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Chapter 19—The Mysteries of the Holy Name
The night was young, the moon bathed the dark shadows on the beach with her cooling rays. This attracted the Moon of Navadvipa, Shri Gaurachandra. He came near the ocean with His associates, sat down in the midst of the Vaishnavas like an iridescent moon, and began to speak to the assembly.
The best and only means to perfection
He said, "My dear devotees! In Kali-yuga there is no spiritual activity and religious practice to surpass congregational chanting of Lord Krishna's holy name. Fruitive activities, cultivation of knowledge, yoga or meditation are extremely ineffectual processes for spiritual elevation. They cannot lead one of the transcendental realm of absolute realisation.
"Prescribed religious duties, penances, renunciation and sacrifices are mundane activities. Hence, they cannot help one reach the supreme absolute goal— the spiritual world. The sruti scriptures declare that complete spiritual perfection is achieved only through chanting, hearing and remembering Krishna's name, fame, pastimes, etc. All scriptures have revealed the highest esoteric truth about the holy name and Its glories. One experiences spiritual bliss immediately upon chanting the holy name.
In the Padma Purana Shri Saunaka Rsi says:
shriyate mahad adbhutam
naro yayat param padam
tad vadasv adhuna suta
shri suta uvaca
srnu saunaka vaksyami
naradah prsthavan purvam
kumara tad vadami te
sanatkumaram papraccha narado racitanjalih
srutva nanavidhan dharman
shri narada uvaca
yo'sau bhagavat prokta
kantham tasya vinasah syad
ucyatam bhagavat priya
The Supreme Lord Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu continued, "I will explain in some detail the meanings of these slokas. O Svarupa Damodara and Ramananda, pay special heed to this!
The meaning of the word uccarana in this context is to chant or sing the holy names loudly or audibly. The devotees generally chant their prescribed number of holy names either on their fingers or on the tulasi beads. Many chant extra or sing in kirtana which are in addition to the prescribed number. Whenever the holy name is chanted audibly it is referred to as uccarana.
Japa and kirtana defined
"Soft, but barely audible chanting is known as japa, and kirtana is always loud and clear. Both of these are a part of smarana or remembrance, meaning meditation on the Lord and His pastimes. Kirtana is also loud singing. It is imperative for everyone to know how to properly chant the holy name and accrue the best results from it.
Perform kirtana always and everywhere
"Chanting the holy name is the eternal religion of the living entities. It is his prime duty whether he is living in the material world or is in Vaikuntha in a liberated existence, for the conditioned souls, chanting is the process to achieve liberation, and for the liberated jiva, chanting remains an eternal, integral part of his existence as a servitor of the Lord.
Activities devoid of bhakti are to be rejected
"According to the scriptures, religion that does not include devotional service, vrata that is not intended to arouse devotional fervour, renunciation that is not spontaneously inspired by devotion, and sacrifice that is against the principles of devotional service are all mundane activities.Even though they are considered pious activities, they are, in fact, unfavourable to the execution of devotional service.
"But these same activities, when performed in relationship to devotional service, become favourable spiritual activities, and they constitute true bhakti. This is the verdict of the revealed scriptures. In Kali-yuga these activities have become degraded to the level of material activities, having lost all spiritual flavour due to being performed divorced from bhakti. The oppose the principles of pure devotional service.
"All devotees should therefore listen attentively: In Kali-yuga there is no religion other than the chanting of the Supreme Lord's holy name. Other religious practices that exist outside of the chanting process should be strictly avoided. he spiritual vision you attained through bhakti will help you to properly discriminate the truth.
shri sanatkumara uvaca
srnu narada govinda
priya govinda dharmavit
yat prshtam lokanirmukti
karanam tamasah param
You are famous as Narada Muni, one who is enlightened about the process of devotional service to Lord Govinda, Krishna. You are dear to Lord Govinda, and you can cut asunder the chains of material entanglement that keep the souls eternally enthralled. Your inquiry is aimed at liberating the conditioned souls, and its answer will allow the jiva to surmount the insurmountable ocean of nescience."
"In Kali-yuga, irreligious acts, as well as all other religious practices, are performed in gross ignorance. Therefore, the only path of liberation open to the jivas is the chanting of the holy name.
The holy name alone can purify all sins
sarvacara-vivarjitah sathadhiyoh vratya jagadvancakah
dambhahankrti pana-paisunyaparah papasca ye nisthurah
ye canye dhanandaraputraniratah sarve ''dhamaste' pi hi
shrigovinda-padaravindasaranah suddhah bhavanti dvija
"'For one who takes shelter of Lord Govinda's lotus feet,, all of his sins are eradicated by chanting the Lord's holy name. He may be an abominable wretch, the biggest liar and cheat, arrogant and egoist, always given to sinful ways, and a grossly materialistic person attached to wife, children and wealth. If one recognises his offenses and remorsely weeps and chants Lord Krishna's name, then very soon, due to his advancement in devotional surrender, his sin are expiated. He is elevated to become a pure brahman.
Ritualistic penances cannot destroy material desires
"Formal prayascitta, or atonement and penance, the process of knowledge and fruitive activities are all too feeble to purify even a single tendency of a fallen soul. However, the amount of sinful activities that can be cleansed by once chanting Lord Krishna's name is of such magnitude that a sinner cannot commit so much sin in many lifetimes. Sinful activities of any enormity, that is mentioned in smarta scriptures scriptures of the ritualistic brahmanas: karma-kandis, can facilely be effaced by chanting a single name of Krishna.
"One may then ask, "Why do the ritualistic perform prayascitta? The answer is that they lack sukrti, or sufficient piety. Therefore, they prefer ritualistic activities or fruitive activities. The desire to commit sins never goes away by performing ritualistic prayascitta, or penance according to karma-kanda. With the execution of jnana-prayascitta atonement with knowledge, the desire may only be temporarily curbed, but soon that desire becomes rampant again and needs expression.
"Devotional service roots out nescience, which is the cause of all material desires. Souls who surrender at Lord Govinda's lotus feet entreat the Lord for deliverance by chanting His name and by hearing the Lord's direct instructions in the Bhagavad-gita. These practices will act like nectarean salve for the benefit of human society. The blessed Lord has said:
sarva dharman parityajya
mam ekam saranam vraja
ham tvam sarva papebhyo
moksyayisyami ma sucah
"Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear." Bg. 18.66.
api cet suduracaro
bhajate mam ananya bhak
sadhur eva sa mantayah
samyag vyavasi to hi sah
"Even if one commits the most abominable actions, if he is engaged in devotional service, he is to be considered saintly because he is properly situated." Bg. 9.30.
ksipram bhavati dharmatma
na me bhaktah pranasyati
"He quickly becomes righteous and attains lasting peace. O son of Kunti, declare it boldly that My devotee never perishes. Bg. 9.31.
The results of chanting
"Therefore, one should give up the practices of prayascitta and other such fruitive activities, because a truly intelligent person worships the Supreme Lord Hari, knowing Him to be the dearmost Lord of the heart.
tam api devakaram karuna-kara
sthavara-jangama muktikaram param
aticaranty aparadhapara jana
ya iha tanvapati dhruvanama hi
The holy name of Krishna is compassionate and invested with Krishna's full potencies. It can easily liberate all moving and non-moving beings. One who chants but commits offenses against the holy name, is burdened with grievous sins. This causes upheavals in his spiritual life. The only way he can be exonerated is to take complete shelter of the holy name. There is no greater well-wishing friend in the entire world surpassing the holy name of the Lord.
shri narada uvaca
ke te 'paradha vipendra
namno bhagavatah krta
vinighnanti nrnam krtyam
prakrtam hy-anayanti ca
"O Sanatkumara, my dear spiritual master, kindly enumerate the different offenses to the holy name. Chanting the holy name is the prime duty and religious practice of the jiva and his ultimate shelter. Caution must be taken that the aspiring devotee is not thrust down into maya due to offenses. Offenses can misguide the devotee into believing that chanting is a mundane activity. In this way, he ends up with meagre material benefits from chanting, depriving him of real benediction."
shri sanatakumara uvaca
satam ninda namnah parama aparadham vitanute
yatah khyatim yatam kathanamu sahate tad vigarham
sivasya shri visnor ya iha guna
namadi sakalam dhiyabhinnam pasyet sa khalu
"Try to understand each of the ten offenses to the holy name individually. Then you can avoid them. This sloka analyses two of the offenses. Avoid them and try to chant purely."
"According to the verdict of Vaishnava saints one who takes complete shelter of the holy name, can break the shackles of material existence. He must have given up all endeavours for cultivating material knowledge and fruitive activity and is simply engaged in chanting the holy name purely. Only such saintly persons are eligible to propagate the holy name. any criticism against them is intolerable to Krishna and His name."
Anyone who minimises the gravity of such an offense is as seriously implicated as the offender himself. Therefore meticulously refrain from committing this offense and instead aspire for such saintly association, for this will add tremendous potency to one's devotional life. Krishna's name, beauty, qualities and pastimes are all transcendental and are in truth non-different from Him.
"Lord's name and the Lord Himself are of the same transcendental, spiritual substance. There are no equivalent examples found in material nature. This spiritual knowledge can be attained only through the process of devotional service, or bhakti, not mental speculation nor contentiousness. The two greatest aids in installing the living entity in this platform of realisation are a combination of rigid discipline, endeavour, together with the mercy of elevated saintly Vaishnavas and guru.
"Until one realises this truth he cannot transcend material consciousness, nor will his chanting produce the desired result: achieving one's original spiritual form. Instead he remains on the undesirable platform of namabhasa chanting, or the stage of merely clearing one's offenses. Diligently endeavour for favourable results in chanting. You can reach the ultimate goal of Krishna's lotus feet by chanting the holy name purely. Therefore, avoid this offense and take full shelter of the holy name, because by His mercy you can revive your original, spiritual form svarupa.
"Lord Krishna is the Supreme Absolute Lord, controller and master of all other lords. Lord Siva and the demigods are His parts and parcels. The demigod's names, forms, potencies, etc., are but transformations of Lord Krishna's energy. When one is situated in this knowledge, he realises that the Supreme Lord Vishnu and Lord Siva are just qualitatively the same— as is the verdict of the Vedas. One should circumvent its offense and advance on the spiritual path by the indispensable mercy of the guru. The demigods can never be on the same level as the Supreme Lord.
Disobeying the spiritual master
guror avajna sruti-sastra-nindanam
tathartha-vado hari-namni kalpanam
namno balad yasya hi papa-buddhir
na vidyate tasya yamair his suddhih
"The guru directs the conditioned soul to the Supreme Lord Hari, Krishna, reminding him of his forgotten kinship with Him. He also introduces him to the process of chanting the Lord's holy names. Such a perfect spiritual master is like the helmsman for the conditioned soul, steering the boat of life across the ocean of nescience. To disrespect and disobey him is a serious offense against the holy name; namaparadha
"Only a foolish rascal will try to pass judgement on the guru who initiated him into the chanting of Krishna's holy name, on the basis of material considerations such as birth in a low family or lack of expertise in the chanting of Vedic mantras etc.
Disrespecting the Vedic Literatures
"The sruti scriptures and Vedas unequivocally establish with impeccable logic and widely propagate the transcendental nature and limitless glory of the holy name. It is therefore a grave offense to criticise these scriptures, or show preference for and praise the less intelligent path of fruitive action propounded in the karma-kanda section of the Vedas. This is yet another namaparadha.
Considering the glories of the holy name imaginary
"The holy names of Krishna are absolutely spiritual and are eternal priceless treasure to the jivas. The holy name is positioned on the transcendental plane. To consider the name and Its transcendental qualities as imaginary is a serious namaparadha.
Committing sin on the strength of chanting
"The next namaparadha is to commit sin on the strength of the holy name. This mentality will render all devotional performances ineffective, and one will become addicted to sinful activities, therefore shun this offense."
Interpreting the holy name
"That fleeting pleasures are accrued as results of fruitive activity is certainly a fact. But by chanting the holy name within the realm of bhakti, one is crowned with immense spiritual results which are eternal. The transcendental holy name is unlimitedly glorious, so to give a mundane interpretation to the holy name, considering its qualities to be exaggerated, is very offensive.
"These five offenses, which are effects of gross ignorance, should be strictly avoided. Only then can an aspiring devotee attract the mercy of the Lord and His holy name to help him on the spiritual path."
All pious activities are material
subha kriya samyam api pramadah
asraddadhane vimukhe'py asmvati
yas copadesah sivanamaparadhah
Mundane activities are works recommended in the section of the scripture which propagates the varnasrama system and its religious practices. Fasting on the new moon and full moon days is in the mode of ignorance. Renunciation by taking sannyasa, living as a mendicant, performing daily ritualistic sacrifices and the different branches of yogic practices may be considered auspicious but are factually not spiritual.
"These activities are actually meant to help a practitioner achieve a higher goal, but if the aspiration to reach the supreme objective Krishna, is missing in such practices, then these same become mundane activities."
Chanting is the means and the goal
Chanting the holy name purely, on the other hand, is a perfect, and transcendental activity, thus entirely different from these other activities. On the stage of practice, or 'sadhana' the holy name is the only means upaya to reach the supreme absolute goal, Krishna. But when perfection in chanting is attained by 'upeya', chanting the holy name purely, then chanting itself becomes an indispensable necessity 'sadhya'. Therefore, the holy name and the chanting process are both transcendental, supremely spiritual and impossible to realise through any fruitive, mundane methods. Hence considering the chanting of the holy name of Krishna synonymous with cultivation of material knowledge, fruitive activities and other such mundane endeavours is a serious offense, or namaparadha.
Instructing the faithless in chanting the holy name
"Another namaparadha is to instruct those persons who, due to insufficient piety, have not been able to develop faith in the holy name. Only by the blessings and the instructions from a bona fide guru can one rid himself of these two formidable namaparadhas. At that time it is possible to achieve a degree of perfection in chanting.
srutvapi nama mahatmyam
namni so'py aparadha-krt
Even after hearing unlimited eulogies of the holy name from the different scriptures, a person may not develop deeper attachment for the holy name. This is due to gross material consciousness: being attached to the body and material objects, false ego, and thirsting after material gains, adoration and distinction.
"Engrossed in sinful activities, he cannot give them up, and makes no attempt to chant the holy name even with a little sincerity. He has no attraction for saintly association, and prefers the company of the depraved. He finds pleasure in following the dictates of his uncontrolled senses, rather than in the silent promptings of his conscience which advise him self-restraint. His lower nature goads him to commit namaparadha, and he never develops a taste for chanting the holy name. Thus, he is debarred from joining the blissful family of Krishna.
"These, then, are the ten offenses against the holy name which keep one from taking advantage of the full shelter of the holy name and ensuring one of redemption and eternal peace.
namasrayah kadacit syat
taraty eva sa namatah
namno hi sarva-suhrdo
hy aparadhat pataty adah
All sinful reactions, sufferings and offenses of the jiva are immediately destroyed as soon as he comes under the supreme shelter of the Supreme Lord, Hari. At this point, the jiva develops distaste for material existence, and because he is gradually becoming free from his offenses, he joins Krishna's family of devotees without ulterior, material motives.
"When jiva receives formal initiation from a bona fide guru into the chanting of the holy name of Hari, Krishna, he is pardoned from all his sins of previous births. Then, when he guilelessly surrenders himself to Krishna's lotus feet, Lord Krishna nullifies all his offenses accumulated over innumerable lifetimes. One does not have to separately perform prayascitta penance, for his sins, for simply by receiving initiation he becomes freed from sinful reactions, such is the scriptural verdict. From the moment of sincere surrender, he no longer delights in sinful, sensual pleasures. The desire to sin becomes further weakened, and he conquers over maya illusion.
Offenses while performing devotional service
"Thereafter, the jiva may accidentally commit mistakes and offenses in the execution of devotional service, known as sevaparadha. These offenses prevent the supremely purifying process of devotional service from taking full effect. To counteract this ill effect, one must take shelter of chanting the holy name in the association of elevated Vaishnavas. Only then will the holy name give one protection against committing seva-aparadha, as well as nullifying any previous offenses. The holy name purifies everyone from all sins and elevates them to the highest state where they are able to render pure devotional service to Lord Krishna.
Namaparadha must always be avoided
"And if, inadvertently one commits namaparadha, he certainly falls down from grace and loses his spiritual direction. The holy name is jiva's greatest well-wishing friend so any offense against the holy name can almost never be exonerated. Hence, one should be extremely cautious and avoid committing namaparadha, and in this way perfect one's human life by attaining the lotus feet of Lord Hari.
evam naradha sankarena krpaya mahyam muninam param
proktam nama sukhavaham bhagavato varjyam sada
ye jnatvapi na varjayanti sahasa namaparadhandasa
kruddha mataramapyabhojanaparah khidyanti te
"Long ago I placed this same question on namaparadha before Lord Sankara in his residence in Sivaloka. In the presence of many sages Lord Siva, seated on Mount Kailasa, mercifully instructed me. "The Lord's holy name is the source of supreme bliss for the jiva. Offense against the holy name augurs untold despair and suffering. ne who wants the utmost benefit for himself will carefully shun namaparadha."
"He will humbly approach his guru and other elevated Vaishnavas to learn from them how to avoid the ten namaparadhas. He should explicitly understand all of the imports and avoid these offenses. Then, very soon the holy name will crown him with the success of achieving Krishna-prema. Even after being instructed about the chanting of the holy name, if one remains unconcerned and does not avoid namaparadha, he at once comes under the ominous shadow of all ten offenses, and a foolish man as he drowns in the whirlpool of distress.
Just as a child who refuses to eat because he is angry with his mother will naturally always be debile and susceptible to disease, in the same way, without abrogating the ten offenses, the idiot may chant the holy name but his offenses hinder his path to salvation and happiness.
namni japtam sadacara
namnaiva tava devarse
sarvam setsyati nanyatah
"Sanatkumara said, 'O Devarsi Narada: The proper way to chant the holy name is to always avoid the ten offenses. There is no need for any other process of spiritual elevation other than chanting the holy name, for the holy name alone can award one the highest perfection.'
"Shri Narada Muni replied,
sanatkumara priya sahasanam
ukta aparadha prabhavanti no katham
"O Sanatkumara! You are perfect and a highly elevated devotee of the Supreme Lord Hari, so it was possible for you to unambiguously elucidate the esoteric truth about the holy name. We are all simply practitioners and who are always fearful of committing mistakes, so please explain to us how we can scrupulously desist the offenses of the holy name. Material nature is presently acting as our friend and supplying us with strength and courage to act, but all such activities are illusory. We are considering the body our dearest kinsman and have become callous to the voice of conscience. Too lazy to accept voluntary renunciation, we are greedy to earn money and accumulate material holdings. Under the circumstances, please reveal to us how a sadhaka practitioner, can root out the slightest possibility of committing the ten offenses."
Shri Sanatkumara replied,
jate namaparadhe tu
pramade vai kathancana
sada sankirtayen nama
tad ekasarano bhavet
namanyeva haranty agham
tany evartha-karani hi
"As soon as a person humbly surrenders himself to the holy name the holy name and Krishna being non-different, all the offenses he has committed are immediately nullified. Yet, if due to some negligence, he once again commits namaparadha, it will jeopardise his progress in bhakti. The only antidote to such an accident is to intensify chanting. By continuous chanting one should solidly reaffirm his faith and mood of surrender to the holy name, and on the strength of such sincere chanting namaparadha will once again be extirpated.
Chanting is the only means
"The holy name alone can absolve 'namaparadha' and no other remedial measures are as effective. O Narada Muni, let me explain to you the essential truth about this subject, which is so widely sung in the Vedas. Try to understand the topic in the same manner as you have understood the Vedas.
namaikam yasya vaci smaranapathagatam srotramulam
gatam va suddham vasuddhavarnam vyavahita rahitam tarayatyeva
niksiptam syannaphalajanakam sighramevatra vipra
"If the holy name of the Lord is chanted without 'vyavahita', remembered or heard even once with heart and soul, then in a moment the holy name an liberate anyone. The word vyavahita covered, distance has two meanings in this context. The holy name is obfuscated when the syllables are too far apart while chanting; secondly, when chanted in ignorance, one sees only the external, material form of the holy name. But when the holy name is chanted in full awareness of Its nature i.e that the name and the Supreme Lord are one and the same, then nescience is destroyed. When these two discrepancies termed 'vyavahita' are removed, pure chanting is manifest. There is no fault if diction, voice inflection and pronunciation are not perfect. Lord Krishna has impregnated His holy name with His full transcendental potencies, hence the name is unencumbered by such considerations as chanting at the right or wrong time, or that one must bathe before chanting. Simply chant the holy name at all times and under all circumstances. This is the most auspicious activity, and it will drive away all inauspiciousness."
"When the sublime holy name is chanted in the company of saintly persons, only then does it give good results quickly but not otherwise. Due to close contact with atheists and gross materialists, the jiva becomes caught up in the false conception of body, wealth, relatives, greed, etc. giving rise to 'vyavahita' in chanting he thus falls into grave confusion. Therefore, his first step towards advancing in Krishna consciousness should be to disassociate himself from non-devotees. Taking complete shelter of the holy name, he should simply chant. By the mercy of the holy name one becomes delivered from nescience and confusion; his offenses vanish, and he eels pure joy. Once freed from offenses to the holy name, he profoundly experiences the first stirrings of Krishna-prema within his heart."The symptoms of an offensive chanter are that he is deceitful and capricious. A sincere chanter should avoid such bad company.
idam rahasyam paramam
pura narada sankarat
ye hy-aparadhapara narah
tesam api bhaven muktih
pathanad eva narada
"Sanatkumara said, "O best of the sages, Narada, Lord Sankara compassionately revealed this great mystery about the holy name to me in the past. This knowledge at once dissipates all ills and misgivings and mitigates namaparadha to nil. Even those persons who are offensive can achieve liberation if they chant the names of Lord Vishnu with knowledge of His supreme position."
"Svarupa Damodara! Ramananda Raya! It is imperative that you propagate the esoteric truth about the holy name of the Lord with great care. The conditioned souls in Kali-yuga have no means of redemption other than to realise the superexcellent knowledge of the holy name. This knowledge, as revealed by Vyasadeva in these verses, was explained by me in the past in the form of the Siksastaka. Therefore, sincerely broadcast this transcendental knowledge, always discuss the esoteric essence of the holy name and chant constantly.
Chant under the tutelage of Haridasa Thakura
"When it comes to chanting, the topmost devotee is Shrila Haridasa Thakura, and it was he who propagated the supreme truth about the holy name. He preached as well as practiced chanting the holy name, hence he is the acarya of the holy name, or the namacarya. Whoever chants the Lord's name, following in Shrila Haridasa Thakura's footsteps, will achieve the highest perfection in it."