What is the meaning of nama-abhasa chanting of Krishna’s Holy Name? Is nama-abhasa a stage of japa in sadhana bhakti? Are devotees chanting nama-abhasa?
This subject is not very clearly understood by many devotees. First of all, the term nama-abhasa describes the type of Krishna nama chanting DONE BY NONDEVOTEES and it applies only to them.
The term nama-abhasa means unintentional, by chance, accidental chanting done once or more in a person’s entire life, as seen in Ajamila. Does any devotee pick up his japa mala in the morning and chant 16 rounds accidentally, by chance?
For every devotee chanting Krishna’s name is an intentional, regulated daily sadhana practice performed as a means to attain spiritual perfection. In no way is it unintentional, accidental or by chance! In other words, no one sits down and deliberately chants the Hare Krishna maha-mantra by accident.
In fact, there is no shastra that says nama-abhasa is a stage of sadhana in chanting Hare Krishna. According to the absolute authority of shastra, nama-abhasa always refers to unintentional, accidental chanting as done by nondevotees.
To further understand the subject of nama-abhasa I researched the shastra. Other than the Bhagavatam and Chaitanya-caritamrta, the subject of nama abhasa is not mentioned in any Gaudiya Vaisnavas shastra. And for all Gaudiya Vaisnavas, these two sacred books are the topmost praman (proof) and final authority.
In the Ajamila story, nama-abhasa is described in SB 6.2.14:
säìketyaà pärihäsyaà vä stobhaà helanam eva vä
vaikuëöha-näma-grahaëam açeñägha-haraà viduù
“Chanting the name of the Lord while indicating someone else; or while joking in a friendly manner; or chanting the Lord’s name in order to fill up space while chanting verses; or chanting with neglect destroys unlimited sins and desires.” [these are the four types of nama-abhasa] Obviously, nama-abhasa and its stages does NOT apply to a devotee chanter.
Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti’s tika:
- Saìketyam means chanting while referring to someone/thing else but Krishna.
- Pärihäsyam means calling jokingly, but with affection, not with criticism. “O famous one! Your fame is like that of Krishna, so you can save me!”
- Stobham means to chant the name in order to provide proper meter during a discourse or song. Chanting name of Hari or Krishna to conclude a song.” See Note below:
- Helanam means chanting Krishna’s name with disregard and inattention. Also includes casual chanting of Krishna’s name while eating, playing or sleeping. Helanam chanting is also done without any criticism or disrespect.
NOTE: In their tikas to Srimad Bhagavatam 6.2.14 (The Ajamila Story), Sridhara Swami, Sri Sanatana Goswami, Sri Jiva Goswami and Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti all say the word STOBHA (a type of accidental, non-devotee chanting) means gitalapa puranartham krtam, as in completing a song.
For example, someone may conclude a mundane love song by saying, “I love you soooo much, Hari Hari, Hari”. These acharyas further say that derisive, contemptuous and hostile chanting, as in the case of Jarasandha’s 99 rebukes of Sri Krishna, CANNOT be called nama-abhasa.
Comment: The whole Ajamila story shows the phenomenal power of Sri Krishna’s transcendental name. Ajamila was a terrible sinner, a NONDEVOTEE, and somehow he ACCIDENTALLY CHANTED “Narayana” and became delivered. This is a clear example of nama-abhasa and the supreme power and mercy of Harinama.
The subject of nama-abhasa also appears in the Chaitanya-caritamrta (3.3.55-187), wherein Namacharya Sri Haridasa Thakura describes nama-abhasa as unintentional, accidental chanting. He cites the nondevotee Ajamila and a poor fellow being attacked by a wild boar as examples of nama-abhasa chanters.
Neither one of them was chanting Hare Krishna as a daily sadhana. Their chanting was purely unintentional, accidental. This is nama-abhasa! His discussion proves the great power of hari nama that even a nondevotee who contacts a mere glimpse of nama gets liberation, what to speak about devotee chanters.
In his entire delivery on nama-tattva, other than describing the nama-abhasa chanting of nondevotees, Sri Haridasa Thakura speaks only one verse (Cc. 3.3.185) about the chanting of devotees done as a daily sadhana:
aiche nämodayärambhe päpa-ädira kñaya
udaya kaile kåñëa-pade haya premodaya
“The first result of offenseless (shuddha-nama) chanting is that one’s sins are eradicated. As one continues chanting shuddha nama, one eventually attains Krishna prema.”
Comment: Here Sri Haridasa Thakura introduces shuddha nama, the stage after the offensive stage. This verse describes shuddha nama, which means chanting Krishna’s name without offenses. For devotees there are only TWO STAGES IN CHANTING: with offenses or without offenses, aka aparadha-nama and shuddha-nama.
In his comment on Srimad Bhagavatam 6.2.14, Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti says for a devotee there are only two stages in chanting Krishna nama: offensive and offenseless i.e. aparadha-nama and shuddha nama.
When a devotee BEGINS to chant shuddha nama, it brings the result of destroying all sins. As one continues to chant SHUDDHA NAMA, one will progress through the stages of nistha, ruci, bhava and on to Krishna prema which will appear in his heart as the culmination of shuddha nama chanting.
May all devotees avoid the ten offenses to Sri Harinama, chant shuddha-nama, and quickly progress to the nectar sweet ocean of Krishna prema!
Namacharya Sri Haridasa Thakura ki jai!
Jai Jai Sri Radhe!