Srila Prabhupada elaborates on the first benefit of chanting Hare Krishna.
By His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Lecture given in Aligarh, U.P., India, on October 9, 1976
The first installment of the mercy of the sankirtana movement is the removal of ignorance of our actual identity.

This sankirtana movement, which centers on the chanting of Krishna’s holy names, is all-glorious. That is the blessing of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He says, param vijayate shri-krishna-sankirtanam: all victory comes by taking part in the sankirtana movement. That is His blessing: simply by sankirtana in this age, one attains perfection.

This is confirmed in the Vedic literature. The Vedanta-sutra says, anavritti shabdat: “liberation by sound.” Anavritti means liberation. Our present position is bondage. We are bound up by the laws of nature. We may foolishly declare independence, but actually we are bound up by the laws of nature.

prakriteh kriyamanani
gunaih karmani sarvashah
ahankara vimudhatma
kartaham iti manyate

“The spirit soul bewildered by the influence of false ego thinks himself the doer of activities that are in actuality carried out by the three modes of material nature.” (Gita 3.27) We are bound up by the laws of nature, but those who are fools, vimudhatma, under false prestige think that they are independent. No. That is not the fact.

This misunderstanding has to be cleared. That is the aim of life. Therefore Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu recommends that if you chant the Hare Krishna maha-mantra, then the first installment of benefit is ceto-darpana-marjanam: the cleansing of the heart. Misunderstanding occurs within the heart. If the heart is clear, if the consciousness is clear, then there is no misunderstanding. So this consciousness has to be cleansed, and that is the first installment of the result of chanting Hare Krishna. Kirtanad eva krishnasya mukta-sanghah param vrajet: “Simply by chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra, one can become free from material bondage and be promoted to the transcendental kingdom.” (Bhagavatam 12.3.51)

This result is achieved simply by chanting the holy name of Krishna – Hare Krishna. Hare Krishna or Hare Rama is the same thing. Rama and Krishna are not different.

Our present position is one of misunderstanding, thinking, “I am a product of this material nature,” “I am this body,” “I am Indian,” “I am American,” “I am a brahmana,” “I am a kshatriya,” and so on. So many designations. But we are none of them. Chanting Hare Krishna clears these misconceptions. Ceto-darpana. When you understand clearly that “I am not an Indian, I’m not an American, I’m not a brahmana, I’m not a kshatriya” – which means “I am not this body” – then the consciousness will be aham brahmasmi: “I am spirit soul.” This is wanted. This is the success of life. Otherwise, we remain in darkness about the nature of our existence.

Born in Ignorance

Everyone is abodha-jatah, born in ignorance. That is the position of anyone born in this material world, on any of the different platforms. One may take birth as a demigod in the heavenly planets, or one may take birth as a human being in the lower planets. Or lower than that, one may take birth as an animal or a plant. There are 8,400,000 different species of life, and in any form of life we are bound up by the laws of nature.

apareyam itas tv anyam
prakritim viddhi me param
jiva-bhutam maha-baho
yayedam dharyate jagat

“Besides these, O mighty-armed Arjuna, there is another, superior energy of Mine, which comprises the living entities who are exploiting the resources of this material, inferior nature.” (Gita 7.5) Matter is the apara-prakriti, the inferior energy, and the spirit soul is the para-prakriti, the superior energy. In the Bhagavad-gita (7.4) it is clearly explained,

bhumir apo ’nalo vayuh
kham mano buddhir eva cha
ahankara itiyam me
bhinna prakritir ashtadha

“Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence and false ego – all together these eight constitute My separated material energies.” The material energy is called “separated.” It is Krishna’s nature, prakriti, but it is inferior. Apareyam itas tv anyam prakritim viddhi me param. There is another prakriti. What is that? Jiva-bhutam, the living entity. The living entity is also prakriti, but because he has the tendency to enjoy this material world, he is sometimes described as purushah. Purushah means the enjoyer, and prakriti means the enjoyed. The prakriti forgets her position and artificially wants to become the purushah.

Association with the Modes

As long as the living entity is in this material world, he has to associate with the modes of material nature, sattva-guna, rajo-guna, and tamo-guna. And on account of the influence of the different gunas of nature, prakriti, he has to take different types of body. This is the cause. He’s associating with a particular mixture of sattva-guna, rajo-guna, and tamo-guna, and on account of this he gets different types of body. You have to change your body, and the different grades of body are awarded by the laws of nature according to your karma.

Our material position is that we are associating with different modes of material nature, and that is our infection. If you become infected with some disease, then you have to suffer from that disease. You cannot check it. Similarly, this infection will give us our next body. That we do not know. This is a rascal civilization. In their so-called education in universities, the students are kept in darkness of how things are going on. So whatever they are doing, they are all being defeated.

parabhavas tavad abodha-jato
yavan na jijnasata atma-tattvam
yavat kriyas tavad idam mano vai
karmatmakam yena sharira-bandhah

“As long as one does not inquire about the spiritual values of life, one is defeated and subjected to miseries arising from ignorance. Be it sinful or pious, karma has its resultant actions. If a person is engaged in any kind of karma, his mind is called karmatmaka, colored with fruitive activity. As long as the mind is impure, consciousness is unclear, and as long as one is absorbed in fruitive activity, he has to accept a material body.” (Bhagvatam 5.5.5)

Unless one is inquisitive to understand, “What am I?” whatever he is doing he’s being defeated. That’s all. Parabhavah. Human life is meant for understanding our position – “What am I?” This is intelligence.

When Sanatana Gosvami approached Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, he was a government minister, a very big man, but he understood, “What I am doing is not in my interest because I do not know what I am.” He submitted to Chaitanya Mahaprabhu:

apanara hitahita kichui na jani!
gramya-vyavahare pandita, tai satya mani

“I do not know what is beneficial for me or what is detrimental. Nonetheless, in ordinary dealings people consider me a learned scholar, and I am also thinking of myself as such.” (Chaitanya-charitamrita, Madhya 20.100)

“In my relationship with my neighbors, they call me Panditji.” He was brahmana. “So I accept it. ‘Yes, I am Panditji.’”

“So what is the wrong?”

“The wrong is that I am such a pandita that I do not know what I am.”

Ask anybody. Ask any doctor, “What are you?”

 “Huh? I am Indian. I am a brahmana.”

You’ll get this answer. Or “I’m American,” and so on.

Nobody will say aham brahmasmi: “I am spirit soul.” Nobody will say that – because he does not know. So what is the value of this education if one does not know what he is? Therefore shastra, scripture, says parabhavah. In ignorance, gross ignorance, anything we are doing is parabhavah, defeat.

Trying to Save the People

This Krishna consciousness movement is meant to save the people from this defeating position. We are trying. So far, I have tried single-handedly. And now a little pressure is felt even by some American politicians. Recently one American politician has remarked, “This Hare Krishna movement is just like an epidemic. [Laughs.] And if we do not take any steps, then within ten years they’ll take our government.”

The Communists in India are also trying to defeat us in so many ways because they are also afraid – because the Communist movement means godlessness. And our movement is “Here is God.” There is no blind faith. “Here is God, Krishna! Take His name, take His address – everything.” Practical. That is a great cause of fear for these Communists. They are against us.

Now I shall request that the shreshthas, those who are leading persons in India, should join this movement, take it seriously. It is not a bogus movement. It is a scientific movement. And we have so many books. Now, at the present moment, we have got eighty-four books. So that is my request, that people should come forward. They should come forward and take seriously this movement. And we have got our places. In Bombay we have got a big place. In Vrindavan we have got a big place. In Nadia we have got a big place. At least elderly gentlemen should retire from family life and leave the grown-up boys in charge. You should take this seriously for India’s interest, for everyone’s interest.

We should not keep people in darkness. That is very risky. Very risky. You may be very proud that “I am this, I am that. I have to . . . ,” but you are after all under the control of the laws of nature. That you cannot avoid. You may be falsely proud, but you have to abide by it.

daivi hy esha guna-mayi
mama maya duratyaya
mam eva ye prapadyante
mayam etam taranti te

“This divine energy of Mine, consisting of the three modes of material nature, is difficult to overcome. But those who have surrendered unto Me can easily cross beyond it.” (Gita 7.14) It is not so easy to overcome nature’s laws. Actually, nature’s law dictates that you can eat only so much. If you eat a little more than that, then there is indigestion immediately; you have to go to the doctor. So where is your independence? You cannot violate a little portion of the laws of nature, and there are so many laws, at every step. As soon as you violate a law, immediately there is punishment. And still we are declaring independence.

asatyam apratishtham te
jagad ahur anishvaram
kim anyat kama-haitukam

“They say that this world is unreal, with no foundation, no God in control. They say it is produced of sex desire and has no cause other than lust.” (Gita 16.8)

“There is no God.” Why do you say there is no God? You are under control. There is a controller; otherwise, how are you under control? This foolishness must be stopped in order to make them happy, really happy. Otherwise, if they are kept in ignorance and things go on like this, then the future picture is very gloomy. It has already become gloomy, and the future is very, very gloomy.

So everyone should come forward, take this movement seriously, and at least we Indians should take care of Indians. We should not keep people in ignorance. That is not civilization.  Civilization means tamasi ma jyotir gama: come to the light. Don’t keep yourself in darkness. To stay in darkness is not civilization. This so-called civilization is keeping people in darkness. That is very risky. We should take this sankirtana movement very seriously and push it on very scientifically and soberly. People will be benefited.

Thank you very much.