Mahanidhi Madan Gopal Das

As Saktas (Durga worshipers) chant japa on rosewood beads and Saivites (Siva worshipers) chant on rudraksa beads, Gaudiya Vaisnavas chant japa on tulasi beads. Since Tulasi-devi is Kṛṣṇa’s favorite plant, the Lord shows special favor to anyone who wears, holds or worships Tulasi-devi.

In the Hari-bhakti-sudhodaya the messengers of Yamarāja tell a Vaiṣṇava brāhmaṇa: “We did not understand. Lord Hari loves Tulasī-devī. When a person carries Tulasī in his hand, Lord Hari follows him and gives him all protection.”

An excerpt from the book Art of Chanting

Mahanidhi Madan Gopal Das

In his masterpiece of devotional poetry known as Saranagati, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura describes his encounter with sri-nama. In the passage below, he explains how the holy name gradually reveals its transcendental splendor before the sincere sādhaka who chants with faith and surrender. May the devoted readers marvel at the Thakura’s words, and pray to sri-nama to touch their hearts in the same wonderful way.

“My heart is just like a desert, hot with the rays of the sun. This is my internal mental condition. The desire for temporary, material things cannot satisfy me because by nature they are death-producing. And not one or two, but thousands of such death-producing desires have taken shelter in my mind. So, my subconscious region is always burning. This is my condition. But somehow, by the grace of the sādhu and guru, the holy name of Kṛṣṇa with its infinite prospects has entered through the holes of my ears and reached the plane of my heart. And there, with some peculiar hope, with infinite, auspicious possibilities, it touched my heart with a new kind of nectar.

“New hope is aroused by that sound. Then by force it comes from the heart towards the tongue. Not that by the endeavor of my tongue I am producing that sound—no. What came from the heart of a saint through my ear, entered my heart, and that forcibly appeared on my tongue, and began to dance.

“That is the holy name proper. It descends from above. It cannot be produced by the material tongue. Its source is above. And through an agent of the Absolute it comes through the ear to the heart. From the heart it gathers some sympathy, then the holy name of Kṛṣṇa forcibly appears upon the tongue and begins to dance. With great force that sweet sound comes to the tip of the tongue and begins dancing.

“The real effects of the divine name have been described here. If it is a real and living name the voice will be choked up. There will be shivering in the body, the legs will be unable to stand, and sometimes tears will flow in a current on the body. One’s hair will stand on end, and sometimes the body will change color. The material mind and consciousness will fade away, and we may fall in a swoon. The whole body and mind will appear as if it is being attacked, shivering, and influenced in different ways.

“Apparently it may seem that so many troubles are created in the body and mind, but the real heart is overflowing with a particular kind of strange, sweet juice. Sometimes a devotee thinks, ‘I am swimming in an ocean of nectar. My whole existence is submerged in an ocean of nectarean rasa. I am beside myself and cannot understand where I am. What is this? What is surrounding me? Am I going mad? Where is my past experience, my seriousness, my gravity…where are they?’

“I have been completely converted by a foreign element. I am a doll in the hands of a great force that is so affectionate to me. I cannot ascertain how it is possible that by my faith I have entered this great, unknown environment. And at last I find that I am captivated. My entire being, within and without, has been captured and controlled by an especially sweet force. It is beyond description. I came to take shelter of Him and accept Him as my guardian. But now at His hands, I am being dealt with in such a merciless and oppressive way.

“Still, I feel everything is very pleasing beyond my experience. I cannot resist anymore. I am fully captured. So let my faith go anywhere because I cannot escape. I am captive in the hand of a sweet loving friend. All my independence is gone, and I have no other choice but surrender.

“I find that He is an autocrat. He does whatever He wants. Since it is not possible for me to resist, I must surrender. Now I will cooperate and do whatever He wants. Meanwhile, I find that the holy name is like a blossoming flower emanating wonderfully sweet streams. The holy name contains so many sweet variegated forms of current within Him. In different ways He is wonderfully expressing Himself. Sometimes He shows a peculiar type of color and form, and then disappears.

“So many charming aspects are revealed within, as He forces me to surrender at the base of that altar. He shows Himself in His full-fledged form as He leads me to Vṛndāvana to witness His vraja-līlā with Rādhā. I find myself in the midst of His uniquely sweet and loving abode. He says, ‘You see! I have so many wonderful things and this is your home. I am not imagination but concrete reality. You will find that this environment is very sweet and favorable, and you should live here.’

“I see that He is exchanging a variety of loving rasas with His many devotees. And I find that a spiritual body had emerged from my previous one, and that I have a permanent place here in His service. Such a new life I find here that all considerations of my past life and experience have vanished. What He said is true; my real life is here, and my previous material life was a waste.

“Now I find that chanting the holy name gives me a new hope, a new prospect, and new encouragement. The name supplies whatever we want. All our internal hankerings will be fulfilled if we chant the name. The holy name is eternal, full of ecstasy, and it is the purest of the pure.

“I find I have been completely converted, and now my innermost hankering is this: Let whatever is against this sweet name vanish forever from the world. Everyone should come here. I am ready to sacrifice my life to finish any opposition, so that everyone can easily, peacefully, and fearlessly enjoy this absolute, sweet and blissful life.” (Śaraṇāgati)

An excerpt from the book Art of Chanting.

Mahanidhi Madan Gopal Das

The following anecdote shows the inconceivable power of suddha-nama chanted by a pure devotee of Kṛṣṇa: “Once a devotee went to do his chanting where Gaura Kisora dasa Babaji did his in the outhouse of the Rani’s dharmasala. He perceived that the bricks and stones were singing Kṛṣṇa’s name. Seeing that by the power of Babaji’s chanting the name of Kṛṣṇa, consciousness (caitanya) had been infused even into unconscious objects, he left in amazement.” (Prabhupada Sarasvati Thakura p. 52)

An excerpt from the book Art of Chanting.

Mahanidhi Madan Gopal Das

“On the day that the jīva accepts śuddha-nāma, one name that he chants certainly destroys the sum total of all his prārabdha and aprārabdha-karma, and through the second name, prema will arise. Those who chant suddha-nama have no desire to perform even pious activities, and what to speak of their maintaining any sinful mentality. A person who has taken shelter of suddha-nama will never commit a sin.” (Jaiva Dharma ch.24)

An excerpt from the book Art of Chanting.

Mahanidhi Madan Gopal Das

Pure name (suddha-nama) is the result of a state of consciousness, which is completely devoid of other desires (anyabhilasita sunyam). The name of Kṛṣṇa that is chanted with wholehearted devotion and unalloyed love is the true name of Kṛṣṇa. Anything else is but a semblance of the name (namabhasa) or the utterance with offense (nama-aparadha).

The internal competence (adhikara) of the person chanting the holy name is the main factor. Only a surrendered soul saturated with devotion can utter the actual holy name. Similarly, to what degree a hearer can perceive the actual name is dependent on the depth of his devotion. The appearance of the holy name in this world is a matter of divine descent and internal personal perspective.

Chanting the pure name is never a mechanical act that a skillful speaker with correct intonation can evoke. The ability to chant suddha-nama is an act of divine grace bestowed upon those devotees who have saturated their minds and hearts with devotion. Whether or not there is a manifestation of the divine through matter is dependent on the spiritual strength of the person chanting the holy name. This principle of spiritual competency is an important feature of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s teachings.

When one is free from anarthas and aparadhas, suddha-nama, which is Kṛṣṇa Himself, descends into one’s heart from Vraja Gokula. Suddha-nama appears with the descent of suddha-sattva, which is the personal divine potency (svarupa-sakti) of Sri Kṛṣṇa that also resides in the hearts of Kṛṣṇa’s eternal associates. Suddha-sattva or svarupa-sakti is a combination of two other spiritual energies called samvit-sakti (divine wisdom) and hladini-sakti (divine love and bliss). Generally the svarupa-sakti passes from the heart of one or more of Kṛṣṇa’s eternal associates into the heart of a sadhaka.

At the stage of suddha-nama one no longer commits any aparadha. The holy name is chanted only for kṛṣṇa-prema. There is no other desire in the heart except acting for the pleasure of Kṛṣṇa. Suddha-nama is the pefectional stage of chanting where a devotee sees Kṛṣṇa personally dancing on his tongue. By such pure chanting one realizes his spiritual form and attains the goal of kṛṣṇa-prema. Acaryas confirm that when suddha-nama appears, the Divine Couple dance together on the “rasa-mandala” tongue of the pure devotee.

“The holy name of the Lord and the Lord are nondifferent; therefore when a devotee chants Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa and His internal potency (Radharani) are dancing on the tongue of the devotee.” (Bg 12.8 p.)

“As soon as we get advanced in the chanting of Hare Kṛṣṇa Hare Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa Hare Hare, then we shall gradually realize that actually God is with us. God is dancing on my tongue in the form of sound. You see?” (SPT 25/5/66)

Unfortunately the name that is generally chanted is something less than suddha-nama known as a semblance of the name (namabhasa) or the name chanted with offense (nama-aparadha).

An excerpt from the book Art of Chanting.

Mahanidhi Madan Gopal Das

Although it is not the perfect stage of chanting, namabhasa should not be underestimated, for it offers many benefits. Kṛṣṇa-prema, however, which is the greatest reward of chanting the holy name, can never be attained by namabhasa; only suddha-nama will give this perfection. Nevertheless, one who chants without offenses achieves more fortune than all the results attainable from religiosity, vows, yoga and sacrifices. The positive results of offenseless chanting (namabhasa) are mentioned in Harinama-cintamani:

1. Annihilation of sinful reactions.

2. Liberation from the effects of Kali-yuga and material consciousness.

3. Freedom from fear and worries; experience inner peace and contentment.

4. Protection from influence of ghosts, demons, evil spirits and malefic planets.

5. Attainment of the four goals of life (dharma, artha, kama, moksa).

6. Boundless spiritual bliss.

7. Eternal residence in Vaikuntha is offered to the offenseless chanter.

An excerpt from the book Art of Chanting.

Mahanidhi Madan Gopal Das

1. Sāṅketya-nāmābhāsa–is uttering the Lord’s name to allude to something else. For instance, Ajāmila called his son Nārāyaṇa at the time of his death, but Bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s name is also Nārāyaṇa, so Ajāmila’s uttering “Nārāyaṇa” was an instance of sāṅketya-nāmābhāsa. When Muslims see a pig, they show hatred and exclaim, “Hārāma! Hārāma!” The exclamation ‘hārāma’ contains the two words ‘hā’ and ‘rāma’, so the person uttering the word ‘hārāma’ also obtains deliverance from the cycle of birth and death as a result of taking that sāṅketya-nāma.

2. Parihasa–means chanting jokingly. The sastras proclaim that those who utter Kṛṣṇa’s name jokingly obtain liberation. This includes those who desire liberation, those proud of their learning, mlecchas devoid of tattva-jnana, and demons opposed to the ultimate goal.

3. Stobha-nāmābhāsa–means chanting the holy name antagonistically to hinder or mock others in their chanting of Kṛṣṇa’s name. For example, while a pure bhakta is chanting hari-nāma, an observer may see him, and make faces, saying, “Your ‘Hari-Kest’ will do everything!” This is an example of stobha, and that stobha-nāma can award liberation to that offender. The names have such natural power.

4. Helā-nāmābhāsa–means to utter the holy name disrespectfully. It is said in the Skanda Purana that taking the holy name neglectfully also results in liberation from this material world:

madhura-madhuram etan maṅgalaṁ maṅgalānāṁ
sakala-nigama-vallī sat-phalaṁ cit-svarūpam
sakṛd api parigītaṁ śraddhayā helayā vā
bhṛguvara nara-mātraṁ tārayet kṛṣṇa-nāma

Kṛṣṇa-nāma is sweeter than the sweetest, and the most auspicious of all auspicious things. Kṛṣṇa-nama is the tasty fruit of the flourishing sruti desire-creeper, and the embodiment of knowledge. O best of the Bhṛgu dynasty! Anyone who even once chants either with respect or disrespect (hela) is immediately delivered from the ocean of birth and death. (Skanda P. Prābhāsa-khaṇda)

An excerpt from the book Art of Chanting.

Mahanidhi Madan Gopal Das

Sri Caitanya compares bhakti to a creeper growing in a garden. Ideally, chanting Kṛṣṇa’s names should “water” this bhakti-lata (creeper of devotion), and make it grow to the mature stage of producing the “fruits” of kṛṣṇa-prema. Chanting the all-potent holy names of the Supreme Personality of Godhead always produces results. However, if chanting is done improperly, the results may be disastrous, and even destroy one’s chances of attaining kṛṣṇa-prema.

If one is careless in chanting and watering his bhakti creeper, some water may fall to the wayside and nourish unwanted “weeds”. These weeds (different types of anarthas) may shoot up very quickly and choke out the tiny creeper of devotion. Such improper chanting, which is called bhukti-nama or mukti-nama, waters the weeds of sense enjoyment and the desire for liberation. Thus one fails to attain the goal of suddha or prema-nama. Kṛṣṇa dasa Kaviraja describes this in Caitanya-caritamrta:

kintu yadi latāra saṅge uṭhe ‘upaśākhā’
bhukti-mukti-vāñchā, yata asaṅkhya tāra lekhā
‘niṣiddhācāra’, ‘kuṭīnāṭī’, ‘jīva-hiṁsana’
‘lābha’, ‘pūjā’, ‘pratiṣṭhādi’ yata upaśākhā-gaṇa

Lord Caitanya said, ‘Sometimes unwanted creepers, such as the creepers of desires for material enjoyment (bhukti) and liberation (mukti) from the material world, grow along with the creeper of devotional service (bhakti-lata). The varieties of such unwanted creepers are unlimited.’

‘Some unnecessary creepers growing with the bhakti creeper are the creepers of behavior unacceptable for those trying to attain perfection (niṣiddhācāra), diplomatic behavior (kuṭīnāṭī), animal killing (jīva-hiṁsana), mundane profiteering (lābha), mundane adoration (pūjā) and mundane importance (pratiṣṭhādi). All these are unwanted creepers.’ (Chaitanya Caritamrita, Madhya 19.158-9)

“These unwanted creepers present obstacles for the real creeper, the bhakti-latā. One should be very careful to avoid all these unwanted things. Sometimes these unwanted creepers look exactly like the bhakti creeper. They appear to be of the same size and the same species when they are packed together with the bhakti creeper, but in spite of this, the creepers are called upaśākhā. A pure devotee can distinguish between the bhakti creeper and a mundane creeper, and he is very alert to distinguish them and keep them separate.” (Chaitanya Caritamrita, Madhya 19.159 p.)

Do not succumb to the tendency to chant bhukti-nama, which is chanting with a heart full of material desires; or mukti-nama, which is chanting with desires for liberation. One must not allow his garden of devotion to become infested with weeds. Become an expert gardener, trained in identifying and immediately uprooting any weeds that may appear in the garden of the heart. Always maintain a pure motivation free from desires. Keep the goal of Radha-Govinda’s prema-seva in the kunjas of Vrndavana first and foremost in the mind.

The following six anarthas are the most dangerous weeds in the garden of bhakti. Uproot immediately! Do not let even the slightest sprout grow anywhere near the tender creeper of devotion.

1. Niṣiddhācāra: Forbidden actions, which are against sastra. (e.g. illicit sex, meat-eating, intoxication, gambling)

2. Kuṭīnāṭī: Fault finding, duplicity and diplomacy.

3. Jīva-hiṁsa: Killing animals or any living entity, and envy of others.

4. Lābha: Greed for material gain.

5. Pūjā: Desire for worship, popularity, admiration, and honor from others.

6. Pratiṣṭhā: Desire for name, fame and high position.

An excerpt from the book Art of Chanting.

Mahanidhi Madan Gopal Das

It is an offense to individually instruct a faithless person, or one who is not interested in hearing the glories of nama. Such a person will respond in a disrespectful way and commit unlimited offenses to the holy name. Without sufficient faith one cannot acquire a taste for chanting.

There is no injunction against loud public sankirtana, however, which gradually creates belief in the faithless. The general public must be made to give up their sinful ways and adopt firm faith. Sraddha or faith means to have complete conviction that chanting Sri Kṛṣṇa’s name will automatically fulfill all duties and complete all pious acts. One who has developed firm faith in the glories and potency of nama will voluntarily approach a bona fide spiritual master for initiation.

Ninth Offense: Rectification

This offense can be nullified by taking shelter of sri-nama and chanting with heartfelt repentance.

An excerpt from the book Art of Chanting.

Mahanidhi Madan Gopal Das

It is wrong to think that the unparalleled results of chanting harinama are exaggerations given to induce people to take up chanting. The holy name is completely independent and self-manifest. He does not depend on anything to manifest His splendor, so there is no question of any exaggeration in regards to His glories. The tiny human brain cannot even ascertain the actions of material mantras, herbs and healing stones, so how can it possibly perceive the inconceivable power of transcendental sound vibration.

Therefore, one should not doubt or disbelieve the glories of harinama. Sooner or later the faithful devotee will personally experience the marvelous results of chanting Kṛṣṇa’s name. The results are like seeds that fructify in due course of time. Success in chanting depends on two factors: 1) The mercy of Kṛṣṇa. 2) A sincere endeavor to avoid aparadha.

Fifth Offense: Rectification

One who is guilty of minimizing the glories of the holy name should humbly approach learned Vaisnavas, and attentively hear about Sri Kṛṣṇa’s qualities and pastimes. Full of regret, one should admit his offense, and remove his doubts by receiving proper knowledge regarding nama-tattva. The gentle devotees will then forgive the offender with compassionate embraces, and bless him with spiritual strength.

An excerpt from the book Art of Chanting.