Prabodhānanda and Prakāśānanda
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The Mahā-mantra” was written by Swami B.G. Narasiṅgha in 2008. This article explains the history of the Mahā-mantra and the various conceptions of the Mahā-mantra according to the different sampradāyas, including the Madhvas, Rāmānujas, Vallabhas and Nimbārkas.

Question: Is there a difference between the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava conception of the Mahā-mantra and the conception of the Mahā-mantra found in other sampradāyas, such as the Rāmānujas, Madhvas, Nimbārkas and Vallabhas?

Narasingha Mahārāja: Yes. In fact the Gauḍīya conception of the Mahā-mantra is exclusive and stands distinct from all other sampradāyas. The Gauḍīya conception is exclusive in that it surpasses even the greatest expectations of the Vedas (liberation) and affords one the highest fulfilment of the ultimate goal of life. This is not simply party spirit propaganda or sampradāya jingoism, but an ontological fact.

The conception of the Mahā-mantra as a whole, as well as each of its constituent parts (Hare, Kṛṣṇa and Rāma), are uniquely different in Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism than in any other spiritual tradition of India.

The Mahā-mantra appears in the Kali-Santaraṇa Upaniṣad of the Kṛṣṇa Yajur Veda wherein Lord Brahmā is answering a question by Nārada Muni:

harih oṁ
dvāparānte nārado brahmāṇam jagām kathaṁ bhagavān gāṁ paryatan-kaliṁ santare-yamiti |

sa hovāca brahmā –
sādhu pṛṣṭo’smi sarva-śruti-rahasyaṁ gopayaṁ tacchṛṇu yena kali-saṁsāraṁ tariṣyasi |
bhagavata ādi-puruṣasya nārāyaṇasya nāmoccaraṇa-mātrena nirdhṛta-kalir bhavati ||

“At the end of Dvāpara-yuga, Nārada, who had traversed the whole world, went to Brahmā and addressed him thus, ‘O Lord, how shall I be able to ward off the effects of Kali?’ Brahmā thus replied, ‘You have asked an excellent question. Listen to that secret which all the Vedas keep hidden, through which one may cross over material existence during the age of Kali. One becomes free from the influence of Kali by merely uttering the Names of Lord Nārāyaṇa, who is the original Supreme Person.”

nāradaḥ punaḥ papraccha tananām kimiti | sa hovāca hiraṇyagarbaḥ

hare kṛṣṇa hare kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa hare
hare rāma hare rāma rāma rāma hare hare
iti ṣoḍaśakaṁ nāmnāṁ kali-kalmaṣa-nāśanam
nataḥ parataropayaḥ sarva-vedeṣu dṛśyate

“Thus again Nārada asked Brahmā, ‘What are those Names?’ Lord Brahmā replied, ‘Hare Kṛṣṇa Hare Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa Hare Hare, Hare Rāma Hare Rāma Rāma Rāma Hare Hare. These sixteen Holy Names will destroy the sinful influences of the age of Kali. I do not see any other method.”

The Kali-santaraṇa Upaniṣad is one of the 108 Upaniṣads listed in the Muktikā Upaniṣad, yet in some academic circles, scholars are of the opinion that the Kali-santaraṇa Upaniṣad was written either by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu or one of His followers. Such scholars have no evidence for their claim other than their own opinion and that is generally not accepted amongst learned circles in India.

One enigma surrounding the Mahā-mantra is whether it begins with ‘Hare Kṛṣṇa’ or ‘Hare Rāma’. In the oldest surviving copy of the Kali-santaraṇa Upaniṣad, dated circa 1740 CE with the commentary by the Advaitin scholar Brahmayogin Rāmacandrendra Sarasvatī of Kañcīpuram, the Mahā-mantra is written as:

hare rāma hare rāma rāma rāma hare hare
hare kṛṣṇa hare kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa hare hare

However, in numerous other editions of the Kali-santaraṇa Upaniṣad, the Mahā-mantra is written:

hare kṛṣṇa hare kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa hare hare
hare rāma hare rāma rāma rāma hare hare

Presented below is a statement by Śrīla Śrīdhara Deva Gosvāmī Mahārāja from which we might conclude that the 1740 edition of the Kali-santaraṇa Upaniṣad quoted above was interpolated by māyāvādīs. Since the Name of Kṛṣṇa is superior to the Name of Rāma, as stated by Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja, it stands to reason that the Vedas would present the sequence of the mantra ontologically, thus the Advaitin edition is suspect.

Commenting on this enigma, Śrīla Śrīdhara Deva Gosvāmī Mahārāja has stated as follows:

“The real importance of the Name is not to be found merely in the arrangement of its syllables, but in the deep meaning within that divine sound. Some scholars argue that in the Kali-santaraṇa Upaniṣad, Lord Brahmā says that the Hare Kṛṣṇa Mahā-mantra is properly pronounced only when the Name of Rāma precedes the Name of Kṛṣṇa:

hare rāma hare rāma rāma āma hare hare
hare kṛṣṇa hare kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa hare hare

“In the Kali-santaraṇa Upaniṣad, the Hare Kṛṣṇa Mahā-mantra is given in that way. But to say that the Name of Rāma must precede the Name of Kṛṣṇa in the mantra is a superficial understanding.

“It is said that because it comes from the Upaniṣads, the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra is a Vedic mantra, and therefore, because the ordinary people may not have any entrance into Vedic mantras, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu readjusted this mantra by reversing the order of the words. In that way, it is said, the concern that it is a Vedic mantra is thereby cancelled, and so Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu gave it to all without breaching the injunctions of the Vedas. Some devotees in Uttar Pradesh who have great affection for Śrī Caitanyadeva like to give this opinion. But our faith is that the mentioning of ‘Hare Rāma’ first is only superficial. It concerns the idea that since the Rāma avatāra appeared first and the Kṛṣṇa avatāra afterwards, the Name of Rāma, ‘Hare Rāma,’ should come first in the Mahā-mantra.’

“A deeper reading will consider that when two similar things are connected together, the priority will be ordered not on the basis of historical precedent, but in consideration of the most highly developed conception. The Holy Name of Kṛṣṇa is higher than the Holy Name of Rāma. This is mentioned in the Purāṇas: three Names of Rāma equal one Name of Kṛṣṇa.’

“The Name of Kṛṣṇa is superior to the Name of Rāma. Where the two are connected together, the first position should be given to the one that is superior. Therefore, the Name of Kṛṣṇa must come first in the Mahā-mantra. This is one point.’

“Another point is that within the eternal plane, everything is moving in a cyclic order. In an eternal cycle, which is first and which is next cannot be ascertained, and so, in the eternal plane of līlā, it cannot be determined whether Kṛṣṇa is before Rāma or Rāma is before Kṛṣṇa. So from that consideration also, since the Names of Kṛṣṇa and Rāma are eternal and unrelated to any historical event, we may begin the mantra from any place.’

“But above these considerations, our sampradāya has given another, higher consideration. A deeper understanding will reveal that the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra is not at all concerned with rāma-līlā.’

“In the Name of Rāma within the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra, the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas will find Rādhā-ramaṇa Rāma. That means, ‘Kṛṣṇa, who gives pleasure (ramaṇa) to Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī.’ In our conception, the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra is wholesale Kṛṣṇa consciousness, not Rāma consciousness.’

“Śrī Caitanya’s highest conception of things is always Svayam-Bhagavān, kṛṣṇa-līlā, rādhā-govinda-līlā. That is the real purpose of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s advent and teachings. In that consideration, the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra does not mention the rāma-līlā of Ayodhyā at all. There is no connection with that in the highest conception of the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra.’

“And the inner conception of the mantra is responsible for our spiritual attainment. When one pronounces the Name of Rāma, if he means Daśarathī Rāma, his attraction will take him there, to Ayodhyā; if he means Paraśurāma, he will be attracted to another place. And if Rāma means Rādhā-ramaṇa Rāma, he will go to Goloka. The inner conception of the devotee will guide him to his destination.” (Loving Search For The Lost Servant)

The Names in the Mahā-mantra are Hare, Kṛṣṇa and Rāma. The followers of the Śaṅkarācārya school, as well as those of the Rāmānuja and Madhva schools, conceive the Name of Hare to be the vocative case of Hari. Thus for them ‘Hare’ means Nārāyaṇa, ‘Rāma’ means Rāmacandra and ‘Kṛṣṇa’ means the avatāra of Nārāyaṇa (not Kṛṣṇa the avatārī, or source of Nārāyaṇa).

The followers of Śaṅkarācārya have adopted this version of the Mahā-mantra and the Vaiṣṇava sampradāyas of South India have also adopted the same. ‘Hare’ in all these sampradāyas means Hari, or Nārāyaṇa. In all circumstances their way of thinking is about liberation (mukti) and not actually about bhakti (devotion). Moreover, the followers of Śaṅkarācārya are sometimes found to chant the Mahā-mantra and give more attention to the Mahā-mantra than the Rāmānuja sampradāya or the Madhva sampradāya. The Kali-santaraṇa Upaniṣad and the Mahā-mantra are accepted by all these sampradāyas, yet the Mahā-mantra is of little importance to them. Only the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas stake everything on the Mahā-mantra.

Actually, according to one Madhva website, it appears that at least a certain section of their sampradāya has ‘lost the plot’ so to speak. The following is a contemporary Madhva quote:

“And it is known that the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra is recited without proper procedure, without dhyāna, saṅkalpa, etc., in the approved Vedic fashion. It has been arbitrarily picked out of a book and practiced in mutilated form, and is thus a false initiation (as the originators of the tradition were themselves unqualified to recite the mantra). Worst of all, it is recited ‘as’ Kṛṣṇa Himself, and not as a symbol or tool for his worship…as such, it stands to reason that the ‘Hare Kṛṣṇa Mahā-mantra’ is best avoided by everybody.” 

The most obvious mistake in the above quote is that the Kali-santaraṇa Upaniṣad clearly states ‘nāsya vidhiriti’ – ‘there are no rules (vidhi) involved in chanting the Mahā-mantra.’ In fact, the Upaniṣad guarantees liberation to anyone who chants the Mahā-mantra. Thus, one begins to wonder what’s been happening in the Madhva sampradāya over the past seven hundred years?

punar-nāradaḥ paprccha bhagavan ko’sya vidhiriti |
tam hovāca – nāsya vidhiriti |
sarvadā śuciraśucirvā paṭhan-brāhmaṇaḥ
salokatāṁ samīpatāṁ sarūpatāṁ sāyujyatameti |

“Again Nārada enquired: ‘O Lord, what are the rules to be observed with reference to it (chanting the Mahā-mantra)?” Brahmā replied, “There are no rules. Whoever, in a pure or an impure state, utters these always, attains the same world of the Lord (sālokya), proximity with the Lord (sāmīpya), the same form as the Lord (sārūpya), or absorption into Brahman (sāyujya). (Kali-santaraṇa Upaniṣad 3)

For the followers of Śaṅkarācārya, the Name ‘Hare’ means Hari – He who takes away one’s karma, material desire and illusion (māyā). For Rāmānujas and most Madhvas, Hari is He who takes away all inauspiciousness and bestows all good fortune. But for Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas the conception of Hare is altogether different.

For the Gauḍīyas, Hare is the vocative case of Harā, the internal pleasure potency of Kṛṣṇa. Thus Hare means Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī.

It should not be misunderstood that we are arguing or fighting over the proper meaning of the names in the Mahā-mantra. There is certainly room for different bona fide conceptions within the Mahā-mantra. Each with his conception may attain that particular destination.

yei yei rūpe jāne, sei tāhā kahe
sakala sambhave kṛṣṇe, kichu mithyā nahe

“In whatever form one knows the Lord, one speaks of Him in that way. In this there is no falsity, since everything is possible in Kṛṣṇa.” (Cc. Ādi. 5.132)

In this regard Śrīla A.C. Bhaktivedānta Swami Prabhupāda writes in his purport to this verse:

“If someone calls Lord Rāmacandra by the vibration Hare Rāma, understanding it to mean “O Lord Rāmacandra!” he is quite right. Similarly, if one says that Hare Rāma means “O Śrī Balarāma!” he is also right. Those who are aware of the viṣṇu-tattva do not fight over all these details.”

However, one must also remember that all realities are not the same, nor do all conceptions lead to the same destination.

It is often said as a reference that the Mahā-mantra first appears or manifests in the Kali-santaraṇa Upaniṣad portion of the Vedas, but such a statement is not actually correct according to Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura, who has stated:

“Lord Hari’s Name is Lord Hari Himself. The Mahā-mantra was present before the scriptures manifested. The catuḥ-śloki of the Bhāgavatam beginning with ‘aham evāsam evāgre’ is proof of this. The supremely independent Holy Name is not under the jurisdiction of scriptural control. Actually, the scriptures have appeared by the supreme will of the Holy Name. It is not a fact that the scriptures manifested first and then the Holy Name appeared after. The Brahma-saṁhitā says that the Holy Name appeared first in Brahmā’s heart. (Śrī Śrīla Prabhupādera Upadeśāmrta)

“The Mahā-mantra chanted by Gauḍīyas is always chanted as:

hare kṛṣṇa hare kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa hare hare
hare rāma hare rāma rāma rāma hare hare

Whereas other sampradāyas might chant the Mahā-mantra for liberation, the Gauḍīyas chant the Mahā-mantra out of devotion to please Kṛṣṇa. Hari takes away material desires, māyā, etc, but Hare, the internal potency (hlādinī-śakti/Rādhārāṇī) captures or takes away the mind and heart of Kṛṣṇa. Harā is the energy by which one can serve Kṛṣṇa, and the only energy that can please Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa Himself is the reservoir of pleasure and Rāma, or Rādhā-ramaṇa, is the one who gives pleasure to Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī.

The Gauḍīya conception of Rāma in the Mahā-mantra meaning Kṛṣṇa, the giver of pleasure to Śrī Rādhā, is also collaborated by Śrī Bhaktisiddhānta as follows:

“According to the mood of aiśvarya, ‘Rāma’ refers to Rāmacandra, the son of Daśaratha. According to the mood of mādhurya, ‘Rāma’ refers to Kṛṣṇa, the relisher of Śrī Rādhā’s association. Whenever the Name ‘Rāma’ indicates service to Rādhā-ramaṇa Kṛṣṇa, then the word ‘Hare’ which is the vocative form of Harā, refers to Śrī Rādhārāṇī, who is the origin of all spiritual potencies. Śrī Rādhā is known as Harā because She attracts the mind of Kṛṣṇa. Hari means ‘attracter’. Hare is the vocative form of the word ‘Harā’. There are three Rāmas – Rāma, the husband of Sītā-devī, Rāma the husband of Revatī and Rāma, the lover of Rādhā.” (Śrī Śrīla Prabhupādera Upadeśāmrta)

The Gauḍīya conception of the Mahā-mantra is not something whimsical. It is authorised by bona-fide ācāryas and supported by guru, sādhu and śāstra. It was also the preferred conception of chanting by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Furthermore, the Gauḍīya conception of hearing and chanting of the Mahā-mantra transcends all types of liberation and ultimately reaches the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord.

mālī hañā kare sei bīja āropaṇa
śravaṇa-kīrtana-jale karaye secana

“When one receives the seed of devotion, he should take care of it by becoming a gardener and sowing the seed in his heart. By watering the seed gradually by the process of śravaṇa and kīrtana (hearing and chanting), the seed will start to sprout.”

upajiyā bāḍe latā ‘brahmāṇḍa’ bhedi’ yāya
‘virajā’, ‘brahma-loka’ bhedi’ ‘para-vyoma’ pāya

“The creeper of devotion is manifest and grows to pierce through the wall of the material universe. It crosses over the Virajā river and the plane of Brahman and then reaches to Vaikuṇṭha.”

tabe yāya tad-upari ‘goloka vṛndāvana’
‘kṛṣṇa-caraṇa’-kalpa-vṛkṣe kare ārohana

“It continues to grow further up to Goloka Vṛndāvana, where it finally embraces the wish-fulfilling tree of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s lotus feet.”

tāhāṅ vistārita hañā phale prema-phala
ihāṅ mālī sece nitya śravaṇādi jala

“There in Goloka, the creeper expands and produces the fruit of love for Kṛṣṇa. Although remaining in the material plane, the gardener continuously sprinkles the creeper with the water of hearing and chanting.” (Cc. Madhya. 19.152-155)

Commenting on the Mahā-mantra in his Mahā-mantrartha Dīpikā, Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī reveals the meaning of each of the sixteen Names in the Mahā-mantra in consecutive order as follows:

hare kṛṣṇa hare kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa hare hare
hare rāma hare rāma rāma rama hare hare

(1-Hare)
sarva-ceta-hareḥ kṛṣṇas-tasya cittaṁ haratyasauḥ
vaidagdhī-sāra-vistārair-ato rādhā harā matā

Kṛṣṇa steals the minds of everyone, yet Rādhā steals even His mind by Her divine expertise. Thus She is known as Harā.

(2-Kṛṣṇa)
karṣati-svīyalāvaṇya-muralī-kala-niḥsvanaiḥ
śrī rādhāṁ mohana-guṇālankṛtaḥ kṛṣṇa iyate

He forcibly attracts Śrī Rādhā with the sweet sound of His flute, therefore that Lord of all enchanting qualities is known as Kṛṣṇa.

(3-Hare)
śruyate niyate rāse hariṇā hariṇekṣaṇā
ekākinī rahaḥ-kuñje hareyaṁ tena kathyate

It has been heard that during the rāsa-līlā, doe-eyed Rādhā was stolen away by Kṛṣṇa to be alone with Him in a secret forest bower. She is therefore known as Harā.

(4-Kṛṣṇa)
aṅga-śyāmalima-stomaiḥ śyāmalīkṛta-kāñcanaḥ
ramate rādhayā sārdhamataḥ kṛṣṇo nigadyate

When Kṛṣṇa sports with Rādhā, Her golden hue takes on the dark complexion of Kṛṣṇa’s skin. He is thus known as Kṛṣṇa.

(5-Kṛṣṇa)
kṛtvāraṇye saraḥ śreṣṭhaṁ kāntayānumatas-tuyā
ākṛṣya sarva-tīrthāni taj-jñāṇāt kṛṣṇa iryate

In order to please Śrī Rādhā, Kṛṣṇa manifested the most wonderful lake (Śyāma-kuṇḍa) in Vṛndāvana. He then called all the holy rivers to fill it. He is thus known as Kṛṣṇa.

(6-Kṛṣṇa)
kṛṣyate rādhayā premnā yamunā-taṭa-kānanam
līlayā lalitaś-cāpi dhīraiḥ kṛṣṇa udāhṛtaḥ

By Her unsurpassed love, Rādhā charms He who performs wonderful līlās on the banks of the Yamunā. Therefore, those who are sober know Him as Kṛṣṇa.

(7-Hare)
hṛtavān gokule tiṣṭḥann-ariṣṭaṁ puṣṭa-puṅgavam
śrī haris taṁ rasād-uccai rāyatīti harā matā

While in Gokula, Śrī Hari (Kṛṣṇa) killed the demon known as Ariṣṭāsura. During that time, Rādhā cried out to Him with great feeling and by doing so, She stole His mind. She is thus known as Harā.

(8-Hare)
hyasphuṭaṁ rāyati prīti-bhareṇa hari-ceṣṭitam
gāyatīti matā dhīrair harā rasa-vicakṣaṇaiḥ

Filled with ecstatic love, Rādhā sometimes sings the glories of Hari’s exploits quietly, and sometimes She sings them aloud. Those who are expert in the secrets of divine sentiments call Her Harā.

(9-Hare)
rasāveśa-parisrastāṁ jahāra muralīṁ hareḥ
hareti kīrtitā devī vipine keli-lampaṭā

Due to the intense love of Śrī Rādhā, Śrī Hari becomes so captivated that His flute falls from His hand. With the desire to enjoy in the forest bowers with Kṛṣṇa, Rādhā steals His flute. That Goddess is thus famous as Harā.

(10-Rāma)
govardhana-darī-kuñje parirambha-vicakṣaṇaḥ
śrī rādhāṁ ramayāmāsa rāmastena mato hariḥ

Kṛṣṇa, who is expert at embracing, sports with Rādhā in the forest groves or in the caves of Govardhana. Thus He is known as Rāma.

(11-Hare)
hanti duḥkhāni bhaktānāṁ rāti saukhyati cānvaham
harā devī nigaditā mahā-kāruṇya-śālinī

That most merciful Rādhā destroys the miseries of Her devotees and gives them great happiness every day. Therefore, that Goddess is known as Harā.

(12-Rāma)
ramate bhajato cetaḥ paramānanda-vāridhau
atreti kathito rāmaḥ śyāmasundara-vigrahaḥ

The minds of the devotees are continuously drowned in an ocean of supreme joy by seeing the beautiful dark form of Kṛṣṇa. Therefore He is known by the Name Rāma.

(13-Rāma)
ramayaty-acyutaṁ premnā nikuñja-vana-mandire
rāmā nigaditā rādhā rāmo yutas tayā punaḥ

Rādhārāṇī is known as Rāma because She enjoys loving pastimes with Acyuta (Kṛṣṇa) in a secret forest pavilion. Since He is always by Her side, He is known as Rāma.

(14-Rāma)
rodanair gokule dāvānalam-aśayati hyasau
viśoṣāyati tenokto rāmo bhakta-sukhāvahaḥ

When the residents of Gokula were crying due to fear of the forest fire, Kṛṣṇa immediately swallowed it and gave His devotees great joy. In this way, He is known as Rāma.

(15-Hare)
nihantum-asurān yāto mathurā-puram ity-asau
tadāgamad-rahaḥ-kāmo yasyaḥ sā’sau hareti ca

Śrī Kṛṣṇa went to Mathurāpurī in order to destroy the demons. However, due to being captivated by the love of Rādhā, He later returned. Therefore, She is known as Harā.

(16-Hare)
āgatya duḥkha-hartā yo sarvesāṁ vraja-vāsinām
śrī rādhā-hari-carito hariḥ śrī-nandanandanaḥ

When the son of Mahārāja Nanda returned to Vraja, He took away the suffering of all the Vraja-vāsīs. By His wonderful exploits, He steals the heart of Śrī Rādhā. Thus He is known as Hari.

Throughout his Mahā-mantrārtha Dīpikā, Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī reveals the meaning of ‘Hare’ as Harā until the final verse wherein he says that ‘Hare’ means Hari – He who has stolen the heart of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī. In the first verse Rādhā steals the mind of Kṛṣṇa, and in the last verse Kṛṣṇa steals the heart of Rādhā. Indeed, Rādhā wears a locket with a picture of Kṛṣṇa around Her neck, and Kṛṣṇa wears a locket with a picture of Rādhā around His neck. These Two have stolen each other’s hearts and minds, thus one might suspect that Śrī Jīva is alluding to the appearance of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu in his Mahā-mantrārtha Dīpikā as the combined form of both Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa. In any case, according to Jīva Gosvāmī, the divine pastimes of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa are written throughout the Mahā-mantra.

As for the other Vaiṣṇava sampradāyas, namely the Nimbārka sampradāya and the Vallabha sampradāya, they too – like the Rāmānujas and the Madhvas – do not follow the line of thinking of the Gauḍīyas. Actually the Nimbārka sampradāya does not chant the Mahā-mantra of the Kali-santaraṇa Upaniṣad at all. The Nimbārkas chant what they call the yugala-mantra:

rādhe kṛṣṇa rādhe kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa rādhe rādhe
rādhe śyāma rādhe śyāma śyāma śyāma rādhe rādhe

In some learned circles it is thought that the Nimbārkas plagiarised Śrī Caitanya and the Gauḍīyas. Indeed, some scholars are even of the opinion that Keśava Kaśmīrī, who had been defeated by Śrī Caitanya, fabricated the Nimbārka paramparā and placed himself at its head.

According to verifiable sources, it appears that the yugala-mantra of the Nimbārkas was actually only introduced into their sampradāya in the 14th century by Harivyāsa Devācārya (the third ācārya in the Nimbārka line after Keśava Kaśmīrī) as it does not appear in any of their literature prior to that period.

The idea that the Nimbārka sampradāya is authorised to neglect the chanting of the Mahā-mantra in preference to the yugala-mantra is further suspect by the fact that Sanat-kumāra, one of the original founders of that sampradāya, has said the following:

hare-kṛṣṇau dvir āvṭttau kṛṣṇa tādṛk tathā hare
hare rāma tathā rāma tathā tādṛg ghare manuḥ
hare kṛṣṇa hare kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa hare hare
hare rāma hare rāma rāma rāma hare hare

The words ‘Hare Kṛṣṇa’ are to be repeated twice, then ‘Kṛṣṇa’ and ‘Hare’ are to be repeated separately twice. Similarly, ‘Hare Rāma’, ‘Rāma’ and ‘Hare’ are also repeated twice. The mantra will thus be – Hare Kṛṣṇa Hare Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa Hare Hare, Hare Rāma Hare Rāma Rāma Rāma Hare Hare. (Sanat-kumāra Saṁhitā, as quoted by Dhyānacandra Gosvāmī in his Gaura-Govindārcana Smaraṇa Paddhati, verses, 132-133)

As for the Vallabha sampradāya, they too do not chant the Mahā-mantra as part of their tradition, which seems rather ironic, knowing that Vallabhācārya took dīkṣā-mantras from Śrī Gadādhara Paṇḍita and that he was also associated for sometime with Śrī Caitanya directly. One cannot help but think that something very serious has gone amiss in that sampradāya. Currently the Vallabha sampradāya neglects the Mahā-mantra in preference of the aṣṭāksara-mantra, namely ‘śrī-kṛṣṇa śaraṇam mama.’
This mantra, not being found in the Vedas or in any authorised śāstra, was purportedly invented by Vallabhācārya.

Our conclusion is that there are indeed differences between the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava conception of the Mahā-mantra and the conception of the Mahā-mantra found in other sampradāyas. With the exception of those sampradāyas that have deviated from the path of previous ācāryas, (Madhvas, Nimbārkas and Vallabhas), these differences are primarily based on higher and lower conceptions in rasa (referring to the Rāmānuja sampradāya) and not simply on who is right and who is wrong. Nonetheless, it should go without saying that any intelligent and pious person regardless of their professed sampradāya affiliation should accept the direction of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu to chant the Mahā-mantra, if they want to make substantial spiritual advancement toward the ultimate goal of life.

Prabodhānanda and Prakāśānanda
Swastika-and-CrossSwastika and Cross
Śrīla Bhakti Gaurava Narasiṅgha Mahārāja (Jagat Guru Swami) appeared on Annadā Ekādaśī at Corpus Christi, USA in 1946. After studies in haṭha-yoga, he took initiation from his guru, Śrīla A.C. Bhaktivedānta Swami Prabhupāda in 1970 and preached in the African continent for 3 years before accepting sannyāsa in 1976. After Prabhupāda’s disappearance, Śrīla Narasiṅgha Mahārāja took śīkṣā (spiritual instruction) from Śrīla B.R. Śrīdhara Deva Gosvāmī and Śrīla B.P Purī Gosvāmī. Although he spent most of his spiritual life preaching in India, Narasiṅgha Mahārāja also travelled to Europe, Mexico and the United States to spread the message of his spiritual masters. He penned over 200 essays and 13 books delineating Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava siddhānta. He left this world in his āśrama in South India in 2020.
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