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Hari Nama Chintamani
Shrila Thakura Haridasa in Hari-nama-cintamani:
jara shraddha haya name sei adhikari;
jara mukhe krishna-nama, sei se acari.
“Only one who has sufficient faith in the glories of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra is eligible to chant it. And only one who actually chants the Hare Krishna maha-mantra is properly executing the prescribed duties of the human form of life.
desha-kala-ashaucadi niyama sakala;
shri nama-grahane nai nama se prabala;
“The Hare Krishna maha-mantra is so powerful that the chanting does not depend on conditions of time, place, rules, cleanliness, and so on.
dane, yajne, sthane, jape ache ta vicara;
krishna sankirtane matra shraddha adhikara.
“Pious activities, such as the giving of charity, the performance of sacrifices, the taking of ablutions, or the recitation of Vedic mantras are all regulated by stringent rules. But for the chanting of the Hare Krishna Maha-mantra, the only prerequisite is non-duplicitous faith.
yuga-dharma harinama ananya-shraddhaya;
je kore ashraya tara sarva labha haya.
“Those who take shelter of the Hare Krishna Maha-mantra (the only religion for this age) with unalloyed faith, attain the fulfillment of all their desires.”
Thakura Haridasa in Hari-nama-cintamani:
THE DEGREE OF ADVANCEMENT OF A DEVOTEE IS SOLELY BASED ON HIS DEGREE OF ATTACHMENT FOR CHANTING THE HOLY NAMES.
jara jata name rati se tata vaishnava;
vaishnavera krame ei mate anubhava .
“To the extent one has attachment to the chanting of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra, to that extent he is to be considered a Vaishnava.”
Purport by Swami Gaurangapada:
We can identify four stages in Vaishnavism from the writings of Thakura Bhaktivinoda:
VAISHNAVA-PRAYA: Neophyte (kanishtha) devotee who chants in namabhasa (negligently) without much faith in the Hare Krishna maha-mantra and the association of devotees. (normally a 4-round chanter or lower or a 16-round chanter with a duplicitous, cheating, sinful, foolish or ignorant mentality)
VAISHNAVA: Between neophyte and the intermediate stage, who regularly chants Hare Krishna maha-mantra while conscientiously trying to avoid the ten offenses after receiving the maha-mantra from the guru who is a pure chanter himself (normally a very sincere 16-round chanter).
MADHYAMA-VAISHNAVA: Intermediate stage of devotion when one constantly chants the Hare Krishna maha-mantra while actually avoiding the offenses. (normally a 64-round chanter or a very serious 16-round chanter who has chanted for many many years either in this life or previous lives and has an intense desire to increase the chanting)
UTTAMA-VAISHNAVA: Perfected and topmost stage when one chants the Hare Krishna maha-mantra purely in love of Krishna and simply by whose presence others are inspired to take full shelter of chanting the pure name. (24-hours chanter. Very rare in this world.)
According to Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura in Jaiva Dharma, it is compulsory for a Vaishnava-praya and a Vaishnava to associate and chant the maha-mantra specifically in the association of Madhyama-vaishnavas and Uttama-vaishnavas to advance to the higher stages of chanting and thus achieve perfection. I would like to conclude with a very important statement by Shrila Prabhupada in the Nectar of Instruction, Verse 5, purport:
“Everyone begins his devotional life from the neophyte stage, but if one properly finishes chanting the prescribed number of rounds of harinama, he is elevated step by step to the highest platform, uttama-adhikari.”