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Sunday, October 04, 2009

The syntax of the tārak brahma nāma

Bhaktas in action in Sādhu Bābā's āśram

I recently received a copy of this discussion in Iskcon circles about whether the tārak brahma nāma (hare kṛṣṇa mantra) originally started with hare rāma or with hare kṛṣṇa. There is a hearsay that Mahāprabhu changed it because of objections by smārtas, that hare kṛṣṇa-first is only for Brahmins, but this seems to be untrue.

“The question is:

Originally the mahā-mantra was recited as follows:

hare rāma hare rāma rāma rāma hare hare

hare kṛṣṇa hare kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa hare hare

Thereafter it was changed to start as follows:

hare kṛṣṇa hare kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa hare hare

So when, why and who made this change?

Answer: What Makes You Think It Was Changed?

The person who has asked this question has been misinformed and has thus come to the misunderstanding that the mahā-mantra originally began with Hare Rāma and that someone has changed it to begin with Hare Kṛṣṇa. This is not a fact. He must have heard from those persons who are propagating this false idea that the mahā-mantra was originally in the following sequence:

hare rāma hare rāma rāma rāma hare hare
hare kṛṣṇa hare kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa hare hare

Those in this school of thought sometimes refer to the edition of the Kali-Santarana Upaniṣad published by Venkatesh Press, Mumbai, which states that this mahā-mantra begins with the words:

hare rāma hare rāma rāma rāma hare hare
followed by
hare kṛṣṇa hare kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa hare hare.

But earlier publications of the Kali-Santaraṇa Upaniṣad clearly state that the mahā-mantra begins with hare kṛṣṇa, and not with hare rāma. These earlier publications are still preserved in libraries in Calcutta and Jaipura. There are also many other authoritative Vedic texts which present the mahā-mantra beginning with hare kṛṣṇa. For the sake of brevity we will mention only a few of them here:

Ananta Saṁhitā:

hare kṛṣṇa hare kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa hare hare
hare rāma hare rāma rāma rāma hare hare
ṣoḍāṣaitāni nāmāni dvātriṁśad varna kāni hi
kalau yuge mahāmantrah sammato jīva tārane

hare kṛṣṇa hare kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa hare hare hare rāma hare rāma rāma rāma hare hare - This hari-nāma mahāmantra consists of sixteen names and thirty-two syllables. In Kali-yuga this mantra can deliver all jīvas.”

In the Brahma Yāmala, Lord Shiva states:

harim binā nāsti kincat pāpani-stārakam kalau
tasmāl-lokod-dhārāna-ārtham hari-nāma prakāsayet
sarvatra mucyate loko mahāpāpāt kalau yuge
hare-krsna pada dvandvam krsneti ca pada-dvayam
tathā hare-pada-dvandvam hare-rāma iti dvayam
tad-ante ca mahādevi- rāma rāma dvayam vadet
hare hare tato bru-yād harināma samud dharet
mahāmantram ca krsnasya sarva pāpa pranāsakam

“He Mahādevi! Look! In Kali-yuga there is no easier way to eradicate sins than by hari-nāma. It is therefore essential to propagate hari-nāma among the general populace. The people in Kali-yuga can be easily liberated from the greatest hell by performing sankīrtana of this mahā-mantra. To chant the mahā-mantra, first chant Hare Kṛṣṇa twice, then chant Kṛṣṇa twice, then Hare twice. After that, chant Hare Rāma twice, then Rāma twice and again Hare twice. One should chant, articulate and perform saṅkīrtana etc., of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s mahā-mantra, which destroys all sins.”

In the Rādhāhṛdya Khaṇḍa of the Brahmāṇḍa Purāṇa, Romaharṣana Suta prays to Śrī Vedavyāsa as follows:

yat tvayā kirtitam nātha hari-nāmeti sanjitam
mantram brahmāpadam siddhi karam

“He Vibho! He Prabhu! Please instruct me in the brahma svarūpa nāma mantra of Śrī Hari which is the bestower of all perfections.”

In reply, Śrī Vedavyāsa gives the following instruction:

grhanād yasya mantrasya dehi brahmāmayo bhavet
sadhyah pūtah surāpo ‘pi sarvāsiddhi-yuto bhavet
tad-aham te bhidhāsyāmi mahābhāgavato hamsi

hare kṛṣṇa hare kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa hare hare
hare rāma hare rāma rāma rāma hare hare

iti ṣoḍasakam nāmnām tri-kāla kalmaṣāpaham
nātah parataropāyah sarva vedeṣu vidhyate

“O my son, I will certainly instruct you in that mahā-mantra, the acceptance of which a person in the bodily conception of life can be liberated and even a drunkard can quickly become purified and attain all perfection. I will instruct you because you are a mahā-bhāgavata and a suitable candidate. Just see! The sixteen word mahā-mantra, hare kṛṣṇa hare kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa hare hare hare rāma hare rāma rāma rāma hare hare, can destroy the sins of the three worlds. The four Vedas do not mention a method for achieving liberation from material bondage superior to the chanting of this mahā-mantra.”

Ananta Samhitā also states:

hare kṛṣṇa hare kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa hare hare
hare rāma hare rāma rāma rāma hare hare

soḍasautāni nāmāni dvātrimṣad varnākāni hi
kalāu yuge mahāmantrah sammato jivā tārane
utsrājyaitan-mahāmantram ye tvanyat kalpitam padam
mahā-nāmeti gāyanti te ṣāstra-guru-lani-ghanah

“All śāstras agree that the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra, which is composed of sixteen names and thirty-two syllables, is the illustrious mantra to deliver the jīvas in Kali-yuga. Those who neglect this mahā-mantra and accept any other process, due to their own imagination or the imagination of others, are actually disobeying Guru and śāstra. If someone asks, ‘Why is this sixteen word Hare Kṛṣṇa-mantra the mahā-mantra' then the following answer is given.

‘Among all of Kṛṣṇa’s names’ no name other than Hari can easily take away sins, great misfortune and ignorance. No name other than Kṛṣṇa can deliver prema. And no name other than Rāma can bestow liberation.’ This is why the mahā-mantra is composed of these three primary names. Secondly, these sixteen names are an invocation. OṀ, svāhā, etc., are not required to make the mantra more potent. For this reason it is called the mahā-mantra.”


  1. This is a wonderful post Advaitadas, thanks for clearly laying out the real facts about the Mahamantra.

  2. Radhe

    I might be mistaken but is the picture the one I took?

    No good. I'll take better ones in January.

  3. Malati,
    Yes it is your pic. Indeed the contours are vague but that adds to the mystique. It was the only pic I could find of a kirtan in our ashram. Be looking forward to more and better kirtan pics next year.
    Radhe Radhe

  4. Advaitadasji thanks so much for putting this topic in order.

    May the dust of Sri Radha's feet keep pouring on you.

    Hari Saran Das

  5. Dear AdvaitadsJi, I couldn't find this texts in Brahmanda Purana (Venkatesvara Steam Press edition, External links on wiki page, Probably, there are various editions. Do you know where the quoted texts are taken from?
    Badrinarayan das