What does Hare Krishna mean?
The life of all Hare Krishnas is centered around the Hare Krishna mantra: “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare / Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare.” This mantra is sung at all occations, and the devotees meditate on it daily for one hour, two hours, or more, through soft spoken recitation.
The mantra is recommended in the 5000 year-old Vedic texts as the ideal mantra for this age. The mantra consists of only three words: Hare, Krishna, and Rama. It is an acknowledgement of the Supreme Lord by His names Krishna (the all attractive person) and Rama (the source of all bliss) as well as His spiritual potency and energy, Hare. The mantra is a prayer to be engaged in His service, as He pleases, and under His shelter.
Srila Prabhupada explains the Hare Krishna mantra in detail as follows:
To recite this transcendental sound vibration –
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare
– is the sublime method to re-awaken our Krishna consciousness. As living spiritual souls we are all originally Krishna conscious beings, but due to our association with matter since time immemorial, our consciousness is no polluted by the material atmosphere.
In this polluted state of life we all try to exploit the qualities of material nature, but in reality we become more and more entangled in her (the cosmos) complicated nature. This illusion is called “Maya,” or the fierce struggle of life agains the strict laws of nature. This illusory struggle against material nature can immediately be checked by reviving our dormant Krishna consciousness.
Krishna consciousness is not an artificial imposition on the mind. To the contrary it is the original natural state of the soul. By hearing the transcendental sound vibration this consciousness is restored. It is the recommended process for this age, by the Vedic authorities. One can experience practically how the recitation of the maha-mantra (Hare Krishna) produces an immediate feeling of transcendental ecstasy from the spiritual dimension. When one has completely achieved complete spiritual realization, beyond the material senses, the mind, and intellect, one is situated on the transcendental platform.
This recitation, Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare / Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare, is happening completely on the spiritual platform, beyond all the lower levels of consciousness, namely sensual, mental, and intellectual. It is not necessary to understand the language of the mantra. Neither is mental speculation or intellectutal contemplation necessary to recite this maha-mantra. Since it automatically emanates from the spiritual platform, everyone and anyone, even with no previous experience, can take part in this transcendental sound vibration and dance in ecstasy.
One can observe this in reality. Even a child can take part in the recitation, even a dog can take part. The mantra should be heard from the mouth of a pure devotee of Krishna, in order to achieve the proper effect. One should, as much as possible, avoid the mantra from the mouth of a non-devotee, in the same way one should avoid milk that has become poisonous by touching the mouth of a snake.
The word “Hara” addresses the energy of the Lord. The words “Rama” and “Krishna” are both addressing God Himself, and they mean “the highest eternal bliss.” Hara is the pleasure potency of the Lord. When this potency is addressed as “Hare,” it helps us to approach the Supreme Lord.
The material energy, Maya, is one of the Lords multifarious potencies, just like we ourselves are the marginal potency. The living beings are described as higher potency than the material. When this higher potency comes into contact with the lower potency, a conflicting situation arises.. But when the higher marginal potency comes into contact with the spiritual potency, “Hara,” the blissful, original state of being for the living entity arises.
The three words, “Hara,” “Krishna,” and “Rama,” are the transcendental seeds of the maha-mantra. The singin or recitation is a spiritual method to address the Lord and His internal potency, “Hara,” for protection of the conditioned soul. The singing is exactly like when a child cries after its mother. The mother “Hara” helps us to reach the Supreme Father “Hari” or “Krishna” and the Lord reveals Himself to such a sincere devotee.
In this age no process of spiritual realization is as potent as the chanting of the maha mantra, Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare / Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare.