On sitting down to write this column, I am suddenly struck by the question: “What if I were to die tomorrow and these were my last words—what would I say?” And a similar question: “What if the world were to end soon and this were my last column—what would be the most urgent and relevant message I could deliver?” If this were my final editorial, should I perhaps analyze the gasoline shortage? Criticize the advertising industry? Or should I devote my last lines to naming a favorite for president of the United States in 1980? Surely I should speak the most helpful and essential message I could possibly utter:
Please chant these names of God: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Now I can almost hear some of my readers responding, “Is that all you have to say—just that we recite the prayer of your religious sect?” So I must explain that the Hare Krsna chant is not a sectarian practice but a mantra, which delivers to the chanter life’s highest perfection. There are so many problems in the world today, and ultimately all come from our lack of God consciousness. Stopgap political, social, and economic measures are just that; they don’t reach the underlying disease. But if we chant God’s name and obey His laws, that will be a practical therapy for civilization in this era when God consciousness is neglected by the leaders of nations. Our leaders will attempt anything in the way of diplomacy or force to achieve their short-sighted materialistic ends, but they have no vision for actually solving the world’s problems. A solution is possible only through the education and unification of all people on the spiritual—and nonsectarian—platform of chanting God’s name and obeying His laws. Although our atheistic planmakers would have us think that turning to God is unrealistic or impractical, it’s not so. Even Napoleon, as worldly-minded a leader as he was, admitted, “The sword will always be conquered by the spirit.”
We don’t advertise it much, but in times of distress most of us, even avowed atheists, turn to God. A few years ago in Atlanta, when a Krsna devotee ran for mayor on a platform of God consciousness, the editor of a noted newspaper carped that chanting God’s names couldn’t solve man’s problems. Then one day it happened that the editor was kidnapped, locked into a car trunk, and held for ransom. When finally he had been freed and reporters asked him what he’d been thinking about during his confinement, he said, “I prayed to God.”
And this is natural. If a man at all believes in the Supreme Lord (and a Gallup poll says 94 percent of us do), then he will call upon Him at least in a crisis. But why wait until the last gasp? Sometimes a person near death prays to God to let him go on living for just a few more years … in defiance of God’s laws. But this is not God consciousness. A Hindi proverb says man prays to God in difficulty, but if he would only pray to God when he is well situated, then he wouldn’t fall into difficulty. Of course, in this material world we’re always in difficulty, whether during this present life or the next. But the Vedic literatures (for that matter, all the scriptures of the world) explain that in both this life and the next, we can solve our problems by becoming devotees of the Supreme Lord.
So all devotees, regardless of their particular religious faith, have to teach people about glorifying God and obeying His commandments. Granted, gross materialists may be absorbed in their material, patchwork solutions; but at least professed men of God have to teach the authorized principles of God consciousness. They should never abandon the simple method of pure devotional service to the Supreme. Yet they are doing exactly that.
Once I was invited to a symposium on a Dallas TV show. About thirty priests, ministers, rabbis, and monks spoke, successively, and almost uniformly about the glories of welfare work. I suggested that the highest kind of welfare work is to tell people about glorifying God and obeying His laws, and that spiritual leaders should urge people specifically to avoid killing, adultery, gambling, and intoxication. Once people start glorifying God and obeying His laws, they won’t be so much in need of ordinary, mundane welfare work. The Supreme Lord will more than provide for our necessities, if only we’ll recognize our relationship with Him. Even when people don’t strictly follow spiritual codes, still their spiritual leaders have to engage them in chanting God’s names. This is the essence of religion. One can choose to chant Hare Krsna or Allah or Jehovah; but calling upon God’s names is recommended in all the world’s scriptures.
The Vedic scriptures say that all of us are spiritual souls, originally God conscious entities; but due to our association with matter since time immemorial, our consciousness is now adulterated. And the Hare Krsna mantra is a sublime method for reviving our transcendental consciousness. We are living in illusion, trying to master nature, although actually we are under the grip of her stringent laws. By working to exploit the resources of nature, we have become more and more entangled in her complexities. Despite our hard struggle to conquer nature, we are ever more dependent on her. This illusory struggle against material nature can at once be stopped when we revive our eternal Krsna consciousness; and the Hare Krsna chant is the transcendental process for reviving this original, pure consciousness. By chanting the transcendental vibration, we cleanse our hearts of the false mentality “I am the lord of all I survey.”
Because Krsna consciousness is the original, natural energy of the living being, when we hear the transcendental vibration of Krsna’s names, our original consciousness is revived. Of all forms of religious meditation or study, chanting God’s name is both the simplest and most effective. Even in the beginning, we can feel transcendental ecstasy beyond the material concept of life. Calling on the names of God does not require that we change our religion or nationality or social status. Anyone can take it up, provided he is properly guided.
With proper guidance, we can live in accord with the proverb “simple living and high thinking,” satisfying our material needs without artificial industries and complicated urbanized life, saving time and energy for understanding our eternal relationship with God; and at the time of death we can return to the spiritual world.
So this is my message: Please chant Hare Krsna. I hope I’ll live quite a few more years to write more Krsna conscious messages. But even if not, I have delivered the most urgent message. We should always give the world our best, most helpful contribution, and we should live each day in the shelter of the Absolute Truth, as if it were our last day. So why wait for the deathbed or doomsday? Please chant these names of God:
Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.