Hare Krishna (mantra)

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The Hare Krishna mantra, also referred to reverentially as the Maha Mantra ("Great Mantra"), is a 16 word Vaishnava mantra which first appeared in the Kali-Santarana Upanishad, and which from the 15th century rose to importance in the Bhakti movement following the teachings of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.

According to Gaudiya Vaishnava theology, one's original consciousness and goal of life is pure love of God (Krishna).[1] Since the 1960s, the mantra has been made well known outside of India by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and his International Society for Krishna Consciousness (commonly known as "the Hare Krishnas").[2]


The Hare Krishna mantra is composed of Sanskrit names in the singular vocative case: Hare, Krishna, and Rama (in Anglicized spelling). The (IAST) transliteration from the Devanagari (devanāgarī) script of the three vocatives is hare, kṛṣṇa and rāma, pronounced [ˈɦɐreː], [ˈkr̩ʂɳɐ] and [ˈraːmɐ]. It is a poetic stanza in anuṣṭubh meter (A quatrain of four lines (pāda) of eight syllables).

hare kṛṣṇa hare kṛṣṇa

kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa hare hare

hare rāma hare rāma

rāma rāma hare hare

"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,[3] a name of Rādhā,[4] 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".[5] Rama refers to Ramachandra Lord Ram which is one of the incarnations of Krishna.[6] In the hymn Vishnu Sahasranama spoken by Bhishma in praise of Krishna after the Kurukshetra War, Krishna is also called Rama.[7] Rama can also be a shortened form of Balarama, Krishna's first expansion.[8]

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

Krishna consciousness is not an artificial imposition on the mind; this consciousness is the original energy of the living entity. When we hear the transcendental vibration, this consciousness is revived ...[]... This chanting of 'Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare / Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare' is directly enacted from the spiritual platform, and thus this sound vibration surpasses all lower strata of consciousness - namely sensual, mental, and intellectual ...[]... As such anyone can take part in the chanting without any previous qualification.



The mantra is first attested in the kalisaṇṭāraṇopaniṣad (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):

Hearken to that which all Shrutis (the Vedas) keep secret and hidden, through which one may cross the Samsara (mundane existence) of Kali. He shakes off (the evil effects of) Kali through the mere uttering of the name of Lord Narayana, who is the primeval Purusha.

Narada asks to be told this name of Narayana, and Brahma replies[citation needed]:

Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare, Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare; These sixteen names are destructive of the evil effects of Kali. No better means than this is to be seen in all the Vedas.

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 Odisha.[10] Some versions of the Kali Santarana Upanishad give the mantra with Hare Rama preceding Hare Krishna(as quoted above), and others with Hare Krishna preceding Hare Rama. as in Navadvipa version of the manuscript. The latter format is by far the more common within the Vaishnava traditions.[11] It is a common belief that the mantra is equally potent when spoken in either order.[12]

A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, a devotee of Krishna in disciplic succession, on the order of his guru, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, brought the teachings of Sri Chaitanya from Bharat (India) and single-handedly took the responsibility of spreading them around the Western world. Beginning in New York 1965, 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.[13]

Hippie culture[edit]

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Hare Krishnas became confused with the hippie subculture. This was an erroneous association, as the ideals of these groups are quite different. Although Prabhupada was open to anyone becoming a member of the Hare Krishnas, they had to follow the four regulative principles, one of which is strict abstention from intoxicants, including marijuana.[14] Elevation and joy were to be derived from chanting God's holy names.

The hippie Broadway musical "Hair" has a song, "Hare Krishna" with the mantra in it, along with some additional lyrics.

The Hare Krishna Tree, an American Elm in Tompkins Square Park, New York City, under which Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada began the first recorded public chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra outside of India.[15]

Popular culture[edit]

The Hare Krishna mantra appears in a number of famous songs, notably those sung by The Beatles (in the lyrics of George Harrison and John Lennon), and has been at the number 1 spot in the UK singles charts on more than one occasion within songs such as Harrison's "My Sweet Lord". George put a Hare Krishna sticker on the back of the headstock of Eric Clapton's 1964 Gibson ES-335; the sticker also appears on Gibson's 2005 reproduction of the guitar.

The Radha Krsna Temple's recording "Hare Krishna Mantra" was released as a single on The Beatles' Apple label in 1969, and reached number 12 in the UK and appeared on the music show Top of the Pops. It also made the number 1 slot on both the German and Czechoslovakian music charts.

The mantra also appears in The Pretenders' Boots of Chinese Plastic.[16]

Less well-known but equally relevant to fans of pop music culture are recordings of the Hare Krishna mantra by The Fugs on their 1968 album Tenderness Junction (featuring poet Allen Ginsberg), by Nina Hagen, and by Hüsker Dü on their 1984 album Zen Arcade.[17]

Kula Shaker, Boy George, and members of The Rubettes have recorded music tracks about Krishna Consciousness.

At the 2008 and 2009 VMA Awards, the host, English comedian Russell Brand ended the ceremony by saying Hare Krishna, as he does at all his shows.

The Washington D.C. Production duo Thievery Corporation released a track on the 2008 album entitled, "Hare Krishna".

In The Muppet Movie a running gag entailed one character saying they were lost and the other saying "maybe you should try Hare Krishna."

In the Seinfeld episode The Subway, a patron in Monk's restaurant yells, "Hare Krishna! Hare Krishna!" when he sees George walk in wearing only a bedsheet. A similar scenario occurs in Scrubs when J.D. shaves his head in support for a chemo patient, and in the movie Stripes when John Candy's character leaves the army barber.

George Harrison uses sections of the mantra in the song My Sweet Lord on the Albums Concert for Bangladesh and all things must pass [18]

The Hare Krishnas are featured in the popular video game series Grand Theft Auto originally as pedestrians, and in later installments as a gang.

The band Shelter features themes and lyrics of Hare Krishna culture. Also in the Hip Hop genre, the band Govinda Sky has several songs about Krishna Consciousness.

In the film 'Osmosis Jones' (2001), Jones pushes past two cells in Franks stomach who are singing 'Hare Krishna' whilst playing a drum and jiggling a tambourine.

In episode nine, season five, of Mad Men, ("Christmas Waltz") Paul Kinsey reappears not as a bearded, pipe smoking copywriter, but as a follower of Hare Krishna.

While addressing Stanford graduates in 2005, Apple founder Steve Jobs mentions “…I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple.”

In Constantine movie Keanu Reeves is given a cup with image of Krishna on it.

Scriptural references[edit]

The practice of chanting the Hare Krishna mantra is recommended in the Puranas, the Pañcaratra, and throughout Vaishnava literature in general.[19] For example:

All the grievous sins are removed for one who worships Lord Sri Hari, the Lord of all lords, and chants the holy name, the Maha-mantra.

Padma Purana, 3.50.6

When the sixteen names and thirty-two syllables of the Hare Krishna mantra are loudly vibrated, Krishna dances on one's tongue

— Stava-mala-vidyabhusana-bhasya, Baladeva Vidyabhusana in Bhaktisiddhanta's Gaudiya Kanthahara 17:30

…[Anyone] can immediately become eligible to perform Vedic sacrifices if he once utters the holy name of the Supreme Personality of Godhead or chants about Him, hears about His pastimes, offers Him obeisances or even remembers Him.”

Srimad Bhagavatam, 3:33 6

Effects of Pure Chanting of Holy Names of Krishna[edit]

  • Freedom from sins: Srila Prabhupada stresses: The holy name is so spiritually potent that simply by chanting the holy name one can be freed from the reactions to all sinful activity.
  • Liberation from Karma: Karma is that which keeps us in this cycle of birth and death. Chanting Hare Krishna destroys the root of sinful desires, thus stops new karma from appearing, and old karma is gradually also destroyed
  • Transcendental knowledge: when one chants Hare Krishna, he also would know that he is not a material body, but an eternal spiritual soul: "aham brahman asmi": By chanting hare Krishna one knows Brahman, who is Krishna. And Brahman is also an Absolute Truth - to know Brahman, Krishna is the purpose of Vedanta-sutra. And Vedanta is the essence of all the Vedas. Vedas are eternal knowledge for all human beings, Vedic religion is sanatana-dharma, eternal religion of soul. So, by chanting Hare Krishna, even sentimentalist, who doesn't know the Vedic philosophy of devotional service, unknowingly (ajnata-sukriti) is practicing bona-fide authentic practice, which is a "forced meditation", unavailable to many Vedic scholars (impersonal jnanis: advaita and especially mayavada philosophers). Chanting Hare Krishna on regular basis (japa), everyday is already a fruit of all Vedic knowledge: "O Lord, O Krishna, You are the Supreme Personality of Godhead. I am not this body, but I am eternally Your servant. But I am temporary lost in this material world. Please, accept me back as You eternal servant". Krishna says that He is the source of all vedas (Vyasa is avatara of Krishna, as Srimad-Bhagavatam says). Only after many millions of lifetimes, a wise person understands that Krishna is the source of all sources, Absolute Truth and Supreme object of worship by all. Such a soul is very rare - among billions of people, some are civilized. But humans are just among 400 000 species of life who are in minority. To be born as human is a big responsibility. On Earth as human one can burn all karma and go back to Godhead (Goloka), or one is not responsible and remains in the ocean of birth and death, samsara, which means his souls goes up and down to higher planets like heaven, and goes to lower planets like hells. So there are also 8 000 000 other species of life in material world, but one who chants Hare Krishna properly is at least saved from degrading to lower species of life (animals, plants, insects, fishes), and is not going to hell. That is is the greatest fear, but one who chants Hare Krishna is saved from this biggest fear. So among many people, who are civilized, only some part are interested in Vedic culture. Among them many just use some Vedic mantras for some temporary material results - they are interested in artha (money), so they worship demigods like Ganesha. Others simply want to go to heavenly planets so they worship many other different demigods, but they again reborn in material world (though even among demigods), thus still suffer reincarnation. Others are tired of karma, so they are studying scriptures: Vedas, Vedanta, Puranas, Upanishads etc. But if they remain on level of Jnana, dry knowledge, they still cannot get out of material world. So only not a very big percent of people interested in Vedas are really practicing Yoga or meditation, which is spiritually deeper and higher than Jnana and Karma. Karma and Jnana are like "two ghosts" who are chasing the soul: one is working hard (karma), then renounces it (jnana, impersonal liberation), but that is not a positive spiritual practice. One should have transcendental attachment towards Supreme Soul or Vishnu, Paramatma. So yogis understand that and practice meditation on Supersoul. But Bhakti-yoga is even deeper spiritual practice than simple yoga-meditation of majority of people. Most people are not following properly rules and regulations of yoga - they do not follow precisely yama / niyama (but for Hare Krishna bhakta celibacy, brahmacharya is a must), they are not practicing Pranayama, but in Hare Krishna movement it happens automatically during chanting holy names, and it is not possible for majority of people to concentrate on Supersoul, God in heart or in their souls. So there are temples of Krishna, where one can concentrate on deity of Lord, and that is as good as Supersoul or Paramatma. In Satya-yuga the process was to meditate on Supersoul in heart, but in kali yuga one can meditate on God in temple or simply concentrate on God in form of His holy names: Hare, Krishna, Rama. God is non-different from His name: they are all transcendental and spiritual. When one chants Hare Krishna, Krishna dances on his tongue. So all this and other knowledge about soul and its relationship with God, one will know by personally practicing Hare Krishna, Krishna conscious philosophy.
  • Chanting Hare Krishna counteracts the sinful atmosphere of Kali-yuga, the present Age of Hypocrisy and Quarrel.
  • All other Vedic mantras are included in the chanting of Hare Krishna. So just by chanting this mantra, one gets the benefit of all others.
  • A person who chants Hare Krishna develops all good qualities.
  • By chanting Hare Krishna one can relish at every step the full nectar that’s the real thirst of the soul.
  • Peace of Mind. Krishna says in Gita (6.19): "As a lamp in a windless place does not waver, so the transcendentalist, whose mind is controlled, remains always steady in his meditation on the transcendent Self." So, a truly Kṛṣṇa conscious person, always absorbed in transcendence, in constant undisturbed meditation on his worshipable Lord, is as steady as a lamp in a windless place. Chanting Hare Krishna invokes spiritual peace - for chanter and for those around him.
  • Freedom from Reincarnation: Liberation from endless cycle/wheel of birth and death, known as samsara, is possible by freeing our consciousness from material desires. By chanting Hare Krishna, we revive the natural spiritual desires of the soul. Just as the nature of the body is to be attracted to sense gratification, the nature of the soul is to be attracted to God. Chanting awakens our original God consciousness and our desire to serve and associate with Him. By this change in consciousness, we can transcend the cycle of reincarnation.
  • When one chants Hare Krishna, Krishna Himself becomes pleased.
  • By chanting Hare Krishna one can return to Krishna’s world, the eternal abode of full happiness and knowledge.
  • Ultimate Benefit - Transcendental Devotional Service towards Supreme Personality of Godhead - Krishna, who is a friend to everyone
  • Liberation: There are 5 kinds of liberation (1 is impersonal, 4 are personal), and devotee may get liberation if he wants. Though he is not interested in impersonal liberation (liberation of advaita school of philosophy)
  • Brings happiness: Proper practice is bringing happiness: one sings and dances happily in transcendental ecstasy. Externally it looks same as material happiness. But if one goes and dances on disco and sing there some karmic/worldly songs, that is not devotional service to God. But singing and dancing for God in temple (sankirtana, bhajana, japa, yoga-meditation) is bringing transcendental peace and joy of future meeting with God after death. but devotee is happy even just seeing deity of Lord in temple, and so he is happy and not in hurry like fanatics do. Chanting Hare Krishna brings the highest states of ecstasy.
  • Chanting Hare Krishna brings relief from all miseries.

Why chant Hare Krishna[edit]

  • If one looks through all the Vedic scriptures, he’ll not find anything higher than the chanting of Hare Krishna. Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
  • When one chants Hare Krishna, he automatically develops knowledge and detachment.
  • Chanting Hare Krishna cleanses the heart of all illusions and misunderstandings.
  • By chanting Hare Krishna, one becomes free from all anxieties.
  • Chanting Hare Krishna brings to self-realization — and shows how to act as a self-realized soul.
  • It keeps one ever mindful of Krishna, the reservoir of pleasure.
  • There are no hard and fast rules for chanting. One can chant anywhere, any time, under any circumstances.
  • Srila Prabhupada (Shanktyavesha-avatara of Lord Nityananda) chanted Hare Krishna, and so did great souls in the past. So why not you?
  • It’s free. Chanting Hare Krishna never costs one money. The only price is faith and sincerity.
  • There are no previous qualifications needed for chanting Hare Krishna. Young or old, anyone can chant—from any race, any religion, or any country of the world. It is not so that soul has only to take birth only in India to get the highest initiation into Hare Krishna. Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati declared philosophical war against smarta brahmanas who were stopping Vedic culture from spreading world-wide.
  • Chanting Hare Krishna is easy. When the best way is also the easiest, why make life hard for yourself?
  • Chanting Hare Krishna frees from the reactions of all past karma. Chanting Krishna’s name even once, purely and sincerely, can free you from the reactions of more karma than you could possibly incur.
  • Even if one distributes ten million cows in charity during an eclipse of the sun, lives at the confluence of the Ganges and Yamuna for millions of years, or gives a mountain of gold in sacrifice to the brahmanas, he does not earn even one hundredth part of the merit derived from chanting Hare Krishna.
  • By chanting Krishna’s names, one will be transferred to the supreme planet, Krishnaloka, without a doubt.
  • Of the nine processes of devotional service, the most important is to always chant the holy name of the Lord. If one does so, avoiding the ten kinds of offenses, one very easily obtained the most valuable love of Godhead.
  • The chanting of the holy name of Krishna expands the blissful ocean of transcendental life. It gives a cooling effect to everyone.
  • Simply by chanting the holy name of Krishna – Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare – a devotee of the Lord can approach the supreme destination easily and happily, but this destination cannot be approached by any other process of religion.
  • Chanting is the most powerful way to become Krsna conscious. In fact, one cannot become fully Krsna conscious without chanting good quality rounds daily.
  • One Should know in perfect consciousness that human life is bestowed upon the conditioned soul to achieve spiritual success and the easiest possible procedure to attain this end is to chant the holy name of the Lord.
  • The Perfect spiritual practice for this age is to chant holy name with full conviction and to make others also chant the holy name of the Lord.
  • If one wants to achieve success at the end of his life, the process of remembering Krishna is essential. Therefore one should constantly/incessantly chant the Maha Mantra.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Caitanya Caritamrta Ml.20.340.
  2. ^ Religion Encyclopedia - Hare Krishna (ISKCON)
  3. ^ Meditations on the Hare Krishna Mahamantra "[Hare] = O Hari!...." & "Because she steals Krishna's mind and because she is the embodiment of Krishna's divine joy, Sri Radha is known as Hara. Hare is the vocative form of that name".
  4. ^ Rosen, S. (2006). Essential Hinduism. Praeger Publishers. ISBN 0-275-99006-0. P.4: It was preserved in the confidential sampradayas, or esoteric lineages, that were guardian to these truths from the beginning. p.244: In a more esoteric sense, the word "Hare" is a vocative form of "Hara," which refers to Mother Hara, or Sri Radha.
  5. ^ "The word Harā is a form of addressing the energy of the Lord, and the words Krishna and Rama (which mean "the highest pleasure eternal") are forms of addressing the Lord Himself." - A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. See Krishna.com article.
  6. ^ Gaudiya.com - Practice "Rama is another name for Him [Krishna], meaning the one who brings delight to Radha".
  7. ^ T. V. Gopal (2000). Hrishikesa: Krishna - A Natural Evolution. Parkland, Fla: Universal Publishers. p. 101. ISBN 1-58112-732-4. 
  8. ^ Chaitanya Charitamrita Adi-5.132 "if someone says that the "Rama" in "Hare Rama" is Lord Ramacandra and someone else says that the "Rama" in "Hare Rama" is Sri Balarama, both are correct".
  9. ^ For the original text, see this Krishna.com article.
  10. ^ gaudiya.com.
  11. ^ Steven J. Rosen, Vaiṣṇavism: contemporary scholars discuss the Gauḍīya tradition ISBN 81-208-1235-2, p. 274.
  12. ^ No Water in the Desert Bombay, December 12, 1974: "Sometimes they first of all place "Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare." And sometimes they place "Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna..." There is no difference. Sometimes they say, "No, it should be Hare Rama first." Sometimes they..., "No, Hare Krsna." But that is not very important".
  13. ^ Biography of Srila Prabhupada.
  14. ^ Hare Krishnas and ISKCON "These physical pleasures, the eating of fish, meat or eggs, the use of intoxicants, illicit sex, and gambling and frivoulous sports, are called the four regulative principles. Because of the rejection of these pleasures, Krishnas practice a strict vegetarian lifestyle."
  15. ^ Hare Krishna Tree.
  16. ^ "Pretenders - Boots Of Chinese Plastic Lyrics". Metrolyrics.com. Retrieved 2009-11-01. 
  17. ^ Radha Krsna Temple.
  18. ^ http://www.metrolyrics.com/my-sweet-lord-lyrics-george-harrison.html
  19. ^ References to the Maha Mantra (pdf).


External links[edit]