Hearing the words ‘Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna…’ being chanted creates enough urge in a person to probe what it’s all about. The words are musical and get your mind to think because there is magic in them. Those who sing this devotional mantra (verse) have serene faces and seem like they are the happiest people on earth. Those who hear these chants get bitten by a ‘devotional bug’ which has the potential to make you immune to life’s problems and more importantly help you understand God’s hand in the universe.
The chanting was loud, but blissful at Ayngaran Hall in Kotahena, on June 14 (Sunday). Kotahena Street, Colombo 13, is a spiritual hub, with kovils, temples and churches dotting the roads in a community which is largely Tamil. The ‘Baghavad Gita’, the book which teaches devotees the relationship between God, the soul and the individual, says that this is the era of quarrel and not the time to live life religiously. But those gathered at the hall seemed to have found a purpose in life that had driven them to get to the hall which was slowly filling up with Hare Krishna devotees.
There is a lot of excitement in the Hare Krishna commune in Kotahena these days because the Sri Lankan branch of International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) is planning to celebrate on August 19, the 50th anniversary of spiritual master Srila Prabhupada’s first visit to the island. This gathering and the special program, that attracted their participation, were not related to the 50th anniversary celebrations, but provided an opportunity to devotees to sing in praise of God to their hearts content.
The singing session was somewhat interrupted with the arrival of His Holiness Bhakti Vikas Swami (UK). He was the speaker at the occasion, but showed all the eagerness to join in the chanting, like an ordinary devotee. In his speech, Swami Vikas stressed on the importance of chanting the maha mantra because he said, ‘singing and dancing in praise of God is the best way of worship’.
Swami Vikas explained in his speech that this period is called Kali Yuga, a dark period, and that the present society is confused and unhappy. “People think they’ll be happier by making more and more money,” he explained.
He spoke about the importance of surrendering to God. He told the audience that it was very rare to get a human life and not to waste it. Swami Vikas reminded the audience that devotees must understand the ‘Baghavad Gita’ to perfect their lives. “Both humans and animals do everything they do, including fight, to survive. If there is no religion involved in the lives of humans, how different would they be from animals,” queried Swami Vikas.
The lecturer on spirituality from England stressed that Arjuna (The warrior) was being influenced by Lord Krishna (God who had come in the form of his charioteer) to fight in the battle of Kurukshethra. Swami Vikas said, however, that the greatest battle for a human being is to surrender to Lord Krishna and begin Krishna consciousness.
The Swami underscored the fact that it’s essential for the individual to know who he is and find an answer to the question, ‘what happens after death’? He said that the duties in this life will be shaped by the karmas (good and bad) we have done in past lives. “Without Krishna consciousness, we will be clueless about what life means,” he affirmed.
But despite the assurances given that happiness is sure to surface as a byproduct with those practicing Krishna consciousness, the Swami left the audience thinking when he said, ‘we are in an era where people don’t get proper spiritual guidance’.
When hit with these words, this writer couldn’t help, but recall a regular phrase that pops up now and then in the book, ‘The Baghavad Gita- As it is’ which reminds readers that the study of Krishna consciousness should be done under the guidance of a bona-fide spiritual master. This regular message that surfaces in ‘The Baghavad Gita’ reminds this writer the help of specialized teachers that montessori kids receive, which, in turn, questions the path taken by spiritual seekers who wish to explore this ‘vast sea like subject’ called spirituality alone or with the association of unqualified spiritual teachers.
Swami Vikas reminded the participants at the Hare Krishna special program that there was no other happiness elsewhere other than practicing Krishna consciousness. He told them that everyone present in the hall has the possibility of experiencing spiritual happiness.