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The Kalisantarana Upanisad gives the following process for attainment of spiritual perfection. “There is no other way, no other way and no other way to attain self-realization in this age of Kali yuga but only by the chanting of the holy name, chanting of the holy name, chanting of the holy name”.
harer nama harer nama harer namaiva kevalam kalau nasty eva nasty eva nasty eva gatir anyatha
By Shri ARd – Nitai Das Prabhu
DELIBERATION ON CHANTING OF THE HOLY NAME
The glorious Ananta Sesa glorifies the holy name already from the time immemorial and still he did not finish the glorification. So, what we can mention here are only few small drops of nectar about the unlimited glorifications of the holy name as we heard them from the Vedic wisdom and spiritual masters. This time we will do it in the form of questions and answers. Hare Krishna.
Q. Why is the holy name of the Supreme Personality of Godhead praised so much and considered by all the saints and scriptures in the east and west to be the easiest and surest way to attain God realization?
A. First of all, when you say ‘all the saints’ we have to make a distinction between those who are personalists and the imperosnalists. The imersonalists are also chanting the holy name om just as devotees chanted it in the Satya-yuga of course, their understanding was that the om refers to the Supreme Personality of Godhead Vasudeva. Nowadays when the impersonalists are explaining the omkara they will say it refers to the impersonal energy of the Supreme. Further, they say tOat because the syllable om was the first sound vibration from which the creation of the universe has begun, liberation can be attained only by the utterance of this omkara and being completely absorbed in it. The Srimad Bhagavatam (12.6.37-39) gives the following description of this:
“Suta Gosvami said: O brahmana, first the subtle vibration of transcendental sound appeared from the sky of the heart of the most elevated Lord Brahma, whose mind was perfectly fixed in spiritual realization. One can perceive this subtle vibration when one stops all external hearing.”
“By worship of this subtle form of the Vedas, O brahmana, mystic sages cleanse their hearts of all contamination caused by impurity of substance, activity and doer, and thus they attain freedom from repeated birth and death.”
“From that transcendental subtle vibration arose the omkara composed of three sounds. The omkara has unseen potencies and manifests automatically within a purified heart. It is the representation of the Absolute Truth in all three of His phases-the Supreme Personality, the Supreme Soul and the supreme impersonal truth – Brahman.”
Even in the Bible we find a similar statement:
“In the beginning there was a word, the word was with God and the word was God.”
So, the impersonalists preach that meditation on ‘Om’ and absorption in it is their liberation. Maharisi Mahes yogi, Muktananda, Vivekananda and different yoga schools all teach the same. They do not accept the personal form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, His divine activities and various incarnations, but still they chant Om which refers to God.
Now, the devotees have very simple reason to take to the chanting of the Holy name – Hare Krishna.
Srila Prabhupada explains that “Omkara is a mantra, or maha-mantra, and Hare Krishna is also a maha-mantra. The purpose of pronouncing omkara is to address the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vasudeva (om namo bhagavate vasudevaya). And the purpose of chanting the Hare Krishna mantra is the same. Hare: “O energy of the Lord!” Krishna: “O Lord Krishna!” Hare: “O energy of the Lord!” Rama: “O Supreme Lord, O supreme enjoyer!”
This chanting for the devotees is just like the child’s calling of the mother or father. In the Srimad Bhagavatam (6.11.26) Vritrasura, before his death, prayed in the following way:
“O lotus-eyed Lord, as baby birds that have not yet developed their wings always look for their mother to return and feed them, as small calves tied with ropes await anxiously the time of milking, when they will be allowed to drink the milk of their mothers, or as a morose wife whose husband is away from home always longs for him to return and satisfy her in all respects, I always yearn for the opportunity to render direct service unto You.”
Jesus Christ similarly said: “Verily I say unto you, except those who are transformed and are like little children none shell enter into the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this little child, will similarly become great in the kingdom of heaven.”
(St. Matthew 18.3-4)
One is therefore, assured by the Supreme Lord Himself that He will come to one who calls out for Him with all his hearth and soul. For example, in Sri Vrindavana, the dearest place of Krishna, the devotees say that Krishna is hiding in the bushes of Vrindavana and if they chant His name loudly He will come along with His associates. Actually, Krishna Himself said that He don’t like to be there where the yogis meditate on Him but rather, where His devotees are chanting His holy name. In this Age of degradation the most effective way to get result of chanting is to chant together with other devotees, as many as possible. Interestingly this is encouraged even in the Bible (St. Matthew. 18.20): “.where two or three persons come together in My name (or to chant My name), there am I in the midst of them.”
Q. Can you prove scientifically the efficacy of the Divine Holy Name?
A. The material science and Jiva Goswami as well say that material sound has also a form. For example, when we speak, the sound is produced by the vibration or disturbance of the air and the ether and thus waves of different frequencies are created. This wave frequencies have their beginning and end and thus also a form. A well known examples are the forms of radio frequencies, which, when received by the radio, are turned into sound. Similarly in the Vedic scriptures it is said that all the Vedas, mantras, Puranas, have their forms. In the Srimad Bhagavatam-mahatmya of Padma Purana (3.15) it is said: “All Upanisads, Vedas, Mantras, Tantras, seventeen Puranas, and the six scriptures (six schools of philosophy) – all with their forms went to hear the discussion on the Srimad Bhagavatam.”
Now, just like the radio frequencies can be received only by a radio, the pure spiritual sound vibration, the holy name of Krishna can be received only by a divine element the soul. As material sound elevates the consciousness from deep sleep and dreaming to wakefulness, so spiritual sound lifts consciousness from matter and mind to the self’s eternal connection to Krishna. In other words, when the holy name purifies the spirit soul it awakens its dormant love for Krishna what ultimately results in the experience of unlimited spiritual bliss of loving relationship with Krishna.
Q. Why is the chanting of the holy name better practice than any other practice?
A. By other practices like giving charity, performing various sacrifices, study of the Vedas the sins are destroyed, but the inclination to again commit sin is not destroyed. This is nicely explained in the Srimad Bhagavatam (6.2.46): “Therefore one who desires freedom from material bondage should adopt the process of chanting and glorifying the name, fame, form and pastimes of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, at whose feet all the holy places stand. One cannot derive the proper benefit from other methods, such as pious atonement, speculative knowledge and meditation in mystic yoga, because even after following such methods one takes to fruitive activities again, unable to control his mind, which is contaminated by the base qualities of nature, namely passion and ignorance.”
Therefore, all material pious activities bring only temporary results. The holy name is so powerful that no other processes are equal to it, and only by chanting the holy name everlasting result is attained as it is declared in the essential teachings of all devotional scriptures.
Q. Is there some other special effect of the holy name?
A. In the history we can read about some great saints like Mirabhai, Nanak, Tukaram etc. who went back to the spiritual abode with their spiritualized body. Their bodies turned spiritual because of the chanting of the holy name of the Supreme Lord till the last moment of their life. Therefore, it is obvious that by the power of the holy name the inanimate objects can become spiritualized.
Q. Is it necessary to have knowledge about the holy name?
A. “As a fire burns dry grass to ashes, so the holy name of the Lord, whether chanted knowingly or unknowingly, burns to ashes, without fail, all the reactions of one’s sinful activities.”
“If a person unaware of the effective potency of a certain medicine takes that medicine or is forced to take it, it will act even without his knowledge because its potency does not depend on the patient’s understanding. Similarly, even though one does not know the value of chanting the holy name of the Lord, if one chants knowingly or unknowingly, the chanting will be very effective.” (SB 6.2.18, 19)
As it is obvious from these passages, it is not necessary to have knowledge about the holy name but still there is no doubt that transcendental knowledge can create faith in the holy name and purify the motivation of our chanting. For example, chanting while maintaining material desires is called chanting with offenses – namaparadha. In this level of chanting the holy name will fulfill the material desires of the chanter but it will not give the ultimate goal of the chanting which is love for Krishna. When one begins to chant namabhasa or without offenses the holy name can award liberation. However, only when one chants the pure holy name, the holy name will bestow pure devotion of Krishna and the vision of the Lord. To attain this highest level of chanting one need to acquire the knowledge about the soul, God and the material world.
Q. Is it necessary to meditate on the Divine form of the Supreme Lord while chanting?
A. No. One should just endeavor to focus the mind on hearing of the holy name and the time will come when the holy name will reveal to the chanter the form, qualities, pastimes and the supreme abode of Krishna. At that time one will automatically be able to remember and thus meditate on the form, pastimes, associates and the abode of the Lord while chanting of the holy name. Such chanting with remembrance is more advanced than chanting without remembrance where there is disharmony between mind and the speech. But once more to emphasize, this remembrance of the form will be revealed to the chanter only after long practice of attentive hearing of the holy name. Nothing else is more necessary.
Q. Why is the mind more disturbed while chanting the holy name?
A. First of all the Holy name cleanses all the impurities of the mind. During this process it looks like the mind becomes disturbed. But one should remember that the disturbance is not because of the holy name. As one continues chanting the disturbance will go away. Just like the dirty cloth is washed out nicely with soap; similarly while chanting all the dirt of the mind will come out and ultimately washed away. There are some additional methods to make the chanting easier for the sake of attaining its ultimate goal. If the mind is not steadily fixed on chanting one should eat less, control his sleep, be equal to pleasure and pain etc. This is confirmed by the Lord in the Bhagavad-gita (6.17): “He who is regulated in his habits of eating, sleeping, recreation and work can mitigate all material pains by practicing the yoga system.”
Further, it is also helpful to have full knowledge of self-realization and unhesitatingly go and participate in congregational chanting of the holy name.
Q. Which of the two type of chanting is better – congregational or individual japa?
A. Sri Laksmidhara, who is also mentioned in Srila Rupa Gosvamis Padyavali, explained that in order to attain liberation by chanting one have to control his mind, to be pure, to practice silence, should have knowledge of the meaning of the mantra, and not to be depressed.
Now, Sanatana Goswami in his Sri Brihad Bhagavatamrta gives some important points about the superiority of kirtana or congregational chanting to individual meditation or japa. He writes that when kirtana or loud chanting with devotees manifests on the tongue-the sense organ of speech simultaneously illuminates the mind. Only after illuminating the mind the holy name can enliven other sense organs as well. Further, he says that the sound of kirtana doesn’t benefits only the ears of the performers but of all those people who have a good fortune to hear it. This is not possible by practicing soft chanting and remembrance. He also points out that remembrance cannot be successfully and properly practiced as long as the mind is flickering. Kirtana is the best way to cure this tendency of the mind. Therefore, by observing real silence, namely the loud chanting of the holy name, the mind gradually, more and more becomes steady and thus one will be more and more able to remember Krishna. Thus, remembrance of Krishna is the result of kirtana.
The external organs like e.g. the eyes and ears etc. and the internal organs like the mind and intelligence are all moved by the chanting in kirtana because their nature is to get excited by the action of the tongue. Thus all the senses become engaged in kirtana. With the hands the devotee plays musical instruments, with the tongue he chants, with his eyes he looks at the beautiful form of Krishna’s Deity etc. In this way the mind is more easily controlled by performing kirtana than by doing japa. Moreover, while japa there is a possibility to fall a sleep but in the kirtana one becomes very attentive. Therefore, all the devotees should perform kirtana every day for few hours and of course chant individually on their beads. Performing kirtana will improve ones japa chanting and proper japa chanting will make one eager to participate in kirtana.
Q. Is kirtana better than meditation?
A. It is said that the most abominable sin of this age of degradation – Kali-yuga – is destroyed by the great power of kirtana alone and not by anything else like meditation, giving charity, study of the Vedas etc. Conclusively kirtana is better than meditation. This is confirmed in the Srimad Bhagavat-mahatmya of the Padma Purana where it is said that ‘the result of Keshava (Krishna) kirtana in this age of degradation cannot be attained by performance of austerities, meditation or Samadhi (absorption).’
Does this mean now that meditation is worthless and should be neglected? Not at all. In the Srimad Brihad-Bhagavatamrita (2.3.153) the residents of Vaikuntha say: “Sankirtana expands the joy of meditation and meditation the sweet joy of sankirtana. In our experience, the two methods fortify one another and are therefore actually one.”
Here we should mention that one can attain success in meditation only by practicing it in secluded lonely place and not otherwise. Of course, the obstacles to attain perfection in this practice are many. Amazingly however, sankirtana can be performed both in secluded or a public place in the company of many others. Thus, whatever are the obstacles to meditation are not obstacles to sankirtana; and moreover they contribute to its success. Conclusively, as in performing kirtana there are no obstacles, kirtana is better than solely performance of meditation.
Q. It is said that any person becomes liberated just by once uttering the holy name of the Supreme Lord. Isn’t it that the existence of the hell becomes meaningless as every person must have uttered the holy name once in the life?
A. There are several reasons why the existence of the hell is not meaningless. For example, although previous sins are destroyed by uttering the holy name, after that one can again continue with his sinful activities. Moreover, one has to suffer for the offences to saintly persons and ultimately, because not all the people will constantly chant the holy name the existence of the hell is not meaningless.
A. If everybody would perform kirtana since it is the easiest practice, would not other practices of religious life become meaningless?
Q. Unfortunately many different people have many different inclinations and not all of them believe that the chanting of the holy name is the easiest way for spiritual elevation. Thus, they are not interested in kirtana. They have more faith in other practices described in the Vedas and thus, those paths of karma, jnana, yoga etc. are not meaningless.
Q. If the sins are destroyed by chanting the holy name even without faith, what is the necessity of performing kirtana with faith?
A. Although the performance of kirtana without faith can destroy sins still, if the chanter doesn’t have faith he will feel depressed. To remove this depression he should chant kirtana with faith. Actually, to destroy sins chanting without faith is sufficient but to get liberation or love of Godhead one should develop faith.
Chanting the holy name once without regard to the chanters faith, knowledge, detachment, place, time etc. destroys all the previous sins except the offence against the great soul or devotees.
It is interesting that the holy name destroys as much stock of our previous sins as much we have faith in the holy name. In other words, chanting without faith doesn’t eradicate all our sins accumulated in many of our previous births and the present life.
Continuing to chant more and more the holy name will destroy subtle tendencies to commit sin and it will increase our initial faith, devotion, knowledge and attachment to chanting.
Chanting without any faith will not help at all in attaining the goal of chanting, as Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita (17.28) says: “Anything done as sacrifice, charity or penance without faith in the Supreme, O son of Pritha, is impermanent. It is called asat and is useless both in this life and the next.”
(Therefore, to attain the ultimate goal of chanting – Krishna prema – it is very much necessary to increase our initial faith. And the best way to do that is to chant the holy name with other devotees in kirtana.)
Q. How is faith developed?
A. Looking at the lives of different saints we can see that they developed faith in God in different ways: as the result off association and following of the instructions of loving devotees; because of going through some unpleasant things and experiencing miseries in the life; having been fed up with the enjoyment of disgusting fruits of karma; because of awakened aversion toward the disappointing results of speculative knowledge and yoga; or as the result of the special mercy of the Supreme Lord. In whatever way one has developed faith in God he became the most fortunate.
Now, just as one can develop faith in God in similar way one can develop faith in the holy name, but most importantly by hearing from pure devotees the Bhagavad-gita and Srimad Bhagavatam and applying that knowledge in one’s life.
A. Who is eligible to chant the holy name?
Q. Man, woman, Hermaphrodite or any other living entity who worships Krishna with sincere heart completely surrendering to Him is dearest to Krishna. But moreover, whether one is pure or impure, in whatever condition one may be, he is purified both internally and externally by chanting the maha mantra for the pleasure of the lotus eyed Supreme Lord Sri Krishna.
The earth and water can purify only the external body, but the holy name of the Supreme Lord purifies all the impurities within the hearth as well. Therefore, none is prohibited to chant the holy name in whatever condition one is. Sometimes people ask if one is deaf and dumb or blind, how can such a person hear, chant or see the holy name? If one is deaf he can utter the holy name with his tongue, and if one is deaf and dumb he can see the holy name written down somewhere. In any way one gets in touch with the holy name he can become liberated. Thus there is no qualification required to take to the holy name, but just oppositely, one can take to it in any condition he may be.
Born on Makara Uthiradam star, native of Mukkur and brought up in Ladavaram village near Arcot and now well settled in Mumbai for over five decades. Presently, at 70, trying to run this website without any commercial expectations or profit motive, just for the sake of our future generations to understand about Sanatana Dharma & Srivaishnavam sampradayam.Within my limited knowledge that I put it here, what I learnt from the world.