sung out

Hare Krishna

[hahr-ee krish-nuh, har-ee]

The Hare Krishna mantra, also referred to reverentially as the Maha Mantra ("Great Mantra"), is a sixteen-word Vaishnava mantra made well known outside of India by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (commonly known as 'the Hare Krishnas'). This mantra appears within many traditions of Hinduism and is believed by practitioners to bring about a higher state of consciousness when heard, spoken, meditated upon, or sung out loud. According to Gaudiya Vaishnava theology, this higher consciousness takes the form of pure love of God (Krishna). The mantra is contained in the texts of Hinduism known as the Upanishads, which are considered by some scholars to have roots in the Vedic past.


The Hare Krishna mantra is composed of Sanskrit names in the vocative case: Hare, Krishna, and Rama (in Anglicized spelling, the transliteration of the three vocatives is , and ; roughly pronounced 'hɐre:, ['kɹ̩ʂɳɐ], ['ra:mɐ], see Sanskrit for pronunciation details):

In the hymn Vishnu Sahasranama spoken by Bhishma in praise of Krishna after the Kurukshetra war, he is also called Rama. "Hare" can be interpreted as either the vocative of Hari, another name of Vishnu meaning "he who removes illusion", or as the vocative of Harā, a name of Rādhā, Krishna's eternal consort or Shakti. According to A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Harā refers to "the energy of God" while Krishna and Rama refer to God himself, meaning "He who is All-Attractive" and "He who is the Source of All Pleasure". Rama can also refer to Radha-Raman, another name of Krishna meaning beloved of Radha, or as a shortened form of Balarama, Krishna's first expansion.

The mantra is repeated, either out loud (kirtan), softly to oneself (japa), or internally within the mind. Srila Prabhupada describes the process of chanting the Maha Mantra as follows:


The mantra is first attested in the (Kali Santarana Upanishad), a Vaishnava Upanishad associated with the Krishna Yajurveda. In this Upanishad, Narada is instructed by Brahma (in the translation of K. N. Aiyar):

Narada asks to be told this name of Narayana, and Brahma replies:

The mantra was popularized by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu roughly around 1500 CE when he began his mission to spread this mantra publicly to 'every town and village' in the world, travelling throughout India, and especially within the areas of Bengal and Orissa. Some versions of the Kali Santarana Upanishad give the mantra with Hare Rama preceding Hare Krishna, and others with Hare Krishna preceding Hare Rama (as quoted above). The latter format is by far the more common within the Vaishnava traditions, within which it is a common belief that the mantra is equally potent when spoken in either order.

In the 1960s an elderly monk known as A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, on the order of his guru, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, brought the teachings of Sri Chaitanya from India and single-handedly took the responsibility of spreading them around the Western world. Beginning in New York, he encircled the globe fourteen times in the final eleven years of his life, thus making 'Hare Krishna' a well-known phrase in many parts of the world.

"Hare Krishna" movement

From a theological perspective, Hare Krishna devotees are classified as practitioners of Bhakti Yoga. They are also referred to as Gaudiya Vaishnavas because they follow a line of gurus descending from Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who appeared in Bengal (Gauda is an old name of Bengal). Vaishnavism comes under the general banner of being a Hindu religion.

In terms of general diet among Gaudiya Vaishnavas, onions, garlic, and mushrooms are also generally avoided due to their purportedly adverse effects on the consciousness of the eater.

The Hare Krishna Movement was the subject of a number of academic studies. Today it is accepted by the academics as "the most genuinely Hindu of all the many Indian movements in the West". Not only Hindus or brahmanas were instrumental in the early appearance and spread of Hare Krishna movement in the 16th century. Haridasa Thakura, for example, was born outside of Hindu tradition but is considered the most famous convert of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, apart from Rupa Goswami and Sanatana Goswami themselves, and the story of his heroism in the face of torture is told in Chaitanya Charitamrta, Antya lila.

Hippie culture

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Hare Krishnas became confused with the hippie subculture. The 1971 Hindi film Hare Rama, Hare Krishna, written and directed by Dev Anand, was shot with many real-life hippie extras. But in fact the genuine Hare Krishna followers were a far cry from hippies. Although Prabhupada was open to anyone, members had to follow the four regulative principles, one of which is "no intoxicants". Elevation and joy were to be derived from chanting God's holy names.

Popular culture

The Hare Krishna mantra appears in a number of famous songs, notably those of The Beatles, John Lennon, and George Harrison, and has been at the number-one spot in the UK singles charts on more than one occasion within songs such as My Sweet Lord. One song from 1969 by the Radha Krsna Temple, simply entitled Hare Krsna Mantra reached no. 17 in the UK music chart and appeared on the music show Top of the Pops. It also made the no.1 slot in both German and Czechoslovakian music charts. Less well-known but equally relevant to fans of pop music culture is the recording of Hare Krishna mantras by Nina Hagen.

Other scriptural references

The practice of chanting the Hare Krishna mantra is recommended in the Puranas, the Pañcaratra, and throughout Vaishnava literature in general. For example:



See also

External links


Hare Krishna organisations

Non Hare Krishna organisations



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