Around three years ago I was thinking to myself how to properly pronounce “Hare” in the mahāmantra – with stress on the first or the second syllable?
To my ear, devotees usually put the stress on the last “e” and, to my ear, it doesn’t sound right. If we call someone, would we stress the last syllable? In English there’s no vocative and if we call someone by name we don’t change it, but if we did, would we stress the changed part over the original name? I don’t think so, the name itself is more important than the inflection.
OTOH, in both Hari and Hara we stress the last syllable as it is, if we change it to “e”, shouldn’t we stress it as usual?
Does it matter? Not really. To my knowledge, there is no stress in Sanskrit, especially if we take words out of ślokas with their rhythms and rhymes. It might affect our attitude, though – if in stress and intonation we imitate our every day speech. To my ear, HarE Kṛṣṇa sounds more like “C’mon Kṛṣṇa” than, for example, “dear Kṛṣṇa”. “C’mon Kṛṣṇa” implies a demand, almost an order, at best a cheer – not the kind of relationship we want to have with the Supreme Lord.
“C’mon” is not a kind of a word one would say from the position of humility and infinite patience, so I tend to favor stress on the first syllable – “hAre Kṛṣṇa”. Haven’t noticed any particular advantage from this tactic over the past three years but who knows, one day it might pay off.
There’s another, much more important consideration we should be aware of when it comes to “Hare”.
A few days ago I mentioned that Kṛṣṇa is not very important for us as Gauḍīyā vaiṣṇavas, we are more of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī’s servants than of Kṛṣṇa’s, or at least we aspire to be.
Kṛṣṇa is God, nothing can ever change that, pray or no pray, He would still be God and we would still be minute, infinitesimal souls of no particular use to Him. What we can and should change is bhakti in our hearts, and we don’t get it from Him, we get it from Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī.
We can try to become Kṛṣṇa’s devotees and try to approach Him all our lives but bhakti will never come out of it even if we succeed (by the mercy of Lord Nityānanda), we can develop bhakti only by the mercy of His devotees, and they are representatives of Śrī Rādhikā.
So, what’s the use of praying to Kṛṣṇa? When we call His name over and over again and do not offer any service, being in a selfish, conditioned state, what do we hope to achieve? What would He ever do for us? Offer care and protection? We don’t need to ask Kṛṣṇa for that, Lord Viṣṇu can provide all we need in this universe and more.
Kṛṣṇa will not invite us into His company, we are nobodies to Him, we only matter as much as devotees’ recommendations, and those come from Śrī Rādhikā, too. Not from Her personally, of course, but from Her servants. In other sampradāyas it might work differently but we, followers of Gauḍīyā vaiṣṇavism, are very unique in this because we treasure service to Kṛṣṇa through His devotees more than serving Him directly.
Other vaiṣṇavas might try to reach lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa, we try to reach lotus feet of Śrī Rādhā. Not personally, again, lotus feet of the servants of Her servants would be even better, more suitable for our contaminated state and general luck of devotion.
Hmm, maybe I need to correct the first sentence in the previous paragraph – other vaiṣṇavas do not want Kṛṣṇa, they want Viṣṇu or maybe Nārāyaṇa. They want to reach Vaikuṇṭha, not Kṛṣṇaloka. The kind of relationships they want with the Lord do not exist in Vṛndāvana, there’s no place for them there.
One might say that there are neutral and dāsya rasas in Vṛṇdāvana, too, but I hope they are not the same. I’m actually pretty sure of it, just too lazy to search Nectar of Devotion or other books for confirmation.
No one in Vṛndāvana, not even trees, birds or bees, are in awe with Kṛṣṇa, no one thinks of Him as majestic and worthy of utmost respect. Their love for Him, no matter in what rasa, is absolutely free from reverence so prominent on Vaikuṇṭhas.
Moreover, I would even argue that flowers or streams of Vṛndāvana are not so much His devotees as devotees of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī and His other devotees – just look at the example of Uddhava who wanted to be born in Vṛndāvana as grass so that he could get the dust of gopī’s lotus feet. The grass that is already there probably got this kind of wish granted even before him.
Sure, everyone loves Kṛṣṇa there and if Kṛṣṇa ever wants anything everyone is happy to oblige but most of the time they are engaged in His service through other devotees – flowers are made into garlands by gopīs and food is cooked by Mother Yaśodā.
Anyway, my point today is that “Hare” in the mahāmantra is, in a way, more important than Kṛṣṇa or Rāma. Even if we take “Hare” as a call to Lord Hari, it’s still a call to be connected, to be engaged in service, it’s a call for relationship, call for bhakti. “Kṛṣṇa” attracts us and Rāma gives us pleasure but “Hare” gives pleasure to the Lord, therefore it’s more valuable and more important.
“Hare” also makes up half the mantra, we say it twice as often as we say “Kṛṣṇa” or “Rāma” – this must be for a reason, too. Think about it – half the mantra calls for relationship and half the mantra describes this relationship – a quarter expresses our love for the Lord and a quarter expresses Lord’s care for us.
To be honest, I don’t see myself giving half of my attention to “Hare” when I chant, nor do I see other devotees doing it. I don’t know about others but I have decided to change this ratio and consciously try to concentrate on “Hare” as much or even more than I concentrate on “Kṛṣṇa” when I chant.
Newer devotees tend to slurp “Hare Hare” at the end of the lines and I remember listening to recording of a senior vaiṣṇava who was very unclear about “Hare Hare”, too, it sounded like an extra “Hare” in there for me. I can’t be responsible for other people’s japa and I don’t want to diminish anyone’s devotion or give anyone any advice in this regard but I must be responsible for my own chanting.
Brute force of mind is one method but understanding the important of “Hare” to our spiritual lives is probably a better, longer lasting solution. I hope this post will help me remember that