“All God names are hallowed from moonrise to sunset” — Martin Buber. The above five names for God are considered sacred by five of the world’s major religions. Infact it is a scene that has been repeated:
countless times on the thoroughfares of cities throughout the Western World and its environs, from Hollywood Boulevard and faith avenue in America, to London’s Oxford street and the champs Elysees in Paris. There, in the midst of traffic, shops, restaurants, and movie theatres, people suddenly find themselves confronted by a group of young persons singing and dancing to the beat of cylindrical drums and the brassy cadene of hand cymbals. The men are dressed in flowing robes and have shaven heads. The women wear ‘colourful Indian Saris.
Ofcourse it is the Hare Krishna people, chanting their now familiar mantra, “Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare… But what actually is going on? Is it some form of protest, avant-garde, street theatre, a religious demonstration, or what?
If you were to ask them, you would learn that these people are performing a type of meditation long encouraged and practiced in the West, the chanting of the Holy names of God (Krishna is the Sanskrit name for the Supreme Lord). Ofcourse, meditation is a word that is thrown around quite loosely these days in most quarters. It has come to mean practically any technique employed to silence and calm the harried modern man’s mind. But the ancient and’ ‘authorized form of meditation practiced by Hare Krishna people has a much deeper and sublime purpose. Although it easily soothes the turbulent mind, it also awakens those who chant it to their original, joyful spiritual nature and consciousness, imparting a genuine sense of pleasure unavailable by any other means. The Vedas, scriptures containing the timeless spiritual knowledge of ancient India, state that such an awakening process is desperately needed because anyone in this material world is in a sleeping, dreamlike condition. We have forgotten our original, spiritual identity, accepting instead as temporary material body composed of physical elements as our real self. The vedas compare the material body to the subtle forms we experience in dreams. While sleeping, we forget our normal waking identity and may find ourselves enjoying or suffering in different types of bodies. But when we hear the ringing of the alarm clock, we awaken and return to our normal consciousness. We remember who we are and what we should be doing. Similarly, by hearing the powerful transcendental sound vibrations of the Hare Krishna mantra, we can gradually wake-up to our original self, the soul, which is characterized by eternity and is full of knowledge and ever increasing pleasure. The sages of ancient India therefore tell us that the goal of human life should not be to try to enjoy our temporary dreamlike situation in this material world. Rather, we are advised to awaken our original, spiritual nature in us and ultimately return to our true original home in the spiritual world, where we may enjoy an eternal relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Krishna. This search for the true self through the meditative process is not something recently discovered, nor is it in any way alien to the basally rationalistic philosophical and spiritual traditions of the West. Although western civilization has for the most part directed its energies outward in various. efforts to control and exploit the resources of nature, there have always been inner-directed philosophers, ‘saints, and mystics who have dedicated themselves to a higher purpose than material well-being / which is in all cases temporary
The Greek phitosophers Socrates and Plato held a view of man’s original nature quite similar to that of the Vedic Sages. This temporary world, they taught, is not our real home; we once existed in a spiritual world. In Plato’s famous dialogues, Socrates says that in our original condition, “We were pure ourselves and not yet enshrined in that living tomb which we carry about, now that we are imprisoned in the body like an oyster in the shell”. The purpose of philosophy, for these early Athenian thinkers, was to awaken a person to his original, spiritual identity, now hidden within the covering of the physical body. The very same thing was taught in Galilee four hundred years later by Jesus Christ. In the Gospel of Saint John, Christ says, “It is the spirit that quickeneth (gives life), the flesh profiteth nothing”. In other words, the body is simply an external covering for the soul, which is the real life giving force. Therefore Jesus warned, “What profiteth a man to gain the whole world, but lose his immortal soul.” The highest goal of life, Christ taught, is to understand and experience our inner spiritual nature. And in the Gospel of Saint Luke, Jesus instructs mankind to look within for true spiritual life. “Neither shall they say, lo here or to there, for behold, the kingdom of God is within you”. Describing his inner search for God through meditation, St. Augustine, a great saint and eminent philosopher of the Roman Catholic Church, tells us in his confessions, how his mind “Withdrew its thoughts from experience, abstracting itself from the contradictory throng of sensuous images”.
During the Middle ages in Europe, there was widespread interest in meditation, with many saints and philosophers writing of that thoughts about the inward quest for divine reality. Thomas a Kempis, in the classic imitation of Christ, cautions man about material life and summarizes the goal and purpose of meditation. “What do you seek here, since this world is not your resting place? Your true home is in Heaven, therefore remember that all things of this world are transistory. All things are passing and with yourself are passing and with yourself with them. True or false? See that you do not cling to them. Let all your thoughts be with the most High”. When one achieves this deep spiritual vision, his entire world view is completely transformed, as is in the case of Saint Francis of Assisi, who devoted his entire life to prayer and meditation. And in his life of Saint Francis. St. Bonaventura says, “In all fair things, he behold Him who is most fair, and, through the traces of Him which He has implanted in all His creatures, he was led on to reach the All-loved, constructing of these things a ladder whereby he might ascend to Him who is loveliness itself. “In other words, when one’s original, spiritual consciousness is revived, one can see God everywhere and in everything. There and then one enters a unique world of spiritual knowledge and pleasure, far superior to what most of us perceive as reality — a spiritual reality that lies just beyond our ordinary abilities of perception. William James, the American philosopher who specialized in psychology of religion, writing on this point, said, “Our normal waking consciousness, rational consciousness as we call it, is but one special type of consciousness, whilst all about it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different. We may go throughout life without suspecting their existence, but apply the. requisite stimulus, and at a touch they are there in all their completeness.” But what is the requisite stimulus for awakening the dormant consciousness of the self and God that lies within every one’s heart? All genuine spiritual authorities agree that such transcendental experiences cannot be awakened by material stimulus or experience, including ingestion of chemical substances like LSD and other “mind expanding drugs”.
When Srila Prabupad, the founder — acraya (Spiritual Master) of the Hare Krishna movement, was asked by a follower the of Timothy Leary about LSD’s place in man’s spiritual life, he said that drugs were not necessary for spiritual life, that they could not produce spiritual consciousness, and that all drug-induced “religious visions” were simply hallucinations. To realize God was not so easy or cheap that one could do it just by taking a pill or smoking. The Vedic scriptures advise that the proper technique for awakening spiritual consciousness dormant in us is the hearing and chanting of transcendental sounds or mantras, like the Hare Krishna mantra. The power of sound to affect changes in consciousness has long been recognized. The English philosopher and statesman, Sir Francis Bacon noted that “The sense of hearing striketh the spirit more immediately than any other senses.” Ordinary material sounds, however, will not awaken spiritual consciousness Therefore, almost every religion in the world recommends that we meditate upon the word of God St John wrote in his Gospel, “in the beginning was the word and the word was with God, and the word was God.” Divine sound is thus of a vastly different quality than worldly or material sound. This fact was clearly explained by saint Augustine in his confessions” Once as he merged from a mystic trance, he said he “heard again the babble of our tongues, wherein each word has a beginning and an ending Far unlike thy word, our Lord who abideth in Himself, never growing old and making all things new” And in the Gospel of St. John, Jesus says,” The word that I speak unto you, they are spirit”. While the Word, or teachings of God, have enormous power to transform and uplift our lives, just as important are the actual names of God, which are sometimes praised aloud in song or strongly meditated upon Since God is fully spiritual and absolute, the Vedic scriptures inform us that His holy names are invested with the Lord’s spiritual potencies God and His name are the same. The Padma Puranas states, “There is no difference between the holy name of the Lord and’ the Lord Himself.” The stoic philosopher Maximus noted, “There is one spiritual God who is, as it were, the God and mighty Father of all. “It is Him”. He said, whom we worship under many names.”
Mordern Jewish theologian Martin Buber also agreed that “All Gods name are hollowed.” And in the Bible is replete with similar statements. In the old Testament,
it is said,” The name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous runneth into it and it is safe.” In Psalms, King David proclaims, “I will praise the name of God with a song”. Indeed Psalms contains countless references to the name of God.” All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before thee, 0 Lord, and shall glorify thy name. O give thanks unto the Lord. Call upon His name, make known His deeds amongst the people, sing unto Him, sing Psalms unto Him, talk ye of all His wondrous works, glory be in His holy name. Praise Him with stringed timbrel and dance, praise Him with stringed instruments and organs.
The prophet Isaiah described God as “One that inhabiteth eternity, and whose name is Holy.” Centuries later, Israel Baal Shem Toy (1699 — 1761) the great Jewish mystic, founded Hasidism a popular pietist movement within Judaism, in which members dance and chant in glorification of the Supreme Lord. Jesus, when teaching his disciple how to pray, glorified the Lord’s Holy name: Our father Who are in heaven, hallowed be thy name”… And in his Epistle to the Romans, St Paul wrote, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” In the early Christian churches, there was, according to the historian Eusebius, “One common consent in chanting forth the praises of God”.
The Gregorian’s chants, popularized in the sixth century by Pope Gregon, the Great and later by works like Handel’s masterpiece the Messiah, with it resounding choruses of hallelujah (praise the Lord), are still performed and appreciated all over the world. In addition to praising the Lord’s name and glories in song, there also developed in the Christian churches the practice of meditating upon God by chanting prayers on rosary beads, a tradition continued today by millions of Catholics world-wide.
John Chrysostom, a saint of the Greek Orthodox church, especially recommended the prayerful invocation of the name of God,” which he said should be practiced uninterrupted.’ The repetition of the Jesus prayer (Lord Jesus, Son of God, be merciful unto us)”became a regular practice among members of the Eastern Church. In the way of a Pilgrim, a Russian monk describes this form of meditation and he said, “The continuous interior prayer of Jesus is a constant uninterrupted calling of the divine name of the Lord with the lips in the spirit, in the heart… one who accustoms himself to this appeal, experiences as a result so deep a consolation and so great a need to offer the prayer always, that he can no longer live without it.” And among the follower’s of Islam, the names of God (Allah) are held sacred and meditated upon daily. According to tradition, there are ninety-nine names of Allah, called “the beautiful Names.” They are found inscribed on monuments such as Taj Mahal and the walls of Mosques. These names are chanted on the Islamic beads. Worshippers repeat the names to help them concentrate their minds upon Allah. The dual titles Al-Rahman, Al-Rahim, meaning, “God the compassionate, the merciful,” are invoked at the beginning of each chapter of the Koran. Other Arabic names of God glorify Him as the creator, provider, and king. In India, the Sikhs place special emphasis on the name of God. Indeed, the Sikhs call God Namu.
Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikhs religion, prayed, “in the ambrosial hours of the morning, I meditate on the grace of the true name,” and says that he was instructed by the Lord in a vision to “Go and repeat My name, and cause others to do likewise.” Rosaries are widely used in Buddhism, large ones by monks, and smaller ones by the laity,” says Geoffrey Parrinder, a professor of comparative religion in the University of London, in his book, “worship in the world’s religions.” The large ones have 108 beads, the two halves representing the fifty-four stages of becoming a buddhi — sattva (enlightened one). The large beads in the middle stands for Buddha. And members of Japan’s largest Buddhist order, the Pure land sect practice repetition of the name of Buddha (namu amida butsu). The founder Shinran Shonin says, ‘The virtue of the Holy Name, the gift of him that is enlightened, is spread throughout the world.” The Buddhist, teachings reveal that by chanting the name of Buddha, the worshiper becomes liberated and joins the Buddha in the Pure land or spiritual world. Although God is known throughout the world by many different names, each of which describes some particular aspect of His glories and attractive features but there is one name which expresses the sum total in God’s infinite qualities and characteristics. This Supreme encompassing, and most powerful name of God is found in the oldest religious scriptures in the world, the Sanskrit Vedas of India, which state that the principal name of God is Krsna.
Once Srila Prabupad, a Sankrit vedic cleric explains, “when we speak of Krsna, we refer to God. There are many names of God throughout the world and throughout the universe, but Krsna is the Supreme name according to verdic Knowledge He further states, “God has many names according to His activities, but because He possess so many opulences, and because with these opulences, he attracts everyone and so he is called krsna the “ALL attractive one”. Krsna remains the only personality who has six opulences simultaneously, spontaneously and otherwise.” Wealth, fame beauty, strength, knowledge and renunciation.”