The Greatest Gift - Part 2

May 23 2021 - Krishna Talk 232

We are very far from the Infinite, yet the simple process of chanting His Holy Name, which is non-different from the Lord Himself, allows us to touch His essence, to experience a closeness with Him and His wonderful pastimes. By even a simple glance into his all-charming realm we are encouraged to crave more, to desire more — asam prapto yasya prathita krpaya sri gurum tam natosmi.

In Part One of “The Greatest Gift,” the two primary reasons for the descent of the Divine Golden Avatar, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, have been examined.

Why Sri Caitanya Appeared

The first reason for His appearance here, is Sri Chaitanya’s desire to understand and experience internally the unrequited love that Srimati Radharani has for Him, Krsna. Additionally, it is His desire to distribute the resultant intense internal feelings of ecstasy to each and every one of us, such that we may come in touch with this essence of divinity and experience it ourselves, providing inspiration and hope for our further endeavor.

This divine realm is obtainable, even though it is a very high thing, composed of a higher substance than this world. It is only revealed to us when it wants to be revealed. First we must become qualified by purifying our hearts and developing an intense desire for such.

In Part One, Sri Chaitanya’s unparalleled gift to all mankind is explained — that of regularly chanting the Holy Names of God, the Maha Mantra, the great mantra for deliverance.

Nama — The Only Means for Self-Realization

It is proclaimed three times for emphasis, in Brhad-naradiya Purana 3.8.126, that chanting the Holy Name is the only process for self realization in Kali-yuga.

harer nama harer nama harer namaiva kevalam
kalau nasty eva nasty eva nasty eva gatir anyatha

“In this age of quarrel and hypocrisy (kalau), the only means of deliverance (gatir anyatha) is the chanting of the holy names of the Lord (harer nama). There is no other way. There is no other way. There is no other way (nasty eva nasty eva nasty eva gatir anyatha).” [Cc. Adi-lila 17.21]

The chanting of Hare Krsna is the only way to achieve self-realization at this time. The Maha Mantra may seem foreign or even odd to the uninformed. It is indeed out of this world (golokera prema dhana), for it has descended from the highest spiritual source, the Lords Personal abode. Not only does the Maha Mantra originate from the highest plane of reality, its profound effects are guaranteed to work, even when chanted improperly or offensively — namaparadha yuktanam — this chanting, however, will take much longer. We may visualize that in such cases we are only dealing with a shadow of the Holy Name or in the case of offensive chanting, it is unpleasing, like calling someone a bad name.

The Padma Purana states

nama-cintamani-krsnas caitanya-rasa-vigrahah
purnah suddho nitya-mukto 'bhinnatvan nama-naminoh

“‘The holy name of Krsna is transcendentally blissful. It bestows all spiritual benedictions, for it is Krsna Himself, the reservoir of all pleasure. Krsna’s name is complete (purnah), and it is the form of all transcendental mellows (caitanya-rasa-vigrahah).

It is not a material name under any condition, and it is no less powerful than Krsna Himself. Since Krsna’s name is not contaminated by the material qualities (suddho), there is no question of its being involved with maya.

Krsna’s name is always liberated and spiritual (nitya-mukto); it is never conditioned by the laws of material nature. This is because the name of Krsna and Krsna Himself are identical ('bhinnatvan nama-naminoh).’ [Cited in Cc. Madhya 17.133]

Suddha Nama

This declaration of the immutable purity of Nama may raise a question, in that those who chant incorrectly are not experiencing the same potency. That is because they are not chanting Nama, per se. They are chanting something other than the Holy Name, even though it may sound like the Holy Name, it is not, for it is another sound and will not reach the transcendental plane.

Srila B.R. Sridhar Maharaja has stated that it must not only be lip deep chanting, but must be based on the correct conception of what or Whom it represents in sound form. If not, then it is not true Nama, it does not represent the Lord and will not produce the same results. This was discussed in more detail in Part 1.

By chanting the Holy Names of God in this Iron Age of Kali, one will awaken Krsna-prema, love of God (nitya siddha krsna-prema), which is already established within our hearts. We are lost and wandering within this creation (brahmanda-brahmite), yet Krsna-prema lies dormant within, just waiting to be awakened by our chanting (karaye udaya).

A Purport on the First Verse of Siksastakam

Sri Chaitanya left only one written treatise, the Siksastakam — giving us the most complete explanation of the chanting of the Holy Name of the Lord, describing the incredible benefits obtained by such chanting.

ceto-darpana-marjanam bhava-maha-davagni nirvapanam
sreyah kairava candrika-vitaranam vidya-vadhu-jivanam
anandambudhi vardhanam prati-padam purnamrtasvadanam
sarvatma-snapanam param vijayate sri-krsna-sankirtanam

"The holy name of Krsna cleanses the mirror of the heart [ceto-darpana-marjanam] and extinguishes the fire of misery in the forest of birth and death [bhava-maha-davagni nirvapanam]. As the evening lotus blooms in the moon's cooling rays, the heart begins to blossom in the nectar of the name. And at last the soul awakens to its real inner treasure (sreyah) — a life of love with Krsna. Again and again tasting nectar, the soul dives and surfaces in the ever-increasing ocean of ecstatic joy [anandambudhi vardhanam]. All phases of the self of which we may conceive are fully satisfied and purified, and at last conquered [vijayate] by the all-auspicious influence of the holy name of Krsna."

Radha Krsna Worship

Sri Sri Radha Krsna

Srila Sridhar Maharaja explains in his commentary on the Siksastakam in his book “The Golden Volcano of Divine Love,” that the “Sri” in sri-krsna-sankirtanam refers to Laksmidevi, Krsna’s potency. More specifically this signifies Srimati Radharani; Krsna’s internal potency and confidential companion. Thus, Krsna is worshipped properly only with Srimati Radharani.

There is a Radha-Krsna Temple in Trivandram, Kerala, where Srimati Radharani is across a garden facing the Deity of Krsna like a Nandi, Garuda or even Laksmi. This shows little understanding or respect of the true position of Srimati Radharani, Who is always at Krsna’s side.

Srila Prabhupada once told his disciples that they weren’t truly worshipping Radha-Krsna — their worship was like that of Lakshmi-Narayan — imbued with more awe and reverence, rather than the truly intimate love expressed by the residents of Vrndavan in Krsna’s time. Here Krsna evokes such deep unabiding love from everyone that even a moment’s separation from Krsna gives a deep pain — yugayitam nimesena… govinda-virahena me. (Siksastakam 7).

It is only possible to worship Radha and Krsna by absolute surrender and pure devotion. Bhakti or pure devotion is described by Srila Rupa Goswami as free from material desires and performed with a desire to please Krsna — anakulyena krsnanusilanam. True worship of Radha and Krsna is only achieved in the higher realms of devotion.

Stages of Chanting Nama — First Stage

Srila B R Sridhar Maharaja, explains further in his commentary, that while chanting the Holy Name we encounter seven stages or results.

The first result (ceto-darpana-marjanam) is that chanting the Holy Name cleanses the mirror of the mind. That is, purifies us or frees us from the ordinary desires which cover our heart and mind. These desires misdirect us and ultimately are the sole cause of our distress in this material world.

In the Chaitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila 19.149, it states that a devotee, bhukti-mukti-siddhi-kami-sakali 'asanta,’ is desireless and peaceful because he has no desire for bhukti (material enjoyment), mukti (liberation from material activities), nor siddhi (perfection in yogic performance). This first stage in the chanting of the Holy Name (Nama-sankirtana) is that it purifies the heart and mind.   

Chanting with the proper conception, while avoiding offense, is necessary in order to achieve Krsna-prema, the ultimate goal of life — prema pumartho mahan. The Padma Purana states, namaparadha yuktanam, that even if one chants with offenses, if you keep chanting you will gradually chant offenslessly. Such are the profound effects of even a shadow of the real Name, what to speak of the unlimited amazing results experienced by a pure devotee chanting purely.

Second Stage

The second stage in the chanting of the Holy Name is the extinguishing of the fire of material existence (bhava-maha-davagni nirvapanam). We are liberated from the three-fold miseries of life in this material world: adhyatmika, adhibhautika and adhidaivika. Adhyatmika refers to miseries caused by ones own body such as aches, hunger, disturbances of the mind, etc. Adhibhautika refers to miseries caused by other living entities such as one’s enemies, mosquitoes, predators etc. Adhidaivika refers to miseries caused by nature, such as natural disasters, hurricanes, excessive temperatures, etc.

The first verse of Visnanatha’s Gurvastakam provides us with an identical conclusion, that the guru’s mercy (karunya) puts out the forest fire of our affliction of repeated birth and death in our material life (samsara-davanala) like a raincloud pouring forth rain (ghanaghana-tvam) — inundating and extinguishing our painful fire of samsara.

Without the Lord’s grace we can never know Him (avajananti mam mudhah), for He hides from the spiritual criminals (yoga-maya samavritah). Fortunately for them, Bhag. 10.14.29 states that even a small trace of the Lord’s mercy (prasada-lesanugrhita) brings one an understanding of His greatness — a chink in our mundane armor.

Chanting Nama is the most important of the nine daily practices for a devotee. Hearing Nama is also equally important and the two comprise the first of these nine most important devotional processes, as spoken by Prahlada Maharaja:

sravanam kirtanam visnoh smaranam pada-sevanam
arcanam vandanam dasyam sakhyam atma-nivedanam
iti pumsarpita visnau bhaktis cen nava-laksana
kriyeta bhagavaty addha tan manye 'dhitam uttamam

These nine processes of devotional service are:

Sravanam kirtanam: Hearing and chanting about the transcendental holy name, form, qualities, paraphernalia and pastimes of the Lord.

Smaranam: Remembering these transcendental qualities and activities of the Lord.

Pada-sevanam: Serving the lotus feet of the Lord.

Archanam: Offering the Lord respectful worship with sixteen types of paraphernalia,

Vandanam: Offering prayers to the Lord.

Dasyam: Becoming the Lord’s servant.

Sakhyam: Considering the Lord one's best friend.

Atma-nivedanam: Surrendering everything unto Him (serving Him with our body, mind and words).

Each one of these is accepted as pure devotional service. If we dedicate our life in the service of Krsna through any of these nine methods, Krsna assures us that we are situated in the most exalted position in this world and will surely achieve success — joining Him in Goloka in His pastimes — visate tad anantaram (Bg. 18.55).

Sripad Narasingha Maharaja often encouraged his devotees with a sloka he devised: “Sravanam kirtanam scrubinam mopanam,” a pragmatic application of the original sloka spoken by Prahlada Maharaja. Its true underlying meaning is thus given, that we should engage in practical devotional service of all types, forms and shapes. In other words cleaning the kitchen is as good as chanting the Holy Name, in terms of service.

Of course the additional direct benefits of chanting the Holy Name surpasses all other devotional practices, but the wise devotee will always chant or sing the Maha Mantra while engaging in other services.

Also, the eager hearing (srnvatam sravana) of the Bhagavad-gita or other sacred scriptures, will cleanse the desire for material enjoyment (abhadrani vidhunoti) from one’s heart (hrdi antah sthah), as does the pure chanting of Nama. [Bhag. 1.2.17]

Each and every form of devotional service purifies our hearts. As young brahmacaris in Los Angeles, we were told that when we scrubbed the caked burnt residue in the bottoms of the huge pots (sometimes 3’ x 2’), which the cooks endlessly produced, we were scrubbing the black desires and thoughts from our hearts (scrubinam mopinam). Now, that was truly inspiring.

This second effect of chanting the Holy Name or even hearing its glories, is that we are relieved of the burden of our miseries automatically.

Because the Lord’s name is nondifferent from the Lord Himself (bhinnatvan nama-naminoh), even by unconsciously (vivasah) chanting the holy name of Krsna, one is freed immediately (vimucyeta) from the entanglement of samsara (Bhag 1.1.14). That is, one obtains mukti automatically.

Pilgrims at Kumbha Mela

In 1989, Narasingha Maharaja and I journeyed to the sangam (confluence of the Ganges and Yamuna Rivers and the essence of the Sarasvati River) during the Kumbha Mela Festival. We were there to experience the largest spiritual event in the world, the Kumbha Mela Festival, held every twelve years at the sangam in Allahabad, India. We were there also to record this major religious event for the publication of a book about this massive gathering of the faithful.

By taking a bath at the confluence of these three Holy Rivers at the specific auspicious bathing times on the favorable Holy days, one obtains mukti, liberation, or freedom from ones bad karma. Narasingha Maharaja subtitled the “Kumbha Mela,” book, “The world’s largest act of faith,” referring to the Hindu’s firm belief in obtaining mukti by such bathing. This festival often resulted in as many as 30 million faithful devotees taking bath in one day.

At one of the auspicious bath times (3:13 am) while photographing the sangam, I asked Narasingha Maharaja if he wanted to take a bath and thus obtain liberation. He shrugged and casually said, “No, not really.” Real devotees deride seeking liberation, for one engaged in pure devotional service, it is obtained automatically as a byproduct of their devotion to Lord Krsna. Indeed Mukti-devi stands with folded palms offering respect to Bhakti-devi.

in the beginning we practice Vaidhi-bhakti — strictly following the rules and regulations of Bhakti-yoga, devotional service. This keeps our purity intact and helps us advance in devotional service; we follow the rules because we wish to practice this devotional process and also out of a sense of fear that if we don’t we won’t advance.

By following the rules, regulations and daily spiritual practices (vaidhi-bhakti), we develop a higher taste (param drstva nivartate). Then we spontaneously engage in these same practices. This is called Raganuga — spontaneous devotional service. One who has achieved this level of spontaneous love is eligible for entrance into the pastimes in Vrajabhumi, where there are no regulative principles required for Krsna’s service. Here, all serve Krsna naturally out of an unabiding and irresistible love for Him.

In this stage we cannot tolerate to skip or miss out on our practices, such is our great taste for them. It only gets better from here on. Bhakti begets more bhakti — bhaktya sanjayate bhaktya — ever increasing in quality and purity.

Third Stage

Srila BP Puri Maharaja chanting

In the third stage of chanting the Holy Name, sreyah kairava candrikavitaranam, the Holy Name bestows the supreme goal of life and takes us above the world of difficulty to an intimate personal relationship with Krsna. This is the aspiration of all sincere devotees, to spend eternity in the spiritual world engaged in loving ecstatic pastimes with the Supreme Lord Krsna (krsna prema pum-artho mahan). This is the ultimate goal of life.

These pastimes involve five different relationships we can have with the Lord. The first four are neutrality (santa-rasa), servitude (dasya-rasa), friendship (sakhya-rasa), and parental affection (vatsalya-rasa).

Srila Sridhar Maharaja states, in his Siksastakam commentary, that the word, “sreyah,” in the third line of the Siksastakam, signifies the grace of Lord Nityananda. Nitaiyer karuna habe braje radha krsna pabe — By Nitai’s grace alone, we are allowed to worship Radha-Krsna in Vrndavana. As stated, the Holy Name has descended from the spiritual world (golokera prema dhana), so it is not surprising that it will also take us there.

In Srila Sridhar Maharaja’s Follow the Angels, we find:

“This fifth and most mysterious, confidential relationship shared with the Lord is that of madhurya-rasa, conjugal love. Our guru-parampara, the entire Rupanuga-Sampradaya, is leading us to the full rasa. All others are partial, subordinate and subservient—supplemental to the main rasa, madhurya-rasa. But that supplemental service is also necessary. Madhurya-rasa does not stand alone. It must have its paraphernalia: the friends, the parents, all must be there with this rasa.”

“In madhurya-rasa, the highest conjugal relationship, even Radharani’s own tendency is always to serve Krsna. Her inclination is towards dasya-rasa, service. Is sakhya-rasa, intimate friendship with Krsna, a very small thing? No, it is too high for me. Pujala raga-patha gaurava-bhange. From a distance I want to show my respect to sakhya-rasa, but I really crave dasya-rasa. That should be the inclination of a real devotee. If we disregard all these things, we are playing like children.”

Fourth Stage

In the fourth stage, vidya-vadhu-jivanam, we find that the Holy Name prepares us for the absolute surrender found in conjugal love (madhurya-rasa). Total surrender is necessary for proper entrance there. Although only fully qualified pure devotees are granted entrance by the mercy of our gurus and Krsna, in His infinite kindness, Krsna provides us with a glimpse of the exalted glory and beauty of the Lord’s perfect abode; a glimpse which will increase our desires and aspirations for this higher platform of service. Srila Prabhupada describes this spiritual realm in his Bhaktivedanta Purport to Bhag. 2.9.10:

“It contains the highest perfectional stage of living conditions… It is the unalloyed manifestation of the energy of the Lord, without illusion as experienced here in the material world.”

Srila Prabhupada instructed his disciples not to read the tenth canto of the Srimad Bhagavatam without reading the first nine cantos: “And in order to reach the position to understand the transcendental nature of Lord Krsna's pastimes with the gopis, the Bhagavatam promotes the student gradually in nine other cantos.”

Without a mature understanding of the profound greatness of the Lord and His many variegated pastimes, it is all too easy to make a grave offense by trying to compare these divine confidential pastimes of Radha and Krsna with our mundane activities and immoral interactions in this material world.

The so-called ‘lawless love of the gopis,’ knows no limit, nor restrictions and is proclaimed to set the highest standard of purity in loving God. Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura expresses such love as, ramya kacid upasana vrajavadhu vargena va kalpita — “The most pleasing form of worship for the Lord, unsurpassable by any other devotee, is that which was performed by the gopis of Vrndavan.”

The Supreme Infinite Lord of all, the Supreme Brahman, the creator and destroyer of all we know, has kindly appeared amongst us in an ordinary rural way. That is His Vrndavan lila and it is ruled by love, not rules. Yet, the rules here in our mundane life, which we must follow, are the key, necessary to prepare us for entrance into these pastimes. And such amazing pastimes they are. Raghupati Upadhyaya recited,

srutim apare smrtim itare bharatam anye bhajantu bhava-bhitah
aham iha nandam vande yasyalinde param brahma

"Let others, fearing material existence, worship the Vedas, the Vedic supplementary Puranas and the Mahabharata, but I shall worship Nanda Maharaja, in whose courtyard the Supreme Brahman is crawling." (Cc. Madhya 19.96)

Fifth Stage

With the next and fifth stage in the chanting of Nama — anandambudhi-vardhanam — Nama asserts Himself over us in direct proportion to the degree of surrender we give. When our surrender is complete we experience an infinite dynamic ocean of joy — premabhyudancati, as described by Srila Rupa Goswami (Brs. 1.4.15–16).

In his Vidagdha-madhava Srila Rupa Goswami reveals the height of ecstasy achieved in chanting (in his tunde tandavini ratim vitanute verse). He states that the joyous association with Krsna in Vrndavana causes the Holy Name to dance on our tongue. It is said that then we desire millions of mouths to fulfill our unlimited desire to chant the Holy Name and millions of ears to hear the unlimited sweetness of the Holy Name. As we become absorbed in the Holy Name we experience unbounded joy.

Sixth Stage

In the sixth stage, prati-padam-purnamrita-svadanam, the entirety of our existence is purified. Attempts at mundane enjoyment signify exploitation, thereby creating a negative reaction — causing unwanted misery and pain. However, all pleasure coming with Krsna at the center will purify us completely, every step providing nectar. Divine love means, “Die to Live,” to live our life for others, for the devotees, guru and for Krsna. Let our mundane desires die so that we may live a higher, better, joyful life of devotion. Beauty, sweetness and charm will always capture and defeat power.

Seventh Stage

In the seventh stage, sarvatma-snapanam means that every aspect of our self is completely purified (snapanam) and fully satisfied. Srila Sridhar Maharaja gives a second meaning to sarvatma-snapanam, that according to our capacity we will be purified when we praise Krsna congregationally. In fact, everyone who hears the Holy Name is purified — even if offensively or only for a moment (lava matra). Coming from the most subtle plane, such sound has the highest capturing potency.

Krsna’s Flute Song

The Holy Name is the sound representation of Absolute Sweetness and is found in the flute song of Krsna. Srila Sridhara Maharaja writes in Follow the Angels:

“Krsna’s vamsi, His flute, is also doing the same thing (as the Gayatri Mantra). In the highest place we find proper adjustment for our service. That is the sound. And Krsna’s vamsi is also doing this through its sound. The sound gives impression, inspiration to anyone and everyone. ‘Come to my sweet service, engage yourself in my sweet service.’ That is the call of the flute of Krsna, and of Gayatri, Veda-mata. There in the Veda the same thing is said, and that is in the flute.”

Gayatri mantra

To chant the Holy Name purely, only sincerity is necessary. This requires us to serve under a proper guide or agent of the Lord as mentioned in Part 1.

Nama-sankirtana is especially recommended in Kali-yuga for achieving self-realization, as all other processes will be opposed. However, Nama cannot be opposed by the troubles and waves of this material world, for it is truly spiritual (golokera prema dhana) and no amount of maya can influence, change or impede that which is spiritual.

Therefore, Nama-sankirtana will take us to the Highest Goal — that of a life with Krsna.

tesam satata-yuktanam bhajatam priti-purvakam
dadami buddhi-yogam tam yena mam upayanti te

To those who are constantly devoted to serving Me with love (bhajatam priti-purvakam), I give the understanding (dadami buddhi-yogam) by which they can come to Me (yena mam upayanti te). (Bg. 10.10)

The 1st verse of Siksastakam gives the positive side of the unlimited ocean of sankirtana, that of purifying us of material desires and freeing us from our karma. This great gift is accompanied by unlimited joy.

The 2nd verse gives the negative side of our chanting. Durdaivam idrsam ihajani nanuragah — we are so unfortunate that we have no taste for Nama. How will we surmount this lack of taste for chanting?

The 3rd verse gives us our answer, trnad api sunicena — we must extoll true humility and chant earnestly, hoping for a higher taste. Only then will we be able to chant properly, leading to the desired result.

The Ultimate Goal of Life

Krsna consciousness is so beautiful that once we absorb ourselves in the waves of divinity we lose our identification and experience the highest feelings of ecstasy. Once we come into contact with the Krsna conception, all other conceptions withdraw. That is, our taste for Krsna consciousness so much takes hold of us that everything else pales in comparison — param drstva nivartate.

Srila Prabhupada writes, “The ultimate goal of progress is Krsna. People do not know this; therefore the association of devotees and a bona fide spiritual master are important. One should know that the goal is Krsna, and when the goal is assigned, then the path is slowly but progressively traversed, and the ultimate goal is achieved.”

Srimad Bhagavatam ends with a powerful message, it’s conclusion given in verse 12.13.23:

nama sankirtanam yasya sarva papa pranasanam
pranamo duhkasamanas namami harim param

I offer my respectful obeisances unto the Supreme Lord, Hari, the congregational chanting of whose holy names destroys all sinful reactions, and the offering of obeisances unto whom relieves all material suffering.

Here, sarva papa refers to the Holy Name, which relieves us of undesirable sinfulness, including the desire for liberation because it doesn’t include service to Lord Krsna. It is useful to analyze our progress in devotional service from an impartial viewpoint of the relative and the absolute (tatastha vicara). Stepping back and seeing our advancement in this way will help us to chant better and thereby advance.

Simply by Harinama sankirtana all our spiritual desires will be fulfilled.

Param vijayate sri-krsna-sankirtanam

This article is based in part on Srila Sridhar Maharaja’s “Golden Volcano of Divine Love.”