What is the mahamantra?

The mahamantra, known in full as the Hare Krishna mahamantra, is:

हरे कृष्ण हरे कृष्ण कृष्ण कृष्ण हरे हरे
हरे राम हरे राम राम राम हरे हरे

hare krishna hare krishna krishna krishna hare hare
hare rama hare rama rama rama hare hare

What is a mantra?

A mantra is a hymn composed in concise and metric Sanskrit. Traditionally, mantra is defined as “that which liberates by being meditated upon.”[1]

Maha means ‘great’ in the superlative sense. So, the mahamantra is ‘the supreme mantra’, the best of all mantras.

What is the origin of the mahamantra?

The mahamantra is recorded in the Upanisads and Puranas, and it was first distributed broadly by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He taught that chanting the mahamantra is the ideal way to practise the dharma of the modern age, congregational chanting of the Holy Name (Sri Hari-nam-sankirtan), and develop divine love for the Supreme (Sri Krishna-prema).

Mahamantra chanted in sankirtan by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu

In the early 16th century, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu walked all over India and led chanting of the mahamantra in the villages, towns, and Temples everywhere He went. He would inspire people to dance and chant with Him and then offer them these simple instructions: “I have told you all this mahamantra. Please chant it earnestly. By doing so, you will attain all perfection. You can chant it at all times. There are no rules in this regard.”[2]

By the grace of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and His associates, the mahamantra has now spread all over the world and is awakening countless souls to their infinite spiritual prospect. To this day, it is the life and soul of devotees everywhere and at this very moment is vibrating on the tips of their tongues.

What makes the mahamantra the best?

The mahamantra is the best of all mantras because of its:

  • Simplicity
  • Universal accessibility
  • Position in the Absolute
  • Spirit of prayer
  • Benefit for the chanter


The mahamantra is simple: easy to learn, easy to remember, and easy to chant. It contains the highest spiritual essence in a minimum of words.

Universal accessibility

The mahamantra can be chanted by anyone, anywhere, at any time.

Unlike all Vedic mantras, which do not reveal their essence unless numerous rules and regulations are observed concerning preparation, environmental conditions, social circumstances, astrological conjunctions, and so forth, the mahamantra has no rules concerning who, where, or when it is chanted.

Irrespective of ethnicity, age, gender, education, class, and all other worldly designations, as well as all relative degrees of purity or impurity in the environment or the chanter, anyone and everyone can freely chant the mahamantra. Furthermore, chanting the mahamantra yields as a secondary benefit the results of having performed all varieties of Vedic rites and chanted all varieties of Vedic mantras.[3]

Position in the Absolute

To fully appreciate the depth of spiritual import in the mahamantra, we need to understand the spiritual nature and position of the Holy Name and the Divine Couple Sri Sri Radha-Krishna. These can only be summarised here in brief.

The Holy Name is a transcendental sound vibration form of the Supreme. The Holy Name and the Supreme are nondifferent, and by chanting the Holy Name, the full form of the Supreme is revealed in the heart.

The Divine Couple Sri Sri Radha-Krishna are the original, personal, and eternal divine forms of the Supreme. Their eternal play of love is the underlying purpose for all of existence, and the highest spiritual prospect of every living being is to render service in their divine abode of Sri Vrndavan Dham. The Hare Krishna mahamantra is a manifestation of divine grace from that highest spiritual realm. The mantra connects all living beings with that ultimate reality. Thus, the mantra is not only the supreme mantra for the modern age (the Kali-yuga mahamantra), but the supreme mantra for all ages.

Spirit of prayer

To understand the spirit of the mahamantra, we first need to understand its content. It is not essential to understand the meaning of the mahamantra to be benefitted by chanting it. Indeed, the Holy Names in the mahamantra purify everyone who hears or chants them regardless of anyone’s understanding. Still, a simple understanding of the meaning of the Names in the mantra has been given by our Acharyas to facilitate chanting the mantra in the ideal spirit.

What does the mahamantra mean?

The mahamantra is made up of three Names:

  • Hare
  • Krishna
  • Rama

Hare is the vocative form of Hara, a name of Srimati Radharani, the supreme feminine aspect of Divinity and eternal consort of Lord Krishna, which means ‘She who takes away’ and connotes more specifically ‘She who steals the heart of Krishna’.

Krishna is a personal name of the Supreme Lord Himself which means ‘He who attracts and satisfies’, implying that His capacity to attract and satisfy every living being is superlative.

Rama is also a Name of the Supreme Lord Krishna which means ‘pleasure’ implying that He is the source of pleasure for all living beings and that He Himself experiences pleasure to the utmost extent.

The esoteric meaning of the mahamantra

The above explanation of mahamantra is a highly refined conception of the mantra which is unique to the school of Gaudiya Vaisnavism. It stands in contrast to generic understanding of the mantra in that neither Hare, nor Krishna, nor Rama are thought to refer to the Brahman, Paramatma, or any manifestation thereof. Moreover, to highlight the distinguishing qualities of the Gaudiya Vaisnava conception, (1) Hare is not chanted as a prayer to Hari, the Lord of the universe in general, or forms of Hari such as Visnu or Nrsimhadev, (2) Krishna refers specifically to the Supreme Personality of Godhead and origin of all Avatars: the prince of the divine land of Vraja who is the son of Nanda and Yasoda and known as Govinda and Syamasundar, and (3) Rama does not refer to Lord Ramachandra of Ayodhya or Lord Balaram of Vrndavan but to Krishna as well, to ‘Krishna who gives pleasure to Sri Radha (Radha Raman Rama)’, to the Krishna who is won over by the love of Srimati Radharani. In sum, the mantra is chanted by Gaudiya Vaisnavas in aspiration for the supreme absolute reality of pure divine love in Sri Vrndavan Dham as revealed by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.

Prayer in surrender for service

The Holy Names in the mahamantra are couched in the vocative case. There are two reasons for this.

One reason is that this makes the mantra exempt from Vedic strictures (as discussed above). Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu did this intentionally so that the mahamantra would be universally accessible to everyone.

Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s second reason, His deeper reason, pertains to every living being’s eternal relationship with Divinity. Couching the mantra in the vocative case means that the Holy Names in the mantra are called out as one calls out to another person nearby. So, the mantra is a call: “O Hara! O Krishna! O Rama!” What is the spirit of the call? A prayer for grace and service made in pure surrender: “O Radha! O Krishna! Please mercifully appear in my heart and engage me in Your service.”

Benefit for the chanter

Chanting the mahamantra is the best way to engage in the dharma of the modern age, the congregational chanting of the Holy Name, and attain all the benefits of chanting the Holy Names. But really there is only one benefit to consider: the highest benefit of all. The nature of the eternal soul is to be a servant of the Divine, and loving service to Sri Sri Radha-Krishna is the ultimate expression of this nature. The mahamantra expresses exactly this essence: both the eternal soul’s nature and ultimate attainment. Thus, the mahamantra is the perfect means for all living beings to realise their natural, joyful spiritual potential. What greater benefit could there be?


Simple and sublime, the Hare Krishna mahamantra uplifts every living being who hears it. It is freely accessible to all, can be chanted anywhere at any time, and is the ideal way to realise the eternal soul’s highest potential.

So, chant the mahamantra and be happy!

hare krishna hare krishna krishna krishna hare hare
hare rama hare rama rama rama hare hare

And better yet, join regularly with others following the path given by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and discover the joy of Sri Hari-nam-sankirtan: congregational chanting of the Holy Names!

Further reading


Charmed by the Highest Plane

Sriman Mahaprabhu’s Gift to the World

More articles


The Transcendental Vibration Form of the Lord in Revealed Truth

The Hare Krishna Mantra in The Search for Sri Krishna


1: mananat trayate iti mantram.

2: Sri Chaitanya-bhagavata: Madhya-khanda, 23.77–8.


aho bata svapacho ’to gariyan
yaj jihvagre vartate nama tubhyam
tepus tapas te juhuvuh sasnur arya
brahmanuchur nama grhnanti ye te
(Srimad Bhagavatam: 3.33.7)

“How glorious! An outcast on the tip of whose tongue Your Name appears is exalted. Those who chant Your Name have performed all austerities and sacrifices, bathed in all the holy places, attained all virtues, and studied all the scriptures.”