following in the footsteps of the Golden Avatar
THE DANCING SWAMI
Srila Prabhupada´s chant for world peace
The Hare Krishna movement, ISKCON, was founded on the principal of chanting the holy name of the Lord, following in the footsteps of Lord Chaitanya the Golden Avatar Who predicted that the chanting of the Lord’s name would be heard in every town and village on the planet. He melodiously sang:
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare
It was Srila Prabhupada, the Founder-Acharya of ISKCON who made that prediction a reality. From the very beginning, sitting under a large elm tree in Tompkins Square Park with a small tom-tom drum, chanting with a handful of new devotees, Srila Prabhupada’s message was the same, “Chant Hare Krishna.” And he showed the process by his personal example, leading kirtan in front of thousands of people, or chanting with a few young people that wandered into his storefront temples. Srila Prabhupad never deviated from his message. And it is this chanting, especially in the company of other spiritually minded persons, that the Vedas describe as the most effective, direct path to understanding the self and our relationship with God. Chanting awakens love of God.
In the beginning, kirtans were unorthodox and even a bit eccentric. If you listen to the original late 1960’s recordings made at the “Matchless Gifts” storefront you will hear all manner of musical expression. There was even one “instrument” that was nothing more than the discarded innards of a broken piano, but you can hear someone devotionally banging away on it in those early days when anything that made noise was an acceptable accompaniment to “Swamiji’s” singing. Thus, in those early days you can often hear flutes, bongos, guitars, and other indecipherable musical expressions that accompanied the singing of Hare Krishna.
In course of time, as devotees honed their musical skills and understanding of kirtan, the quality dramatically improved. By the early 70’s devotees had learned devotional melodies and traditional devotional songs that have been sung in India for hundreds of years. Many had also mastered traditional Indian instruments; the mridanga drum, harmonium and brass hand cymbals used to accompany the vocal expression.
Today, not only have many extraordinary traditionalist singers and “kirtaneers” manifest, but as kirtan has become more and more popular in countries around the world newer kirtan styles have arisen as well. This is natural since the chanting of the Lord’s name can never be crippled by cultural prejudice. The proof is that now kirtan is often performed on a stage with the added benefit of electric amplification of voice, guitar, keyboard, violin, saxophone and drum set. And when the audience numbers in the thousands this is just practical. How is it possible to “rock” an audience, and encourage their participation, with only some hand cymbals and a drum?
The rising popularity of kirtan was predicted hundreds of years ago and today, you can hear the sweet sound of kirtan in far off places in the world like Africa, America, China, and in Russia where thousands of fortunate, devotionally inspired seekers gather to chant together for the satisfaction of the Lord, chant for world peace, and for enlightenment. Won’t you join us?