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WHAT IS KRISHNA CONSCIOUSNESS?

By Ananta Sesa Dasa

The Vedic Times organisation follows the principles of Vaishanavism. Many supporters of the VTO are well versed in Krishna Consciousness; however, since the VTO welcomes every spiritual seeker, it seems appropriate to take a bit of time to discuss the history and philosophy of the movement.

History
Krishna Consciousness is our original spiritual understanding, which means that its history is actually as old as the universe. However, we will start the history a little more recently.

The Vedic culture (Veda means sacred knowledge) began in India over 5000 years ago. This culture is so named because of it’s spiritual and ritualistic adherence to the Vedas. The four Vedas (Rg-veda, Sama-veda, Atharva-veda, and Yajur-veda) were delivered to the people of India by Vyasadeva in order to make this most ancient wisdom available to all. The Vedas are very technical and difficult for the common person to understand, so other writings were brought into being as a way of bringing wisdom and truth to the less intelligent of society. These works were the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Contained within the Mahabharata is the Bhagavad-Gita, considered by many to be the Bible of the Hindus, but of course, it is really the Bible of humanity.

The Bhagavad-Gita tells the story of a conversation held between the great warrior, Arjuna, and Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personification of the Godhead. Taking the role of guru, or spiritual coach, Krishna carefully guides Arjuna towards spiritual awakening and full knowledge. This text is left as humanity’s instruction manual. Its teachings are simple and to the point, but sadly, human ego drove some to abandon the true message of Krishna Consciousness, and instead to manipulate it to serve their own sense gratification for power and wealth.

Because of this corruption, Lord Krishna entered the world. This time, he appeared as a devotee of Krishna called Lord Caitanya (1486-1534). Caitanya fought against the corruption caused by ego and initiated a spiritual awakening through the sankirtan movement. The sankirtan movement, which is the chanting of the holy names, is the simplest method of reviving our dormant Krishna Consciousness.

The teachings of Lord Caitanya have been passed down from guru to initiate for the last 500 years, which brings us to the founder of Krishna Consciousness in the West, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada (1896-1977). Shortly before his death in 1933, Prabhupada’s teacher, Bhaktisiddhanta Swami, instructed him to bring this ancient knowledge to the West. Prabhupada was finally able to make this a reality in 1965.

Swami Prabhupada arrived in New York in the fall of 1965 virtually penniless, but he was able to set up a small store front temple at the former Matchless Gifts giftshop on 2nd Street. From there he began to chant, give teachings from the Bhagavad-Gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam, and other important scriptures. Very slowly people started to notice, listen, and begin to follow the teachings from this spiritual coach. As the 60s moved on, and with the help of some prominent figures such as Allen Ginsberg and George Harrison, the movement grew in popularity and attracted many followers. (It attracted our own Gurudas in 1967).

During the final years of his life, Prabhupada travelled around the world 14 times and wrote over 50 books. He worked tirelessly to make Krishna Consciousness the world-wide movement that it is today.


Philosophy

The basic philosophy of Krishna Consciousness begins with the idea that we are not the physical bodies that we believe we are. Material conditioning has made us accept many falsehoods. Instead, we are spirit soul, which is part and parcel of Krishna.

In the beginning, humans existed in their original constitutional position, as the appendages of God. There was no sense of ego or desire to become anything more. We simply served the Lord and fulfilled His Divine Will. However, as time went on, a false ego developed within humans. This ego insisted that mankind was not just an appendage of God, but rather was its own person. With that mentality, desire for sense gratification developed and grew.

The created world had so many allurements, beauty, sex, wealth, power, entertainments, and so forth, that humanity forgot its true nature. As a result, we spent our time seeking these allurements and trying to find happiness within them. Of course, this is impossible. Any happiness found in this world is temporary, and when it is gone, it leaves a gap that brings misery. Suffering is the common state of existence for one who has forgotten one’s true nature.

True happiness can only be found in the eternal, which means letting go of all our temporary attachments and surrendering to Krishna. By doing so, we may return to our original constitutional positions as servitors of the Lord and find genuine happiness through that service. But how do we do this?

Lord Caitanya taught that the easiest method for reviving our dormant Krishna Consciousness, our love of Krishna and understanding of our true self, was through the chanting of the Holy Names of God. Within the Vedic traditions, the name of God, the image of God, or anything else associated with God is identical to God. So, when we chant the names of God, we are bringing Him into our presence.


The greatest desire of humanity is to see and know God. “I really want to see you Lord,” George Harrison sang in My Sweet Lord. There is a great deal of doubt and skepticism in this world about the existence of God, even from so-called believers. Like Doubting Thomas, they want proof, but it seems no proof is forthcoming. Another line from Harrison; however, says “it won’t take long my Lord”. This is acknowledgement that if one begins the process of chanting the Holy Names that one will quickly experience God and have the proof that is desired. One will soon be in the presence of God.

The Maha-Mantra
The chanting that Lord Caitanya spoke of is called the Maha-Mantra (the Great Mantra). It is comprised of three of the names of God: Hare, Krishna, and Rama.
Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna
Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare
Hare Rama, Hare Rama
Rama Rama, Hare Hare

Hare is the spiritual energy of God, and also represents the feminine aspect of the divine as Radha. Krishna, a name that implies universal attraction, is the Supreme Personification of the Godhead. Rama, who entered the world in human form, is the supreme enjoyer. It is through Him that we find true happiness. (Readers from a Christian background may find a strong similarity to the Trinity. Krishna would equate to God the Father, Rama to God the Son, and Hare as the Holy Spirit.)

Lord Caitanya taught that a devotee of Krishna should chant this mantra on a string of japa beads (similar to a rosary). The string contains 108 beads, and one chants the mantra once on each bead. After 108 times, one round of japa is completed. Caitanya advised that one should chant 64 rounds each day. In this way, the mind would constantly be focused upon Krishna to the exclusion of everything else. Recent spiritual guides, such as Srila Prabhupada, have lessened the number to 16 rounds per day due to the pressures and duties of modern life.

The key point is to ensure that one is constantly thinking of Krishna. The process of Bhakti-yoga requires that one offer devotional service to the Lord with love. So, one’s actions should be directed toward the service of the Lord and one should always be thinking of the Lord. In this way, one will remember and regain one’s original position as servitor of the Lord, and not be bothered by suffering from the illusions of the material world.

The ‘Vedic Times’ Retreat in Paraty ~ Brazil

Join us near the costal ‘historical monument’ town of Paraty, Rio de Janeiro State ~ Brazil

The Eco-Village and the Hotel Dharma Shala are in the mountainous jungle on the coast of Rio.

The Eco-Village has:
Many waterfalls in the mountains, near gorgeous preserved beaches; vegetable gardens, cows, exotic tropical birds, wild bananas, tropical fruit trees, fresh ‘ahimsa milk’ and a beautiful temple.

The Retreat offers:
Vegetarian and Vegan organic meals
Daily hikes to different waterfalls
Chanting & Asana Yoga classes
Ayurvedic teachings
Vegetarian & Vegan Cooking classes
Kirtan (spiritual music sessions)
‘Cinema and the Psyche’ workshop

Massages, one to one therapy with the Ayurveda, Natural Medicine Doctors and Counselors, day or half-day visits to the historic town and preserved beaches nearby can be arranged but are not included.

We will also have music and other performances during a bonfire on the last night.

HOSTING AND GIVING SEMINARS

ARADHANA DEVI DASI: Chanting Yoga ~ Mantra Meditation
MATTHEW JOSEPH MORREALE: Cinema and the Psyche workshop.  ‘Cinema and the Psyche’ is an exploring into the nature of cinema, the psyche and how they interrelate.
KIRTAN: (spiritual music) bhajan leaders from Brazil

Ana Lucia Alves (Aradhana dd) and Matt Morreale

ROOMS ~ SEMINARS ~ PRICES
Seven Days and Six Nights

For Prices, Packages and the booking form to secure your place, please contact us.

Many beautiful and spacious rooms

Package prices include all seminars and workshops, its certificates and all meals. Not included: Flights and pickup /drop off at the Rio de Janeiro International Airport.  Pick-ups with our Van (12 persons) cost $60 each way.

The Science of ‘Chanting Yoga’

Is ‘Chanting Yoga’ a science?
Can we trace the origin of chanting?
Do we need to understand what we are chanting?
Can the power of sound alter cellular and molecular structure – the DNA encoding etc.?
I don’t know how to sing or chant, does it really matter?
How much it will cost me?

Facts about ‘Chanting Yoga’

  • Thoughts are silent sounds.
  • Chanting Reduces Anxiety and Depression by balancing the nervous system.
  • Traditional Yoga, Ayurveda, and Sanskrit sources have demonstrated millennia ago the multidimensional effects of chanting yoga.
  • We become Compassionate to all living beings.
  • The effects of chanting boosts the immune system and can be rationally explained.

Chanting and heart health

There are a number of different “sciences” behind chanting. Some of these are the “hard” sciences such as physics and psycho-acoustics. In order to sustain its findings, such sciences require a deep rational thinking, which is just a small aspect of the vast intelligence. In contrast, the Spiritual sciences such as the different yogic practices that work with sound, are evaluated with a much subtler aspect of the intelligence.  Much has being written about this since yoga in its various modalities has moved to the west.

Recently, many doctors and scientist are becoming interested in the Chanting yoga phenomena. The following are just a few of the all increasing health professionals convinced of their therapeutic effects:

Dr. Herbert Benson states that chanting helps induce a “relaxation” response which causes reduction in heartbeat, brain waves and respiration.

Dr. David Shananoff-Khalsa believes that mantric recitation enables the tongue to stimulate the acupuncture meridians inside the roof of the mouth.

Dr. Ranjie Singe found that the chanting of specific mantras caused the release of hormone melatonin, and is investigating the importance of this in the healing process. So far, he has found that there are many benefits including shrinkage of tumors and enhanced sleep.

Can we trace the origin of chanting?

I have found that virtually every culture and tradition includes chanting and singing in their spiritual and health practices. Recitation of prayers is found worldwide and has been with us since the dawn of humankind. We find this common pattern in Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Islamic and many other cultures.  Whether it is a shamanic or pagan tradition, you will have some aspect of chanting that could be considered Sacred chanting in their rituals and prayers. Sometimes these chants are used to invoke Divine entities. Other times they are used for healing or to ask for some boon such as bringing rain. In my experience, chanting is most commonly used to bring the gross fulfillment of desires.

Do we need to understand what we are chanting?

Anyone who has cultivated the habit of chanting will realize that chanting gives a pleasure that transcends the senses and elevates one beyond the boundaries of time and space. Chanting delivers us from our sense of dependency on temporal enjoyments which are always fleeting and limited. Chanting will move one past this unfulfilling existence to one’s true nature and destination regardless of whether one knows the meaning of the chant or not. I once heard it said: “as music has charms to soothe a savage beast, so the spiritual sound of chanting soothes the restless mind.”

Can the power of sound alter cellular and molecular structure- the DNA encoding etc.?

A great deal of research has been done recently into the power of sound. As a result of this research, it was proven beyond a doubt that sound can alter molecular and cellular structure.

In the 1960’s, a medical doctor named Hans Jenny conducted experiments which showed that sound was able to actually create form in various substances such as sand, plastics, liquids, and water. He would place these substances on a steel plate and then using a crystal oscillator, vibrate these plates with sound. Quite astonishingly, the various substances took on the most organic looking shapes—they looked like microscopic organisms or underwater life. He called this work Cymatics.

A Japanese scientist, Masuru Emoto, demonstrated that water molecules are actually affected by sound and our intention. Intention concerns our thoughts and feelings.  Intention is the energy behind the sounds that we create. Mr. Emoto found that clean water looked like a snowflake, very geometric. Polluted water looks like mud. Mr. Emoto has taken photographs of polluted water, which at first look like mud. After a priest has chanted over this water, new photographs were taken again. This time, the water looks like a snowflake, the sound and intentionality has restored it to its natural harmonious shape.

The work of Fabian Maman, a French acupuncturist and sound healer, has taken Kirlian photographs of hemoglobin blood cells that were exposed to different sounds. In particular, he took photographs of blood cells exposed to an ascending chromatic scale created on a xylophone. Each note effected the cell differently, creating a different shape and different Kirlian color.

The information above represents a small sample of the work that has been done to demonstrate that cellular structure and energy are effected by sound.

 I don’t know how to sing or chant, does it really matter?

The good news is that one does not need to be a good singer or even know anything about music. Chanting is not about singing in the usual sense. It is not about memorizing complex lyrics. It works whether it is done alone or in a powerful group kirtan. It works whether it is done softly or in full voice, as long it is from the heart and with the belly. Although for enhanced effect, one can add eye-focus and a gentle hand mudra, and eventually you may wish to go to a singing classes, these simple steps can easily be included later. The key is to simply begin chanting.

How much it will cost me?

Here is more good news, chanting is absolutely free. All one need do is try and enjoy.  It won’t work if you don’t do it! All that is needed is some time and an open heart. The benefits of chanting cannot be established through reasoning and intellect. It can only be experienced through devotion, faith and constant repetition of the chanting.

Facts about chanting Yoga: “Thoughts are silent sounds”.

More and more people are aware that our thoughts reflect and affect our mood, our attitude and our general health. Our thoughts are silent sounds–a type of vibration. The more refined our thoughts, the more elevated our vibration.

The entire universe was built on sound (Word), which is nothing but vibration. By vibrating a certain combination of sounds, we tune in to different levels of our intelligence, specifically, consciousness. Thus, chanting mantras is a conscious method of controlling our moods, and in turn, our frequency and resultant all-around radiance, much like changing the channel on the television.

Chanting Reduces Anxiety and Depression by balancing the nervous system

By combining sound, breath and rhythm, Chanting Yoga channels the flow of energy through the mind-body circuit, adjusting the chemical composition of our internal states and regulating brain-hemisphere imbalances, contributing to a natural abatement of fear and despair–emotions that underlie both of these common afflictions. By balancing the nervous system, chanting regulates the chronic stress and tension that is the norm for many people in today’s hyper-stimulated lifestyle. By balancing the endocrine system, chanting normalizes hormone production, which balances our moods and overall sense of well-being.

Traditional Yoga, Ayurveda, and Sanskrit sources have demonstrated millennia ago the multidimensional effects of chanting:

During the practice of Chanting Yoga, the breathing (prana) cycle is altered to a greater or lesser extent depending upon the number of syllables and consonants of the particular mantra.  Through this process, one is able to influence the Subdoshas of Vata namely prana, udana, samana, vyana and apana. This in turn, will bring balance to oxygen-blood ratios, thereby improving the following: a) nutrients absorption; b) optimum function of organs of actions; c) general circulation including the blood flow, the lymphatic system and nerve impulses, and elimination via excretory organs.

Sound (akash), Breath (prana), and Matra (rhythm) combined with Dhyana (meditation) directs harmoniously the flow of energy (prana or Chi) through the (shrotas) body channels. This will adjust and balance Agni (metabolism) and homeostasis. As a result, the physiology known in Ayurveda as doshas (Vata), (Pitta) and (Kapha), the dhatus, and malas are functioning in harmony. Chanting helps one to deal with stressful factors and brings an overall sense of well-being and relaxation. This in turn, triggers a cascade of beneficial influences which aid our General Health (Swasta Vrita).

We become Compassionate to all living beings

Chanting transcendental mantras brings an understanding of ourselves as one and different from God (Sadhaka Pitta). It awakens our original nature and love within us. As George Harrison has said often in his Bhakti practice, this type of chanting is “a direct connection with God.” When our spiritual identity is awakened, we experience the unity and diversity of all life. Our capacity for compassion naturally grows, allowing our daily lives to be free of conditional mistakes such as blaming others, hate, jealousy, envy and pride. With the elimination of these negative concepts, all that remains is pure love.

The effects of chanting boost the immune system and can be rationally explained

Perhaps the key to rationally understand the power and effects of chanting on human physiology are the upper palate, the movement of the tip of the tongue and breath.

The Upper palate is at the base of the hypothalamus, which is the control center of the physical body. It regulates communication between the Doshas Vata and Pitta and its sub-doshas (the nervous system and the endocrine system). My own repetitive experience found that the hypothalamus controls the entire nervous system (Vata ).

The tongue taps certain points along the roof of the mouth, sending signals to the hypothalamus. These signals regulate the chemical activity streaming into all parts of the brain and body.

Breath adjusts all the rhythms of our body, such as the familiar circadian rhythms; but also the lesser known ultradian rhythms, which monitor the smaller-scale energy cycles that occur throughout the day. Due to our hectic life style our nervous systems are often overtaxed. These rhythms are thrown out of balance. However, through the art of chanting we begin to bring a state of balance. When breath and sound are working together, we realize the magnificence of Life and how God became sound. One will also realize also that words are only approaching the tip of even greater benefits!

Chanting and breath brings positive effects on the parasympathetic nervous system (the nervous system that tells us everything is ok). These effects are multiplied and the healing response is triggered, which translates into healing and stronger immunity.

Chanting and heart health

According to the Heart Math, chanting is known to promote general wellbeing, and it is great benefit for the cardiovascular system. One reason for this may be that singing demands a slower than normal respiration, which may in turn affect heart activity. Coupling of heart rate variability (HRV) to respiration is called Respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA). This coupling has a subjective, as well as a biologically soothing effect, and it is beneficial for cardiovascular function. RSA is seen to be more marked during slow-paced breathing and at lower respiration rates (0.1 Hz and below). In this study, we investigate how singing, which is a form of guided breathing, affects HRV and RSA.

Rhythm: Through repetition of the mantra, patterns of sound are inscribed onto the brain. The unconscious becomes the conscious. The automatic becomes the deliberate. The mindless becomes the heartfelt. The repetition frees us from our destination-fixation, that desire to rush to the end. The repetition is the whole point. Through repetition, the mantra washes over us, as the waves in the sea gradually get us wet.

Projection: When we chant from the navel point while articulating the mantra, we not only stimulate the upper palate, but we vibrate the central channel by which prana, or life force, flows. For millennia, yogis have referred to this as the shushumna.  This dual process is said to move us into the realm of anahat, or unconditional love.

So far everything looks great, but how long will it take to achieve this promises?

Everybody is unique, so how long it takes will depend the degree of dedication and determination over a period of months and years. Although we experience glimpses of the above mentioned benefits almost the same day, this taste will encourage us to go deeper into the chanting Yoga. In the guidelines below, you will be given an idea of what can be accomplished in a certain period of time. This will help you to set realistic goals.

Reprogramming our habits

“It takes 40 days to break a habit; 90 days to gain the new habit;

120 days and you are the new habit; 1,000 days and you are Master of it.”

Chanting from minutes to hours will bring the following benefits:

3 minutes affects the electromagnetic field, the circulation and stability of the blood.

7 minutes begins to shift brain patterns, and the magnetic field surrounding the body increases in strength.

11 minutes begins to change the nervous and glandular systems.

22 minutes sees the three minds (i.e., the negative, positive and neutral minds) come into balance and begin to work together; the subconscious mind begins to clear.

31 minutes allows the glands, breath, and concentration to affect all the cells and rhythms of the body. Endocrine secretions are completely balanced as is the ethereal energy of the chakra (junction points of physical and spiritual centers).

62 minutes changes the gray matter in the brain. It stimulates the frontal lobe of the brain, as well as the pituitary and pineal glands. You work through the physical body, the emotions and mental states, stimulating higher, more subtle aspects of the self. The subconscious “shadow mind” and its psychological projections become integrated.

2 1/2 hours changes the psyche in its co-relation with the surrounding magnetic field so that the subconscious mind is held firmly in the new pattern by the surrounding field. You totally remake your psyche. These changes persist throughout the day and are reflected by positive changes in mood and behavior.

Author:
Alfredo Llorente Marcos
(Chaitanya Swarup das)
Ayurveda & Meditation Therapy