HARE RAAMA HARE KRISHNA MANTRAS FOR SALVATION IN KALIYUGA
(I-DISCOURSE BY N. R. SRINIVASAN, BRENTWOOD, TN, USA—April 2013)
Upanishads guide us to meditate upon Supreme Being or his Vyaahritis (Attributes) towards Liberation called Mukti. Puraanas while focusing on the means of meditation have side tracked the other two important means to achieve Liberation from repeated birth and death—Praayaschitta (repentance) and Nyaasa or Saranaagati (Complete surrender at the feet of the Lord) as projected by Upanishads. Puraanas have also brought out Phalasrutis effectively in all stotras (hymns in glorification of the Lord) to attract people towards Naama Japa and have even influenced Upanishads of later origin which include elaborate Phalsrutis as seen in Naaraayanoepanishat and Ganesha Atharvaseersha Upanishat. All these Naama Japas draw their inspiration from Srirudram of Rigveda where Siva is glorified as Personal God, followed by Vishnusahasranaama composed by Bheeshma in glorification of Lord Krishna. A devotee gets the impression that Naamajapa (chanting Lord’s name repeatedly) is the easiest guaranteed way to attain salvation as enumerated in the Puraanic stories. Ajameela just by pronouncing Narayana’s name on his death bed got Moksha at the time of death despite his tons of load of sins.
Of all the incarnations of Vishnu the two names that come uppermost on the lips of a devotee for meditation are the names of Rama and Krishna. We are familiar with the oft repeated terms “Rama Naam satya hai” and “Sarvam Krishnaarpanmastu”. Recently these two names of the Lord have gained importance at global level due to ISKCON Movement inspired by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and initiated by Prabhupaada. Some children are also named Rama-krishna for a combined blessing carrying the names of both the celebrated incarnations of Vishnu in the great Epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata. All of us are familiar with the name of the great saint-philosopher Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. Some familiar names are Venkataraman, Venkatakrishnan, Sivaraman, Sivaramakrishnan etc., popular in the South, Sairam being the latest addition to the list, the most popular being Ramakrishnan. The continuity of these names of two incarnations of Vishnu Rama and Krishna bringing them together are kept from Tretaayuga to Dwaaparayuga to Kaliyuga. We have the incarnations of Parasurama followed by Kodandaraama who were contemporaries in Tretaayuga as well as Balarama and his brother Lord Krishna in Dwaaparayuga. Hindu orthodoxy believes Balarama is an incarnation of Vishnu and not Buddha who they believe was introduced cleverly into the Dasaavataara to kill the popularity of Buddhism and the growing tendency towards Nastikavaada (atheism as Buddha was silent on Supreme Being) to save the drifting away of sacrificial oriented Hinduism then. Of the above four Incarnations only Lord Krishna revealed himself as the Supreme Being repeatedly while other three incarnations were silent as to who they were. Only Krishna revealed himself as Viraat Purusha with his Viswaroopa Darsana mentioned in Mahabharata and Srimad Bhagavata. Baghavadgeeta has the following slokas to substantiate Lord Krishna is Brahman and he is the one who incarnates on this earth:
Yac chaapi sarvabhootaanaam beejam tad aham arjuna | Na tad asti vinaa yat syaan mayaa bhootam charaacharam || [I am the seed or origin of all beings. There is nothing animate or inanimate, that can exist without Me” says Lord Krishna to Arjuna thereby revealing that he is Supreme Being (Brahman)].
Paritraanaaya sadhoonaam vinaasaaya cha dushkritaam | Dharma samsthaapanaarthaaya sambhavaami yuge yuge || [I incarnate again and again on this Earth to protect the pious natured and destroy the evil hearted. Here “I” stands for Supreme Being who incarnates as Saguna Brahman].
Bhaktimaarga followers today devoutly employ names of both Rama and Krishna as mantras simple, convenient and ideal for meditation with or without thinking or focusing on Antaryamin, the inner controller Brahman, to whom all prayers have to lead ultimately. Mantra means a Vedic text or hymn. This word is derived in Sanskrit as follows: “mananaat traayate iti mantrah”—that which protects you (from worldly struggles or samsaara) by (inward) contemplation. It is a Japa or meditation. When a name is used to focus your thoughts it is called Naama-japa. Both the names of Raama and Krishna are traced back to Vedas and Upanishads as mentioned in the discourse on Moorti Upaasana. That implies these names existed long before their incarnation took place. Vaalmeeki was administered the mantra MARA which on being repeated reverted to RAMA. It is also said the letter Ma is the Beejaakshara (seed letter) in the Panchaaksharee Vedic mantra Namah Sivaaya. Without the letter Ma the mantra will carry the negative meaning. Similarly in the Ashtaaksharee Vedic Mantra “Om Namoe Naaraayanaaya”, the letter Raa is the seed-letter (beejaakshara). These two letters when combined together become the most powerful universal RAAMA mantra. The word Krishna appears in Vedas as “Krishnena satabahuna”. Krishna means one who delights the world that is one who is Ananda, short form for Sat-Chit Aananda, or Supreme Being. Satabahuna (100 arms meaning countless) refers to Universal Purusha in Purusha sookta where he is described as having one thousand heads arms and feet meaning countless. The mantra also says “uddhritaaci varaahena Krishnena satabaahuna” meaning the mother earth being lifted by Lord Krishna in his form Varaaha (wild boar). These Upanishadic statements perhaps have given the inspiration to Jayadeva as well as Chaitanya Mahaprabhu to think that all incarnations emanate from Lord Krishna who is Brahman alone celebrated by the name Krishna. Jayadeva excludes Krishna from Dasaavataara list and therefore includes both Balaraama and Buddha in the ten Incarnations of Vishnu. Krishna for him is only Jagannatha giver of Aananda (Krishna means one who delights) but not an incarnation.
Kulasekhara Azhwaar is a Vaishnava saint who belongs to a time before eighth century according to historians. He was a Vedic scholar and king of Kerala who was Bhaktimaarga follower. Puraanas say he was born in the first year of Kaliuyuga that is 3102 B.C.E. the same year in which Nammaazhwaar, another great saint was also born. Azhwaar means a deep thinker and there are twelve celebrated Azhwaars glorified in Tamil scriptures. King Kulasekhara in his beautiful poetic composition Mukundamaala glorifies Krishna Mantra as follows:
Satruch-chedaika- mantram sakalm-upanishad-vaakya-sampoojyamantram| Samsaaroettaara-mantram samupachita-tamah-sangha-niryaana-mantram|| Sarvaisvaryaika-mantram vyasana-bhujaga-sandashta-santraana-mantram | jihve Srikrishna-mantram japa japa satatam janma-saaphalya-mantram ||
Oh tongue, chant again and again the mantra of Srikrishna constantly for this mantra fulfills our life’s ambition. This mantra destroys all the enemies; it is hailed by all Upanishads; it takes us across the ocean of Samsaara (worldly miseries); it is the mantra that destroys all the ignorance (darkness and confusion in our minds) collected over a long period; it is gives us mastery over everything and can protect us even while we are bitten by the poison of bitter addictions!
There is an Upanishad called Kalisantarana Upanishad included in the list of Mantrapushpas published by Ramakrishna Math. Santarana means Salvation (that which takes you across the ocean of Samsaara). This Upanishad’s title suggests that this Upanishad is meant for those who seek salvation in Kaliyuga. This Upanishad glorifies Rama and Krishna mantras as the only means of salvation in Kaliyuga. Probably this made Bhaktimarga popular in Kaliyuga which owes its origin to Mahabharata period. Bhagavadgeeta is a text that belongs to the devotional school of Hindu religion, the Bhagavata. This monotheistic school of Bhakti was founded by Krishna-Vaasudeva, belonging to Satvata Sect of Yadu class; and he was reverently referred to as “Bhagawaan”, the Lord. As we all know Geeta bears major influence of Upanishads especially Kathoepanishad and Svetaavataara Upanishad. Svetaavataara emphatically mentions at several places Jeevatman as being separate from Paramaaatman which gave raise to both Dvaita and Visishstaadvaita Philosophies later. It is unlikely Bhagavadgeetaa was a spontaneous product of serious and exhaustive philosophic teaching in the midst of a battle field while two opposing formidable forces were facing each other. Further Lord Krishna needs no such back up support from other Upanishads. He is the very embodiment of Veda. Every word of his constitutes Upanishadic thought. It is also known that Vedavyaasa was its compiler and therefore he should have used the name of the Lord to powerfully to convey the message by repeatedly quoting the words “Bhagawaan Uvaacha” (the great Lord said), without revealing his own identity. Further authors of many Upanishads remain a mystery, which are also compiled by Vedavyaasa.
The central mantra of Kalisantarana Upanishad says: “Dwaaparante Naaradoe Brahmaanam jagaama katham bhagawan gaam paryatan kalim santareyamiti….. sa hoevaacha hiranyagarbhah—Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare | Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare|| iti shodasakam naamnaam kali-kalmasha-naasanam | Na-atah paratara upaayah sarva-vedeshu drisyate ||
[At the end of the Dwaaparayuga Sage Naarada approached Lord Brahma (often addressed as Hiranyagarbha) and asked him what way one can attain salvation in Kaliyuga avoiding aimless wandering in the Samsaara. Brahma said, chant the combined Rama and Krishna mantras as above (in antique). These sixteen mantras are the only means of salvation in the Age of Kali and I see no other way other than this, going through all the Vedas].
Purushasookta says: “Tameham vidwaan amrita iha bhavati na anyah panthaah vidyate ayanaaya”—He who knows Paramaatman thus becomes immortal here alone in this birth itself. There is no other way known for liberation. Kalisantarana Upanishad just substitutes the names of Rama and Krishna for Paramaatman in its mantra.
It is logical to believe that Kalisantarana Upanishad preceded Kulasekhara’s Mukundmaala being an Upanishad. It is also reasonable to believe that both Kulasekhara and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu should have used this Upanishad in their daily prayers as well as mantrapushpa in their worship as we do today in 16-stps Lord’s worship (Shoedasa Upachaara Pooja), both being Vedic scholars. Both strongly advocated the effectiveness and sole dependence on Krishna Mantra for salvation. While Kulasekhara composed Mukundamala of 40 slokas in which the sloka glorifying Krishna mantra as above appears Chaitanya propagated chanting the Mahaamantra: “Hare Krishna, Hare Krisha Krishna Krishna Hare Hare | Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare || Probably he is only referring to the mantra in Kalisantarana Upanishad. In the mantra propagated by Chaitnaya, Krishna mantra takes precedence over Raama mantra deviating from Kalisantarana Upanishad as Chaitanya wanted to give prominence to Krishna.
Chaitanya was well known as a Vedic scholar even before he met Ishwarpuri whom he met after his Gaya visit. Ishwarpuri was a devotee of Krishna and a well-known saint of those days. Chaitanya was by then a scholar of repute and authority on Hindu scriptures. He defeated the well-established scholar of those days Keshav Kashmiri who challenged and confronted the Pandits of Nabadwip led by Chaitanya. Chaitanya was humble and orthodox and so insisted on being initiated to Krishna Mantra by Ishwarpuri as required by Saastras. It is mandatory to get initiated to a Mantra and Prapatti (a ceremony initiating one to Saranagati, dedication and surrender to the Lord) by a Guru as per Hindu scriptures. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu showed a simple path to reach God, however illiterate one may be and whatever may be one’s caste or creed which later came to be known as Gaudiya Vaishanvism.
Raama never even once revealed that he was an Avatar of Vishnu but Krishna repeatedly said that he has come to this world to destroy the evil and protect the pious and also he was none other than Supreme Being revealing his Viraat Swaroopa, Cosmic form as described in Bhagavadgeeta. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu left behind the essence of his teachings in his Ashtapadi Sikshaashtaka. The central teaching of this masterpiece is that one should under the guidance of a learned teacher elevate himself to spiritual heights by following Bhaktimaarga with extreme devotion to Lord Krishna who is none other than Parabrahman, prayer and surrender to the Lord (saranaagati) being the only means to achieve the goal. Sikshaashtaka inspired his followers to come with the philosophy that Bhaktimaarga will ultimately lead to Jnaanamarga (and not a pre-requisite) by divine grace and that will lead to salvation. We have the example of Kalidasa an illiterate who became a poet of fame by divine grace who composed Raghuvamsa. Chaitanya was born in the year 1486 and left the world in 1534. It is therefore logical to assume he got inspired by the hymns of Kulasekhara as well as Kalisantarana Upanishad.
The popular Hare Krishna movement ISKCON all over the world was started in the year 1960 in New York by Swami Prabhupada inspired by the dedicated devotional life of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and his teachings. He also followed Chaitanya’s method of Kirtan--conducting religious discourses, during which devotional songs are sung. He and his followers have adopted Chaitnaya’s Krishna Mantra as their Mahavaakya (motto) to spread Krishna Consciousness all over the globe. Followers of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu have built Gaudiya Maths (monastries) all over India for promoting Bhaktimarga by chanting Krishna Mantra and conducting Sankirtans (religious discourses singing the glory of God).
Saibababa Movement is gaining momentum and is very popular in Andhra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Gujarat. Hinduism is very innovative with new ideas coming every now and then to promote Bhaktimarga with its concept of Incarnation. A reference to the discourse on “Concept of Divine Incarnations in Hindu Theology” published on the Blog: <nrsrini.blogspot.com in May 2012 is worth referring to understand why saints are considered as incarnations often in Hindu concept. Sai Baba was a saint from Shirdi. Probably Sai stands for Sa(h)i which means Truth. It implies Saibaba is a true saint or embodiment of Truth. Usually believers in Saibaba greet each other with the words Sairam equating him with the pantheon of Hindu Gods for whom many temples exist also in India and abroad today. I often wonder why they don’t greet with the word Jaisai or Jaibaba like Jairamjiki and Jai Radhe Shyam as in North Indian custom! Perhaps Rama mantra added to the name of Sai makes it more resonating than adding Krishna. Namaste can also be considered as a mantra. It consists of two words namah=obeisance; te=to you. Here te stands for the inner controller of all beings. Virtually it means obeisance to Aatman or Self within you whom we often refer as God. Those who have lived in Germany might have noticed Southerners greet each other with the words “Gruss Got” meaning greeting in the name of God.
You might have noticed it is customary to take oath repeating the word “Truth” three times in judicial courts for taking a stand on the witness box!--I speak Truth, nothing but Truth, the whole Truth. In the compound word Sairaam truth is Symbolized and repeated thrice. Rama mantra stands for Ashtaaksharee and Panchaakshree. Both signify Brahman; that implies Truth is repeated twice in pronouncing the word Rama. Sai again stands for truth. That means by saying Sairam once one repeats the word Truth thrice. This helps our busy executives religiously inclined to save some time too! Hinduism often suggests short-cuts to heaven as in Vishnusahasranama! Conventionally devotees repeat any mantra thrice as seen in Shanti Mantras and Vishnu Sahasranaama (Sriraama raama raameti). That is why Sairam is very effective and raises spiritual thoughts to great heights in your mind with divine intonation. Probably Saibaba followers may have a better and more meaningful explanation? One day Sai devotees may even come out with a Sai Gayatree Mantra as Taantric and Aagama followers have done. Already many Sai Temples follow the traditional forms of Hindu Worship (Araadhana) in Sai Temples with Abhisheka (bathing ceremony), Dhoopa (incense burning), Deepa (light), Aarati (Waving of lamp) and Naivedya (offering food). Sai Gayatree may then read as follows: Tatrpurushaaya vidmahe | Daasarathaaya dheemahi | tannoe Sairaamah prachodayaat || [Let us know him as Purusha (Sadguna Brahman)! For that we meditate on the son of Dasaratha (Raama)! May we be inspired by Sairaam towards it!]
Jayadeva was greatly influenced by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu to come out with his Gita Govinda which essentially echoes Chaitanya’s Siksaashtaka. It is somewhat esoteric in its composition. It mainly reflects the extreme love of Radha to Krishna and her pangs of love that turned into Bhakti (devotion) on their separation when Krishna moved to Mathura.
“Raameti raamabhadreti raamachandreti vaa smaran | naroe na lipyate papair bhuktim, muktim cha vindati ||[whoever chants the Raamamantra with the epithets Rama, Ramabhadra, Ramachandra etc, for him sin will not touch; he will attain happiness in this world (Preyas) and continue to earn eternal Bliss (Sreyas) in the other worlds too—Sage Buddha Kausik of fifth century]. Sreyas is permanent happiness or Eternal Bliss while Preyas is worldly temporary pleasure as started in Bhagavadgeetaa.
In all such prayers the following Mantra could be our concluding prayer which is the central theme of Mahaanaaraayana Upanishad, short and thoughtful:
Vidhartaaram havaamahe | kuvidvanaati savitaaram nachakshasam (MNU)--We invoke the creator of the Universe who sustains in many ways and who witnesses the thoughts and deeds of men. May He grant us plenty of excellent wealth (human, intellectual, social, material and spiritual)!
· 1) Swami Chidananda, Mukunda Maalaa, Chinmaya mission, San Jose, USA.
· 2) Swami Devananda, Mantrpushpam, Ramakrishna Math, Khar, Mumbai, India.
· 3) Ramachandra Rao, S.K., Kalpataru Research Academy, Sankarmautt, Bengaluru, India.
· 4) Ramananda Prasad, Bhagavadgeetaa, American Geetaa Society, California,USA.
· 5) www.HKM-Chennai.org,Hare Krishna Movement-Chennai, India
· Kamala Chandrakant, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Amar Chitra Katha, India Publishing House, Mumbai, India.