Chanting the names of God brings welcome relief to a country rife with racial tension.

The practice of chanting God's names in public was begun by Lord Caitanya who is God Himself five hundred years ago in Bengal, India. The Lord predicted that in every town and village of the world God's name would be sung. But how His prediction would be fulfilled nobody knew for sure. Then in 1965 His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, age seventy, set sail from India to America to bring the Hare Krsna movement to the West.

Kirtan with Giriraj Swami in South Africa

Kirtan with Giriraj Swami in South Africa

Because people in this age have no time (or no interest) to go to the church or temple, God comes to them in the form of His holy name. Therefore, in New York City not long after his arrival in America, Srila Prabhupada suggested that his first followers take the chanting out of the temple and into the park. They readily agreed.

It was a strange sight for New Yorkers. Srila Prabhupada sat under a tree and began singing. Strollers and musicians joined him. He entered their world with the holy names, and he entered their hearts. A headline inThe New York Times declared, SWAMI'S FLOCK CHANTS IN PARK TO FIND ECSTASY.

Every Saturday we go into the streets in South Africa and chant Hare Krsna. Chanting in Johannesburg recently, we came across several musical groups playing in the promenade outside Market Theater. We joined in with some of them, and some of them joined in with us. When we joined some Zulus in tribal dress, they danced around their drums and chanted Krsna's names. Looking into the crowd that gathered, I perceived a deep sense of appreciation. Here were blacks, whites, coloreds, Indians, Africans, and Europeans, all united in God's name. This coming together of peoples is exactly what everyone is hankering to see.

After we had chanted with some Rastafarians, one of them exclaimed, "We really liked playing with you. People are surprised: 'How is it that the Hare Krsnas and the Rastafarians are getting together, singing and dancing?' They couldn't believe it! So I told them, 'God speaks in different languages, but He's the same God. We chant in our language, and they chant in theirs, but it all goes to the same place. So what's the difficulty getting together and singing God's names?' " Another musician suggested we hold big festivals together, with chanting and dancing, speaking about God, and lots of "Hare Krsna food." Perhaps nobody really understood why everyone felt so pleased that afternoon, but it was actually due to the presence of Lord Krsna. Srila Prabhupada explains:

"As living spiritual souls, we are all originally Krsna conscious entities, but due to our association with matter from time immemorial, our consciousness is now polluted. The transcendental vibration established by chanting Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare is the sublime method for reviving our transcendental consciousness. The chanting is a spiritual call for the Lord and His energy to give protection to the conditioned soul, and the Lord reveals Himself to the devotee who chants this mantra sincerely. No other means of spiritual realization is as effective in this age of quarrel and hypocrisy as the chanting of the maha-mantra: Hare Krsna Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare."