Dear Sir,I have some doubts which I request you to clear:1. In the Hare Krishna mahamantra what does "Rama" refer to? Does it refer to Lord Rama of Ayodhya or does it refer to Lord Rama (Balarama) the brother of Lord Krishna? How can this mantra be Lord Krishna's mantra if it also contains Rama, another name of God, Rama?2. Does it matter if we chant the mahamantra in the reverse order i.e. Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare? Actually this is the order in which Lord Brahma gave the mantra to Narada Muni.3. Lastly, if I wish to chant the Hare Krishna Mahamantra but do not want to be initiated under any ISKCON guru. Is it ok? I read it is not important to be initiated under any guru in order to chant His names.Yours faithfullyKaushal VarmaAnswer: Follow the Authorized ScripturesYour questions are answered as follows:1. Rama in the Hare Krishna mantra can refer to Lord Ramacandra, Lord Balarama, Lord Parasurama, or to Lord Krishna.2. The sastras and God Himself have given us the mahamantra with Hare Krishna first. Here are some of the many evidences:Ananta Samhita:hare krishna hare krishna krishna krishna hare hare hare rama hare rama rama rama hare hare sodasaitani namani dvatrimsad varna kani hi kalau yuge mahamantrah sammato jiva tarane“Hare Krishna hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare. This hari-nama mahamantra consists of sixteen names and thirty-two syllables. In Kali-yuga this mantra can deliver all jivas.”In the Brahma Yamala, Lord Shiva states:harim bina nasti kincat papani-starakam kalau tasmal-lokod-dharana-artham hari-nama prakasayet sarvatra mucyate loko mahapapat kalau yuge hare-krsna pada dvandvam krsneti ca pada-dvayam tatha hare-pada-dvandvam hare-rama iti dvayam tad-ante ca mahadevi- rama rama dvayam vadet hare hare tato bru-yad harinama samud dharet mahamantram ca krsnasya sarva papa pranasakam“He Mahadevi! Look! In Kali-yuga there is no easier way to eradicate sins than by sri-hari-nama. It is therefore essential to propagate sri hari-nama among the general populace. The people in Kaliyuga can be easily liberated from the greatest hell by performing sankirtana of this mahamantra. To chant the mahamantra, first chant Hare Krishna twice, then chant Krishna twice, then Hare twice. After that, chant Hare Rama twice, then Rama twice and again Hare twice. One should chant, articulate and perform sankirtana etc., of Sri Krishna’s mahamantra, which destroys all sins.”In the Radhahrdya Khanda of the Brahmanda Purana, Romaharsana Suta prays to Sri Veda Vyasa as follows:yat tvaya kirtitam natha hari-nameti sanjitam mantram brahmapadam siddhi karam“He Vibho! He Prabhu! Please instruct me in the brahma svarupa nama mantra of Sri-Hari which is the bestower of all perfections.”In reply, Sri Veda Vyasa gives the following instruction:grhanad yasya mantrasya dehi brahmamayo bhavet sadhyah putah surapo ‘pi sarvasiddhi-yuto bhavet tad-aham te bhidhasyami mahabhagavato hamsi hare krishna hare krishna krishna krishna hare hare hare rama hare rama rama rama hare hare iti sodasakam namnam tri-kala kalmasapaham natah parataropayah sarva vedesu vidhyate“O my son, I will certainly instruct you in that maha-mantra, the acceptance of which a person in the bodily conception of life can be liberated and even a drunkard can quickly become purified and attain all perfection. I will instruct you because you are a maha-bhagavata and a suitable candidate. Just see! The sixteen word mahamantra:Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare HareHare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Harecan destroy the sins of the three worlds. The four Vedas do not mention a method for achieving liberation from material bondage superior to the chanting of this mahamantra.”The Ananta Samhita also states:hare krishna hare krishna krishna krishna hare hare hare rama hare rama rama rama hare hare sodasautani namani dvatrimsad varnakani hi kalau yuge mahamantrah sammato jiva tarane utsrajyaitan-mahamantram ye tvanyat kalpitam padam maha-nameti gayanti te sastra-guru-lani-ghanah“All sastras agree that the Hare Krishna maha-mantra, which is composed of sixteen names and thirty-two syllables, is the illustrious mantra to deliver the jivas in Kali-yuga. Those who neglect this mahamantra and accept any other process, due to their own imagination or the imagination of others, are actually disobeying guru and sastra. If someone asks, ‘Why is this sixteen word Hare Krishna mantra the mahamantra' then the following answer is given:‘Among all of Krishna’s names no name other than Hari can easily take away sins, great misfortune and ignorance. No name other than Krishna can deliver prema. And no name other than Rama can bestow liberation.’This is why the mahamantra is composed of these three primary names. Secondly, these sixteen names are an invocation. Om, svaha, etc., are not required to make the mantra more potent. For this reason it is called the mahamantra.”In some unauthorized editions of the scriptures the mahamantra has been reversed to start with Hare Rama instead of Hare Krishna. But we follow the authorized scriptural editions which give Hare Krishna first.3. If one chants Hare Krishna sincerely, he is begging Krishna that he can obediently surrender to the instructions of Krishna. And since Krishna orders us to accept a guru, if we are chanting Hare Krishna sincerely, we will naturally in due course of time surrender to a bona fide spiritual master. So what you read is not correct.