Vanity thought #526. Catchy tunes

Today I was half-listening to Bhagavatam lecture on MayapurTV and was surprised to hear the speaker singing Krishna Krishna Krishna Krishna Krishna Krishna Krishna He to a popular classical tune. Later in the day I checked the recording again and finally learned that HG Sukreshvara Prabhu introduced it as his personal way of appreciation for Krishna, not as something we should all follow, too.

That made me think of all the times I tried to merge Hare Krishna mantra with catchy tunes that somehow get in my head and refuse to leave.

I don’t know the real cause of the catchy tunes, I don’t know what shastra says about them and the modern scientists do not have any explanations either. Some one-liners get into our heads and play on perpetual loop, everyone knows what it is and it can be extremely annoying.

One way of dealing with them is to change lyrics to Hare Krishna mantra and sometimes it works very well. Several years ago I had a bad affliction of Christmas music and almost all the songs there fit with Hare Krishna perfectly. Or I remember trying Katy Perry’s Fireworks, it was so good it could have been used for actual kirtans.

Still, I’ve never been satisfied with this practice, I perceive it as wrong and non-devotional. The best thing about it is that it purges earworms from my brain rather fast.

I reject this practice because no matter how nicely Hare Krishna fits into the melody, it’s the melody that makes it attractive to my brain, and with melody comes association of the author, producer, and the performer. These people convey certain mood and vibe that makes their products so attractive, and that attraction lies in certain forms of material enjoyment, be it feeling of power, control, hope, lust, desolation – we share their emotional state and we enjoy it.

When I transpose Hare Krishna mantra on those tunes I still don’t sing them for Krishna’s pleasure, I still enjoy the original feelings put there by materialists whose association, even subtle one, I should reject if I want to become a vaishnava.

Sticking Krishna’s Name on that subtle enjoyment doesn’t make it okay, it makes it only marginally better, and only if the goal is to get rid of the tune altogether. We cannot use Krishna’s Name to justify our continued enjoyment, that is actually an offense.

Now, Beethoven’s Ninth is probably not the worst kind of association one can get this way, it’s much better than some Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber, but the principle is the same – it has to be rejected or it would become a serious anartha in our hearts. Anartha – thing without value that we keep attachment to instead of being attached to Krishna.

The mirror side of this problem is catchy Hare Krishna tunes. Over the years we’ve collected quite a library of “dhuns” and we keep adding more and there’s always one or two fashionable ones that everyone imitates in kirtans and bhajans.

I don’t think it’s a problem on the same scale as getting One Direction in your head but the mechanics are the same – we enjoy the dhuns/tunes ourselves, Krishna comes second. I don’t think that’s how the tunes originally come into existence but imitators/followers really have no choice – they like the tunes themselves and they sing them because they like them.

Does Krishna like them? We generally assume He does but we tend not to verify this with our gurus. When these questions gets passed on to Srila Prabhupada his answer was that he didn’t like any new tunes. He gave us a list for each arati service and he didn’t want to see any deviations.

We have a bit more freedom with Hare Krishna and kirtans outside arati services but one should be obliterated on the spot for starting gurvashtakam to the tune by some pop-singer. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur, for example, indicated what tunes his songs should be sung to, leaving very little space for personal choice. If we sing our kirtans to the tunes of our acharyas we would get a bit of their association. Why would one replace that with the taste of Beyonce? Only for personal self-gratification.

Having said that, if a popular Hare Krishna tune gets stuck in our heads and gets replayed over and over with Lord’s Names reverberating in our minds – what could possibly be wrong about that?

In conclusion – as with all other material desires – we can avoid them only by avoiding their sources. Desires come from association, a good devotee would never get hooked on Lady Gaga if he never heard about her. Same reason why we avoid pornographic and erotic images – once you let it in it will never come out and it won’t stop until it wrecks your service completely.

Maintaining our purity should be our main concern when navigating this world.

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