Saturday, June 27, 2009

Krishna’s Mrdanga

Lord Chaitanya started the original sankirtana movement in India some five hundred years ago. Sankirtana is the process of congregationally chanting the holy names of the Lord and it is the process most recommended for people in this age. In Kali Yuga, people generally don’t want to hear about God. If they meet a religious person they may think, “Whoah this person is crazy. They’re one of those God freaks that’s going to tell me what’s wrong with my life and that I’m going to hell.” This may in fact be the behavior of many preachers, but in the Vedic system this is not so. Brahmanas, the priestly class of society, are required to teach others on dharma and devotion to Lord Krishna in a compassionate manner, with equal regard for all living entities.

Now in the past, the brahmanas were automatically afforded the highest respect by the rest of society. Kings would maintain at least a few brahmanas in the royal court and they would take direction from them. The famous king of Ayodhya, Maharaja Dashratha, had the venerable sage Vashishta as his royal priest. Aside from listening to him, the king also gave respect to other brahmanas. One time, the sage Vishvamitra visited his kingdom and requested to have two of the king’s sons, Rama and Lakshmana, accompany him for a short period in the forest. Lord Rama was an incarnation of Krishna and also the eldest son of Dashratha. He was very attached to Rama and felt that he wouldn’t be able to handle separation from Him. He tried to get Vishvamitra to change his mind, but the sage insisted on having Rama since he required protection from the rakshasas that were ranging the forest. In the end, Dashratha acquiesced, for he was very pious and knew that the requests of the great sages should never be denied. Similarly, Vedic literature is full of many historical incidences relating to the venerable Narada Muni where people reformed their lives by following his instructions.

mrdangaIn today’s age, the situation is reversed, where the truly saintly people are generally ignored. For this reason, Lord Chaitanya popularized the sankirtana movement, whereby God’s name would be sung loudly throughout society. If people didn’t want to hear discussions on the Bhagavad-gita or Ramayana, then they could still make spiritual progress by hearing the Lord’s names melodiously sung. A key component of a sankirtana party is a mrdanga,  which Wikipedia defines as “an Indian percussion instrument meaning ‘beat and go’”. The mrdanga player provides the beat, and along with a few kartal (cymbals) players and a lead singer, you have a sankirtana party. This movement has been very popular in India since its introduction by Lord Chaitanya, and now has become popular worldwide through the mercy of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Prabhupada often referred to the printing press as the brhad-mrdanga, or big mrdanga. He was a very big fan of it since it could quickly produce large quantities of Krishna conscious reading material that could be disseminated to the general public. He was the spiritual master of Shrila Prabhupada and he wanted very much for all his disciples to preach the cult of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu throughout the world, especially in the Western countries. This was his direct request to Shril Prabhupada, and the swami took it to heart.

In the modern age, blogging has become a very popular means of promoting ideas and thoughts. In previous times, a person required the help of a newspaper or magazine in order to spread information about something. Without the help of mass distribution, people’s exposure to opinions and commentary remained limited to what was seen on television and in local newspapers. The internet has brought about a change in the way information is gathered and disseminated. The weblog, or blog, has become an invaluable tool in allowing people to promote their ideas and businesses. A newspaper can host a blog to bring stories to readers even before the next issue of their paper hits newsstands. Most blogs allow for comments from readers and responses from other bloggers. This provides a much more in depth presentation of issues.

Though blogs already exists for just about every issue, the best use of a blog is to promote and educate others about God. In India, information about God, contained in the Vedas, was passed down from generation to generation through aural reception. The Vedas are also referred to as shrutis, meaning “that which is heard.” With the new internet age, these same Vedic teachings can be distributed to the masses in written form in a very short amount of time. God has been very kind to allow us to take birth in an age where the internet is prominent. We should make the best use of such an opportunity by using the internet to spread His glories. This would have been the wish of Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta, so let’s make him proud by using the internet as Krishna’s mrdanga!