More about Mantra and Meaning…


I recently made a post about the importance of understanding the meaning of a mantra. Among the repies I got these inquiries…

I think mantra is not what we vibrate with our mouth because that is purelly a mechanic activity. And hearing a mantra is not about receiving sound waves with eardrums, another mechanic interaction from the outside.

This is very dualistic – as if the “inside” has nothing to do with the “outside.” If you take that out, and add the word “just” or “only” then  your conclusion makes more sense to me. I would say it like this: “Mantra is not just what we vibrate with our mouths or hear with our eardrums…”

I think the “sound” itself is not understood with mechanic vibrations of the air but the sound is the words which we create in our counsciousness.

The most important part of the mantra is the meaning you receive from the sound, but the sound itself is also important because it symbolically carries the meaning.

The sound waves are symbols carrying meaning/understanding, like the wind carries a breeze. Words don’t need to be audible. They can be written or simply pronounced by the mental voice to the mental ear.

But “the mind” is also a brain or a subtle body, so it is also an external thing.

Yes! That’s why the dualism of “external/internal” is not realistic. The external is a projection of what is internal. Therefore the external and internal are inter-related and affect one another. Thus an external sense perception, or a mental recollection of it, affects the internal state of consciousness and ultimately can be witnessed/experienced by the ātma itself.

Hari nāma is a  state of consciousness where you want to chant the hari nāma.

It is not just a state of consciousness. It is actually a word, a name. But this word-name cannot be heard or chanted perfectly without a perfect state of consciousness. Hari nāma is a transcendental entity, so it cannot be produced by an ignorant tongue, nor heard by an ignorant ear. Only the absolutely pure ātmā drenched in śuddha-sattva can hear or enunciate the real names of Krishna.

The endeavor to hear and chant this word-name, however, purifies the consciousness gradually. So the method for eventually hearing and speaking the true spiritual names of Krishna is to practice hearing and speaking the external approximations of those names.

I have heared that the chanting of a pure devotee can set everyone who hears it free of material desires.

A pure soul would be able to chant the true name of Krishna, so this would have a profound effect. Just like if you hear someone explain something they really understand, it is more profound and you can understand it more easily then when someone who doesn’t really grasp the subject tries to explain it.

Hearing the name enunciated by a pure soul would make a very profound impact on us, making us really desire strongly to understand what that person experiences. This would propel us in bhakti-yoga very strongly by giving a very, very strong śraddha (conviction in the value and worth of Krishna).

Vraja Kishor

How to Rule a Kingdom


To greet their king, the citizens decorated each part of his city with strands of pearls and flowers, draped cloth from its golden gateways, and flooded the air with the most wondrously fragrant incense. They washed the roads, squares, and lanes with water infused by sandalwood and agarwood, decorated them with flowers, whole fruits, shoots of grains, and lamps, and lined them with clean young betel trees and banana trees in fruit and flower. Strands of young mango leaves decorated everything.

The citizens greeted the king with limitless lamps shining auspiciously. More brilliant than the lamps were the shining young maidens with glistening jewelry who came forward to welcome him.

He entered his palace to the sound of priests singing the Veda while drums and conch shells boomed. He had no vanity, in spite of being the object of so much adoration and respect. Indeed he, the object of so much worship, turned to worship each one of his citizens, from the famous and important nobles down to the common workers. He gave each one what they needed or wanted. Fully satisfied, they all overflowed with good wishes towards their king.

Thus began his reign over the earth, marked by constant magnanimous welfare work, which made him history’s most famous ruler, greater than any other great person and elevating him to the transcendent position.

– Excerpt from an early draft of Part 4 of
Beautiful Tales of the All-Attractive
A translation of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam’s fourth canto [4.21.1-7]
By Vraja Kishor
Parts 1, 2, and 3 of Beautiful Tales of the All Attractive
are available at

How to Use Mantra Effectively


Mantras are words.

Words are very powerful things, because words contain meaning.

Meaning is to consciousness what the calorie is to digestion.
Meaning is the thing that consciousness digests and subsists on.

“You are what you eat.” As this applies physically to food, it applies psychologically to words. The words you speak and hear create your psyche.

Mantras, therefore, are very powerful things. They are very special words, conveying very special meaning – and therefore possess the power to reshape our psyche, and thus change the tangible direction of our lives.

The real power in the mantra is not the frequency of the sound waves, the real power is the meaning conveyed by the words. A mantra used without awareness of the meaning in the words can exhibit only a small fraction of its potential power. The ultimate effect of using a mantra this way is simply that the user will eventually be blessed to seek and find the meaning of the words. Then, when we use a mantra with awareness of the meaning, much more of the mantra’s power can activate.

The more deeply we understand the meanings of the words and phrases in a mantra, the more deeply its power affects us.

 Vraja Kishor

Radhasthami Katha 2015 (by Vraja Kishor)!

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It starts with a brief explanation of Cc Adi.1.5, rādhā-kṛṣṇa-praṇaya vikṛti – explaining that Rādhā and Krishna are two facets of a singular reality, not just two people who happened to fall in love. Then Vraja addresses the following wonderful questions:

Is it ok to want a relationship with Krishna that isn’t centered on Rādhārānī and madhurya rasa / gopi bhava?

If Rādhārānī is so compassionate, why is it so hard to attain Vraja-prema?
What is advaya-jñāna? How does it relate to Krishna?
In the philosophy of oneness and difference, we almost always hear about the difference between us and god. When should we start to consider the oneness?
The more you make advancement, do the challenges of Māyā become more difficult?
Our Ashrama doesn’t want us to glorify Rādhā too openly…
The symbiotic relationship between the subject of consciousness (Krishna) and the object of consciousness (Rādhā)
How can there be separation between Rādhā and Krishna if they are one entity?
What is our relationship to Rādhārānī? Are we expansions of Rādhārānī? How does this affect our approach to Krishna?

Basic Truths of Gaudiya Philosophy – How to Ascertain Truth

Vraja reads from and briefly explains his overview of Tattva Sandarbha, just recently published as the introduction to Basic Truths of Gaudiya Philosophy – available at

This installment talks about the goal of life, and the means and result of attaining it. Then it focuses on how to evaluate truth or falsity, reality or fantasy – explaining how observation, logic and revelation WORK TOGETHER, and establishing the importance of the Veda and, especially, the Purāṇa.

AMAZING: Uttama-bhakti, Kamanuga Rāgānugā, and Madhurya Rasa in Emerpor Prthu!!!


“What benediction should I ask from you?” He said. “What would a wise person ask from a master who can fulfill any wish?”

Viṣṇu might suggest that he imagine the most wonderful thing in the world and ask for it, so Pṛthu explained, “I won’t ask for anything that exists in this world, for all such things are just transformations of the same material that the denizens of the hells experience.”

Viṣṇu might suggest that he ask for something beyond experience, so Pṛthu said, “You are the master of enlightenment, so maybe I should ask you to allow me to merge completely into consciousness itself, so that I never again experience anything except consciousness itself? But no, I do not want even that, my dear. I would never want to exist in a state in which I could not drink the experience of your lotus feet.”

Viṣṇu, in shyness, would run out of suggestions – so Pṛthu would speak his mind in all honesty. “The benediction I ask from you is this: give me infinite senses to experience you! Give me unlimited ears to hear what comes from the heart, through the mouth of the greatest souls.”

What sound comes from the heart of the greatest souls? Pṛthu explained, “The breeze of their breath carries the pollen of their love for you from the lotus of your feet, which they embrace in their hearts. It becomes honey as it passes through their vocal chords. The ear drinks this honey in the form of the supreme poetry. This nectar-honey grants every boon, even to we who are without spiritual discipline and have no idea about the paths of philosophy. Any other benediction is completely unnecessary!”

Viṣṇu might ask, “Wouldn’t you eventually become tired of drinking it? Even the sweetest honey eventually becomes tiresome. So, in the end, wouldn’t it be better to merge peacefully into pure consciousness?”

Pṛthu exclaimed, “If, somehow, someone even once winds up hearing attentively about your auspicious fame from those who really comprehend it, how would that person ever ‘get enough’ of it – unless they are like a dull animal who cannot appreciate the difference between fine food and common garbage? Even the Goddess of Fortune herself, Śrī, wants only this blessing!”

Viṣṇu might test Pṛthu by trying to discourage him. “You are a powerful man, emperor of the world! Why would you ask for the same thing that an emotional woman wants?”

Pṛthu declared, “I desire exactly what she wants! I want to become exactly like her, the Lotus-handed Goddess of Fortune! I want the same relationship with you that she has! I want to love you as the Supreme Male, the storehouse of all attractions and qualifications!”

Viṣṇu would test further. “I already have my wife! Taking you as a second might cause problems!”

Pṛthu explained, “She and I will not quarrel or compete over our shared husband – we will cooperate to serve your feet as one!”

Viṣṇu would ask, “But what if she doesn’t feel the same way?”

Pṛthu explained, “O Master of the Universe, I am dedicated to you, so I am not afraid of her! Even if the mother of the universe gets mad at me for my desire to share in her fortune by assisting her, I know that you will calm her down. I am nothing compared to her, but you especially love the lowly and you consider even their insignificant efforts to be great accomplishments.”

Viṣṇu was speechless. His heart stunned and bound in the ropes of emotion, he could not speak or wipe the tears that flowed from his beautiful eyes.

“By worshipping you,” Pṛthu concluded, “great souls dispel all confused fascination with the glamour of external existence. I know that they desire nothing from this worship except to constantly remember your All-Attractive feet.”

Then, in the great intimacy of love, Pṛthu chastised Viṣṇu. “When you say, ‘Ask me for a benediction,’ the whole world becomes deluded. Such words are like ropes that will only bind us to misery – for what can we possibly ask for except the ordinary, toilsome things that we are already so intoxicated with? We have divorced our identities from you and given ourselves to your external existence. We have no idea of our true identity. So, you should not ask us to choose our own benedictions! You should be like a father who does what he knows is best for his children.”

– Excerpt from an early draft of Part 4 of
Beautiful Tales of the All-Attractive
A translation of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam’s fourth canto
[4.20.23 – 31]
By Vraja Kishor
Parts 1, 2, and 3 of Beautiful Tales of the All Attractive
are available at

Pṛthu’s Love Binds Dāmodara-Viṣṇu


The conqueror of the world, Pṛthu, gratefully bowed his head to receive the orders of the world’s all-powerful teacher, Hari. Amazed by the affection shared between Pṛthu’s and Hari, Indra felt ashamed of what he had done, and bowed to touch the emperor’s feet in apology; but Pṛthu had completely abandoned all his anger, and embraced Indra, performer of one hundred sacrifices.

Pṛthu then turned his attention to worshipping the All-Attractive Soul of All, with ever increasing devotion dedicated to Hari’s lotus-like feet.

Finally, Viṣṇu turned to depart. Petrified by the immanent departure of his beloved Hari, the emperor could not say a word. He stood completely still with tightly folded hands and tears pouring from his eyes as he engulfed his inner heart in Hari.

Seeing this with his lotus-petal-eyes, Hari could not bear to leave. His affection for his dear devotee detained him.

Hearing no sound of departure, Pṛthu opened his eyes to see what was going on, but could not see anything through all his tears. Wiping away the tears an incessantly delightful vision came into focus: The Supreme Person still stood before him! Viṣṇu had suddenly ceased his ascent into the heavens, and his feet now touched the earth. Dizzy with emotion by seeing Pṛthu’s affection, he stumbled slightly as he landed, and steadied himself by placing his hand on Garuḍa, who had extended his shoulder to catch him.

– Excerpt from an early draft of Part 4 of
Beautiful Tales of the All-Attractive
A translation of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam’s fourth canto
By Vraja Kishor
Parts 1, 2, and 3 of Beautiful Tales of the All Attractive
are available at

The Day I Shaved Up

And then, the day finally came. It was inevitable.

There seemed no way to become a true Hare Krishna without it.

It happened in an empty bathtub, in the bathroom of that small house on the San Diego temple property. Wielding the electric razor was a latin teenage brahmacārī with a Krishna ponytail that would reach down to his knees when he untied it – one of the guys from the greyhound bus that had come on the tour with Inside Out, Quicksand, and Shelter. We stepped into the tub wearing “gamcha,” Indian equivalents of towels.

I looked down at the whiteness of the porcelain.

He clicked on the razor and set to my head.

Clusters of hair fell reluctantly. Each bunch that came off my head removed another bit of my former identity – and sent it to cling to my feet, as if desperate in the final throes of hopelessness.

It was exhilarating. There was no turning back. Now I was 100% committed, and there was no way to hide it.

I was bald.

I had a Krishna pony tail.

I was a Hare Krishna.

Guṇagrahi Swāmī, the man in charge of that same greyhound bus, had given  me permission to shave up and dress in saffron. So, when I stepped out of the tub I changed into the orange-pink Hare Krishna robes.

And the transformation was complete.

Vic DiCara was gone. All my nicknames were gone, they couldn’t apply to this new being. The only name that now fit was Bhakta Vic. And even that would soon have to go.

I looked out the bathroom window into the yard to see short, round Umāpati Swāmī exiting the temple’s side door and climbing the steps on the outside of the building, leading up to the men’s ashram.

Now I was just like him.

His head was bald, my head was bald.

He wore saffron colored robes, I wore saffron colored robes.

He was a Swāmī – a fully dedicated devotee, and I… well not quite yet. But soon! I hoped that Guṇagrahi Swāmī or someone else might make me a Swāmī, and give me one of those awesome staffs. I expected I might have to wait for two or three years.

Then I would be perfect.

– Excerpt from an early draft of
Train Wrecks and Transcendence:
A Collision of Hardcore and Hare Krishna
By Vraja Kishor []

Practical Spirituality


Pṛthu would ask, “What is the practical difference between a person who bases their identity on an externalized, false self, and a person who bases their identity on you, the internal root of their self?”

Having already explained that people with externalized self-concepts exhaust and frustrate themselves with external endeavors, Viṣṇu now explained the fruits obtained by the others. “Those who see me as the eternal essence of their root identity,” he said, “develop sincere interest in me, and great adoration for me. This gradually fills their hearts with satisfaction and peace.

“Their inner satisfaction makes them completely lose interest in external attractions. Their broadened minds see equal value in everything, which brings them into unity with the completely placid state of spiritual oneness.”

“Why do they see everything as being of equal value?” the emperor would ask.

“They attain this beautiful vision,” Viṣṇu explained, “because they know the soul to be the origin of everything in this world – every object, every perception, and every action. Thus everything seems equally valuable, for everything is based on their soul. Yet they also realize that all these things are extrinsic projections from the soul, who can only glance at them from afar. Therefore everything seems equally worthless.”

Viṣṇu recapped his message, “The placid state of spiritual oneness arises when you become indifferent to good and bad. You will become indifferent to good and bad when you are illuminated by the knowledge that everything good and bad is nothing but your soul projecting consciousness into extrinsic identities, activities, and objects that flow incessantly from the fascinating qualities of external nature. You will become illuminated by this knowledge when you bind your heart to me as the root of your very identity.”

The emperor felt a surge of inspiration to strive for this. Viṣṇu cautioned him that it need not involve giving up his important duties as a protector of others. “O Hero,” he said, “You should see everything and everyone as a reflection of me, and serve and protect them all! Your senses and mind should experience the same value in pleasant and unpleasant things and people, regardless of whether they seem to be superior, average, or inferior!”

“What will become of a king who dedicates himself to protecting the people?” Pṛthu might wonder.

“One who truly protects his subjects,” Viṣṇu replied, “receives a sixth of the credit for their good deeds; but one who merely taxes without truly caring for his subjects receives the discredit for all their foul deeds. To truly protects and not exploit his subjects, a leader follows the moral principles established by great philosophers, and helps his followers do the same. The world quickly comes to adore such a person, and all perfections place themselves within his grasp.”

Pṛthu looked at Viṣṇu with eyes that overflowed with grateful love. Viṣṇu looked back at him with the same vivid affection. “O Indra of Mankind,” Viṣṇu said, “I am difficult to captivate by sacrifices. I am not easily attained by self-sacrifice either. And I am merely neutral towards those whose consciousness is neutral towards everything. But I am completely captivated by people who protect others in this manner, as you do so well. Your wondrously affectionate character has captivated my heart. Ask a benediction from me, anything you like. Please.”

– Excerpt from an early draft of Part 4 of
Beautiful Tales of the All-Attractive
A translation of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam’s fourth canto
[4.20.9 – 16]
By Vraja Kishor []

Reading the Introduction of my New Book: BASIC TRUTHS of GAUDIYA PHILOSOPHY

You can get Basic Truths of Gaudiya Philosophy right now at