Understanding the Purpose of Kirtana


Back To Prabhupada, Issue 75, Vol. 4, 2022

Regarding the need to get things "right" in ISKCON, one extremely basic thing that needs to be gotten right, since it forms the very basis of our practice of Krsna consciousness, is kirtana or the chanting of Hare Krsna.

There is a trend in ISKCON of using kirtana for motives not directly related to Krsna. For example, ISKCON has previously used kirtanas for victims of a terrorist attack, "Covid relief", and the "Ukraine crisis": iskconirm.com/kirtanas

Recently, ISKCON UK Headquarters Bhaktivedanta Manor also held "Kirtanas for Queen Elizabeth II", following the death of Her Majesty. Acting as host was GBC voted-in guru HG Kripamoya Dasa ("KMD"), who explained that the purpose of such kirtana was to sing "in honour" of the queen:

"this is our way, coming together to do kirtana. Today would not have been complete unless the devotees of Krsna in this community had come together and sang in honour of Her Majesty."
(KMD, "Kirtanas for Queen Elizabeth II", 19/9/22. Quotes in shaded boxes are from this talk. All emphases in article added)

As part of the kirtana to honour the Queen, KMD also encouraged the attendees to offer flowers to a photograph of the Queen while the kirtana was performed:

"you can show your honour and respect by just taking a few flower petals, one by one you can come up and place the flower petals at the feet of the portrait there."

However, is it a bona fide Krsna conscious practice to use kirtana in this way?

Nothing material

Though it may be a nice sentiment to want to perform kirtana on behalf of those who have suffered, or are suffering, materially, Srila Prabhupada stated that the Holy Name cannot be used in such a way:

"Just like there are many subha-kriya, auspicious activities. We should not take chanting of Hare Krsna mantra as some auspicious activity. [...] You cannot utilize hari-nama for any material purposes."
(Srila Prabhupada Lecture, 30/9/76)

This fact is so basic that it was even stated by GBC member Malati Dasi, who acknowledged the unauthorised practice of using kirtana for material ends:

"we should try to keep in mind the considerations of our Vaisnava principles. [...] β€˜it is not harinam-sankirtan when it is conducted for the prevention of epidemics, or cholera, or pox, or for prosperity and trade, for grain, or for gain, or respect and fame.'"
(Malati Dasi, "Weakened Standards Weaken ISKCON" Presentation)

Forced to jump over

In regard to the kirtana for the Queen, KMD realised that it may not be a bona fide practice since he made a special elaborate attempt to justify it, claiming that:

"Srila Rupa Gosvami [...] one of his famous poems speaks of how we can choose to dedicate the chanting, the singing of the holy names of Krsna to any person we like."

KMD then goes on to quote what he claims is this poem as follows:

"Here is that poem by Rupa Gosvami [...] "The holy name of Lord Krsna is a reservoir of all transcendental happiness. [...] May that holy name of Lord Krsna bring transcendental auspiciousness to Our Majesty the Queen and to you all""

We have skipped the middle section of the poem, as it is not relevant to KMD's claim. Rather, KMD's claim is based entirely on the last sentence which we have underlined above.

1) Srila Prabhupada did not quote or translate this poem, nor did he ask anyone to translate it. Nor was the poem even written by Srila Rupa Gosvami!

2) The poem is from a book called Sri Padyavali, which was compiled by Srila Rupa Gosvami. It has been translated by Kusakratha Dasa, and states therein "author unknown". Something KMD would have known, but we have exposed his deception!

Thus, KMD has no statement from Srila Prabhupada or even Srila Rupa Gosvami to substantiate his claim and thus his argument is already defeated. However, even if we assume that this poem is as good as coming from Srila Rupa Gosvami himself, since he compiled it in a book, KMD would still be unauthorisedly "jumping over" Srila Prabhupada to try to directly approach the Gosvamis, something which is forbidden by Srila Prabhupada:

"You cannot jump over. You must go through the parampara system. You have to approach through your spiritual master to the Gosvamis"
(Srila Prabhupada Lecture, 28/3/75)

False claim

Thus, either way, whether the poem is accepted as being "from" Srila Rupa Gosvami or not, KMD's claim is defeated as it is not supported by Srila Prabhupada. However, just as we did in the previous issue when we used HH Jayadvaita Swami ("JAS")'s own justification for "editing" the Bhagavad-gita to prove that his edits were incorrect, in this case, we can also still use KMD's own use of the key verse of the poem to defeat his argument.

1) KMD simply added the Queen's name to give his own translation, which states:

"May that holy name of Lord Krsna bring transcendental auspiciousness to Our Majesty the Queen and to you all."

But the actual translation provided states:

"May that holy name of Lord Krsna bring transcendental auspiciousness to you all."

However, to simply wish that the Holy Name itself bring auspiciousness to everyone, which is a given, is completely different to authorising the practice of kirtana as a tool to be utilised specifically to honour "any person we like" – especially since kirtana is defined specifically as a practice meant to honour or glorify the Lord – not "any person we like" (SB, 7.15.72, purport).

2) Otherwise, according to KMD, anything goes: we can have kirtanas to honour the demigods, Mayavadi gurus, rich businessmen – literally "any person we like". There is no example of Srila Prabhupada using kirtana in this way, or any instruction authorising such a practice. Thus, not only is KMD unauthorisedly jumping over Srila Prabhupada to try to approach Srila Rupa Gosvami, he is also misusing what he claims Srila Rupa Gosvami compiled.


We quoted JAS in the Editorial agreeing with KMD regarding the importance of maintaining Srila Prabhupada's standards for ISKCON. JAS specifically runs "Kirtana Standards" seminars for ISKCON, and so here is a chance to see if he will be true to his word and take heed of the facts mentioned in this article in future "Kirtana Standards" seminars.

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Please chant: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna, Krishna, Hare, Hare,
Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama, Rama, Hare, Hare.
And be Happy!