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The Holy Name Liberates from All Sins
The above verse (SB. 6.3.22) is recounted in connection with the liberation of Ajamila.1 Being a pious brdhmama in his boyhood, Ajamila later fell down from the path of religion and became a criminal who committed the most abominable and infamous deeds. However, on his deathbed he rememlbered his youngest son Narayana and affectionately called out his name. This was counted as chanting ndmdbhasa. Consequently, when the Ya¬madutas appeared to drag him to hell, he was rescued by the Visnudutas, the servants of Sri Visnu, who brought him to Vai-kuntha. As a reason, they explained to the astonished Yamadutas:
(26) Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.2..7
ayam hi krta-nirveso janma-koty-arhhasiam api
yad vyajahara vivaso noma svasty-ayamam hareh
Ajamila has already atoned for all his sinful actions. Indeed, he has atoned not only for sins performed in one life but for those performed in millions of lives, for in a helpless condition ]he chanted the holy name of Narayana. Even though he did not chanit purely, he chanted without offense, and therefore he is now pure amd eligible for liberation.
The word vivasah is significant: Ajamila chanted in a helpless con¬dition, and therefore his chanting was offenseliess. This important advice has been already addressed in the chapter about the inner attitude on chanting2 and is also stressed by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura:
Without receiving the mercy of the holy name, on e will be unable to remove his anarthas despite repeated attempts. However, if one cries sincerely at the lotus feet of the name, then within a few days all ananlias will vanish.3
In his commentary to the above verse, Snla Visvanatha Cakravarh ¦ Thakura quotes the following sloka:
(27) Garuda Purana
avasenapi yan-namni kirtite sarva-patakaih
puman vimucyale sadyah simha-trastair mrgair iva
avasena—in a helpless condition; api—even; yat-namni—His (the Lord's) name; kirtite—if it is chanted; sarva—of all; patakaih—of the sinful reactions; puman—a man; vimucyate—he is completely freed; sadyah—at the very moment; simha—of a lion; trastaih—who are fearful; mrgaih— forest animals; iva—(the sins are) like.
If one chants the holy name of the Lord, even in a helpless condition or without desiring to do so, all the reactions of his sinful life depart, just as when a lion roars, all the small animals flee in fear.1
Here the word avasena is used, "in a helpless condition".
A similar statement is given in the beginning of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, when the sages of Naimisaranya addressed Srila Suta GosvamI as follows:
(28) Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.1.14
apannah samsrtim ghoram yan-nama vivaso grnan
tatah sadyo vimucyet.i yad bibheti svayam bhayam
Living beings who are entangled in the complicated meshes of birth and death can be freed immediately by even unconsciously chanting the holy name of krishna, which is feared by fear personified.
Note again the word vivasah.
Another significant term in the above Srimad-Bhagavatam verse (6.2.7) is janma-koti-amhasam, "the sins of millions of births are extinguished". Koti is the highest number counted in the Vedic system, which is ten millions. One might ask, how many sinful reactions one single holy name is really able to eradicate? In answering, Snla Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura quotes another verse:
(29) Brhad-Visnu Purana
namno hi yavatisaktih papa-nirharane hareh
tavat kartum na saknoti patakam pataki narah
namnah—by one single holy name; hi—indeed; yavati—as soon as (it is chanted); saktih—the potency; papa—of the sins; nir-harane—the extinguishing; hareh—(the name) of Sri Hari; tavat—then (it so happens); kartum—to commit; na—never; saknoti—he is able; patakam—sins (which cause one's falldown); pataki—a sinful; narah—a man.
Simply by chanting one holy name of Hari, a sinful man can counteract the reactions to more sins than he is able to commit.1
In other words, there is no way of calculating the potency of the holy name against the weight of one's sinful reactions, because the latter are material, whereas the holy name is spiritual. Consequently, even one name of krishna outweighs an unlimited stock of karmal Nothing in this material world can be as auspicious as the holy name. Srila Prabhupada, departing from the relative perspective and looking from the absolute perspective, explains in this connection:
The conception that there are things auspicious and inauspicious in the material world is more or less a mental concoction because there is nothing auspicious in the material world. Everything is inauspicious because the very material nature is inauspicious. We simply imagine it to be auspicious. Real auspiciousness depends on activities in krishna consciousness in full devotion and service.2
The Visnudutas continue to speak on namabhasa by explaining the four kinds of unconscious chanting which are described on page 100:
(30) Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.2.14
sanketyam parihasyam va stobharh helanam eva va
vaikuntha-nama-grahanam asesagha-haram viduh
One who chants the holy name of the Lord is immediately freed from the reactions of unlimited sins, even if he chants indirectly to indicate something else (sanketya), jokingly (parihasya), for musical entertainment istobha), or even neglectfully (helana). This is accepted by all the learned scholars of the scriptures.
In the above mentioned discussion with Satyaraja Khan1, Sri Cai-tanya Mahaprabhu declares that chanting is even powerful enough to give liberation to a person who is not initiated:
(31) Sri Caitanya-caritdtnrta Madhya-lila 15.108
diksa purascarya-vidhi apeksa na kare
jihva-sparse a-candala sabare uddhare
One does not have to undergo initiation or execute the activities required before initiation. One simply has to vibrate the holy name with his lips. Thus even a candala, a man in the lowest class, can be delivered.
This is a noteworthy statement, because the scriptures say2 that without being properly initiated, one's devotional activities are useless and do not save one from falling again into the lower species of material life. In the purport to the above verse, however, Srlla Prabhupada proves3 that the chanting of the Hare krishna mahd-mantra is so powerful that it does not depend on official ini¬tiation. It simply requires to be accompanied by the performance of pancardtra-vidhi, the worship of the Deity.
When Sukadeva Gosvami told the story of Ajamila to Pariksit Maharaja, he consequently concluded by saying:
(32) Snmad-Bhagavatam 6.3.31
tasmat sankirtanam visnor jagan-mangalam amhasam
mahatam api kauravya viddhy aikantika-niskrtam
My dear King, the chanting of the holy name of the Lord is able to uproot even the reactions of the greatest sins. Therefore the chanting of the sankirtana movement is the most auspicious activity in the entire universe. Please try to understand this so that others will take it seriously.
Aikantika-niskrtam means that sankirtana is the ultimate means of atonement for all sins, even if they are mahatam api, very great. This-is so because transcendence enters the material realm through the sound element (sabda).
In this regard, the Vedanta-sutra, which provides the Absolute truth in concise aphorisms, points out:
(33) Vedanta-sutra 4.4.22
om andvrttih sabdat
anavrttih—non-return (to a material body); sabdat—by transcendental sound vibration.
By sound vibration, one becomes liberated.
This very scientific subject is explained by Srlla Prabhupada:
It is stated also in the Vedanta-sutra that sound is the origin of all objects of material possession and that by sound one can also dissolve this material existence. Andvrttih sabdat means "liberation by sound." The entire material manifestation began from sound, and sound can also end material entanglement, if it has a particular potency. The particular sound capable of doing this is the transcendental vibration Hare krishna.1