Śrī Śikṣāṣṭaka by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu

ceto-darpaṇa-mārjanaṁ bhava-mahā-dāvāgni-nirvāpaṇaṁ
śreyaḥ-kairava-candrikā-vitaraṇaṁ vidyā-vadhū-jīvanam
ānandāmbudhi-vardhanaṁ prati-padaṁ pūrṇāmṛtāsvādanaṁ
sarvātma-snapanaṁ paraṁ vijayate śrī-kṛṣṇa-saṅkīrtanam

Let there be all victory for the chanting of the holy name of Lord Kṛṣṇa, which can cleanse the mirror of the heart and stop the miseries of the blazing fire of material existence. That chanting is the waxing moon that spreads the white lotus of good fortune for all living entities. It is the life and soul of all education. The chanting of the holy name of Kṛṣṇa expands the blissful ocean of transcendental life. It gives a cooling effect to everyone and enables one to taste full nectar at every step.

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s purport: “By performing congregational chanting of the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra, one can destroy the sinful condition of material existence, purify the unclean heart and awaken all varieties of devotional service. The result of chanting is that one awakens his love for Kṛṣṇa and tastes transcendental bliss. Ultimately, one attains the association of Kṛṣṇa and engages in His devotional service, as if immersing himself in a great ocean of love.” (Caitanya Caritamrita. Antya 20. 12-14)

An excerpt from the book Art of Chanting

Mahanidhi Madan Gopal Das

Sruti-kirti Prabhu, a disciple and former personal servant of Srila Prabhupada, recounts Prabhupada’s practical instructions regarding chanting rounds.

“It was easy to understand that Śrīla Prabhupāda enjoyed chanting japa. He always stressed the importance of chanting our 16 rounds. He once told me that as a householder, he used a simple process for completing 16 rounds that we could apply.

‘When I was a householder,’ Srila Prabhupada said, ‘I would chant four rounds before each meal and four rounds before retiring in the evening. In this way 16 rounds could be chanted without difficulty.’ He laughed and said, ‘If you don’t take prasadam before chanting your four rounds then you will be sure to get them chanted.’

“In New Dwaraka he told me, ‘In the evening, if I get tired, I walk and chant. If you are tired, then walk and chant like I do. Sometimes, if I am tired, I pace back and forth in the room. Simply, in one room you can do everything. If you are tired, you can stand up and chant, like I do.’

“It was common to see Śrīla Prabhupāda walk in his quarters or sit in his rocking chair while he chanted rounds. In the evening he sometimes chanted rounds while I massaged him in bed. Many times devotees went into Śrīla Prabhupāda’s room with a problem they were hoping would be solved with some particular arrangement. His solution was always the same. ‘Chant Hare Kṛṣṇa, chant your 16 rounds.’ He developed the phrase, ‘Just do it!’ long before Nike.” (Srila Prabhupada Uvaca 63)

An excerpt from the book Art of Chanting

Mahanidhi Madan Gopal Das

Lord Gauranga Himself and all realized souls in the Gaudiya line such as Namacarya Thakura Haridasa and the six Gosvamis set the example of chanting a fixed number of rounds daily. In Sad-gosvamy astakam, Srinivasa Acarya glorifies the sadhana of the six Gosvamis: saṅkhyā-pūrvaka-nāma-gāna, “chanting the names by counting the number.”

“Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu chants the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra in a loud voice, the holy name dancing on His tongue as He counts the number of recitations with His effulgent hand.” (Prāthamā Caitanyaṣṭaka)

“Chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra, His own holy names which bring auspiciousness to the world, Lord Gaurāṅga’s hand trembles with love as He touches the knotted string about His waist to count the number of names.” (Sri Caitanya-candramrta)

“On a knotted string Lord Caitanya counts a fixed number of His own holy names (names of Kṛṣṇa).” (Cb. Madhya 5.1)

“Lord Caitanya blessed them saying, ‘May you attain devotion to Lord Kṛṣṇa. Do not waste time with gossip; just chant Kṛṣṇa’s holy name and qualities.’ Then Gaurāṅga personally instructed the people, āpane sabāre prabhu kore upadeśe, kṛṣṇa-nāma mahā-mantra śunaho hariṣe, ‘Be pleased to hear the mahā-mantra from Me:

Hare Kṛṣṇa Hare Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa Hare Hare, Hare Rāma Hare Rāma Rāma Rāma Hare Hare.’

“The Lord continued: prabhu bole, kahilān ei mahā-mantra, ihā japa’ giyā sabe koriyā nirbandha, ‘Continue chanting japa of this mahā-mantra a prescribed number of times.’

“ ‘One can achieve all perfection by this chanting. There is no rule in this chanting other than that it should be continued at every moment.’ ” (Cb. Madhya 23.74-84)

In Caitanya Bhagavata 2.23.74, Lord Gaura said:

kahilam ei maha-mantra kha japa giya sabe kariya
nirbandha kha hoite sarva siddhi hoibe sabara

“Everyone should chant the holy name of the Lord with fixed determination by rigidly keeping the scheduled count (nirbandha) of the holy name. This will award one all perfections.” Some translators say that nirbandha means sixty-four rounds.

The practice of chanting a fixed number of rounds is so powerful that it qualifies one to receive the Lord in his home. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu proclaimed,

‘lakṣeśvara’ bali kāre? prati-dina lakṣa-nāma ye grahaṇa kare
se janera nāma āmi bali ‘lakṣeśvara’ tathā bhikṣā āmāra,

nā yāi anya ghara

Do you know who is a lakṣeśvara? He is someone who chants one lakṣa, or one hundred thousand holy names everyday. I call such a person a lakṣeśvara. That person may offer Me a meal. I will not enter any other house. (Cb. Antya 9.121-2)

Many devotees do not have the taste or time to chant 100,000 holy names daily. Srila Prabhupada mercifully simplified the process by requesting his followers to chant a minimum of sixteen rounds per day. One must always pray to Radha-Govinda for a taste in chanting. When taste arises one will continuously chant the holy name with great relish. Srila Prabhupada comments on nama-ruci:

“What is nāma-gāne sadā ruciḥ? He is never tired of chanting, or singing or dancing. Sadā means always; ruci means taste. “Oh, very nice. Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare, Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma…” This is taste. To awaken this taste takes time. To become like Rūpa Gosvāmī–when he was chanting he was thinking, “I have got only one tongue and two ears. What I shall chant?” He was thinking, “If I could get millions of tongues and trillions of ears, then I could relish something by chanting and hearing.”

“So we should not imitate, but at least we must be very careful to complete sixteen rounds, the minimum. Nāma-gāne sadā ruciḥ. We have to increase our taste for singing and chanting.” (SPT 29/4/73)

An excerpt from the book Art of Chanting

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.