WHO NEEDS TO PERFORM HARI-NAMA-SANKIRTAN?
(Sanskrit diacritics omitted for broader internet accessibility. Inconvenience deeply regretted.)
In Kali-yuga no other devotional activity supersedes the currently prescribed yuga-dharma, hari-nama-sankirtana. Indeed, all other dharmas and all the various adjunct angas of bhakti must subordinate themselves to the service of the yuga-dharma to be deemed at all conducive, so far as the proper progress of the Krishna consciousness movement is concerned. All doings connected with Lord Caitanya’s sankirtana movement may be accepted as sankirtana, or facets of the sankirtana principle, to the extent that they factually inspire, promote, and facilitate or at least positively compliment direct performances of yuga-dharma hari-nama-sankirtana.
Kali-yuga-dharma hari-nama-sankirtana is the yuga-dharma for this entire yuga, please. Kali-yuga lasts a total of 432,000 years, of which only a mere 5,000 years have passed. The understanding should be that the process of nama-sankirtana is applicable to all souls appearing on Earth, particularly in the human form of life, during this entire 432,000-year period. The yuga cycles functioning on this planet are not effective on other higher or lower planetary systems. Hence, it is we who have presently appeared on Earth who are expected to take full advantage of the golden nama-sankirtana opportunity for easily going back home, back to Godhead. It is not that hardly any more than 500 years after the Lord and His associates descended to inaugurate the system of sacrifice for this entire age some other scheme should take precedence. If we don’t have complete faith in the congregational chanting of the Holy Name, if we have very little taste and attraction for chanting and dancing and are thereby relatively disinterested or diverted to other engagements, leaving ourselves little if any time to seriously take up the religion of the age, if we don’t recognize the beauty and value of hari-nama-sankirtana, and if we are not intent upon practically helping to push forward that most sublime dharma emphatically prescribed by Lord Caitanya, then we should simply understand that we are cursed by Yamaraja, that we have not realized the purpose of the Krishna consciousness movement, and that we have not truly comprehended the highest mercy aspect of the Lord’s ongoing audarya-lila of preaching the sankirtana movement all over the world. The highest mercy aspect of the Lord’s ongoing audarya-lila is to elevate fallen conditioned souls to the topmost perfection of relishing eternal spontaneous loving madhurya service to Radha and Krishna on the platform of vraja-prema. There is no doubt about this. Golokera prema-dhana, hari-nama-sankirtana. Any goloka-rasa may be awakened by the performance of vipralambha-rasa-maya hare-krishna-maha-mantra-sankirtana. However, as rasaraja-mahabhava Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu mainly descended to this world to freely distribute the supremely nectarean mellow of radha-dasya, it should not astonish anyone that sankirtana of the ultimate, matchless maha-mantra – Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare – would primarily appear to distinguishedly stimulate and nourish that unnatojjvala-vraja-rasa
Na mam duskrtino mudhah prapadyante . . . But who are the mudhas? The term mudha does not exclusively portray the other guy. As much as we ourselves, like beasts of burden, continue to blunderingly bear the encumbering heaps and piles of corporeal egoism, material attachments, and misconceived notions about the recommended processes by which the ultimate philosophical conclusions of the Gaudiya sampradaya’s teachings may be practically implemented and realized, that much we ourselves can be considered mudhas.
naham prakasah sarvasya
mudho ‘yam nabhijanati
loko mam ajam avyayam
“I am not manifest to everyone. Because I am concealed and guarded by My internal deluding potency (yoga-maya), dull-headed ass-like individuals cannot recognize Me as the unborn and inexhaustible Supreme Personality of Godhead.” (Bg. 7.25)
Kaviraja Gosvami has stated in his Caitanya-caritamrita (Adi 17.22), kali-kale nama-rupe krishna avatara: in this Age of Kali, Krishna descends from His eternal abode in the form of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra. Paritranaya sadhunam – it is Sri Hari-nama Prabhu who descends to deliver the sadhus by augmenting their faith in the process of sankirtana-yajna while granting a profound taste for its performance, thus mitigating their pangs of separation. Vinasaya ca duskrtam – it is Sri Hari-nama who anihilates the demonic anartha-congested mentality that generates the unfortunate reluctance, disregard, and sheer disinterest concerning the performance of sankirtana. In Kali-yuga, not to engage one’s energies in the performance of yuga-dharma-nama-sankirtana can be considered the primary form of irreligion. Whenever and wherever there is a decline in its performance – yada yada hi dharmasya glanir bhavati – and a predominant rise in the negligence of such – abhyutthanam adharmasya – then, tada, at that time – dharma-samsthapanartaya – it is only Sri Hari-nama, appearing through the lips of the Lord’s pure devotee, who can forcefully reestablish the jivas’ eternal occupational duty, nama-sankirtana. So also, it is Sri Hari-nama who descends to graciously bestow unalloyed love for Himself through the culture of nama-sankirtana-yajna. Even so, Krishna-nama reserves the right to either expose or conceal Himself in response to an individual’s quality of faith. Regrettably, disoriented neophytes possessed of persistent mudha-like tendencies do not recognize the true nature of the Holy Name, who, though unborn, inconceivably takes birth from His mother, who takes the form of a pure devotee’s tongue. The beginning, middle, and culmination of saranagati (surrender to the Lord’s shelter) as a practical expression of one’s level of sraddha are actualized in this age by surrendering to the service of the Holy Name. And the prime methodology for such surrender is the propagation of the current yuga-dharma, the congregational chanting of the Holy Name. This truth was profusely demonstrated by Sri Gauranga throughout His manifest earthly pastimes.
Only prema-ruruksu devotees, who are considerably advanced on the path of pure devotion, can truly understand the power of the Holy Name and the need to wholeheartedly take shelter of the process of nama-sankirtana.
bhaktya tv ananyaya sakya
aham evam-vidho ‘rjuna
jnatum drastum ca tattvena
pravestum ca parantapa
“My dear Arjuna, only by undivided devotional service can I [as nama-rupa avatara] be understood as I am, standing [dancing] before you [on your tongue], and can thus be seen directly [in the proper light]. Only in this way can you enter into the mysteries of My understanding.” (Bg. 11.54)
na bhaved grahyam indriyaih
sevonmukhe hi jihvadau
svayam eva sphuraty adah
No one can understand the transcendental nature of the name, form, quality, and pastimes of Sri Krishna through his materially contaminated senses. Only when one becomes spiritually saturated by transcendental service to the Lord are the transcendental names, forms, qualities, and pastimes of the Lord revealed to him.” (Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu 1.2.234) Here again, in Kali-yuga, “transcendental service to the Lord” connotes primarily the congregational chanting of His Holy Name.
Unfortunately, ass-like (bhara-vahi) externally absorbed kanistha-bhaktas of meager spiritual standing, though socially established through Gaudiya-religio-institutional affiliation, have very little if any true cognition of the eternality, infallibility, and omnipotence of Krisha’s self-same names, forms, qualities, and pastimes. Owing to residual sinful reactions, insufficient accumulation of piety in this and previous lifetimes, and a tendency to commit nama-aparadha, they are unable to worship the Holy Name with the determination required to gain much tangible experience of the efficacy of nama-sankirtana. On that account, their faith in and concomitant surrender to the direct prosecution of the yuga-dharma largely lacks firmness. For want of spiritual insight, they do not clearly ascertain what is and what is not to be done. Their pursuit of Krishna consciousness lacks proper prioritization. They disregard scriptural injunctions even while giving lip-service to the importance of following scriptural injunctions. They thus fail to submit to the prescribed process recommended in the scriptures for this age and so give little importance to the practice of congregational chanting and dancing. Hence, their degrees of faithlessness in the matter of congregationally chanting the Holy Name relegate their way of thinking to the domain of assorted mudha-isms. Srimad Bhagavad-gita has it that four kinds of faithful neophyte devotees begin the process of devotional surrender with the hope of gaining the Lord’s favor – the distressed (artah), who are to some extent mukti-kami, hoping to get peace of mind by chanting the semblance of nama; the inquisitive (jijnasuh), who are curious about the effects of chanting the Holy Name; the fortune seekers (artha-arthi), who are to some extent bhukti-kami, hoping to fulfill desires for material gain by performing sankirtana; and the wise (jnani), who actually know things as they are and dutifully perform sankirtana of the Holy Name with an aspiration to pure devotional progress. All these people are considered to be more or less pious (sukrtinah), eligible for elevation to the madhyama-adhikara through the association of pure devotees. Conversely, there are those of us who, even though posing as devotees, relentlessly decline to acknowledge the need to intently adhere to the process of nama-sankirtana. On the pretext of various other devotional engagements and institutional “responsibilities,” they platitudinously declare themselves to be exempt from the need to seriously prosecute the yuga-dharma. Due to miserly weakness under the influence of the Lord’s deluding potency, they are hard put to see the connection between the sankirtana performances and the fulfillment of all material and spiritual exigencies. To the extent that we fail to appreciate and earnestly actualize the propagation of nama-sankirtana, residues of the demonic tendencies persist in our hearts. Correspondingly, the terms duskrtinah, mudhah, naradhamah, and mayayapahrta-jnanah found in the Gita also indicate our own individual and collective devotional shortcomings. So, who are the mudhas? We are the mudhas! Why? Because even though the truth of the importance of prosecuting the yuga-dharma as the only viable method by which the goal of life can be practically achieved is staring us in the face, we continue to ignore the obvious and attach ourselves to so many superfluous strategies. On the plea of various Krishna conscious pursuits, we are primed to die losers, without ever having truly understood or appropriately applied the science of self realization. Yo va etad aksaram gargy aviditvasmal lokat praiti sa krpanah. “He is a miserly man who does not solve the problems of life as a human and who thus quits this world like the cats and dogs, without understanding the science of self-realization.” (Brhad-aranyaka Upanisad 3.8.10) This very brief human form of life is a most valuable asset for allaying the tribulations of conditional existence, which revolve around the quest for ultimate happiness. Therefore, one who does not utilize this golden opportunity properly for the achievement of vraja-prema via the process of nama-sankirtana is a miser.
All other spiritual practices may be considered legitimate to the extent that they actually enhance the performance of hari-nama-sankirtana. As much as we engage our time in activities other than hari-nama-sankirtana or activities other than those that support, inspire, or facilitate the direct performance of hari-nama-sankirtana, that much our human form of life may be considered a devotional wasteland. The Krishna consciousness movement is not Lord Caitanya’s arcana movement. It is not Lord Caitanya’s “kitchen-religion” prasada-distribution movement. Neither is it Lord Caitanya’s management-meetings movement, nor is it Lord Caitanya’s varnasrama movement, nor is it a cow-protection movement. It is not Lord Caitanya’s money-scamming movement; nor Lord Caitanya’s computer-junkie; social-development; community-service; international-matchmaking; child-protection; or eating, sleeping, baby-buggying, and mutual back-scratching or backbiting movement. We would do very well to clearly mark that the Krishna consciousness movement happens to be Lord Caitanya’s sankirtana movement, please. A movement that does not primarily inspire, promote, and facilitate its members’ concerted absorption in kali-yuga-dharma hari-nama-sankirtana is hardly a sankirtana movement. Moreover, a sankirtana movement that neglects to purposely encourage the pursuit of raga-bhajana for the attainment of vraja-prema is not the sankirtana movement of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. In this Kali-yuga, there’s no question of pleasing Lord Krishna without pleasing Lord Caitanya. Human beings with good brain substance (su-medhasah) intelligently recognize that Lord Caitanya is immensely pleased by the lobha-maya performance of sneha-samyukta-nama-sankirtana (complete engagement in congregational chanting with deep affection). There is no universally viable dharma in this age save the congregational chanting of the Holy Name.
In this Age of Kali the success of any other limb of devotional service – not excluding the execution of bhagavata-sravana-kirtana, of which transcendental book distribution (brhat-kirtana) is an extension – largely depends upon one’s isochronous absorption in the direct practice of nama-sankirtana. It is seen, with reference to acarya-vani, that the most highly elevated, self-surrendering devotees doubtlessly prefer to exclusively embrace the congregational singing of the Holy Name rather than rely on other devotional processes for the evolvement of prema. In the bhakti-sastras the efficacy of nama-sankirtana is well established above all other angas of bhakti. In fact, nama-sankirtana stands alone as the greatest devotional practice (maha-sadhana) and therefore reigns supreme as the only infallible means of attaining love of Godhead (vraja-prema). It is not that other forms of devotional service are as good as nama-sankirtana, but somehow or other nama-sankirtana is not really good enough (financially viable or whatever), obliging us not to highlight its performance in any way. If we are to propose that nama-sankirtana is not good enough to merit our concern, then any engagement allegedly “as good as” nama-sankirtana should also be equally ignored. Beyond that, the proposition that any devotional activity is in any way better than prosecuting the yuga-dharma should be deemed sheer madness. Any other anga of sadhana-bhakti deserves to be lauded as sadhana only if it in some way facilitates one’s active absorption in nama-sankirtana-rasa. Further, any sadhana that fails to promote but rather tends to detract from one’s progressive attachment to the process of nama-sankirtana is simply an anartha, an impediment on the path of ultimate perfection – even if in the broader sense it is computed to be some sort of sankirtana.
It is not that just because we have joined Lord Caitanya’s hari-nama-sankirtana movement we therefore don’t need to bother ourselves to go out on hari-nama-sankirtana. How can we expect to get ruci for something we scarcely do? Suddha-nama-kirtana-ruci is not so cheap that merely by official, institutionally regimented token gesture or lame lip-service we should expect to achieve the thing. We have to go deeper, beyond the call of duty, beyond the ceremonious filing in and filing out of the stipulated “temple programs.” When Mother Yasoda was trying to bind Bala Krishna to the grinding mortar, she was mystified to find that she was again and again two fingers short of success. One finger represents a devotee’s steadfast extra endeavor, the other Krishna’s divine dispensation, His special mercy. Alongside whatever other services we may be doing on any level, all of us, irrespective of organizational echelon, would do well to assiduously find or make the time to both privately and publicly do more hari-nama-sankirtana and see the long-lasting internal (personal/communal) and external (outreaching/para-upakara) results. If our authorities disallow, discourage, disparage, or in any way hamper our focus on the performance of yuga-dharma-hari-nama-sankirtana, then they are not our authorities. If our gurus instruct us not to concentrate our energies and resources on the performance of yuga-dharma-hari-nama-sankirtana, then, with all due respect, they are not our gurus. As Bali Maharaja rejected the order of his guru, Sukracarya, we should be prepared to similarly disobey the instructions of millions of “gurus” who in any way dissuade us from surrendering to the yuga-dharma. Trnad api su-nicena . . . kirtaniyah sada harih. What does it mean to have the genuine humility required to constantly and uncompromisingly adhere to the practice of nama-sankirtana? To unwittingly allow ourselves to be regressed to a state of infancy by the institutional manipulators of men and money, that they might conveniently maneuver us to advance their managerial agenda according to their whims via their artful appliance of the principles of child psychology, is not what is truly meant by “trnad api su-nicena.” The correct understanding is very simple; simple for the simple. Contextually implied by the proposed adoption of an attitude of humbleness is simply the seemliness in honestly admitting oneself to be a fallen Kali-yuga creature, having no qualification to achieve the goal of life by any means other than the process foreordained by the sastras and propagated by Lord Gaura as the only viable dharma for the deliverance of the fallen souls of this age, namely hari-nama-sankirtana. Equally connoted is the spiritual integrity required to boldly stand up against all odds (taror iva sahisnuna) and simply do what is right according to time (Kali-yuga) and circumstance (our fallen condition). In doing so, one should not unrealistically expect to be regarded as being fit for any other practice (amanina), and one should respect (mana-dena) the true self-interest of other similarly fallen Kali-yuga creatures, in the matter of their attaining the fruit of krsna-prema, by encouraging them to also take up the dharma of the age. Kirtaniyah sada harih is not achieved by not doing nama-sankirtana. Hari-nama-sankirtana is the best and most powerful process for awakening one’s taste and attachment for the Holy Name. One who fortunately gains authentic suddha-nama-ruci and intelligently amasses stockpiles of solid background experience in the matter of relishing the nectar of nama-sankirtana-rasa will most likely never depart from the path of unalloyed devotional bhajana.
Without having the impulse to enthusiastically practice the religion of this age, hari-nama-sankirtana, what Vaisnava or Vaisnavi can claim to be having suddha-nama-ruci?
Without having extensively engaged in vigorous, daily protracted performances of the yuga-dharma, hari-nama-sankirtana, what Vaisnava or Vaisnavi can honestly claim to have ascended to the terrace of prema?
Without purposely promoting the daily promulgation of the yuga-dharma, hari-nama-sankirtana, what devotional community can viably proclaim its intent to elevate its members to life’s ultimate perfection?
Without deliberately stimulating and fostering the worldwide daily promulgation of the yuga-dharma, hari-nama-sankirtana, what institution can claim to be truly representing the sankirtana movement of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu?
Without having sensibly dedicated a substantial portion of life’s time and energy to the direct performance of yuga-dharma hari-nama-sankirtana, which individual or group of individuals can claim to have rightly understood and applied the essential message of the scriptures proliferated by the Gaudiya Vaisnava acaryas through disciplic succession?
If we sincerely desire to deepen and redouble our taste for chanting the Holy Name, then we would do very well to take shelter of Gaura-Nitai and do more hari-nama-sankirtana! If we recognize the enormous need to practically expand the ocean of transcendental fortune and bliss to touch the lives of other pious souls, in the matter of increasing and maintaining Krishna’s family of devotees, then we would surely do well to take shelter of Gaura-Nitai and do more hari-nama-sankirtana! If we at all acknowledge the intermutual need to expedite the purification of our Vaisnava relationships then we would all do very well to concertedly take shelter of Gaura-Nitai and do more hari-nama-sankirtana! If we seriously want to go well beyond the bodily concept of life, to realize the highest constitutional spiritual identity of the self (vraja-svarupa), then we would do very well to set all worldly considerations aside, take shelter of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and do more hari-nama-sankirtana! If we truly desire the perfection of the vraja-bhavas, by which we could ever hope to attain the pleasure pastimes of the Lord in the topmost realm of Vraja, then we would do very well to do more hari-nama-sankirtana! If we at all see the need to expedite our progress to the terrace of vipralambha-bhava-maya-vraja-prema for the pleasure of guru and Gauranga, in consonance with the very purpose of Their mission, then we would do very well to do more hari-nama-sankirtana! If we, honestly confessing any delinquency in the matter of its performance, sense a deficiency in the evolvement of our individual and collective pure devotional experience as per insight, revelation, and realization, then we would, by all means, do very well to abandon all apprehensions about the thing and simply do more hari-nama-sankirtana! If we want the life-long inspiration to carry on with our transcendental book distribution in a most viable way, then we would certainly do very, very well to do more hari-nama-sankirtana in order to deeply appreciate and enthusiastically share the very essence of what the books are, in so many words, purposely promoting! Given that we might, with a view to accomplish the as-yet-to-be-realized final half of Srila Prabhupada’s mission, deem the reestablishment of varnasrama-dharma in present-day human society to be of paramount importance, even still, we would do very, very well to intelligently put the horse before the cart and concertedly, all the world over, do more mass hari-nama-sankirtana – to practically increase the piety and spiritual consciousness of the masses in order to even hope to make possible that which is virtually impossible under the present so-called “for the people, by the people” heinously roguish, demonic, world-domineering corporatist governmental misleadership. Godless religio-racist multi-national corporate elitists and other hard-core, ruthless, raksasa-like terror-breathing global tyrants are not going to politely wait for us, the members of the Krishna consciousness movement, to finally, all over the world, wake up to our inalienable right and responsibility to do more and more mass hari-nama-sankirtana! Institutional management has neither the authority to sanction nor the right to interdict or in any way inhibit the performance of the yuga-dharma. The will of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu ultimately pulls rank on institutional authority. Please remember that in Kali-yuga the Supreme Personality of Godhead descends from Goloka-dhama to protect the sadhus and annihilate the demons by resoundingly manifesting as His Holy Name on the tongues of His pure devotees. The divine descent of kali-yuga-krishna-avatara sri-hari-nama-rupa alone can effect the downfall of such insidiously scheming, media-manipulating latter-day murderous war-money-mongering demons and carcass-devouring pseudo religionists of Kamsa’s and Putana’s class! Even if we prefer to pursue variant paths of spiritual perfection, or even if our all-devouring exigencies cannot go beyond the transitory urgency to “put food on the table” and “give peace a chance,” all the same, we would definitely do very, very well to have faith in the yajna for this age and simply do more and more hari-nama-sankirtana! Let us not wait until the fag end of life, when varieties of physical and mental decrepitude will render our bodies inoperative, to wisely recognize this principle. The urgency is enormous. Jiva jago! Jiva jago! The time is now. Now is the time for revolution – a revolution of consciousness, a revolution of priorities. It’s time for a reality check. All individual, communal, institutional, and inter-institutional devotional inadequacies, anomalies, and inequities – as well as all domestic, public, socio-political, governmental, and inter-governmental irregularities of this age – can be positively surmounted simply by intelligently administering “heavier,” more frequent medicinal doses of life-giving yuga-dharma sri-hari-nama-sankirtana. Once again, if we’re not part of the solution, we’re part of the problem. We have busied ourselves over the years, trying so many other ideas. Why not sincerely concede to this one and be pleasantly surprised?
(Excerpts from Aindra Dasa’s soon to be published composition, The Heart of Transcendental Book Distribution.)