The Following is an excerpt from Srila Jagadananda Pandita’s ‘Sri Prema Vivarta‘
Once Lord Gauranga, sparkling like the moon, came onto the shore of the ocean, bringing along His associates. Sitting amid the assemblage of Vaishnavas, moon-like Gauranga spoke as follows.
Chanting the Holy Name is the best and the only means of perfection
Listen O devotees! In this age of Kali the only means of spiritual salvation is the chanting of Krishna’s holy name and glories (Sri-Krishna-Kirtana). No other activity surpasses the effectiveness of this.
The pursuit of fruitive activities, cultivation of knowledge, yoga, meditation are weak practices and not effective in attaining the transcendental wealth of absolute realization.
Prescribed religious duties, religious rites, penances, fire sacrifices are all mundane activities. They do not help one realize the transcendental truth.
The Sruti Scriptures proclaim that chanting, remembering or hearing the holy name of Krishna enables one to achieve spiritual perfection.
Esoteric truths about chanting the holy name are to be found across all scriptures. Simply by uttering the holy name of the Supreme Lord, one immediately enjoys spiritual bliss.
The Secret Esoteric Truths about the Holy Name as mentioned in Padma Purana, Swarga Khanda, chapter Forty-eight
Sri Saunaka Rsi asked –
“The glories of chanting the holy name of the Supreme Lord are exceedingly astonishing. Simply by uttering the holy name, a soul attains the Supreme abode. So now, please explain the rules for chanting the holy name”.
Sri Suta Goswami replied ,”O Saunaka! listen to my words. Do you remember the discussion between Narada and Sanat Kumara concerning the path of liberation?
Once, having heard of the various kinds of spiritual and non-spiritual activities, Narada Muni, with folded hands, enquired from the peaceful Sanat Kumara, who was then seated on the bank of Yamuna.
Sri Narada Muni said, ’O great devotee of the Lord, please explain how a soul can counteract the violations that he has performed against the various sorts of spiritual activities that you have described’ ”.
(Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu continued) “I shall describe in detail the meaning of these verses. O Swaroop Damodara and Ramananda, please hear attentively”.
What is ‘Sri Nama kirtana’ ? ‘Uchcharan’ (Loud Utterance)
(Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu continued) “Know that the word ‘Uchcharana’ or Utterance refers to the chanting of the Lord’s holy name. The devotees count their chanting of holy names either on their hands or on their beads.
Sometimes the devotees do not keep track of their count and chant numerous additional rounds. The word ‘Uchcharana’ refers to any of these kinds of chanting”.
Japa and kirtana
“The soft utterance of the holy name is called ‘Japa’ while the loud utterance is referred to as ‘Kirtana’. Both are counted as ways to remember (smarana) and chant (Kirtana) the holy name of the Lord. The correct method to chant is whereby the Holy Name of the Supreme Lord is suitably glorified”.
Chant everywhere and always
“Chanting the holy name of the Lord is the eternal duty of the soul. This is the primary responsibility of the soul both in this world as well as in Vaikuntha (the spiritual world).
Chanting the Holy Name is the means to salvation of the conditioned living entity. As for the liberated soul, this chanting is an eternal engagement”.
Pious activities devoid of devotion should be rejected
(Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu continued) “All types of non-devotional pious actions mentioned in the scriptures – be it the religious rituals that are devoid of devotional purpose, a renunciation that is not motivated by devotion, sacrifices (yajna) that are against devotional principles – the scriptures proclaim that all these activities are considered favorable to devotion only because of their connection with the Supreme Lord. However, in this age of Kali, they have become diminished to material activities. Being divorced from the essential principle of devotion unto the Supreme Lord, they have become contaminated.
O devotees, listen carefully! Therefore, in the age of Kali, there are no means of spiritual salvation other than chanting the holy name of the Lord.
On the strength of devotional service, reject anything that you find contrary to chanting the holy name of the Lord.
Sri Sanat Kumara uvaca
Srnu Narada Govindapriya Govinda-dharma-vit
Yat prstang loka-nirmukti-karanam tamasah param
(Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu explains the above verse)
O Narada! You are an expert when it comes to serving Lord Govinda. You are very dear to Govinda and you can cut the chains that bind a soul to material bondage.
(Sanat Kumara replied to Narada) ‘Your question is aimed at delivering the conditioned living entities and the answer to your question shall enable the living entities to overcome ignorance.
In the age of kali, all forms of religious activities are covered with ignorance. Without chanting the holy name of the Supreme Lord, a conditioned living entity cannot overcome material existence’ “.
Therefore, the holy name destroys all sins
(Sanat Kumara continued)
‘Sarvachara vivarjita sathha diyo vratya jagad-vanchakah
Dambhahankriti pana paishunyaparah papascha ye nisthhurah
Ye chanye dhana-dara-putra-niratah sarva dharmaste pi hi
Sri Govinda padaravinda saranah suddha bhavanti dvija’
(Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu explains further)
“The Holy name definitely destroys all the sins of one who takes refuge at the lotus feet of Lord Govinda.
He who admits his sins and cries while chanting the holy name is very quickly delivered of his sins, on the strength of his devotion”.
Ritualistic atonements do not destroy one’s material desire
(Lord Chaitanya continued) “Atonements made following the paths of Karma (fruitive activities) or Jnana (cultivation of speculative knowledge) yield very weak results. They do not carry much strength.
Chanting of Krishna’s name just once, however, destroys the extent of sins that a sinner cannot commit in the course of his several lifetimes.
There is no such sin described in the smarta scriptures (Karma-Kanda section of Vedas concerning fruitive activities) that chanting of Krishna’s name just once is not able to counteract.
So why do the followers of the Smarta scriptures (Karma-Kanda section of Vedas concerning fruitive activities) perform Prayaschitta (Atonement) ? It is because they lack spiritual fortune and as a result their activities have deluded their intelligence.
Atonement through pious activities does not eliminate material desires. Atonement through the cultivation of speculative knowledge curbs material desires within the heart.
The material desires, however, recur and manifest themselves in a few days time. Only devotional service (bhakti) is capable of eliminating ignorance, the root cause of all material desires.
The words emanating from Lord Govinda’s divine mouth sound very sweet to one who takes shelter at His feet, and cries out to Him in earnest prayer. You shall find many of His (Lord Govinda’s) instructions in Bhagavad Gita which is spoken for the benefit of living entities.
Sarva dharman parityaja mam ekam sharanam vraja
Aham tvam sarva papebheyo moksayisyami ma sucah
(Bhagavad Gita 18.66)
Abandon all forms of religious duties, and surrender exclusively unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear.
Api cei suduracharo bhajate mam ananya bhak
Sadhur eva ca mantavyah samyag vyavasitoh hi sah
(Bhagavad Gita 9.30)
Even if one performs the most sinful acts, but if he is engaged in devotional service, he is to be regarded saintly as he is properly situated.
kshipram bhavati dharmatma sasvac chantim nigacchati
kaunteya pratijanihi na me bhaktah pranashyati
(Bhagavad Gita 9.31)
He quickly becomes virtuous and attains enduring peace. O son of Kunti, declare it boldly that My devotee is never vanquished.
Therefore, an intelligent person abandons such atonement through mundane rituals and instead serves Hari, the dearmost Lord of the heart”.
Therefore, the effect of chanting the holy name
(Mahaprabhu quotes Sanat Kumara)
‘Tam api devakaram karunakaram
Sthavara jangama muktikarang parama
Ya iha tanvapati dhruva nama hi’
(Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu paraphrases) “The holy name of Krishna is merciful and is filled with Krishna’s potency. It certainly bestows liberation upon all moving and inert beings.
The offenders, however, commit offenses against the holy name and such offenses serve as obstacles to their chanting of the Lord’s holy name.
The holy name, however, destroys the sins of even such great offenders. The living entity has no friend in this world other than the holy name of the Supreme Lord”.