On Harinama and Public Chanting


What is your opinion regarding nagar sankirtana or harinama (public chanting)? You state in one place that people see us in dhotis and think we are crazy. I have been in places where devotees wear western clothes on harinam and my sense is people still think we are crazy. They observably also ignore us when wearing dhotis and walking through the streets singing a mantra with exotic instruments. If you were running a Krishna West center, would you advise against walking harinam? What about public sit-down harinam?


H.D. Goswami Profile Picture

Regarding your questions, we must first distinguish a basic principle from variable details of application. The basic principle here is that we should engage the public in hearing and chanting the Holy Names of Krishna. The variable details are when, where, and how we do that.

In certain contexts, walking may appeal to the public, as in parades, other festive occasions, or wherever and whenever it works. If we can make a more favorable impression and get more people to hear and chant Krishna’s names by sitting down, then we should sit. The problem is that we have a long traditon of ignoring public opinion on the grounds that Hari-nama Sankirtana is absolutely beneficial and therefore it makes no difference what the public thinks; Or at best we should do some basic choreography and wear clean clothes, but certainly not adjust anything beyond that since the benefit is absolute.

However such thinkers forget Bhagavad-gita 17.28: “Whatever is offered, given or done as austerity, without faith is called asat, ‘unreal,’ it does not stand in this life or the next.”

The Holy Name certainly benefits all those who hear it, however there is far more benefit when one hears or chants with faith. And convincing people that we are respectable, sane members of society is often a precondition to their following us with faith.