First, let me tell you how happy I became when Purusa-sukta Prabhu informed me that you all have made this retreat a part of your bus tour.
You have all agreed to set aside part of your trip for the joint undertaking of “entering the inner kirtana.” I thank you very much for this.
We devotees have a good time in kirtana, and people are attracted to our good time. When the divine names sail out on the stream of a sweet melody, propelled by the driving beat of the drums and kartalas, when the exuberant devotees dance and jump in joy—well, I have seen the crowds in New York and Stockholm, Cape Town and Berlin draw near and wish that they could be so happy!
We call this joining together in joyful chanting not just “kirtana” but “sankirtana.” “Kirtana” means to praise or glorify Krishna, but this kirtana has something special added when it is prefixed with “san.”
You know what that prefix means: “san” expresses conjunction or union—so “sankirtana” means that the kirtana is conducted together, in union with others. We join together to glorify Krishna—and at the same time we also try to attract more people to join in with us.
This is the sankirtana movement as taught by Lord Caitanya. When Caitanya and his associates chanted and danced, it is said, they broke the locks on the storehouse of Krishna prema, looted the contents, and passed it out freely to everyone. They did not consider who was fit or unfit.
However, Mahaprabhu’s sankirtana movement has two sides: the outer is spreading of the chanting to everyone, everywhere. There is an inner side also, an esoteric side.
In their inner practice, Mahaprabhu and his associates entered into the Vrindavana pastimes of Krishna. They taught how, by the cultivation of the Holy Names, a devotee is lead gradually to follow in the footsteps of the eternal residents of Vraja and, by their mercy, come to know and appreciate Krishna through the same ecstatic emotions as the Vrajavasis themselves.
This inner cultivation of the Holy Name is also denoted by the word “sankirtana.” In addition to conjunction and union, the prefix “san” expresses thoroughness, intensity and completeness. As, for example, in the word “sanskrit.” So sankirtana means that the Holy Name is chanted in a way that is thorough, completed, full and perfect.
In the first verse of his instructions on sankirtana, Mahaprabhu tells us the benedictions that are bestowed on us when our sankirtana—our completed chanting—becomes victorious: our consciousness is cleansed of all dirt, the suffering of material life ends, our greatest, highest good fortune opens like the petals of a night-blooming lily under the rays of the moon, our consummate knowledge of Krishna is enlivened like a bride on her wedding night by her beloved bridegroom. Thus we become part of the ever-increasing ocean of the joy of the divine life and with each step we can taste the fullness of bliss, which bathes our entire being.
This is what Caitanya himself promises us. We can be confident in the truth of what he says.
Of course, we do not experience all these things at once. The divine names are all endowed with Krishna’s personal spiritual energies, but we have also to make ourselves receptive to those energies. Therefore, Mahaprabhu and his associates have given us a process for cultivating the Holy Name. By that process our sankirtana becomes victorious.
Entering into that process is the best thing we can do for ourselves and for all humanity, for the entire planet.
Therefore I am overjoyed that you are taking the time on this trip to take the inner journey into the Holy Name. I have found this journey to be a wonderful and amazing adventure, a miraculous adventure.
Everything is there is sixteen words, thirty-two syllables. As we cultivate those words and syllables, they will disclose all their secrets to us.
I wish you all the best in your great adventure.