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Sankirtana in the Bible

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by Hayagriva dasa Adhikari (ISKCON Calcutta)

In the Vaisnava (Krsna) literature of India there are innumerable scriptural injunctions encouraging sankirtana—the chanting and singing of the names of God as an efficacious means to attain God realization or as a glorious end in itself. Yet many Westerners, perhaps justifiably skeptical, might ask, “If sankirtana is so all-encompassing, so potent and effective, why isn’t it stressed in the Bible?”

Even a quick reading of the Bible will show that sankirtana was very much present indeed amongst the ancient Jews and early Christians and that it was certainly stressed by one of the Bible’s major figures—David. “But that’s not the sankirtana practiced by the Krsna consciousness movement,” one might object. “Moses and David certainly didn’t chant Hare Krsna, Hare Rama.” It would be difficult to prove that they did, and it is doubtless safe to assume that they didn’t, but sankirtana is not limited to the Hare Krsna mantra. In fact, Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the chief propagator of Hare Krsna chanting in this age, has written in His Siksastaka:

O my Lord, Your holy name alone can render all benediction to living beings, and thus You have hundreds and millions of names like Krsna, Govinda, etc. In these transcendental names You have invested all Your transcendental energies. There are not even hard and fast rules for chanting these names. O my Lord, out of kindness You enable us to easily approach You by Your holy names, but I am so unfortunate that I have no attraction for them. (Siksastaka, 2)

Any Name Of God

The principle of sankirtana, then, does not insist on the names Krsna and Rama. Theoretically any name for the Absolute Godhead will do. The point is, however, that in this age—which extends back 5,000 years—the chanting and singing of the names of God and God’s glories is the most certain way to spiritual emancipation. “Chant the names of God,” Lord Caitanya enjoins. ‘In this age of Kali [chaos] there is no other way, there is no other way at all.” The effect of chanting the holy names, Lord Caitanya further instructs, is that transcendental love of God is awakened in the soul.

Why chant the name Krsna in preference to others! Although other names are potentially as good, the name Krsna is the principal name because it is the name of the primal, original person. God is one, but His manifestations are infinite. One may light any number of candles from an original candle, yet the original candle still retains its original identity. There are countless expansions of God, but the adi-purusa, the primal person, is asserted in the Vedas to be Krsna (Govindam adi-purusam tam aham bhajami, Brahma-samhita). From Him appear countless expansions, incarnations, avataras, etc. In Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krsna asserts, “I am the source of everything; from Me the entire creation flows. Knowing this, the wise worship Me with all their hearts.” (Bhagavad-gita, 10.8) This claim is not made by anyone in the Bible, not even by Christ.

The word “Christ” is also connected to “Krsna” etymologically, for “Christ” is derived from the Greek word christos, meaning “anointed,” or “the anointed one,” a translation of the Hebrew word mashiah, Messiah. One of the principal signs of Krsna and His devotees is the tilaka or clay which anoints the forehead with a V sign.

Information Witheld

The Bible speaks of the Supreme as God, Jehovah and Christ, and the Vedic literatures—Bhagavad-gita, Brahma-samhita, Srimad-Bhagavatam—indicate Him personally to be Krsna, a word which means “all-attractive” in Sanskrit. (Rama means enjoyer, and Hare refers to the energy enjoyed.) The Bible is principally concerned with the laws given to the Jewish people by God, the Jews’ breaking of these laws and God’s subsequent punishments. Christ stressed forgiveness for those who are truly repentant and He supplied a new element—love or bhakti as a means to attain God. Throughout the Bible, however. God is described as “great,” “angry,” “terrible,” “greatly to be feared,” “almighty,” “the everlasting Father,” “Alpha and Omega,” etc., but nowhere is the all-attractive personality of God explained. Who is God? Just how great is He? What are His features? His opulences? His activities? Exactly what does His abode look like? What does He look like? What are His various manifestations? Specifically how does He create? How does He pervade His creation? What is the relationship of the individual with God? What is the individual’s role in the world, and how does it come about, and flow can the individual self transcend it? These and many other questions are neither raised nor answered in the Bible because ancient Judaic culture was not sufficiently advanced to absorb this information. Christ Himself told His disciples, “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.” (John, 16:12) In the Old Testament we hear God’s voice from the sky, but we do not see His face. He appears as a burning bush, a dove, a pillar of fire by night, a cloud by day, etc., but He does not appear as He is. Christ appeared as a devotee of God, but He does not reveal His Father to His disciples. With a voice on high the Father speaks of Christ as His beloved Son, but Christ Himself said,

Ye have neither heard this voice at any time, nor seen His shape…. Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father. (John, 5:37, 6:46)

Vedic literatures, which pre-date the Bible, were written in a highly advanced spiritual culture, and they specifically reveal God’s form, His features, His pastimes and His personality. Of course God’s attributes are infinite, and words can only hint at His glory, but the Vedas supply man’s mind with more information than he can accommodate to the point of enlightenment, at which time the Vedas are of no more use “than a pond when everywhere there is a flood.” (Bhagavad-gita, 2.46) At that stage man sees God or Krsna everywhere, but that realization is not to be imitated. The point is that the Vedas give a detailed explanation of God and His activities and indicate the Supreme Personality of Godhead to be Sri Krsna. Not only is Sri Krsna indicated to be God, but He is vividly physically described, and His personal activities are narrated.

Lord Krsna Himself sang Bhagavad-gita to Arjuna on the battlefield, and thus His instructions are known as the song (gita) of God (Bhagavan). In the Gita, Lord Krsna characterized the mahatmas or great souls in this way:

They are always engaged in chanting My glories. Endeavoring with great determination, offering homage unto Me, they worship Me with devotion. (Bhagavad-gita, 9.14)

The Bible is certainly peopled with many great souls—Moses, David, Paul—and none would have contradicted the essential validity of the sankirtana principle. This thesis is supported by innumerable passages in books by the prophets and the apostles.

The Books of Moses

After the children of Israel were saved, after they passed through the Red Sea and after the Pharaoh’s army drowned, Moses and his followers immediately began to sing praises to God.

Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the Lord, and spake, saying, I will sing unto the Lord, for He hath triumphed gloriously…. The Lord is my strength and song, and He is become my salvation: He is my God, and I will prepare Him an habitation; my father’s God, and I will exalt Him. (Exodus, 15:1-2)

In Deuteronomy, Moses, in his exhortation to the Jewish people after the deliverance of the ten commandments, set forth the basic tenets underlying the bhakti or devotional process which forms the very root of the sankirtana philosophy. Here Moses stresses the importance of service to God and the evocation of His name.

Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might…. Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God; Him shalt thou serve, and to Him shalt thou cleave, and swear by His name. He is thy praise, and He is thy God, that hath done for thee these great and terrible things, which thine eyes have seen. (Deuteronomy, 6:4-5, 10:20-21)

Knowledge of the greatness of God, Moses maintains, necessitates the devotee’s “publishing” His name and broadcasting His glories. In his second song, Moses says:

My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distill as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass: Because I will publish the name of the Lord: ascribe ye greatness unto our God. (Deuteronomy, 32:2-3)

As in Vaisnava philosophy, the name of God is integral with Him. Of course the Godhead, by His omnipresence, exists impersonally in all sound, and all sound has its being impersonally in Him, yet the names of God are identical with Him in a different way: they are sabda, or sound incarnations, and God is personally present in them. Thus the names of God are praised and evoked in the religious traditions of both East and West. (The English word “God,” for instance, stems from the Indo-European base ghawa- and the Sanskrit havate, meaning “to call out to, invoke,” the idea being that God is He to whom man calls out both in joy and distress.) Moses, the great lawgiver and father of the Jews, was not inaugurating a new tradition in advocating the verbal glorification of God but was working within the established context of Judaism.

The Book of Judges

After Deborah and Balak delivered Israel from Jabin and Sisera, they sang: “Hear, O ye kings; give ear, O ye princes; I, even I, will sing unto the Lord; I will sing praise to the Lord God of Israel.”

Samuel

Upon being delivered out of the hands of his enemy Saul, David, in his psalm of thanksgiving, sang: “Therefore I will give thanks unto Thee, O Lord, among the heathen, and I will sing praises unto Thy name.” (Samuel II, 22:50)

Chronicles

Of all the figures in the Bible, David is undoubtedly the most avid promulgator of sankirtana. David brought the ark of God—which was worshiped like the Vaisnava Deities—into Jerusalem, and, dressed in fine linen, danced before it.

Thus all lsrael brought up the ark of the covenant of the Lord with shouting, and with sound of the cornet, and with trumpets, and with cymbals, making a noise with psalteries and harps. (I. Chronicles, 15:28)

David appointed a number of Levites to attend the ark, as in India certain pujaris are assigned to attend the Deities.

And he [David] appointed certain of the Levites to minister before the ark of the Lord, and to record, and to thank and praise the Lord God of Israel: Asaph the chief, etc., and Jeiel with psalteries and with harps; but Asaph made a sound with cymbals; Benaiah also and Jahaziel the priests with trumpets continually before the ark of the covenant of God (I. Chronicles, 16:4-6)

David then informed the people of the process of worship before the ark. In essence, this is also the message of the Krsna consciousness movement: kirtana, or praise of God, by song, the glorification of His names, the relation of His pastimes, the search for His personal presence.

Then on that day David delivered first this psalm, to thank the Lord, into the hand of Asaph and his brethren. Give thanks unto the Lord, call upon His name, make known His deeds among the people. Sing unto Him, sing psalms unto Him, talk yet of all His wondrous works. Glory ye in His holy name; let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord. Seek the Lord and His strength, seek His face continually. (1. Chronicles, 16:7-11)

This message extends beyond the people of Jerusalem, just as Lord Caitanya’s message extends beyond India.

Sing unto the Lord, all the earth; shew forth from day to day His salvation. Declare His glory among the heathen; His marvellous works among all nations. For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised: He also is to be feared above all Gods. (1. Chronicles, 16:23-25)

In the Krsna temples of India, the Deities are glorified full time. Similarly, David appointed Heman and Jeduthun “with trumpets and cymbals for those that should make a sound, and with musical instruments of God” (Chronicles I., 16:42) to sing continually before the ark. Moreover, David chose 288 people, mainly youths, to chant with instruments in the temple.

All these were under the hands of their father [Heman’s fourteen sons and three daughters] for song in the house of the Lord, with cymbals, psalteries, and harps, for the service of the house of God, according to the king’s order to Asaph, Jeduthun, and Heman. So the number of them, with the brethren that were instructed in the songs of the Lord, even all that were cunning, was two hundred fourscore and eight. (Chronicles I., 25:6-7)

Solomon, David’s son, renowned for wisdom and riches, followed in his father’s footsteps in building a magnificent temple on Mount Moriah at Jerusalem, a temple which he overlaid with pure gold, and in seeing that chanters were also installed. It seemed that their kirtanas were lively indeed, being that they precipitated the descent of the glory of God.

Also the Levites which were the singers, all of them of Asaph, of Heman, of Jeduthun, with their sons and their brethren, being arrayed in white linen, having cymbals and psalteries and harps, stood at the east end of the altar, and with them an hundred and twenty priests sounding with trumpets:) It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the Lord; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised the Lord, saying, For He is God; for His mercy endureth for ever; that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the Lord; So that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of God. (11. Chronicles, 5: 12-14)

Jehoshaphat, who reigned over Judah, also followed in this tradition. It is notable that specific mention is made of the method of bowing and of praising the beauty of God and relying on His mercy, for these are also typical of Vaisnavism.

And Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground: and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell before the Lord, worshipping the Lord. And the Levites, of the children of the Kohathites, and of the children of the Korhites, stood up to praise the Lord God of Israel with a loud voice on high. And when he [Jehoshaphat] had consulted with the people, he appointed singers unto the Lord, and that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise the Lord: for His mercy endureth forever. (11. Chronicles, 20:18-21)

Hezekiah, David’s grandson, followed the path of David, not that of his idolatrous and blasphemous father Ahaz. He opened all the doors of the temples which his father had shut down. The ceremony that was conducted under his direction could be a description of a Vaisnava aratrika.

And he [Hezekiah] set the Levites in the house of the Lord with cymbals, with psalteries, and with harps, according to the commandment of David, and of Gad the king’s seer, and Nathan the prophet; for so was the commandment of the Lord by His prophets. And the Levites stood with the instruments of David, and the priest with the trumpets. And Hezekiah commanded to offer the burnt offering upon the altar. And when the burnt offering began, the song of the Lord began also with the trumpets, and with the instruments ordained by David King of Israel. And all the congregation worshipped, and the singers sang, and the trumpeters sounded: and all this continued until the burnt offering was finished. And when they had made an end of offering, the king and all that were present with him bowed themselves, and worshipped. Moreover Hezekiah the king and the princes commanded the Levites to sing praise unto the Lord with the words of David, and of Asaph the seer. And they sang praises with gladness, and they bowed their heads and worshipped. (II. Chronicles, 29:25-30)

The Book of Ezra

Of those returning to Jerusalem from captivity in Babylon, there were “among them two hundred singing men and singing women.” (Ezra, 2:65) After they returned, the people gathered “as one man” in Jerusalem, where they began construction of a new temple and held sankirtana during the foundation ceremony.

And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, they set the priests in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites the songs of Asaph with cymbals, to praise the Lord, after the ordinance of David King of Israel. And they sang together by course in praising and giving thanks unto the Lord; because He is good, for His mercy endureth for ever toward Israel. And all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. (Ezra, 3:10-11)

The Psalms of David

Of all the books in the Bible, David’s Psalms place the greatest emphasis on kirtana. The Psalms make four important assertions. First, since man exists only by the mercy of God, man’s only recourse is to trust Him completely. “And they that know Thy name will put their trust in Thee: for Thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek Thee.” (Psalms, 9:10) Second, the names of God have great potency, and it is the duty or dharma of man to thank and praise Him.

Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of His holiness. (Psalms, 48:1;

It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto Thy name, O most high. (Psalms, 92:1)

Praise ye the Lord. Praise, O ye servants of the Lord, praise the name of the Lord. Blessed by the name of the Lord from this time forth and for evermore. From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same the Lord’s name is to be praised. (Psalms, 113:1-3)

Third, man derives great joy in praising Him.

Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints of His, and give thanks at the remembrance of His holiness. Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness: To the end that my glory may sing praise to Thee, and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks unto Thee forever. (Psalms, 30:4, 11-12)

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before His presence with singing. (Psalms, 100:1-2)

I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. My meditation of Him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the Lord. (Psalms,104: 33-34)

Praise ye the Lord: for it is good to sing praises unto our God; for it is pleasant; and praise is comely. (Psalms, 147:1)

Fourth, all nations and indeed the entire creation will eventually praise Him, and thus the chanting of the names of God will constitute, as Lord Caitanya prophesied, the world religion.

All nations whom Thou hast made shall come and worship before Thee, O Lord; and shall glorify Thy name. (Psalms, 86:9)

Praise ye the Lord. Praise ye the Lord from the heavens: praise Him in the heights. Praise ye Him, all His angels: praise Him, all His hosts. Praise ye Him, sun and moon: praise Him, all ye stars of light. Praise Him, ye heavens of heavens, and ye waters that be above the heavens. Let them praise the name of the Lord: for He commanded, and they were created. (Psalms, 148: 1-5

David also enjoined that the chanting of the holy names be—as in India—accompanied by a number of instruments and by hand clapping.

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth: make a loud noise and rejoice, and sing praise. Sing unto the Lord with the harp, and the voice of a psalm. With trumpets and sound of cornet make a joyful noise before the Lord, the King…. O clap your hands, all ye people; shout unto God with the voice of truimph. (Psalms,98:4-6, 47:1)

Nor are the chants to be mere vain repetitions or caterwauling noise-fests: “Sing ye praises with understanding,” (Psalms, 47: 7) David instructs. Man cannot take God’s kingdom by storm, for God is not mundane and cannot be approached by fanaticism or human mental speculation. His abode is above the heavens, and the easiest approach to Him is through praise fixed firmly in knowledge.

My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise. Awake up, my glory; awake, psaltery and harp: I myself will awake early. I will praise Thee, O Lord, among the people: I will sing unto Thee among the nations. For Thy mercy is great unto the heavens, and Thy truth unto the coulds. Be Thou exalted, O God, above the heavens: let Thy glory be above all the earth. (Psalms, 57:7-11)

Chanting the holy names and recounting the great deeds of God are important factors in man’s search for Him.

O give thanks unto the Lord; call upon His name: make known His deeds among the people. Sing unto Him, sing psalms unto Him: talk ye of all His wondrous works. Glory ye in His holy name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord. Seek the Lord, and His strength: seek His face evermore. (Psalms,105:1-4

David also maintained that one should praise God throughout life.

Praise the Lord, O my soul. While I live I will praise the Lord: I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being. (Psalms, 146:1)

David’s last five psalms (146-150) are in themselves musical exhortations urging not only man but all living creatures to praise God. In their lyrical insistence (insistence it is, not repetition) they stylistically approach a mantra form. For example, the last psalm:

Praise ye the Lord. Praise God in His sanctuary: praise Him in the firmament of His power. Praise Him for His mighty acts: praise Him according to His excellent greatness. Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet: praise Him with the psaltery and harp. Praise Him with the timbrel and dance: praise Him with stringed instruments and organs. Praise Him upon the loud cymbals: praise Him upon the high sounding cymbals. Let every thing that breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord. (Psalms, 150:1-6)

The Psalms of David are both lyrical and devotional. Christ’s last words on the cross (“My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me!”) are the beginning of the 22nd Psalm. Far from being a cry of despair, this psalm, which Christ was not able to quote in full, asserts: “I will declare Thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise Thee.” (Psalms, 22:22)

Thus the Psalms bridge the Judaic and Christian traditions and establish the sankirtana principle in the West more strongly than any other book in the Bible.

The Book of Isaiah

Isaiah, who foresaw the Lord’s deliverance of the Jewish people from Assyria, Egypt and other places, prophesied:

And in that day shall ye say, Praise the Lord, call upon His name, declare His doings among the people, make mention that His name is exalted. Sing unto the Lord: for He hath done excellent things: this is known in all the earth. (Isaiah, 12:4-5)

Also in relating the Lord’s future mighty deeds, Isaiah reports God as instructing Jacob and Israel in this way:

Sing unto the Lord a new song, and His praise from the end of the earth, ye that go down to the sea, and all that is therein: the isles, and the inhabitants thereof. Let the wilderness and the cities thereof lift up their voice, the villages that Kedar doth inhabit: let the inhabitants of the rock sing, let them shout from the top of the mountains. Let them give glory unto the Lord, and declare His praise in the islands. (Isaiah, 42: 10-12)

In speaking further to Jacob and his people, God coaxes the entire creation, including inanimate objects, to sing His praise:

Sing O ye heavens; for the Lord hath done it: shout, ye lower parts of the earth: break forth into singing, ye mountains, O forest, and every tree therein: for the Lord hath redeemed Jacob, and glorified Himself in Israel. Sing, O heavens: and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains for the Lord hath comforted His people, and will have mercy upon His afflicted. (lsaiah, 44:23, 49:13)

The New Testament

Lord Jesus Christ taught His disciples to go forth and preach among all men that “The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.” (Luke, 10:9) Such preaching is also kirtana: whether one says, “Repent, the kingdom of God is at hand” or chants Hare Krsna, the message is essentially the same, for the Godhead is verbally proclaimed amongst men. When asked when the kingdom of God was coming, Christ taught that God is attained not by the mental speculative method nor by investigation of external phenomena but by spontaneous love arising from within the individual himself.

And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or lo there! For, behold, the kingdom of God is within you. (Luke, 17:20-21)

Thus God and His kingdom are most quickly attained when one’s yearning is strong, when bhakti arises in the soul.

There is also stress on the holy names in the New Testament, for Christ warns His disciples: “And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” (Mark, 13:13) Christ also emphasized the potency of the holy names: “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew, 18:20)

In one of the most intensely mystical passages in St. John’s Gospel, when Christ prays to His Father the night before the crucifixion, He asserts that the name of God is a unifying force, that He (Christ) Himself manifested the name to His disciples and that it will be God’s name that will keep them as one. Christ prayed:

I have glorified Thee on the earth: I have finished the work which Thou gavest me to do. I have manifested Thy name unto the men which Thou gavest me out of the world: Thine they were, and Thou gavest them me; and they have kept Thy word. And now I am no more in the world, and I come to Thee. Holy Father, keep through Thine own name those whom Thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Thy name: those that Thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled. (John, 17:4, 6, 11-12)

Christ’s disciples continued in this tradition. After being beaten and thrown in jail and shackled in Philippi in Macedonia, Paul and Silas chanted praises to God: “And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.” (Acts, 16:25) It was also St. Paul who wrote the Romans:

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. And again, Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles: and laud him, all ye people. (Romans, 10:13, 15:6, 11)

Again, St. Paul emphasized the potency of the Lord’s name in an epistle to the Philippians:

Wherefor God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice. (Philippians, 2:9-11, 4:4)

St. Paul also wrote the Thessalonians and Hebrews similar instructions (II Thessalonians, 1:12. Hebrews, 2:12). Similarly, the apostle James in an epistle used skillful means to get the people to chant: “Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.” (James, 5:13)

In his apocalyptic Revelations, St. John describes a vision of universal destruction and salvation which resembles, in magnitude, Lord Krsna’s display of His universal form in the Eleventh Chapter of Bhagavad-gita. St. John, in his vision, sees the Lamb (Christ) glorified amongst thousands of devotees who have God’s names written on their foreheads (a Vaisnava custom). The devotees stand on a sea of glass and fire, a sea of cosmic destruction, and chant the names of God. Again it is proclaimed that all peoples will worship the Almighty God and glorify His name.

And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the Mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father’s name written in their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder; and as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth. And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God. And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are Thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are Thy ways, Thou king of saints. Who shall not fear Thee, O Lord, and glorify Thy name? For Thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before Thee; for Thy judgments are made manifest. (Revelations, 14:1-3, 15:2-4)

Thus from Moses to Revelations—the garmut of the Bible—sankirtana is a prominent factor. The message is essentially one throughout the Bible and Caitanya (Vaisnava) philosophy: man only meets with frustration when he tries to assault the kingdom of God physically or intellectually. The Supreme Godhead is above man—is above, in fact, the heavens—and man is subordinate as an organ of the body is subordinate to the entire body. In the spiritual hierarchy that culminates with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, man’s role is established as an organ of praise, and it is in praise of God that man is elevated to the spiritual platform. Actually this is not a unique role, for, as the Bible and Caitanya philosophy maintain, all creatures that breathe—and even entities that do not breathe—can join in universal acclamation of the Supreme Person. The total unity and harmony of that hymn comprise the great song of God.

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