Harernaam Articles
last updated 1st November 2007

Prabhupada's Sankirtana Manifesto
In ISKCON’s early years, Srila Prabhupada was eager to establish public sankirtana. In the statement below, he describes the activities of public sankirtana as chanting, dancing, playing of musical instruments, distributing the Back to Godhead magazine, and collecting donations. Tamala Krishna Gosvami describes the circumstances that precipitated this “Manifesto:” “The situation had become serious. Sankirtana was our life and soul, upon which we depended fully for our spiritual strength as well as economic support. I decided that the only thing left was to write to Srila Prabhupada and somehow request His Divine Grace's intervention. Perhaps if Srila Prabhupada, as the head of our religion, would write a document explaining the sankirtana movement, it would help the police to understand and thus give us back our rights. Prabhupada responded immediately to my request by sending a statement in defense of the sankirtana movement.”[1]

He sent the following from Ascot, England, October 1, 1969

Krishna Consciousness: The Sankirtana Movement

The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) is a bona fide religious society strictly following the principles described in the Vedic scriptures and practiced in India for thousands of years. Our basic beliefs are as follows:

1.  The Absolute Truth is contained in all the great scriptures of the world, the Bible, Koran, Torah, etc. However, the oldest known revealed Scriptures in existence are the Vedic literatures, most notably Bhagavad-gita, which is the literal record of God's actual words.

2. God, or Krishna, is eternal, all-knowing, omnipresent, all-powerful and all-attractive, the seed-giving father of man and all living entities. He is the sustaining energy of all life, nature and the cosmic situation.

3.  Man is actually not his body, but is eternal spirit soul, part and parcel of God, and therefore eternal.

4.  That all men are brothers can be practiced only when we realize God as our common father.

5.  All our actions should be performed as a sacrifice to the Supreme Lord: "... all that you do, all that you eat, all that you offer and give away, as well as all austerities that you may perform, should be done as an offering unto Me." (Bhagavad-gita As It Is, 9.27)

6.  The food that sustains us should always be offered to the Lord before eating. In this way He becomes the offering, and such eating purifies us.

7.  We can, by sincere cultivation of bona fide spiritual science, attain to the state of pure, unending blissful consciousness, free from anxiety, in this very lifetime.

8.  The recommended means to attain the mature stage of love of God in the present Age of Kali, or quarrel, is to chant the holy name of the Lord. The easiest method for most people is to chant the Hare Krishna mantra: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

Our basic mission is to propagate the sankirtana movement (chanting of the holy names of God) all around the world, as was recommended by the incarnation of the Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. People in this age are very reluctant to understand God consciousness because of their unfortunate condition of life. They work hard day and night simply for sense gratification. But the transcendental vibration of sankirtana will knock at the door of their hearts for spiritual awakening. Therefore, they should be given the sankirtana opportunity.

It is not recommended that a Krishna conscious devotee go into seclusion to chant and thereby gain salvation alone. Our duty and religious obligation is to go into the streets where the people in general can hear the chanting and see the dancing. This practical process has already saved many in America and Europe from the immoral practices of the age, and those saved have now dedicated their lives to the service of Krishna.

It is hoped that the government authorities will cooperate with sankirtana parties by enabling us to perform sankirtana on the streets. To do this it is necessary that we be able to chant the names of Krishna, dance, play the mridanga drum, request donations, sell our society's journal, and on occasion, sit down with the mridanga drum. As devotees of Lord Krishna, it is our duty to teach the people how to love God and worship Him in their daily lives. Such is the aim and destination of human life.

[signed] A.C. Bhaktivedanta Svami -- ISKCON Founder-Acarya

Sankirtana Revolution
 by Dayananda dasa

Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada and his guru, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura, were two of the greatest spiritual revolutionaries of modern times. Srila Sarasvati’s movement thrived after World War I in an environment of British political dominance. Just before the war, the British had transferred their capitol from Calcutta to Delhi, nearer to the old Mogul seat of power, and in the process, they constructed new and grand government buildings from the red sandstone used by the Moguls for their palaces and mosques. After tolerating more than a century of British domination many Indians had become deeply concerned with the growing effect of Western materialistic culture on their spiritual culture.  Both Hindus and Moslems wanted to push out the British.  In spite of the fact that the Moguls had occasionally persecuted Hindus and destroyed large temples, India’s spiritual leaders were increasingly concerned about the destructive influence of Western materialistic culture as a greater threat than the previous two hundred year rule of the Moguls. By 1922, Gandhi had become a hero among disaffected Indian youth.  In Bengal (Eastern India), many had become aroused by the British massacre of one thousand unarmed Indians in the Punjab three years earlier. In this climate of unrest, Prabhupada met his guru, Srila Sarasvati Thakura. In their first meeting, Prabhupada respectfully argued with his future spiritual master about the best way to overcome the destructive Western culture.  Prabhupada’s guru was a brilliant scholar and had the title, Saraswati, which is the name of the goddess of knowledge.  Srila Saraswati convinced Prabhupada that India needed to spread its indigenous spirituality in revolt of materialistic culture.  For the next fourteen years, Prabhupada learned from Srila Sarasvati how to counteract corrupt and apathetic Indian religious leaders who hadcompromised ancient spirituality in the face of Western culture.  Prabhupada gained the wisdom required to infiltrate and defeat Western materialistic culture as well as reestablish the spiritual culture of India.

Srila Saraswati, desiring to penetrate the heart of demonic Western culture, had sent some of his senior swamis to England in the mid-1930s.  Their success was limited, and the swamis could not sustain local interest and financial support.  Still, this was a bold move in the midst of the worldwide economic depression. During this time, Prabhupada continued to struggle in India, enduring the departure of his beloved Srila Saraswati Thakura and the resulting impotence of his once grand India-wide mission.  As India achieved independence from the British and their allies, the old Indian aristocracy, it also gradually abandoned its spiritual culture.  An independent India was reluctantly on the road to foreign-influenced materialistic culture.  Meanwhile, Srila Saraswati’s once revolutionary organization, now fractured into smaller groups, blended into the new socio-religious society, loosing most traces of Srila Sarasvati’s bold revolution.

In the 1950s, Prabhupada had retired and was living a deeply spiritual life in India’s most important place of pilgrimage, Krishna’s birthplace.  Concerned about the ineffectiveness of his guru’s movement, he strongly desired to reenergize the mission.  Thus, he decided to do so by entering the heart of the materialistic culture.  In 1965, after laboriously writing, editing, typing, and publishing three volumes of the Bhagavat Purana, he moved from Krishna’s birthplace to New York City, and brought two or three large trunks of the books with him. The Bhagvat, even loftier and more important than the popular Bhagavad Gita, was rare, if not impossible to find in English.  In his preface, Prabhupada wrote that the Bhagavat Purana is meant to bring about a spiritual revolution in a misdirected civilization and that one is sure to become a God-realized soul by going through its first nine parts.

In the short year that followed, Prabhupada met many disaffected young people in New York who were eager to become spiritual revolutionaries.  Some were angry, some frustrated, some irresponsible.  Yet many of these followers, disgusted with the status quo of materialistic American society and its bigoted and watered-down religions, were intelligent and resourceful. In this environment, Prabhupada began his Hare Krishna explosion.  He wrote, “The temple is a place not for eating and sleeping, but as a base from which we send out our soldiers to fight with maya.  Fight with maya means to drop thousand and millions of books into the lap of the conditioned souls. Just like during war time the bombs are raining from the sky like anything.”[1] Thus, he wisely orchestrated a war whose weapon of mass destruction was the powerful sword of knowledge.  At the same time, his movement was non-violent. He required his followers to be vegetarian, and when he learned that two men, not his followers, had blown up a slaughterhouse, he said that his purpose was not to bomb, but educate.  He commented that the same mentality is involved in blowing up a slaughterhouse as in meat eating itself.

Nevertheless, he boldly trained his disciples to become gurus who do not compromise on basic principles.  He explained that a guru must not fail to enforce the spiritual principles for the sake of gain or even false compassion.  He described the process of bhakti yoga, or devotional service, as so valuable and powerful that it transforms a person from a demon into a god.  Without principles, without standards, such a transformation cannot occur. In this way, Prabhupada’s revolution takes individual demons from the greater demonic society, transforms them into gods, demigods, and sends them back into society to provide a positive, yet provocative, influence. One of his great book distributors writes: “During Srila Prabhupada’s college days, he was actually a student with Subhas Chandra Bose, India’s mysterious but famous freedom fighter, who was to become the leader of the Indian National Army (Resistance Force who fought the British).  I could not help but think of Prabhupada as a greater revolutionary than Bose.  Although Bose was a freedom fighter who performed great works of liberation, Srila Prabhupada was destined to lead a spiritual revolution, giving real freedom from the cruel grip of birth and death.”[2]

One might wonder at the message that provoked such impassioned youthful participation. Indeed, Prabhupada often spoke in strong terms.  He told his disciples, “As soon as you have some attachment for anything material, it will kick you upon the face, deteriorate, and disappoint you.”[3] His lectures were often graphic.  He compared socially responsible people (karmis) to asses, that is, hard-working, yet stupid donkeys.  He explained that like the donkey, the materially responsible person is often satisfied with a hurried meal and troublesome sex life.  In spite of such a situation, the person is blissfully ignorant. He emphasized that people maintain their gilded cages, entrapped in them by maya, illusion.  He said, “Maya kicks on my face and forces me to do something.  Such is the power of maya.” In spite of his advanced age, he wasso spirited that he encouraged his young, inexperienced disciples to oppose the materialistic leaders:   He instructed, “Write vigorous articles to kick on the face of these rascals; all of you. You all write very strongly, vehemently.  Even [if] it is a little offensive, still these rascals should be taught a good lesson.  Yes.  They're misleading.”[4]

In this manner, Prabhupada conducted his assertive revolution that involved speaking, writing, advertising, and educating.  In the face of criticism, he was never defensive. He pushed his loyal, dedicated disciples to accomplish definitive goals.  He taught that his was a revolution of consciousness, yet he asked his followers to be accountable for their service to Krishna.  He required them to count the number of Hare Krishna mantras they recited daily.  He instructed them to be responsible for the hours they spent in active service, study, sleep, and consumption.  He asked disciples to offer a percentage of their income:  for single devotees this was 100%, and for married 50%. With such a dedicated, austere army of followers, he proceeded to influence the world.  During the first few years of his movement, he sent young followers in their twenties and with scant training to Europe, Australia, and Asia. Not all were immediately successful. Most endured hardships, poverty, opposition, and apathy. Soon Prabhupada orchestrated a new wave of centers in Central and South America, Africa and India.  His ardent followers sometimes got malaria, typhoid, hepatitis, and cholera.  Occasionally they were beaten and harassed.

By the mid-1970s, he asked his followers to go to the Middle East, East Europe, Russia, and China.  Those places had authoritarian governments and closed societies.  However, he pushed his Western disciples not merely to adopt a new behavior, mentality, or consciousness.  He pushed them to action, sacrifice, and austerity. For a decade, the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna sent hundreds of followers to Prabhupada, who simultaneously established a break-neck pace for himself.  Although approaching eighty, he traveled without stop, lecturing, marshalling, and writing.  His daily schedule was highly regulated and grueling.  He enjoyed that austerity, yet Dr. Srivastava, a Krishna devotee who had once met Prabhupada, observed, “I think he worked himself to death.” In an affluent society, people are easily lulled into apathy about spiritual life.  Prabhupada provoked, prodded, pushed, and sometimes tricked his followers into action. As soon as he managed to get a disciple to take responsibility, he would not let him or her stop; he continually raised his expectations, increasing accountability. At the same time, he inspired his followersby his own dedication and austerity.

He trained the gurus and leaders of his worldwide movement to provoke their followers and dependants to take great action.  He was confident that Krishna would supply each sincere follower with intelligence so that he or she might serve with his or her own personal genius. In that way, Prabhupada’s legacy was the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), an organization of cooperating, selfless geniuses. Those who look carefully can find problems with ISKCON; however, no other Indian spiritual organization is as widespread and effective. Moreover, the leadership and structural basis of ISKCON promise to keep it strong for a very long time. At the same time, the lessons of early ISKCON taught that by using a dedicated force of cooperating geniuses a small number could enlighten the world, lifting the burden of ignorance.  In order to direct such strike forces, tactics and plans of attack were essential.  In addition to operational tactics, Prabhupada’s overall strategies in his war on maya underwrote the effectiveness and inspiration of his broadly disbursed forces. His strategies were dharmic, based on the principles and duties established by his predecessor gurus. Thus, he established ISKCON based on spiritual dharma (parodharma). Aside from ISKCON, his most important strategy was widespread book distribution. Book distribution formed the core of his revolutionary activity. Without book distribution, ISKCON blends into the socio-religious environment, and becomes old and toothless. With renewed and bold book distribution, ISKCON retains its status as the seed of the spiritual revolution that Srila Sarasvati designed and Srila Prabhupada implemented.

Chanters Trade Sleep for Inspiration at New Vrindavan 24 Hour Kirtan Festival
By Vyenkata Bhatta Dasa on 4 Sep 2007

Rhythmic recitation of Sanskrit prayers and the ceremonial smashing of camphor-laden coconuts ­ a ritualistic metaphor for the chasing away of negative energy ­ inaugurated a festival dedicated to the congregational chanting of Hare Krishna at New Vrindaban, ISKCON’s rural community and retreat center in West Virginia, on Saturday, August 18. The festival, billed as New Vrindaban’s First Annual 24-hour Kirtan Festival, was organized by Gopal Dasa, a second-generation devotee and veteran of the famous Krishna Balarama Kirtan Mandali in Vrindavana, India. Hundreds of devotees and guests poured in to New Vrindavan from all over the United States, and in a few instances from around the world, to be part of the historic gathering.

“The holy name just goes so deep when you give Him the chance to,” opined festival participant Amul Sutaria, a college student from New Jersey. “We all came together to make a sacrifice for the weekend, to forget everything in the past and future and just focus on the holy name. Usually we don’t make so much sacrifice, but this weekend you could see people just go to sleep for like 2 or 3 hours and then get right back into the kirtan.”

The chanting began at 9:00 am on Saturday morning and continued, without interruption, until well after 10:00 am the next day. Various kirtan leaders took different shifts to head off the singing, relieving one another and offering an opportunity to catch up on some rest or, more often, join in the audience and follow along. Parties included the New York Kirtan Party, led by Ananta Govinda Dasa; the Washington D.C. Kirtan Party led by Gauravani Buchwald; and the Alachua Kirtan Party, led by Visvambara Sheth.
For many, the festival’s star attraction was special guest Madhava Dasa. Madhava has recently been gaining recognition as one of ISKCON’s most accomplished young kirtan singers, and has been flown in to lead the chanting at Hare Krishna festivals in Europe, the former Soviet Union, and India.

Notably, he was among the renowned chanters invited to lead kirtans during the installation of the massive Pancha Tattva deities in Mayaupur, India in 2004. At the New Vrindaban festival, Madhava led the chanting during several key shifts, drawing large crowds and enthusiastic responses.

Although the festival was not advertised as a “youth event,” the majority of those who took part in the kirtan were part of ISKCON’s second-generation. Festival organizers, while encouraged by the youth presence, felt that more needed to be done to communicate that the festival was meant for everyone ­ regardless of age, gender, or background.

“Devotees need to understand that this isn’t an exclsuive ‘kuli [devotee youth] thing’ or whatever,” said New York kirtan leader Ananta Govinda Dasa. “It was never meant to be that. This is for everyone who wants to experience kirtan.”

The Saturday evening kirtan, led by Madhava and supported by a host of mridanga drummers, flute players, and even an electric bass, saw the most participants; the expansive temple room was packed with more than two hundred devotees and weekend guests. The kirtan continued out of the temple building and on procession out to the nearby man-made lake, where a swan boat took deities of Radha Krishna for a moonlit outing.

Long after the faint of heart turned in to their beds, the more adventurous kirtaniyas continued the chanting at Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold, a memorial to Srila Prabhupada and one of New Vrindaban’s most popular attractions. Chanting parties from Washington, D.C. and New York shared the “graveyard shift” and members of the Pandava Sena, an international ISKCON youth group, filled the early morning slot.

Madhava led the final kirtan, with a growing crowd chanting the slow and heartfelt melody as 9:00 am came and passed. By the time he brought the kirtan to its moving climax, the devotees responded with cheers, applause, and ­ in more than a few cases ­ tears of joy.

“By the end of the weekend, people I didn’t really know when we started out had become like old friends to me,” Amul said. “It was like we were all united for one goal: to try our hardest to purely chant the holy names.”

The 24 Hour Kirtan Festival coincided with a meeting of the Spiritual Strategic Planning Team (SSPT), a think tank composed of some of ISKCON North America’s most active leaders and preachers. Although the SSPT members spent most of the weekend in meetings and team-building exercises, they also scheduled time to take part in the kirtan as a group, and several SSPT leaders divided their time (and hearts) between the meetings and the chanting.

For one young chanter, who asked to remain anonymous, the fact that the meetings were scheduled at the same time as the kirtan was not an encouraging sign.

“It just shows how they [the SSPT members] are totally out of touch,” he said. “They’re having all these meetings about how to spread Krishna consciousness, but the answer is staring them right in the face. Why don’t they just come here and chant?”

His friend, standing close by, disagreed. “I don’t think that that’s fair. You need both,” he said. “Without those meetings, we wouldn’t have an ISKCON to chant in. But without kirtan, there’d be nothing to have meetings about.”

Kirtana… the next big thing?

Thu, 30/08/2007 - 3:01pm — ekendra

By Deva Gaura Hari Dasa

When Srila Prabhupada sat down in Tompkins Square Park, New York in 1966, pulled out a small pair of hand cymbals, and began singing kirtana, nobody in the small crowd that gathered had heard this chanting before. It was a sublime, yet strange experience, as the listeners heard the exotic Sanskrit mantras for the first time.

Fast forward to the ‘70’s and ‘80’s, and the most likely place that you would expect to hear kirtana was on the sidewalks of the world’s big cities, where ISKCON centres would regularly pour forth devotees onto the streets to dance and chant in ecstasy, fulfilling the prediction of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu spoken some 500 years earlier, that the holy names of Krishna would be chanted in every town and village of the world.

Now, as we head further into the new millennium, an interesting phenomenon is taking place, and it seems as though that most ancient of religious practices ­ kirtana ­ is rapidly becoming the next big thing.

In yoga studios across the globe, rooms that had been presided over by silent concentration as practitioners focussed on the postures of hatha-yoga, with the occasional hush tones of ‘om’, are now resounding with the sound of Hare Krishna kirtana, and professional kirtaneers such as Krishna das and Jai Uttal are playing to packed houses in yoga centers across the globe.

While the Vedic scriptures recommend that the serious practitioner should exclusively hear the Holy Name vibrated by one who is a pure devotee of Lord Krishna, the Nama-Acharya Srila Haridas Thakur has explained that if one chants the Holy Name to refer to something other than the Lord, but without any obvious offense to the Name ­ as in the case of Ajamila who chanted the name or Narayana, even though he was using it to represent his son ­ one will experience the second stage of chanting, technically known as nama-abhasa or the clearing stage of chanting. This stage is characterized as giving an experience of liberation from the material pangs, thus giving a feeling of relief and bliss to the practitioner.

In a Time magazine article on the explosion of kirtana, those who attended the chanting reported that they felt relief from their stress, and a feeling of well being and peace from the external influences of their lives, just as Srila Haridas Thakur has described.

It is interesting to note, however, that these practitioners did not describe an awakening of devotion to the Supreme Lord Krishna, the actual object of many of the prayers that they are singing.

Srila Haridas has explained that to reach the third stage of chanting, suddha-nama, or pure chanting, the practitioner has to become completely freed from the ten offenses to the holy name (put link here to ten offenses page on iskcon.com), and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu has also explained that to achieve pure devotion for the Lord, one must first receive the seed of devotion from a pure devotee, or his representative.

Once a person has received this seed of devotion, they must become a gardener, carefully culitivating this seed of devotion, by watering it with the hearing and chanting of kirtana until it grows big and strong, and eventually bears the fruits of love of Godhead.

Thus the devotees of ISKCON continue to have a unique role to play in the evolution of ‘kirtana consciousness’ in the Western world. While the popular kirtaneers draw crowds with their polished musical kirtana presentations, devotees who have received the seed of devotion, in disciplic succession from Lord Caitanya, the predecessor acharyas, Srila Prabhupada, and the current spiritual masters, have the special ability to pass on this seed of devotion to sincere seekers of the real bhakti-rasa that is contained in the holy names of the Lord, when chanted in kirtana by His loving devotees.

ekendra's blog

The Long Range Effects of Harinama Sankirtana

by Kavicandra Swami, ISKCON Guru

I have a very interesting story of how Rupa Manjari devi dasi became a practicing Vaishnava. She graduated from her university with a degree in political science in spite of the fact that she had a serious drug problem. However, at one point, she had an accident that caused her to reflect seriously about her live, give up drugs, and renew her faith in God.

When I met her, although drug free, she was not living according to social norms--what we would have called a hippy in the 1970s. I asked her why she had chosen to major in political science since I found it incongruent with her lifestyle. She explained that she had wanted to serve humanity, but become became discouraged when faced with the daunting task of doing so. Therefore, she moved to the mountains, and tried to live a natural life. In order to maintain herself, she would go to the cities, and sing and dance in the streets to get donations. After a while, she felt that she was being selfish and started praying to God to help her to find meaning in life.As soon as she began praying, she met a harinama festival party and joined it. Now she is very serious about spiritual life, and uses her skills in singing and dancing for the service of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s sankirtana movement. In addition, she married the leader of the harinama festival party.

The amazing thing about this story is that it goes back to before she was born. In the early 1970’s her parents were studying in London and often witnessed the harinama sankirtan parties. When she was a small child, her father would take a cooking pot and spoon, and chant Hare Krishna to entertain his daughter. So, of course, with such a wonderful introduction to the maha-mantra, she joined the sankirtana movement as soon as she met the devotees. Her mother recently told her father, “look what you have done, you were singing Hare Krishna to her and now your daughter is a Hare Krishna.” Actually, her mother has become supportive of her daughter's involvement, and once when her parents visited Rupa Manjari’s home, her mother went to the altar and started ringing the bell--reminiscent of her husband's chanting long ago.

CC Madhya 7.83

Upon seeing the chanting and dancing of Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Lord Nityananda predicted that later there would be dancing and chanting in every village.


This prediction of Sri Nityananda Prabhu’s is applicable not only in India but also all over the world. That is now happening by His grace. The members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness are now travelling from one village to another in the Western countries and are even carrying the Deity with them. These devotees distribute various literatures all over the world. We hope that these devotees who are preaching the message of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu will very seriously follow strictly in His footsteps. If they follow the rules and regulations and chant sixteen rounds daily, their endeavor to preach the cult of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu will certainly be successful.

CC Madhya 7.98

Whoever heard Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu chant “Hari! Hari!” also chanted the holy name of Lord Hari and Krsna. In this way they all followed the Lord, very eager to see Him

CC Madhya 7.101

Each of these empowered persons would return to his own village, always chanting the holy name of Krsna and sometimes laughing, crying and dancing. Such an empowered person would request everyone and anyone — whomever he saw — to chant the holy name of Krsna. In this way all the villagers would also become devotees of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.


In order to become an empowered preacher, one must be favored by Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu or His devotee, the spiritual master. One must also request everyone to chant the maha-mantra. In this way, such a person can convert others to Vaisnavism, showing them how to become pure devotees of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

The Virtual Temple: You’ll never chant alone again

Chanting on sacred beads: our link with Krishna and the Vaishnavas

I’ve been having fun with our new online ‘virtual temple’ for members of the congregation here in Britain. Of course, being online anyone in the world can take advantage of it, but so far we’ve had our little virtual temple filled with devotees from various parts of the UK. For me it’s an exciting new forum, although I’m aware that technologically speaking, linking up various members of a forum online with voice and visuals has been available for some years.

Those who have a web camera can choose to participate by allowing themselves to be both seen and heard chanting japa during their morning meditation period. And other members can click to see them too. And that means you can see and hear everyone around the country chanting their rounds on their japa beads. It’s quite a sight for those who’ve never had the chance to chant in a temple during the early morning hours, and the sound, of course, is wonderful.

There’s nothing quite like the cacophony of Vaishnavas all chanting japa at the same time, in the same place. It’s different from a kirtan which is musical, when everyone chants in unison to the same melody. The sound of japa has been compared to the droning of bees in a hive, or the dawn chorus of many birds just before the sun rises.

Japa is the collective audible outpouring of sincere spiritual hearts struggling to make their spiritual union with the Supreme Soul, Krishna. Through the transformative power of the maha-mantra we rise above the flickering mind and attain the level of Vaikuntha, that place beyond all problems.

To begin the day with japa is the true spirit of carpe deum, as we truly ‘seize the day’ and offer it back to the Person to whom it belongs. Dedicating our mornings in this way means that we can see everything that happens that day in the light of the Absolute Truth.

And if japa was not enough there then comes the class. I have been giving classes alternately with my godbrother Tribhangananda Das. He has been speaking on the life of Narada Muni and I’ve been discussing the story of Sati, the wife of Lord Shiva, found in the fourth canto of the Srimad Bhagavatam. At first, I found it difficult to give a talk by speaking directly at the webcam. I am used to seeing the audience and feeding off their responses to what I’ve said. If they look bored I’ll tell a story; and if they nod in agreement with a point I’ve made I will know that they are appreciating what I’ve said. With a webcam there is no response at all, except that I can see if they leave the room. And they are all far too polite to do that ­ so far.

The discussions after class have been lively ­ members write their questions and I speak the answers - and I think that the novelty of having a live Bhagavatam class delivered straight to their home has interested some of our devotees sufficiently to attend regularly. The force behind this innovation, Antardwipa Das up in the Midlands town of Leicester, is delighted with the response so far. I think our greatest audience yet has been around 18 members, but now that out glitches have been dealt with and protocols established it looks all set to grow. Japa begins at 6.00 UK time and class is at 7.15. Welcome to the virtual temple.