Although the term Hare Krsna became established in the West, almost no one knows what it means. Is it just a repeated mantrum meant to hypnotize those who chant it? Is it maybe a way to escape reality? Or is it an authentic meditation really able to increase ones consciousness?
The transcendental vibration established by the chanting of Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare is the sublime method of reviving our transcendental consciousness. Krsna means the all-attractive person, Rama means the highest pleasure, and Hare refers to Krsnas internal pleasure potency known as Srimati Radharani. As living spiritual souls we are all originally Krsna conscious entities, but due to our association with matter from time immemorial, our consciousness is now polluted by the material atmosphere. The material environment, in which we are now living, is called maya, or illusion. Maya means that which is not. And what is this illusion? The illusion is that we are all trying to be lords of material nature, while actually we are under the grip of her stringent laws. When a servant artificially tries to imitate the all-powerful master, this is called illusion. In this polluted concept of life, we are all trying to exploit the resources of material nature, but actually we are becoming more and more entangled in her complexities. Therefore, although we are engaged in a hard struggle to conquer nature, we are ever more dependent on her. This illusory struggle against material nature can be stopped at once by revival of our Krsna consciousness. Chanting of the maha-mantra is the transcendental process of reviving of this original, pure consciousness. By chanting of this transcendental vibration we can cleanse our hearts of all impurities. Their basis is the false consciousness that I am the lord of all I survey.
Krsna consciousness is not an artificial imposition on the mind. This consciousness is the original natural energy of the living entity. Hare Krsna mantra, or the Great Chanting for Deliverance, is enacted from the spiritual platform, and thus this sound vibration surpasses all lower strata of consciousness namely sensual, mental, and intellectual. There is no need, therefore, to understand the language of the mantra, nor is there any need for mental speculation nor any intellectual adjustment for chanting this mantra. This simplest method of meditation is recommended for this age. Anyone, including the children, can take part in chanting without any previous qualification.
Loud chanting has the added benefit of allowing other living beings to hear the holy names. This fits well with one of the characteristics of real religion: everyone should benefit from its performance. The Vedas proclaim, sarve sukhino bhavantu: Let everyone be happy. More than any other religious process, harinama-sankirtana fulfills that need in human society.
Devotees in the Hare Krsna movement perform the traditional method of congregational chanting called kirtana. This group singing of Hare Krsna is accompanied by percussion instruments, such as gongs, drums (mrdanga), and cymbals (karatala). During kirtana, whether in the temple or outside, devotees usually stand or dance. One person leads the singing, and everyone else responds. Devotees hold kirtanas in the public places (so-called harinamas) so that others may benefit by hearing the Lords holy names. Krsna considers such unintentional hearing devotional service, and it entitles one to render more service in the future.
Sweets which we offer during harinamas come from the same source as many other ancient Indian specialties: our famous vegetarian restaurants Govinda. It is not just a food to fill ones stomach. Because it is also the spiritual food, called prasadam (mercy), it is meant for the purification of consciousness and the encouragement of the soul.