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Mahanidhi Madan Gopal Das

Harināma-cintāmaṇi explains two categories of holy names: mukhya nāma (primary) and gauṇa nāma (secondary). “The holy names of the Lord that describe His transcendental pastimes are defined as principal names. Chanting these names reveals Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes, gives Kṛṣṇa-prema, and eternal residence in Vṛndāvana. Primary or principal names include Govinda, Gopāla, Rāma, Śrī Nandanandana, Rādhā-nātha, Hari, Yaśomatī Prāṇādhana, Madana-Mohana, Śyāmasundara, Mādhava, Gopīnātha, Vrajagopāla.” (Harinama-Cintamani)

“Primary names are fully transcendental, identical with the svarūpa of the Lord, and remain eternally in the spiritual world. The Lord’s names descend to the material world to destroy the influence of māyā. Secondary names, however, have been introduced from the creation of the material universe. Names such as Śrīsti-karta (creator of the universe), Jagat-pati (controller of the universe) and Paramātmā describe God from the perspective of the conditioned souls and how He relates to them.” (Nama-bhajana)

“Secondary names describe the Lord’s functions and affiliation with His material energy (e.g. Brahman, Paramātmā, Īśvara, Jagannātha, or as the Christians say, creator, maintainer and annihilator.) Such names of the Lord are invoked by karmis and jñānis, not bhaktas. Chanting secondary names of the Lord gives piety, material elevation and salvation. However, kṛṣṇa-prema, the most perfect result of chanting the holy name of the Lord, is attained only by purely chanting Kṛṣṇa’s principal names. This is because the secondary names, although also impregnated with the Lord’s pastime potencies, have it in partial degrees only.” (Harinama-Cintamani)

Why doesn’t chanting of secondary names give prema? Secondary names are distant, incomplete and somewhat impersonal. Hence, they are devoid of the personal expression of Kṛṣṇa’s mercy and love. There is no expression of prema in gauṇa nāma because they have no līlā or pastimes within them.

When one chants mukhya nāma like Govinda or Gopīnātha, and remembers Kṛṣṇa’s loving pastimes with the gopīs, prema will flow into his heart from the prema-sāgara (ocean of divine love) within these names. These names are directly Sri Kṛṣṇa Himself, and as such are endowed with all the potencies found within the Lord’s personal form. Make an experiment comparing mukhya nāma with gauṇa nāma:

If you chant “Paramātmā! Paramātmā! Paramātmā!” nothing will come but thirst and fatigue. But if you chant “Rādhe Rādhe Govinda, Govinda Rādhe! Rādhe Rādhe Govinda, Govinda Rādhe!” you will soon become intoxicated with ambrosial nectar, and completely forget your bodily identity. As Srila Prabhupada once said, “By chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa you will feel invigorated, fresh and enlivened.” Under the powerful influence of the prema-filled primary names of Kṛṣṇa, you may someday pass the entire night crying, laughing, singing, dancing or rolling on the ground like a madman.

Śrīla Prabhupāda confirms this point, “This chanting of Hare Kṛṣṇa. You chant whole day and night, and dance, you’ll never get tired. But take another name. Just after half an hour, finished. It is botheration.” (SPT 2/17/69)

“In the Padyāvalī, there is a statement by some devotees: ‘We shall not care for any outsiders. If they should deride us, we shall still not care for them. We shall simply enjoy the transcendental mellow of chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa, and thus we shall roll on the ground and dance ecstatically. In this way we shall eternally enjoy transcendental bliss.’ ” (Nectar of Devotion)

Five hundred years ago, one spy reported to the Muslim Governor, “All these devotees of Lord Caitanya become like madmen. They simply dance and chant the holy name of Kṛṣṇa. Sometimes they even cry and roll on the ground.” (Cc. Madhya 16.166)

Besides mukhya and gauna-nama, there is another form of nama known as madhurya-nama, which Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura describes in the following passage:

“The maha-mantra contains the topmost sweet names of the Lord. Provocation for all the rasas mixed with intimate attachment is found in the Hare Kṛṣṇa maha-mantra. There is no mention of the Lord’s prowess (aisvarya) or giving liberation (mukti). This mantra reveals only that a soul has an individual attraction for the Supersoul by the thread of love. These names (Hare, Kṛṣṇa, Rama) are the mantra for those on the path of madhurya-rasa. Constantly chanting and meditating on these names is the best form of worshiping the Supreme Lord.” (Kṛṣṇa-samhita).

An excerpt from the book Art of Chanting.

Mahanidhi Madan Gopal Das

Five hundred years ago in Jagannatha Puri, Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya asked Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu which item is the most important form of devotional service.

bhakti-sādhana-śreṣṭha śunite haila mana
prabhu upadeśa kaila nāma-saṅkīrtana
harer nāma harer nāma, harer nāmaiva kevalam
kalau nāsty eva nāsty eva, nāsty eva gatir anyathā

Sarvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya asked Caitanya Mahāprabhu, ‘Which item is most important in the execution of devotional service?’ Mahaprabhu replied that the most important item was the chanting of the holy name of the Lord. Then Mahaprabhu quoted a verse from Bṛhan-nāradīya Purāṇa:

‘In this age of quarrel and hypocrisy, the only means of deliverance is the chanting of the holy names of the Lord. There is no other way. There is no other way. There is no other way.’ (Caitanya Caritamrita,  Madhya 6.241-2)

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu always emphasized the supremacy of nama-bhajana in His preaching. In Jagannatha Puri, Mahaprabhu also instructed Sanatana Gosvami on this point:

bhajanera madhye śreṣṭha nava-vidhā bhakti
‘kṛṣṇa-prema’, ‘kṛṣṇa’ dite dhare mahā-śakti
tāra madhye sarva-śreṣṭha nāma-saṅkīrtana
niraparādhe nāma laile pāya prema-dhana

Of all the different spiritual practices, the nine forms of bhakti (sravanam, kirtanam, etc) are the best because they have great potency to deliver Kṛṣṇa and ecstatic love for Him. Of these nine practices, nama-sankirtana is the best. By chanting the holy name without offense, one very easily obtains the priceless treasure of kṛṣṇa-prema. (Caitanya Caritamrita, Antya 4.70-1)

“The Caitanya-caritāmṛta states that of the nine ways of devotional service to obtain love of God, the foremost is nāma-saṅkīrtana. One who chants nāma without offenses surely achieves love of God. Bhakti-sandarbha says no form of bhakti (i.e. mathurā-vāsa, sādhu-saṅga, srī-murti sevā, and bhāgavata-sravana) is complete without Śrī Kṛṣṇa nāma-saṅkīrtana. The Hari-bhakti-sudhodaya says that saṅkīrtana is the best and foremost of all spiritual practices for attaining Kṛṣṇa’s mercy. If the other practices of bhakti are helpful to it, they should then be accepted.” (Sri Caitanya’s Teachings)

“Sri-nama bhajana is more powerful than all other forms of bhajana (nava-vidha-bhakti). There is no difference between nama (the holy name) and nami (Bhagavan, who possesses the name.) If you chant nama without offense, you will very quickly attain all perfection. All nine forms of bhajana are automatically carried out by performing nama-bhajana. When one utters sri-nama, he is engaged in hearing and chanting (sravanam, kirtanam). As one continues to chant, one also remembers the pastimes of Kṛṣṇa, and within the mind one serves Kṛṣṇa’s lotus feet (pada-sevanam), worships Him (arcanam), offers prayers (vandanam), serves Kṛṣṇa in the mood of a servant (dasyam) or friend (sakhyam), and offers one’s very self to Kṛṣṇa (atma-nivedanam).” (Jaiva Dharma ch. 4)

Upon completing the description of the sixty-four limbs of devotional service, Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī mentions five of them as the most important items. Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura clearly shows how each one of these five most potent devotional processes points to the chanting of the holy name.

Sarasvatī Ṭhākura once explained that after careful consideration of the five limbs of bhakti, the best practice is srī-nāma bhajana. The next entry shows how chanting Kṛṣṇa’s holy names is the root of all nine forms of devotion and is glorified above all.

(1) Sādhu-saṅga­­­­­­­­­­­­­–associating with devotees is recommended to create a taste or inclination for srī-nāma bhajana. This comes from associating with holy saints who are attached to chanting Kṛṣṇa’s holy names with firm faith and who systematically chant the names.

(2) Bhāgavata-śravaṅa–hearing Śrīmad Bhāgavatam which itself declares sri-nāma bhajana to be the highest virtue. In its beginning, middle (sixth canto, Ājamila story), and end, the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam repeatedly stresses the efficacy of sri-nāma bhajana.

(3) Mathurā-vāsa–sri-nāma bhajana is situated at the root of residence in Vṛndāvana or Śrīdhāma Māyāpur. The sādhus living in or visiting these holy places are always engaged in nāma-saṅkīrtana.

(4) Śrī-murti-sevā–the service of Kṛṣṇa’s Deity is always conducted with mantras full of God’s names. The Hari-bhakti-vilāsa and Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī say that Deity service must be accompanied with chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra for it to be accepted.

(5) Nāma-saṅkīrtana–is directly chanting the holy names.

“Of all means of bhajana (devotional service), the name of Kṛṣṇa is most purely spiritual. In describing the absolute duties, Hari-bhakti-vilāsa states that singing and meditating on Śrī Nāma (Kṛṣṇa’s holy names) is the best devotional activity.

“The most advanced devotees who have fully dedicated themselves to Śrī Kṛṣṇa take exclusive refuge in kṛṣṇa-nāma amongst all other practices of devotion. There is no other performance so pure and spiritual as singing the name of Kṛṣṇa.” (Nama-bhajana)

According to Sri Jiva Gosvami, chanting the holy name is not only the greatest form of sadhana, but it must accompany every other form of devotional service: “Chanting the holy name of Kṛṣṇa is the chief means of attaining love of God. This chanting does not depend on any paraphernalia, nor birth in a good family. All the Vedas proclaim that by humility and meekness one attracts the attention of Kṛṣṇa. Therefore, chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa is the greatest sadhana (mahā-sādhanānam), and the fulfillment of all sacrifice, penance and austerities. Simply by chanting one achieves ecstatic love of God and complete perfection in life. Therefore, whatever one does in executing devotional service must be accompanied with the chanting of the holy name.” (Bhakti-sandarbha 270)

An excerpt from the book Art of Chanting

Mahanidhi Madan Gopal Das

In the material world, both neophyte sadhakas and realized suddha-bhaktas chant the holy name. Dutiful beginners chant Hare Kṛṣṇa as a sadhana for purification, whereas adepts relish the sweetest nectar in the holy name. Chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa maha-mantra is the eternal activity of every soul. Therefore, it is good to cultivate attachment and affection for one’s eternal companion–Kṛṣṇa’s holy names.

Harinama sankirtana goes on in the spiritual world as well among Kṛṣṇa’s eternal associates. The scriptures narrate many pastimes of Kṛṣṇa and His devotees chanting the holy names.

“Kṛṣṇa said to Uddhava, ‘Mother Yasoda is always singing My names in a deep mood of separation. As she takes long slow breaths, the sound “Ha Kṛṣṇa! Ha Kṛṣṇa!” comes from her throat. Profuse perspiration soaks her weary body, and tears gush from her eyes, soaking her clothes, as she stares intently at the road to Mathura waiting for My return.’ ” (Uddhava-sandesh)

“A sakhi tells Kṛṣṇa, ‘O Kṛṣṇa! When You are out tending the cows in the pasture, Radharani spends Her day, longing to see You again. Fixing Her eyes on the path where You will return with the cows, She engages Her tongue in repeating the two syllables kṛṣ and ṇa. Radhika’s ears yearn to hear the sound of Your flute, and Her heart is fixed in the happiness of thinking of You.’ ” (Ujjvala-nilamani ch.15)

“Kṛṣṇa said, ‘Hey Kundavalli! When I accidentally said the word “Radha”, Candravali became tortured with pain, as if violently wounded at heart. However, in order to pacify My embarrassment and bewilderment, she doubled the smile on her lotus face and spoke words filled with sweetness.’ ” (Ujjvala-nilamani ch.14)

“Vrnda-devi said to Paurnamasi, ‘Radharani gave a farewell embrace to the budding jasmine creeper She had planted on the Yamuna’s shore. She placed the farewell gift of Her very beautiful diamond necklace in Lalita’s hand. Radhika then entered a kadamba grove filled with buzzing sounds of bees and fainted. But She was reawakened by Her priya-sakhis chanting the name of Hari.’ ” (Ujjvala-nilamani ch.15)

“The wonderful sacred mantra Kṛṣṇa chants is the name of His dearmost Radharani. Srimati Radharani’s maha-mantra is the name of Lord Kṛṣṇa.” (Radha-Kṛṣṇa Ganoddesa-dipika)

An excerpt from the book Art of Chanting

Mahanidhi Madan Gopal Das

kṛṣṇa-mantra haite habe saṁsāra-mocana,
kṛṣṇa-nāma haite pābe kṛṣṇera caraṇa

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu said, “The kṛṣṇa mantra (gopala mantra) gives one freedom from material existence. And kṛṣṇa nama (the Hare Kṛṣṇa maha-mantra) delivers one to the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa.” (Caitanya Caritamrita Ādi 7.73)

In this verse, Lord Caitanya describes the effects of chanting the eighteen-syllable gopala mantra and the Hare Kṛṣṇa maha-mantra. Of the two mantras, Sri Jiva Gosvami emphasizes chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa maha-mantra in Bhakti Sandarbha 284: “Mantras are actually composed of the names of the Supreme Lord. Mantras are distinct from the name because they include the word “namah” [or svaha], and have special powers that are given by the rsis or the Lord Himself. The holy names of the Lord, however, in themselves, being independent, can bestow the higest goal of life, Kṛṣṇa-prema. Thus the names of Kṛṣṇa are more suitable than mantras.”

In Kṛṣṇa Samhita, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura describes the various mantras given to liberate one in the different yugas. In Satya, Treta and Dvapara yugas these mantras, called tāraka-brahma-nāma, addressed the Supreme Lord with feelings of awe and reverence invoking His divine power, majesty and protection (aisvarya-bhava). The tāraka-brahma-nāma for Kali-yuga is the Hare Kṛṣṇa maha-mantra, a selfless call for loving service.

In the Gaudiya conception, samsara-mocana, or liberation means to realize one’s svarupa. At this stage, the Brahma Gayatri and the gopala mantra retire, but chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa continues to deliver one to the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa (kṛṣṇa-carana), in the spiritual world. This is the final stage of spiritual evolution wherein one attains his vastu siddhi, (pure spiritual form), and engages in Kṛṣṇa’s eternal service.

Whether one is in Kṛṣṇaloka or the material world, chanting Kṛṣṇa’s holy name is the eternal function of the soul. In the material world, chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa is the primary activity for purification and spiritual elevation. Everything else is auxiliary or supportive of the main service of chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa. Upon entering the spiritual world, however, chanting the holy name will be in the background, helping and energizing. Serving Radha-Govinda will be in the foreground, distinct and most important. For example, when the gopīs churn fresh yogurt for Kṛṣṇa’s butter, they simultaneously sing His glories while keeping time with their bangles and waistbells.

An excerpt from the book Art of Chanting

Mahanidhi Madan Gopal Das

“Kṛṣṇa-nāma has been accepted by all to be an incarnation of Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa on this earth. Although He appears like a word, Kṛṣṇa, still by His inconceivable power He is completely spiritual. The name is a special incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. As Kṛṣṇa and His name are identical, Kṛṣṇa has descended to earth as nāma. Kṛṣṇa-nāma is our first introduction to Kṛṣṇa. Therefore, we first meet Kṛṣṇa in His name. With determination to reach Kṛṣṇa, we must first accept the name of Kṛṣṇa.” (Nama Bhajana)

“Nāma is also another incarnation of Kṛṣṇa. Nāma-rūpe kali-kāle kṛṣṇa-avatāra. Because name and Kṛṣṇa are not different. Abhinnatvād nāma-nāminoḥ. There is no difference. In the material world there is difference between the name and the substance. But in advaya-jñāna, the Absolute world, there is no such distinction. The name and the person are the same, identical.” (SPT 30/10/72)

How does Hare Kṛṣṇa japa purify the chanter? “Chanting gradually diminishes the propensity to sin, and simultaneously purifies the consciousness. At this juncture, a taste for chanting begins to manifest. The inclination to commit sinful acts vanishes, though a faint residue of previous sinful acts still lingers in the consciousness. The receding sinful reactions leave an odor of sinful habits. But the chanter’s contact with the name produces a purity of mind and strength of willpower that overcomes the clinging smell of sin.” (Hari-nama-cintamani)

An excerpt from the book Art of Chanting

Mahanidhi Madan Gopal Das

Kṛṣṇa’s holy name–full of mercy, full of compassion, full of affection, full of rasa and full of prema–is the rarest treasure in the world. Without hearing from sastra and saints, however, one can never understand the power, value and benefit of Sri Kṛṣṇa’s divine name, form, attributes, pastimes and holy abode (nama, rupa, guna, lila, dhama). Throughout the Vedas the transcendental glories of the holy name are recounted.

The following verse from the Padma Purana compares the holy name to a cintamani gem, a divine stone that can bestow one’s desired results. Such cintamani gems make up the transcendental land of Kṛṣṇaloka in the spiritual world. This verse clearly describes the transcendental identity of the holy name:

nāma cintāmaṇiḥ kṛṣṇaś, caitanya-rasa-vigrahaḥ
pūrṇaḥ śuddho nitya-mukto, ‘bhinnatvān nāma-nāminoḥ

The holy name of Kṛṣṇa is a transcendental wish-fulfilling gem (cintamani); it is the embodiment of all consciousness and sentiments; it is complete; it is pure; it is ever free because the name of Kṛṣṇa and Kṛṣṇa Himself are one and the same.

Srila Prabhupada gives a wonderful expanded translation of this verse:

“The holy name of Kṛṣṇa is transcendentally blissful. It bestows all spiritual benedictions, for it is Kṛṣṇa Himself, the reservoir of all pleasure. Kṛṣṇa’s name is complete, and it is the form of all the transcendental mellows. It is not a material name under any condition, and it is no less powerful than Kṛṣṇa Himself. Since Kṛṣṇa’s name is not contaminated by the material qualities, there is no question of its being involved with māyā. Kṛṣṇa’s name is always liberated and spiritual. It is never conditioned by the laws of material nature. This is because the name of Kṛṣṇa and Kṛṣṇa Himself are identical.” (Caitanya Caritamrita Madhya 17.133 p.)

The following story from Vaisnava tradition illustrates the incomparable value of Kṛṣṇa’s holy name.

Once a disciple asked his guru for the topmost secret of bhajana. The guru replied, “The most confidential secret of bhajana is to always chant the maha-mantra–Hare Kṛṣṇa Hare Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare!”

After leaving his guru’s asrama, the disciple met some poor washermen who were chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa while scrubbing clothes beside the Yamuna. He then heard some little girls chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa while collecting cow dung. When the disciple hired a ricksaw, the skinny old driver chanted Hare Kṛṣṇa all the way back to the asrama.

Meeting his guru, the disciple expressed a doubt about the maha-mantra, “Gurudeva! What kind of secret have you given to me that is known to every dhobi, ricksaw-walla and little girl in India? Is this really the most confidential secret of bhajana?”

Instead of a long explanation, the guru handed the disciple a precious jewel and said, “Show this jewel to the dhobi, ricksaw-walla and little girls, and see if they appreciate its value.” The disciple then showed the priceless jewel to the illiterate washermen, but they could not detect the value of the jewel. They said they would gladly accept it, and use it for beating their dirty cloth. The disciple refused to give them the gem, saying, “You have to pay the proper price for it. A stone or piece of wood is sufficient for beating dirty cloth.”

Upon seeing the jewel, the ricksaw-walla said, “Since it is a little rough, I think it is just suitable for scraping off the dry skin from my feet.” “Are you crazy!” said the disciple as he walked on to show the village girls. Failing to recognize the true worth of the jewel, the girls said, “We could use the jewel to pack our cow dung.”

The disciple again met with his guru and said, “Gurudeva! Nobody wanted to pay the proper price for the jewel. Nor could anyone appreciate the great value of the gem.”

“Yes, in the same way,” said the guru, “most people cannot appreciate the value of the holy name. For this reason, they are indifferent to the chanting of Hare Kṛṣṇa. The Hare Kṛṣṇa maha-mantra is an open secret that is revealed only to the qualified.”

An excerpt from the book Art of Chanting