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As I discuss in this answer, the Hare Krishna mantra, popularized by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and his Gaudiya Vaishnava followers (especially the organization ISKCON), originates from the Kali Santarana Upanishad, which you can read here. The Kali Santarana Upanishad is widely considered by many to be a later interpolation, for multiple reasons: there are no ancient commentaries of it or ancient references to it; I think it's the only Upanishad that mentions the Yuga system, which was mainly revealed to human beings in the Itihasas and Puranas; it refers to the conversation happening at the end of the Dvapara Yuga, which would only make sense if the reader is presumed to be living long after the beginning of the Kali Yuga etc.

My question is, what is the earliest known mention or record of the Kali Santarana Upanishad? This book merely says that it dates to before the sixteenth century, presumably because the popularization of the Hare Krishna mantra dates to the sixteenth century. Now the Kali Santarana Upanishad is listed in the Muktika, the canon of 108 Upanishads, but the Muktika was passed down by oral tradition, and we only have written records of the Muktika from the seventeenth century onwards. So the Kali Santarana Upanishad could have been a late addition to it.

Are there any references to it dating back significantly before the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries?

  • I also think those questions need scholarly answers. Even if we assume that the kali santarana text is authentic, we must not forget that it makes huge claims about the Hare Krishna mantra for the age of Kali. It is common among Hindu scriptures to cross-reference verses. So, why is this major mantra found nowhere else? Isn't that odd? Besides, other Jagadgurus did not pick that manta for their disciples. They too were of the Kali age. Isn't that strange? This upanishad makes the claim that it belongs to Krishna-yajurveda. Where is the related thread in that Veda? – user2701 Mar 29 '15 at 3:38
  • @user2701 I don't think a mantra consisting of Krsna's names needs any cross references. – Surya Nov 17 '15 at 11:48
  • @Surya Well, reciting Krishna's name is certainly a good thing, I just don't think the Hare Krishna Mahamantra has a basis in Hindu scripture. – Keshav Srinivasan Nov 17 '15 at 16:19
  • That's my point. It doesn't need a 'basis'. Anyways all scriptures lay importance in chanting God's (especially Hari's) name. – Surya Nov 17 '15 at 16:48
  • @Surya Yeah, chanting Vishnu's names is certainly a good thing, I just object to claims that the Hare Krishna Mahamantra is an authentic mantra as opposed to something someone made up a few centuries ago. I have no objections to Bhajans in praise of Vishnu, for instance, as long as their origins are acknowledged. – Keshav Srinivasan Nov 17 '15 at 16:50
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"it refers to the conversation happening at the end of the Dvapara Yuga, which would only make sense if the reader is presumed to be living long after the beginning of the Kali Yuga etc."

But please note that the cycle goes in round

satyayuga->tretayuga->dwaparayuga->kaliyuga->satyayuga->tretayuga->dwaparayuga->kaliyuga->satyayuga->tretayuga->dwaparayuga->kaliyuga->......(continues)

after kali-yuga again satya-yuga comes and the cycle satyayuga to kaliyuga repeats several times till it becomes 1000 yugas which constitute one day of Lord Brahma as stated in the Bhagavad-gita 8.17

bhagavad-gita 8.17 says "sahasra-yuga-paryantam ahar yad brahmano viduh...".

so this kali-yuga is not the first kali-yuga of the creation nor it is the last. so this upanishad refering to the end of dwapara yuga need not necessarily mean that this coversation took place at the end of this dwapar-yuga only. But the essential knowledge of how to cross the kali-yuga essentially remains the same.

so don't think that "since this upanishad refers to the end of dwaparyug, it should have come to existence at the end of this dwapar-yug only and it does not exist not before". The conversation took place at the end of some dwapar-yuga in the eternal time scale. But the essential knowledge in the conversation however remains the same throughout eternal time. so the conversation is eternally informative. Upanishad is existing eternally. It is not that it has born just before this kali yuga.

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I could find some references to the Hare Krishna Mahamantra. This and This. As far as your question is concerned i could not find any ancient references to Kali Santaran upanishad. But I guess nor do we have enough evidences to conclude that it is interpolation. However it is not the only scripture that mentions the Mahamantra. Human form of life is to come to an understanding of god and one may go through any bonafide process as Lord himself instructs in Bhagvad Geeta 4.2.

This supreme science was thus received through the chain of disciplic succession, and the saintly kings understood it in that way. But in course of time the succession was broken, and therefore the science as it is appears to be lost.

Gaudiya Vaishnava are also sometimes called Brahma-Madhav-Gaudiya Sampraday. That is to say that Chaitanya Mahaprabhu did not manufacture his religion; the science has come down from Lord Brahma down to Madhavacharya and then through Disciplic succession to Mahaprabhu. However as you may already know it is not fully same as Brahma Sampraday.

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protected by Surya Kanta Bose Chowdhury Feb 9 at 17:07

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