankirtan.
So, although the Lord was the greatest scholar of Vedanta at the meager age of 16 years, still His only request was that, in this Age of Kali, you simply chant Hare Krishna and your life will be sublime.
Lord Chaitanya left only 8 shlokas, or verses, of His instructions to the general mass of people, which are known as Sikshastaka. These are included herein:
Glory to Sri Krishna Sankirtan, which cleanses the heart of all the dust accumlated for many years. Thus the fire of conditional life, or repeated birth and death, is extinguished. This Sankirtan Movement is the prime benediction for humanity at large because it spreads the rays of the benediction Moon. It is the life of all transcendental knowledge, it increases the ocean of transcendental bliss, and it helps us taste the full nectar for which we are always anxious.
O my Lord! Your Holy Name alone can render all benediction upon the living beings, and therefore You have hundreds and millions of Names in which You have invested all Your transcendental energies, and there is no hard and fast rule for chanting these Holy Names. O my Lord! You have so kindly made approach to You easy by Your Holy Names, but unfortunate as I am, I have no attraction for Them.
One can chant the Holy Name of the Lord in a humble state of mind, thinking oneself lower then the straw in the street, more tolerant than the tree, devoid of all sense of false prestige, and ready to offer all respects to others. In such a state of mind one can chant the Holy Name of the Lord constantly.
O almightly Lord! I have no desire to accumulate wealth, nor have I any desire to enjoy beautiful women, neither do I want any number of followers of mine. What I want only is that I may have your causeless devotional service in my life—birth after birth.
O Son of Maharaja Nanda, I am Your eternal servitor, and although I am so, somehow or other I have fallen into the ocean of birth and death. Please, therefore, pick me up from this ocean of death, and fix me as one of the atoms of Your Lotus Feet.
O my Lord! When shall my eyes be decorated with tears of love, flowing constantly while I chant You Holy Name? When will my words be choked up when uttering the Holy Name? And when will all the holes of hair on my body have eruptions by the recitation of Your name?
O Govinda! Feeling Your seperation, I am considering a moment to be like twelve years or more, and tears are flowing from my eyes like torrent of rain. I am feeling all vacant in the world, in the absence of You.
I do not know anyone except Krishna as my Lord, and He shall always remain as such, even if He handles me roughly by His embrace; or He may make me broken-hearted by not being present before me. He is completely free to do anything and everything, but He is always my worshipable Lord, unconditionally.