Journey of Self-Discovery
By His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Chapter 5, Yoga & Meditation
Meditation Through Transcendental Sound
Lecturing at Boston’s Northeastern University in the summer of 1969, Śrīla Prabhupāda introduces a meditation system renowned for its extraordinary power and the fact that it can be easily practiced almost anywhere and at any time. “If you take up this simple process,” he says, “chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma Hare Hare, you are immediately elevated to the transcendental platform.” He adds, “No other meditation is possible while you are walking on the street.”
My dear boys and girls, I thank you very much for attending this meeting. We are spreading this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement because there is a great need of this consciousness throughout the world. And the process is very easy—that is the advantage.
First of all, we must try to understand what the transcendental platform is. As far as our present condition is concerned, we are on various platforms. So we have to first of all stand on the transcendental platform; then there can be a question of transcendental meditation.
In the Third Chapter of Bhagavad-gītā, you’ll find an explanation of the various statuses of conditioned life. The first is the bodily conception of life (indriyāṇi parāṇy āhuḥ). Everyone in this material world is under this bodily concept of life. Someone is thinking, “I am Indian.” You are thinking, “I am American.” Somebody’s thinking, “I am Russian.” Somebody’s thinking he is something else. So everyone is thinking, “I am the body.”
This bodily standard of conditioned life is called the sensual platform, because as long as we have a bodily conception of life we think happiness means sense gratification. That’s all. This bodily concept of life is very prominent at the present moment—not only at the present moment, but since the creation of this material world. That is the disease: “I am the body.”
Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam says, yasyātma-buddhiḥ kuṇape tri-dhātuke: [SB 10.84.13] Thinking we are the body means we have a concept of ourself as a bag of skin and bones. The body is a bag of skin, bones, blood, urine, stool, and so many other nice things. So when we think, “I am the body,” we are actually thinking, “I am a bag of bones and skin and stool and urine. That is my beauty; that is my everything.” So this bodily concept of life is not very intelligent, and improvement of the body is not a right calculation of self-realization.
Those who are too engrossed with the bodily concept of life are recommended to practice the dhyāna-yoga system, the yoga of meditation. That is mentioned in the Śrīmad-Bhagavad-gītā. In the Sixth Chapter, verses 13 and 14, Kṛṣṇa explains, “One should hold one’s body, neck, and head erect in a straight line and stare steadily at the tip of the nose. Thus, with an unagitated, subdued mind, devoid of fear, completely free from sex life, one should meditate upon Me and make Me the ultimate goal of life.”
Earlier Lord Kṛṣṇa gives preliminary instructions on how one should practice this transcendental meditation. One has to restrict sense gratification, especially sex. One has to select a very solitary place, a sacred place, and sit down alone. This meditation process is not practiced in a place like this, a big city, where many people are gathered. One must go to a solitary place and practice alone. And then you have to carefully select your sitting place, you have to sit in a certain way… There are so many things. Of course, those things cannot be explained within a few minutes. If you are very much interested, you’ll find a full description in Bhagavad-gītā, in the chapter called “Dhyāna-yoga.”
So from the bodily concept of life one has to transcend, to the spiritual platform. That is the goal of any genuine process of self-realization. I began by saying that at first we are all thinking we are the body. Indriyāṇi parāṇy āhuḥ. Then, one who has transcended the bodily concept of life comes to the platform of mind. Indriyebhyaḥ paraṁ manaḥ. The word manaḥ means “mind.” Practically the whole population of the world is under the bodily concept of life, but above them are some people who are under the mental concept of life. They are thinking they are the mind. And a few people are on the intellectual platform: manasas tu parā buddhiḥ. Buddhiḥ means “intelligence.” And when you transcend the intellectual platform also, then you come to the spiritual platform. That is the first realization required.
Before you practice transcendental meditation, you have to reach the transcendental platform. That transcendental platform is called brahma-bhūtaḥ. Perhaps you have heard this word—Brahman. The transcendentalist thinks, “Ahaṁ brahmāsmi: I am not the body; I am not the mind; I am not the intelligence; I am spirit soul.” This is the transcendental platform.
We are talking of transcendental meditation. So, by transcending the bodily concept of life, transcending the mental concept of life, and transcending the intellectual concept of life, you come to the real, spiritual platform, which is called the brahma-bhūtaḥ stage. You cannot simply say some words—“Now I have realized Brahman.” There are symptoms. Everything has symptoms, and how you can know if someone has realized transcendence, Brahman, is explained in Bhagavad-gītā [18.54]: brahma-bhūtaḥ prasannātmā. When one is on the transcendental platform, the brahma-bhūtaḥ stage, his symptom is that he’s always joyful. There is no moroseness.
And what does joyful mean? That is also explained: na śocati na kāṅkṣati. Someone on the transcendental platform does not hanker after anything, nor does he lament. On the material platform we have two symptoms: hankering and lamenting. The things we do not possess we hanker after, and the things we have lost we lament for. These are the symptoms of the bodily concept of life.
The whole material world is hankering after sex. That is the basic principle of hankering. Puṁsaḥ striyā mithunī-bhāvam etam. Mithunī-bhāvam means sex. Whether you look at the human society or the animal society or the bird society or the insect society, everywhere you will find that sex is very prominent. That is the materialistic way of life. A boy is hankering after a girl, a girl is hankering after a boy; a man is hankering after a woman, a woman is hankering after a man. This is going on.
And as soon as the man and woman unite, the hard knot in the heart is tied. Tayor mitho hṛdaya-granthim āhuḥ. They think, “I am matter, this body. This body belongs to me. This woman or man belongs to me. This country belongs to me. This world belongs to me.” That is the hard knot. Instead of transcending the bodily concept of life, they become still more implicated. The situation becomes very difficult. Therefore Kṛṣṇa recommends in Bhagavad-gītā that if you are at all interested in practicing yoga and meditation, in trying to rise to the transcendental platform, you must cease from sex.
But in the present age that is not possible. So in our method, Kṛṣṇa consciousness, we don’t say, “Stop sex.” We say, “Don’t have illicit sex.” Of course, what to speak of transcendental life, giving up illicit sex is a requirement of civilized life. In every civilized society there is a system of marriage, and if there is sex outside of marriage, that is called illicit sex. That is never allowed for people in any civilized society, what to speak of those trying for transcendental life. Transcendental life must be purified of all mental and bodily concepts of self.
But in this age of Kali, where everyone is disturbed, always full of anxieties, and where life is very short, people are generally not interested in any transcendental subject matter. They are interested only in the bodily concept of life. When one is always disturbed by so many anxieties, how can he ascend to the platform of transcendental realization? It is very difficult in this age. It was difficult even five thousand years ago, when Arjuna took instruction on meditation from Kṛṣṇa in Bhagavad-gītā. Arjuna was a royal prince; he was very much advanced in so many ways. Yet on the Battlefield of Kurukṣetra he said, “My dear Kṛṣṇa, it is not possible for me to practice this transcendental meditation, this dhyāna-yoga process. I am a family man; I have come here to fight for my political interest. How can I practice this system, in which I have to go to a solitary place, I have to sit down, I have to cease from sex? It is not possible.” Arjuna was so much more qualified than we are, yet he refused to practice this meditation process.
So, reaching the transcendental platform by the haṭha-yoga or dhyāna-yoga system is not at all possible in this age. And if somebody is trying to practice such so-called meditation, he is not actually practicing transcendental meditation. You cannot perform this transcendental meditation in the city. It is not possible. That is very clearly stated in Bhagavad-gītā. But you are living in the city, you are living with your family, you are living with your friends. It is not possible for you to go to the forest and find a secluded place. But Kṛṣṇa says you must do this to practice transcendental meditation.
So here, in this age, if you want to rise to the transcendental platform, then you must follow the recommendations of the Vedic literature: kalau tad dhari-kīrtanāt. In this age, simply by chanting the holy name of God one can reach all perfection. We are not introducing this chanting system by our mental concoction, to make things very easy. No, Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu introduced this process of transcendental meditation five hundred years ago. Also, the Vedic literature recommends it, and it is practical. You have seen that my disciples, these boys and girls, immediately experience a transcendental feeling as soon as they begin chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa. If you practice, you will also see how you are rising to the transcendental platform. So chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare is the easiest process of transcendental meditation.
This transcendental sound vibration will immediately carry you to the transcendental platform, especially if you try to hear so that your mind is absorbed in the sound. This Hare Kṛṣṇa sound vibration is nondifferent from Kṛṣṇa, because Kṛṣṇa is absolute. Since God is absolute, there is no difference between God’s name and God Himself. In the material world there is a difference between water and the word water, between a flower and the word flower. But in the spiritual world, in the absolute world, there is no such difference. Therefore, as soon as you vibrate Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, you immediately associate with the Supreme Lord and His energy.
The word Hare indicates the energy of the Supreme Lord. Everything is being done by the energy of the Supreme Lord. Parasya brahmaṇaḥ śaktiḥ. Just as the planets are a creation of the energy of the sun, so the whole material and spiritual manifestation is a creation of the energy of the Supreme Lord. So when we chant Hare Kṛṣṇa we are praying to the energy of the Supreme Lord and to the Supreme Lord Himself: “Please pick me up. Please pick me up. I am in the bodily concept of life. I am in this material existence. I am suffering. Please pick me up to the spiritual platform, so that I will be happy.”
You haven’t got to change your situation. If you are a student, remain a student. If you are a businessman, remain a businessman. Woman, man, black, white—anyone can chant Hare Kṛṣṇa. It is a simple process, and there is no charge. We are not saying, “Give me so many dollars, and I shall give you this Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra.” No, we are distributing it publicly. You simply have to catch it up and try it. You’ll very quickly come to the transcendental platform. When you hear the chanting, that is transcendental meditation.
This process is recommended in all the scriptures of the Vedic literature, it was taught by Lord Caitanya and followed by His disciplic succession for the last five hundred years, and people are achieving good results from it today, not only in India but here also. If you try to understand what this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is, you’ll understand how transcendental meditation is possible. We are not sentimentalists; we have many books: Bhagavad-gītā As It Is, Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Teachings of Lord Caitanya, Īśopaniṣad. And we have our magazine, Back to Godhead. It is not that we are sentimentalists. We are backed up by high philosophical thought. But if you take up this simple process—chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare—you are immediately elevated to the transcendental platform, even without reading so much philosophical literature. This Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra is Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s gift to the conditioned souls of the present age, in accordance with the Vedic sanction.
So our request is that you give it a try. Simply chant, at home or anywhere. There is no restriction: “You have to chant this Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra in such-and-such a place, in such-and-such a condition.” No. Niyamitaḥ smaraṇe na kālaḥ. There is no restriction of time, circumstances, or atmosphere. Anywhere, at any time, you can meditate by chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa. No other meditation is possible while you are walking on the street, but this meditation is possible. You are working with your hands? You can chant Hare Kṛṣṇa. It is so nice.
Kṛṣṇa is the perfect name for God. The Sanskrit word kṛṣṇa means “all-attractive.” And rāma means “the supreme pleasure.” So if God is not all-attractive and full of supreme pleasure, then what is the meaning of God? God must be the source of supreme pleasure; otherwise how could you be satisfied with Him? Your heart is hankering after so many pleasures. If God cannot satisfy you with all pleasures, then how can He be God? And He must also be all-attractive. If God is not attractive to every person, how can He be God? But Kṛṣṇa actually is all-attractive.
So the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra is not sectarian. Because we are chanting these three names—Hare, Kṛṣṇa, and Rāma—someone may think, “These are Hindu names. Why should we chant these Hindu names?” There are some sectarian people who may think like that. But Lord Caitanya says, “It doesn’t matter. If you have some other bona fide name of God, you can chant that. But chant God’s name.” That is the instruction of this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement. So do not think that this movement is trying to convert you from Christian to Hindu. Remain a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim. It doesn’t matter. But if you really want to perfect your life, then try to develop your dormant love for God. That is the perfection of life.
Sa vai puṁsāṁ paro dharmo yato bhaktir adhokṣaje [SB 1.2.6]. You may profess any religion, but to test whether your religion is perfect or whether you are perfect, you have to see whether you have developed your love for God. Now we are distributing our love among so many things. But when all this love is concentrated simply on God, that is the perfection of love. Our love is there, but because we have forgotten our relationship with God, we are directing our love toward dogs. That is our disease. We have to transfer our love from so many dogs to God. That is the perfection of life.
So we are not teaching any particular type of religion. We are simply teaching that you should learn to love God. And this is possible by chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra.