Everywhere I look they say that Hare in Hare Krishna mantra refers to Hara as well as Hari but is it legitimate to call to Her rather than to Him when we chant? Is it a choice? Is it a bonus – get two Names for the sound of one?
Grammatically it might be correct and there’s nothing wrong with thinking that we appeal to Hara when we chant, too, as it nicely complements Lord’s Names, Krishna and Rama, thus representing the whole Absolute Truth.
On the other hand I think that we should also accept Lord Chaitanya’s definitive prescription – we should chant the names of Hari and engage in Hari-katha, and that’s why we say “Haribol”, too. Maybe in His most intimate moments He thought of Hare as a cry for Hara but the vast majority of devotees were instructed into worship of Lord Hari.
I don’t want to draw a distinction here between “vast majority of devotees” and “rupanugas”, the latter are definitely striving to worship Hara while the main body of Gaudiya vaishnavism in the early days were happy with Hari. I think that would be an artificial distinction as everyone has heard from Lord Chaitanya about superiority of gopis’ devotion regardless of their own spiritual position in Krishna’s pastimes.
The real question for today – can *we* safely appeal to Hara in our prayers? I think this is where we have to be very careful. Being counted as a devotee of Krishna is the greatest blessing in this world but it is also available practically to everyone, Krishna, in His generosity, and especially as Lord Chaitanya, eagerly accepts just about everybody (save for mayavadis).
Everyone who has ever been invited to chant His name is practically a family already.
To claim the status of a devotee of Srimati Radharani, on the other hand, is not a right, it’s the highest, rarest privilege in both material and spiritual worlds. We might wish to become Her servants and we might even pray to be accordingly engaged and we might know all about the uniqueness of this position but only very very few of us can expect to actually fill it. Vast majority of devotees even in Vrindavana can’t present a claim to this position.
As She is the source of all pleasure for Krishna and so the source of all rasas, She is ultimately in charge of who serves where and for most of *us* it means assignments to stables, butter churning, butter stealing and all the other things done in Vrindavana for Krishna’s satisfaction.
Therefore, even if we acknowledge Srimati Radharani’s superior position we can’t unilaterally lay claim to be Her servants. We have to be properly inducted first. No one can just come out and declare that he is done with Hari and would pray only to Hara from now on. We should have some modesty.
Still, given that Her birthday is just around the corner, maybe, just maybe, She would consider listening to our prayers even if we are completely unqualified to utter them? I mean, as I said before, everyone has the right to pray to Hari even while in gross bodily consciousness, to become devotee of Hara, on the other hand, one must completely purify his heart of all contaminations first.
Alas, I’m still thinking about benefits that *I* can extract from someone else’s birthday. With an attitude like this I have no chance of earning Srimati Radharani’s mercy. Still, it’s an attempt at progress, however clumsy.