On Chanting…Question Mark
By His Holiness Danavir Goswami
There appears to be symptoms of chara kértana (concocted kértana) growing within the society. Unauthorized kirtanas are popping up even at various major festivals such as the Mayapura-Vrndavana Festival or Rathayatra festivals. If this infectious disease goes unchecked, it will turn into prakrita sahajiya.
But someone may protest, “The devotees love it. Can’t you see how ecstatic everyone is chanting?” All the same, ISKCON devotees should ask the question whether Srila Prabhupada authorized such methods of chanting? Although forgetful or inexperienced devotees may be swept away, those who actually know Srila Prabhupada’s instructions about chanting are alarmed.
There are so many they have invented. Just like Hare Kåñëa mantra is prescribed in the çästras, and they have invented so many. Although there is the name of the Supreme Lord, still you have to follow the çästra. If you say Räma Räma Räma, Rädhe Rädhe Rädhe, Kåñëa, there are so many mentioned. That is also name, but you have to follow the çästra. Çästra says:
Hare Kåñëa Hare Kåñëa Kåñëa Kåñëa Hare Hare
Hare Räma Hare Räma Räma Räma Hare Hare
You have to take that. Not that you can say, nitäi-gaura rädhe-çyäma, hare kåñëa hare räma, no. Why? Is there any in the çästra? No, you have invented. What is the value of your invention? You are not perfect. But they like that “It is my guru, I have got some followers, I invent some type of chanting.” This is nonsense. You must follow, mahäjano yena gataù sa panthäù. You cannot invent. (Lecture: Çrémad-Bhägavatam 5.5.14 — Våndävana, November 2, 1976)
Today it is common to hear kirtanas composed of words such as: “Gauranga,” “Nityananda”, “Nitai, Nitai, Nitai, Nitai, Nitai Gauranga,” “Gaurahari,” “Gaura, Gaura”, “Nitai-Gaura,” “Nitai-Gauranga,” “Gaura-Nitai”, “Gaura-Nityananda Bol, Haribol”, “Gaura Sri Advaita Bol, Haribol” “Gaura Sri Karandhara Bol, Haribol,” “Gaura Sri Srivasa Bol, Haribol,” “Jagannatha Haribol,” “Radhe Radhe Govinda, Govinda Radhe,” “Haribol, Haribol,” “Hari, Hari Haribol,” “Hari, Hari, Hari, Hari, Hari Haribol,” “Jaya Radhe,” “Radhe, Radhe, Radhe, Radhe Radhe Govinda,” etc.
In spite of the fact that these are holy names of the Lord, ISKCON devotees should not indulge in this type of kirtana because it was disapproved by the founder-acarya of ISKCON.
Jayädvaita: …names of Kåñëa as the spiritual master or the äcäryas have chanted them, but sometimes I’ll hear that our devotees will be chanting Kåñëa’s name in different ways that I haven’t heard, in kértana.
Prabhupäda: I do not follow what you say.
Jayädvaita: Just like sometimes we’ll hear our men. They’ll be chanting… Like yesterday I heard that someone was chanting, “Nitäi-Gaura, Nitäi-Gaura, Nitäi-Nitäi-Gaura.” Like that, I’ll hear different mantras. Someone is chanting: “Rädhe, Rädhe, Rädhe, Rädhe,” like that, at kértana.
Prabhupäda: Well, that is not done by the äcäryas. But there is no harm chanting “Rädhe.” But sometimes it is degraded to make something new, invention. Therefore better to stick to “Hare Kåñëa” and to “Çré-Kåñëa Caitanya Prabhupäda-Nityänanda.” Otherwise… Just like the sahajiyäs, they have invented: “Nitäi-Gaura Rädhe Çyäma, Hare Kåñëa Hare Räma.” These things will come gradually. But they are not approved. They are called chara kértana, means “concocted kértana.” But there is no harm chanting “Rädhe, Nitäi-Gaura.” So better stick to this Païca-tattva, and mahä-mantra. Just like “Nitäi Gaura Rädhe Çyäma, Hare Kåñëa Hare Räma.” There is “Nitäi-Gaura, Rädhe Çyäma,” but it is not approved. Mahäjano yena gataù sa panthäù. We have to follow the mahäjana. In Caitanya-caritämåta you’ll find “Çré-Kåñëa-Caitanya Prabhu-Nityänanda, Çré-Advaita Gadädhara…,” never “Nitäi Gaura, Rädhe Çyäma.” So why should we do that?
Jayapatäka: The concocter of the “Nitäi Gaura Rädhe Çyäma,” previously he was a follower of Bhaktisiddhänta, but then he was rejected, and then he started his own camp.
Prabhupäda: No, yes, he was meeting Bhaktivinoda Öhäkura. So… What is called? Carana däsa Bäbäjé.
Satsvarüpa: Çréla Prabhupäda, sometimes during ärati, many bona fide bhajanas are sung, but not much Hare Kåñëa. Is that not a good tendency, that maybe just two or three minutes of Hare Kåñëa mantra and many other bhajanas?
Prabhupäda: No. We should stick to Hare Kåñëa. Çré-Kåñëa-Caitanya Prabhu-Nityänanda, jéva jägo jéva jägo…, these are authorized. But Hare Kåñëa is the mahä-mantra. What is sung by mahäjana, Bhaktivinoda Öhäkura, Narottama däsa Öhäkura, that can be sung. (Morning Walk — April 8, 1975, Mäyäpur)
DO RESTRICTIONS APPLY FOR ADVANCED DEVOTEES?
One may agree that kirtana constraints are healthy for neophytes but may question whether kirtana restrictions also apply for advanced devotees? Did not Lord Caitanya Himself chant names of the gopis incurring criticism from His neophyte students? How then can there be regulations in chanting for uttama adhikaris?
Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, while experiencing the highest platform of mahabhava, chanted the names of the gopis rather than the mahamantra. That is His prerogative, He is God. That was also a unique event. However, He instructed His followers to chant the mahamantra; hare kåñëa hare kåñëa, kåñëa kåñëa hare hare, hare räma hare räma räma räma hare hare. If we imitate Lord Caitanya’s unequaled and exclusive right rather than follow His instructions, it will be a failure. Furthermore, His senapati bhakta, Srila Prabhupada instructed his ISKCON devotees to chant Hare Krsna and not other things.
There are sahajiyäs who, not knowing the importance of the Païca-tattva, concoct their own slogans, such as bhaja nitäi gaura, rädhe çyäma, japa hare kåñëa hare räma or çré-kåñëa-caitanya prabhu-nityänanda hare kåñëa hare räma çré-rädhe govinda. Such chants may be good poetry, but they cannot help us to go forward in devotional service. In such chants there are also many discrepancies, which need not be discussed here. Strictly speaking, when chanting the names of the Païca-tattva, one should fully offer his obeisances: çré-kåñëa-caitanya prabhu-nityänanda çré-advaita gadädhara çréväsädi-gaura-bhakta-vånda. By such chanting one is blessed with the competency to chant the Hare Kåñëa mahä-mantra without offense. When chanting the Hare Kåñëa mahä-mantra, one should also chant it fully: Hare Kåñëa, Hare Kåñëa, Kåñëa Kåñëa, Hare Hare/ Hare Räma, Hare Räma, Räma Räma, Hare Hare. One should not foolishly adopt any of the slogans concocted by imaginative devotees. If one actually wants to derive the effects of chanting, one must strictly follow the great äcäryas. This is confirmed in the Mahäbhärata: mahä-jano yena gataù sa panthäù. “The real path of progress is that which is traversed by great äcäryas and authorities.” (Caitanya-caritämåta Ädi 7.168 Purport)
There are those who think that when they become inspired, especially while visiting holy places, it is unavoidable to chant spontaneous mantras. Lord Caitanya’s movement is indeed meant for ecstasy. Saba avatära, sära çiromaëi, kevala änanda-kanda: Lord Caitanya and Nityänanda introduced a simply joyful process of chanting and dancing. Why though, should ecstasy be inhibited due to chanting authorized mantras? Chanting of the maha mantra is prescribed in sacred Vedas. It was brought to earth by Sri Narada Muni and it was recommended as the panacea for Kali yuga by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Furthermore the Gaudiya acaryas have provided the panca tattva maha mantra, (i.e. çré-kåñëa-caitanya prabhu-nityänanda çré-advaita gadädhara çréväsädi-gaura-bhakta-vånda) as a means to glorify Lord Gauranga and His associates. Therefore it is most illogical to consider that the devotees will not derive enough ecstasy by chanting these mantras.
Prayers must be approved by Vedic literature, as indicated in this verse by the words daivébhir gérbhiù. In our Kåñëa consciousness movement we do not allow any song that has not been approved or sung by bona fide devotees… We generally sing two songs. One is çré-kåñëa-caitanya prabhu nityänanda çré-advaita gadädhara çréväsädi-gaura-bhakta-vånda. This is bona fide. It is always mentioned in the Caitanya-caritämåta, and it is accepted by the äcäryas. The other, of course, is the mahä-mantra—Hare Kåñëa, Hare Kåñëa, Kåñëa Kåñëa, Hare Hare/ Hare Räma, Hare Räma, Räma Räma, Hare Hare. We may also sing the songs of Narottama däsa Öhäkura, Bhaktivinoda Öhäkura and Locana däsa Öhäkura, but these two songs—“çré-kåñëa-caitanya” and the Hare Kåñëa mahä-mantra—are sufficient to please the Supreme Personality of Godhead. (SB 8.5.25 Purport)
A valid observation may be brought forward citing that within the Gaudiya Vaisnava literature including Ananta Samhita, Caitanya-bhägavata and the songs of Narottama dasa Thakura, etc. one finds recommendations for chanting the names of Lord Caitanya such as Gauranga, Gauracandra, Gaurahari, etc.
Srila Prabhupada clarifies this issue for us.
Caitanya-bhägavata there is a verse which says, gåhe vä vanete thäke, hä gauräìga bole òäke. The purport is that either if you remain in household life or you remain as mendicant in the forest, in either case, you just become a devotee of Lord Caitanya. (Lecture: New York, September 5, 1968)
This famous verse, gåhe vä vanete thäke, hä gauräìga bole òäke is also included in the fourth stanza of Narottama dasa Thakura’s song Sävaraëa Çré Gaura Mahim (Gauräìgera Duöi Pada). Gauräìga bole òäke translated literally means to chant or shout the name of Gauranga. However, Srila Prabhupada gives a broader meaning, namely that gauräìga bole òäke means one should become a devotee of Lord Caitanya.
This does not negate the particular emphasis placed on chanting Gauranga’s holy name. One should become a devotee of Lord Caitanya and chant Gauranga’s name. Exactly how Gauranga’s name should be chanted is explained in the following excerpt from a lecture.
Narottama däsa Öhäkura says, gåhe bä vanete thäke, ‘hä gauräìga’ bale òäke. Either you remain at home or outside home, you chant çré kåñëa caitanya prabhu nityänanda çré-advaita gadädhara çréväsädi-gaura-bhakta-vånda. This is the process, very simple process. And Hare Kåñëa. (Çrémad-Bhägavatam 5.5.2 — Johannesburg, October 22, 1975 [emphasis ours])
There is no contradiction. Chant Lord Gauranga’s holy name in the proper, authorized method çré kåñëa caitanya prabhu nityänanda çré-advaita gadädhara çréväsädi-gaura-bhakta-vånda then chant the Hare Kåñëa maha mantra. This method of chanting in kirtana was consistently described in Srila Prabhupada’s writings and was always present in Srila Prabhupada’s own example when leading kirtanas. Narottama dasa Thakura’s verse, or any other reference, should not be used as a validation for deviating from Srila Prabhupada’s clear instruction on how to perform kirtana.
While commenting on the song beginning with the words gauräìga balite ha’be pulaka çaréra hari hari balite nayane ba’be néra, Srila Prabhupada wrote:
The chanting of Çré Caitanya Mahäprabhu’s name is more essential than the chanting of the Hare Kåñëa mahä-mantra because Çré Caitanya Mahäprabhu is the most magnanimous incarnation and His mercy is very easily achieved. Therefore one must first take shelter of Çré Caitanya Mahäprabhu by chanting çré-kåñëa-caitanya prabhu-nityänanda çré-advaita gadädhara çréväsädi-gaura-bhakta-vånda. (Ädi 8.31 Purport)
Gauräìga balite refers to chanting the name of Gauranga and once more Srila Prabhupada confirms that the proper, acceptable mode of chanting Çré Caitanya Mahäprabhu’s names and those of Nityananda Prabhu is çré-kåñëa-caitanya prabhu-nityänanda çré-advaita gadädhara çréväsädi-gaura-bhakta-vånda.
PANCA TATTVA MANTRA
Prior to publishing his translation and commentary on Sri Caitanya Caritamrta, Srila Prabhupada taught that the Païca-tattva maha mantra was much more powerful than the Hare Krsna mantra. Upon hearing this in July of 1971, a disciple seated amongst several others in Srila Prabhupada’s room, asked why not chant some rounds of the panca tattva mantra after finishing sixteen rounds of the Hare Krsna mantra each day? Srila Prabhupada replied that we should not do so since Lord Caitanya came just to show us how to worship Lord Krsna and that the Lord wanted us to chant the Hare Krsna mantra and therefore we should follow His advice and example.
The reason Srila Prabhupada so carefully regulated kirtana chanting in ISKCON was to prevent kirtana chaos which means chaos in the devotees’ spiritual lives. He knew very well the outcome of manufacturing new mantras.
Taking advantage of Çré Caitanya Mahäprabhu, many unscrupulous devotees manufacture a mahä-mantra of their own. Sometimes they sing bhaja nitäi gaura rädhe çyäma hare kåñëa hare räma or çré-kåñëa-caitanya prabhu-nityänanda hare kåñëa hare räma çré-rädhe govinda. Actually, however, one should chant the names of the full Païca-tattva (çré-kåñëa-caitanya prabhu-nityänanda çré-advaita gadädhara çréväsädi-gaura-bhakta-vånda) and then the sixteen words Hare Kåñëa, Hare Kåñëa, Kåñëa Kåñëa, Hare Hare/ Hare Räma, Hare Räma, Räma Räma, Hare Hare. But these unscrupulous, less intelligent men confuse the entire process. Of course, since they are also devotees they can express their feelings in that way, but the method prescribed by Çré Caitanya Mahäprabhu’s pure devotees is to first chant the full Païca-tattva mantra and then chant the mahä-mantra—Hare Kåñëa, Hare Kåñëa, Kåñëa Kåñëa, Hare Hare/ Hare Räma, Hare Räma, Räma Räma, Hare Hare. (Caitanya-caritämåta Ädi 7.4 Purport)
This strong warning is not only for outsiders, it applies to ISKCON as well. Sentimental persons indulge in long kirtana performances of chanting “Nitai-Gaura” and “Gauranga” disregarding the explicit instructions Srila Prabhupada. Nevertheless, the founder-acarya for ISKCON has pronounced the type of kirtana he desires in the society’s world headquarters.
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness now has its world center in Navadvépa, Mäyäpur. The managers of this center should see that twenty-four hours a day there is chanting of the holy names of the Hare Kåñëa mahä-mantra, with the addition of haraye namaù, kåñëa yädaväya namaù, for this song was a favorite of Çré Caitanya Mahäprabhu’s. But all such saìkértana must be preceded by the chanting of the holy names of the five tattvas—çré-kåñëa-caitanya prabhu-nityänanda çré-advaita gadädhara çréväsädi-gaura-bhakta-vånda. We are already accustomed to chant these two mantras—çré-kåñëa-caitanya prabhu-nityänanda çré-advaita gadädhara çréväsädi-gaura-bhakta-vånda and Hare Kåñëa, Hare Kåñëa, Kåñëa Kåñëa, Hare Hare/ Hare Räma, Hare Räma, Räma Räma, Hare Hare. Now, after these, the other two lines—namely haraye namaù, kåñëa yädaväya namaù/ gopäla govinda räma çré-madhusüdana—should be added, especially in Mäyäpur. Chanting of these six lines should go on so perfectly well that no one there hears any vibration other than the chanting of the holy names of the Lord. That will make the center spiritually all-perfect. (Caitanya-caritämåta Ädi 17.123 Purport)
WHY NOT JUST CHANT HARE KRSNA?
Does the Hare Krsna maha mantra lack potency? Quite to the contrary, this mantra which contains thirty-two syllables, is quite sufficient in itself to bring ecstasy, victory, mercy, knowledge etc. To equal thirty-two syllables it is necessary to chant ra-ma rather than simply ram.
All over the world, our only means is to chant Hare Kåñëa mantra. Recently we have become victorious, very recently in Melbourne… So you stick to this principle, go on chanting Hare Kåñëa mantra anywhere it is possible, and you’ll be victorious. That is the blessings of Caitanya Mahäprabhu. Believe in it and you’ll be successful. (The Nectar of Devotion — Våndävana, November 1, 1972)
hare kåñëa hare kåñëa
kåñëa kåñëa hare hare
hare räma hare räma
räma räma hare hare
iti ñoòaçakaà nämnäà
“Similarly, the Kali-santaraëa Upaniñad states, “Hare Kåñëa, Hare Kåñëa, Kåñëa Kåñëa, Hare Hare/ Hare Räma, Hare Räma, Räma Räma, Hare Hare—these sixteen names composed of thirty-two syllables are the only means to counteract the evil effects of Kali-yuga. In all the Vedas it is seen that to cross the ocean of nescience there is no alternative to the chanting of the holy name.” (Ädi 7.76 Purport)
The process for this Kali-yuga is very simple. One need only chant the Hare Kåñëa mahä-mantra. (TLK Vs 1)
It is well-known that entertainers must always come up with new songs, new lyrics, new styles, etc. to maintain the loyalty of their fans and to attract new fans. Similarly, unauthorized chants produced from püjä and pratiñöhä, (i.e. the desire for mundane adoration and position) chokes the actual bhakti lata plant of devotional service.
Therefore our process is to chant the holy names of the Païca-tattva and then we chant Hare Kåñëa mahä-mantra. That is perfect. And neither mixing. The mixing taste is called rasäbhäsa. Rasäbhäsa. And we don’t manufacture anything. Just follow. We disagree with the persons who chant that bhaja nitäi-gaura rädhe-çyäma. No. We must follow strictly. Mahäjano yena gataù sa panthäù [Cc. Madhya 17.186].
We cannot manufacture simply for some worldly cheap reputation and prestige. If we manufacture something, that will not help us. We must follow. Mahäjano yena. Dharmasya tattvaà nihitaà guhäyäà mahäjano yena gataù sa panthäù. We must follow the mahäjanas. So you’ll find in the Caitanya-caritämåta, the Kaviräja Gosvämé, in every chapter he begins, çré-kåñëa-caitanya prabhu-nityänanda, jaya advaita…, gaura-bhakta-vånda. This is the process. (Lecture: Çré Caitanya-caritämåta, Ädi-lélä 7.5 — Mäyäpur, March 7, 1974)
Merely to gather many sheep-like followers is not a qualification for being a kirtana leader or a guru. Those who lead kirtanas are responsible to represent Srila Prabhupada’s will in chanting the way he delineated.
SPECULATIVE KIRTANA STYLES
Srila Prabhupada’s personal style of simple chanting in a pure and melodious fashion did not change when he was in India. Historically speaking, it can be traced that in the late 60’s and early 70’s however Western devotees coming to India had no place to stay but in some Gaudiya Math temples.[i] In some of these temples all different kinds of mantras were chanted without restriction. Although these mantras did not seem improper, Srila Prabhupada did not want us to use them in our temple kirtanas.
With regard to your question about Bengali style kirtana and mrdanga playing, one or two styles is best. To introduce more styles is not good. It will become an encumbrance. Who is that Krsna das Babaji who is teaching? If we introduce so much emphasis on style of kirtana, then simply imitation will go on. Devotional emotion is the main thing. If we give stress to instrument and style then attention will be diverted to the style. That will be spiritual loss. (Letter to Satsvarupa Goswami, — New Vrndavana 30 June, 1976)
However this form of kirtan filtered into our movement very quickly since it was new and exciting and therefore rapidly accepted by the kirtan leaders. Variety is the spice of life. This variety however, did not actually please Srila Prabhupada. Now one may say: “Okay, I accept that Srila Prabhupada wrote about exclusive Hare Krsna kirtana which he desired his followers to sing. And I accept that Srila Prabhupada himself always lead kirtanas by chanting the maha mantra and never used the other types of chants often used by Bengali devotees. But did he ever get personally involved in correcting improper chanting?”
Srila Prabhupada was very strict in the melody sung during the mangala-aratika. He wanted the morning melody and nothing else. Before the opening of the Vrndavana Krsna Balarama Temple in 1975, one morning Srila Prabhupada called his secretary into his room and complained about the singing. The devotee who led mangala aratrika kirtana had chanted melodies other than the morning melody. Srila Prabhupada said that he did not like the singing in the morning. He stated that the morning melody must be sung throughout the mangala-aratika and no other melody should be sung. He then demonstrated how the singing should be done singing the first verse of the Samsara Prayer. Srila Prabhupada was very insistent that the singing should be done in that way only. He then told his secretary to lead the mangala aratrika kirtanas in the morning as a way to establish the standards within the temple.
CHANTING “JAYA RADHE…?”
The morning after receiving that instruction, Srila Prabhupada’s secretary led the mangala aratrika kirtana in Srila Prabhupada’s room duplicating the melodious style which he had been shown the day before. Srila Prabhupada was pleased and seemed to enjoy the kirtana but unfortunately at the end of the kirtana, the secretary fell victim to speculation and sang a couple of “jaya radhe’s”.
“Srila Prabhupada looked at me with eyes blazing like fire… Voice choked and gagging, I ended the kirtan immediately without further formalites, never again to make the same mistake.Prabhupada never ended kirtans with various extra mantras, especially not “jaya radhe,” so why should I?”[ii]
Srila Prabhupada didn’t want his followers to chant Jaya Radhe. He explained that Sukadeva Gosvami did not feel himself qualified to chant the name of Radha in the Srimad-Bhagavatam and therefore only indicated her name with the word “aradhana” while describing the topmost gopi friend of Krsna.
“CHANTING JAYA GURUDEVA…?”
Srila Prabhupada objected to the chanting of “Jaya Gurudeva” since he considered it to be a direct insertion into our movement from the sahajiya sampradayas in Bengal who always say things like “Jaya Gurudeva,” without referring to any particular guru. Prabhupada criticized this as impersonal and did not want it chanted by his disciples. “Who is the guru?” he would challenge.
CHANTING ‘JAPA, BOLO, BHAJA’ HARE KRSNA…?
In July of 1976 Prabhupada was in New Mayapur in France. A raging kirtan was going on somewhere below his room. Srila Prabhupada was verbally dictating responses to letters he had received while his secretary sat before him writing the words down. Srila Prabhupada was very disturbed by something he heard.
“Do you hear that?” he asked the secretary.
“What is that, Srila Prabhupada?” replied the secretary.
“Listen to what he is saying.”
“I cannot hear anything special. What is wrong?”
“He is chanting something before the Hare Krsna mantra. Go and stop this immediately.”
The secretary immediately ran downstairs, danda in hand, and started pushing aside the crowds of ecstatic chanters to get at the leader of the kirtana. He could still not hear exactly what was being chanted, and neither could he imagine how Srila Prabhupada could hear it, but with full faith he plunged through the crowd expecting to soon be close enough to know who was leading the kirtana and what it was that he was saying before the Hare Krsna mantra. When he was about two meters away from the leader he saw that it was Prthu Putra Swami leading the kirtana and then he finally heard that Prthu Putra Swami was faintly saying “bhaja” before each Hare Krsna mantra. With this confirmation, the secretary demanded, in the name of Srila Prabhupada, that he not chant that before the mantra and that he never do it again. This caused a bit of a pause in the kirtan while everyone tried to understand what was going on, but before too long the secretary was again going back upstairs and the kirtana was being chanted correctly. Srila Prabhupada asked for a report of what happened and was satisfied that the mistake had been corrected. One should never chant anything before the mahamantra including “japa”, “bolo”, or “bhaja”.
CHANTING “GAURA NITYANANDA BOL…?”
One morning in the winter of 1975, after the temple was opened, Ananda prabhu was leading the kirtan. Ananda prabhu was a Godbrother of Srila Prabhupada who had been living in our temple for many years, humbly engaged in serving the devotees with great love and devotion. He was the personal cook of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati and was extremely expert in preparing emergency medicinal herbs when the need arose (as when Saurabh das was bitten by a scorpion but was saved by Ananda prabhu’s timely herb application). He was also an enthusiastic kirtana leader. Srila Prabhupada was in his room as usual during the mangala aratika kirtan and his secretary was in the room next to him waiting for some order or command.
The kirtan was loud and the speakers, combined with the reverberation of the hall, projected the sound into Prabhupada’s room with great ease. Prabhupada called his secretary into his room. The secretary already knew what was going to happen since he was trained by him the previous year about standards for kirtana. Ananda Prabhu was chanting “gaur nityananda bol” & etc.
Srila Prabhupada told the secretary to go to the temple room and stop Ananda from singing the kirtana. The secretary was shocked. This was the first time that he ever had to stop one of Srila Prabhupada’s own Godbrothers from singing a kirtana. but he dutifully marched off to the temple room to fulfill the order. Afraid of making an offense or being crude the secretary did not feel good about the matter yet he managed to mutter out some words to the effect that Prabhupada didn’t want this mantra in the temple and that would he please chant Hare Krsna instead. Srila Prabhupada was extremely determined that the kirtan standard be maintained and not changed by the introduction of “other” mantras which were commonly heard in temples and maths.
ISKCON’s most famous kirtana leader also liked to chant “gaura nityananda bol.” Although very few devotees know this, Srila Prabhupada said that he did not like those kirtanas.[iv]
CHANTING “GAURA GAURA GAURA…?”
As far as standards go, Srila Prabhupada’s instructions could not have been more specific. During one of Srila Prabhupada’s stays in Vrndavana he was attending the evening kirtanas and classes led by his disciples due to his being sickly and unable to speak. One night Srila Prabhupada’s disciple, Bharadvaja dasa, chose to sing a song which he said he got from a book by Gopal Bhatta Goswami. The song was a variation on the mantra “krsna krsna krsna krsna krsna krsna krsna he,” but instead of the name “Krsna”, the name “Gaura” was chanted. The mantra went, “gaura gaura gaura gaura gaura gaura gaura he” & etc. Srila Prabhupada disliked this extremely, so much so that the next morning he called the president of the temple into his room and wanted an explanation of why Bharadvaja was chanting like that. The devotee could not give a proper explanation at that moment. Srila Prabhupada said that he never wanted to hear that again in the temple and that the temple president should never allow such kinds of “speculation” in kirtana. He then went on to specifically describe how kirtana should be done.
A. For mangala aratika: the samsara-dava prayer, then Sri Krsna Caitanya (panca tattva maha mantra), then Hare Krsna mahamantra, nothing else.
B. For the guru-puja: the “guru-prayer” (that’s what he called it) Sri Krsna Caitanya (panca tattva maha mantra), then Hare Krsna mahamantra, nothing else.
C. For evening aratika: the gaura aratika song, Sri Krsna Caitanya (panca tattva maha mantra), and Hare Krsna mahamantra, nothing else.
D. For all aratikas this basic pattern should be followed. The chanting of Sri Krsna Caitanya (panca tattva maha mantra) should only be for three times, not more.
E. No one should sing a bhajana unless all the devotees know what the song means.
F. No one should sing songs in Vrindavan temple that are in languages which the people do not understand. Yasomati-nandana may be sung since the people understand that.[v]
In regards to “E” above, Srila Prabhupada specifically placed this restriction on the chanting after one incident with Isana prabhu in Vrindavan. In July of 1974, when Srila Prabhupada first moved into his new quarters, kirtanas were being conducted in his room in the afternoon and then he would give class. On one of the first days, Srila Prabhupada’s disciple Isana Prabhu, who at that time was doing what was to be later known as FATE doll exhibition, led a kirtan. He was simply repeating the Sri Krsna Caitanya mantra over and over again, perhaps for 15 times, when Srila Prabhupada demanded that he stop and chant Hare Krsna. It was after this that Srila Prabhupada became quite strict on the number of times the mantra was sung.
“BHAJA” OR “JAYA” SRI KRSNA CAITANYA?
In the middle of 1977, ISKCON devotees noticed a sudden change in the way the panca tattva maha mantra was to be chanted. Up to that point, all of the kirtanas Srila Prabhupada had led, both in person and on recordings displayed the song as:
bhaja çré-kåñëa-caitanya prabhu-nityänanda
çré-advaita gadädhara çréväsädi-gaura-bhakta-vånda
Every devotee sang this song in this way in every kirtana.
However, in May of 1977 Srila Prabhupada became very displeased with the kirtans of the group in the asrama next to Krsna Balarama Mandira in Vrndavana. There kirtans were taking place with the following speculated mantra, “(bhaja) nitai gaura radhe syama (japa) Hare Krsna Hare Ram.” Srila Prabhupada then requested the devotees to stop chanting the word “bhaja” before our Panca-tattva maha mantra since the word actually is not part of the mantra. There is no word which prefaces the mantra which specifically reads “sri krsna caitanya prabhu nityananda sri advaita gadadhara srivasadi gaura bhakta vrinda.” This mantra can be read in either Bengali or Sanskrit letters on the walls of every temple in Vrindavan or Bengal as it is one of the two essential mantras for Gaudiya Vaisnavas.
Then Prabhupada thought about using some mantra from the Caitanya-caritamrta which he considered might go, “jaya sri krsna caitanya prabhu nityananda, jayadvaita gadadhara srivasadi gaura bhakta vrinda.” His Divine Grace had his servants and sanskritists look it up to see if they could find it. After a thorough search they realized that there was no mantra like that and that the closest mantra was “jaya jaya çré-caitanya jaya nityänanda jayädvaita-candra jaya gaura-bhakta-vånda” which was not what Prabhupada wanted.
Nevertheless, in order to definitively distinguish ISKCON from the other chanters across the road, Srila Prabhupada insisted on the change from the using the word “bhaja” to “jaya” preceding the mantra. Tamal Krsna Goswami also noted the change in his diary.
At 3:00 p.m. Çréla Prabhupäda signed his will and had Upendra, Gopénätha, and myself witness it. During the kértana, Prabhupäda twice instructed Yaçodänandana Mahäräja not to sing “bhaja” before “Çré Kåñëa Caitanya.” Was it because of the bogus groups who chant this word first? Prabhupäda said to chant “Jaya Çré Kåñëa Caitanya.” (TKG Diary: May 23, 1977 Vrndavana)
“You can say ‘Çré Kåñëa Caitanya’ or ‘Jaya Çré Kåñëa Caitanya,’ but never ‘bhaja.’ You just glorify these five personalities and They will take care of everything.” (Srila Prabhupada speaking: TKG Diary: May 29, 1977 Vrndavana)
[i] Here and in following sections of our paper we cite descriptions of Srila Prabhupada personally instructing devotees about how to perform kirtana and his responses to improper kirtanas which he encountered. This information is taken from ISKCON Journal 1988 “Important Kirtana Instructions from Srila Prabhupada.”
[iii] The Bhaktivedanta Video Library Series; (Memories of Srila Prabhupada: Number 7)
[iv] This incident which took place in Srila Prabhupada’s room in Detroit was was related by Harikesa dasa.
[v] Ibid.http://danavirgoswami.com/on-chantingquestion-mark/https://i1.wp.com/danavirgoswami.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/kirtan_1.jpg?fit=250%2C250https://i1.wp.com/danavirgoswami.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/kirtan_1.jpg?resize=150%2C150ArticlesFeatured ArticlesKirtanDanavir GoswamiBy His Holiness Danavir Goswami (Vaiñëava Society Vol. 3) There appears to be symptoms of chara kértana (concocted kértana) growing within the society. Unauthorized kirtanas are popping up even at various major festivals such as the Mayapura-Vrndavana Festival or Rathayatra festivals. If this infectious disease goes unchecked, it will turn...Robert LessengerRobert Lessengerdgservant@rvc.eduAdministratorDanavir Goswami