Maha-Mantra Das is a busy family man and software developer in Washington D.C.
In his spare time, he and his wife and children have taught about 60,000 people how to chant the Hare Krishna mantra on beads over the last decade.
As local GBC Anuttama Das comments, “He is super empowered -- an example of a congregation member taking outreach to heart.”
Originally from Tirupati, South India, Maha-Mantra moved to D.C. in 2007. Since 2008, when he first showed passersby how to chant on the National Mall during the July 4thRathayatra, he has been truly living up to his name meaning “servant of the great mantra.”
Every summer, Maha-Mantra Das teaches japa at ten different Rathayatra festivals: New York, New Jersey, Chicago, Hartford, Harrisburg, Wheeling, St. Louis, Raleigh, and Nashville as well as the Holi festival at ISKCON of D.C.
With strong support from temple president Ananda Vrindavan Dasi, he also visits many vegetarian street festivals in Richmond, Tacoma and beyond.
Maha-Mantra is usually accompanied by his wife Sandhini Dasi, their daughter Sruti, 22, and son Pancajanya, 20, as well as a team of about ten devotees from D.C. Often, he and his family split up so that they can cover two festivals in a single weekend.
At each event before approaching people, Maha-Mantra prays ardently to Srila Prabhupada to help him connect with them. He then invites them to share a simple yet highly effective mantra yoga practice.
“This will reduce all your stress, anxiety, depression, fear, impurities and negative emotions, and make you more focused and happy,” he says. “It only takes about seven minutes.”
Young people gather for a Mantra Meditation session with the aptly-named Maha-Mantra Das
Most people gladly follow him to his Mantra Yoga tent. There, he guides them in how to chant japa on beads and how to pronounce the Hare Krishna mantra.
“I firmly believe that no soul is new to the maha-mantra,” he says. “Within a minute, they have it memorized. Then I request them to close their eyes, shut out the world, and concentrate on clearly pronouncing and attentively hearing the mantra. When the mind wanders, I say, gently bring it back – and let your consciousness soak up the Holy Name.”
Most of the participants in this experience are non-Indians, from all over the world – the U.S., Canada, Europe, East Asia and beyond – as well as from many different professions and religions.
Maha-Mantra teaches multiple people at once – each group can comprise of up to 30 or 40 people. Often, people are eager to chant and pour into the tent without needing any encouragement. At one festival, devotees can train anywhere from several hundred up to about 4,000 newcomers to chant one round of the Hare Krishna mantra.
Afterwards, each person leaves with a meditation kit including a mantra card, japa beads and often a Bhagavad-gita As It Is, so that they can practice and learn more at home.
“People chant with so much enthusiasm, and they become so happy,” Maha-Mantra says. “It’s enlivening to see. So far, no one has told me ‘I don’t like this,’ after chanting. Everyone says ‘This is amazing.’ I’ve seen Muslims chant with all their hearts. I’ve seen doctors chant.”
One man, Maha-Mantra recalls, was crying as he chanted. Afterwards, he revealed that he was a butcher. “I’ve been sinful all my life,” he said. “I was looking for a transformative experience – thank you for introducing me to this.”
Maha-Mantra also teaches chanting at the 9/11 Unity interfaith walk in D.C; the ISKCON of D.C. temple every Sunday; and at the Bhakti Yoga Clubs at George Mason University and American University.
He keeps in touch with everyone he meets through email, or connects them to their local ISKCON temple, to give them support in continuously chanting and studying Srila Prabhupada’s books.
Many experience major positive shifts in their lives. Students who used to sruggle with attention and concentration in their academic education see a tremendous improvement in their ability to focus.
Others were under constant stress about their studies, careers and other material concerns. Now, however, those anxieties have subsided, and their only concern is how to continue the process of bhakti-yoga amidst so many distractions.
Some have been chanting for many years, and have received spiritual initiation.
The benefits also affect the japa teachers.
“For days after I do the Mantra Yoga tent, my own chanting will be on a different level,” Maha-Mantra says. “I don’t have to struggle with my mind so much.”
Meanwhile, Maha-Mantra is training local devotees everywhere he goes, so that the program can continue to grow exponentially.
As it expands, there’s no limit to how many people could be introduced to chanting the Holy Name.
It’s a heartening example of how one small person can make a big difference.[ hare-krishna-mahamantra ] [ mahamantra ] [ washington-dc ]