Worshiping Hanuman

I saw a letter in the last issue of BTG with a question about Hanuman and worship of him by ISKCON devotees. I recalled that when Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami (then Satsvarupa Dasa Brahmachari) went to Boston to open the first ISKCON temple there (1967), the place he found to open the ISKCON center was a small storefront in a neighborhood that had its share of trouble. Some of the neighborhood ruffians would throw rocks through the windows and otherwise threaten the temple and the devotees.

Srila Prabhupada (then called “Swamiji”) told Satsvarupa Maharaja to have a deity of Hanuman and to pray to him for protection. So, there is a history in our movement and precedent for us to pray to Hanuman and to worship him. I thought that this was worth mentioning.
Kirtana Rasa Dasa
Saratoga Springs, New York

An Alternative Mantra

I have been chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra on my beads for many years now, but of late I started noticing that it had become more of a mechanical activity. I was introduced to Sri Krishna’s mantra om namoh bhagavate vasudevaya about twelve months ago and have been doing the same on my beads. I am able to concentrate better and seem to derive a new “taste” in my meditation. Is chanting the maha-mantra and chanting om namoh bhagavate vasudevaya on the same plane? If yes, then why am I perceiving a difference?
Arun Dhir
Melbourne, Australia

Our reply: In the mantra you refer to, vasudevaya means “unto Vasudeva.” The name Vasudeva refers to Krishna as the son of Vasudeva and Devaki. So chanting Vasudeva is certainly spiritual, as Krishna is identical to His name.

The maha-mantra, however, includes Radha, in the form of the word Hare, which is the vocative of Hara, a name for Radha. For followers of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, it is essential to address both Radha and Krishna. Our philosophy teaches that we cannot approach Krishna directly but must first receive the mercy of Radha. Even in the maha-mantra, “Hare” comes before “Krishna.”

Srila Prabhupada, following the example of the disciplic succession from Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, instructed his disciples to chant sixteen rounds of the maha-mantra every day, not sixteen rounds of some other mantra. When Prabhupada’s edition of Sri Chaitanya-charitamrita came out in the 1970s, devotees noticed that Prabhupada there greatly emphasized the chanting of the Panca-tattva mantra (jaya sh ri-krishna-caitanya prabhu nityananda shri advaita gadadhara shrivasadi-gaura-bhakta-vrinda), and some devotees started chanting rounds of that mantra on their beads, in addition to their prescribed sixteen rounds of the maha-mantra. Prabhupada told them not to do so. He said that our way was to chant japa of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra.

We can’t say exactly why you may be feeling more spiritual taste in chanting om namo bhagavate vasudevaya. There seems to be no philosophical explanation for this, as far as we know. Our inclination is to think that something less than spiritual is going on, perhaps having to do with the novelty of it. While there’s nothing wrong with chanting that mantra as much as you like, we suggest that you not diminish your chanting of themaha-mantra. Ultimately, our success depends on the guru’s blessings, and Prabhupada and his disciples prescribe the chanting of the maha-mantra. So for those who align themselves with Prabhupada and ISKCON, focusing on chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra is the safest course.

Responsibility and Supreme Will

If everything happens by the will of the Supreme Lord and not even a small leaf can move without His will, then how can we be responsible for our deeds, good or bad?
Shalini Farma
Via the Internet

Our reply: In everything that happens there are three “doers.” The primary doer is the Supreme Lord, because without His sanction nothing can happen. But the Lord also allows the desire of another “doer,” namely the living entity, the jiva soul, to come to fruition. The will of the soul tells the Lord, “I want . . . ,” and the Lord, considering the jiva’s desire and karmic situation, directs the third “doer,” the material nature (prakriti), to arrange for the jiva’s desire to be fulfilled.

This is a very complicated subject. Here are just a few more things to consider.

One is that the Lord is in the heart. He judges the jiva’s desire by actions and deeply rooted longings —not just flickering prayer (‘‘Dear Lord, make me a millionaire”)—and also the previous karmic earnings of that soul. Taking all this into consideration, the Lord arranges to fulfill, as much as He determines appropriate, the desire of the living entity. So in this sense the jiva is the master of his fate, since the jiva’s desire determines how things will go.

Another thing that needs to be considered is that the Lord is completely independent. He can do what He wants, although He may do it through His various agents. And, although generally He makes the arrangements as requested by the jiva’s desire, He may choose to direct the jiva differently. He also may fulfill the jiva’s desire in such a way that the desire is destroyed in the heart and the jiva thus moves closer to self-realization. The Lord may show extra mercy to one who has some interest in spiritual life.

“The Supreme Personality of Godhead fulfills the material desires of a devotee who approaches Him with such motives, but He does not bestow benedictions upon the devotee that will cause him to demand more benedictions again. However, the Lord willingly gives the devotee shelter at His own lotus feet, even though such a person does not aspire for it, and that shelter satisfies all his desires. That is the Supreme Personality’s special mercy.” ( Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.19.27)

If the jiva has come in contact with a pure devotee, who can be even more merciful than the Lord Himself, then the devotee will petition the Lord on the jiva’s behalf and encourage the Lord to assist in that soul’s spiritual advancement. In this case the Lord will arrange for things to happen in such a way that material desires will be eradicated and the living entity will make spiritual advancement.

In Sri Chaitanya-charitamrita (Madhya-lila 22.38–39) Chaitanya Mahaprabhu states, “Krishna says, ‘If one engages in My transcendental loving service but at the same time wants the opulence of material enjoyment, he is very, very foolish. Indeed, he is just like a person who gives up ambrosia to drink poison. Since I am very intelligent, why should I give this fool material prosperity? Instead I shall induce him to take the nectar of the shelter of My lotus feet and make him forget illusory material enjoyment.’”