|Experiencing God Through the Senses|
Mukunda: We've talked a lot about japa, or personalized chanting, which most chanters engage in. But there's another type, called kirtana, when one chants congregationally, in a temple or on the streets with a group of devotees. Kirtana generally gives a more supercharged effect, like recharging one's spiritual batteries, and it gives others a chance to hear the holy names and become purified.
Actually, I was with Srila Prabhupada when he first began the group chanting in Tompkins Square Park on New York's Lower East Side in 1966. The poet Allen Ginsberg would come and chant with us a lot and would play on his harmonium. A lot of people would come to hear the chanting, then Prabhupada would give lectures on Bhagavad-gita back at the temple.
George: Yes, going to a temple or chanting with a group of other people-the vibration is that much stronger. Of course, for some people it's easy just to start chanting on their beads in the middle of a crowd, while other people are more comfortable chanting in the temple. But part of Krishna consciousness is trying to tune in all the senses of all the people: to experience God through all the senses, not just by experiencing Him on Sunday, through your knees by kneeling on some hard wooden kneeler in the church. But if you visit a temple, you can see pictures of God, you can see the Deity form of the Lord, and you can just hear Him by listening to yourself and others say the mantra. It's just a way of realizing that all the senses can be applied toward perceiving God, and it makes it that much more appealing, seeing the pictures, hearing the mantra, smelling the incense, flowers, and so on. That's the nice thing about your movement. It incorporates everything-chanting, dancing, philosophy, and prasadam. The music and dancing is a serious part of the process too. It's not just something to burn off excess energy.
Mukunda: We've always seen that when we chant in the streets, people are eager to crowd around and listen. A lot of them tap their feet or dance along.
George: It's great, the sound of the karatalas [cymbals]. When I hear them from a few blocks away, it's like some magical thing that awakens something in me. Without their really being aware of what's happening, people are being awakened spiritually. Of course, in another sense, in a higher sense, the kirtana is always going on, whether we're hearing it or not.
Now, all over the place in Western cities, the sankirtana party has become a common sight. I love to see these sankirtana parties, because I love the whole idea of the devotees mixing it up with everybody, giving everybody a chance to remember. I wrote in the Krishna book introduction, "Everybody is looking for Krishna. Some don't realize that they are, but they are. Krishna is God ... and by chanting His Holy Names, the devotee quickly develops God-consciousness."
Mukunda: You know, Srila Prabhupada often said that after a large number of temples were established, most people would simply begin to take up the chanting of Hare Krishna within their own homes, and we're seeing more and more that this is what's happening. Our worldwide congregation is very large-in the millions. The chanting on the streets, the books, and the temples are there to give people a start, to introduce them to the process.
George: I think it's better that it is spreading into the homes now. There are a lot of "closet Krishnas," you know. There's a lot of people out there who are just waiting, and if it's not today, it will be tomorrow or next week or next year.
Back in the sixties, whatever we were all getting into, we tended to broadcast it as loud as we could. I had had certain realizations and went through a period where I was so thrilled about my discoveries and realizations that I wanted to shout and tell it to everybody. But there's a time to shout it out and a time not to shout it out. A lot of people went underground with their spiritual life in the seventies, but they're out there in little nooks and crannies and in the countryside, people who look and dress straight, insurance salesmen types, but they're really meditators and chanters, closet devotees.
Prabhupada's movement is doing pretty well. It's growing like wildfire really. How long it will take until we get to a Golden Age where everybody's perfectly in tune with God's will, I don't know; but because of Prabhupada, Krishna consciousness has certainly spread more in the last sixteen years than it has since the sixteenth century, since the time of Lord Caitanya. The mantra has spread more quickly and the movement's gotten bigger and bigger. It would be great if everyone chanted. Everybody would benefit by doing it. No matter how much money you've got, it doesn't necessarily make you happy. You have to find your happiness with the problems you have, not worry too much about them, and chant Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare.