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By Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur

Bimala Prasada Dutta (Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati)

Published in The Harmonist (Sree Sajjanatoshani)


We get the essence of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s teachings in His Sikshashtakam. His Lordship lays stress on the service of Shri Krishna Nama. At the very outset He has said, that it is necessary to chant Shri Krishna’s Names in the right manner thoroughly.’ He also taught that the Names and Their Possessor are identical. When an object is fully spoken about or described, it is shown completely analysed, God’s Names, Appearances, Attributes, Associates and Sports - these five constitute Shri-Nama. These are present within God’s Body which is Shri Nama. There may be naturally varied combinations among these for one who takes Shri Nama, viz., Names and Forms, Names and Attributes, etc., but these are not separate from one another.

If a man desires to see His Forms of Beauty, he should know that it is not visible to his material eye. The form or beauty which is acceptable to the sense of vision, is an object of enjoyment. It is God Krishna Who is the Enjoyer and not an object of enjoyment. An enjoyable object gratifies our senses. So, as the Shrimad Bhagavatam says, God is not visible to our eye, what the eye sees is not the Beauty of God.

Among the objects of the material world, there is a distinction between a name and its possessor i.e., the person or thing whose name it is. But this is not the case with the Names of Shri Krishna, which are Transcendental. For this reason Chaitanya Mahaprabhu said: “Shri Sankirtana should be our only means for getting the object of our pursuit, viz., Love of God Krishna.” Mahaprabhu has said, ‘vijayate Shri Krishna-sankirtanam’ i.e., the Sankirtana of Shri Krishna should be specially glorified. Sankirtana means Kirtana or chanting by many in coalition of Kirtana of Shri Krishna in detail i.e., of His Names, Forms, Attributes, Associates and Sports. Such Sankirtana is the object of special glorification.

We know that for practicants of Bhakti there are nine kinds of limbs of Bhakti. Of these five have been regarded as pre-eminently the foremost, recapitulated in the Shri Chaitanya Charitamrta [1] as the following (i) Association with holy saints, (ii) chanting of Names, (iii) audition of the Bhagavatam, (iv) residence in Mathura and (v) service of Shri Murti of God with firm faith. These five limbs of devotion are the most important ones among all the practices and the performance of those five, though not so much, generates Krishna-Prema.

It is felt after a careful consideration of these five best practices, that Shri Nama Bhajana (service of God’s Names, with ardent chanting) is at the root of all these and is glorified above all. Sadhu-sanga has been proposed in order to create a taste or inclination for Shri Nama-Bhajana as the result of the association with holy saints who are attached to Shri Nama with a firm faith and who chant Names systematically. The Shrimad Bhagavatam has declared Shri Nama-Bhajana alone as the highest virtue [2] where it has been said “In this world, the superior Dharma of men is remembered as Bhakti-yoga (performance of devotion to God) with the taking (chanting, etc.) of His Names, etc.” “The Kaliyuga, which is a sea of all evils, has only one merit in it and that is a great one, viz., that one attains God free from all worldly attachments by chanting God Krishna’s Names and Glories. What was obtained in the Satya-yuga by meditation of Vishnu, in the Treta by worshipping Him with yajnas (sacrifices) and in the Dvapara by His ritual worship, is obtained in the Kali by Hari-kirtana”. In the very beginning of the Shrimad Bhagavatam in its middle and at its end, the efficacy of Shri Nama-Sankirtana has been repeatedly advised. At the root of Madhura-vasa or Shri Dhama-vasa (residence in the places of God’s adoration) is deeply set the principle of Nama-Bhajan for these holy places are frequently visited by Sadhus who are always engaged in Shri Nama-Sankirtna [sic]. Then, the service of Shri Murti is conducted with Mantras (incantations) framed with God’s Names with the principle of chanting Them. Thus Shri Nama-Kirtana is glorified above all. And all success is available through it. We have it in the Shri Chaitanya Charitamrta [3] stated thus: “Among all Bhajans (performances of Bhakti or devotion), nine are the best which are very powerful to give love of Krishna, even Krishna Himself. The foremost among these again is Nama-Sankirtana. One who takes Names, being free from aparaadhas (spiritual offences) is sure to gain the wealth of Love.”

In the Bhakti-Sandarbha [4] we have: “Even if there is some other form of devotion ordained as a duty in the Kali-yuga, it should be performed with the item of Bhakti known as Kirtana.” No kind of Bhakti like residence in Mathura, association with holy saints, service of Shri-Murti and audition of the Shrimad Bhagavatam is complete without Shri Krishna-kirtana; but ther, [sic] fruit is accessible to one who gives it importance above everything.

In the Shri Hari Bhakti Vilasa [5] has been cited a Shloka from an old Shastra which means: “Hari’s Names are always present on the lips of a person who worshipped Shri Vasudeva (Krishna) before in hundreds of his births. The best and foremost of all the spiritual practices for attaining God Krishna’s Grace is Sankirtana. If the other Sadhanas (practices) are favourable or helpful to it, it is then only that they are worth the name; otherwise they should be known as only obstructions to the proper Sadhana. Whether one is a child, or an old or young man, male or female, learned or illiterate, rich or poor, beautiful or ugly, pious or sinful in whatever condition of life one may be, there is no other course of spiritual practice for one than Shri Krishna-Sankirtana.

Kirtana is called Sankirtana when it is performed by many persons together. But will it be worth the name of Sankirtana, if some worthless people, without any ardour for God’s service, shout together? It will be true Hari-Sankirtana when we join the Sankirtana of true devotees who serve God according to the principles laid down in the Vedas and allied Shastras. On the other hand it is not Hari-Sankirtana when we take part in the Kirtana conducted for the prevention of the epidemic of cholera or pox, or prosperity in trade, or for gain, respect and fame; such a Kirtana is Maayaa-kirtana!

So longs as we keep away from joining the Kirtana conducted by those who hold perfect Krishna-kirtana, maya will be deluding us in various ways. If we join the Kirtana of such people as are not anxious for their own true well-being, who hood-wink themselves then no well-being will be attained by us. There will be no Sankirtana, if we follow such people as have imitatively decorated their bodies and beads with marks of a Vaishnava without receiving instructions from true Vaishnavas, and shout out some names appearing like God’s Names only in external sound.

Engaged in Shri Krishna-Sankirtana, we entirely get rid of the tendency of securing worldly aggrandizement. Under the influence of the moonlight of Krishna-Kirtana, the lily of true welfare blooms. Scholarship is the greatest in a devotee absorbed in the chanting of Shri Nama. Through it is available the flow of the tasty Sweetness of Chit (sentience) in the heart, when one becomes totally free from the attempts to be busy with the current of thought of the external world i.e., the greed for acquiring transient pleasures and when all roughness of the heart is set at rest and it is understood that Mayavada (absolute monism) is not worth acceptance.

Everyone is competent for Shri Krishna Sankirtana. Like Krishna, His Names, too, have got all potencies. There are no such rules to be observed in Shri Nama-Sankirtana such as, to be fit for it one shall have to take three baths daily, that one should not be lowly born or should not perform Sankirtana practices in the company of low-born people. No such considerations of mental or physical properties of a man are to be made in respect of Krishna-kirtana which is the property of the soul. One may take Hari-nama even when the body is impure as when one is the water-closet or even though one is a sinner; only one should not be insincere, for true Hari-nama is not utterable by a man who has a desire for securing worldly advantages through Hari-nama, which is technically called ‘sinful intellect through the power of Nama.’

A silly fellow has no competence for the worship of God in His Shri Murtis. But in this era Kali prevails. A born Brahmana is often heard to tell his boy: “When you have not acquired learning, just live as a priest.” He forgets that this requires the greatest learning. People like him conceive that their bodies consisting of blood, flesh, skin etc., are sacred and, as such, they cannot realize the existence of God in His Shri Murtis, but they see in them idols, made of mud, stone, wood, brass, etc., made by certain artisans. This idolatry of theirs will be removed, if only they listen to the instructions as given by great saints. Again, if one thinks, “I am a learned man”, then one such becomes an idolater, not a worshipper of God. If a man’s education goes against his service of God, he does not at all require such education. Such an educated fellow becomes an idolater; he adores only pride. Just as an idiotic follower of the Karma-kaanda is unable to offer service to Hari, so also is a very learned follower of the jnaana-kaanda who becomes a victim of the tamaguna which causes vanity and delusion no true devotee. This has been pointed out in the Shruti: “He who adores avidyaa enters the dark region of tamah; but another who has a great attachment for vidyaa enters further inside the region which is still darker.” [6]

People of this world speak of millions of ways of gaining spiritual ends. Some say: “It is foolishness to take Harinama, scholars should go without it and get credit.” It is to teach such people posing as learned, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu laments: “O Hari-nama, You have not given Me relish in You; I have got no attachment towards You.” The bounden souls are arrogant and say like this: “Let the Sudras and idiots chant Hari-nama; I am a Brahmana, I am learned I shall study the Vedas, I shall worship deities.” Assuming the pose of a World-Teacher Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu said: “Also! I have got a taste for other things than chanting Hari-nama and thus a distaste for the direct worship of God.”

He has further said about Shri Nama: “O Jivas, do nothing but Kirtana, and do it all along. But Kirtana is not done well, unless the chanter is humbler than even a blade of grass, is free from the arrogance of the sense of his own respect and is the giver of respect to others. Do not remain maddened with the thoughts that you are a great expert and very intelligent.” I have adopted this instruction of Goura Sundara (Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu). If any one attacks me then I should put up with it and chant Hari-nama; I should know that God has thus given me a chance to be lower than blade of grass; knowing this, I should be all the more encouraged to take Hari-nama more vigorously. But when somebody speaks disrespectfully about a true Vaishnava, my Guru-deva, then my lowliness as that of a blade of grass should consist in at once giving him a proper teaching with as much vigour as ever. In the Karma-kaanda there is no true lowliness of a blade of grass, but there is only insincere cringing before others to secure their favour.

We should ever remain engaged in Hari-kirtana i.e., discourses through which our inclination for the service of God Hari will be increased; other topics are calculated only to incite our enjoying mood. It is only Hari-kirtana by which jivas attain their true well-being and that is Krishna-kirtana. Krishna-kirtana is not to be performed only through melodious musical tunes, chimes, etc. Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has not asked us to be proficient in high class music and to become well-practiced in the airs of expert musicians; He has told us to perform hari-kirtana constantly, Hari-kirtana does not consist in gratifying our own mundane senses, but in the gratification of Shri Krishna’s Transcendental Senses.

Dealing with the process of the practice of Shri Nama, Shri Chaitanya, Mahaprabhu has laid stress on the chanter of Shri Nama to be free from all sorts of fraudulent craftiness or other motives than Bhakti. The paraa-dharma (the highest spiritual practice) or the Bhagavata-dharma is performed only through Shri Nama-kirtana, and that is the Dharma divested of all trickish artifices (including even the desire for emancipation) as explained in the annotation [7] of Shridhara Svamipada. We should not make attempts for wealth, man-power, learning, gain, adoration, honour, etc., which are fraudulent and which almost cent per cent people are hankering after. We should not utilize Nama-sankirtana for the purpose of Dharma, artha, kaama and moksha. No prayer should be made to God through His Names for our personal or collective peace and pleasure; we should not make Him play the servant for us. Both the karmis striving for the first three of the above four objectives and the jnaanis striving for the fourth one are engaged in reducing the Supreme Lord to our servitor. They can never perform Hari-bhajana and true Shri Krishna-sankirtana cannot come out of their mouths.

Shri Jeevapada has said: “At first, however, for the purification of the mind is necessary for the audition of Shri Nama. When thus the mind has been purified, competence is acquired for the awakening of Shri-Rupe (beauty) with the audition thereof. When Shri-Rupe has been fully awakened, the Gunas (attributes) are also fully awakened. When the awakening of the Gunas has been accomplished, God’s specialty is accomplished, along with this, of His Parikara Pastime. When these, i.e., Nama-Rupa-Guna and Parkkara, have been fully wakened up, the awakening of the Lila (Sports) becomes well established. With this end in view, the systematic order is written. This order should be followed for Kirtana and Smarana. Thereafter the mind has been thoroughly sanctified with Kirtana, etc., then remembrance should be practiced without giving up Shri Nama-kirtana, as has been said by Shri Shuka: [8] “O King Parikshit, even for the yogis, who have acquired abstinence in order to remain aloof from all fear, has been prescribed the constant Kirtana of Hari’s Names.”


[1] Vide II.22.125-126.

[2] Bh. VI.3-22, XII.3.51-52.

[3] Vide III.4-10.

[4] Vide 273.

[5] Vide XI-137.

[6] Isso. 9.

[7] Vide 1.1.2.

[8] Bh. 11.1.11.