The holy name of Krishna is the highest benediction. It is sweeter than the sweetest honey, and it is the fruit of transcendental knowledge of the tree of the entire Vedic scriptures -- Skanda Purana, Quoted in Hari Bhakti Vilasa (11.234)
Festival of Holy Name
The Festival of the Holy Name (FoHN) in Chicago, during the July 4th weekend, attracted numerous devotees (many more than last year!) from across the US who assembled with a single purpose: to go deeper into the chanting of the holy names of Lord Krishna, in the association of His devotees. The festival was organized by HH Romapada Swami Maharaja.
This year, the attendees were fortunate to have the association of His Holiness Romapada Swami Maharaja, His Holiness HH Candramauli Swami Maharaja and His Grace Bada Hari das prabhu.
The theme of this year’s festival was: “Chanting of the holy name from the heart”.
The highlights of this year’s festival were a maha-harinam (public chanting of the Holy Names) at the famous Taste of Chicago in downtown Chicago, lectures on how to improve the quality of our chanting, kirtans (incl. the soul-stirring Nama yajna kirtan by HG Bada Hari prabhu), special devotional performances by the SoulConnection youth group, and of course, the most exciting 32-round day (a day when devotees chanted together 3456 times of Hare Krishna Maha-Mantra!!!).
The following are some key messages from lectures on how to improve the quality of our chanting:
July 4th, Hanover Park and ISKCON Kishore Kishori Mandir, Chicago
His Holiness Romapada Swami: “Chanting from the heart” and “Our acharyas instructions on quality chanting”
• Chanting from the heart means that we chant with genuine feelings with no distraction; Sincere (pure - ananya), present and genuine; Krishna reciprocates with our feelings.
• Chanting is not lip-deep, but heart-deep
• Be attentive and call upon Lord Nityananda, the deliverer of the pure holy name
• Material conceptions hold us back from the pure holy name; We must spiritualize our conceptions about our own self, purpose and goal of life, things around us etc.; Look for proper support, resources to spiritualize your conceptions
• Strengthen relationships with devotees, who carry deep faith in Krishna and His holy name.
• Numerical chanting enhances quality; on auspicious days, we should increase the number of rounds we chant.
• Mold life in the mode of goodness: Create a ‘goodness’ atmosphere for quality chanting.
His Holiness Candramauli Swami: "Real Independence: Declaring dependence upon the holy name"
• In this age, dependence on Krishna is accomplished through dependence on His name.
• All the potencies of the Absolute Truth (Krishna) are in the name of Krishna
• Remembering Lord Krishna is the highest religious principle
• Chanting is a petition for service – enter into the mood of service; Lord is the only one who can appreciate and reciprocate with our service
July 5th, Oswego
His Holiness Romapada Swami: “Increasing japa: quality and quantity”
• Quality does not come by force and there is no formula for quality. Go on chanting with sincerity, taste will come (excerpts from Srila Prabhupada’s conversations).
• Srila Sanatana Goswami advises that one must cultivate the following qualities:
* Control of mind
* Purity or cleanliness
* Silence (i.e. speak only about Krishna)
* Meditation upon meaning of mantra
• Sustain inspiration by sharing with others; Submission to source of inspiration leads to feelings.
His Holiness Candramauli Swami: "Serving the holy name"
• If we don’t take sufficient time in hearing and chanting, we are missing out on the process of Krishna consciousness
• Service to the holy name means we chant for the pleasure of the holy name (Krishna)
• Chanting of the holy name and service to devotees are inseparable
The following are testimonials, experiences and realizations, from devotees (incl. the youth) belonging to the St. Louis congregation that attended the festival.
Yamuna Jivana das:
I had a simply awesome experience chanting 32 rounds on Sunday. I started my rounds wondering if I would even get through 4 without sleeping since I had a headache, running on just 3 hours of sleep. And then something magic happened! I went through 17 rounds without moving from the one place that I was seated at, more absorbed in the holy name than I had ever been! I was moved by feelings of Krishna’s presence. Agni Purana states "The Name is the reason for the soul's existence" - very touching and profound.
I have deeper faith that through spiritual potency, material needs can be overcome easily. I was feeling much strength from the presence of exalted Vaishnavas whose relish of the holy name was very transparent.
An inspiration from Maharaja's 1st lecture:
So, we need to make that connection. We are not alone, we are not just struggling alone. If we were struggling alone, we are finished... we might as well toss in the towel and go home. We are not alone. We are with the most merciful Lord Nityananda and His entourage of loving associates, the representatives who are acting as His agents to give the pure Holy Name. And, with that understanding, with that connection, then we are set free from the bondage of the network of our material involvement for who knows how many lifetimes together!
Shrinithi's Inspiration (7 yr old):
Hare Krishna! What I really liked about FoHN was the chanting part and Nama yajna. What I realized was that I can do 32 rounds everyday. In the Nama yajna I just felt like I went back to Lord Sri Krishna. But, when it was over I just dropped back to the material world. But chanting with Maharaja gave me strength and spiritual power to increase my rounds. So, I increased from 3 rounds to 7 rounds after coming from FoHN. And, I am going to increase on Maharaja's appearance day, Jansmashtami, Gaura Purnima and my birthday.
When I was at FoHN, because of the presence of the devotees, it felt like Srila Prabhupada was around, but after coming back I felt like I was in maya. But after increasing the chanting, I felt normal.
Richa (15 yr old):
Attending retreats is always an amazing experience for me. I always learn so much and I change for the better in many different ways. I try to apply the things I learn in my life and I start to appreciate Srila Prabhupada's movement even more. Attending the Festival of Holy Name was no different. I learned so much about chanting and attaining Krishna. My favorite part of the whole retreat was the Nama yajna, and not just because I like kirtans, but also because of the atmosphere that was building up. I looked around and I saw so many devotees with tears pouring down their cheeks. They were in such ecstatic state and it was just amazing to watch and experience. Additionally, chanting 32 rounds was an amazing experience for me too, mainly because I had never done it before. I realized during chanting the importance of being around devotees and how that can help a person in his/her spiritual life. When I saw the other devotees chanting, it gave me the courage to chant. And, hearing devotees share their experiences on chanting 32 rounds was really helpful. I am really looking forward to going to the FoHN again next year!
Shreya: (11 yr old)
The Festival of Holy Name was a really wonderful experience for me this year, just like a real festival! Richa's family and I stayed at Preethy Mataji's house and we really had a nice time. This time HH Chandramouli Swami Maharaja, HG Bada Haridas Prabhu and HH Romapada Swami Maharaja were all there. It felt like a transcendental family reunion!
For four days, HH Romapada Swami Maharaja, HH Chandramouli Swami Maharaja and HG Bada Hari Prabhu, spoke about the holy name and how we should call out to the acharyas and chant with great enthusiasm and how we should ignore the mind no matter what it tells us and just call out.
On the second day of FoHN, there was a Nama Yajna (Holy Name sacrifice). Everyone made a big semi-circle in front of Sri Kishore Kishori and we all sang the holy names of the Lord. After a few minutes of singing, it just felt like we were all struck by the mercy of Krishna and all the pure devotees and it was so amazing. All the lectures were very strong and powerful... And the big day came when we all had to (try to) chant 32 rounds. It took about 4 hours to chant 32 rounds. And, the second biggest part for me came when HH Romapada Swami Maharaja, asked everyone to share their experience from chanting. Almost, everyone shared their realizations. When it was the youth’s turn to share their experience all the boys started first. The girls were a little hesitant. Maharaja kept warning us saying, "I'll call on someone if nobody volunteers..."Then out of nowhere, I heard Maharaja call my name,"Shreya..?" That immediately shook me and then I looked up at Maharaja... He was just grinning at me and said, "Shreya volunteered, but didn't know she volunteered...." (Laughter) Then he asked me to share my experience, which I did starting first introducing myself - my name and where I came from. Obviously, I had a very conditioned mind which didn't really let me enjoy my 32 rounds, but, then seeing so many pure devotees all around me, fixed my determination to chant until I completed 32 rounds. I really love the moments when Maharaja so sweetly calls me by my name, the way he says it is so wonderful that you never forget it in your entire life!! I am really thankful to all the devotees who have arranged this whole program (Premananda Mataji & many other devotees), provided our staying arrangements (Preethy Mataji & Ashok Prabhu), and finally I would like to thank HH Chandramouli Swami Maharaja, Bada Haridas Prabhu and HH Romapada Swami Maharaja for gathering so many devotees and giving their association to all of us... Thank you!
Suja Karthikeyan (Srinithi's mom):
First, I wish to thank Maharaja for giving us this wonderful opportunity to perfect our chanting. Away from the day-to-day activities, the retreat helped me to forget my list of duties and to focus on my chanting. I felt so inspired, nice & peaceful while chanting because of 3 reasons.
The first reason was ---- Maharaja's presence. This was my first time to chant with Maharaja all day. I felt very peaceful & it helped my mind & heart to concentrate more. Second is ---- Seeing Maharaja's sincerity & dedication inspired me a lot which also helped me to increase my desire to chant more attentively & to keep my determination strong. Consequently, it didn't feel hard to complete 32 rounds. Third is -- The pleasant environment outside gave an additional boost to bring the mind to a relaxed state & it helped me to think of Vrindavana as there were plenty of trees in that place.
It was so nice to chant in the morning. I never get a chance to chant in the morning on normal days. As Maharaja said, this chanting is the thread of love to Krishna. This helped me to understand it properly which increased that love towards Krishna more. His Grace Bada Hari das Prabhu's bhajans helped me a lot to bring the mind to a devotional mood especially during the Nama Yajna, which was great. It made everybody feel like "The Festival of the Holy Name"
I really very much enjoyed & felt very happy chanting with Maharaja. I am looking forward for FoHN next year
To experience moments of the Retreat, please listen to the lectures of the Retreat visit the Audio page