Sankirtana Yajna: Sole Hope for World Peace and Prosperity
Sankirtana Yajna means congregational chanting of the holy names of the Supreme Lord. This is the path prescribed in the Vedic literatures for achieving spiritual perfection in the human form of life, namely God-realization and ending all the sufferings that we undergo in this world.
There are so many other different ways such as ashtanga yoga, cultivation of transcendental knowledge by logic and reasoning, performing austerities and so on – all meant for self-realization. We have also learnt of many great souls in history who have achieved perfection through these practices in different ages and even now we find many spiritual aspirants following these methods.
What we see is that a particular path is best suited for a specific age and can be practiced well considering the duration of life, religiosity and the virtues of the people in that age. In Satya-yuga people had a long duration of life and were very peaceful and religious and they could practice meditation for thousands of years. In Treta-yuga, they could perform various Vedic sacrifices (yajnas) as there were qualified brahmanas, expert in chanting the Vedic mantras and conducting yajnas. In Dwapara-yuga, people could perform elaborate Deity worship. In the present Kali-yuga which is fraught with so many defects and deficiencies, the people are hardly interested in pursuing the spiritual path. They are short-lived and disturbed by many physical and mental ailments. Violence, criminality, corruption and many unlawful activities are widespread in the society. Under these circumstances, the scriptures recommend that the only way for a common man towards spiritual realization in Kali-yuga is Sankirtana Yajna which is the Yugadharma of this age. It is the simplest yet sublime method that can be practiced by everybody with no pre-qualification. It is mentioned in the Vishnu Purana, Padma Purana and Brihan-Naradiya Purana that the results obtained in the previous yugas by different processes of spiritual perfection can also be obtained in Kali-yuga simply by chanting and glorifying the names of the Lord.
This Sankirtana Yajna comprising Shravanam (hearing the glories of the Lord) and Kirtanam (chanting His glories) helps in remembering the Lord (Smaranam) always. In this manner if one is able to remember the Lord even at the point of death, by His mercy, one can attain liberation from the pangs of birth and death and go back to the spiritual world inhabited by the Lord and His devotees. Many exalted acharyas such as Madhvacharya, Ramanujacharya and other great saints of the Bhakti tradition in the past have stressed this important point based on scriptural authority.
Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who appeared over 500 years ago, was the leading advocate of the path of Bhakti and He introduced the chanting of the holy names of Lord Krishna in the form of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra. Sri Chaitanya was Lord Krishna Himself who pioneered a spiritual revolution by spreading the Sankirtana movement throughout India.
It is stated in the Kalisantarana Upanishad: “Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare — these sixteen names composed of thirty-two syllables are the only means to counteract the evil effects of Kali-yuga. In all Vedas it is observed that to cross the ocean of nescience there is no alternative to the chanting of the holy name.”
Although the Supreme Lord has thousands of names in connection with His form, qualities, pastimes, etc., the name Krishna is principal among them. Krishna means all attractive. Lord Krishna unlimitedly possesses all the opulence – wealth, power, fame, beauty, knowledge and renunciation and hence He attracts every living being.
Brahmanda Purana stresses the glories of the name Krishna by saying that the pious results derived from chanting the thousand holy names of Vishnu thrice can be attained by only one repetition of the holy name of Krishna. Such is the potency of the name of Krishna.
The words Krishna and Rama in the Hare Krishna maha-mantra are forms of addressing the Lord and the word Hare is the form of addressing the supreme pleasure potency of the Lord. When a person chants this mantra sincerely, Mother Hara helps him achieve the grace of the supreme father, Hari or Krishna who reveals Himself to the faithful devotee.
Lord Krishna is the Supreme Absolute Truth as revealed in the Vedic literatures like Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam. This truth is also established by great authorities like Sri Vyasadeva, Sri Narada, etc., and it is declared by Lord Krishna Himself in the Gita. Lord Krishna being the absolute truth, His names are non-different from Him, being fully spiritual and having all the potencies of the Lord. Therefore when one chants His names, one is purified by coming in direct contact with the Lord who is supremely pure. The spiritual vibration of Hare Krishna maha mantra acts like a medicine to clean our hearts and destroy our sinful propensities which force us to commit evil acts resulting in miserable returns.
The word Yajna means Lord Vishnu or Krishna, and this word also refers to any work we perform for the satisfaction of Vishnu. Sankirtana Yajna is meant for pleasing the Lord by glorifying and chanting His holy names with devotion. Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita (10.25): “Of sacrifices I am the chanting of the holy names.” In Padma Purana (Uttara-khanda, 71.270) the Lord tells Narada, “My dear Narada, actually I do not reside in My abode, Vaikuntha, nor do I reside within the hearts of the yogis, but I reside in that place where My pure devotees chant My holy name and discuss My form, pastimes and qualities.”
There are no stringent rules for chanting the Hare Krishna maha mantra. Any person belonging to any country and of any religion and language can chant at any time under all circumstances. The mantra can be sung loudly, individually or in a group with musical instruments (Sankirtana) or uttered softly to oneself (Japa).
Although Kali-yuga is characterized by so many flaws and imperfections, there is still one wonderful quality of this age. Just by chanting the Hare Krishna maha mantra, one can be freed from the cycle of birth and death and can go back to the spiritual world where one leads a perpetual, blissful life in association with the Lord. The Sankirtana Yajna is the only hope for creating a spiritual atmosphere in the world which automatically leads to peace, prosperity and happiness in the society by driving away all the imperfections of this age.