BYU Hunger Banquet
Posted March 18, 2007
Last Saturday evening, about 15 devotees came to the Hunger Banquet at Brigham Young University for chanting and a drama. Ram Ranjana took this picture from the balcony of the Wilkinson Student Center while the act previous to ourselves was on stage.
We have participated, at their invitation, in the Hunger banquet for many years. This year the venue was moved from upstairs to the ground floor of the Student Center, a huge cavernous room. Attendance was up from previous years to about 700 students and teachers.
Jai Krishna lead the devotees chanting onto the stage where we continued for 10 minutes. I introduced "The Scholar and the Boatman." which was then performed by Jai Krishna, Zack, and myself. We used Parividha's excellent 13 minute version prerecorded on Ipod and piped through the sound system while we lip synched. Reception was very good, laughs and applause.
After the drama I announced the date of Holi as March 24th, which was cheered by many students. Then I explained the importance of chanting Hare Krishna thusly.
"BYU" is a theistic university, so you all believe in God. Do you also believe God is absolute? (affirmative from all). The nature of the Absolute is that He is nondifferent than His Name. In the relative world chanting "water water water" does not quench your thirst, as the name and the substance are different. But on the Absolute plane, God and His Names are non different. When you take the Name of God on your tongue He is dancing there.
How many Names do we have for God in Christianity? Five or six, maybe ten - Jehovah, Emmanuel? If we add from other traditions we can get a few more, like Allah. And in India we also have the name, among others, of Krishna, which means "All Attractive." Many saints and sages have chanted Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare/Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare since thousands of years. Hare is an innvocatory term. Krishna, as I said, means: "All Attractive", and Rama is another Name of God which means "Spiritual Pleasure." Hare Krishna is the preferred mantra of choice by saints and sages because whatever qualities of God are refered to by other Names, whether it be His power, or beauty, or knowledge, strength, humility etc., at the end of the day, God is "All Attractive."
In India there is a prayer commonly recited from memory called "Vishnu Sahasara Nama." It means "thousand names of Vishnu: "Visnum visanur vastakaro, bhuta bhava bhavatman, bhuta brht bhuta bhavaya, bhutatman bhuta bhavana" that is one verse, there are 106 more. Shall I continue? (many students jokingly shout, "Yes.") It takes about 40 minutes to recite.
In the Scriptures it is said that one recitation of Krishna's name is equal in potency to the entire Vishnu Sahasra Nama and three mentions of the Name Rama are equal to one Vishnu Sahasra Nama. In the Hare Krishna mantra Krishna's Name appears four times and Rama's Name appears four times. Thus saying the mantra, which takes about 5 seconds, is equal to saying the Vishnu Sahasra Nama more than five times which would take three hours and 20 minutes.
Analogously, if you were a business man and could invest $5.00 getting a return within five seconds of 200 dollars, would you not do it over and over, as many times as you could?
You've all told me you believe in God, and we've agreed God is Absolute, non different than His Name. As to the potency of the Name Krishna, you will have to trust me on that. But you have nothing to lose and so much to gain if you will kindly chant and clap along as we sing."
Though we had been given half hour on stage, by the time we'd chanted for the second time, with many, many students clapping and chanting along, we'd taken 40 minutes. Nobody complained. In fact, when I returned home to the temple that evening this nice e-mail was waiting from Dave Schuler, head of the prestigious Kennedy center on campus.
Caru, I didn't get a chance to find and thank you for performing at the Hunger Banquet tonight. It was excellent--please tell your group. It was so good for BYU students to be exposed to your beliefs and your goodness. We'll have to catch up sometime--life is too busy; I've been wanting to stop at the temple and hang out a while for the last several years. Just never enough time. Take care, and, again, thank you very much.