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Why is the practice of chanting (nama sadhana) so accessible?
namnam akari bahudha nija-sarva-shaktis
tatrarpita niyamitah smarane na kalah
etadrishi tava kripa bhagavan mamapi
durdaivam idrisham ihajani nanuragah
He bhagavan ! namnam bahudha akari—Being compelled by causeless mercy, You have manifested innumerable names such as Krishna, Govinda, etc., just to benefit the living entities; tatra—in all those names; nija sarva shaktih arpita—(You) have invested all the potencies of Your personal forms; smarane kala api na niyamitah—moreover, in remembering the holy name of the Lord (nama smarana), (You) have not imposed any restrictions such as the consideration of a specified time like sandhya-vandana (evening prayer). In other words, at any time of the day or night, the holy name can be chanted and remembered. This is the regulation You have given; tava etadrishi kripa—this is your mercy; mama idrisham durdaivam—but my misfortune (in the form of offenses to the holy name) is such that; iha—in (towards) this holy name which awards all benedictions and is so easily accessible; anuragah na ajani—attachment has not arisen.
"O Lord! Your holy name bestows all auspiciousness upon the living entities. Therefore, for the benefit of the jivas, You eternally manifest Your innumerable names, such as Rama, Narayana, Krishna, Mukunda, Madhava, Govinda, Damodara, and so on.You have invested those names with all the potencies of Your various personal forms. Out of causeless mercy, You have not imposed any restrictions on the chanting and remembrance of such names in regards to any specified time, such as sandhya-vandana (evening prayer).In other words, at any time of the day or night, the holy name can be chanted and remembered. This is the regulation which You have established. O Lord! This is Your causeless mercy upon the living entities.Nonetheless, on account of committing offenses (nama aparadha), I am so unfortunate that although Your holy name is so easily accessible and bestows all good fortune, I have not awoken any attachment toward it."
Shri Sanmodana Bhashyam
Shri Krishna sankirtana is of four varieties being distinguished by name (nama), form (rupa), qualities (guna), and pastimes (lila). The holy name of Shri Krishna is the original seed of all happiness. The holy name of Shri Krishna (Shri Nama) and Shri Krishna Himself, the possessor of the name (Shri Nami), are one and the same. There is no difference between them. Shri Krishna nama sankirtana is extremely beneficial for everyone in all respects. Therefore, in order to arouse faith in the jivas toward the holy name of the Lord, the Supreme Lord Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu personally broadcast the supreme utility of Krishna nama sankirtana.
He says, "O Lord! O most merciful One! Seeing me devoid of all shelter, You have manifested Your holy names, being compelled by Your causeless mercy. You have many names which are all non-different from You. These are classified into two groups: mukhya (principal) and gauna (secondary). The names Hari, Krishna, Govinda, Acyuta, Rama, Ananta, and Vishnu, etc. are principal names; whereas, the names Brahma, Paramatma, Supreme Controller, Maintainer, Creator, Mahendra, etc. are secondary names. Furthermore, You have invested Your principal names with all the potencies and perfect competence of Your svarupa shakti."
This is proved by the statements of many scriptures (as cited below):
na hi bhagavanna aghatititam idam
tvad-darshanan nrinam akhila-papa-kshayah
yan-nama sakric chravanat
pukkasho 'pi vimucyate samsarat
"O Lord!Just by seeing You, all the sins of men become destroyed. This is not at all impossible, for even a low class dog-eater (candala) who hears Your holy name but once is liberated from material existence."
—Shrimad Bhagavatam 6.16.44—
vedaksharani yavanti pathitani dvijatibhih
tavanti harinamani kirttitani na samshayah
rigvedo yajurvedah samavedo 'pyatharvanah
adhitastena yenoktam harir ityakshara dvayam
"The extent to which the twice-born brahmanas recite the syllables of the Vedas, they most certainly (indirectly) chant the holy name of the Lord. In this there is no doubt. But one who has uttered the two syllables `Hari' should be understood to have completed his study of all the Vedas—the Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda and Atharva Veda."
ma rico ma yajustata ma sama pathakincana
govindeti harernama geyam gayasva nityashah
"Therefore do not study the Rig, Yajur, Sama, Atharva or any other of the Vedas. Just sing the name of `Govinda', and in this way engage constantly in the chanting of the holy name of the Lord."
avamanya ca ye yanti bhagavat-kirtanam nara
te yanti narakam ghoram tena papena karmana
"Those persons who bear contempt against the chanting of the holy name of the Supreme Lord fall down into formidable hell as a consequence of such sinful acts."
—Padma Purana, Vaishakha Mahatmya—
yoginam nripa nirnitam
"O King! It is the opinion of all scriptures and all previous acaryas that whether one is an unalloyed devotee, detached from material existence on account of direct experience of the misery of material life; whether one is desirous of elevation to the heavenly planets or liberation; or whether one be a self-satisfied yogi (atmarama), one should chant the holy name of the Lord with great love."
—Shrimad Bhagavatam 2.1.11—
asya jananto nama cid-viviktana
mahaste vishno sumatim bhajam-ahe
-bhayattarayati; tasmad ucyate tarah
"O Lord Vishnu! Your name is fully spiritual (cit svarupa), and thus it is self-manifested. Although we are not perfectly acquainted with the glories of uttering Your holy name, if we chant, knowing just a little of its glories, we will obtain full knowledge of that subject. Brahmaji propagated the transcendental sound `om', the mere utterance of which liberates one from the fear of material existence.Therefore the vibration om is known as `taraka brahma'."(Taraka means that which liberates or enables one to cross over).
—Hari Bhakti Vilasa 11.512 : Dhrita Rig Veda 1.156.3—
sakrid-uccaritam yena harir-ityakshara-dvayam
baddah parikaras-tena mokshaya gamanam prati
"Those who are free from all offenses and who utter even once the two syllables `Hari' become resolute to obtain liberation from material existence and the service of the lotus feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead."
—Padma Purana, Uttar Khanda, Chapter 46—
tad ashma-saram hridayam batedam
yad grihyamanair hari-nama-dheyaih
na vikriyetatha yada vikaro
netre jalam gatra-ruheshu harshah
"O Suta! Certainly that heart is steel-framed which, inspite of hearing and chanting the all auspicious holy names of the Supreme Lord, does not melt and begin to flow toward Him. When the heart does melt, the eyes become overflooded with tears and the hairs of the body stand on end due to ecstacy."
—Shrimad Bhagavatam 2.3.24—
sakrid-api parigitam shraddhaya helaya va
bhriguvara naramatram tarayeta krishnanama
"O respected Bhrigu! This holy name of Shri Krishna is sweeter than the sweetest honey. Amongst all that is auspicious, it stands supreme. It is the spotlessly pure (vishuddha), eternal, cognisant (chinmaya), and fully ripened fruit of the desire tree of Vedic literature. If anyone chants the holy name even once, whether sincerely or casually, but without offenses, the holy name immediately delivers the chanter from material existence."
—Hari Bhakti Vilasa 11.451 : Dhrita Prabhasa Khanda—
gitva ca mama namani vicaren-mama sannidhau
iti brabimi te satyam kriito 'ham tasya carjuna!
"O Arjuna!I declare this truth unto you that those who approach Me chanting My name certainly purchase Me.I become completely subservient to them."
nama cintamanih krishnash
purnah shuddho nitya-mukto
"The holy name of Shri Krishna awards all benedictions just like the cintamani stone. It is Krishna Himself, the embodiment of all transcendental mellows (chaitanya rasa vigraha). The holy name is complete, beyond the influence of maya, and eternally liberated, since Shri Krishna nama and Shri Krishna Himself, the possessor of the name (Shri nami), are non-different."
na bhaved grahyam indriyaih
sevonmukhe hi jihvadau
svayam eva sphuraty adah
"Therefore, the transcendental name, form, qualities, and pastimes of Shri Krishna cannot be perceived with the gross material senses. They automatically manifest themselves on the tongue and other senses which have awakened eagerness for the transcendental service of the Lord."
Thus the existence of all potencies in Hari nama is established by the statements of the Shruti, Smriti, and the Tantras. In the processes of karma, jnana, yoga, etc., emphasis is placed on the rules or considerations regarding time, place, and performer. But in the chanting and remembering of Your holy name, You have not imposed any restrictions regarding time, place, and performer; this is an example of your limitless mercy upon us. Inspite of this, we are so unfortunate that we have failed to obtain even the slighest attraction toward Your most munificent names. The word durbhagya (unfortunate), used here, indicates the presence of offenses to the holy name (nama aparadha). In the discussion which follows below, these offenses are discussed in summary fashion.
In this material world fashioned by maya, the living entities who are averse to the Supreme Lord are bound by attachment to innumerable types of sense gratification. They never make any endeavour to direct their attention toward the Lord. At all times, they remain devoutly engaged in the performances of karma, jnana, and other processes which simply produce misery. But by these processes, the eternal welfare of the jiva cannot be achieved.
Thinking thus, unlimitedly merciful Shri Krishna manifested His holy names to the jivas as the method of obtaining bhakti. Bhakti is predominated by the hladini potency ofiHHHH Shri Krishna's svarupa shakti, and, by the chanting of the holy name, it is transmitted into the hearts of the jivas. But inspite of hearing and chanting, the jivas do not obtain attachment toward the holy name on account of offenses. Therefore, persons possessing faith (shraddha) should receive Hari nama from the mouth of a bonafide spiritual master. Being attentive to avoid committing offenses, they should perform japa and nama sankirtana with great faith, as far as their capacity allows.
Offences are of ten kinds:
(1) “Satam ninda namnah paramam aparadham vitanute; yatah khyatim yatam katham usahate tad vigarham"—To criticise the devotees of the Lord is a very grievous offense to Shri nama. How can Shri nama prabhu tolerate criticism of those great souls who are deeply devoted to the holy name and who spread its glories throughout the world? Therefore, criticism of saintly persons and devotees is the first offense against the holy name.
(2) “Shivasya Shri Vishnor ya iha gunanamadi sakalam; dhiya bhinnam pashyet sa khalu harinamahitkarah"— In this world, those persons who, by mundane intelligence, see a difference in the all-auspicious transcendental holy name, form, qualities, and pastimes of Shri Vishnu, in other words, who consider them to be like material phenomena and thus different from nami-Vishnu (the bearer of the name), commit an offense against the holy name. Futhermore, the (offensive) chanting of those who consider demigods such as Shiva, etc. to be independent Lords, equal in all respects to Lord Vishnu, is certainly detrimental.
(3) “Guror avajna"—To disregard the spiritual master who is established in all the truths regarding the holy name, considering him to be an ordinary man possessing a perishable body composed of material elements, is the third offense against the holy name.
(4) “Shruti shastra nindanam"—The fourth offense is to find fault with the Vedas, the sattvic Puranas, and other scriptures.
(5) “Tatharthavado"—The fifth offense is to consider the glories of the holy name to be exaggerated.
(6) “Hari Namni kalpanam"—The sixth offense is to consider the holy name to be imaginary.
(7) “Namno balad yasya hi papa buddhir na vidyate tasya yamair hi shuddhih"—Persons who have the tendency to commit sinful actions on the strength of the holy name cannot be purified by any artificial processes of yoga, such as yama, niyama, dhyana, dharana, etc.—this is certain.
(8) “Dharma vrata tyaga hutadi karma shubhakriya-samyam api pramadah"—To consider routine religion, penances, renunciation, sacrifices and other ordinary pious activities in the material mode of goodness (sat karma) to be equal to the transcendental holy name of the Lord is negligence and is thus considered an offense.
(9) “Ashraddadhane vimukhe 'pyashrinvati yashcopadeshah shivanamaparadhahhhù"—To instruct the glories of the holy name to faithless persons who are averse to hearing and chanting the holy name is also an offense.
(10)“Shrutvapi nama-mahatmyam yaù pritir-ahito 'dhamaù ; aham mamadi paramo namni so 'pyaparadhakrit"—Those who, inspite of hearing the astonishing glories of the holy name, maintain the conception that "I am this material body" and that worldly objects are "mine", and who display no persistence in or love for the utterance of the holy name, are also offenders to the holy name.
—Padma Purana, Svarga Khanda 48—
It is essential to chant the holy name free from these ten kinds of offenses. A chanter of the holy name does not have to endeavor to dissipate sins by virtuous deeds (sat karma), nor does he endeavor to accumulate pious credits like the fruitive workers (sat karmis), for such fruitive activities are no longer under his jurisdiction. In others words, he has already given up the right (adhikara) as well as the obligation to perform them.
If, however, he commits any offense against the holy name, he should constantly chant the holy name, feeling very agitated at heart. By such constant chanting of Hari nama, there will be no opportunity to commit further offenses and all previous offenses will be destroyed.
As it has been said in the scriptures (Padma Purana Svarga Khanda 64), “Namaparadha-yuktanam namanyeva harantyadham; avishranti prayuktani tanyevarthakarani ca"—Only Hari nama is able to destroy the sins of persons who are infested with namaparadha. Therefore, one should constantly chant the holy name of the Lord. By this process, all offenses will be dissipated and one will obtain Krishna prema, the highest attainment of life.
When all offenses have thus been nullified, attachment (anuraga) for Hari nama will arise and, at that time, complete perfection (sarvartha siddhi) will be attained. By complete perfection here is implied Krishna prema. This is the second instruction of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
kripate karila aneka-namera pracara
khaite shuite yatha nama laya
kala-desha-niyama nahi, sarva siddhi haya
"sarva-shakti name dila kariya vibhaga
amara durdaiva—name nahi anuraga!!"
"Innumerable varieties of desires for sense enjoyment reside in the heart of those who are averse to the Lord, being bound by the illusory energy. Therefore they are cheated and deprived of their constitutional occupation which is to engage in the devotional service of the Supreme Lord. The Supreme Lord is very merciful.Compelled by great compassion, He has manifested His many names, and in the vibration of such names, He has not imposed any restrictions in regard to time, place, person, etc. Even by chanting Shri Krishna nama at the time of eating, drinking, and sleeping, all perfection is attained. Alas, Shri Krishna has invested all His potencies in His holy names, but I am so unfortunate that I have not even the slightest attachment for these names."
Shikshashtakam: Song 2 (Gitavali)
tunhu daya-sagara tarayite prani
nama aneka tuya shikhayali ani'
sakala shakati dei name tohara
grahane rakhali nahi kala-vicara
shri-nama-cintamani tohari samana
vishve bilaoli karuna-nidana
tuya daya aichana parama udara
atishaya manda natha!bhaga hamara
nahi janamala name anuraga mora
bhakativinoda-citta duùkhe vibhora
"O ocean of mercy Shri Krishna, You have manifested Your inumerable names in this world just to deliver the living entities from the ocean of material existence. Out of Your kindness, You have invested all the potencies of Your respective transcendental forms into those names.In the chanting of the holy name, You have not placed any restrictions regarding time, place or other considerations. At any time, in any place, under any circumstance, the practitioner of devotional service (sadhaka jiva) can perform japa, kirtana, or remembrance (smarana) of the holy name.
Like Your transcendental form, the holy name is sat (eternal)‚ cit (full of knowledge), ananda (full of bliss), and it is superior even to touchstone (cintamani). You have distributed this touchstone-like Hari nama throughout the entire world.This is the topmost display of Your mercy. On the one hand Your mercy is extremely generous and beyond compare, yet on the other hand my misfortune is very great, for I have not even the slightest attraction toward the magnanimous name of Shri Krishna. Therefore Bhaktivinoda Thakura says, `My heart is overwhelmed with sadness.What shall I do? O Lord! Now I am simply waiting expectantly upon Your causeless mercy.’”
"O Lord! Out of Your causeless mercy, You have manifested innumerable names for the benefit of the entire world. You have invested each of those names with all the potencies of Your respective personal forms.In the chanting and remembrance of these names, You have not imposed any restrictions regarding when such chanting should be done. Even while eating, reclining, or sleeping—at any time—one can chant the holy name of the Lord. here is no inconvenience in this whatsoever.Yet I am so unfortunate that I have not even the slightest attachment for chanting or remembering such liberal and magnanimous names."
Mukhya and Gauna Nama:
It is mentioned above that the Lord manifests innumerable (bahu) names. The word `bahu' indicates that the Lord's holy names are of two types: mukhya (principal) and gauna (secondary). Mukhya nama is also of two types: madhurya (names which represent the sweet, intimate, loving feature of the Lord) and aishvarya (names which represent the opulent and reverential feature of the Lord). Included in the first category are Krishna, Radha-Ramana, and Gopijana-vallabha; included in the second category are Vasudeva, Rama, and Nrisimha. The separated portions of the Lord, or in other words His partial manifestations such as Brahma, Paramatma, etc. are included in the gauna or secondary names of the Lord.The principal names of the Lord are non-different from Him. They are endowed with all the potencies that are to be found within the Lord's personal form. The secondary names are only partially endowed with such potencies.
The meaning of Durdaiva:
The jiva is conscious (cetana). The principal meaning of the word cetana is that the jiva has independence. But by misuse of his independencehe becomes averse to the Lord and is thus bound in the perishable kingdom of maya. In this way, his misfortune (durdaiva) becomes established. The word durdaiva refers to the jiva's aversion toward the service of the Lord.
When the jiva embarks upon the three-fold paths of enjoyment—namely, anyabhilashita (material desires), karma and jnana—he is thrown into forgetfulness of his constitutional nature (svarupa), and he thus brings misfortune upon himself. Under the sway of material desires (anyabhilasha), the jiva abandons the service of Krishna and becomes intoxicated with desires to satisfy his own mind and body. In this way, he becomes attached to the happiness of this inert material world.
He engages in pious activities in order to obtain fleeting heavenly pleasures. When, in the midst of such enjoyment, he is forced to experience distress, he renounces the inclination for material enjoyment and seeks liberation by merging into the impersonal, undifferentiated feature of the Supreme (nirbheda brahma).
Namaparadha, Namabhasa, and Shuddha Nama:
By some great fortune, the jiva obtains the association of the Lord's devotees. By the association of those devotees, by the instructions received from the spiritual master, and by the mercy of the Lord, the jiva becomes inclined toward the service of the Lord. This is the natural and eternal engagement of the jiva.
At present, the good fortune of the living entities has become severely impaired due to being covered by their entanglement in the three paths cited above. They remain busy in various pursuits such as mundane religiosity (dharma), economic development (artha), and sense gratification (kama). Sometimes, becoming disgusted by his engagement in sinful and wretched activities, the jiva takes up the chanting of the holy name, but, being infested with the ten offenses, he commits still more offenses to the name. At such a time, the name which he chants is not shuddha nama (pure chanting), but nama aparadha (offensive chanting).
Sometimes, being harassed by his restless state, he avoids material sense gratification, hoping to obtain peace. For his welfare, he takes up the chanting of the holy name, but remains indifferent toward the cultivation of sambandha jnana. At that time also, the name which he chants is not shuddha nama, but namabhasa (a shadow of the holy name). By chanting in the stage of namabhasa, he becomes liberated from the materialistic conception of life (prapancika jnana) and becomes eligible to take up the service of the Lord.
Pure devotees, having rid themselves of misfortune in the shape of mundane existence and impersonal liberation, chant the pure holy name of the Lord; consequently, they attain unalloyed Krishna prema.
The process to attain freedom from Namaparadha:
Observing the predicament of the conditioned living entities, Shri Gaurasundara instructed them on the system for performing nama bhajana. The jivas absence of attachment toward the holy name of the Lord is their misfortune. But inspite of such misfortune, the mercy of the Lord is always present. There is a method of becoming freed from namaparadha. Considering offenses to be like a thunderbolt, one should never engage in aparadha, and, by incessantly chanting the holy name, there will be no occassion to commit such offenses.
By chanting namabhasa, one obtains mukti, or in other words, freedom from attachment to material sense enjoyment. Thereafter, the jiva obtains qualification to chant the holy name purely. The attainment of all such opportunities is an indication of the Lord's causeless mercy. By the influence of chanting the Lord's principal names (mukhya nama—ie. Radha-Kanta, Radha-Ramana, Madana-Mohana, Govinda, Madhusudana, etc.), the jivas attain exceptional and exclusive benefit.
Niyamitaù Smarane na Kalaù:
As far as the fulfilment of desires for insignificant material sense enjoyment are concerned, there are rigid considerations regarding time, place, person, eligibility, etc. But the Lord, out of His mercy upon the jivas, has not imposed any such considerations in regards to the chanting of the holy name. At all times and in any condition, one can chant the holy name of the Lord.
In this connection, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has said the following in the Shri Chaitanya Bhagavata (Madhya 28.28 ; and Madhya 23.78):
"ki shayane, ki bhojane, kiva jagarane
ahirnasha cinta krishna, balaha vadane"
"Whether sleeping, eating or waking—at all times— chant the holy name of Shri Krishna."
"sarvakshana balaithe vidhi nahi ara"
"There are no hard and fast rules for chanting the holy name of the Lord, so chant always."
It is further stated in the Shri Chaitanya Caritamrita (Antya 20.18):
"khaite shuite yatha tatha laya
kala, desha niyama nahi, sarva sidhi haya"
"The holy name may be chanted at any time, even while eating or sleeping. In this matter, there are no considerations of time and place. By chanting the holy name, one will attain all perfection."
Shri Bhajana Rahasya Verses
Shri Krishna has invested all potencies in His holy names, as stated in the Skanda Purana:
dana-vrata-tapas-tirtha-kshetradi-nanca yaù stitaù
shaktayo devamahataù sarva papa haraù shubhaù
rajasuyashvamedhanam jnana-syadhyatma vastunaù
akrishya harina sarvaù sthapitaù sveshu namasu
"Shri Krishna invested all potencies in His holy names. Whatever potencies are to be found within the demigods to destroy sins or to bestow benedictions, as well as all potencies that are present within charity, vows, penances, holy places, the rajasuya and ashvamedha sacrifices, or knowledge of spiritual phenomena, have been assembled by the Supreme Lord and invested in His holy names."
Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura has composed the following Bengali verse in this connection:
"dharma-yajna-yoga-jnane-yata shakti chila
saba hari-name krishna svayam samarpila"
"Shri Krishna extracted all the potencies that are present in dharma, yajna, yoga, and jnana, and confered them upon His holy names."
Niyamitaù Smarane Na Kalaù:
There are no rules regarding the time for chanting and remembering such holy names of the Lord. In the chanting of the holy name, there are no considerations such as whether one is clean or unclean, purified or unpurified, or whether the occasion is timely or untimely.This is corroborated in the Vaishvanara-samhita:
na desha kala niyame na shaucashauca nirnayaù
param sankirtanad eva rama rametimucyate
"In the chanting of the holy name, there are no rules regarding time and place, nor are there any considerations of cleanliness or uncleanliness. Simply by repeating the holy name `Rama, Rama', all jivas can obtain liberation from material existence."
But we are so unfortunate that we have not even the least attachment for Your holy name which bestows all benedictions. Thecharacteristics of such misfortune (durdaiva) have been stated in Shrimad Bhagavatam (3.9.7):
daivena te hatadhiyo bhavataù prasangat
sarvashubhopashamanad vimukhendriya ye
kurvanti kama-sukha-lesha-lavaya dina
lobhabhibhuta manaso 'kushalani shashvat
"O Lord!By hearing, chanting, and remembering Your transcendental activities, all forms of misery and misfortune are driven away. Persons who are averse to such hearing and chanting continuously engage in inauspicious activities, being oppressed at heart with an obsession to enjoy worthless material sense gratification.They are unfortunate and bereft of all good sense."