Monday, 10 October 2011

"I am speaking of the same God" - Srila Prabhupada

I have often been asked why I converted from Catholicism to Krishna Consciousness. My reply is always that I did not convert: I built on the faith I already had. My roots are in Christianity, and I cannot change that. I cannot change the fact that for the first twenty years of my life God appeared to me through Jesus; that my character and morals were moulded by Sisters of the Holy Cross and Benedictine monks; and that a Christian church to me is still a holy place where I intuitively feel at home.

Nonetheless, the question remains: what made me decide to become a devotee of Krishna? One major attraction was the chanting of the Holy Name. The simplicity of just chanting was irresistible. Devotees chant in two ways. One is by singing together, and the other is by private prayer. My first encounter with the singing was on television, when I watched the 73-year-old founder of the Hare Krishna Movement, Srila Prabhupada, being interviewed on Late Night Line-Up in 1969. Prabhupada explained to his interviewer that he had come to Britain to teach how to love God. His wise and kindly face and his sincere voice seemed to tell to me that he knew what he was talking about. 'And which God are you referring to - the same one as Christians worship?' asked the interviewer. I wondered what his answer would be. Could he be worshipping the same God as me?

'Yes, I am speaking of the same God,' replied Prabhupada. Hearing this, my interest deepened. I had always wanted to learn from someone of another religious tradition about their idea of God.

'And how do you teach that we should love God?'

'The easiest and most direct way is to chant His name,' Prabhupada replied, 'If you chant the name of God, you can not only love Him, but you can speak to Him face to face, just as I am speaking to you.' I was intrigued. He spoke with such conviction, but surely it couldn't be that simple.

Prabhupada got up and walked across to another part of the studio where six of his disciples were waiting with musical instruments. Together they sat in a circle on the studio floor. A rich harmony swelled up from the Indian harmonium and a stringed instrument called a tambura, accompanied by small cymbals and a clay drum. Then Prabhupada began to chant the Hare Krishna mantra, rhythmically, majestically, while the devotees chanted their response. Together they wove a mystical web of transcendental sound that seemed to stretch from the studio right across the country and into my heart.

The closing credits of the programme rolled down the screen and I prayed that the chanting wouldn't stop, not yet! But too soon it faded away and the screen went blank. From that day I never needed to be convinced of the simple truth that just by chanting the Holy Name it is possible to see God.

(Excerpt from Looking for the Dearest Friend by Ranchor Dasa)

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