NAM BHAJAN

(The Science of Chanting the Holy Names of Krishna)

By Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur

 

            [This is an article full of insights into learning how to reach the stage of ecstatic love for Krishna, Prema, through the chanting of His Holy Names, and the means to reach that level of spiritual enlightenment wherein the holy name can reveal itself as Krishna directly. However, this is not an introductory article, and the reader will need to be familiar with a few Sanskrit terms. But anyone who will tread deep into this advanced spiritual knowledge will come out with profound realizations and insights of what we should be striving to attain. May it provide for your spiritual progress, Sri Nandanandana dasa, Stephen Knapp]

  

Prem [ecstatic love of God] alone is the purpose of the life of the jivas (spirit souls). Bhava (soul’s feeling) develops into Prem. Turning their face towards Krishna, the more jivas progress, the more do they approach the temple of Prem. Thus, in considering the rights of Prem, we meet at the out-set with two sorts of circumstances—one is an intense longing for the unattained Prem, the other is the stage when the pedestal of Prem is already reached. There is no higher stage beyond the latter one—an incessant Rasa [spiritual reciprocation] in an undivided unique tatva of that region. Devotees with utter craving for Prem who are still on the way to it, are again divided into two classes according to their love of seclusion or bustle—the one are called Viviktanandis [who prefer seclusion] who are close followers of approved usages, the other are known as Gosthyanandis [public disseminators] and are ever happy in preaching. Deep meditation on Godhead is the discipline of Premi-bhaktas [devotees who are focused on Prem] and glorifying or singing the Name of Krishna is their preaching.

In the state when there is an intense longing for the unattained Prem, the Premi-bhaktas are exclusively devoted to Krishna—utter self-surrender marks them out. The Srimad-Bhagavata and the Gita have very highly eulogized such refuges. If a devotee does not take absolute shelter under the cool shade of the gracious feet of Krishna, why speak of Prem? He remains quite in the dark even about Bhava. A self-surrendering devotee should accept things that are only favorable to Prem-bhakti [the path of devotional service to Lord Krishna that leads to Prem], and should deny everything, whatever it be, that is antagonistic or unfavorable to it. Such a devotee’s only belief is that Krishna is the only protector, that nothing else or none else but Krishna can save or protect him. He has not the least doubt about the fact that Krishna alone protects all. Devotees firmly and sincerely believe themselves to be very humble and insignificant. The faith of an earnest and exclusive devotee is that he himself can do nothing, and that not even a straw moves without the will of Krishna.

Extremely self-surrendering devotees prefer most exclusively embracing Sri Nama [the holy name of Lord Krishna] to every other feature of devotion. They have more intense appetite for singing and meditating upon Sri Nama than to anything else. Of all the means of Bhajan, the Name of Bhagavan is most purely spiritual. In describing the Absolute Deities, the Sri-Hari-bhaktivilas has spoken of the glories of singing and contemplating on NAMA as the best—it has been given the foremost place. The shastras [Vedic scriptures] declare that there is not the least difference between Krishna and Krishna-NAMA because the real nature of NAMA is spiritual—NAMA manifests Himself as the “Chaitanya-Rasa-Vigraha” [the form of superconscious reciprocation] of Krishna.

Try they must to realize their own Chit-swarupa [eternal spiritual form] who desire to realize the form of Krishna and the form of NAMA [Krishna’s holy names]. The practiser of bhakti [devotional service] can never be dexterous in his God-adoration so long as he does not realize spiritual truth. So, how can he attain his object of pursuit? The attainment of an absolute conception of spiritual truths causes amelioration of Bhajan. Here we shall say something on this subject.

Many a time we have told before (in Chaitanya-Sikshamrita) with quotations from the shastras that every jiva is a spirit in molecule, the residence of Krishna is a spiritual Kingdom, Krishna is the spiritual sun, the devotion to Krishna is a spiritual inclination, and Krishna-NAMA is “Chit-Rasa-Vigraha”. Now we venture to show the relation between spirit and devotees who are extremely anxious for Prem, and then shall show the means to the attainment of the highest bliss of the soul. If we have spiritual merit earned in previous births, transcendental felicity will be enkindled in our heart. We have no appetite (Ruchi) for the knowledge of Brahman which is restricted to realization of mere Chit [spiritual knowledge] only; for spiritual sportive pastimes have no place in it.

The Savior of the Iron Age [age of Kali-yuga], Sri Krishna Chaitanya, declares the Vedas to be the only judge and shows the nine Prameyas [processes of devotional service] from it. There is a broad discussion on it in the Srimad Bhagavata. The Vedas have proved jivas to be spiritual atomic parts of the Deity. Jivas are like rays from the Sun, Krishna: so the spiritual form of jivas must be identified with the spiritual form of Godhead. But the difference lies in the fact that Krishna may be compared with the full Sun, while the jivas are His innumerable rays. Krishna is the Lord of Lords—jivas are His eternal servants. There is no denying the fact that the residential home of Krishna is in Parabyom or Goloka, which is all spiritual. Vaikuntha, Chit-jagat, etc., all refer to the spiritual region. The Bajashaneya Upanishad speaks of the form of Krishna to be purely spiritual; the Svetashvatara Upanishad describes the eternal powers of Krishna, who is superior to the best and higher than the highest; the Mundaka Upanishad shows bhakti to be Chit Rasa; and coming to conceive Krishna to be the life of lives, the wise, after discarding all garrulity, dry wisdom and vain arguments, dive deep to see the bottom of their soul—they, after realizing the Deity by dint of pure intuition, run after devotion. He who does this is a Brahmin; he who leaves this world without knowing Him is, so to say, a parsimonious fellow. But the fortunate who departs from this earth after realizing Him is alone a Brahmin, i.e., a Vaishnava-devotee of Krishna. Such has been shown to be the nature of bhakti or devotion: O Ye Maitreya! The soul alone is to be seen, heard, reflected and meditated upon, and realized by spiritual organs. All is then beyond any doubt known to us. That Soul (Krishna) is dearer than the son, dearer than wealth, for He is omniscient. Things that are sense-pleasing are never worth endearment; from the pleasure of the Great Soul all joy proceeds. Thus the eternal relation of eternal felicity between Krishna and jiva is Prem.

What exact connection does there exist between this manifested and visible mundane world and the spiritual Sphere? In going to search after spiritual truths, more often than not we are deluded; after deep contemplation and discrimination we conclude Spirit to be something opposite of matter; pressing our worldly reasoning too far, we leave Chit-Rasa to the back-ground and are satisfied with an imaginative, inarticulate and incomplete conception of spiritual Brahman. This is only an imagination of Chit-swarupa of Brahman. In such a stage, Brahman is immutable, incorporeal, invisible or formless, without attributes and dry of Prem. This uncommon perception is like the “Sky-flower”! And being unable to know the name, form, attributes and pastimes of diversions of the Chit-Swarupa only, we turn to be inactive. Hence it is that all portents of jivas come to pass due to this dry wisdom. This is well illustrated in the conversation between Vyasa and Narada.

It is clear from the above that you never can know the spiritual sportive pastimes of Para-Brahman if you be dazzled by mere Chit-swarupa of Brahman, which is only a semblance of the eternal light of Chit. Brother! Look forward!! Enter into the kingdom of Godhead after dashing through the brilliance of Chit pure and simple—there you will be able to realize the spiritual pastimes of Godhead, then you will be able to taste the ambrosia of an incessant Brahma-Rasa [spiritual reciprocations]. No longer will your soul remain wooden-like. The name, form, attributes and Lila [pastimes] of the Supreme Being are manifested not by any earthly light but by a spiritual flame. The sun, the moon, stars, lighting and fire of this earth are quite unfit to give light to the other spiritual horizon. This spiritual light which is far beyond worldly lights brightens that Region. A perverted reflection of that light do we think as supplying us with light; but in fact it does not. While describing Brahmapur (the region of Brahman), the Chandogya Upanishad gives us a comprehensive knowledge of it. The spiritual kingdom as displayed by the spiritual light is an ideal to this base earth. There is not the least tinge of baseness; while on the contrary, only an all-pervading daintiness is its sweet affair. The fourteen mundane worlds are only a perverted reflection of that sphere; the gross sun is a reflection of that light and its subtle reflection is seen in the mundane rays of dry wisdom arising from mind, conscience and consciousness. Our gross senses believe the gross sun to be a flash of luster, and we are proud of the earthly knowledge which is gained by dint of the eight processes of Yoga that are actions of the subtle intellect, conscience and ego. All these are seemingly natural workings of engrossed jivas. Listening to the advice of Narada, while Dwaipayan Rishi [Srila Vyasadeva] was fully absorbed in the single and natural deep meditation of the soul, he fully and clearly saw the name, form, attributes and pastimes of the Supreme Person, and also could know Maya, the shadow of Parashakti, to be shelterless to the Absolute Truth—could understand anartha [unwanted things and habits] of jivas, the atomic chiitatvas, who are engrossed, fascinated and enslaved by Maya. And further coming to realize that such Jivas can come to perceive their own personal forms if absorbed in a profoundly meditative bhakti-yoga, he compiled the Srimad-Bhagavatam, which describes the spiritual pastimes of Bhagavan. The forgetfulness of his own eternal form and the Form of Krishna is the foremost anartha of a jiva, whence arises his aversion to Krishna and as a result of which he is revolved by the wheel of Maya on the path of Karma. Thus the world is full of weal and woes. When jivas take shelter under Bhakti, after discarding the basely-turned endeavors of the mundane wise reasonings of the eight processes of Yoga of the Karma-margis (followers of Karma or fruitive acts) and of the arguments of the Sankhya school of Jnana margis (seekers of dry wisdom) which vainly try to refute things that are not God or His concerns, then alone the pure rays of spiritual intuition are enkindled in them by being naturally absorbed in Divine contemplation; the worldly pleasures then prick them like pinching thorns, and Krishna-prem is awakened in the heart. By these means only, they can be blessed by the grace of Krishna—the Spiritual Sun. No second help is there but this Divine grace to wash off all scrapes of the mind and to progress forward towards the ever-shiny land of Krishna.

A sincere faith in pure devotion is the root cause of this non-labored restraint on the senses together with the mind, and confine the soul in a deep contemplation on Godhead. When the happy moment came, Dwaipayan Rishi [Srila Vyasadeva] became doubtful about the rules and methods of Karma-kanda and vain Jnana-kanda and in reply to the question of his spiritual preceptor, Sri Narada Goswami, he said, “O Lord! No doubt I have realized all truths, advised by Thee, still my soul, I know not why it finds no contentment! O Thou Son of Brahma, be kind to tell me the unimaginable and indescribable secret that lurks behind it. I beg this of Thee being greatly troubled at heart.”

The Narada Goswami replied, “O Vyas! You have not striven to give a vivid picture of the pure Spiritual Pastimes of Bhagavan, as you have given a full description in other Puranas, Vedanta-Sutras and Mahabharata of the four main objects of human pursuit, viz., virtue [dharma], wealth [artha], enjoyment [kama] and salvation [moksha]. Thus you enjoy no contentment due to this your short-coming. Thus you have committed a great and heavy omission by giving too high a eulogy of castes and stages to be the soul’s religion of jivas. If anyone, leaving aside such a conventional religion of the self, engages himself in the service of Hari, and if he slips before reaching the goal, can it for this reason be a calamity to him? If, on the contrary, he strictly sticks to that conventional religion being utterly unmindful of HARI BHAJAN, what better exalted goal does it afford?” It is clear from the above that no second help is there by HARI BHAJAN. Jivas can attain their highest goal if they embrace NAMA as a means to Hari.

Vyasadeva then following up this Bhakti-yoga absorbed himself in an easy meditation of Godhead. “Easy” is used here to show that devotion to Krishna is most innate in the jivatmas. As it is an inherent and eternal religion of the jivas, it is called the “easy” universal religion of every jiva. Its workings develop in the following manner:

When the jivas come to realize that the path of Karma does not give them eternal good, whether it be the eighteen inferior Karma-Yagnas or the eight subtle processes of Yagna neither can ever lead them to the highest goal—the servitude to Krishna—which is their souls’ religion, or again when they are fully convinced that there is not the least chance to attain perpetual felicity by mundane wisdom or limited knowledge that aims at the Spiritual Kingdom—both gained by endeavor of the subtle frame of mind, ego, etc.—finding no shore to catch, they thus, by the grace of Sadhus and Guru or spiritual preceptor, cry out to Krishna from the deepest recesses of their heart, “O Thou Krishna! O Ye restorer of the fallen! Thine eternal servant though I am, I am cast into the deep abyss of the world and am badly dashed from shore to shore by its frowning waves of troubles and tribulations. Take me up, O my Lord! To the shade of the cool dust of Thy lotus fee! O have mercy on this wretched self!” Then the All-merciful Lord lovingly taketh all jivas up to His feet.

When with sincere thrill of joy and tears trickling down the cheeks, they constantly chant, hear and remember the Name of Krishna, they gradually reach the stage of Bhava. Appearing in the heart, Krishna erases their sports out and out from their mind, and thus cleansing their heart graciously blesseth them with His own Prem. Extreme humbleness and utter devotion are necessary to call Krishna to the heart. Then, when earthly knowledge, reasonings and strivings are completely burnt to ashes, the soul’s eyes can perceive Bhagavan and His associated counterparts. If by discarding the company of Asat or dishonest fellows (Asat literally means “non-existence”; hence those who are unusually attached to the fair-sex and those who are non-devotees of Krishna both are called Asat, for things other than Krishna are transitory), one embraces the company of the good or Sat (opposite of Asat), he ere long gains a firm reliance and then through the stages of Nistha, etc., reaches the ladder of Bhava. Those whose hearts are crooked will beyond any doubt, run downstairs to Hell.

The fortunate ones who really long to ascend the terrace of Prem, do sincerely and incessantly chant the Name of Krishna in the company of sadhus. They do not have any appetite for any other feature of devotion. When in a short time by the grace of NAMA the heart becomes closely attentive, the fruits of religious forbearance, control over sensual appetites, religious austerity, abstract religious contemplation, steady abstraction of the mind and indifference to external impressions are very easily gained without paying the least heed to all these. NAMA alone is complete suspension of the fleeting mental operations. The more the heart is pellucid, the more diverse pastimes of the Spiritual Kingdom play in it. The flow of the milk of this felicity is so very fast running that no other means can give even the smallest drop of it. Jivas have no other wished-for wealth than the grace of Krishna.

NAMA is Spiritual, wisdom, vows, meditation, abnegation, mental quietness, virtue, contrivance—none of these can ever equal NAMA. Know it for certain that NAMA is the highest salvation, NAMA is the highest end, NAMA is the noblest final beatitude, NAMA is eternally existing. NAMA alone is the supremist devotion, NAMA is the highest intellect, NAMA is the best Priti and NAMA alone is the brightest remembrance. NAMA is the seed and NAMA is the fruit to jivas—NAMA is their Lord and NAMA alone is the supremist object of their worship. NAMA is their best Preceptor.

The Vedas have described the spirituality of the Name of Krishna to be the highest truth. “O Lord! Reasonably judged we have Thy Name to be higher then the highest and so do we chant Thy Name. NAMA-BHAJAN is not bound by any rule—NAMA is beyond all virtuous acts—He is Spiritual—He is virility and luster in a person. All the Vedas have been manifested from this NAMA. NAMA is bliss, NAMA is Ananda. We can excellently be devoted to Him. NAMA is worship and NAMA is to be worshipped. Thy Feet are to be held in veneration. Repeatedly we fall prostrate at Thy lotus-feet and anoint the body with pollen thereof. In order to lead the soul to its highest stage, devotees mutually discuss on NAMA and sing His glories. They believe Thy Name to be Chaitanya in person, and always sing and hear Kirtan which is identical with Thy NAMA (name)—they are purified by it. NAMA alone is Sat or ever-existing. The essence of the Vedas is NAMA, the Absolute Truth, Whose Form is Sat-Chidananda (Sat—ever-existing, Chit—all-knowing, and Ananda—all-bliss). O Vishnu! It is only by the grace of Thy Name that we are capable of offering hymns to Thee. So we should adore and pray to Thy NAMA alone.” In His own “Eight Glorious Precepts”, Sriman Mahaprabhu [Lord Chaitanya] has spoken of the glories of NAMA. He has also given a glimpse of the gradual steps of NAMA-BHAJAN in those eight precepts. His “Consider thyself humbler than the grass” sloka hints at how to adore NAMA after avoiding the ten profanations [offenses]. His “woman or money I want not” sloka speaks of the selflessness of NAMA-BHAJAN in a devotional spirit—devotion unactuated by any lustful motive. The “O Thou Son of Nandasloka tells us how to make a plaintive report to the Lord; the last two slokas describe the processes of Vraja-bhajan where one loves Krishna to serve Him either in Sambhoga (union) or in Vipralamba Rasa (deeper union in separation) or in both after being completely and spontaneously attached to Srimati (Radha). The shastras have eulogized so highly and so often the glories of NAMA that their name is legion—to describe them is to write a big volume like the Sri Hari Bhakti Vilas. So we have hardly any more space in this small volume to discuss them at length. Thus here putting a stop to the glories of NAMA, we attempt a very short survey of the processes of NAMA-BHAJAN.

Devotees who are desirous of ascending the terrace of Prem should remember a few points even before entering the field of NAMA-BHAJAN. Firstly, they should know for certain that the form of Krishna, the form of Krishna’s Name, the form of service to Krishna and the form of Krishna’s servants are eternally free—are eternally spiritual! Krishna, His abode and paraphernalia, are all spiritual and beyond the grasp of Maya, the illusory energy. No mundane consideration exists in Seva or service. The seat, room, garden, forest, the Jamuna [river] and every other thing of Krishna are spiritual and hence untouchable by matter. They are further aware of the fact that this, their belief, is not a blind worldly faith—it is absolutely true and eternal. The exact forms of all these do not in truth manifest on this earth. Such ideas may perpetually reign in the pure heart of pure devotees. Here, the fruit of all these spiritual practices is self-realization. Those who have realized the form of Krishna as well as of their own self, do ere long attain Vastu Siddhi (enter the eternal pastimes of Krishna in the Spiritual Kingdom and gain personal service of Krishna). Here in this world, devotees can only get a glimpse of those immaterial things. The first stage to it is freedom from the bondage of Maya—the climax of Prem.

The realization of truths that are beyond the grasp of matter is called Swarupa-siddhi. This is a true knowledge of the relationship between Krishna and jivas, and when this is acquired, the endeavor for Prem as a means and Prem as an object of pursuit is gained. The spiritual region of Krishna, His spiritual Name, His divine attributes and spiritual pastimes—the necessary object of pursuit—come under Prem. This is delineated in the Prasno-panishad.

NAMA has been accepted on all hands to be an incarnation of Krishna on this earth. A word though He looks to be, still by His unimaginable powers He is Spiritual and is a special incarnation of Krishna. As Krishna and His Name are identical, Krishna has descended to the earth as NAMA; so Krishna NAMA is the first introduction to Krishna. With determination to reach Krishna, jivas must first accept the Name of Krishna. In going to determine the significance and origin of Hari Nama, Sri Gopalguru Goswami, the dearest disciple of Sri Swarupa Damodar Goswami, writes “Blessed are they no doubt who utter Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare / Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare even indifferently (from the Agni Purana); those who chant are free from every spot of sin (from the Brahmanda Purana); Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu simply collected them together. These Hare Krishna utterings, coming out from the lips of Sri Chaitanya, inundated the whole world with the flood of Prem; Glory be to this NAMA by His will!” Hence, Sriman Mahaprabhu, as mentioned in the Chaitanya Charitamrita and the Chaitanya Bhagavat, Himself sang and taught the jivas to count these sixteen names of thirty-two letters in beads of tulasi. Sri Gopalguru Goswami explains these sixteen names in the following way:

At the utterance of Hari, all sins are washed off from the heart of the wicked. As the flame will burn the finger even though unconsciously you thrust it into the fire, similarly even the very casually pronounced Hari-nama will burn every bit of sin in you. Absolute Truth, whose form is Chidananda, to light, destroys Avidya or illusion and its works. All this is the work of Hari-nama. Or as He takes off the three-fold pangs of miseries, distresses and afflictions, hence He is called Hari (lit, to steal away [all one’s obstacles]). Or Hari is so called because He drives out all the three-fold distresses of every animate and inanimate being, or because the mind of the fourteen worlds is charmed by hearing and singing the Spiritual Attributes of Hari or as He, by His exceeding beauties before which the loveliness and beauty of a thousand Cupids hide their face in shame, fascinates all men and incarnations, He is called Hari; and in the vocative case of Hari, it is Hare. Or again, according to the views of the Brahma-samhita—She who fascinates the mind of Hari by Her Prem-Swarupa, attachments, and love is Hara or in other words Srimati-Radhika, daughter of Brisabhanu, and in the vocative case of Hara it is Hare.

The meaning of “Krishna” according to the views of Agama is derived from and means that this Krishna Who is Ananda in Form and attracts every object is Para-Brahman. Krishna when in the case of address is also Krishna. The Agama says: “O Ye Goddess! All guilts and sinful motives vanish from the heart at the very sound of Ra and the door in the form of Ma is attached to it in order to shut out those evils from re-entering the heart. This together give us Rama.” The Puranas have further said that Krishna, Who is cleverer than the cleverest, more witty than the greatest wit, Who is the Presiding Deity of all spiritual pastimes and Who is eternally engaged in spiritual dalliance with Sri Radha, is termed as Rama.

Devotees, who thirst for Prem and are on the way to it, sing and realize this Hare Krishna Nama by counting. While chanting and remembering the Name, incessantly they remember His spiritual characteristics by way of explaining to the mind the meanings of NAMA. By this means their heart is very soon freed from every spot of scrapes and becomes pure and stainless; and with the morning twilight of NAMA as the heart is purified by constant remembrance, NAMA dawns in the horizon of the pellucid heart with full shining rays.

Those who have accepted NAMA are either self-realized devotees or are still trotting onward to self-realization. Of these, the latter class of devotees are divided according to their early or advanced stages. Devotees, besides these, who are eternally free, no more confound the soul with the body, never identify themselves with body and mind. Devotees in their early stage begin to chant the Name by a fixed number, and as they gradually increase the countings, they come to a stage when their tongue stops not for a moment from singing NAMA. Though choler-tongued by Avidya, devotees in their first stage have no taste for NAMA, still a patient and continuous utterance of the Name proves to be the only remedy; now they feel uneasy if stopped from singing the Name, and a constant and regardful chanting produces a supreme liking for Him. Zeal and earnestness to avoid sacrileges to NAMA are very needful in the first stage, which can be done only by an avoidance of the worldly minded men and in the company of devotees. Incessant chanting of NAMA will, when the first flow has passed away, naturally increase a love for the Name and kindness to jivas. In this Karma, Jnana and Yoga have nothing to do. If their workings be even then strong, they may help the devotees of NAMA in maintaining their livelihood. If KRISHNA-NAMA be sung with a firm inclination, it will ere long cleanse the heart and burn Avidya; and when Avidya vanishes, the brighter illumination of a true unbiased abnegation and a sense of the relationship between Krishna and jivas will appear in the heart. Numberless times has this been proved to be true among the wise.

With a happy heart one should re-collect the meaning and form of NAMA and should pray to Krishna with a heart-rending lamentation and this will draw the grace of Krishna which will lead him onward in the path of BHAJAN; or else, births will pass in vain like Karmis [those engaged in karmic activities for sensual and mental happiness] and frustrated Jnanis [those engaged in dry philosophical speculation and learning].

Those who are bent on BHAJAN may be divided into two distinct classes. Some bear only the burden, others appreciate the real worth of things. Those who long for enjoyment or for self-destroying salvation [merging into the impersonal Brahman] and are attached to worldly affairs are only yoked to the heavy load of virtue [dharma], wealth [artha], enjoyment [kama] and salvation [moksha]—they are unaware of the fact that Prem is the best sap [nourishment and taste].  So, such load-bearers fail to progress in BHAJAN in spite of their utmost strivings, whereas the essence-seekers aiming at Prem-lata very soon reach the longed-for ultimate. They are called Prema-rurukshu (those who earnestly strive for ascending up to the reign of Prem); they alone can in a very short time ascend up to the sphere of Prem or easily become Paramahansas. Thus when he, who so long simply did bear burdens only, learnt to love the Truth in the company of Sadhus and soon also turns to long for Prem.

Good acts done in previous births, that look forward to devotion, invigorate reverence and a strong desire for the service of Godhead, which reverence and desire turn into an appetite for devotion in the company of devotees. BHAJAN along with true devotees awakens Sadhana-bhakti that looks forward in expectation of Prem. If one adopts the process of Sadhana as directed by true and pure devotees, he will ere long almost turn mad for ascending the stage of Prem where it can be tasted; but again this Prem will remain far in the background if he associates with half-true devotees and cannot exclusively devote himself to the service of Krishna. In this stage, (1) his strong love for the fleeting world, (2) his identification of the soul with the material frame of flesh and blood and the subtle body of mind, (3) his knowledge of things other than Krishna, and (4) his extreme servile attitudes towards Maya do not allow him to regard and love true devotees—crafty thoughts beguile his heart. In this way the practitioners of devotion have to remain long confined to the early preliminary rights of a devotee in his first stage. Reliance and faith in Krishna they have no doubt, but it is so tender, fickle and so unsteady that they may at any moment be led away by contradictory arguments of conflicting schools and accordingly they may come by the company of “so-called” preceptors and Sadhus. In order to make steady their perturbed state of mind, they are to learn the process of deduction (the path of Sruti from a true spiritual preceptor) the true process of worship. A firm faith in NAMA will be awakened in the heart after worshiping the Deity in this way for a long time; then at last they are bent on NAMA-BHAJAN in the company of devotees.

The case is different with those few lucky ones who have an exclusively firm faith in Krishna-NAMA; they take, by the unbounded grace of Krishna, shelter at the feet of such a spiritual guide who is an ontologist of NAMA, i.e. who has realized and does see the Swarupa (form) of NAMA. Of the rights of such a preceptor, Sri Mahaprabhu says that though formal initiation may not be necessary, still a guide is essential in NAMA-BHAJAN. The mere letters of NAMA may be had at any place and from anybody, but the profound and unknown truth that is lurking behind these letters can only be exposed by the grace of a true preceptor who is purely devoted to Krishna; the grace of the spiritual guide alone can pass over from the early twilight of NAMA to the pure light of it and can save them from the ten sacrileges hindering the true service of NAMA.

Those who are devoted to NAMA have already from the beginning attained the stage of the second class of the Swarupa (form) of NAMA. They are practically no longer bound to Nambhasha (utterance of the Name avoiding the ten profanations). Truly speaking, they earnestly desire Prem—they are true Prema-rurukshu. It is their religion to have Prem for Krishna; they make friendship with true Vaishnavas, they cast kind glances at and show compassion to tender and unsteady Vaishnavas, and they are indifferent to those who being puffed up with false vanity of their erudition are malicious and inimical to the devotees and Srimurti [the Deity] of Bhagavan. Failing to distinguish right from wrong, the beginners who are confined to the primary rights only sometimes fall into deplorable condition; the middle order of Vaishnavas who are earnestly anxious for Prem, behave differently from the three classes of Vaishnavas and soon are blessed with Prem or ascend to the highest or superior order of Vaishnavas. These middle orders of Vaishnavas are best to be associated with.

These Prema-rurukshu devotees chant and tell their beads three lacs of times in twenty-four hours, and such felicity they find in NAMA that a moment they cannot spare without Him; then when no time can be kept in time of sleep, etc., they become incessant in their Bhajan. Repeated remembrance of the meaning of NAMA as explained by Sri Gopal Guru Goswami will, be degrees, drive out every scrap from the nature man and then NAMA appears in person before the spiritual eyes of the devotee. When the Swarupa (form) of NAMA fully appears, it is identical with the spiritual form of Krishna—the appearance of the swarupa of NAMA is the appearance of the swarupa of Krishna. The more clearly and purely is NAMA visible, the more BHAJAN proceeds in the presence of His swarupa, the more do the three elements of which primordial matter is said to be composed, namely Satya (the strand of goodness), Raja (the strand of activity) and Tamo (the gloom of pride, haughtiness, etc., of the lowest inherent principal), disappear and there appear the spiritual attributes of Krishna in the heart of the devotee. Then again, when there is a happy union of the name, form and attributes of Krishna, and devotees in their BHAJAN see them, the lila (pastimes) as Krishna is awakened by the grace of Krishna in their pure heart as soon as they are absorbed in deep and easy natural meditation. Incessantly then does NAMA dance on their tongue, the form of Krishna is then visible to the soul’s eye, all the attributes of Krishna are then observed in the heart and the bud of lila [Krishna’s pastimes] blooms in their soul while they are buried in meditation. In this stage, five conditions of the practicing devotee are to be noticed:

1. Sravan-dasha, 2. Varan-dasha. 3. Smaran-dasha. 4. Aapan-dasha. 5. Prapan-dasha.   

The happy mood which the devotee feels at the time of listening to the object of pursuit and the means to hear from the lips of a true Spiritual Preceptor may be called Sravan-dasha. In this stage, every bit of knowledge about how to take NAMA without committing any sacrilege to Him, and of the processes and fitness of taking NAMA is gained; this facilitates the continuity of NAMA.

When fit to receive, the strung-together beads of NAMA-PREM can be had of Sri Gurudeva, i.e. the disciple with every delight and from the deepest recesses of his heart cordially welcomes the boon of surrendering himself to the feet of Sri Guru for pure and unalloyed BHAJAN and receives invigorating strength and faculty from him; this is Varan-dasha (i.e. the choice of Sri Guru for Bhajan by the acceptance of NAMA and strength from Him).

 Remembrance, contemplation, concentration, constant meditation and trance (final beatitude) are the five processes of Smaran. From remembrance of the NAMA, the devotee thanks of the form which gives him a steady conception of the attributes; this steady conception of the attributes gives him a firm conviction of pursuing the lila of Krishna, and having entrance in the lila he is completely absorbed in Krishna-Rasa: This is Aapan-dasha. By these Smaran and Aapan, the devotee can know and adore the eternal and daily lila of Krisna at eight different periods of the day; and when he is deeply absorbed in it, he realizes his own self and that of Krishna. These self-realized devotees are Paramahansas [swan-like saints who know and disseminate the highest spiritual knowledge]. 

Then at the time of his departure from this world, the devotee, by the grace of Krishna, becomes an associated counter-part of ideal object of his worship in Braja [the holiest place of Lord Krishna’s pastimes] and thus attains the summum-bonum of NAMA-BHAJAN.

Should then all who are seekers after Prem leave the stage of a house-holder and accept Sannyasa or the fourth stage? The answer is, that be he in bustee or solitude, in palace or bower, be he in the stage of a Grihastha or a Vanaprastha or Sannyasa—in whatever stage he may be, the Prema-rurukshu should prefer to live in that stage only which will be favorable to the attainment of Prem and should at once desert the stage that is a burden or antagonistic to his BHAJAN. In this connection, the lives of Srivas Pandit, Sri Pundarik Vidyanidhi, Sri Ramananda and other personal attendants of Krishna are worth recollection. They are all born Paramahansas. Ribhu, Janaka, etc., in the days of yore are seen to be Paramahansas even though they led the lives of house-holders; while on the contrary, finding the household life to be detrimental and a bar to BHAJAN, Sri Ramanuja Swami, Sri Swarupa Damodar Goswami, Sri Madhavendra Puri Goswami, Sri Haridas Thakur, Sri Sanatana Goswami and Sri Raghunathdas Goswami all renounced the stage of a householder and accepted Sannyasa. Krishna’s loving beauty is so enamoring that even the god of lusts is charmed by Him, and Krishna Himself is charmed by His own beauty, and loveliness covets the pleasure enjoyed by the best of His lovers—Sri Radha, by lovingly serving such a form as His. So anointing Himself with the luster and complexion of Sri Radha and having been imbued with Her ardent longings of love, Krishna is ever dallying as an exemplary lover of Himself as Sri Gauranga. Sri Krishna, the essential nature of the Supreme Being—the only Real and Eternal Truth is the only Object of love, and Sri Gauranga the possessor and distributor of that love.

Krishna is simultaneously dallying with His dear consort in the groves of Vrindavana and tasting the extract of love-succus flowing from His consort as Gauranga in Navadvip, Himself singing Krishna’s name and teaching others how to love Krishna and sing His name. In so doing He distinguishes pointedly the real name, identical with the Object Himself, from the apparent or false one which is taken profanely, blasphemously or in vain. He emphasizes that in this Kali-yuga worldly people indulge in (1) duplicity, (2) intoxication, (3) sensuality, (4) killing of animals, (5) mercenariness, and so are unable to meditate upon or worship Vishnu and to perform Vedic sacrifices. So the chanting of Krishna’s name is the only meditation, the only sacrifice, the only worship in the Kali age—Name is the means, Name is the end. But it should be noted with utmost care that Krishna’s name is not mere combination or utterance, and appearance is not identity. The fire and the glow-worm, though similar in appearance, are not identical. The minutest spark of fire set consciously or unconsciously, seriously or playfully, will instantly burn an inflammable thing, whereas a thousand glow-worms will not be able to do that even in a thousand years. Krishna’s name is identical with Krishna Himself and pregnant with all the properties and attributes of Krishna. So His Name, unlike all other names, is full of energy, perfect, eternal, pure, devoid of illusion and eternally free. Aurora is sufficient to dispel the darkness of night and to drive the wild animals to their lairs and thieves and dacoits to their resorts; it enables us to distinguish the various objects of senses and ushers the advent of the glowing lamp of heaven. So does Nama-bhasha (chanting the holy Name while avoiding the ten offenses) stop poverty from planting our pillows with thorns, destroy our worldly hankerings and dispel the illusory gloom, so that we may see the Name face to face. When the ever-burning sun peeps out of the eastern horizon, its every-effulgent rays make us see it face to face and feel its golden rays and enable us to see all objects bathing therein. The sun is seen and felt by us with its own rays and heat and not with the help of any other glowing object. The brightest candles of the universe put together cannot make the sun visible to us. When our dreamy nights are at an end, when we shake off the torpor, open our eyes, turn them to the east, we see the Name-Sun with all his glory and beauty.  

[This article and more information at  www.stephen-knapp.com]

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