“Hearing the attractive pastimes of Lord Krishna's different incarnations is a chance for liberation for the conditioned soul, and the most fascinating and pleasing activities of Lord Krishna Himself are still more attractive because Lord Krishna personally is all-attractive.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 2, Ch 35)Download this episode (right click and save)
Question: “Aren’t all religions the same? Aren’t they referring to the same Almighty? Why the insistence on chanting the maha-mantra, then? Why the need to go in depth, to understand such concepts as the cycle of birth and death, fruitive activity, piety and sin, and the different species? What is the harm in simply accepting that a higher power exists and then living your life?”
Teachers in the Vaishnava tradition strongly emphasize the chanting of the holy names. There are so many names for the Supreme Lord, so it is not that only one name must be chanted. Rather, any name, as long as it is authorized, is sufficient for shifting the consciousness from material to spiritual. The spiritual consciousness keeps a connection with the Supreme Consciousness. This connection, in turn, brings all bliss, excitement, appreciation, compassion, kindness, and understanding, from the present until death, and even beyond.
“Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” is the mantra most recommended in the modern age by the Vaishnava. The definition of Vaishnava is a person who is devoted to the personal God. This is where we start to see the divergence from other traditions of spirituality. This mantra is known as maha, or great. It is the great sound vibration to deliver the mind. The potency is in the words themselves, which are different names for God.
Why not chant names from other traditions? Upon careful study, we see the words found therein are more adjectives than they are names. One word says that God is great. Another says that He is all-pervading. Another refers to His ability to control all other controllers. Indeed, in the Vedic traditions similar words can be found. These are described by authorities as being indirect names. For instance, the word Ishvara refers to someone who is a controller. Brahman refers to the spiritual energy that pervades the entire space.
The names in the maha-mantra actually refer to a person. This person is similar to you and me in the quality of their identity, but the quantitative potency is vastly different. I am spirit soul, part and parcel of the Supreme. The Supreme is the complete everything. For Him there is no difference between body and spirit. I can suffer through misery in the material world, whereas God is blissful at all times.
The name Krishna addresses a person to whom adjectives can be assigned. That is the uniqueness of the Vedic tradition. More specifically, the Vaishnava tradition within Vedic culture addresses the personal God. It assigns many adjectives to Him based on His qualities. The different names also reference His many activities, performed in this world and others.
To address God as a person is to connect with Him more intimately. Every recommendation within Vedic culture is for bringing the living entity closer to their original occupation of service to God. The conditioned soul is hesitant to take up this service, for in the material world every living entity is trying to be Ishvara themselves. Therefore a gradual approach is often instituted, where a person follows rules and regulations to become detached from personal interest in sense gratification. In this way slowly there is progression towards the ultimate goal.
In the ultimate goal there is a relationship. A relationship can only be with another person; it cannot be with an adjective. The relationship is the highest state of spiritual life, since it changes the way of life for the better. With only a scant understanding of God, there will only be scant pleasure. Maya, or illusion, will continue to have majority controlling interest. We can think of it like a parliamentary system, with one party having more seats than another. The goal is to flip the situation to where the Supreme Consciousness has full sway over the individual’s desires and actions. This can be achieved through the favor of Krishna, who is God in His all-attractive, original feature.
Vaishnava the personal God to stress,
So that in end with relationship to bless.
His all-attractiveness to adore,
Than an adjective He is more.
Good step when His existence to detect,
Ultimate goal with Supreme to connect.
Done easily when maha-mantra to accept,
Superior since names containing direct.