Kirtan: Ancient Medicine for Modern Man
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© 2004 - Hansadutta das

Kirtan: Ancient Medicine for Modern Man

By Hansadutta das

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Chapter 3 Performing Kirtan (Cont'd.)

Kirtan--Destroys Karma

Glory to the Sri Krishna Sankirtan, which cleanses the heart of all the dust accumulated for years and extinguishes the fire of conditional life, of repeated birth and death.--Shikshastaka

Burn Your Sins
Chanting Hare Krishna purifies one of all sinful activities. By once chanting the holy name of the Lord offencelessly, one counteracts more sins than one is able to commit in hundreds and millions of lifetimes. The holy name of Krishna is so powerful that it eradicates the reactions of even the greatest sins.

As a fire burns dry grass to ashes, so the holy name of the Lord, whether chanted knowingly or unknowingly, burns to ashes without fail all the reactions of one's sinful activities.--Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.2.18

To illustrate the power of the holy name there is a story in Srimad-Bhagavatam about a man named Ajamila:

Ajamila, in his youth, was raised according to the Vedic regulations. He was a perfectly trained brahman (Vedic priest), free from the four sinful habits of materialistic life, which are meat eating, intoxication, illicit sex and gambling. He was married to a chaste and beautiful wife.

But one day, while he was out in the fields collecting flowers for worshipping the Lord, he happened to see a drunken shudra (low-class man) and a prostitute engaged in sexual embrace. Ajamila thus became bewildered and attracted. His mind became gradually more and more attached to the prostitute. In Bhagavad-gita it says that if one contemplates sense object, he becomes attached to them. From attachment comes lust, from lust comes anger, and from anger comes greed. This is followed by bewilderment of memory and loss of intelligence. When intelligence is lost, one falls down again into the material pool. Although Ajamila was very strictly following the Vedic principles and was engaged in the worship of the Supreme Lord, he nevertheless became bewildered simply by seeing a man and woman engaged in sexual activity. Contemplating that scene, he gradually became attached and lusty and took this prostitute in his home as a maidservant. Inevitably, he became so entangled that he abandoned his family, wife and children and went off with the prostitute. Due to his illicit connection with the prostitute, he lost all his good qualities. He became a thief, a liar, a drunkard, even a murderer. He completely forgot about his original training as a brahman, and his whole life was ruined.

There are four sinful activities, and there are four pillars of religious activity--truthfulness, cleanliness, mercifulness and austerity. The four sinful activities are meat eating, intoxication, illicit sex and gambling. Sinful activities counteract or nullify the spiritual activities or spiritual principles. Meat eating counteracts compassion; intoxication counteracts mercifulness; illicit sex counteracts cleanliness; and gambling counteracts truthfulness.

Engaging in sinful activities, Ajamila fell down from his position, and he begot many children through the womb of the prostitute. Even towards the end of his life, around the age of eighty, he was still begetting children. It is explained that while he was dying, which is a very fearful time, he began to call out to his pet child, whose name was Narayana. Narayana is another name of God or Krishna. At that time, the Yamadutas, the messengers of death, were coming. They were tying up the subtle body of Ajamila and preparing to take him to the lower planets to be punished by Yamaraja, the lord of death. At the same time, because he happened to be vibrating the holy name of the Lord Narayana, the beautiful Vishnudutas, the messengers of Krishna, also arrived there. They checked the activities of the Yamadutas, refusing to allow them to take Ajamila for punishment.

The Yamadutas were bewildered. "Why are these effulgent and beautiful personalities checking our action? It's our duty to take sinful men to Yamaraja for punishment; then they are awarded another material body for the next life so that they can get the result of their sinful activity." There was a discussion between the Yamadutas and the Vishnudutas. The conclusion was that although Ajamila was sinful throughout his life and gave up his religious life, his wife and children and begot children through a prostitute, he nevertheless was purified from all these sins because at the last moment he chanted the holy name of Krishna, Narayana.

Although Ajamila had committed so many sinful deeds, because he chanted the name of Narayana, he was relieved of all sinful activities.

In a garden, weeds are undesirable for the healthy growth of the main plants. Cutting the weeds at the stem is not actually sufficient, because they will grow again. One has to take out the root, then there is no possibility of the plant growing again. Sinful or karmic reactions are like seeds. Some of them are lying dormant, some of them are already fructified, and some are just sprouting. Chanting the holy name uproots all such seeds. Sometimes chanting is compared to flooding. If we flood the seeds of sinful reactions, then they cannot take form or fructify. They will eventually be destroyed. Chanting Hare Krishna is the most powerful way to counteract our sinful activities.

Offenceless Chanting
There are many religious activities that profess to counteract sins. One of them is called atonement. Those who are Christians understand atonement. If I perform a sinful act, then I go to the church and confess to the priest that I committed this act--"I stole some money," or "I committed adultery"--or whatever the in may be. The priest then gives some atonement--"All right, chant the rosary one hundred times, go to mass seven days in a row and make some contribution to the poor." Atonement is meant to neutralise the reaction of the sinful act.

However, because atonement does not uproot the desire for sinful activity, it is not effective; its effect is only temporary. Atonement is compared to the bathing of an elephant, who immediately after finishing his bath takes a trunkful of dust and sprays it all over his body. Such bathing is useless.

The Sankirtan movement, or the chanting of the holy name, has nothing to do with such atonement; rather, it destroys the desire to engage in sinful activities. One should not commit sinful activities on the strength of chanting, thinking, "I'll chant, and then everything will be all right." This is an offensive attitude towards chanting. We should aspire to chant offencelessly. Offenceless chanting means to avoid sinful activities such as meat eating, intoxication, illicit sex and gambling. These activities do not make us happy, but entangle us more and more in the material world.

To stumble and fall on the path of spiritual liberation is not unusual. The example is given that sometimes when one steps out of the river and puts his foot on the muddy bank in order to come out, he may slip and fall back into the river. Still, he has to put his foot there again in order to get out. Eventually, through this process, the man will leave the river. Similarly, while chanting, one may fall down or do something sinful, but one should continue chanting. In time, he will automatically give up sinful activities, because he will develop a higher taste.

8,400,000 Species
We should always remember that our real position is fallen. All of us are in this material world, because we have committed sinful activities not only in this life, but in many previous lives, hundreds and thousands of lifetimes. Vedic literature says:

After wandering throughout the universe in 8,400,000 species of life, up and down again and again, if a conditioned soul is fortunate, he comes in touch with Krishna's representative, the guru, who gives him the bhakti-lata-bija (seed of devotional service), the Hare Krishna mantra.--Chaitanya-charitamrita, Madhya-lila 19.51

Taking a humble position, let us chant sincerely and without offence. In this consciousness, we can attain perfection.

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Hansadutta das
Rittvik Representative of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

©2004 - Hansadutta das
Chaitanya MahaprabhuChaitanya Mahaprabhu

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