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Chapter 15 - Bhajana-pranali
gadai gauranga jaya jaya nityananda
jaya sitanatha jaya gaura-bhakta-vrinda
The Lord said, "Haridasa, by your devotion you have received all knowledge available in the universe. All the Vedas are dancing on your tongue; all the conclusions of scripture are in your speech. Now speak clearly about the rasa (sentiment or mellow) of the holy name. How does the jiva get qualification for the rasa of the name?"
Haridasa, in great bliss, said, "Through Your inspiration, I will describe it.
"The highest, purest state, the perfection of the Absolute Truth, is called rasa. This rasa is not the emotions or sentiment of the material world but is the inherent nature of the Absolute Pure; it is unlimited, full of bliss and the greatest glory. The Absolute Truth reveals His variegated character through His energies, which are inseparable from His very existence (abhinna). His energies create the variegated spiritual world which is prerequisite to rasa.
"Through His spiritual energy, Krishna reveals His form, name, dhama and activities. The Supreme Truth is known as Krishna with a Syamasundara form, residing in Goloka-dhama, performing His sweet pastimes with His devotees. Thus variety and rasa exist in the Lord due to His spiritual energies, which cannot be separated or differentiated from the substance of the Lord (abhinna). In this way, the Absolute Truth remains supreme, whole (akhanda), beyond duality (advaita), and simultaneously engages in a transcendental world full of beautiful forms, activities and emotions.
"The shadow energy of the Lord's spiritual energy is called maya. By the will of Krishna, this energy creates the material world outside of the spiritual dimension. Through His jiva-sakti, He creates the innumerable souls situated between the material and spiritual worlds, similar in quality to Krishna but infinitesimal in size. Because of their borderline quality, the jivas are of two types, eternally bound jivas and eternally liberated jivas. Those who are eternally liberated are qualified as Krishna's eternal servants in the spiritual sky, and those who are eternally bound engage and suffer in the material shadow away from Krishna. The jivas dwelling in the material world are of two types, those taking Krishna's name and associating with devotees, who will go to the spiritual world of rasa by the power of the name, and those who ignore Krishna and toil hopelessly for rasa in relation to inert matter.
"The gradual realization of rasa in the name is compared to the blossoming of a flower. The name is compared to a flower in bud when it is spread to the general mass of people in the world. When one realizes the beautiful form of Krishna in Goloka Vrindavana through continual chanting of the name, that is compared to the partially opened flower. Continuing sadhana further, when Krishna's sixty-four qualities become revealed in the name, that is compared to the fragrance from the half-opened flower. When one realizes the eternal pastimes of Krishna in Goloka Vrindavana, the flower is in full bloom. Then, by the great mercy of the name, the original energies of hladini (bliss) and samvit (consciousness) belonging to the spiritual world, whose prime embodiment is Radharani, unite in the form of bhakti-devi and descend upon the small jiva, who possesses only a small portion of hladini and samvit energy. From the transcendental realm, bhakti-devi reveals to the jiva the full rasa in the name, and by her mercy the jiva takes on his spiritual body and enters into the pastimes and tastes rasa.
"There are four ingredients of rasa: vibhava, anubhava, sattvika-bhava and vyabhicari (sancari) bhava. The mixture of these ingredients produces rasa. Vibhava, the general cause for rasa, is divided into alambana and uddipana. Alambana means the root cause, that upon which the rasa depends. It is divided into asraya, the recipient, who is the devotee, and vishaya, the object, who is Krishna. Uddipana, the instigation, is composed of the form and qualities of Krishna, which are realized through constant chanting. Thus, where there is alambana (devotee and Krishna) and uddipana (Krishna's qualities), lila and rasa can occur.
"When the conditions of vibhava are perfected, anubhava (external symptoms of internal emotions) appears. These symptoms are all based on pure spiritual love, and can in no way be compared to the symptoms of love in the material world. Gradually, as emotions deepen, sattvika and vyabhicari bhavas (additional symptoms) appear. By the combination of these ingredients, the initial stayi-bhava (primary mood) of the devotee transforms to rasa, full spiritual flavors. The situation of tasting rasas in the spiritual world is the highest perfection, the ultimate goal of the jiva, according to the scriptures. There are four goals for man mentioned in the Vedas: dharma, artha, kama and moksha. These, however, are meant to lead to the supreme goal (parama-purushartha)—rasa. One who is truly liberated is qualified for rasa.
"The path for attaining rasa is as follows: The jiva who has attained faith in bhakti receives a pure Vaishnava guru. That guru gives the maha-mantra. The jiva will take the mantra, either in the form of smarana (remembering the name) or kirtana (chanting the name), regulating himself by counting on Tulasi beads. Gradually, as his craving for the name increases, he will increase to 3 x 64 rounds. Of the two forms of taking the name, kirtana is the more powerful, for in that process are combined sravana, kirtana and smarana, and by it the senses of the jiva dance in joy. By taking shelter of any of the nine processes of bhakti, one progresses in devotion, but of the nine processes, chanting is the best. Those who have an attraction for Deity worship will reach perfection only by also engaging in hearing and chanting the name. But those who have exclusive attraction for the name need only engage in hearing, chanting and remembering the name. If one executes these three processes nicely, all the other nine processes of bhakti—serving the lotus feet, praying, servitude, and complete self-surrender—can also be easily accomplished.
"With faith that the name and Krishna are nondifferent, and avoiding the ten offenses, the effects of the name will be perceived. By clear chanting and remembering of the name, one will find attraction and joy in the name. Then, one will either meditate on a form of Krishna or constantly take darsana of His murti along with one's chanting, delving deeper and deeper into the name. When one has succeeded in realizing the form of Krishna in the name, one will then meditate on Krishna's qualities while chanting, one will meditate on a pastime of Krishna's with the aid of a specific mantra. When all four elements become one, one will begin to perceive rasa in the name. One will perfect the rasa by meditating on the eightfold pastimes of Radha and Krishna in Vrindavana. Gaining one's spiritual body by the mercy of the guru, one will enter into the pastimes with the associates of Radharani, and according to the directions of the sakhis, one will serve Radha and Krishna in ecstasy. This service in the conjugal mood is the most brilliant thing in the spiritual world, and is obtainable by the jiva by the practice of bhakti. There are even higher stages than this, but it is not possible to describe them by mere words. These things will be revealed by the mercy of Krishna.
"The specific process is now described. To receive a spiritual body in conjugal rasa one must culture eleven specific items in one's identity: one's relationship, age, name, bodily color, membership in a particular group, dress, order, residence, highest expectation in service and the protecting gopi under whom one serves. These items are perfected through five stages. First, one will approach a guru who has realized Krishna's eternal pastimes and the eleven items in eternal service. Upon hearing the eightfold pastimes of Radha and Krishna, one inquires how to realize that state. The guru then describes the eleven items by which one can enter the pastimes. This is called sravana-dasa.
"The guru will then choose the particular spiritual identity of the disciple according to the tendency and attraction of the disciple. If the disciple does not have a natural taste in one bhava, he can request another from the guru. When finally one's spiritual identity fits, he vows to the guru never to give it up. This is called varana-dasa (the accepting stage). The disciple will then practice remembering his given identity in his heart. This smarana-dasa (stage of remembering) is divided into five levels. First one tries to remember the eightfold pastimes, but the mind wanders. This is smarana. When one's practice becomes steady, it is called dharana. When one can meditate on all aspects of the desired object, it is called dhyana. When this dhyana becomes continual, it is called anusmriti. When this becomes perfect, it is called samadhi.
"If these stages are followed progressively in smarana, one will quickly come to the stage of apana (possession), where the eleven items are realized as one's constitutional state. However, if one is busy making an exterior show, but does not cultivate fixing one's identity within, he cannot perfect this stage. But fixing one's identity is natural, since the jiva has simply forgotten his perfect stage when entering the material realm and body, desiring his own pleasure, and proportionately as one increases his practice of remembering his natural state, material designation and identification will decrease.
"One can reach apana-dasa either from raganuga sadhana, where scriptural rules are minimal, or through vaidhi-sadhana, where relying on suitable rules from scripture is predominant. If one progresses through the stages of faith, practice, purification, steadiness, taste and attachment, in either vaidhi or raganuga-sadhana, one then comes to the stage of bhava, preliminary prema. It is at this point that one attains apana-dasa. At this stage, beyond the category of sadhana-bhakti, when scriptural rules will be discarded as troublesome to one's service, conceptions of raganuga and vaidhi will both be discarded.
"Here, one's identification with the material body will vanish and identification with one's spiritual body will predominate. In that spiritual body (svarupa-siddhi) one will always see Vrindavana and serve Radha and Krishna. This final stage is called sampatti-dasa. By Krishna's mercy, suddenly one's material body, mind, intelligence and false ego will be cast off and one will appear in a pure spiritual body, serving Radha and Krishna along with Their eternal associates. The jiva can achieve this fifth stage in perfecting rasa by taking the name and becoming purified.
"Therefore, the jiva with faith should take up chanting of the name seriously and constantly in good association. He will take superior Vaishnava association, avoid material association and reside away from material glare. By the strength of these three items, he will achieve his position of real glory."
Haridasa said, "I am low, mean-minded and absorbed in material enjoyment, always refusing good association. Still, I am begging for causeless mercy to progress to the rasa stage of bhakti."
Saying this, Haridasa fell unconscious at the lotus feet of Shri Chaitanya.
Lord Chaitanya said, "Listen, Haridasa, in the future people with evil minds will degrade these intimate pastimes, but those who are real devotees will understand the supreme teaching that you have given. Taking shelter of this knowledge and taking shelter of the name, they will chant the name and worship Krishna, far away from the materialists. The jiva will attain faith in bhakti through past accumulated sukriti, (devotional activity). It is hard for all jivas to obtain bhakti. Lead them on a direct path home. I have come to preach the yuga-dharma of the holy name. You are helping Me accomplish this activity by describing the full truth about the holy name."
Whoever attains the full nectar of the touchstone of the holy name, worshiping Krishna in spontaneous emotion, has attained full success and full bliss. A worthless rascal, weeping, I hold that person's feet and beg that he distribute the bliss and let me drink forever just one paticle of the nectarean rasa.
Prema alone is the purpose of the life of jivas. Bhava, which is the soul's feeling, develops into prema. Turning their face towards Krishna, the more jivas progress, the more they approach the temple of prema. Thus, in considering the candidacy for prema, we meet at the outset with two kinds of circumstances: one is an intense longing for the unattained prema, the other is the stage when the pedestal of prema is already reached. There is no higher stage beyond the latter one—an incessant rasa in an undivided unique tattva of that region. Those devotees with an utter craving for prema but who are still on the way to it are again divided into two classes according to their love of seclusion or bustee: the first are called viviktanandis, who are close followers of approved usages, the others are known as gostyanandis and are ever happy in preaching. Deep meditation on Godhead is the discipline of premi bhaktas and glorifying or singing the name of Krishna is their preaching.
In the state when there is an intense longing for the unattained prema, the premi bhaktas are exclusively devoted to Krishna—utter self-surrender marks them out. The Shrimad-Bhagavatarn and the Gita have very highly eulogized such refugees. If a devotee does not take absolute shelter under the cool shade of the gracious feet of Krishna, why speak of prema? He remains quite in the dark even about bhava. A self-surrendering devotee should only accept things that are favorable to prema-bhakti, and should deny everything—whatever it may be—that is antagonistic or unfavorable to it. Such a devotee believes that Krishna is the only protector, that nothing else or no one else but Krishna can save or protect him. He has not the least doubt that Krishna alone protects all. Devotees firmly and sincerely believe themselves to be very humble and insignificant. The faith of an earnest and exclusive devotee is that he himself can do nothing, that not even a straw moves without the will of Krishna.
Extremely self-surrendered devotees prefer to most exclusively embrace Shri Nama to every other feature of devotion. They have a more intense appetite for singing and meditating upon the holy name than for anything else. Of all the means of bhajana, the name of Bhagavan is most purely spiritual. In describing the absolute duties, the Shri Hari-bhakti-vilasa has spoken of the glories of chanting and contemplating the holy name as the best—it has been given the foremost place. The sastras declare that there is not the least difference between Krishna and Krishna's name because the real nature of His name is spiritual—the holy name manifests Himself as the chaitanya-rasa-vigraha of Krishna.
Those who desire to realize the form of Krishna and the form of the holy name must try to realize their own cit-svarupa. The practicer of bhakti can never be dexterous in his adoration of God so long as he does not realize spiritual truth. So, how can he attain his object of pursuit? The attainment of an absolute conception of spiritual truths causes the amelioration of bhajana. Here we shall say something on this subject.
Many a time we have pointed out (in the Chaitanya-siksamrita) with quotations from the sastras that every jiva is a spiritual molecule, that the residence of Krishna is a spiritual kingdom, that Krishna is the spiritual sun, that devotion to Krishna is a spiritual inclination, and that Krishna's name is cid-rasa-vigraha. Now, we venture to show the relation between spirit and those devotees who are extremely anxious for prema, and then we shall show the means to the attainment of the highest bliss of the soul. If we have spiritual merit earned in previous births, transcendental felicity will be enkindled in our heart. We have no appetite (ruci) for the knowledge of Brahman, which is restricted to realization of mere cit only; for, spiritual sportive pastimes have no place in it.
The Savior of the Iron Age, Shri Krishna Chaitanya, declares the Vedas to be the only judge and reveals their nine prameyas (subject matters). There is a broad discussion on it in the Shrimad-Bhagavatam. The Vedas have proved jivas to be spiritual atomic parts of the Deity. Jivas are like rays from the sun, Krishna; so the spiritual form of the jivas must be identified with the spiritual form of Godhead. But the difference lies in the fact that Krishna may be compared with the full sun, while the jivas are His innumerable rays. Krishna is Lord of lords—the jivas are His eternal servants. There is no denying the fact that the residential home of Krishna is in the Paravyoma, or Goloka, which is all-spiritual. Vaikuntha, cij-jagat, etc. all refer to that spiritual region. The Vajasaneya Upanishad speaks of the form of Krishna to be purely spiritual; the Svetasvatara Upanishad describes the eternal powers of Krishna, who is superior to the best and higher than the highest. The Mundaka Upanishad shows bhakti to the cid-rasa, and, coming to conceive Krishna to be the life of lives, the wise, after discarding all garrulity, dry wisdom and vain arguments, dive deep to see the bottom of their soul. They, after realizing the Deity by dint of pure intuition, run after devotion. He who does this is a brahmana, i.e., a Vaishnava devotee of Krishna. Such has been shown to be the nature of bhakti, or devotion. As the Candogya Upanishad states: "O Maitreya! The soul alone is to be seen, heard, reflected, meditated upon and realized by spiritual organs. All is then known to us beyond any doubt. That soul (Krishna) is dearer than one's son, dearer than wealth, for He is omniscient.
Things that are sense-pleasing are never worth endearment; from the pleasure of the Great Soul all joy proceeds." Thus the eternal relation of happiness between Krishna and the jiva is prema.
What exact connection does there exist between this manifested and visible mundane world and the spiritual sphere? In going to search after spiritual truths, more often than not we are deluded. After deep contemplation and discrimination, we conclude spirit to be something opposite to matter. Pressing our worldly reasoning too far, we leave cid-rasa to the background and are satisfied with an imaginative inarticulate and incomplete conception of spiritual Brahman. This is only an imagination of the cit-svarupa of Brahman. In such a stage, Brahman is immutable, incorporeal, invisible or formless, without attributes and dry of prema—this uncommon perception is like the "sky-flower!" And being unable to know the name, form, attributes and pastimes or diversions of that cit-svarupa, we turn to being inactive. Hence it is that all portents of jivas come to pass due to this dry wisdom. This is well illustrated in the conversation between Vyasa and Narada.
It is clear from the above that you never can know the spiritual sportive pastimes of para-brahma if you are dazzled by the mere cit-svarupa of Brahman, which is only a semblance of the eternal light of cit. Brother, look ahead! Enter into the kingdom of Godhead after dashing through the brilliance of pure and simple cit. There you will be able to realize the spiritual pastimes of Godhead, then you will be able to taste the ambrosia of an incessant brahma-rasa. No longer will your soul remain wooden-like. The name, form, attributes and lila of the Supreme Being are manifested not by any earthly light, but by a spiritual flame. The sun, moon, stars, lightning and fire of this earth are quite unfit to give light to that other spiritual horizon. This spiritual light, which is far beyond worldly lights, brightens that region. It is only a perverted reflection of that light that we think supplies us with light; but in fact, it does not. While describing brahmapura (the region of Brahman), the Candogya Upanishad gives us a comprehensive knowledge of it. The spiritual kingdom as displayed by the spiritual light is an ideal to this base earth. There is not the least tinge of baseness; while, on the contrary, only an all-pervading daintiness is its sweet affair. The fourteen mundane worlds are only a perverted reflection of that sphere; the gross sun is a reflection of that light and its subtle reflection is seen in the mundane rays of dry wisdom arising from mind, conscience and consciousness. Our gross senses believe the gross sun to be a flash of luster, and we are proud of the earthly knowledge which is gained by dint of the eight processes of yoga that are actions of the subtle intellect, conscience and ego. All these are seemingly natural workings of engrossed jivas.
Listening to the advice of Narada, while Dvaipayana Rishi (Vyasa) was completely absorbed in the single and natural deep meditation of the soul, he fully and clearly saw the name, form, attributes and pastimes of the Supreme Person. He also saw maya, the shadow of para-sakti, as having no other shelter than the Absolute Truth, and understood the anarthas of jivas, the atomic cit-tattvas, who are engrossed, fascinated and enslaved by maya. Further realizing that such jivas can come to perceive their own personal forms if absorbed in a profoundly meditative bhakti-yoga, he compiled the Shrimad-Bhagavatam, which describes the spiritual pastimes of Bhagavan. The forgetfulness of his own eternal form and the form of Krishna is the foremost anartha of a jiva, whence arises his aversion to Krishna, as a result of which he is revolved by the wheel of maya on the path of karma. Thus the world is full of weal and woes. When jivas take shelter under bhakti, after discarding the basely turned endeavors of the mundane wise reasoning of the eight processes of yoga, of the karma-margis (followers of karma or fruitive acts), and of the arguments of the Sankhya school of the jnana-margis (seekers of dry wisdom) which vainly try to refute things that are not God or His concerns, then only are the pure rays of spiritual intuition enkindled in them by being naturally absorbed in divine contemplation. The worldly pleasures then prick them like piercing thorns, and Krishna prema is awakened in the heart. By these means only can they be blessed by the grace of Krishna—the spiritual sun. This divine grace is the only means for washing away all stain from the mind and for progressing forward towards the ever-shining land of Krishna.
A sincere faith in pure devotion is the root cause of this unlabored restraint of the senses together with the mind, and confinement of the soul in a deep contemplation on Godhead. When the happy moment came, Dvaipayana Rishi became doubtful about the rules and methods of karma-kanda and vain jnana-kanda. In reply to the question of his spiritual preceptor, Shri Narada Gosvami, he said, "O Lord, no doubt I have realized all the truths you advised, still my soul, I know not why, finds no contentment! O son of Brahma, be kind to tell me the unimaginable and indescribable secret that lurks behind it. I beg this of you, being greatly troubled at heart."
Then Narada Gosvami replied, "O Vyasa, you have not striven to give as vivid a picture of the pure spiritual pastimes of Bhagavan, as you have in the Vedanta-sutras and Mahabharata of the four main objects of human pursuit, viz., virtue, wealth, enjoyment and salvation. It is due to this shortcoming of yours that you enjoy no contentment. Therefore you have committed a great and heavy omission by giving too high an eulogy of castes and stages as the religion of the soul. If any one, leaving aside such a conventional religion of the self, engages himself in the service of Hari, but slips before reaching the goal, he suffers no loss to speak of. On the contrary, if he strictly sticks to conventional religion, being utterly unmindful of Hari bhajana, what worthy and exalted goal can he attain thereby?" It is clear from the above that there is no second help but Hari bhajana. A jiva can attain his highest goal if he embraces the holy name as the means to Hari.
Vyasadeva then followed up this bhakti-yoga by absorbing himself in an easy meditation on Godhead. "Easy" is used here to show that devotion to Krishna is most innate in the jivatma. Because it is an inherent and eternal religion of the jivas, it is called the "easy" universal religion of every jiva. Its workings develop in the following manner. When jivas come to realize that the path of karma does not give them eternal good, whether it be the eighteen inferior karma-yoga or the eight subtle processes of yajna—neither can ever lead them to the highest goal, service to Krishna, which is their soul's religion—or again when they are fully convinced that there is not the least chance to attain perpetual happiness by mundane wisdom or limited knowledge that aims at the spiritual kingdom—both gained by endeavor of the subtle frame of mind, ego, etc.—finding no shore to catch, they thus, by the grace of sadhus and the spiritual preceptor, cry out to Krishna from the deepest recesses of their heart: "O Krishna! O You Deliverer of the fallen! Although I am Your eternal servant, I am fallen into the deep abyss of the world and am badly dashed from shore to shore by its drowning waves of troubles and tribulations. Take me up, my Lord, to the shade of the cool dust of Your lotus feet. Oh! Have mercy on this wretched self!" Then the all-merciful Lord lovingly takes all jivas up to His feet.
When with sincere thrills of joy and tears trickling down their cheeks they constantly chant, hear and remember the name of Krishna, they gradually reach the stage of bhava. Appearing in their heart, Krishna erases all stain from their mind. Having thus cleansed their heart graciously, He blesses them with His own prema. Extreme humbleness and utter devotion are necessary to call Krishna to the heart. Then, when earthly knowledge, reasoning and striving are completely burnt to ashes, the soul's eyes can perceive Bhagavan and His associated counterparts. If after discarding the company of asat fellows—those who are attached to the fair sex and those who are nondevotees of Krishna—one embraces the company of the good or sat, before long he attains firm faith and then through the stages of nishtha, etc., reaches the ladder of bhava. Those whose hearts are crooked will beyond any doubt stumble downwards to hell.
The fortunate ones who earnestly long to ascend the terrace of prema, do sincerely and incessantly chant the name of Krishna in the company of sadhus. They do not have any appetite for any other feature of devotion. When in a short time by the grace of the holy name the heart becomes closely attentive, the fruits of religious forbearance, control over sensual appetites, religious observances, withholding the breath by way of religious austerity, abstract religious contemplation, steady abstraction of the mind and indifference to external impressions are very easily gained without paying the least heed to any of these. The holy name alone is a complete suspension of the fleeting mental operations. The more the heart is transparent, the more the diverse pastimes of the spiritual kingdom play in it. The flow of the milk of this happiness is so very fast running that no other means can give even the smallest drop of it. The jivas should desire no other wealth than this grace of Krishna.
The holy name is spiritual; wisdom, vows, meditation, abnegation, mental quietness, virtue, contrivance—none of these can ever equal the name. Know it for certain that the holy name is the highest salvation, the holy name is the highest end, the holy name is the noblest and final beatitude, the holy name is existing eternally, the holy name alone is the supermost devotion, the holy name is the highest intellect, the holy name is the topmost priti and the holy name is the brightest remembrance. The holy name is the seed and the holy name is the fruit to jivas—the holy name is their Lord and the holy name alone is the supermost object of their worship. The holy name is their preceptor.
The Vedas have described the spirituality of the name of Krishna to be the highest truth. "O Lord! We have reasonably judged Your name to be higher than the highest and so we chant Your holy name. Nama-bhajana is not bound by any rule—the holy name is beyond all virtuous acts—He is spiritual—He is virility and luster in a person. All the Vedas have been manifested from this holy name. The holy name is bliss, the holy name is ananda. We can excellently be devoted to Him. The holy name is worship and is to be worshiped; Your feet are to be held in veneration. Repeatedly we fall prostrate at Your lotus feet and anoint our bodies with the pollen thereof. In order to lead the soul to its highest stage, devotees mutually discuss the holy name and sing His glories. They believe Your name to be Chaitanya in person, and always sing and hear kirtana which is identical with Your name—they are purified by it. The holy name alone is sat, or ever-existing. The essence of the Vedas is the holy name, who is the Absolute Truth and whose form is sac-cid-ananda (sat—ever-existing, cit—knowing, and ananda—all-bliss). O Vishnu, it is only by the grace of Your name that we are capable of offering these hymns to You. So we should adore and pray to Your holy name alone."
In His own "Eight Glorious Precepts," Shriman Mahaprabhu has spoken of the glories of the holy name. He has also given a glimpse of the gradual steps of nama-bhajana in those eight precepts. His sloka. beginning with "Consider yourself humbler than the grass" hints at how to adore the holy name after avoiding the ten offenses. His sloka "Followers or money I want not" speaks of the selflessness of nama-bhajana in a devotional spirit—devotion unactuated by any lustful motive. The sloka "O Son of Nanda" tells us how to make a plaintive report to the Lord. The last two slokas describe the process of Vraja bhajana where one loves Krishna to serve Him either in sambhoga (union) or in vipralambha-rasa (deeper union in separation) or in both after being completely and spontaneously attached to Shrimati Radha. The sastras have eulogized so highly and so often the glories of the holy name that their number is legion—to describe them is to write a big volume like the Shri Hari-bhakti vilasa. So we hardly have any more space in this small volume to discuss them at length. Thus, stopping here with the glories of the holy name, we attempt a very short survey of the processes of nama-bhajana.
Devotees who are desirous of ascending the terrace of prema should remember a few points even before entering the field of nama-bhajana. Firstly, they should know for certain that the form of Krishna, the form of Krishna's name, the form of service to Krishna and the form of Krishna's servants are eternally free—eternally spiritual! Krishna, His abode and paraphernalia are all spiritual and beyond the grasp of maya, the illusory energy. No mundane consideration exists in seva, or service. The seat, room, garden, forest, Yamuna River and every other thing of Krishna are spiritual and hence untouchable by matter. They are further aware of the fact that this belief is not a blind worldly faith—it is absolutely true and eternal. The exact forms of all these do not in truth manifest on this earth. Such ideas may perpetually reign in the pure heart of pure devotees. Here, the fruit of all these spiritual practices is self-realization. Those who have realized the form of Krishna, as well as of their own self, do before long attain vastu-siddhi (enter the eternal pastimes of Krishna in the spiritual kingdom and gain personal service of Krishna). Here in this world, devotees can only get a glimpse of those immaterial things. The first stage to it is freedom from the bondage of maya—the climax is prema.
The realization of truths that are beyond the grasp of matter is called svarupa-siddhi. This is true knowledge of the relationship between Krishna and the jivas, and when this is acquired, the endeavor for prema as a means and prema as an object of pursuit are gained. The spiritual region of Krishna, His spiritual name, His divine attributes and spiritual pastimes—all these being the necessary object of pursuit—come under prema. This is delineated in the Prasnopanishad.
The holy name has been accepted in all respects to be an incarnation of Krishna on this earth. Although He seems to be just a word, still, by His unimaginable powers, He is spiritual and is a special incarnation of Krishna. As Krishna and His name are identical, Krishna has descended to the earth as the holy name; so, Krishna's name is the first introduction to Krishna. With determination to reach Krishna, jivas must first accept the name of Krishna. In attempting to determine the significance and origin of Hari nama, Shri Gopala-guru Gosvami, the dearest disciple of Shri Svarupa Damodara Gosvami, writes, "Blessed are they no doubt who utter 'Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare; Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare' even with indifference. (This verse was culled from the Agni Purana.) 'Those who chant the holy name are free from every spot of sin.' (Brahmanda Purana) These utterings of Hare Krishna, coming out from the lips of Shri Chaitanya, inundated the whole world with the flood of prema. Glory be to the holy name by His will!" Hence, Shriman Mahaprabhu, as mentioned in the Chaitanya-caritamrita and in the Chaitanya-bhagavata, Himself sang and taught jivas to count these sixteen names of thirty-two syllables on Tulasi beads. Shri Gopala-guru Gosvami explains these sixteen names in the following way:
"At the utterance of Hari, all sins are washed from the heart of the wicked. As the flame will burn the finger even though unconsciously thrust into fire, similarly, even the very casually pronounced holy name will burn every bit of sin within you. After that holy name of the Lord manifests the Absolute Truth whose form is cid-ananda, it destroys avidya, or illusion, and its works. All this is the work of Hari nama. Or as He takes off the three-fold pangs of miseries, distresses and afflictions, He is therefore called Hari (lit. to steal away). Or Hari is so called because He drives out all the three-fold distresses of every animate and inanimate being, or because the mind of the fourteen worlds is charmed by hearing and singing the spiritual attributes of Hari. Or as He, by His exceeding beauty before the loveliness and beauty of a thousand Cupids, which causes these to hide their faces in shame, He also fascinates all men and incarnations, hence He is called Hari, which in the vocative case is pronounced Hare. Or again, according to the views of the Brahma-samhita, She who fascinates the mind of Hari by Her prema-svarupa, attachments and love is Hara, or in other words, Shrimati Radhika, the daughter of Vrishabhanu. The vocative case of Hara is Hare.
"The meaning of Krishna according to the views of agama is that this Krishna who is ananda in form and attracts every object, is parabrahma. Krishna, when in the vocative case, is also Krishna. The agama says, 'O goddess, all guilts and sinful motives vanish from the heart at the very sound of 'ra', and the door in the form of 'ma' is attached to it in order to shut out those evils and prevent them from reentering the heart. These together give us Rama.' The Puranas have further said that Krishna, who is cleverer than the cleverest, more witty than the greatest wit, who is the presiding Deity of all spiritual pastimes and who is eternally engaged in spiritual dalliance with Shri Radha, is termed as Rama."
Devotees who thirst for prema and are on the way to it, chant and realize this holy name of Hare Krishna by counting on beads. While chanting and remembering the name, they incessantly remember His spiritual characteristics by explaining to the mind the meanings of the holy name. In this way, their heart is very soon freed from every spot and becomes pure and stainless; and with the morning twilight of the holy name, as the heart is purified by constant remembrance, the holy name dawns on the horizon of the transparent heart with full shining rays.
Those who have accepted the holy name are either self-realized devotees or are still trotting onwards to self-realization. Of these, the latter class of devotees are divided according to their early and advanced stages. Besides these, devotees who are eternally free no longer confuse the soul for the body and never identify themselves with the body or mind. In the early stage, devotees begin to chant the name in a fixed number, and as they gradually increase their countings, they come to a stage when their tongue does not stop for a moment from singing the holy name. Although devotees in their first stage have no taste for the holy name because their tongues are cholera-stricken by avidya, still a patient and continuous utterance of the name proves to be the only remedy. Later they will feel uneasy if stopped from singing the name. A constant and regardful chanting produces a supreme liking for Him.
Zeal and earnestness to avoid offenses to the holy name are very needful in the first stage, which can be done only by an avoidance of worldly-minded men and keeping company with devotees. Incessant chanting of the holy name will, when the first flow has passed away, naturally increase a love for the name and kindness to jivas. In this, karma, jnana and yoga have nothing to do. If their workings are strong even then, they may help the devotees of the holy name in maintaining their livelihood. If Krishna's holy name is sung with a firm inclination, it will before long cleanse the heart and burn away avidya; when avidya vanishes, the brighter illumination of a true, unbiased abnegation and a sense of the relationship between Krishna and jivas will appear in the heart. Numberless times has this been proved to be true among the wise.
With a happy heart, one should recollect the meaning and form of the holy name and should pray to Krishna with a heart-rending lamentation, and this will draw the grace of Krishna which will lead him onward in the path of bhajana; or else, births will pass in vain like karmis and frustrated jnanis.
Those who engage in bhajana may be divided into two distinct classes. Some bear only the burden, others appreciate the real worth of things. Those who long for enjoyment or for self-destroying salvation and are attached to worldly affairs are only yoked to the heavy load of virtue, wealth, enjoyment and salvation—they are unaware of the fact that prema is the best sap. So, such load-bearers fail to progress in bhajana in spite of their utmost strivings, whereas the essence-seekers aiming at prema-lata very soon reach the longed-for ultimate. They are called prema-rurukshu (those who earnestly strive for ascending up to the region of prema); they alone can in a very short time ascend up to the sphere of prema or easily become paramahamsas. Thus, when one who so long simply did bear burdens, learns to love the Truth in the company of sadhus, he also soon turns to longing for prema.
When in previous births one has done good works looking forward to devotion, this invigorates reverence and a strong desire for service to Godhead, which then turns into an appetite for devotion in the company of devotees. Both bhajana and true devotees awaken sadhana-bhakti which leads to the expectation of prema. If one adopts the processes of sadhana as directed by true and pure devotees, he will before long almost turn mad for ascending the stage of prema where it can be tasted. But again, this prema will remain far in the background if he associates with half-true devotees and will not be able to exclusively devote himself to the service of Krishna. In this stage, (1) his strong love for the fleeting world, (2) his identification of the soul with the material frame of flesh and blood and the subtle body of the mind, (3) his knowledge of things other than Krishna, and (4) his extreme servile attitude towards maya do not allow him to regard and love true devotees—crafty thoughts beguile his heart. In this way, the practicers of devotion have to remain long confined to the preliminary rights of a devotee in the first stage. No doubt they have reliance and faith in Krishna, but it is so tender, fickle and unsteady that they may at any moment be led away by the contradictory arguments of conflicting schools and may accordingly come into the company of so-called preceptor and sadhus. In order to make steady their perturbed state of mind, they must learn by the process of deduction (the path of Sruti from a true spiritual preceptor) the true process of worship. A firm faith in the holy name will be awakened in the heart after worshiping the Deity in this way for a long time; then at last they will have determination for nama-bhajana in the company of devotees.
The case is different with those few lucky ones who have an exclusively firm faith in Krishna's holy name; they take, by unbounded grace of Krishna, shelter at the feet of such a spiritual guide who is an ontologist of the holy name, i.e., who has realized and does see the svarupa (form) of the holy name. Concerning the need for such a preceptor, Shri Mahaprabhu says that though formal initiation may not be necessary, still a guide is essential in nama-bhajana. The mere letters of the holy name may be had at any place and from anybody, but the profound and unknown truth that is lurking behind those letters can only be exposed by the grace of a true preceptor who is purely devoted to Krishna. The grace of the spiritual guide alone can pass over from the early twilight from the ten offenses hindering the true service of the holy name.
Those who are devoted to the holy name have already from the beginning attained the stage of the second class of the svarupa (form) of the holy name. They are practically no longer bound to namabhasa (utterance of the name avoiding the ten offenses). Truly speaking, they earnestly desire prema—they are true prema-rurukshus. It is their religion to have prema for Krishna; they make friendship with true Vaishnavas, they cast kind glances at and show compassion to tender and unsteady Vaishnavas, and they are indifferent to those who being puffed up with false vanity of their erudition are malicious and inimical to the devotees and Shri-murti of Bhagavan. Failing to distinguish right from wrong, the beginners who are confined to only the initial rights sometimes fall into deplorable conditions. The middle order of Vaishnavas who are earnestly anxious for prema behave differently from the three previous classes of Vaishnavas (those who only carry the burden, those who maintain bad association and those who strictly follow) and soon are blessed with prema, or ascend to the highest or superior order of Vaishnavas. It is best to associate with this middle order of Vaishnavas.
These prema-rurukshu devotees chant and tell their beads three lacs (3 x 64 rounds) in every twenty-four hours, and they find such happiness in the holy name that they cannot spare a moment without Him; then, when no time can be kept in sleep, etc., they become incessant in their bhajana. Repeated remembrance of the meaning of the holy name as explained by Shri Gopala-guru Gosvami will, by degrees, drive out all contamination from the nature of the devotee. Then the holy name will appear in person before the spiritual eyes of the devotee. When the svarupa (form) of the holy name fully appears, it is identical with the spiritual form of Krishna. The appearance of the svarupa of the holy name is the appearance of the svarupa of Krishna. The more clearly and purely the holy name is visible, the more bhajana proceeds in the presence of His svarupa, the more do the three elements of which primordial matter is said to be composed, namely sattva (the strand of goodness), rajas (the strand of activity) and tamas (the gloom of pride, haughtiness, etc. of the lowest inherent principal), disappear and there appear the spiritual attributes of Krishna in the heart of the devotee. Then again, when there is a happy union of the name, form and attributes of Krishna, and devotees in their bhajana see them, the lila (pastimes) of Krishna is awakened by the grace of Krishna in their pure heart as soon as they are absorbed in deep and easy, natural meditation. The holy name then dances incessantly on their tongue, the form of Krishna is visible to their soul's eye, all the attributes of Krishna are observed in their heart and the bud of lila blooms in their soul while they are buried in meditation. In this stage, five conditions of the practising devotee are to be noticed: 1. sravana-dasa, 2. varana-dasa, 3. smarana-dasa, 4. apana-dasa, 5. prapanna-dasa.
The happy mood which the devotee feels at the time of listening to the object of pursuit and the means of hearing from the lips of a true spiritual preceptor may be called sravana-dasa. In this stage, every bit of knowledge about how to chant the holy name without committing any offense to Him and of the processes and fitness of chanting the holy name is gained; this facilitates the continuity of the holy name.
When fit to receive it, the strung-together beads of nama-prema can be had from shri gurudeva, i.e., the disciple with every delight and from the deepest recesses of his heart cordially welcomes the boon of surrendering himself to the feet of shri guru for pure and unalloyed bhajana and receives invigorating strength and faculty from him; this is varana-dasa, (the choice of shri guru for bhajana by the acceptance of the holy name and strength from him).
Remembrance, contemplation, concentration, constant meditation and trance (final beatitude) are the five processes of smarana. From remembrance of the holy name, the devotee thinks of the form which gives him a steady conception of the attributes; this steady conception of the attributes gives him a firm conviction of pursuing the lila of Krishna and having entrance in the lila, he is completely absorbed in Krishna-rasa. This is apana-dasa. By these stages of smarana and apana the devotee can know and adore the eternal and daily lila of Krishna in eight different periods of the day; and when he is deeply absorbed in it, he realizes his own self and that of Krishna. These self-realized devotees are paramahamsas.
Then at the time of his departure from this world, the devotee, by the grace of Krishna, becomes an associated counterpart of ideal object of his worship in Vraja, and thus attains the summum bonum of nama-bhajana.
When should all who are seekers after prema leave the stage of a householder and accept sannyasa, or the fourth stage? The answer is that, be he in bustee (society) or solitude, in palace or bower, be he in the stage of a grihastha or a vanaprastha or sannyasi—in whatever stage he may be in, the prema-rurukshu should prefer to live in that stage only which will be favorable to the attainment of prema and should at once desert the stage that is a burden or antagonistic to his bhajana. In this connection, the lives of Shrivasa Pandita, Shri Pundarika Vidyanidhi, Shri Ramananda and other personal attendants of Krishna are worth recollection. They are all born paramahamsas. Ribhu, Janaka, etc. in the days of yore are seen to be paramahamsa even though they led the lives of householders; while, on the contrary, finding household life to be detrimental and a bar to bhajana, Shri Ramanuja Svami, Shri Svarupa Damodara Gosvami, Shri Madhavendra Puri Gosvami, Shri Haridasa Thakura, Shri Sanatana Gosvami and Shri Raghunatha dasa Gosvami, all renounced the stage of a householder and accepted sannyasa.
Krishna's loving beauty is so enamoring that even the god of lust is charmed by Him and Krishna Himself, being charmed by His own beauty and loveliness, covets the pleasure enjoyed by the best of His lovers—Shri Radha, by lovingly serving such a form as His. So anointing Himself with the luster and complexion of Shri Radha and having been imbued with Her ardent longings of love, Krishna is ever dallying as an exemplary lover of Himself as Shri Gauranga. Shri Krishna, the essential nature of the Supreme Being—the only real and eternal truth—is the object of love, and Shri Gauranga, the possessor and distributor of that love. Krishna is simultaneously dallying with His dear consort in the groves of Vrindavana and tasting the extract of love succors flowing from His consort as Gauranga at Navadvipa, Himself singing Krishna's name and teaching others how to love Krishna and sing His name. In so doing, He distinguishes pointedly the real name, identical with the object Himself, from the apparent or false one which is taken profanely, blasphemously or in vain. He emphasizes that in this Kali-yuga worldly people indulge in (1) duplicity, (2) intoxication, (3) sensuality, (4) killing of animals, (5) mercenariness and so are unable to meditate upon or worship Vishnu and perform Vedic sacrifices. So the chanting of Krishna's name is the only meditation, the only sacrifice, the only worship in this Kali age—the name is the means, the name is the end. But it should be noted with the utmost care that Krishna's name is not a mere combination of letters or utterance; an appearance is not identity. The fire and the glow worm, though similar in appearance, are not identical. The minutest spark of fire set consciously or unconsciously, seriously or playfully, will instantaneously burn an inflammable thing, whereas a thousand glow worms will not be able to do that, even in a thousand years. Krishna's name is identical with Krishna Himself and pregnant with all the properties and attributes of Krishna. So His name, unlike all other names, is full of energy, perfect, eternal, pure, devoid of illusion and eternally free.
The aurora of sunrise is sufficient to dispel the darkness of night and to drive the wild animals to their lairs and thieves and dacoits to their resorts; it enables us to distinguish the various objects of senses and ushers the advent of the glowing lamp of heaven. So namabhasa stops poverty from planting our pillows with thorns, destroys our worldly hankerings and dispels our illusory gloom so that we may see the name face to face. When the ever-burning sun peeps out of the eastern horizon, its ever-effulgent rays make us see it face to face, feel its golden rays and enable us to see all objects bathed therein. The sun is seen and felt by us with its own rays and heat and not by the help of any other glowing object. The brightest candles of the universe put together cannot make the sun visible to us. When our dreamy nights are at an end, when we shake off our torpor, open our eyes, and turn them to the east, we see the sun of the holy name with all His glory and beauty.