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Purport by Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati
There are innumerable ways to execute devotional service; the Shrimad-Bhagavatam and the Hari-bhakti-vilasa have described many of them. Broadly speaking, some sixty-four limbs of devotional service are considered the main disciplines or processes of bhakti-yoga. They are all grouped under the categories of vaidhi-bhakti(devotional service according to rules and regulations) and raganuga-bhakti (spontaneous devotional service). In Shrimad Bhagavatam, Prahlada Maharaja especially glorifies pure spontaneous devotional service. As Lord Gaurasundara has said: “The congregational chanting of the holy name of the Lord is the most perfect form of devotional service.”
Those who are knowledgeable in the transcendental science of the Absolute Truth have defined the supreme nondual substance, understood in the preliminary stage through jnana, as brahman. Understood further in its eternal aspect, it is defined as paramdtma, or the Supersoul. In the full and complete manifestation of all its potencies and its transcendental nature of complete knowledge, eternity and bliss, that Supreme Absolute Truth is known as bhagavan. Bhagavan, or the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is called Vasudeva when He manifests His supreme opulence, and Krishna when He covers His opulence with His conjugal loving mood. Lord Narayana responds to His devotees in two main devotional mellows, or rasas, while Lord Krishna is the worshipable object of all five rasas. Lord Balarama, Lord Krishna's vaibhava prakasa expansion manifested in relation with His excellences, is the Supreme Lord of Vaikunthaloka, residing there permanently in His eternal catur-vyuha expansions.
Proper japa chanting is possible only in the mind. Then the chanter will achieve the desired perfection. Chanting audibly with lip movements is kirtana; it is more effective than japa and brings about the greatest benefit to the hearer. Sankirtana means 'complete kirtana', for it is unnecessary to perform any other devotional activities if one performs sankirtana. Partial or imperfect kirtana of Lord Krishna's holy name is not the same as sankirtana. Imperfect chanting of Krishna's name is unable to cause the optimum spiritual change in the living entities. This will lead them to doubt the potency of kirtana. Therefore, let the complete and perfect chanting of Krishna's holy name, or nama-sankirtana, be victorious.
One's knowledge of a mundane subject matter is fragmental. In the spiritual world, however, Lord Krishna is the ultimate subject, and being transcendental, this plane remains forever untouched by material nature. By thus discussing transcendental subject matter, or Shri Krishna, one achieves supra-mundane perfection. Seven of these perfections, specially related to chanting Lord Krishna's holy name are mentioned in this shloka.
Chanting Lord Krishna's name cleanses the mirror of the conditioned soul's polluted heart, which is wholly covered by three contaminations, namely material desires, the enjoying spirit, and ungodly atheistic activities. The most effective process to cleanse the jiva's heart of all these impurities is chanting Lord Krishna's name. These treacherous contaminations, cover the mirror of consciousness and cause the iva to reject his true nature. Krishna's name alone can free the consciousness of these aberations. Thus by constantly chanting, taking complete shelter of the holy name, the jiva gradually perceives the reflection of his original form as the servant of Lord Krishna in the mirror of his consciousness.
This material existence only appears to be sweet and pleasurable, but in reality it is like a fire in the depths of a forest, which can sometimes burn the entire forest to ashes. Nondevotees who have no faith in Lord Krspa have to constantly tolerate the searing burning pain of this forest fire of material existence. On the other hand, when Lord Krishna's name is perfectly chanted, the devotees are protected from these scorching flames, even though they are in the midst of the forest of the material world.
Whole hearted chanting of Lord Krishna's holy name is the highest goodness and munificence. Sreyah means 'benediction', kairava means 'white lilies', and candrika are the rays of the moon. Just as by the illuminating rays of the rising moon the lily's white beauty is highlighted in the night similarly, the chanting of Krishna's name brings out the best in man and enlightens the darkened universe showering it with divine benediction. Human society cannot benefit from material desires for sense enjoyment, speculative knowledge or fruitive activities, but chanting Krishna's name blesses all with the greatest prosperity.
The Mundaka Upanisad mentions two types of knowledge: material and transcendental. Chanting of Lord Krishna's holy name is indirectly the fountainhead of material knowledge, but it is primarily the life and soul of transcendental, or supra-mundane knowledge. Chanting induces the jiva to break the shackles of false ego and false prestige-a product of material knowledge, and elevates him to understand his eternal relationship with the Supreme Lord Shri Krishna. The ultimate focus of real transcendental knowledge, therefore, is chanting Krishna's holy name.
Chanting the holy name expands the boundless ocean of transcendental bliss, and enables one to fully relish the sweetest nectar at every moment. Only a vast expanse of water is called an ocean, nothing less; therefore unlimited bliss has been rightly compared to an ocean. Such transcendental experiences as these are eternal and unfettered by imperfections, nor does it lack fullness or constancy. Even spiritual nature and objects take on an a tenderness and cooling sheen in touch with the chanting of Krishna's holy name. In the mundane realm, the body and mind, and above them, the soul, not only become purified by Krishna's name, but gradually and inevitably emblamed by its cooling tenderness.
The subtle and gross contaminations attendant upon the material conception of life have quite devoured the spiritual soul, but these material diseases can at once be terminated by chanting the holy name. When the soul released from his material designations, is eager to reach Lord Krishna, he engages in devotional service under the cooling shade of Lord Krishna's lotus feet.
Shrila Jiva Gosvami writes in the Bhakti-sandarbha , and in the Krama-sandarbha:
ata eva yadyapyanya
bhaktih kalau kartavya
This means that although it is required in Kali-yuga to practice the eight limbs of devotional service, they have to be performed in conjunction with chanting.