By His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedānta Swami Prabhupāda
You may inquire why we chant Hare Krishna.
“Hare Krishna” was chanted by Lord Chaitanya, who introduced this movement five hundred years ago in India. We are following the footprints of Lord Chaitanya. Because He chanted Hare Krishna, therefore we are also chanting Hare Krishna.
Lord Chaitanya has recommended that God has innumerable names, and any one of those names can be chanted, and there are no hard and fast rules and regulations for chanting. It is not that you have to prepare yourself or you have to educate yourself or you have to adjust yourself for chanting. No. Everyone can chant Hare Krishna. Similarly, there is no preoccupation or any rules and regulations.
So the benefit will be that gradually you shall understand what you are. The whole modern civilization is going on under the wrong impression that “I am this body.” In Srimad-Bhagavatam it is said that “One who goes on with the concept of the body, is no better than an ass or cow.” [Yasyātma-buddhih kunape tri-dhātuke… SB 10.84.13].
But actually we are not this body. So if we chant this mantra, Hare Krishna, then I can understand what I am. And as soon as I understand that I am not this body, then my activities become different, because at the present moment I am acting on the concept of my life as this body. Because this body is born of a particular place in a particular country, therefore I am saying that “I am American,” or “Indian,” or “Chinese” or “German,” due to this body. And because I have got relationship with some woman with this body, therefore I accept the woman as my wife. There are hundreds of thousands of women, but the woman who has got relationship with this body is my wife. There are thousands and millions of children, but one child who has got intimate relation with this body, I call him as my son.
So if the body is falsely identified, then we can understand that our identification with this world is also false. The real identification is, as it is stated in the Vedic literature, aham brahmāsmi: “I am Brahman.”
“I am Brahman” means “I am spirit soul. I am not this matter.” So this misconception (that I am this body) has to be removed. Of course, it is not possible that everyone will be able to understand it, but even if a certain percentage of the human society can understand, so many problems will be solved immediately.
[An excerpt from a lecture delivered in Montreal, Canada on June 15, 1968]