Accepted Paper:

Searching the form of God: the intimacy of sound and music among Krishna devotees in Mayapur  


Marje Ermel (Estonian Institute of Humanities, Tallinn University)

Paper short abstract:

The paper will explore the sonic expressions of religious intimacy in international Hare Krishna community in Mayapur. The paper will argue that through sound and attentive listening devotees create an intimate relationship not only between themselves but also with Krishna.

Paper long abstract:

Krishna devotees believe that one has to have a desire to hear, only then one can see Krishna's form. This is an intimate knowledge of God and can be acquired mainly by hearing the transcendental sound. This paper will address the meaning of sound and music in religious intimacy among Hare Krishna devotees in Mayapur, West-Bengal.

According to Hare Krishna discourse the sound of the Holy Name and Krishna himself are the same. However, God appears in his name only to those who are chanting the name without offences. I will explore how devotees learn to chant and hear the Holy Name on japa beads in appropriate way to create an intimate relationship with Krishna. I will also explore the meaning of 'the right mood of kirtan' by which devotees are creating the space of intimacy among themselves and with Krishna while singing his name in a communal prayer. I will argue that even though transcendent and mundane appear as separate realms in Hare Krishna discourse, through attentive listening and knowledge of the Holy Name a devotee can feel Krishna's presence in 'mundane' things and daily life.

Through this discussion I will also show that Krishna devotees can be seen as 'acoustic designers' who, while simultaneously singing and listening the 'Holy Name', create the intimate place to meet God in their everyday life. As a result, I will highlight the central and dynamic role of sound and music in the expressions of religious intimacy among the Krishna devotees in Mayapur.

Panel P073
Religious intimacy: collaboration, collusion and collision in ritual communication