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Bhakti Starts with Chanting
This principle is confirmed in the Vedic scriptures and applied by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Although Lord Caitanya's teachings provide the topmost platform of the confidential science of bhakti-rasa\ they were yet reserved to His personal associates who are eternally liberated souls. To the devotees in general and to the common people He gave only harinama-sankirtana, the congregational chanting of the holy name, and through this process, he inundated them with love of Godhead. This becomes evident from His teachings to Sanatana GosvamI:
(21) Sri Caitanya-caritamrta Antya-lila 4.71
tara madhye sarva-srestha nama-sankirtana
niraparadhe nama laile paya prema-dhana
Of the nine processes of devotional service2, the most important is to always chant the holy name of the Lord. If one does so, avoiding the ten kinds of offenses, one very easily obtains the most valuable love of Godhead.
At another occasion, Caitanya Mahaprabhu was approached by His dear devotee Satyaraja Khan who asked,3 "My dear Lord, be¬ing a householder and a materialistic man, I do not know the process of advancing in spiritual life. I therefore submit myself unto Your lotus feet and request You to give me orders." The Lord answered:
(22) Sri Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya-lila 15.104
prabhu kahena,—'krishna-seva', ' vaisnava-sevana
'nirantara kara krishna-nama-sankutana'
Without cessation continue chanting the holy name of Lord krishna. Whenever possible, serve Him and His devotees, the Vaisnavas. Satyaraja then asked how he could recognize a Vaisnava, and Caitanya Mahaprabhu replied that whoever chants the holy name of krishna just once is a Vaisnava. He said that such a person is wor-shipable as the topmost human being, because:
(23) Sri Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya-lila 15.107
eka krishna-nama kare sarva-papa ksaya
nava-vidha bhakti purna nama haite haya
Simply by chanting the holy name of krishna, one is relieved from all the reactions of a sinful life. One can complete the nine processes of devotional service simply by chanting the holy name. Srlla Jiva GosvamI therefore underlines1 that the other seven processes, such as arcana, vandana, dasya and sakhya, should be executed, but they must be preceded and followed by kirtana, the chanting of the holy name. Srlla Prabhupada himself has very often stressed that of all the instructions of the spiritual master, the advice to chant at least 16 rounds daily without offenses is the most important one, and to substantiate his point, he used to quote the following verse:
(24) Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu 1.2.234
atah sri-krishna-namadi na bhaved grahyam indriyaih
sevonmuk.be hi jihvadau svayam eva sphuraty adah
atah—therefore; sri-krishna-ndma-ddi—Lord krishna's name, form, qualities, pastimes and so on; na—not; bhavet—can be; grahyam—perceived; indriyaih—by the gross material sences; seva-unmukhe—to one engaged in His service; hi—certainly; jihva-adau—(that service) beginning with the tongue; svayam—personally; eva—indeed; sphurati—become manifest; adah—those (ndma-adi).
No one can understand the transcendental nature of the name, form, quality and pastimes of Sri krishna through his materially contaminated senses. Only when he becomes spiritually saturated by transcendental service to the Lord, which starts with the tongue, are the transcendental name, form, quality and pastimes of the Lord revealed to him.1 Jihva adau means that the service to krishna starts with the tongue (jihva), i.e. with chanting the holy name and with accepting krishna's prasadam.
Yamaraja, the Lord of death, made a similar point while instructing his servants, the Yamadutas, who were bewildered about the essence of religion:
(25) Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.3.22
etavan eva loke 'smin pumsam dharmah parah smrtah
bhakti-yogo bhagavati tan-nama-grahanadibhih
Devotional service, beginning with the chanting of the holy name of the Lord, is the ultimate religious principle for the living entity in human society.