“As expressed in a song by Thakura Bhaktivinoda, Lord Chaitanya says, jiva jaga, jiva jaga. The Lord asks every sleeping living entity to get up and engage in devotional service so that his mission in this human form of life may be fulfilled. This awakening voice comes through the mouth of a pure devotee.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 4.20.25 Purport)
If the recipient of knowledge is actively engaged throughout the learning process, the teaching techniques will be all the more effective and the information being transmitted will be assimilated much more quickly. For the disengaged student, a steady inflow of instruction will lose its power to effect change after a short period of time, as a wall will be erected around the mind that causes new information to simply bounce off without being absorbed. An effective teacher is one who can elicit responses from their students throughout the teaching process, thus allowing the student to feel that they are alive and making real progress. Not only does knowledge best transmit through these techniques, but so do natural emotions of love and attachment. Simply sitting idly by and observing can certainly evoke the natural loving spirit, but the emotion is enhanced further by an active engagement, where explicit tasks are performed for the pleasure of the loveable object. Such intricacies were not lost to one of the greatest spiritual preachers this world has ever seen. Knowing full well the human psyche and the tendencies of loving emotions, His method of teaching the highest truths of the Vedas, whose most potent message says that Divine Love is the superior engagement for all forms of life, was tailored to appeal to every single person, across every single land.
As is quite obvious to the sober individual, people are born with specific characteristics, tendencies and appearances which aren’t uniform from person to person. Since every person is born with different natures, they will take to learning in different ways. Therefore students in a classroom will behave according to their nature, with some being eager to learn and some not paying any attention at all. This latter group is noteworthy, because even though a student is sitting in a classroom and taking instruction from a bona fide teacher, if their heart and mind aren’t into the subject matter, they won’t learn anything. The ants and the flies are also in the classroom, but since they lack the potential for intelligence and the sense awareness to pay attention to what is being spoken, they do not benefit in any way from the kind instructions of the teacher. When the human being, through distractions of the mind or through simple apathy, ignores what they are hearing in a classroom dedicated to teaching an important subject, there is no benefit received.
The good teachers are fully aware of these tendencies, so they will try their best to keep their students awake, giving them opportunities to participate and show what they have learned. The unruly students, those who are comfortable in their inactive position, may not take too well to this teaching method, but despite their grumblings, they end up better off for having participated. The hearing process is supremely effective in knowledge transmittal because it elicits argument and analysis of philosophy within the mind of the recipient. A challenge to the thought processes of the brain immediately will trigger counterarguments and deep thought, causing the listener to think wisely before retorting. The more one argues in this way, the more sound their base of reasoning becomes, and thus the higher their level of intelligence reaches.
The benefits of active participation are not limited to the arena of instruction. Having a steady stream of purposeful activity also helps to keep an emotional attachment to one’s loveable object. For instance, parents love their children, but if the kids weren’t in need of help, the strength of that love would be diminished. The natural loving spirit is there, but if not acted upon, other forces, which are brought on by the demands of the senses, can take precedence. Therefore it is seen that infancy is the time in the child’s life where it receives the most love from others. Parents huddle around the child, make funny faces at it, speak in broken words, and always love to pick up the child and carry it around. Even changing dirty diapers isn’t frowned upon because it brings another opportunity for the natural loving spirit to be shown. When the child grows up, the loving propensity in the caretakers is still there, but it is not allowed to be acted upon in the same way. The point of becoming an adult is to mature into a self-sufficient individual capable of taking care of one’s needs. Therefore, by definition, when the child gets older the opportunities for service diminish for the parents and elderly relatives. When the opportunities for service are there, the potential of the loving emotion is fully realized.
Not only is the hearing process effective when instruction is passed on in a classroom or through a lecture, but it also proves a formidable force when the same information is presented through a song. Hence some of the most popular celebrities are song writers, singers and rock bands. If we simply hear a song on the radio, it can remain stuck in our heads for the next few days, with the words constantly repeating. Instead of waiting to turn on the radio to hear the station playing your song, you can just have it playing within your mind all the time. The catchy song, one full of hooks and other techniques aimed at grabbing the attention of the listener, creates a strong bond between the fan of the music and the artist who composed and performed it.
The loving experience between the fan and the artist is enhanced during the rock concert or live performance. There is really no reason to attend a live concert other than to increase the enjoyment felt from association with the music. After all, the band will be playing the same songs that are recorded on their albums. Indeed, the album versions of the songs are arguably the best sounding ones, as great care was taken to ensure the accuracy of the performance and the acoustics of the various instruments. The studio engineer can also perform many tricks, such as multi-tracking and fading, that can’t be duplicated during a live performance.
Fans will flock to see their favorite bands play around the world because the live experience brings an exchange of emotion, one party offering their love and another party accepting it. Simply by stepping out on stage and playing the songs from their albums, the rock band can enjoy tremendous adulation and favor from the members of the audience. The crowd members paid a good deal of money to sit in the seats and listen to the band play after all, so the band really isn’t obligated to do much beyond just playing the songs correctly. The fans already like the songs, so what need is there to expend any extra effort?
Yet the intelligent artists, those who are keenly aware of what it takes to keep the flame of love alive within the body, will carefully craft their show to include sections of crowd participation, wherein a oneness is created between the band members and the audience. The singular powerful entity is created from the relationship that results, not from an equality in abilities or actions. The band will always be the band, so they will not allow crowd members to all of a sudden take to playing all the songs. Rather, there is an intimate bond shared when the fans are allowed to feel like they are part of the show and contributing to the uniqueness of the atmosphere.
To the band member on stage, nothing causes more exhilaration and thrill than to see the audience members singing along to the songs. As such, the wise performing artists will purposefully create breaks in songs, allowing the crowd to further act upon their singing desires. For instance, the famous rock band Def Leppard during the early 1980s would create a long break in their songs Another Hit and Run and Rock of Ages, wherein the tempo would be slowed down and the sound of the guitars subdued. The whole point was to have the singer talk to the crowd and get them to scream as loud as they could at various intervals. The singer would lead the charge and the audience members would respond. After a few minutes of this call-and-response exchange, the rest of the song would continue. Indeed, many other rock bands employ similar techniques to allow the crowd to sing along and feel part of the show. The songs that are most conducive to this type of interaction are staples in the live performances, as Metallica’s famous anthem Seek and Destroy now concludes every show, for the crowd participation is at its peak during this song.
“Intelligent persons factually take a dip in the ocean of Your nectarean activities and very patiently hear of them. Thus they immediately become freed from the contamination of the material qualities; they do not have to undergo severe penances and austerities for advancement of spiritual life.” (Prayers of the personified Vedas, Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 2, Ch 32)
The Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, very accurately note that the most effective way to take in information is through hearing. As such, the Vedic scriptures, works which contain the highest truths, are presented in poetry form. The fact that the Vedas can be sung makes them all the more astounding considering the deep import and knowledge that is contained within. The Bhagavad-gita, which is arguably the most famous religious work in the world, is known as the “Song of God”, as it was sung on the battlefield of Kurukshetra by Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, to His dear cousin and disciple Arjuna.
Simply singing the Vedas is enough to make a dent with the listening public, those who may or may not realize that their highest dharma, or occupational duty, is to take to devotional service to God, wherein the natural loving spirit meets the one object capable of accepting and reciprocating an endless amount of affection. Only in the divine engagement of bhakti-yoga can each day bring new and fresh opportunities for service that keep the fire of devotion ever lit within the devoted individual. But there is a difficulty in understanding the Vedas for the people of this age because of the issue of language. What to speak of for ordinary men, the Vedic hymns and writings, which are composed mostly in the Sanskrit language, are difficult to comprehend for even those familiar with the languages used, as Sanskrit is known as the language of the gods, meaning it is meant for the highest class of individuals.
Not to worry, though, as the Vaishnava saints appearing in the Kali Yuga come to rescue the fallen conditioned souls at all costs, without worrying about the limits imposed by language, time or circumstance. Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the greatest exponent of bhakti, put forth a flawless technique aimed at teaching the masses about love of the Supreme Godhead. It should be noted that knowledge, eternality and bliss reside permanently within the soul; these qualities don’t need to be taught, imbibed or forced. In the conditioned state, the internal torchlight of knowledge gets covered up by the nescience of the material world. By taking to activities which are seemingly knowledge-acquiring, one’s supreme intelligence is allowed to come free. Hence taking instruction from teachers is really more about reawakening knowledge than it is about learning new concepts.
Just as knowledge perpetually exists with the soul, so does love for God. The key to eliciting loving responses from the general public is to find a way to arouse the natural endearment that is harbored for the Supreme Spirit, who is addressed by different names in different times but still remains a singular entity. In the Vedic tradition, the Supreme Lord is known as Krishna, a word which speaks to God’s all-attractive nature. Since every soul is a lover of God, it would make sense to describe the Lord as being supremely attractive. Not only is Krishna beautiful, but so are the words that describe Him and the songs that detail His exploits and His wonderful characteristics.
Lord Chaitanya, Krishna Himself appearing on earth in the guise of a brahmana around five hundred years ago, introduced the sankirtana-yajna, or the sacrifice of chanting the holy names of God in a congregational manner, as the most potent and universal method of self-realization for the people of the Kali Yuga, the age we currently live in. Simply singing the verses of the Bhagavad-gita and other Vedic texts is certainly enough to deliver the mind to some extent, as the powerful sound vibrations heard from pure devotees enter the ear and immediately start to attack the wall of nescience brought on by material contact. But from the example of the student in the classroom, we saw that if information stops making sense and that if there is no active response from the mind, no amount of hearing will make any dent with the listener. Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, always concerned about the well-being of His students, which consist of every man, woman and child past, present and future, introduced a process which keeps the audience member, the potential student and future lover of Krishna, always actively engaged, feeling alive throughout the process.
The bhajan, or devotional song, is the next step up from the direct singing of the Vedas. The bhajan is often composed in a dialect native to the people of a particular area, thus allowing the truths of the Vedas to be presented in a more appealing form, one that is easily understandable. Since the bhajan is nicely sung, it exudes the symptoms of pure love found in the singer and the author of the songs. Though the bhajan is a step up from simple hearing of truths and lectures expounding on the greatness of Krishna, sankirtana, the method enthusiastically recommended by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, is even more effective.
Just as the rock band creates breaks in their live performance to allow for audience participation, the leader of the sankirtana party sings songs in such a way that the listeners are not only allowed to sing along, but they are wholly encouraged to participate as much as possible. To increase the effectiveness of sankirtana, the leader needs a song, or a tag line, that can be easily understood by the listener which, at the same time, accurately conveys the qualities of the Lord and the benefits of devotional service to Him. There is no more superior aspect to Krishna than His names. The name automatically evokes thoughts and memories of His pastimes, qualities and attributes. All other direct aspects of God are surely spiritual, but they do not carry the same potency as the name. The song sung by the sankirtana party leader must include these names in order to effectively evoke Krishna consciousness, or remembrance of God, within the listener.
As instituted by Lord Chaitanya, the most potent tag line, the most powerful and effective song for any sankirtana leader, is the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. By singing this song out loud in a call-and-response format, the audience members are allowed to sing along as loudly as they can. Moreover, there is no explicit break to the singing, as the song doesn’t include any other tag line, beginning, end, bridge, guitar solo, etc. Though one would think such a style of music would become monotonous, the sankirtana party leaders and their audience members that dance and sing in ecstasy remain in a high fever of transcendental love for a very long time. No other exchange of song or music style bears such properties. Lord Chaitanya, as the inaugurator of the sankirtana movement, kindly beseeches everyone to get up, leave their seats and move their feet at the sound of the message of transcendental love, universal brotherhood and full dedication to God espoused in the short, simple, but supremely effective phrase of the maha-mantra. Joining Lord Chaitanya in this never-ending song, our hearts and minds can merge into the ocean of transcendental bliss, where there is never any disconnect from the Supreme Lover, Shri Krishna.