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An explanation of the Hare Krishna mantra
by Gopala Guru Goswami
Meaning as explained by Gopala Guru Gosvami, disciple of Svarupa Damodara of Puri:
The word "hare":
hari harati papani dusta cittair api smrtah
anicchayapi samsprsto dahaty eva hi pavakah
vijnapya bhagavat tattvam cid ghanananda vigraham
haraty avidyam tat karyam ato harir iti smrtah
"Just as the fire, on contacting an object, automatically burns it, so the name of Hari takes away (harati) or burns up all ht esins of the people with materialistic hearts. It removes (harati) all ignorance and reveals the transcendental, blissful form of the Lord. Also, 'hari' means that personality who attracts (harati) the minds of all the people in the universe when they hear stories of His transcendental qualities; or, He who attracts the minds of people by His beautiful youthful form. 'Hari' in the grammatical form of address, the vocative, or calling out to a person, becomes 'hare'."
The word 'hare' has another meaning:
svarupa prema vatsalyair harer harati ya manah
hara sa kathyate sadbhih shri radha vrsabhanuja
Hara is Shrimati Radhika, daughter of Vrsabhanu, who steals (harati) the mind of Hari, Krishna, by her unalloyed love. Hara, in the form of address, also becomes 'hare'.
The word 'Krishna':
krsir bhu vacakah sabdo nas cananda svarupakah
tayor aikyam param brahma krishna ity abhidhiyate
"The word 'krishna' is composed of the root 'krsi' meaning 'bhu,' the shelter of all existence and the word 'na' meaning 'nivriti' or the form of supreme bliss. Combined they form the word 'krishna' which signifies the param brahma, the supreme personality of Godhead with blissful form."
Krishna in the form of address remains as 'krishna.'
The word 'Rama':
ramante yogino 'nante nityanande cidatmani
iti rama padenaiva param brahmadbhidhiyate
"The param brahma is known as Rama because the yogis take pleasure (ramante) in meditating on His eternal, blissful form."
vaidagdhi sara sarvasva murti liladbhidevatam
shri radham ramayan nityam rama ity abhidhiyate
"The Supreme Lord is called Rama because He carries out pastimes of pleasure with the most beautiful Shri Radha."
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare
Oh Radha, please attract my mind, and free me from this material world.
Oh Krishna, please attract my mind.
Oh Radha, attract my heart by showing your sweetness.
Oh Krishna, purify my mind by giving knowledge of how to perform worship of You through Your pure devotee.
Oh Krishna, give me steadiness to appreciate Your name, qualities and pastimes.
Oh Krishna, may I develop a taste for serving You.
Oh Radha, please make me qualified for your service.
Oh Radha, please instruct me on how I can serve you.
Oh Radha, let me hear of your intimate pastimes with your beloved.
Oh Rama (Krishna), let me hear of Your intimate pastimes with your beloved.
Oh Radha, reveal to me your pastimes with your beloved.
Oh Rama, reveal to me Your pastimes with Your beloved.
Oh Rama, engage me in remembering Your name, form, qualities and pastimes.
Oh Rama, please make me qualified for your service.
Oh Radha, be pleased with me.
Oh Radha, be pleased with me.