The Hare Krishna Maha Mantra offers many benefits, such as freedom from sinful reactions, liberation (also known as mukti in spiritual parlance), and peace of mind. All of these benefits however are simply by products of chanting. The supreme benefit of chanting Hare Krishna is it awakens the dormant love for God, Krishna, in our hearts. All other results of chanting pale in comparison to the gift of pure love.
Five hundred years ago in a historical meeting at Bengal, India, the real benefits of chanting Hare Krishna was conclusively established. These discussions between the celebrated chanter of the Holy Names, Haridas Thakur, and learned scholars at the house of Hiranya Majumdar, have been recorded in the classic, Chaitanya Charitamrita. Haridas Thakur had been chanting 300,000 names of God daily, and was recognized as a pure chanter and the best authority on Holy Names, by none other than the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. During the meeting, different people spoke on the Holy Names and described how the Holy Name can free one from all reactions of sinful life. A few others said liberation is achieved by chanting Hare Krishna.
Haridas Thakur, speaking logically and on the basis of scriptures explained that liberation from suffering and freedom from sinful reactions can be gained simply by once chanting the Lord’s Holy Names without offense. He revealed the real goal of chanting Hare Krishna to be awakening of ecstatic love for God. He offered an interesting analogy: with the first rays of rising sun, all darkness is dissipated. The fear of thieves and rogues vanishes even though the sun has barely risen. As the sun actually rises, everything becomes visible and people perform all their various duties. Similarly as the first rays of the sun of the Holy Name rises in the heart, i.e at the first hint of offenseless chanting, all sinful reactions are removed. However as we progress in our chanting we please Lord Krishna and the Lord bestows the priceless gift of love for Godhead in our hearts. Haridas Thakur emphatically proved that love for God is a higher aspiration of a spiritualist than mere liberation from suffering.
This is an interesting difference between Bhakti Yoga and almost all other spiritual paths. While the latter focus on peace and liberation, the adherents of bhakti desire love. Radhanath Swami offers a penetrating analysis, “The impersonalists seek to merge in the spiritual sky and experience peace and mukti, liberation. At this stage, there is no love; only the pleasure of no pain. The soul’s real nature is to love and in the bhakti path, a devotee experiences love, even if it means suffering pain for the beloved Lord. This pain in love is a higher pleasure than simply no pain.”
Radhanath Swami being a staunch Bhakti Yoga practitioner since the last four decades confesses that he discovered a sacred teaching from his guru, Srila Prabhupada, who revealed that the soul’s real need and perfection is to go beyond the neutral condition of peace. “We do not care for peace; we want love” says Radhanath Swami.
Sincere and regulated chanting under the guidance of bonafide Bhakti Yoga practitioners rewards us this sacred gift of love for Krishna.