Consider this: Hundreds of thousands of people, five hundred years ago, the streets of Navadvip, West Bengal, a torchlight procession, drums thundering, feet and hands in a wild, transcendent, eternal, ecstatic dance, marching to the Chand Kazi's estate, marching with one purpose in mind, to have the exalted and inspired right to chant the names of the Divine to their soul's content. This is no regular protest, not your ordinary rebellion. This is the spiritual revolution, its thunder resounding throughout the dance steps of our history
The revolution must take place in men before it can be manifest in things.
Graffiti written during a French student revolt, May 1968
The sacred and the profane. Two dogs barking in our hearts, demanding our attention. Which one do we feed? In our constant struggle to define a blissful, loving state of humanity, we do most anything and everything to attract and achieve liberty, justice, and equality on this globe so blue. How do we achieve a real revolution? How do we go beyond the “meet the new boss, same as the old boss” syndrome.
We get a clue from that torchlight parade of the ecstatic chanters and dancers, the sankirtana party, from the streets of Navadvip, led by the great spiritual inspiration of the saintly, supreme activist Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. The spiritual predecessor of such great personalities as Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Mahaprabhu's mission was to freely give us what we have forgotten, the connection to our higher self, our identity as eternal spirit soul, beyond this temporary suffering body, to each and every living entity, without discrimination, through the vessel of the chanting of the Divine Holy Names, the maha-mantra, the Hare Krsna mantra (Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare)
In our temple here in the East Village, we carry those still-lit torches, trying our humble best to carry the message of Mahaprabhu forward in these post-modern, hodge-podge times. The message can be boiled down to this:
We know our human condition, our human society, desperately needs change, and is on the cusp of an upheaval that could either liberate us or destroy us. To make that collective decision for our future, we have to change our heart first, before we can change any external situation. We must clean the dust off our souls and find the internal strength that is the essential foundation to our external battles against the oppression and injustice of this world.
This chanting of the maha-mantra, Mahaprabhu's great weapon of redemption, stands, in our own experience as his devotees, as a very direct and very easy way to bring the spiritual revolution to our hearts and to the world. All we can ask of you, when you see us on the transcendent parade in these very streets of NYC, is to give us the chance, give it a try, give it your heart....
Rebellion without truth is like spring in a bleak, arid desert.
Kahlil Gibran, The Vision
The real revolution of our times must have a spiritual foundation. It must begin not with impulsive violence, or posturing of conceit or and hypocrisy. We must fight the oppressor within our own heart first. To do otherwise, as the ordeals of our history have shown us, leads to disappointment and failure for ideals both lofty and sincere. What our planet, what our people need now, first and foremost, is an internal revolution, a revolution of the heart and soul.
If we want to clean up our environment, and the cultural atmosphere we live in, we must begin by tending to our own internal environment, our own internal atmosphere. This is the first and most fundamental step.
When Mahaprabhu's ecstatic parade came to the house of the Chand Kazi, the despotic ruler threatening to smash the drums of the sankirtana revolution, he simply offered his saintly personality and his firm grasp of the universal truths of the spiritual heritage we all share. By his logic and his clean, clear heart, Mahaprabhu convinced the Chand Kazi to allow the chanting of the Holy Names to be free and available to all. No need for guns, hateful rhetoric, or political intrigue. Just soul.
This may sound naïve, too soft in the gut, as ifnd asking to be beaten and bullied by the big schoolyard kids with their missiles and gold. However, the challenge remains dangling for the hardened cynics to answer. Like the succulent ghee that comes from clarifying butter, the impurities in our own heart must be removed to give us the chance to win our countless external battles for truth and well-being for all.
This search for real truth, for internal depth and meaning, for the right to think for ourselves and to live in a world based on justice and equality, leads us to a deeper questioning of the fundamental nature of reality. What does our spiritual nature have to do with all of this fussing and fighting, pleading and demonstrating?
Why did we feel an urge to restore our relationship with the Divine as a way to take part in this vision of a better world? The more we think about it., the more we understand that we must put our souls into the fight, that we must rely not only on each other, but on the spiritual energy that surrounds us and pervades us.
Our people power needs this boost, a very real boost that must be experienced and put into practice. The internal, transcendental strength it gives us is the power and the fearlessness we must wield against an all-pervading culture of greed and selfishness that threatens to devour our every waking and dreaming moment.
In every sense, fighting for change in this world is such a great struggle. It takes great intelligence and perseverance and internal strength to bring real light into the darkness of our times. This light is something we can constantly access if we turn inwards, and try to personally become, to the deepest part of our being, the change and restoration we wish to see in this world.
From In the canyons of Manhattan, to the agricultural, sun-baked horizons of India, as the voices of shattered discontent rise from the streets of Greece and England t, oin the brave blogosphere of democratic hopes in China, and the still simmering realities of ghetto strife in Detroit, Los Angeles, and Paris, the plea for the birthright to the human vision and our spiritual heritage rises up beyond stereotype and stagnation into the ethers of our daily lives. It demands to be answered.
As the humble practioners of the lifestyle of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, we answer by loudly chanting the Holy Names. It is what we do, with all of our honesty and sincerity, our offering to the tidal wave of change on the horizon. All we can ask of you, when you see us on the transcendent parade in these very streets of NYC, is to give us the chance, give it a try, give it your heart....
Consider this: NYC, Lower East Side, a March night with spring sneaking in, drums thundering, feet and hands moving in the ecstatic, transcendent trance dance, marching in the concrete canyons, selflessly giving the gift of the Holy Name.. Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare... The STOMP sign on 2nd Avenue coincidentally announces ussays...but we were already there. Black, white, Indian, Vietnamese, some all mixed up, all of us all clear in heart, the real United Nations. This is the spiritual revolution, its thunder still resounding throughout the dance steps of history.