One of the great saints of India was known as Gauranga. He was born in the eastern part of India, and he was a great scholar who also wrote a thesis on economics. He was a householder. Suddenly he developed intense love for God. He began to think that he was the wife and God was the husband. He renounced everything and embraced sannyasa. He used to sing the name day and night and thousands of people used to follow him. He was a devotee of Krishna. He said that when man’s mind is totally corrupted, and one does not find enough strength to control the mind, then all other forms of yoga do not really work. When your mind is tossed by desires and passions, then the devotion to God is not honest devotion. When you are fantasizing about the sensualities of life, and your mind is filled with cruelties, with terror, how can you really think about God and transcend the gross awareness of life? The easiest way then is to sing his name. Other than this there is no sadhana.
There are only three qualities that are required by a devotee to reach God. You should consider yourself and become humble like a blade of grass. You should be full of endurance, as much as you see in the tree which faces summer, winter, storms and everything. The third quality is of singing his name. If you have these three qualities, then you can have the vision of the divine.
Gauranga gave the mantra Hare Ram Hare Ram, Ram Ram Hare Hare, Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare. This name was sung by him throughout the country.
When I joined the ashram life in 1943 in Rishikesh, I was too young for that life especially with the temperament I had. I was the least devotional person. Of course, I had read a lot of books on eastern and western philosophy. The first daily duty that I was given in the ashram was something which I didn’t like. In 1943, a year before my arrival, Swami Sivananda, my guru, had made a resolution that in the ashram an unbroken kirtan of God’s name would be chanted for all time to come. Therefore, in one corner of the hall one swami or one person used to sit and chant Hare Rama Hare Krishna Hare Hare. After one hour, another person used to replace him. Thus the chanting used to continue for all the twenty-four hours.
It was a very difficult resolution, but it was that unbroken kirtan which became the nucleus of Swamiji’s mission. I was given the duty to sing one hour in the night. I had to sleep in the hall, wake up at any time, and sing that name which was too dry, too tasteless and too funny for me. Yet I used to do it. After some time, I had some experiences. I cannot say why those experiences came to me. While I was singing the name in the night, I was just chanting, without any life, without any prana in it. Suddenly I found that I was in the midst of wild animals. All those wild animals like wolves, tigers, hyenas were just coming to attack me and tear me apart. I was stricken with fear. That was the first time I experienced what fear is. Before I used to wonder what could fear be? I could walk through the wild forest with a rifle all through the whole night without any fear; I knew that I could face rifles and guns, but no fear. I never knew what that experience was. But in that dream I experienced fear.
I began to scream and did not know how to escape, at that time a very big elephant came to me. With his trunk, he just elevated me onto his back and the fear was no more. After sometime I found it was not me, it was Buddha who was sitting there. This was one wonderful dream, or vision that I had while I was singing the name. Like this many other visions followed. It was for this particular range of experience that I had been working for so many years.
I did practise pranayama, but that didn’t really work. Perhaps my brain, my constitution, my nature, my samskaras were very hard. What I could not achieve in so many years, I achieved by a sadhana in which I didn’t even have faith. Even though I did not like to do that kirtan job, I did it because it was giving me experiences after experiences and all that was fantastic and beautiful.
Swami Sivananda himself loved kirtan immensely. When he used to sing kirtan he used to start dancing. He used to just get completely inspired and totally transmuted. So even a sannyasin belonging to the highest order of Advaita Vedanta, the philosophy of jnana yoga, was just dancing like a fool. A person who represented the highest philosophy in Hindu religion, a person who was the preceptor, a scholar of the philosophy of pure monism, when I saw him dancing like a very ordinary man, I had to rethink about what I was thinking as right. I began to doubt about my rational approach to reality.
A little later I began to think that everything I had been thinking was only intellectual. All my knowledge came from what we call the upper layer of human existence, superficial not superior. It did not emerge from the depth of my existence. Then I gradually started getting into the mood of singing kirtan. Even today my approach to life is totally rational. I do not believe in the pantheon, that is in many gods. I don’t even believe in a personal god. I believe in a supreme total consciousness. That someone is sitting there and someone is sitting there, and someone is looking at me, it is all foolish for me. I don’t think that god exists as a judge of this man. I don’t even think that he hears our prayers. When I pray I hear, I know. I hypnotize myself, still with all this rational approach I am very affected by kirtan.
There used to be a time when I used to sing kirtan at any time. Later things developed in such a manner, that not only singing but music plays a very difficult part on my mind. It is very pleasant; it is more than pleasant. It is total bliss, but there comes a moment when my mind merges with the music and then I can’t bear it.
Many times I barely escaped from accidents. Even while travelling by a car or driving a car, it is not possible for me to hear any piece of music, I can completely lose the whole thing. When the Ramayana is sung or I hear any type of music, I have to withdraw myself completely to some particular way of thinking so that I don’t hear it. It is a very high dose for me and that is the reason why, even though I like to sing, I will not sing.
I know of one thing for certain. I will leave this body while singing. This has come to me very clearly. It is not the time for me to leave this body. So final point, I cannot sing. There is the mood and that inspiration comes from inside. When I sing, it will be difficult for all of you.
6 January 1982, Munger