By His Holiness Danavir Goswami
This essay is the second part to my previous essay entitled “On Chanting Question Mark” which is available online at http://danavirgoswami.com/on-chanting/ or in print within Vaisnava Society Journal #3 at http://www.rvc.edu/rvc_books.html. My reason for writing these essays is to guide those who accept me as a teacher in the practices of Krsna consciousness and anyone else who is interested to hear what my thoughts are on a topic of major importance for the sankirtan movement represented by ISKCON.
Q. Is it important who leads the kirtana or sankirtana?
A. Yes, because half of the process is to first hear the kirtana or sankirtana leader’s chanting and then the responders chant themselves. The leader’s chanting should be pure. Devotees should avoid hearing kértana from nondevotees, hired persons, vulgar people, sense enjoyers, or the common public. One should hear kértana from superior devotees.
Q. What are the qualifications of one to lead kirtana in ISKCON?
A. He/she should be a devotee of Lord Krsna within the Gaudiya line following all four regulative principles and chanting sixteen rounds of japa daily. 
Q. Is musical ability important for performing kirtana?
A. Perhaps, but the person’s character is more important than his musical ability. In other words, a person, despite his/her musical talent, who does not strictly follow the regulative principles or whose dress is inappropriate will misrepresent ISKCON if invited to lead kirtana. Kértana is meant for glorifying Kåñëa, not as a recital for general entertainment. 
Q. Are there exceptions to these standards?
A. Yes, if there are no strict followers present, or if strict followers request someone else to lead. For example, Srila Prabhupada requested the famous personality Allen Ginsberg to lead kirtana at some large functions.
George Harrison of the Beatles unpretentiously preferred that the devotees, rather than he, lead the kirtanas on the Radha Krishna Temple album.
For the sake of attracting worldly persons to the holy names of Krishna, kértana may be rendered in a sensually pleasing manner. This is because some may not wish to hear kirtana unless it pleases the senses. That is why there may be an arrangement to glorify Krsna by melodious songs. It is like sugarcoating a bitter pill or mixing in a mustard cake and salt with a cow’s food for a cow that does not want to eat.
As deer and snakes can be charmed by music and songs, so Krsna kirtana may be presented in the form of songs and then even the minds of materialists will be attracted. Proper kértana means to reject dry, unauthorized, and adverse kértana. Although persons lacking taste for the holy names or devotional service are attached to melodious tunes and musical performances as entertainment for their senses, they can be purified by loudly and faithfully performing kértana of the mahä-mantra in the association of pure devotees.
Kértana should not; however, degenerate into an artistic show for sense gratification.  Kértana performed for sensual satisfaction is not true Hare Krishna kértana. Even if one is a virtuoso singer and musician, it is not desirable to perform in the showy manner typical of mundane kértanéyäs.
Krpamoya Dasa: When I lead kirtana, I feel I want to serve the devotees that are there. I’m very conscious that there’s a very thin line and you can fall either side of the line. If you can sing in such a way that afterwards devotees come up and say “Nice kirtana,” you’ve got to be very careful that you don’t allow your artistic considerations to take precedence over the devotional. My devotional considerations are to be thinking of two things— Krsna and allowing the devotees to have space in which to listen to the holy name and reflect. So I try to chant in such a way that I know that everybody can join in. I don’t tend to sing unfamiliar tunes. I sing familiar tunes that I think the devotees will know, just so they can become absorbed. I don’t change the tunes that often. And I just really try to stay this side of the line of modulating the voice too much—that is, not modulating the voice so much that people will treat it as an artistic thing and not a devotional thing.
The ability to sing sweetly or to consummately play an instrument will tend to attract women and prestige and thus could undermine a devotee’s service mood or cause him to become victimized by praise and appreciation. Those overly interested in the musical attributes of kirtana are entangled in profit, adoration, and distinction. Pure devotees distance themselves from such persons.
Bahüdak däsa: At one of the ISKCON international festivals in Vrndavana, Srila Prabhupada rejected the singing of one of his disciples. The devotee had previously been a singer in a band, and his kirtanas were much appreciated by some devotees, especially those from his home temple. But when, with showy professionalism, he began leading the gurupuja in Prabhupada’s presence, making the tune sound like a rock and roll ballad, Prabhupada didn’t like it. He shook his head and indicated that someone else lead. The “great” kirtana singer was devastated by the rejection, another form of Prabhupada’s mercy.
Kirtana leaders should not sing the mahä-mantra in such a long drawn-out manner that it takes minutes to complete one mantra. They should not modulate their voice and harmonium up and down the scale and gesticulate as if expressing deep emotion. Bhakti Vikasa Swami notes that this style of singing the mahä-mantra, in which the holy names often become practically unrecognizable, is common among Bengali kértanéyäs. Professional kirtana artists perform for money and their chanting cannot invoke devotion among the listeners. 
Kirtana leaders are advised to stick with a tune rather changing tune often. Begin the kirtana at a modest tempo and gradually build up. This is also the case in Indian classical music. In this way, one becomes absorbed in the sound. There is no need to speed up and slow down dramatically again and again. Nor is there a need for kirtana leaders to frenetically chant the maha mantra super, super fast like a teletype machine. It becomes hard to clearly chant and hear the thirty-two syllable mantra and to respond intelligibly. Such rapid chanting may be better suited for one’s personal japa.
An element of traditional Bengali kértana is äkharas, added lines that are not part of the main composition but which elucidate or emphasize points in the song. For instance, in Çréla Bhaktivinoda Öhäkura’s “Gaura-ärati” the well-known äkharas are gauräìgera äratika çobhä jaga-jana-mana-lobha and çaìkha bäje ghaëöä bäje madhura madhura madhura bäje. In several of his compositions Çréla Bhaktivinoda Öhäkura had designated specific äkharas to be sung. It is recommended that devotees sing only original songs and äkharas given by Vaiñëava äcäryas.
One such insertion was given by Srila Prabhupada on the disappearance day of Çréla Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvaté Öhäkura in New Dvaraka, Los Angeles circa 1973. I began singing the song for the departed Vaiñnavas, and the assembled devotees sang in response. Ye anilo prema-dhana, karuëä pracura, heno prabhu kothä gelo acarya thakura. Just then Çréla Prabhupäda, seated upon his vyäsäsana, stopped the singing and said, “You can replace the words “acarya thakura” with “siddhanta thakura.” We sang it again inserting siddhanta thakura. On the basis of this incident, I opine that when singing this song on the disappearance day of a particular acarya, it is authorized to insert the specific name of the departed Vaisnava’s name in place of “acarya thakura.” For example “Bhaktivinoda Thakura,” or “Gaura Kisora Thakura.” etc.
When I played mådaìga while Çréla Prabhupäda led kértana, the only thing I saw was his karatälas. His Divine Grace was extremely particular about how one played the mådaìga. The player must keep the beat exactly, otherwise, even if it were slightly offbeat, Çréla Prabhupäda would give a stern, displeased look at the player, or worse, he sometimes would signal for a replacement. Therefore when I played mådaìga, my meditation was keeping that beat. I simply watched the karatälas in his hands as they collided together on the third hit (the “sizzle”). I could not take the opportunity to look at his beautiful lotus face as he sang, nor could I allow myself to view the exquisite forms of the Deities, nor could I glance to see the other devotees or anything else, because if I became even slightly distracted, Çréla Prabhupäda may become displeased.
For me, playing mrdanga was like the story in the Mahäbhärata where Dronacarya tested his military students. Having placed a wooden bird in a tree, he asked each student to aim his arrow at the head of the target. Then, just before they were ordered to shoot, he asked, “What do you see?” If the student replied, “I see the head of the bird.” Dronacarya then inquired. “Do you not see also the bird, the tree, your brothers and your guru?” If the student acceded to seeing those items too, he was dismissed by the teacher. In this way Drona chastised many stalwart warrior princes as incompetent to shoot the target. Finally Arjuna took the bow in his hands and fixed his gaze upon the bird’s head. When the question came, he replied, “I see only the bird’s head.” “Do you not also see the bird, the tree, your brothers and your guru?” asked his teacher. “No,” he answered, “I see only the bird’s head, not the bird, not the tree, not my brothers nor my guru.” Dronacarya became very pleased, “Yes, you are fit to shoot the target.” I want to be like Arjuna in playing mrdanga.
Khol and mrdanga players should not simply become absorbed in producing elaborate beats so much so that they do not also sing in kértana. All mrdanga players should join in the chanting and they should follow the tempo set by the kirtana leader.
Viñëugadä däsa: “Prabhupada was present during a kirtana performed by his disciples in the Brooklyn temple. The mrdanga player had been practicing to learn complicated beats, and he was demonstrating his rapid and intricate abilities in the kirtana. But Prabhupada stopped the music and said to the drummer that he should follow the leader. Then he started the kirtana again, but it happened again and again Prabhupada stopped the kirtana and asked the drummer to follow the leader.”
The drum should not be played so loud that it overpowers the singing. Mådaìga means “sweet sounding drum.” Madhura mådaìga.
Abhirama dasa: “Once at midday Prabhupada was lying on his bed resting in London. I was chanting silently on my japa beads, attending to him to see if he needed anything. His eyes were closed, so he appeared to be resting, but suddenly he said, “The drum should not be louder than the voice.” This was during a completely quiet, peaceful summer afternoon at Bhaktivedanta Manor. I didn’t know what he was talking about. Most of the devotees were on sankirtan because they were eager to please Prabhupada so the temple was practically empty. I listened very carefully and through the floor I could hear arati going on in the temple room, which was underneath Prabhupada’s room. I ran downstairs. There was one brahmacari playing the mridanga, one brahmacari playing karatals, and one pujari offering arati. From his nap Prabhupada gave that instruction, ‘The drum should not be louder than the voice.’”
Our kirtana leaders should chant the holy names of the Païca-tattva and then the Hare Kåñëa mahä-mantra. They shouldn’t mix names or manufacture chants—that is called rasäbhäsa. For example, we cannot say, “Räma Räma Räma, Rädhe Rädhe Rädhe, Kåñëa,”—those are also names of the Lord, but we have to follow the çästra.  The Hare Kåñëa mantra is prescribed in the çästras. We cannot chant nitäi-gaura rädhe-çyäma, hare kåñëa hare räma because it is not recommended in the sastra. We should follow.
Revatinandana Dasa: “One devotee had picked up a chant in India: he krsna, govinda, hari, murari/ he natha, narayana, vasudeva. When Prabhupada heard it, he called us into his room and said, ‘This is not a Vedic mantra; this is a cinema song. An intelligent disciple just takes whatever his spiritual master provides for him, considering that to be sufficient. There are many names of God you can chant, but it’s best to take what comes in disciplic succession and what the spiritual master introduces.'”
We do not chant songs or mantras that are not bona fide and were not sung by the acaryas. We may also sing the songs of Narottama dasa Thakura, Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Locana dasa Thakura.
Although Gauòéya kértana tradition is replete with thousands of songs, mostly describing the forms, qualities, and pastimes of Kåñëa, Gauräìga, and Their associates and intimate desires to serve them. Kértana within ISKCON consists mainly of less esoteric compositions. Several songs of Çréla Bhaktivinoda Öhäkura along with some by Narottama däsa Öhäkura and others form the basis of our liturgy. Being preachers, Çréla Bhaktivinoda Öhäkura and Çréla Narottama däsa Öhäkura had penned many songs meant to help devotees at the stage of sädhana-bhakti to systematically progress toward the perfectional stage of prema.
Our acaryas have not emphasized chanting of Radha’s name. There is no harm chanting “Rädhe” but because it was not done by the acaryas and one may become degraded by inventing something new, it is better to stick to “Hare Kåñëa” and to “Çré-Kåñëa Caitanya Prabhu-Nityänanda.” Präkåtasahajiyäs over-enthusiastically chant Srimate Radharani’s name apart from Sri Krsna’s yet Srila Prabhupada did not…nor should his followers.
Sri Radha (i.e. Mother Harä) modestly presides throughout the maha mantra in Her vocative form as “Hare.” She helps the devotee achieve the Lord Father’s grace, and the Lord reveals Himself to the devotee who chants this mantra sincerely. Aside from the maha mantra I know of a popular song with an attractive melody that goes: “Radhe radhe govinda, govinda radhe, Radhe radhe govinda, govinda radhe.” I resist the temptation to sing it because of its unknown origin (at least to me), it was not given to ISKCON by Srila Prabhupada and because it is sung seemingly in place of the maha mantra. 
Hari Sauri dasa: “After the temple darçana in the evening there is always a big kértana during ärati, especially with Lokanätha Mahäräja and his men here, as they are extremely enthusiastic chanters. However, they have developed a style of kértana that is a little different from the ISKCON norm. When the kértana reaches its climax, they gather around in a group and start singing ‘nitäi-gaura haribol, haribol, haribol, haribol.’ They get completely carried away with chanting haribol. Sometimes they go on for five or ten minutes singing back and forth, ‘haribol, haribol! haribol, haribol! Sometimes it even goes on longer than the chanting of the mahä-mantra. Some devotees are not happy about it, although no one can fault their enthusiasm.
Harikeça Swami objects to it quite strongly, and this evening he went into the garden to ask Çréla Prabhupäda’s opinion. Since we have never heard Çréla Prabhupada sing this mantra, Harikeça had doubts it was actually a bona fide practice. Prabhupäda had stopped Lokanätha’s kértana at the pandala in Delhi, but at that time he gave no reason why.
Now this evening, Prabhupäda, although not too upset by it, made it clear that such chanting was not approved by him. He told us that we should mainly chant the Hare Kåñëa maha-mantra. He said ‘nitäi-gaura haribol’ is all right, because they are bona fide names of the Lord, but the real point is that we should strictly follow only what the äcäryas have given. This is the process. He said that the äcäryas only chant all five names of the Païca-tattva, not just two. So although there is no offence in chanting the names of Gaura Nitai, if we deviate and chant our own made-up mantras then this is guror-avajïä, or disobeying the orders of the spiritual master, and the line of äcäryas. To make advancement in spiritual life one must always follow the line of äcäryas.
He referred to the äçrama at the back of our temple where they sing every morning, “nitäi-gaura rädhe-çyäma japa hare kåñëa hare räma.” He said that it is offensive because it is a deviation from the line of äcäryas.” (September 6, 1976)
Bhakti Vikasa Swami adds: “Srila Prabhupada sent word down from his room to chant the Hare Krsna mantra. Srila Prabhupada said that we are not the Haribol sampradaya. (In Bengal there is a group of deviant Vaisnavas known as the Haribol sampradaya who wildly chant Haribol! Haribol! over and over for hours on end.)”
Panca tattva mantra
Kirtana leaders should chant the names of the full Païca-tattva (çré-kåñëacaitanya prabhu-nityänanda çré-advaita gadädhara çréväsädi-gaurabhaktavånda) and then the sixteen words Hare Kåñëa, Hare Kåñëa, Kåñëa Kåñëa, Hare Hare/ Hare Räma, Hare Räma, Räma Räma, Hare Hare—rather than variations of these names.  This is the method prescribed by Çré Caitanya Mahäprabhu’s pure devotees and such chanting blesses one with the competency to chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra without offense. One should not adopt any other concocted chants or slogans if one actually wants to derive the effects of chanting. One must strictly follow the great acaryas: maha-jano yena gatah sa panthah. “The real path of progress is that which is traversed by great acaryas and authorities.” In our Krsna consciousness movement we do not allow any song that has not been approved or sung by bona fide devotees.
In some Gaudiya Math temples in India they chant all different kinds of mantras without restriction. Srila Prabhupada did not want us to use them in our temple kirtans.
Once in 1975 at the Krsna-Balarama Mandir Srila Prabhupada stopped his own Godbrother, who was leading a kirtana, from chanting “gaur nityananda bol” etc. Prabhupada didn’t want this mantra sung in his temples. He wanted that his kirtan standard be maintained and not changed by the introduction of “other” mantras which were commonly heard in temples and maths. The purport is that Srila Prabhupada wanted his movement to chant the complete panca tattva mantra and not just parts. 
When the kirtana leader sings the first words of the païca-tattva mahämantra—“çré-kåñëa-caitanya” it is unnecessary for other devotees to immediately call out “Caitanya!” Similarly when the kirtana leader continues to sing, “prabhu-nityänanda” it is unnecessary for other devotees to immediately call out “Nityananda!” in the midst of his singing. The devotees’ enthusiasm to glorify Lord Nityananda and Lord Caitanya will be best utilized a few seconds later when it is their turn to chant.
O My God
Srila Prabhupada did not want any words added to the maha mantra. A kirtana leader should refrain from chanting any words before the maha mantra such as:
- “Oh Hare Krishna” or “O Hare Krishna” or “He Hare Krishna,” “Bhaja Hare Krishna,” “Bolo Hare Krishna,” “japa hare Krishna,” etc.
Bhakti Caru Swami: One devotee was leading the guru puja kirtan in a very ecstatic way. Then all of a sudden this devotee started to sing “bhaja Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare…” and Prabhupada became very, very angry and stopped the kirtan. Everyone was so ecstatic that they were jumping three to four feet high, but then Prabhupada just shouted “Stop that!” and the kirtana immediately stopped. Prabhupada asked him “Where did you learn this bhaja Hare Krsna? Did you ever hear me singing bhaja Hare Krsna?” And Prabhupada just chastised him for about five minutes. He was very heavy. He told him “Never add anything to Hare Krsna maha mantra and never subtract anything from Hare Krsna maha mantra. Sing the maha mantra just as it is”. Prabhupada also explained that “This is how deviation starts. Somebody puts in his own concocted thing and then somebody else comes, he adds some more concoction to it and with time it becomes a complete distortion.”
A similar incident occurred in New Mayapur, France in July of 1976 when Srila Prabhupada sent his secretary into the temple room to stop a sannyasi kirtana leader from adding a word before singing the maha manta.
Bhakti Vikasa Swami writes: “Srila Prabhupada did not want anything chanted before the Hare Krsna maha mantra. Once he stopped Jaya Pataka Maharaja from chanting “bolo” before the Hare Krsna maha mantra. Bolo simply means “chant” but Srila Prabhupada did not like it and therefore we should not add it, or anything else, to the maha mantra.”
All-inclusive Maha mantra
The names of the presiding deities are included in the maha mantra.
Bhakti Vikasa Swami writes: “In ISKCON Bombay, where the Deities of Sita-Rama-Laksman-Hanuman are installed, Srila Prabhupada instructed not to chant, “Jaya Sita-Rama-Laksman-Hanuman.” He said that Their names are included in the maha-mantra and that further chanting was therefore unnecessary.” (He mentions that he was told this by Bhima Prabhu.)
Q. If people in a particular location have been chanting in a particular way for a long time, couldn’t trying to change it cause rejection?
A. I doubt that. Srila Prabhupada’s instructions and example have amazingly influenced the world in every imaginable field from science to diet. And I dare say, especially in the matter of kirtana or sankirtana. Whenever his advice is followed, success happens and wherever his advice is disregarded, problems happen. 
Kirtana leaders please:
- Chant the maha-mantra with both syllables “Ra-ma” rather than “Ram” (remember it is a thirty-two syllable mantra)
- Chant “Ra-ma” rather than “Ra-mo”
- Avoid continuously demanding the response singers, “Chant!” or “Bolo!” or “Louder” or “Everyone,” or “With all your heart,” etc.
Mangala Arati Tune
The morning melody should be sung throughout the mangala-aratika—this includes the guruvastaka, Prabhupada pranamas, panca tattva maha mantra and the hare krsna maha mantra. The standard Hare Krishna melody is not the morning tune nor is it an acceptable replaceable for it.
Gaura-maëòala-bhümi: A devotee had begun to lead the chanting of Gurvañöakam— the eight prayers to the spiritual master—in a non-conventional tune. I was feeling uncomfortable because I knew Çréla Prabhupäda liked us to sing the “morning melody” during mangala ärati. Suddenly Çrutakérti entered the temple and stopped the kértana. He whispered something to the devotee leading, who then started up again singing the correct melody. Later we found out that Prabhupäda had heard the singing from his room and had sent his servant down to make the necessary corrections. (Melbourne, 1975)
Without doubt, the preferred dance style for ISKCON devotees is the “Swami Step” with upraised arms like Lord Caitanya and his associates.  Once in Chicago in 1975 after a huge initiation ceremony; I was blessed to lead the singing. During the thundering kértana, Çréla Prabhupäda observed some of the devotees’ dancing with distaste. He stopped the kértana in the middle and communicated his disappointment with their employing modern dance styles—spinning around, running here and there, going backwards, etc. Motioning toward the altar, he instructed that the devotees should dance with their arms raised up like Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityänanda.
Satsvarupa dasa Goswami: In Chicago he admonished boys who were twisting, disco style. Emphatically from the vyäsäsana he raised up his arms. He did it once, and when the dancers did not heed, he did it again: “Like this!” After the reprimands, the kértana started again, and this time everyone danced gracefully as he suggested with their arms upraised.
Any tune and instrument can be used because when it is in relationship with Krishna that makes it bona fide. 
Kurma dasa: Hari-çauri, assisted by newly-initiated Kälasaàvara, completed the final packing. Prabhupäda slowly paced, chanting almost inaudibly on his beads. He paused, listening for a moment to the sweet kértana downstairs lead by Hare Räma on guitar. “Who is that chanting?” he asked. “This is very nice,” he added, and sang along softly. Hari-çauri applied saffron-coloured sandalwood paste to Prabhupäda’s forehead. Then it was time to go. (Auckland, New Zealand, Wednesday, 28 April 1976) 
Satsvarupa dasa Goswami: The devotees chanted with Çréla Prabhupäda during a kértana, accompanying him with guitars—Mexican style. (Mexico city, June 3, 1972) 
Bhurijana dasa: After a few days, several Indian families joined our morning program. One day, Guru-kåpa Swami danced and led the singing of “Jév Jägo” and other bhajanas for Prabhupäda’s pleasure. Prabhupäda stopped him in the middle of a song and told him to chant Hare Kåñëa so the guests could also sing. Prabhupäda directed us to be conscious and considerate of others so that we would fan, not douse, their spark of enthusiasm to hear and chant. (Fiji, 1976)
Prema dhvani prayers
After kirtana, the kirtana leader should recite the Prema dhvani prayers beginning with Jaya oà viñëu-päda paramahaàsa parivräjakäcärya añöottaraçata çré çrémad A.C. bhaktivedänta svämé prabhupäda ki jaya. The kirtana leader should end each prayer with “ki jaya” as did Srila Prabhupada. The prayers should be recited at a reasonable pace so that the responders have time to chant “jaya” after each one. Avoid reciting them so quickly that they run together making it difficult for the responders to know when to chant “jaya.”
When a Vaisnava is included in the praise as given in the concluding prema dhvani prayer “all glories to the assembled devotees,” he humbly utters, “hare krsna” to indicate that the Supreme Lord is the one who is truly worthy of glorification. By saying “hare krsna,” the recognized devotee simultaneously purifies himself from thinking that he, an insignificant jiva, is praiseworthy. Also by expressing the words “hare krsna,” the devotee singly and politely excludes himself from the rest of the assembled devotees who are actually glorious. It is naturally understood by those who are fluent in the English language that the speaker reciting the prayer “all glories to the assembled devotees,” does not include himself among the glorious devotee category (i.e. assembled devotees). That is why Srila Prabhupada never said “hare krsna” himself after “all glories to the assembled devotees.” The reciter is glorifying the other devotees, not including himself. It is inappropriate for the person leading the prema dhvani to say “hare krsna” himself after each recitation of the words “all glories to the assembled devotees.” This is because the reciter never intended to glorify himself in the first place. Responding with “hare krsna” after each recitation of the words “all glories to the assembled devotees” is to be done by the other devotees present—not the reciter himself.
- But one thing we must remember that we are not professional musicians or concert party. Our main business is to vibrate the Holy Name of Krishna everywhere so that the people will be benefited by hearing the transcendental sound. The musical training is not so important as it is to keep ourselves spiritually fit in spiritual strength, that we should not forget. If we are in spiritual strength, there will be no scarcity of money; and the spiritual strength is that each and every one of us must chant the sixteen rounds of beads and follow the rules and regulationswith great adherence. (letter to Tamal Krishna, 8 Feb 70)
- As I have already written to you, we should not try to become a very popular musical party. Music is one of our items for chanting, but we are not musicians. We should always remember this fact. The best example is that we take advantage of the typewriting machine, but that does not mean we are professional typists. (letter to Mukunda, 2 July 69
- I am pleased to note that there is interest in having our Sankirtana Party perform in various public engagements. The same thing is going on here, and they have been invited to such places as Amsterdam and Germany. So if you can also do this, it is nice. But do not change our principles. Practicing is already done by kirtana. It is not required for us to become artists. Our main point is service to Krishna, not to please an audience. We shall not divert our attention too much to adjustment of musical sounds. People should not misunderstood that we are a band of musical artists. They must know that we are devotees of Krishna. Our devotional practice and purity shall be so strong that wherever we chant there will be immediately an impression in the audience for devotion to Krishna. (letter to Tamal Krsna, 30 Oct 69)
- I understand also, there was a Kirtana performance given by Sri Purna das. You have rightly remarked whether they are devotees. You are right. These people are professional singers. Krishna Kirtana is not for earning a livelihood. Krishna Kirtana is not meant for entertaining the public for demonstration of arts. It is dynamic service to the Lord. We do not therefore mind so much about the artistic presentation of Krishna Kirtana but we want to see how much a devotee is satisfying the Supreme Will. –(Letter from Srila Prabhupada to Jadurani, 12 December, 1967)
- One should chant the bona fide songs received from the disciplic succession. In Bhagavad-gétä it is said that the chanting is powerful when one follows the disciplic succession (evam paramparä-präptam imam räjarsayo viduh). Manufacturing many ways of chanting will never be effective. However, chanting the song or the narration left by the previous äcäryas (mahäjano yena gatau sa panthäu) is extremely effective, and this process is very easy. –Çrémad-Bhägavatam 7.9.18 purport
- In our temple, strictly Hare Krishna chanting should be given more importance. There is no harm in this mantra you have heard, but it is not very important. There are many such common songs composed by common devotees out of sentiment. But our principle is to stick to the authorities, and always remember that Hare Krishna is the prime authorized mantra. (-letter to Malati, 28 January, 1969)
- This is the injunction in the çästra, that this form of the Lord, who is accompanied by His associate… Säìgopäìgästra-pärñadam. So Caitanya Mahäprabhu is always associated with Çré Advaita Prabhu, Çré Nityänanda Prabhu, Çré Gadädhara Prabhu, Çré Çréväsa Prabhu. Therefore the process of worship is çré-kåñëa-caitanya prabhu-nityänanda çré-advaita gadädhara çréväsädi-gaura-bhakta-vånda. That is perfect process. Not to cut short. No. As it is indicated. This is indication in the Çrémad-Bhägavatam. Kåñëa-varëaà tvisakåñëaà sangopangastra… So when we have to worship Lord Caitanya, we worship with His associates. Çré-kåñëa-caitanya prabhu-nityänanda çré-advaita gadädhara çréväsädi-gaura-bhaktavånda. No cut-short method. So that is sastric injunction…
- Äcärya will not manufacture any new type of religion, a new type of phrase of Hare Kåñëa mantra. That is not potent. The… Just like Hare Kåñëa, Hare Kåñëa, Kåñëa Kåñëa, Hare Hare/ Hare Räma, Hare Räma, Räma Räma, Hare Hare. This is in the çästra. So that is potential. Now if we add and subtract something from these sixteen words, that is my manufacture. That will have not the potency. They do not understand it. They are thinking if they can manufacture some new line, adding with Hare Kåñëa, then he becomes particularly noted. But he spoils the whole thing. That is the… He does not make any new thing. The new thing he does, he spoils the whole thing. So Caitanya Mahäprabhu never did so, although He’s Kåñëa Himself. He stuck to the point of çästra. Kåñëa, He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. (Srila Prabhupada lecture: Våndävana, November 5, 1972)
- Authorized songs means the songs which were sung or composed by self-realized Acaryas. It is an injunction in the Vaisnava regulations that unauthorized songs or statements should never be heard. The comparison is given that milk, although very nutritious food, if it is touched by the tongue of a serpent, it acts like poison. –(letter to Syamasundara, 25 Feb 1970)
- We cannot follow an upstart, manufacturing some song. What is authorized song, we shall sing. (lecture, Vrndavana, November 13, 1972)
- Regarding your question about the dancing, the dancing should be done enthusiastically by raising the hands like Panca-tattva. You can also dance enthusiastically by raising hands. All of Lord Caitanya’s followers used to dance with raised hands. If someone dances with ecstasy, that is all right, but it is better to dance with raised hands. (SP letter to Kértanänanda (November 10, 1975)
- Regarding Kirtana Party: My idea is that at least one dozen persons should form a Kirtana Party. Two persons play mrdangas, eight persons play karatalas, one person playing tamboura, and one person playing melodious harmonium. The person who will play on tamboura will be leader singer. You have just calculated what I want, when you suggest that the leader should sing as I do, and the others will respond. That will be very nice. But all the members of the party will be pure devotees. None of them should be outsiders. We do not want any outsiders as far as possible. Mrdanga playing as you are doing at present will make you more and more expert as you go on playing. Here also I see Gaurasundara simply by playing is improving. If all the members keep their faith in Krishna and tries to please Him, certainly everyone will be pleased by hearing our Kirtana. It is sure and certain. When such Kirtana will be demonstrated, only the harmonium player may sit, and all the others may stand up and join the Kirtana and dancing properly dressed. This is actual idea and I hope if such Kirtanas are performed even on public stage, we can sell tickets. That will be a source of earning to maintain our activities. (Letter to: Hamsaduta — Los Angeles 4 February, 1968)
- Regarding the instruments, stringed instruments are Vedic, but the real Vedic instrument is mrdanga and karatala. Anyway, you have to do according to the time and circumstances if you use these other instruments. So you have got my approval and you can go on. (letter to Bahudak, 10 November 75)
- Regarding the presentation of “Govindam” as well as other mantras, the vibration is always pure. I will give the theme and if the sound is Westernized that does not matter. (letter to Syamasundara, 25 Feb 1970)