Three Words that Changed History

Sound can change the world. Especially when the sound is from out of this world.

by Satyaraja dasa

We should never underestimate the power of words. A few properly chosen words, spoken or sung, can change history. La Marseillaise inflamed mobs during the French Revolution. Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address” inspired the Yankees to continue giving “the last full measure of devotion.” The Horst Wessel Song fueled the dictatorship of Nazi Germany. We Shall Overcome unified the civil rights movement. And the songs of Bob Dylan and the Beatles helped create an entire counterculture.

But all these words, powerful as they were, couldn’t solve the real problems of existence—repeated birth, old age, disease, and death. Time passed, the impact of these songs and pronouncements faded, people forgot. And the inexorable problems of life in the material world continued unabated.

To solve these problems we need to hear and vibrate words that are supra-mundane, words that can inspire us at the deepest spiritual level. Such words do exist, and they are described in ancient India’s Vedic literature as shabda-brahman, “the Absolute Truth in the form of words, or sound.”

For thousands of years the sacred texts of the Vedas have taught that one can extricate himself from the bonds of material life by hearing and chanting transcendental sounds. The common, unenlightened person is in a sleeplike state, oblivious of his real nature as a spiritual being and of his relationship to the Supreme Being. The Vedas say, “Wake up! Having attained the human form of life, achieve self-realization and break out of the bonds of repeated birth and death.”

According to the Vedic literatures, shabda-brahman can awaken us from our materialistic slumber. But this spiritual sound must be received from those adept at the process of bhakti-yoga, devotional service to the Supreme Lord. In other words, these sounds may be given to the common man, asleep to spiritual life, by one who is awake and fully cognizant of his spiritual nature. Such an initiator into the truths of spiritual sound is called a guru, or spiritual master.

The Vedic literature asserts that the nonpareil of all spiritual sounds is the Hare Krishna maha-mantra, the Great Chant for Deliverance—Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Chanting these sixteen words is the best way to awaken to our spiritual life. The word Krishna is a name of God meaning “the all-attractive one,” Rama means “the all-pleasing one,” and Hare is an invocation to Hara, Krishna’s internal spiritual energy. Thus the Hare Krishna mantra is a prayer to the Lord and His energy for the privilege of engaging in His service. If we regularly hear and chant this sound vibration, we will become pure, enlightened, and awake to our eternal life of bliss and knowledge in the service of the Lord.

Although anyone can start chanting Hare Krishna at any time and make definite spiritual progress, there is an art and science to chanting. Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Krishna Himself in the role of His own devotee, appeared in Bengal, India, five hundred years ago to teach that art and science. Lord Caitanya based His teachings on authoritative Vedic texts like Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam. He taught that the name of the Lord is His sound incarnation and that since the Lord is absolute there is no difference between His name and Him personally. Thus, by chanting the holy name of God, we can directly associate with Krishna through sound.

As we become adept at chanting and hearing the Hare Krishna mantra, we pass through three stages: the offensive stage, the clearing stage, and the perfected stage. In the offensive stage we still desire various kinds of sense pleasure, but we are struggling to become pure. In the second stage we clear off all material contamination and begin to taste the real nectar of the name. And in the perfected stage we attain the most coveted goal—pure love of God. Lord Caitanya taught that love of God is the highest goal of all living beings, the very essence of authentic spirituality. The mission of the Hare Krishna movement is to follow, realize, and propagate the teachings of Lord Caitanya.

The information in the Vedic literature about sound vibration and man’s relationship with God is extremely confidential. Nonetheless, by the mercy of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who first propagated the Hare Krishna mantra outside India, everyone can now enter into the mysteries of these divine truths simply by chanting the transcendental names of God—Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. These are truly the words that are changing history.