This series systematically explains some of the important philosophical concepts that form the foundation of the Vedic culture and the Krsna consciousness movement.

PART II: Krsna, or God, is absolute: there is no difference between His name, His body, His qualities, His paraphernalia, and so on. He can perform any activity with any part of His transcendental body.

We conditioned living entities are not absolute. We are spirit souls, but we now have material bodies, which are different from us. Our bodies have names, which are again different from our bodies. If someone calls your name from ten miles away, that doesn't mean you are there. You and your name are different.

Because Krsna is absolute and He and His name are identical, when you chant Hare Krsna, Krsna is actually there. You may not realize that right away, but by regular chanting you will gradually understand that you are directly associating with God.

The Padma Purana states:

The holy name of Krsna is transcendentally blissful. It bestows all spiritual benedictions, for it is Krsna Himself, the reservoir of all pleasure. Krsna's name is complete, and it contains all transcendental tastes. It is not a material name under any condition, and it is no less powerful than Krsna Himself. Since Krsna's name is not contaminated by the material qualities, there is no question of its being involved with maya (the illusory energy). Krsna's name is always liberated and spiritual; it is never conditioned by the laws of material nature. This is because the name of Krsna and Krsna Himself are identical.

The chanting of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra is the perfect reciprocation between the spirit soul and the supreme soul, Krsna. Although our relationship with Krsna is eternal, in the material world it becomes covered. It can gradually be uncovered by chanting.

Imagine pouring water into a cup full of ink. The more water you pour, the less ink will remain in the cup. Ultimately, only pure water remains. Similarly, the chanting of Hare Krsna is a process of gradual purification. If you keep chanting regularly, all material contamination will gradually disappear, and you will be able to perceive your original, spiritual nature, which is called sac-cid-ananda, or an eternal life full of bliss and knowledge.

Chanting is not a cheap process. If you want to purchase a jewel, you can easily buy a cheap imitation. But if you want the real thing, you have to invest a lot of money. As the saying goes, you get what you pay for. To obtain anything valuable, you have to work. So don't expect any sudden, flash results. But by chanting steadily, you will make progress and ultimately attain the goal of life, pure love for God.

Although a person afflicted with jaundice tastes candy as bitter, candy is the best cure for jaundice. Once the patient is cured, he can again taste candy's sweetness. In Upadesamrta, Srila Rupa Gosvami gives an analogy in this regard:

The holy name, character, pastimes, and activities of Krsna are all transcendentally sweet like sugar candy. Although the tongue of one afflicted by the jaundice of ignorance cannot taste anything sweet, it is wonderful that simply by carefully chanting these sweet names every day, a natural relish awakens within his tongue, and his disease is gradually destroyed at the root.

If you chant regularly, the effects will be perceivable in your life. You'll gradually become free from negative qualities like anger, lust, greed, hatred, and envy.

And you'll develop good qualities like compassion, cleanliness, patience, truthfulness, tolerance, and peacefulness. You'll not be easily disturbed by material success or failure, because by chanting you'll understand that real success has nothing to do with the material body, which will perish sooner or later. You'll be happy in adverse circumstances because your happiness will come not from the temporary material body but from the soul. You'll even become free from the fear of death, because you'll understand clearly that as spirit soul you are eternal.

The chanting of Hare Krsna is the ticket to the spiritual world and the end of the miseries of birth, death, old age, and disease. While materialistic people are willing to work hard in a desperate attempt to squeeze happiness out of matter like chewing already-chewed gum you can use the same energy to obtain permanent, spiritual pleasure. No one can ever take that pleasure away from you, and the only price is your sincere desire to obtain it

In the Padyavali, a collection of prayers by great devotees, we find the following statement about the effect of chanting Hare Krsna: "As the rising sun immediately dissipates all the world's darkness, so the holy name of the Lord, if chanted once without offenses, can dissipate all the reactions of a living being's sinful life. All glories to that holy name of the Lord, which is auspicious for the entire world."

Srila Prabhupada gave the following explanation of chanting Hare Krsna:

This transcendental vibration of chanting of Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna , Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare is the sublime method of reviving our Krsna consciousness. As living spiritual souls we are all originally Krsna conscious entities, but due to our association with matter since time immemorial, our consciousness is now polluted by the material atmosphere.
In this polluted concept of life, we are trying to exploit the resources of material nature, but actually we are becoming more and more entangled in her complexities. This illusion is called maya our hard struggle for existence for winning over the stringent laws of material nature.
This illusory struggle against material nature can at once be stopped by the revival of our Krsna consciousness. Krsna consciousness is not an artificial imposition on the mind. It is the original energy of the living entity. When we hear the transcendental vibration, this consciousness is revived, and therefore the process of chanting Hare Krsna is recommended by authorities for this age.
By practical experience, also, we can perceive that by chanting this maha-mantra, or "the great chanting for deliverance," one can at once feel transcendental ecstasy from the spiritual stratum. When one is actually on the plane of spiritual understanding, surpassing the stages of sense, mind, and intelligence, one is situated on the transcendental plane.
This chanting of Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna , Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare is directly enacted from the spiritual platform, surpassing all lower stages of consciousness, namely sensual, mental, and intellectual. There is no need to understand the language of the mantra, nor is there any need of mental speculation, nor any intellectual adjustment for chanting thismaha-mantra. It springs automatically from the spiritual platform, and as such anyone can take part in this transcendental sound vibration without any previous qualification and dance in ecstasy. We have seen it practically even a child can take part in the chanting, or even a dog can take part in it.
The chanting should be heard, however, from the lips of a pure devotee of the Lord, so that the immediate effect can be achieved. As far as possible, chanting from the lips of nondevotees should be avoided. Milk touched by the lips of a serpent has poisonous effects.
The word Hara is a form of addressing the energy of the Lord. Both Krsna and Rama are forms of directly addressing the Lord, and they mean "the highest pleasure."Hara is the supreme pleasure potency of the Lord. This potency, addressed as Hare, helps us in reaching the Supreme Lord.
The material energy, known as maya, is also one of the multipotencies of the Lord. The living entities are described as an energy that is superior to matter. When the superior energy is in contact with inferior energy, it becomes an incompatible situation. But when the marginal potency is in contact with the supreme spiritual potency, Hara, it becomes the happy, normal condition of the living entity.
The three words namely Hare, Krsna, and Rama are the transcendental seeds of the maha-mantra, and the chanting is the spiritual call for the Lord and His internal energy, Hara, for giving protection to the conditioned souls. The chanting is exactly like genuine crying by the child for his mother. Mother Hara helps in achieving the grace of the supreme father Hari, or Krsna, and the Lord reveals Himself to such sincere devotees.
Therefore no other means of spiritual realization is as effective in this age as chanting the maha-mantra: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna , Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

Certain activities are conducive to pure chanting of Hare Krsna and therefore to one's advancement in spiritual life. There are also detrimental activities. It is important to be able to distinguish between the two; otherwise, one's attempt to make spiritual progress will be like trying to light a fire while pouring water on it.

The following are considered by Vedic authorities to be favorable for one's spiritual advancement:

1. Patient, enthusiastic determination to advance spiritually by chanting Hare Krsna.
2. Living a regulated life according to spiritual principles.
3. Avoiding unnecessary material activities.
4. Associating with devotees.
5. Reading the sacred scriptures like Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam.
6. Eating only food that's been offered to Krsna.
7. Being clean, humble, and honest.
8. Living simply.

Unfavorable activities include:

1. Greedy endeavor for material accomplishments.
2. Engaging in unnecessary worldly talk.
3. Not following spiritual principles, or blindly following rituals.
4. Meat-eating, illicit sex, intoxication, and gambling.
5. Pride, lust, anger, and greed.
6. Close friendship with materialistic people.

One must also carefully avoid offenses in relation to the chanting of the Lord's holy name. The Padma Purana lists the following:

1. To blaspheme the devotees who have dedicated their lives for propagating the holy name of the Lord.
2. To consider the names of the demigods like Lord Siva or Lord Brahma to be equal to, or independent of, the name of Lord Visnu.
3. To disobey the orders of the spiritual master.
4. To blaspheme Vedic literature or literature in pursuance of the Vedic version.
5. To consider the glories of chanting Hare Krsna to be imaginary.
6. To give some interpretation on the holy name of the Lord.
7. To commit sinful activities on the strength of the holy name of the Lord.
8. To consider the chanting of Hare Krsna one of the auspicious ritualistic activities offered in the Vedas as fruitive activities.
9. To instruct a faithless person about the glories of the holy name.
10. To not have complete faith in the chanting of the holy names and to maintain material attachments, even after understanding so many instructions on this matter.

For thousands of years, persons aspiring to awaken their original, pure consciousness have practiced the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra. By chanting you loosen your ties to material bondage birth, old age, disease, and death. You prepare for the ultimate test death which will determine whether you have used your human intelligence to further entangle yourself in the labyrinth of karmic reactions or to leave the prison of this material world and return to your real home, the spiritual world, where innumerable spirit souls enjoy an eternal life in bliss and knowledge in the company of Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.