As published in The Harmonist (Sree Sajjanatoshani)
Edited by Paramahamsa Paribrajakacharyya Sri Srimad Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Goswami Maharaj

DECEMBER 16, 1934

The word samkeertana calls up the picture of singing and dancing, to the tune of a particular type of music, in the company of group of persons. But the word does not bear any limited meaning. Dancing and singing in company was no doubt practised by the Supreme Lord Sree Krishna Chaitanya and His associates on particular occasions. This was the form of samkeertana that was performed by Mahaprabhu in the courtyard of Sreebas's house. Sreenivas Acharyya, at a subsequent period, in association with Shyamananda Prabhu and Srila Narottama Thakur made this form the vehicle for preaching among the masses. The Gaudiya literature is particularly rich in Padavali or songs appropriate for such form of Samkeertana.

The performances of Sree Gaurasundar in the courtyard of Sreebas Pandit are identified with the rasa dance of Sree Krishna in the company of the milkmaids. But those performances were not open to the public. The Supreme Lord danced in the view of all the people in the midst of samkeertana on the occasion of the demonstration against the Kazi. He also danced in front of the car of Sree Jagannathadeva and while circumambulating the temple of Sree Jagannathdeva at Puri. He danced in public on many other occasions also.

But dancing and singing was not the only form of Samkeertana, although it certainly was the familiar method. The Teaching of Mahaprabhu was given to the world in a series of discourse in the form of conversations with His associates. There were besides informal talks or 'Istagosthi'. The Supreme Lord often engaged in controversies with the teachers of the different religions that were current at the time. A great literature was produced under His instructions by the Goswamis of Vrindavana and also by several other principal followers. This literature or a part of it has come down to us and displays a very high standard of technical excellence also from the artistic point of view.

Prakashananda, who was a leading sanyasi at Benares at the time, at first objected to singing and dancing as being unworthy of a sannyasi, and forbidden by the Shastras. He, however, recanted his opinion and accepted the Teaching and practice of Mahaprabhu. The pandits of Nabadwip also objected to the loud singing of the Name of Krishna by many persons in company. They were of opinion that it was an innovation of Sree Chaitanya and was not to be found in the Shastras. They were particularly opposed to the miscellaneous nature of the samkeertana group and to the boisterous character of the performance. They considered the method to be both vulgar and absurd.

Music, dance and song do not, however, make any professional worldly performance an act of the highest form of worship of Godhead. On the contrary, a person who is addicted to music, song and dance is unfit to worship Godhead. The performance of Sree Chaitanya and His associates must not be considered on the level of ordinary musical performances by the people of this world. Sree Chaitanya and His associates were made to dance and sing by the realisation of unalloyed love to the feet of Sree Krishna. They had no attraction for the pleasures of the body and mind. Dance, song and music appeal to the people of this world as affording the gratification of their sensuous appetites in a gross or refined form. There is absolutely nothing spiritual in such performances by persons who are addicted to sensuous living. On the contrary it is only a method, probably the most powerful method, of cultivating the sensuous side of our mundane nature. This is proved by the terrible and unwholesome reaction of these performances on the character of those who indulge in them either as performers or as spectators and audience. These practices certainly increase our addiction to the things of this world. It is for this reason that the Shastras forbid a Brahmana to indulge in dance, song and music except for the purpose of serving Godhead. Prakashananda and the Pandits of Nabadwip supposed that the song and dance of Sree Chaitanya and His associates were performed for the gratification of their sensuous appetites. And it was for this reason that they strongly objected to the method. The admission of the lowest castes to these performances did not also increase their good will towards the practice.

Those who think that Sree Chaitanya had made it easy for illiterate and immoral persons to worship God by ignoring the teaching of the Shastras, are wholly misinformed as regards the nature of the samkeertana that was practised and taught by the Supreme Lord. The samkeertana is the fulfilment of all the injunctions of the Shastras, for the simple reason that it is not a performance by the body or the mind but by the soul on the transcendental plane of the spirit. It is, of course, open to all persons to share the function on one condition viz. that its nature be not misunderstood. The transcendental nature of the Name of Krishna is the starting-point in the process. The Name has to be heard from the lips of pure devotees by the method of unconditional submission. Once the Name is thus heard by any person he is thereby freed from all addiction to the pleasures of the flesh. His body and mind are perfectly purified and become fit for chanting the Name of Krishna on the plane of the pure devotee. It is only on the lips of persons thus purified by the Mercy of the Name appearing on the lips of the sadhus that the transcendental Name manifests Himself in the Form of articulated Word or Sound. This mode of Appearance of the Absolute is testified to by all the Shastras. It is the Shrauta Pantha or the path of hearing. The Mantra or the Word or Name of God imparted by the preceptor, or the pure devotee, to a submissive person or disciple can alone deliver the conditioned soul from his unnatural affinity for the things and relationships of this material world. But the Mantra is not to be chanted with a loud voice. Although we have the authority of no less a person than Sree Ramanujacharyya that the Name of God or the essence of the Mantra must be communicated to all persons who are not unwilling to receive Him in the spirit of submission. Sree Ramanujacharyya was commanded by his Guru not to divulge the Mantra, imparted to Him, to any other person. But Sree Ramanujacharyya at once got together as many as seventy-four persons who were willing to receive the Mantra with submission and in their presence spoke out the Mantra with a loud voice. The difficulty is that insincere persons are more anxious about the letter of the statements of the Shastras than about the real spirit of their teaching and hence wilfully deceive themselves and others.

The Mantra is the Name of God in the latent Form. For this reason no person to whom the Mantra has not yet disclosed His manifest Form is really in a position to communicate his nature to other persons. The injunction does not declare the unfitness of the audience but that of the person who receives the Mantra. During the period of pupilage, the student is not considered to be fit to be the teacher of other persons.

The difference between the Name and the Mantra consists in this; that the Name is the fully manifest Absolute while the Mantra is potential Absolute. The Name directs the person whom He wants to favour to the Guru for receiving the Mantra by submission to the Guru. The function of pupilage is not curtailed or abolished. This truth is very clearly put by Srila Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami in Sree Chaitanya Charitamrita (Adi. 7/73). "The bondage of the world will be unloosened By Krishna-Mantra and the Feet of Krishna will be obtained by Krishna-Nama".

The samkeertana can be properly performed only by those who are freed from the bondage of the world. It can also be performed by conditioned souls under the guidance of the sadhus by the method of unconditional submission to the Name appearing on the lips of the sadhus. But in neither case it has the character of 'Taur-Yatrika' or dissipating performance of music, song and dance that is practised by persons who are addicted to the pleasures of the senses.