Obeisances to Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
& The Hare Krishna Maha Mantra
nama om vishnu-padaya
svamin iti namine
namas te sarasvate deve
hare krishna hare krishna
krishna krishna hare hare
hare rama hare rama
rama rama hare hare
I offer my respectful obeisances unto His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who is very dear to Lord Krishna, having taken shelter at His lotus feet.
Our respectful obeisances are unto you, O spiritual master, servant of Sarasvati Gosvami. You are kindly preaching the message of Lord Chaitanyadeva and delivering the Western countries, which are filled with impersonalism and voidism.
"Oh Lord Krishna, Oh energy of the Lord, please engage me in Your devotional service." (This is a simple call to the Lord and His energies. It should be chanted exactly like a small child crying for it's mother. The transcendental sound vibration of this mantra is the essence of all the Vedas and non-different from Lord Krishna personally. In the temples, this mantra is sung during some portion of almost all kirtanas.)
To me this prayer has come to have a very special & unique personal meaning. To share with you what this prayer does for my heart, first I must share the story of how it came to cross my path & the journey we have taken together.
It starts as many good stories do with LOVE. I can't speak for the young man, who had just left the monastery where he was a monk for 7 years prior to setting eyes on me. I can only speak for my own heart: It was love at first sight. I remember that first day at yoga class in India so clearly. I know that the practice of yoga is one of self exploration. Ultimately that self exploration leads to a realization of the greater self we are all part of. I could use the excuse that I was merely discovering me ~ in another form & finding love & fascination for this greater me. But, the truth is, I couldn't keep myself on my own mat, in my own practice. I was so curious, & charmed, & aware of this beautiful human doing yoga on the other side of the room. His name was Gaura.
Within a week we were discussing the rest of our lives like we had it all in our hands right then in that moment. I guess to be able to have the beautiful journey we had, we needed to put it all on the line, to be fully present in it, to give ourselves completely, & to learn the huge lessons we needed to share. He is the one who gave me the beautiful gift of introduction to this sacred prayer that has long since changed my life.
At first it was a mumble on his lips each time we ate. I would sit silently & try to pray also, but often my eyes would drift open to see the look of longing & devotion that crinkled his face, as he would pray over his food. Sometimes I would forget to pray all together, (I had never tried to pray for every single meal ~ I would just do it sometimes, if I felt inspired in the moment). I would look up & see his quick mumble & realize that I was chewing my 3rd bite, & feel a little bad. I would quickly swallow & shut my eyes with a squeeze & think of something really wonderful to make up for my mistake! It went on like this for a long time, as we danced through our own lives & the life we were sharing.
As our hearts & the life we were sharing intertwined on deeper levels, we found a rhythm to dance to. We had kirtan before every meal we would cook. We would bang on drums, & sing, & offer our food to krishna. We began to share our prayers. I told Gaura of my own prayers & he began to teach me his. Sometimes he would forget & begin mumbling quickly, & I would chastise him & tell him to wait for me, & share with me, & teach me! He would speak it & I would repeat it back. It went on like this for a while, as we talked about our children & what we would teach them about life & spirituality.
I remember the first time I heard some one else sing this beautiful chant. She sounded like an angel. She was a beautiful soul & a beautiful woman who was also following the path of bhakti - devotion, like us. We all gathered to lead a community kirtan. She began to sing this chant - informing the circle that this was her way to offer obeisances to her to her guru. She was a strong woman who was paving her own way through spirituality. She chose the path of bhakti, & she became involved in the Hare Krishna Movement. She spoke as though she didn't belong to one group, but simply felt most drawn to practice the path of bhakti. There were things she didn't agree with in the Hare Krishna Movement so she simply didn't follow those elements, she had her own path & choices. Yet, she felt comfort in praying side by side with other devoted souls of all types. I felt such a deep connection to this same approach towards life & spirituality. I was so inspired by meeting her & that voice & the power of this song. It moved me on a deeper level. I felt so happy that I was learning it.
8 months after our beautiful journey began, life pulled me off to the other side of the world. Everything changed. It was always meant to. Even though we were sure every moment together that it was destined forever. When we were thousands of miles apart, the threads began to pull apart too. Forever turned into now, now changed everything, & now ended for Gaura & I. It was an ugly way for it all to end. I love my rose colored glasses. When I am wearing them everything is just so wonderful, it never needs to go sour ~ or hurt ~ or be bad! But these past few years I have learned to take my glasses off & see & appreciate the world in all its genuine color, even with those sticky shades of gray that make the heart swell up all bruised. We stumbled apart, bruised hearts & delicious painful memories, & we each took the prayer with us along our way. That prayer became the children we once dreamed we would have someday. And I went on, my new found piece of devotion, my prayer, clinging to my heart for security.
All the things we said we wanted & didn't want swirled around in me like popcorn bouncing from one corner of my warm rounded soul to another. One such things was clarity, to be clean & not use any substances as crutch's. Part of me wanted to be like everyone else & just fill my glass with wine & be a couch potato for few weeks till the wound scabbed over. But, I just couldn't. I didn't want to go through this uncomfortable, heck excruciating, process, without my eyes open & clear to see & feel & learn from it all! And,all the while that little prayer begged for attention. I looked it up on the internet because the 2nd verse always got a little fuzzy half way through. During this time of withdrawal from Gaura, I made a witches brew of medicine from: fierce sobriety, praying, yoga, meditation, teaching, reading spiritual books, therapy, bubble baths, & seeing a reiki healer! All the ways one should care for a life challenge & a heart break, I did! Amazingly, positive pro-action towards learning life's lessons & healing, really did transform me.
Every meal I sang that chant. In the beginning I tried to also sing this jewish prayer for blessing food. But, for whatever reason the jewish prayer didn't stick, & the bhakti one did. I still value & appreciate my jewish heritige but my daily practice of spirituality is bhakti - devotion, & the ashtanga - 8 limbs of yoga. Bhakti has me saying this beautiful prayer any time I eat anything. I promise soon I will tell you what the prayer means to me, my own interpretation colored by my own hearts palate! Soon, soon, but first back to the journey that the prayer & I took together.
In June I took off across America on tour. Thus began the journey of the inspirational gypsy's. If you are reading this post then you have found this blog, & know all about us & the mission we have. For those of you who randomly found this blog post without any prior knowledge of me & the inspirational gypsy's, a quick synopsis:
We are Dana Cohen & Gabriella Coniglio…
two women embarking on a journey with the singular goal of sharing our gifts and spreading inspiration to as many souls as possible! As a side project we are devoting ourselves to the art of living the good life, all the while growing & expanding our own selves.
Click at the top of the page, on the home page to read more about who we are & our mission.
The journey we took in the summer of 2008 was amazing! We saw so many beautiful places, met so many beautiful people, & got every chance we could ever dream of to inspire others with our gifts! All throughout our journey the space in my life that the prayer lived within, grew & grew & grew. I remember in the beginning of the trip discussing the prayer in the car with Gabriella. She was hesitant to introduce the Hare Krishna Maha Mantra at the chanting circles & kirtans we planned to host. She was telling me how that particular chant had certain connotations with it that might turn-off some people. Because of the reputation the Hare Krishna's have from the 60's, she was afraid people might not be open to that particular chant, & admitted that she herself had a certain resistance to it when I would sing it. We had a long talk about what our intentions were, & I shared with her my deep appreciation for this particular prayer. There was no final decision at the end of the conversation. We both kind of trailed off, with the unspoken understanding that it would all unfold in the moments that it arose. We would sing this chant if it felt right, & not if it didn't.
At some point half way through the trip, after hearing me chant this prayer innumerable times, Gabriella admitted that it would sing through her head the whole time I would sing out loud each meal. She decided to open herself to joining me in my chanting before meals, & very quickly learned all of the words. Soon we began to harmonize the chant, & it started to sound even more beautiful!
One day in Sanfrancisco, CA I sang the prayer quietly before chomping down on a bagel at a local cafe. The place was small, so even though my voice was quiet, I guess people were able to hear me. One jolly, older man eating his bagel shined me this huge, sparkling, white smile, & thanked me for being unafraid to pray out loud in times like these. He was so happy that I had blessed my food, & asked if I blessed his too! I told him that I most certainly did, & we had one of those moments of beautiful connection that goes beyond the ordinary two strangers eating bagels side by side at a cafe!
One beautiful & inspiring place we discovered along our journey was a small sustainable organic farming community in northern California. We lived on this farm learning about cultivating & living off of the earth with love & respect of the natural world of plants & animals. We helped to build this community & we took part in an experiment in cooperative living. It was an amazing time! The very first time I sang my chant in the kitchen before eating a meal with the community, everyone began to hold hands & joined in at the end for the Hare Krishna part. I sang with eyes closed, & a HUGE smile taking over my face. I felt like crying & giggling. One of those amazing friends sang in an opera voice & bellowed from the depth of his belly! Another one, a gorgeous goddess with the most amazing voice, harmonized with Gabriella & I! From that day forward Gabriella almost always waited for me to chant with her before eating, & anyone close by would join along.
During our two & a half month stay on the farm many people came & went. This place was a hub for beautiful souls to pass through, enchant the place with their gifts, & then flow along in their journey elsewhere. So many things were beginning on this farm, so much building was happening, to get the place ready to be a functioning organic farm, wellness community, & healing center. Sometimes there were as few as 10 of us, & at one point we had 40 people all there at once. At some point during my stay, people asked me to write out the words of this prayer & tell them what it meant. I posted it in the community yurt where we ate most of our meals. I also thought long & hard about what the prayer meant to me, & shared that beautiful meaning with the community. Soon, soon I will share that meaning with you, just a little more of this story to tell first.
One day I walked out of the kitchen with my food, & was surprised by all 40 people singing my chant, with loving smiles on their faces! They were so proud to show me that most of them had memorized the whole thing. This had become our ritual, not my ritual, & the power of one voice & one prayer became clear to me. I realized then that with pure intention, one can change the world. Not the intention to change the world, just the intention to be one's self & the courage to sing one's own prayers out loud (even quietly), but also the strength to share one's self. This inspires people, this teaches people. What a lesson for a teacher to learn: to simply live with intention for personal greatness & evolution, & to just be authentic, & to fearlessly share without any expectation!
The prayer has made a permanent home within my heart. Our journey is still growing & continuing. Just the other day I giggled with my mom as I sang the prayer & she sang her usual part: joining in with the Hare Krishna part, plus her own little addition of Amen to the same tune at the end!
I sing this prayer as a way to be present & to be devotional more often in my life, & in each day. I figure: I eat at least 3 times a day, so at least 3 times a day I will be singing my intentions & pausing to be present. I believe that food is our fuel for energy & life. What a beautiful thing to honor the source that fuels me to live. What a beautiful thing to honor the source that creates all life including the food that fuels me to live. What a beautiful thing to sing, & share blessings with others.
My own translation of this prayer as I use it before eating is:
I am thankful to the teachers who have taught this path of bhakti to those who have taught me along this path. I realize that I am the servant ~ of the servant ~ of the servant of those who serve Krishna ~ the all attractive perfection of all life. As such my path is one of service to the greatest good for all. I realize that I am merely a drop in the sea, & my individual body & life is merely a container for this drop of sea that I am. All around me is the sea, inside of me is the sea, inside of the sea are many containers, we are all the sea. WIth full love, respect, surrender, & devotion I ask that Krishna ~ life give me a worthy path & purpose to best serve this greatest good & perfection of all life. I humbly open myself to manifest endless surrender, eternal love, absolute devotion, everlasting joy, infinite bliss, & abundivine manifestiny!
I honor all prayers, for I believe sacred words touch the sacred in us, & wrap like wings around our hearts! Thank you if you made it this far in this long story of how my most cherished prayer has touched so many lives before me, and so many side by side along my journey, & still has many to touch yet!
Hare Krishna, Hare Bol!