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(C) 1995 by Richard S. Brown
All rights reserved.


Gaudiya Kirtan Tradition

By Richard Shaw Brown

SUB: In Gaudiya kirtan tradition the Maha-mantra(s) are sung in stanzas.

Vande gurun isha-bhaktan! In 1996 I wrote to Tridandi Swami B.V. Narayana Maharaj asking about the correct way to chant the Maha-mantra and Panca-tattva Maha-mantra during kirtan. What is the bona fide Gaudiya method? In my years living in and visiting many Gaudiya Math's as well as joining in over 2000 kirtans lead by paramahansa Krishnadas Babaji Maharaj (the personification of PERFECT kirtana), the method was always to sing the mantras one stanza at a time followed by the refrain (just like all other Gaudiya songs are sung).

But in Iskcon they NEVER use this sublime and bona fide method, and it is even seen that Iskcon devotees are unable or unwilling to follow the correct Gaudiya Matha system of Srila Sarasvati Prabhupada himself. In fact, most Iskcon people are unqualified to join in any bona fide Gaudiya Math kirtana because of Iskcon's CONTRARY separatist kirtan style.

Following is Srila Narayana Maharaja's reply, which I hope he will forgive me for making public without his consent...

6 April, 1996

Dear Hrsikesananda Prabhu,

Please accept my heartfelt blessings. All glories to Sri Sri Guru-Gauranga and Sri Sri Radha Vinoda-bihari.

I have received your letter dated March 19, 1996.

When Bhaktivedanta Swami went to western countries, he saw that it was difficult for western devotees to sing Bengali songs. He thought that it would be easier for them to chant the Hare Krsna Maha-mantra and the panacea-tattva Maha-mantra. Since the time of Narottama dasa Thakura and even before, devotees would chant the Maha-mantra congregationally in the way, which was easiest. Bhaktivinoda Thakura has written one song which goes, "gaya goracana jivera tare, bolo Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare." Then after another line of poetry, he writes "Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare."

So it is not incorrect to break the Maha-mantra; IT IS ACTUALLY PERFECT. But if someone desires to chant the Maha-mantra without breaking it in the middle, there is no harm.

I will certainly be here in Matura for Janmastami, if we can meet again at that time, it would be very nice.

You're ever-well wisher,

Swami B.V. Narayana