The Greatest Gift - Part 1

May 1 2021 - Krishna Talk 230

Devotional life or Bhakti-yoga is a science which follows very exact guidelines — which are both very easy to follow and at the same time difficult for many, because their feet may be firmly rooted in material desires and sinful activities. Yet the Holy Name chanted purely will pull them out of the muck and propel them into an eternal life of sat, cit and ananda — an eternal life full of knowledge and great pleasure.

Transplanting the complete religious system of Bhakti-yoga from India into the western world required many adjustments so that the inhabitants would more readily take up the practices. In the beginning Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada told us to just chant and dance and take prasad. Following the dictates of Srila Rupa Goswami given in his yena tena pracarena verse, Prabhupada kept it simple in the beginning and later introduced the requisite rules and regulations; but it was too late for us, we were already hooked and could not give up the divine ecstasy experienced by following this process.

At the core of this devotional process is the chanting of the Maha Mantra: Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare.

Hare Krsna Maha Mantra in Sanskrit

Divinity of Mahaprabhu

This chanting was introduced by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the Golden Avatar of Lord Krsna. Sri Chaitanya has been heralded as a hidden avatar because mention of His appearance is obscure, yet for those who are in the know, so much proof of his divinity may be found. The great scholar of Mahaprabhu’a time, Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya, told his nephew Gopinatha Acarya that his friend Chaitanya could not possibly be an avatar of Lord Krsna. After all, Sarvabhauma was highly sastric and knew well that there was no mention of Chaitanya’s divine appearance. Even when Gopinatha quoted the following verse from the Vishnu-sahasra-nama-stotra of the Mahabharata, Sarvabhauma replied that he would not be fooled because of his vast learning and full knowledge of sastra:

suvarna-varno hemango varangas candanangadi
sannyasa-krc chamah santo nistha-santi-parayanah

In His early pastimes He appears as a householder with a golden complexion [suvarna]. His limbs are beautiful, and His body, smeared with the pulp of sandalwood, seems like molten gold [hema-angah]. In His later pastimes He accepts the sannyasa order (sannyasa-krc), and He is equipoised and peaceful. He is the highest abode of peace and devotion, for He silences the impersonalist nondevotees. (cited in Chaitanya-caritamrta Adi-lila 3.49)

Gopinatha stated further that Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya could not understand the real meaning of this verse because his comprehension was blocked, due to not receiving the mercy of Sri Chaitanya. once he did receive such mercy Sarvabhauma could understand that Sri Chaitanya was indeed the Lord Himself and he became widely known as a first class devotee of Lord Chaitanya.

There are numerous verses which hint indirectly at the divinity and glories of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the most prominent one being from the Srimad Bhagavatam, verse 11.5.32:

krsna-varnam tvisakrsnam sangopangastra-parsadam
yajnaih sankirtana-prayair yajanti hi su-medhasah

In the Age of Kali, intelligent persons perform congregational chanting to worship the incarnation of Godhead who constantly sings the name of Krsna [krsna-varnam]. Although His complexion is not blackish [akrsnam], He is Krsna Himself. He is accompanied (sangopangastra-parsadam) by His associates, servants, weapons and confidential companions. (cited in Chaitanya-caritamrta Adi-lila 3.52)

Here Srila Sridhar Maharaja comments that Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s weapons in His sankirtana movement, sangopangastra-parsadam, are His beauty and his associates. Sri Chaitanya descended into this world to fulfill two fundamental desires. The first and most important was to experience his own internal pleasure, and the second was to distribute His Holy Name to the conditioned souls suffering in this material world.

The Unparalleled Gift of Mahaprabhu

Srila Rupa Goswami describes Sri Caitanya as the Golden Avatar who has come to give us what no one has ever given before. And what is that? It is Krsna-prema, pure love of God:

namo maha-vadanyaya krsna-prema pradayate
krsnaya krsna-caitanya namne gaura-tvise namah

O most munificent incarnation! You are Krsna Himself appearing as Sri Krsna Caitanya. You have assumed the golden colour and You are freely distributing pure love of Krsna. We offer our respectful obeisances unto You. (Cc. Madhya. 19.53)

Rupa Goswami has included a verse in his treatise Vidagdha-Madhava, further describing Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu:

anarpita-carim cirat karunayavatirnah kalau
samarpayitum unnatojjvala-rasam sva-bhakti-sriyam
harih purata-sundara-dyuti-kadamba-sandipitah
sada hrdaya-kandare sphuratu vah saci-nandanah

May the Supreme Lord who is known as the son of Srimati Saci-devi be transcendentally situated in the innermost core of your heart. Resplendent with the radiance of molten gold (purata), He has descended in the Age of Kali by His causeless mercy to bestow what no incarnation has ever offered before: the most elevated mellow of devotional service, the mellow of conjugal love (ujjvala-rasam).

True Nature of Mahaprabhu & The Origin of Siksastakam

Srila Sridhar Maharaja has written a number of beautiful verses describing Sri Chaitanya in his “Premadhama-Deva-Stotram.” In particular Verse 69, the first line of which is: sri-svarupa-raya-sanga-gambhiranta-lilanam, provides a penetrating inner glimpse of the true nature of Sri Chaitanya and his primary reasons for appearing in this age of Kali.” The translation is:

"Diving deep into the reality of His own beauty and sweetness, Krsna stole the mood of Radharani and, garbing Himself in Her brilliant luster" appeared as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. For the last twelve years of His manifest pastimes, He was deeply absorbed in the mood of union and separation and shared His heart's inner feelings with His most confidential devotees. In the agony of separation from Krsna, volcanic eruptions of ecstasy flowed from His heart, and His teachings, known as Siksastakam, appeared from His lips like streams of golden lava. I fall at the feet of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu."

Srila Sridhar Maharaja writes further in his book “Golden Volcano of Divine Love,” that, “He was vomiting the fire of painful separation [of Radha] from Krsna in the form of the Siksastakam.” Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is compared to a Golden Volcano and His Siksastakam is compared to divine lava pouring forth from Him. This outpouring of ecstasy which Mahaprabhu distributed widely is the origin of His sankirtana movement, the broadcasting of the glories of the Lord — primarily through the chanting of his Holy Names. In modern times this sankirtana movement has spread widely through the distribution of the sacred texts describing the Lords nama, rupa, guna, lila — His Holy Name, His form, His nature and His pastimes.

The Prediction of Mahaprabhu

Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu predicted, prthivita ache yata nagaradi-grama sarvatra pracara haibe mora nama, that My Name will reach every corner of the world. Further He broadcast a message meant for each and every one of us, to preach His glories widely to anyone and everyone, validating His words:

yare dekha, tare kaha krsna-upadesa
amara ajnaya guru hana tara’ ei desa

Instruct everyone to follow the orders of Lord Sri Krsna as they are given in the Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam. In this way become a spiritual master and try to liberate everyone in this land.

Mahaprabhu & The Holy Name

In verse 66 of Srila Sridhar Maharaja’s “Prema-dhama Deva Stotram” he writes that Sri Caitanya is Krsna or ecstasy Himself tasting His own sweetness. His Holy Name is the cause of His ecstasy expressed as dancing and His Holy Name is the effect of His ecstasy expressed as chanting, which He distributes to others.

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu Sankirtana Party

So, the cause is the effect, which is sankirtana or the congregational chanting of the Holy Name. One may ask, what is the etymological meaning of sankirtana? Samyak means “full” and kirtana means “chanting.” Here full in quantity means congregational or in the presence of many persons for the benefit of all. And full in quality means “complete praise,” which can only refer to the glorification of Krsna, since He is the most complete. And what could be a more complete expression of His essence than the congregational chanting of the Maha Mantra,

Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Here ‘Hare’ refers to Hara or the internal potency of Krsna and ‘Rama’ refers to Radha-ramana, the lover of Radha, Who is Krsna. So the entire Maha Mantra is a glorification of Lord Sri Krsna. The life of a devotee of Sri Chaitanya consists of both congregational chanting, sankirtana, and separate chanting on ones japa beads (much like a rosary, a “japa-mala” consists of 108 beads kept in a bag). This japa is the most important aspect of the devotees sadhana—regulated daily devotional practices.

The Process of Chanting the Holy Name

Our Guru Maharaja, Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada, stated that one’s daily chanting of the Maha Mantra should be done with intensity and longing, like a baby crying earnestly for it’s mother. In this regard he often quoted the laulyam verse:

krsna-bhakti-rasa-bhavita matih
kriyatam yadi kuto ’pi labhyate
tatra laulyam api mulyam ekalam
janma-koti-sukrtair na labhyate

“‘Pure devotional service in Krsna consciousness cannot be had even by pious activity in hundreds and thousands of lives. It can be attained only by paying one price—that is, intense greed (laulyam) to obtain it. If it is available somewhere, one must purchase it without delay.’”

Srila Prabhupada emphasized continuously that we must chant sixteen rounds of japa daily — referring to repeating the Maha Mantra 1,728 times, sixteen times around the 108 beads on our japa mala. He also instructed us that if we chanted sixteen rounds daily that we would go back to Godhead. One of my godbrothers, whom I traveled with in midwestern USA, repeated Srila Prabhupada’s words often, “Srila Prabhupda said that if I chanted sixteen rounds daily, that I would go back to Godhead.” This statement however, is not automatic. It requires some background and careful attention, relating to the actual potency of our individual chanting of the Holy Name.

Bhaktivinode Thakur has spoken in regards to an impersonalist’s chanting (one who considers Krsna as having no form and everything is ultimately all one continuous and homogeneous continuum). He wrote that when such a person, technically called a Mayavadi, chants the Holy Name, then the sound that Krsna hears is like thunder. That is, it is an impure offensive sound, and even though it is the Holy Name, there is no real potency and therefore will not please Krsna. The spiritual substance is absent from the form of the Holy Name. I personally witnessed this in the South India Temple of Guruvayur, where a so-called devotee of the temple with the three line markings of a Mayavadi on his forehead screamed the Maha Mantra at the Deity with earnest pain. I felt as if he was throwing his offering at the Deity. Such impure chanting will not take us to Krsna’s lotus feet. We must chant purely and with the proper conception of the Holy Name for the divine potency to manifest.

Additionally, for congregational chanting (sankirtana) to be genuinely effective, association with saints is required. In a Harinama party at least one high Vaishnava must be present so that the connection with higher reality is there. All sounds are not divine sounds, even sounds apparently connected with divinity are not, when they are chanted impurely. “All God sounds may not be effective but vaikuntha nama grahanama. There is nama aparadha, namabhasya, visuddha nama. In the sound also there is classification.” A sound from a proper plane wlll be effective but not just any sound.

There is much to learn as to the proper pure chanting of the Holy Name, which once again brings us back to the necessity of serving under a higher Vaishnava, for he or she can provide essential guidance for our every spiritual step.

An excerpt from Srila Sridhar Maharaja’s “The Search For Sri Krsna, Reality the Beautiful, from a section entitled, “Firing Blank Mantras” follows:

“Krsna will appear of His own accord. He will descend upon your tongue, and then your tongue will be able to chant the name of Krsna. A gun that has no bullet, but only a blank, may make some sound, but no bullet is actually fired. Similarly, chanting the name of Krsna without an attitude of service produces sound, but that is only tongue deep. It is like firing a gun with blanks instead of bullets. Our chanting of the holy name of Krsna must be surcharged with a serving temperament, the tendency to satisfy Krsna. Otherwise the sound we produce is bogus. It is only an imitation, or a permutation. The Holy Name cannot be experienced by our senses. It is supra-mental and transcendental. An ordinary sound of this mundane world cannot be the name of Krsna. Our ear cannot even hear the name if that mediator, the serving attitude, is not there. The earnestness to satisfy Krsna's will must mediate between Krsna and the ear, through the mind. Then only will Krsna's name enter our ear and reveal to us His form, qualities, and pastimes.”

In his Prema-Vivarta, Jagadananda Pandit states, “nama aksara bahiraya bate tabu name kabhu naya,” that Nama must not be merely lip deep but all spiritual. With the higher connection of a suddha-vaishnava the wave from the higher realm will descend. To ensure the proper conception and our connection with the divine flow from above we must engage our devotional service under the direction of a higher Vaishnava. Generally, that is our initiating spiritual master or the senior devotee who helps us the most. We must not neglect this.

If we cannot maintain our humility and accept direction from a senior devotee then we have little chance to obtain the mercy from above. The well known acarya in our line, Srila Visvanatha Chakravarti Thakur, provides us with the formula for success in the final verse of his Gurvastakam prayers “Yasya prasad bhagavat-prasado yasyaprasadan na gatih kuto‘pi.” By the mercy (prasad) of our guru we obtain the mercy of Lord Krsna (bhagavat-prasado) but if we do not please the guru or higher Vaishnava (yasyaprasadan), then there is absolutely no way (na gatih) that we will obtain Krsna’s mercy.

The life of a devotee depends on mercy from above. In the words of Srila Sridhar Maharaja, The Lord, His abode and all of spiritual life is “composed of higher stuff.” And as such, what we desire and need will only descend to us when He, Lord Krsna, feels that we are worthy – when we have obtained His mercy.

In Krsna Talk Part 2 of “Greatest Gift” the first verse of the Siksastakam will be presented in detail along with the deeply realized concepts of Srila Sridhar Maharaja. This first verse alone contains a complete description of the process of chanting the Holy Name and its profound effects.