After Srimad-Bhagavatam was spoken by
Shukadeva Gosvami to King Parikshit, and just moments before the King
was about to be bitten by the snake bird and give up his body, the
King's mother, Uttara, quickly came to him, and said, "You know, I'm a
woman, and I just couldn't get all that. I couldn't really understand
the whole Bhagavatam , because I'm a woman, and women
are less philosophically and intellectually inclined. Please could you
quickly summarise the whole
thing for me?" King Parikshit answered, "I don't have much time, but
I'll try to summarise it."
That summary is called Brihad Bhagavatamrita
, and it was written in two parts. The first part describes how Narada
Muni went from one devotee to another, praising each one, "Oh, you're
the best devotee of Krishna, because . . . ." To Arjuna he said,
"Krishna drove your chariot, and He spoke Bhagavad-gita
to you," and Arjuna said, "Oh no, no, no, I'm not at all a good
devotee. Actually, the real devotee is Lord Shiva. He's the really
great devotee." Whereupon Narada went to Lord Shiva, praising him, and
Lord Shiva said, "No, no, no, you are mistaken. I'm not at all a good
devotee. The good
devotee is Lord Brahma." Narada went on and on like that, until he
the topmost devotees, the Gopis.
The second part is about a small cowherd boy whose name
was Gopa Kumar. He could not read or write. He was just a very simple
cowherd boy, wandering in Vrindavan, and he met a saintly person who
gave him a special mantra. But before the spiritual master could give
Gopa Kumar the meaning of the mantra, the spiritual master disappeared.
So Gopa Kumar
wandered around Vrindavan and began chanting the mantra. As he chanted
it, all kinds of spiritual realization took place, and he also went
higher and higher, until finally he came back to Krishnaloka, where he
and Krishna saw one another from far away, and they started running
toward one another. Krishna said, "Where have you been all these years?
I've missed you so much."
And Gopa Kumar also said, "Oh, I've been looking for You everywhere,
I couldn't find You."
At the very beginning of the book, Sanatana Gosvami
makes certain invocations for auspiciousness. One of the things he says
in the very beginning is:
All glories, all glories to Lord Murari in
form of His all-ecstatic name. If any living being puts aside such
as meditation, ritual worship, and social duties, and even once takes
holy name, the name will grant him liberation. That holy name is the
of eternal pleasure, and it is my very life and ornament.
Sanatana Gosvami was one of the six Gosvamis. Sanatana
and Rupa Gosvamis were brothers. They were sent by Lord Chaitanya to
discover the lost places of Krishna and to write books on the
Krishna consciousness. In that connection this book came to be written.
Sanatana's point is that you can put everything else aside and chant
the holy name, and you will be secure.
In the commentary he says:
Among the various practices of devotional
service, the most important is the chanting of the holy name of the
Lord. Chanting the Lord's name is ananda rupam, pure bliss,
makes ecstasy rise in the heart. Chanting the holy name is also ananda
rupam in the sense that it is the essence of ecstasy, and makes
everything it touches ecstatic. In this verse, the author again repeats
the exclamation jayate, indicating that harinama, the
name of the Lord,
is the greatest manifestation of the Supreme Lord's attractiveness and
mercy. One who realizes the value of harinama will choose to
chanting harinama rather than any other kind of spiritual effort.
Performing prescribed duties within the varnashrama
system is very troublesome.
Sanatana is saying these are very troublesome things,
following all these rules and regulations of varnashrama dharma.
Persons who have lost interest in the ritual
duties of varnashrama dharma cultivate yogic meditation, either
impersonal perfection, or as a means of devotional service. But in
case, that too is very troublesome, because it involves the difficulty
of subduing the mind and senses. Worship of the deity of the Lord is
also troublesome, because the worshiper must purify all the items to
be offered, and his own body and heart as well. And also troublesome
the other devotional practices such as hearing, which can be correctly
performed only after one fulfils difficult prerequisites, such as
a suitable qualified Vaishnava to hear from.
Therefore, putting aside concern about success in
these methods, an intelligent devotee will simply focus his attention
on harinama, and thus he will easily achieve the result of all
above spiritual methods. Devahuti, the mother of Lord Kapila, confirms
this in a prayer to her son:
'O how glorious are those whose tongues are
chanting Your holy name. Even if born in the family of dog-eaters,
such persons are worshipable. Persons who chant the holy name of Your
Lordship must have executed all kinds of austerities, fire sacrifices
and achieved all the good manners of the Aryans to be chanting the holy
name of Your Lordship. They must have bathed at holy places of
studied the Vedas, and fulfilled everything required.'
Then, in the next verse from the Vishnu Purana:
'What was accomplished in the Krita Age by
meditation, in the Treta Age by ritual sacrifice, in the Dvapara Age by
worship of the deity of the Lord is accomplished in Kali Yuga by loud
of the holy name of the Lord.'
A doubting person may question the ease of such
success by harinama. One might earn religious credit, economic success
and material enjoyment by harinama, he might say, but liberation is
something else. Liberation can be gained by only those who are
fit. At best, devotees who chant the holy name with perfect faith and
devotion may achieve liberation through long practice. Srila Sanatana
Gosvami refutes this doubt, declaring that if any living being even
chants the Lord's holy name, even unintentionally or in ridicule, in
jest, or in material distress, the holy name will surely grace that
person with liberation. This chanting may be performed without true
realization. It may be a mere reflection or shadow, nama bhasya,
still it will result in liberation. Srimad-Bhagavatam
confirms this again and again.
'One is easily relieved of all sinful
reactions by chanting the holy name of the Lord and chanting of His
and activities. This is the only process recommended for relief from
sinful reactions. Even if one chants the holy name of the Lord with
improper pronunciation, one will achieve relief from material bondage
chants without offence. Ajamila, for example, was extremely sinful, but
while dying he merely chanted the holy name, and although calling for
his son, he achieved complete liberation, because he remembered the
name of Narayana.'
Another verse from the Bhagavatam:
'It is amazing that even a person beyond the
jurisdiction of the four castes, in other words an untouchable, is
immediately relieved of bondage of material existence if he utters the
holy name of the Lord even once. By hearing the holy name of Your
Lordship only once, even chandalas or dog-eaters or worse-men of the
lowest class-are freed from material contamination.'
And another verse from the Skanda Purana:
'O best of the Brghu Dynasty, the
holy name of Krishna is the sweetest of the sweet, and the most
of the auspicious. It is the transcendental fruit of all the Vedas, and
is purely spiritual. Whoever chants it but once, whether with faith or
with contempt, is liberated.'
Although we normally think of chanting
as being the business of the tongue, all of one's conscious faculties
can be engaged in harinama. The mind can contemplate the
the Lord's name and their meaning, and the external senses can interact
with harinama, each in their own way. Speech and hearing
involved in harinama, but the sense of touch can also feel the
sacred clay on one's body. The eyes can see the name written in various
places. The hands and legs can work to carry a banner inscribed with
the holy name, and so on. At the end of this verse, Sanatana describes
his own relationship with harinama. It is everything to him.
else is important for him. Harinama is the nectar of
happiness of true liberation countless times greater than the
satisfaction of impersonal mukti. Harinama is also greater than
bliss of Vaikuntha. It is sweeter than all
other attractive things. It is Sanatana Gosvami's very life and only
ornament, the unlimited reservoir of auspiciousness, the entire focus
of his attention.
Sometimes people hear these statements and think, "Oh,
this is an exaggeration. Just by chanting Hare Krishna
you can be liberated and all other auspicious things come, even if a
person is not learned or qualified, or even if he makes offences?" They
dismiss it as exaggeration, like the school teacher saying, "You can
become president of the United States, because we have all freedom in
America, and even the most ordinary person can become a president," and
the students think, "Yeah, yeah, sure." But it's not exaggeration. It
is actually a fact.
This morning I was thinking about chanting the holy
name. We get up and chant the holy name, and generally it requires some
determination and effort, some sacrifice. I thought it's exactly like a
person who has in one way or another lost his ability to walk, and then
has to go for some treatment at a rehabilitation (rehabilitation=re +
abilitate) center. Every day for one hour in the morning and one hour
in the evening, he is put into a very rigorous routine, and is forced
to start using his legs again. At first it is very painful, very
awkward, and it seems practically hopeless. But this treatment goes on
for some time, maybe some years even, and at some point, he actually
regains his original, natural walking capacity.
The walking capacity exists. It's our natural condition
to walk, to run and jump. Almost all people do it, but occasionally
there is someone who falls into a situation where he cannot walk,
and has to accept some therapy. That therapy is called sadhana.
therapy itself is not the aim. The aim is to regain his natural walking
potency. The aim is not just to become good at the therapy, starting
out with one hour in the morning and one hour in the evening and
extending it to two or three hours. The real aim is to regain his free,
natural walking power. Similarly, when we come to Krishna
we're told to chant the holy name and rise up in the morning, and so
forth. But chanting the holy name is the most important thing. We kind
of do it, sort of dutifully, but it's a burden for us, because we'd
do other things. However, the fact is that the holy name is the
everyday, eternal condition of the soul. He's chanting all the time,
as my body is always breathing. In my case, some days ago I stopped
breathing, so immediately they applied electric shockers and pressed my
bring that breathing pattern back, not just for an hour or two, but
continuously. It's very, very important, because without breathing, we
Chanting is like breathing, continuous, constant. The vibration of the
holy name is our natural consciousness.
Krishna and the living entities are always together,
never separate. The separateness is just imaginary. We are always with
Krishna at all times. When we sleep, we dream we are in
another circumstance, but when we wake up, we see we are at home. So
by practicing chanting the holy name, we get a glimpse that we are part
and parcel of Krishna, and we find that we cannot stop chanting, just
as we cannot stop breathing.
I also wanted to read something from Bhaktisiddhanta's Harmonist,
where he also speaks about the essential potential and exclusive nature
of the holy name:
Nowadays the importance of a religion is
calculated by the numerical strength of its professed followers. This
is the ordinary reason why a religion is always very particular that
its followers should use its distinctive ceremonials and external
marks. It is a common enough sentiment that impels even cultured
persons to be conscientiously opposed to open compliance with the
a creed that is not their own. Not that a rational person does really
object too much to the forms and methods of the other creed, or
any decidedly more convinced sentiment in favor of his own professed
cult. But nevertheless, the sentiment is there in a very effective
There is nothing very extraordinary, rationally speaking, in the
of Hare Krishna in the company of bonafide devotees.
In other words, chanting Hare Krishna is not
It is the simplest conceivable form of
worship in which a number of persons can fully join in. It
is possible to induce other people to join in the function by
substituting the names Allah and Jesus in place of Krishna. But even
so, there are
not a few persons who, although they put up with much in their own
religion that is regarded as conventional, will refuse to repeat a new
name, and declare it as nothing short of being a silly performance
instead of the being the highest religion.
He said that people generally think of chanting the
holy name as being something silly and not at all rational.
The name of Krishna on the
lips of the Supreme Lord had the power of making all persons who heard
realize the Truth of whom they had been told by the scriptures. This
was a most marvelous experience. In this Iron Age it is only the name
appearing on the lips of a bonafide sadhu who can lift the conditioned
soul to the plane of the Absolute. As a matter of fact, even the
also can only faintly express the Personality of Godhead. The mere
of the scriptures can convey no full knowledge of the Absolute as a
substantive entity, but the name Krishna has power to put a person on
plane and endow the words of the revealed scriptures with their living
On the plane of the Absolute, all entities serve
Godhead in an infinite variety of forms that run harmoniously into
instead of clashing against one another. The vision of a person who
once hears the name of Krishna undergoes this marvelous change.
He can only then really believe in Godhead, because he understands and
sees whom he is to serve. He becomes, in the substantive sense, a
theist or Vaishnava."
Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur talked about the holy
name in the same way in other writings. And there are many other
quotations, especially in the sixth Canto [Srimad-Bhagavatam
Generally, when we read these things, they appear
incidental. We come upon them and think, "Well, this is a cliche, or
this is an exaggeration to induce people to chant, but
actually we have to perform penances and austerity and become
and perform other very difficult and onerous activities to realize
Krishna consciousness. Simply chanting the name is very nice for
newcomers and simpletons, but more advanced persons perform deity
worship, we make sacrifices, we fast, we can quote scriptures."
Actually, however, it's just the reverse.
Chanting is exactly like the simple method of inhaling
and exhaling. Although it seems like a very simple act, it is
nevertheless the essence of the whole thing. Without that inhaling and
exhaling, none of the other activities can take place.
We also understand that no one simply inhales and exhales, but all
the other activities are supportive of the inhaling and exhaling.
Similarly in the case of the heart
. . . . I just recently had a heart attack. When a person's heart
stops, the medics and doctors will do practically anything to get it to
go again, including breaking my ribs and jolting with high charges of
electricity and putting tubes in the mouth and in other places. They
will do anything to make the heart begin thumping again. And the reason
is because it is essential. It is absolutely essential, and all the
other things support it. If the heart is moving, then the man is
he's talking, eating, sleeping, and doing all the other things. But
it isn't those activities that make the heart beat. It's actually the
presence of the soul that gives the heart its beat and consequently all
the other activities meaningful relationship.
Similarly, in Krishna consciousness there are many
activities. We have deity worship, we observe Ekadasi, we read
shastras, we sell books, we refrain from four sinful activities. But
all these things are there to support one thing: the chanting of
the holy name of Krishna.
Ajamila, whose story is told in
Srimad-Bhagavatam, was extremely sinful throughout his life, but
in the last instance he uttered the name of Krishna, and everything was
adjusted in his favor. We tend to forget that. We tend to do everything
except chant the holy name, because we think other things are very
important, but actually it's just the reverse.
Although Srila Prabhupada wrote many books, he one day
asked me, "So why did I write all these books?" I
said, "So we can know the philosophy, learn the philosophy." He said,
"No, the purpose of all these books is to convince you to chant the
name of Krishna."
I want to read again the last verse of the Srimad-Bhagavatam,
because it's such a nice verse:
Namah sankirtasnam yasya sarva papa
Paranamo dukhahasah manas tam namine hari param
The concluding verse of the Srimad-Bhagavatam
Krishna's holy name can
relieve us of all undesirable sinfulness, all filthy characteristics,
all miseries. Let us all bow down to Him. Uttering this verse, the
Srimad-Bhagavatam stops. That great treatise becomes silent.