HH Bhakti Caitanya Swami
Caitanya Caritamrta, Adi Lila, 7.74
February 28th 2018
nāma vinu kali-kāle nāhi āra dharma
sarva-mantra-sāra nāma, ei śāstra-marma
nāma — the holy name; vinu — without; kali-kāle — in this Age of Kali; nāhi — there is none; āra — or any alternative; dharma — religious principle; sarva — all; mantra — hymns; sāra — essence; nāma — the holy name; ei — this is; śāstra— revealed scriptures; marma — purport.
“‘In this Age of Kali there is no religious principle other than the chanting of the holy name, which is the essence of all Vedic hymns. This is the purport of all scriptures.’
The principles of the paramparā system were strictly honored in previous ages — Satya-yuga, Tretā-yuga and Dvāpara-yuga — but in the present age, Kali-yuga, people neglect the importance of this system of śrauta-paramparā, or receiving knowledge by disciplic succession. In this age, people are prepared to argue that they can understand that which is beyond their limited knowledge and perception through so-called scientific observations and experiments, not knowing that actual truth comes down to man from authorities. This argumentative attitude is against the Vedic principles, and it is very difficult for one who adopts it to understand that the holy name of Kṛṣṇa is as good as Kṛṣṇa Himself. Since Kṛṣṇa and His holy name are identical, the holy name is eternally pure and beyond material contamination. It is the Supreme Personality of Godhead as a transcendental vibration. The holy name is completely different from material sound, as confirmed by Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura: golokera prema-dhana, hari-nāma-saṅkīrtana. The transcendental vibration of hari-nāma-saṅkīrtana is imported from the spiritual world. Thus although materialists who are addicted to experimental knowledge and the so-called “scientific method” cannot place their faith in the chanting of the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra,it is a fact that simply by chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra offenselessly one can be freed from all subtle and gross material conditions. The spiritual world is called Vaikuṇṭha, which means “without anxiety.” In the material world everything is full of anxiety (kuṇṭha), whereas in the spiritual world (Vaikuṇṭha) everything is free from anxiety. Therefore those who are afflicted by a combination of anxieties cannot understand the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra, which is free from all anxiety. In the present age the vibration of the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra is the only process that is in a transcendental position, beyond material contamination. Since the holy name can deliver a conditioned soul, it is explained here to be sarva-mantra-sāra, the essence of all Vedic hymns.
A name that represents an object of this material world may be subjected to arguments and experimental knowledge, but in the absolute world a name and its owner, the fame and the famous, are identical, and similarly the qualities, pastimes and everything else pertaining to the Absolute are also absolute. Although Māyāvādīs profess monism, they differentiate between the holy name of the Supreme Lord and the Lord Himself. For this offense of nāmāparādha they gradually glide down from their exalted position of brahma-jñāna, as confirmed in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.2.32):
āruhya kṛcchreṇa paraṁ padaṁ tataḥ
patanty adho ’nādṛta-yuṣmad-aṅghrayaḥ
Although by severe austerities they rise to the exalted position of brahma-jñāna, they nevertheless fall down due to imperfect knowledge of the Absolute Truth. Although they profess to understand the Vedic mantra sarvaṁ khalv idaṁ brahma (Chāndogya Up. 3.14.1), which means “Everything is Brahman,” they are unable to understand that the holy name is also Brahman. If they regularly chant the mahā-mantra, however, they can be relieved from this misconception. Unless one properly takes shelter of the holy name, he cannot be relieved from the offensive stage in chanting the holy name.
Bhakti Caitanya Swami speaks:
We chose this verse because Gaura Purnima is coming up in a couple of days, of course, and it very nicely expresses the mission, the sort of underlying principle behind the appearance of Lord Caitanya and His mission. Very nice verse! The context is that, this is the seventh chapter of the Adi-lila of Caitanya Caritamrta which is a very important part of Caitanya Caritamrta. Those of you who were around, so to speak, back in the Seventies, in Srila Prabhupada’s time, you might remember that the seventh chapter, as the Caitanya Caritamrta was in the process of being translated and then edited, etc. and then printed, that Srila Prabhupada had the seventh chapter printed separately, as a separate book, before the rest of the Caitanya Caritamrta was ready. I remember distributing it on the streets in the UK. Just that one book which was just the seventh chapter of the Adi-lila of the Caitanya Caritamrta, it is very important.
So specifically right here, Lord Caitanya has gone to the meeting of sannyasis, Mayavadi sannyasis. He has been invited there, it has been arranged, if I remember correctly, by Tapan Mishra. He went to that great assembly of the big, big Mayavadi leader Prakashananda Saraswati who was accompanied by his many, many disciples. Apparently he had 60.000 disciples. I don’t know if they were all there, but there were a lot of people there. A lot of sannyasis, Mayavadi sannyasis. And Lord Caitanya presented Himself very humbly, very humbly indeed. First of all, he sat where the people would leave their shoes and wash their feet before going inside for the program. And that was first of all and following that, Prakashananda approached and started questioning him about a few different things, but particularly he questioned Lord Caitanya, “Why do you as a sannyasi, you are in our line…” Because Lord Caitanya had taken sannyas from Keshava Bharati who was in the Bharati line of Mayavadi sannyasis. So he is like, you could say, a bona fide Mayavadi sannyasi, He would be accepted as such. So Prakashananda Sarasvati asked Him, “Why is it that you spend so much time, practically all your time you are out there in the streets with the common people, just ordinary people who have no knowledge and just children and old men and ladies and just everybody, whoever. And you are out there so much of the time, chanting the holy names, doing sankirtana. And getting into a very emotional condition and they all get into an emotional condition.” Prakashananda Sarasvati, he tried to make the point, his idea was that sannyasis like us, we do not do things like that. We sit together like we are doing right now, and we discuss Vedanta philosophy. The way he did not put it, “We discuss dry, boring, mind-twisting conceptions of, you know, interpretations of Vedanta Sutra and in this way we mess up our brains which are already messed up enough just by this being Kali-yuga. Anyway, he did not see like that just yet, but he got the message after a while. But this was his question, “Why do you chant with all the ordinary people? You are just like a sentimentalist. You are meant to be a very self-controlled philosopher, a sannyasi like us!” So Lord Caitanya explained why. This is part of His explanation. In the earlier part of His explanation He speaks a very famous verse, or a couple of verses which just come immediately before the verse we are looking at. “Prabhu kahe” – this is Lord Caitanya speaking, Lord Caitanya said:
prabhu kahe — śuna, śrīpāda, ihāra kāraṇa
guru more mūrkha dekhi’ karila śāsana
“Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu replied, “My dear sir, kindly hear the reason. My spiritual master considered Me a fool, and therefore he chastised Me.”
Actually you know what had happened was that, this happened at the time of Lord Caitanya’s initiation by Ishvara Puri, Lord Caitanya immediately after receiving formal initiation, according to Caitanya Bhagavat, He was initiated into, He received the ten-syllable Gopal mantra on the formal level. So he received that mantra. That was the official part of the initiation, it is referred to as diksha. The diksha mantra. But then Lord Caitanya, we understand, asked Ishvara Puri, “Now I am initiated. What should I do?” And Lord Caitanya suggested, we assume for sake of argument or to facilitate Ishvara Puri giving a very important response, making an important statement. Lord Caitanya, it seems, He asked, “Should I discuss dry Vedanta philosophy? Now I am initiated. Is this what I should do?” And Ishvara Puri responded, as Lord Caitanya says “guru more mūrkha dekhi’ karila śāsana”, that actually Ishvara Puri, he was, you could say, bold enough, because he understood at that point that Lord Caitanya is the Supreme Lord. Still he was bold enough to say, “You are a fool!” And as Lord Caitanya said, “karila śāsana – he chastised me”. He did not just say, “Look, actually you are the Supreme Lord, I should not really instruct you in any way but harinama eva kevalam”. But then yes, there is the next verse:
mūrkha tumi, tomāra nāhika vedāntādhikāra
‘kṛṣṇa-mantra’ japa sadā, — ei mantra-sāra
“‘You are a fool,’ he said. ‘You are not qualified to study Vedānta philosophy, and therefore You must always chant the holy name of Kṛṣṇa. This is the essence of all mantras, or Vedic hymns.”
So the context, as we see, is that Lord Caitanya is explaining to Prakashananda Sarasvati, the leader of that particular big group of Mayavadi sannyasis why He goes out and chants the holy names and why He does not associate with them and discuss all these Vedanta Sutra ideas and interpretations and so on. So then He speaks this verse which was spoken to Him by Ishvara Puri. Because Ishvara Puri, having given Him the mantra, the official sort of technical part of the initiation, he then went on to give Him the main instructions. And this is the basic idea, what we have read in this verse, ‘In this Age of Kali there is no religious principle other than the chanting of the holy name.’ We can also note, it is worthy of noting, that the word nāma is singular, it is not plural. He does not exactly say, “There is no other religious principle other than the chanting of the holy names”, plural. But he says, specifically he uses the word name, in the singular. Just like Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita (9.26), “patraṁ puṣpaṁ phalaṁ toyaṁ – If you offer a fruit, a flower, a leaf or water”, Krishna uses the singular. You can just offer one leave, you do not even have to offer two, or what to speak of a whole lot. Or one fruit, or one flower, not even two. So anyway, that’s there. And then Lord Caitanya continuing on to explain why He goes on sankirtana with whoever happens to be there, rather than associating with these Mayavadi speculators. Lord Caitanya continues:
eta bali’ eka śloka śikhāila more
kaṇṭhe kari’ ei śloka kariha vicāre
“After describing the potency of the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra, My spiritual master taught Me another verse, advising Me to always keep it within My throat.”
Which is this other verse that Lord Caitanya must keep repeating and remembering always?
harer-nama harer-nama harer-namaiva kevalam kalau nasty-eva nasty-eva nasty-eva gatir anyatha.
“In this age of Kali, there is no alternative, there is no alternative, no alternative to the holy name, the holy name, the holy name of the Lord.”
Of course, I am sure, we are very familiar with this verse. Such an important verse. This is actually the first time that this verse appears in Caitanya Caritamrta. It appears a few times, here and there. But this is the first time that Ishvara Puri, having given the formal initiation, then gave this instruction on the chanting of the holy names, or holy name. And then I just wanted to mention this verse. The other day someone approached me and said that, “When Ishvara Puri told Lord Caitanya, ‘harer-nama’ – that He must chant the holy names, was he meaning the Hare Krishna maha-mantra as such or whatever, some holy name, there is plenty of holy names of the Supreme Personality of Godhead?” So I had a look through here and I found in verse 83 which is still Lord Caitanya explaning to Prakashananda Saraswati and quoting Ishvara Puri. In verse 83, He says:
kṛṣṇa-nāma-mahā-mantrera ei ta’ svabhāva
yei jape, tāra kṛṣṇe upajaye bhāva
“‘It is the nature of the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra that anyone who chants it immediately develops his loving ecstasy for Kṛṣṇa.”
So this is what Lord Caitanya Himself did, He received the mantra, I mean the initiation diksha ten-syllable mantra, but then Ishvara Puri extensively instructed Him. And as we read, very strongly, in very focused, very pointed ways, emphasizing chanting the holy name, chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra specifically. And then Lord Caitanya went off to do whatever, his business for the rest of the day. Lord Caitanya went off chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra, specifically the Hare Krishna maha-mantra. And when Lord Caitanya went off chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra, as you are probably well aware, He more or less immediately, as the verse we just read says, “Anyone who chants it immediately develops his loving ecstasy for Kṛṣṇa.” Lord Caitanya immediately became overwhelmed with ecstasy and manifesting what are called the ashta-satvika bhavas, the eight sort of classic emotional ecstasies of crying, shivering of the body, hair standing on end, goose bumps and sometimes fainting and stammering and there is a few others also. So He manifested them to the point that He became more or less practically incapacitated. At least, He struggled to keep chanting regularly, like we chant our japa regularly, on and on, for a period of time. Lord Caitanya found that He would start chanting a mantra, a Hare Krishna mantra, He could not finish it because the ecstasy would just overpower Him. Because what those symptoms of ecstasy are, like crying for example, we have all cried in this lifetime. Who can say they have never cried? At least as children we have definitely cried at lot, and maybe even as adults sometimes. But this crying, this ecstatic crying is a different phenomenon. The way it is described that on that level of pure devotional service, the internal potency of the Lord enters the heart of the devotee and enters the body of the devotee and contacts the material elements which the body is made of. So therefore, in the case of crying, the internal potency, the superior energy of the Lord, very superior to the material energy, completely superior to the material energy, it contacts the element of water in the body and it stimulates the water. As we learned in school, these bodies are something like 70% water or whatever, 80%. And the water in the body is powerfully influenced by the superior potency, so the water sort of starts overflowing and coming out of the different gates of the body, but particularly the eyes.
When Lord Caitanya was dancing in the Ratha Yatra, His tears would come out like water coming out from a syringe or even a hose, spraying everyone and everyone became saturated. Not just a few little drops here and there. Everyone became saturated. So this is what happened to Lord Caitanya. Tears and the body shaking when the internal potency contacts air in the body, the air starts moving, so the body starts shaking. And not just shivering when it is cold weather or something like that, but it can shake violently and uncontrollably. This is what happened to Lord Caitanya. And He was struggling to chant. So as Caitanya Caritamrta describes, later that day or the next day, very very shortly afterwards, Lord Caitanya went back to Ishvara Puri and He asked Him, “What sort of mantra have you given Me?” “Ki hoiche?” That term we learned the other day. “What is going on here? What is this mantra? Whenever I chant it, all these totally astonishing things happen. What is going on?” And Ishvara Puri, Caitanya Caritamrta says, smiled. He did not get into some whole sort of explanation. Well, he actually did get into a bit of an explanation. But he understood what was going on because he knows who Lord Caitanya is. So this is what happened to Lord Caitanya and this is what He is explaining to Prakashananda Sarasvati.
In these verses, including this verse 84 we are focusing on, that in Kali-yuga there is no other religious principle other than the chanting of the holy name, “nāma vinu”. Other than that, everything else even religious, spiritual, otherwise bona fide Krishna conscious activities, they are not really going to work. If somehow they become separated from the chanting of the holy name, or names, and particularly the Hare Krishna maha-mantra, even something as sacred as deity worship, if somehow it is separated from the chanting of the holy names or the performers of that deity worship, they stop chanting or they do not chant enough or they do not chant well enough, something like that. Then the deity worship will fall down. You may be aware that Srila Prabhupada made the point, on a number of occasions, that if we as the members of ISKCON, the followers of Srila Prabhupada, if we do not preach sufficiently, spread Krishna Consciousness sufficiently, perform the sankirtana-yajna sufficiently, quantitatively and qualitatively, Prabhupada made the point that after some time our big temples will become very difficult to run and Prabhupada said, “We may end up wondering, ‘Why has our Gurumaharaj given us this big burden around our necks of having to worship these deities which is costly and it takes a number of people permanently to do it. Why did he do that?’” The problem is not that. The problem is if the sankirtana-yajna somehow or other deteriorates and it is not done sufficiently, quantitatively and qualitatively, everything else will fall down! Just everything else, even your deity worship and you just name it. It will all deteriorate. And Srila Prabhupada emphasizes that point in this purport, I do not know if you noticed that, he put it very nicely, “In the present age, the vibration of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra is the only process that is in a transcendental position, beyond material contamination.” Now, I do not take it that deity worship is not in a transcendental position but it is in a transcendental position, I mean it can remain like that as long as there is the foundation of the chanting of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra and the performance of the sankirtana-yajna. Otherwise, even the deity worship will fall down.
And we see enough, particularly if you go to Vrindavan and the Vrindavan area, there are so many temples and some of them, back in the old days, 400 years ago or thereabouts, 200-300 years ago, going back some time, they were really nice temples. I mean, even today, you look at them, they look nice but back in those days they were really nice because they were vibrant Krishna conscious centers and sankirtana was going on. But now, if you go to Vrindavana, if you move around a bit and you see what is going on in many of these temples, one thing you will see is, they do not chant Hare Krishna very much, not at all. Maybe they do some chanting but in terms of pushing the sankirtana movement, they really do not do that. If they really do it at all, it is not much, at least from what I have seen over the last many, many years. Generally, they actually do not do it. And what has happened is, so many of those temples have fallen down. Like you go even to Radha Damodar Tempel which is a relatively successful temple and on the altar what do you see? There are Radha Damodar but there are three other big sets of deities of important, great devotees. So what happened? Those deities were in their own temples but the temples, they could not manage. So they have amalgamated things there in Radha Damodar. And there is one temple we sometimes go to, the temple of Srinivas Acarya, where his samadhi is, not far from where the Gopeshvar temple is. And on the altar, they have got lots, they must have at least 10 or 15 sets of Radha Krishna deities which have come from other temples which did not make it. So it is like that. Because they are not performing the sankirtana-yajna sufficiently, maybe not at all, the other processes which are dependent on that, fall down and have fallen down. We visited some years ago, if you are familiar with Varsana, the Jaipur Temple, that’s the second temple, big temple, very beautiful temple. So we visited there, walked in and I asked the main pujari in broken Hindi, I speak surivival Hindi, I asked, “Apka sampradaya, kya he?” Does that make sense? What is your sampradaya? Because I thought they must be Nimbarkas, because previously it was a Nimbarka temple. “So, what is your sampradaya?” The chief pujari replied in English, “We are from the paid sampradaya!” And I did not quite catch it. Do you understand? Paid salary? “We are from the paid sampradaya!” He was joking, sort of. And I did not catch it and I thought, “Wow! Is this some sampradaya I have never heard of? Some branch of the Nimbarkas or some other Sri sampradaya? So I asked him, “What’s that?” And he said, “We are from the paid sampradaya! We are here because we are paid by the government.” And he told me, “Sometimes they ask us to go and do the puja in a Durga temple and sometimes in some other temple of somebody else. And now we are here being paid.” So yeah, it is a shame. It is beyond a shame actually, it is a disaster.
So Lord Caitanya is making this point here and this series of points which were made to Him by Sri Ishvara Puri at the time of His initiation. And which Lord Caitanya really took to heart and just totally applied Himself to. And because Lord Caitanya is Lord Caitanya or at least you could say, when Lord Caitanya chants Hare Krishna, He definitely chants without offenses, He definitely chants attentively and He does not commit any of the offenses. So therefore, because of that, because of the quality of His chanting, as the one verse we read said, immediately bhava may come. Some of us here, looking around, some of us have been chanting, I have been chanting 45+ years. And some of you for longer, I know. And do not mind me saying it but at least from what I have observed, I have not seen any of you displaying such symptoms like Lord Caitanya did. Please forgive me if that was inappropriate but I think it was not. Because I think we commit offenses, I think we are sometimes not attentive enough, etc. Our chanting is not really on that level and therefore, well Prabhupada in the purport talks about two categories of people who have two different attitudes or perspectives on the Hare Krishna maha-mantra. Prabhupada talks about the argumentative, scientific type people. For them, they cannot have faith in the chanting, or they cannot have faith, Prabhupada says that the holy name of Krishna and Krishna are not two but they are one. Abhinnatvam nama naminoh – that the name and the named are not two, they are not two, they are one. They cannot have that faith because they want to apply some arguments and analysis in their terms of so-called intellectualism. Then Prabhupada talks about the Mayavadis who are fond of saying sarvam khalvidam brahma – everything is Brahman, except the holy names. It’s nice but it’s not the same and therefore they also cannot have faith. They make a distinction between what is transcendental and the holy names.
And of course, these types of people are extreme. The more hardcore, material intellectuals, people like that, they are pretty extreme, even amongst the materialists. The Mayavadis are extreme in spiritual terms. We may be sitting here thinking, “We are not materialists like that! Look at these people, they are all messed up and we are not like the Mayavadis. We do not like the Mayavadis. And we do not because we are cool, we are ok. We are doing alright. We are doing the right things in the right way.” Well, if we really were… We are doing the right things but if we were doing them in what is really the right way, something along the lines of what happened to Lord Caitanya would also happen to us. Particularly, one would have expected it after doing it for 45 years.
Anyway, life is going on but there is a problem. There is a problem for us. And that’s why these things are not happening like they did with Lord Caitanya. I mean with Him it happened on a massive scale. With us, sometimes, oftentimes the chanting is nice, sometimes it’s very nice. But some experience like that is beyond most of us generally. So why… Why? Well, that is unfortunately because we are continuing to not chant purely, to chant offensively.
I was present once in Srila Prabhupada’s room, his main darshan room in Bhaktivedanta Manor, 1974, and one devotee asked Srila Prabhupada. He read a couple of sentences from the end of the chapter of Nectar of Devotion (chapter 8) which is listing the offenses. If you are familiar with that chapter of Nectar of Devotion, first there are seva-aparadhas, there are two lists of maybe thirty each and then after that, there are the ten nama-aparadhas. So the devotee read a little excerpt from there, you can have a look and see, Prabhupada says that if you commit the other aparadhas, seva-aparadhas, not the nama-aparadhas, beginning with entering a temple with shoes on; if you commit any of those, then whatever the reactions are, they may come, but they may be cleansed away in the course of your ongoing performance of devotional service. But then Srila Prabhupada says that however, if you commit any of the ten offenses, the classic ten offenses, you can never overcome the reactions. Haribol! So the devotee asked, “Srila Prabhupada, isn’t there a way to overcome the reactions?” He read that out and then he asked, “Isn’t there some way?” And Prabhupada gave him one of those looks that Prabhupada would give sometimes. I cannot do it. He really looked at him like, “Who are you?” And Srila Prabhupada said, “You are asking this question because you want to offend. You want to offend and then just do something and get free from the reaction.” But Prabhupada said, “You must not do that. You must stop offending.” Prabhupada said, “No more offenses!” So that’s not easy, it’s definitely not easy but it’s certainly an aspiration and an effort that we must maintain. To keep on like that, to really try and chant in the same spirit that Lord Caitanya did and that Lord Caitanya is advocating for everybody. Everyone should chant like that. And we are very fortunate in so many ways. I would say that our main fortune is that we are connected, we have a strong connection to Srila Prabhupada which is not being interrupted by other connections to other people, even though they may be devotees. A strong and kind of exclusive connection to Srila Prabhupada. And in that way, there is connection in the parampara sense, like the electrical appliance being plugged into the electrical socket which is connected to the powerhouse. There is a connection in that sense, an unadulterated connection and on the other hand Srila Prabhupada is just giving it “as it is”. And not even just giving it “as it is” but giving it “as it is” with such expertise. It is done with amazing expertise of fine analysis and fine explanation, clear, deep explanation which is understandable and which can be digested nicely by any sincere person.
So now we are coming up to Gaura Purnima in two days and of course we focus on that, we focus on the mercy of Lord Caitanya, how kind Lord Caitanya was but it is also nice to remember and it is very important to remember where the mercy came from or how we got the mercy. We did not just get the mercy somehow. We got the mercy through Srila Prabhupada. Because of his sacrifice, because of his endeavor and because of his purity and you could say, as the prototype, pure disciple of his bona fide spiritual master and the prototype pure follower of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. So let us try and remember these things and take these things deeper into our hearts during this Gaura Purnima time. That would be very good for us.