Shikshashtakam 5 Text 2 The mysterious non-difference of Krishna and his holy name
Workshop at Krishna Institute, Alachua, USA
Transcription of Lecture
So, today we begin with the second text, and just before that two small words from the first text which I didn’t elaborate – pratipadam purnamritam aswadam.
So, I focussed on purnramritam yesterday. So, pratipadam is at each step. So, actually pratipadam and purna both are reinforcers of the same sense – that actually when we become purified and absorbed in Krishna, then there is complete nectar and constant nectar. So, purna is complete, pratipadam is constant. So, this is constant and complete experience of nectar, and aaswadanam – normally the word aswada is associated with swada – that is to taste. Now the experience of Krishna is actually a trance-sensory. It is not something which is through the senses.
So, yes we may – the senses may be involved, like when we sing Krishna’s names, we hear Krishna’s names being sung – the senses are definitely being involved, but Krishna himself is a trans-sensory reality and aswadanam when we say, it is not just with the tongue. We have the famous verse of Rupa Goswami where he says, “tunde tandeneveli tin vitunute tundavali” “I wish when I chant the holy name that I have hundreds of mouth and millions of ears, and he says, and when the holy name dances in the courtyard of my heart, and all my wordly desires become inert, become …1.52… So, his experiencing the sweetness of the holy name not just with the tongue, but also with the ears – so, aswada is actually – it’s not just tasting, it is experiencing – experiencing through the tongue and through the other senses also. Like we have the Bhagavad-gita verse, param dhristwa nivartate , in Gita (2.61 ) – tani sarvani samyamya
yukta asita mat parah,
vasye hi yesyendriyani
tasya prajna pratisthita
In B.G (2.59) –
Rasa varjam raso py asya
Param drstva nivartate
superior or higher – spiritual, and dhristwa is seeing. So, when superior or spiritual is seen, at that time one become peaceful.
Prabhupada translates that as higher taste. So, now the word in Sanskrit is dristva, which is connected with eyes. When Prabhupada is translating it, he is using taste which we could say is connected with tongue. The point is that actually there is – whether it is seeing or it is tasting, the point is that we are experiencing higher reality. So, the experience of Krishna is ultimately trans-sensory, although the senses maybe tools for experiencing that, but Krishna himself is a trans-sensory reality, and when we experience that then that experience is so fulfilling that we don’t want any other experiences.
In the Bhagavatam 11th Canto it is said that, bhakti paresana bhava, viraktir anyatra cha. Bhakti is the process that gives us anubhav. Anubhav is experience of what? Of para isha. The isha is the controller. That Lord who is transcendental. So, we get the experience of that transcendental Lord through the process of bhakti, and when we get that experience what happens? Viraktir anyartra cha. That experience of Krishna is so fulfilling that we feel that I don’t need any other experience, I don’t need to crave for any worldly pleasures. So, in that sense aswada is anubhava, it is experience. It can be through the tongue, it can be through the ears. Krishna can come into our consciousness through various senses, and he can just come in the consciousness through the recollections that are there also, and when we experience Krishna then there is nectar over there.
So, let’s move on to the second text now. We will recite together
Nama namakari bahudha nija sarva saktis
Tatra pitah niyamitah smarane na kalaha
Etadrsi tava krpa bhagavan mampi
Durdaivam idrsam ihajani nanuragah
So, the first verse talks about the glorious results of chanting the holy names, and the second verse focuses on explaining the – at one level the reason for the glory. That is Krishna and his holy name is non-different – nam namakari bahudha – the Lord has may names, nija sarva saktis, he has invested all his energies in this holy names. Tatrar pita niyamita smarane na kalaha, so he is talking about – one level of mercy of the Lord is that – or one aspect of his mercy is that there are so much fruits available through the chanting of the holy names – that was described in the first verse. This verse describes, Krishna actually invested all his energy in it, and not only invested all his energies in it, but also there is no rules in chanting over here – there is no rules in chanting, and then in spite of that – durdaivam idrsham ihajani nanuragha, and my misfortune is – unfortunately I have no taste for this chanting.
So the chanting of the holy name is so potent, so accessible, and yet I have no taste, that is my misfortune.
So, I will focus here on one theme of how we understand actually the non-difference between Krishna and his holy names. So, the words are technical, but the concepts are not complex. So, in the sandharvas, Jiva goswami analyses this and basically there is the mimakshakas – Mimaksa was one school of thought in our philosophy. They say, “Where is the power when we speak? When we address sounds, where is the power? So, there are two schools of thoughts, there is varnavad and spotavad. Now varna means letters. So, varnavad means – vad actually means a school of thought, like we have mayavad, tattvavade etc. So, varnavad means, the school of thought which says that the power is in the letters, in the varna. So, in this school of thought the idea is – one doesn’t not need to understand the meaning per se; just like if there is a formula – if a child is ..07.07.. you need to find out how much petrol you need in the car, and this much distance has been covered, and this much petrol has been covered and petrol can go this much distance. Now the child will not understand much about it. You just put the formula and you get the result. So, when we are using a formula, at that time the important thing is – just the letters. If the letters are all arranged properly, say E = mc(square), once the letters are there, even if one doesn’t understand the whole theory behind it, it doesn’t matter. As long as you get the letters right, you will get the results right.
So, this was primarily the school of thought in the recitation of vedic mantras. When vedic mantras are recited the whole idea is that the power is in the letters, and that’s why the letters have to be recited very precisely, and if anybody who recites the vedic mantras precisely, then they will gain access to that power, irrespective of whether they are on the side of dharma or they are on the side of adharma. If they can recite the letters properly, then they get the power because the power is in the precise recitation, and this theme comes also in the Bhagavatam in a particular pastime where the recitation goes wrong. Which is that pastime?
He wants a son who will kill Indra, but he recites Indra-satraho. So, he recites it wrong, and what happens is that result becomes opposite. Instead of getting a person who would be the enemy of Indra – that means that this person will kill Indra, he gets a son who will – for whom Indra is the enemy. That means Indra kills him. So, the idea is – that just the whole thing is – like if a formula – a student may be very sincere student of mathematics, and he is very diligently studying, but if he just write the formula wrong; do something wrong in the formula – Maths is a very unfeeling subject. You get the formula wrong, you will get the result wrong, no matter how much hard work somebody has put in it, it doesn’t matter. So, this school of thought was that, if we recite the letters properly, then the power is in those letters, and that’s why in the vedic times the brahmanas who could recite mantras were considered very very powerful, and even now there is the – to some extent the left-over of that culture even today where in the mainstream Hindu society, where some people who can recite verses very well, they are considered – “Oh this person can recite verses so well.” There may be other who can actually explain those verses very nicely, but if their pronunciation is wrong, many people think, that is like a final disqualification only. “You can’t pronounce the verses also?” so, it is not like that.
Basically there is the idea that ritual specialization is the sigh of spiritual advancement. Ritual specialization means that being very specialized, being very good in performing those particular rituals. That itself is the evidence of one’s spiritual stature – how advanced one is. So, that notion comes from this idea that – actually the whole power is the precise letters only, and you have to recite the letters precisely. If you can’t, then what is the use of all your study? You are not actually very advanced. That sort of idea comes because, that is the leftover of this idea.
Now this is not wrong entirely. The letters do have power, but when we come to mantras there is something much more involved over there which I will come to now. So, varnavad is – power is in the letters itself. The other school of thought was – spothavad. So, spotha in Sanskrit or in Hindi means explosion. So, in the bomb sphot, the bomb has exploded. So, sphotavad, what is the idea? Actually the power is in the meaning. That means that, say if there is proverb, if there is saying, then you have to understand the saying, and when we understand the saying, then we get it. It’s like you know somebody cracks a witty joke, and then you have to think what the joke is, and at one particular moment if you get the joke everyone starts laughing at that. So, what happens over there, that is like a – the letters are there themselves, but the letters have to awaken, they have to register in the consciousness and they have to awaken that understanding, and when the moment of understanding awakens, then there is the impact.
So, suppose somebody cracks a joke, and the audience doesn’t get the joke only – the speaker is cracking the joke, and then nobody laughs, and the speaker feels like crying at that time – what happened here? Why? Because that illumination – that didn’t happen. So, the potency of the joke is not just in the words being uttered. It is in the impact in the consciousness, which happens when there is understanding.
So, now the puranic lila or the puranic katha – here also recitation is important, but it is more of understanding. We see right in the beginning, it is said when Suta Goswami’s qualification are talked about – so, it is said that – the sages of Sanak adi Rshi’s, they praise Suta Goswami and they say, “You are expert in all branches of Vedic knowledge except some.”, and then in the purport Prabhupada explains that, he was not all that expert in the precise recitation of matras, but that is not very important.
So, in the puranas it is more of understanding, realizing, appreciating. So, Maitreya Muni says this to Vidura when he asks this question – he says, “Yatha smriti, yatha matih.” That I have heard a lot, but as I understood, and as I remember I am speaking it. So, in the puranas the focus is not just on the precise recitation of exact things as they are. Yes, that is also important. If you can memorize verses and recite verses that is good, but the potency is not simply in reciting verses. We need to understand the meaning, and apply them in our life. So, this is another idea, another school of thought which says, “The power is not in the words themselves. The power is in the meaning and cognition, in the comprehension that happens in the person when they hear those words.
Now in modern philosophy also, there is a whole branch of philosophy called the philosophy of language, and in the philosophy of language there is big discussion whether words are the carriers of meanings, or are they the shapers of meaning also? That means our words – just like say there is a pipe between me and you, and the words are like a pipe. So, I send you something from here and it reaches over there. So, the words are simply the carriers of meaning. That is one school of thought within the philosophy of language. The other is, the words are just not the carriers of meaning; the words are also the shapers of meaning. That means that I may want to covey a particular meaning, but if I use a particular word and if that word reminds you of something different – now you have something else in your mind coming up and you hear that word, then the word is not just the carrier of meaning.
Say, 20 years ago – this is to some extent say linguistic also, cultural also. It is just a simple example. Say, 20-30 years ago if somebody said, “I went to a gay party.” At that time gay simply meant cheerful, but if today if somebody says, “I went to a gay party”, it has a very different connotation. So, the word is the same, but what has happened? The word depending on whom we are speaking to – it can act as career of meaning or it can act as a shaper of meaning also, and shaper can also be a distorter of meaning. So, depending on the words that we use – so, in the philosophical language the idea is there, that the meaning – so, why I am giving these two examples? This is a rough parallel of varna vada and sphota vada. Not exactly similar. That as long as I get words right, I have done my part. No, it is not like that. I have to get the words right. That is not the only part of communication. That is not the only challenge in communication.
I may choose the right words with my understanding, but if for the audience those words have a different connotation, then it has a very different meaning. Now around in 1900, there was British linguist – British Sanskrit scholar, he translated the Ramayana, and it was a fairly good translation. It was one of the first translations, and then about a few years ago – usually the books – they have a copyright for 75 years after publication, and then they come in the public domain. So, just a few years ago that book was put in the public domain as a translation of Ramayana by a famous scholar.” And there he has a chapter over there which is titled as the “The rape of Sita” Now, when some of the Hindus saw this, they became so angry – how dare! Sita was never violated, cannot call rape of Sita. So then it created a big furore, and then the current generations of scholars were put in public domain, and they said, “Actually 75 years ago the word rape had many different meanings. So, rape simply means – at that when he is using it – it simply means physical abduction. It is abduction, it is not violation. So, when he is using the word rape of the sita, that means that Ravana kidnapped Sita.
And there are many instances in history also, when say some conquerors come and they take princes as a hostage. They don’t necessarily violate them, but they keep their hostage so that they can keep something. That is also called as rape. So, what happens is – I am giving these two examples so that the words are not simply carriers of meaning. When Prabupada quotes on rape, then also the same problem comes because the words have different meanings. So, the point is that the words are not just carriers of meanings, they are also shapers of meaning. So, this is a rough parallel in today’s world of these disputes. So, where is the power of sound?
Now, Jiva Goswami analyses this both, and then he explains that actually the letters of the names of Krishna, they are important. So, the idea is that – Prabhupada would say, “Even if you don’t understand the language of the mantra – anybody can chant, and they can experience the benefit from the chanting of the holy name. Anybody can experience ecstasy. People are coming on the streets. They don’t even know what the holy name is? The just chant, sing, they just utter – This is so nice! So, it is not that one has to have an understanding of it all to feel ecstasy while chanting. So, in that sense we could say that the power – we don’t necessarily need to understand the meaning. The power is in the letter itself, but then we could take it another way and say – “There are some people who may not even pronounce the letters well, and still they can also chant and they can also experience ecstasy.” Isn’t it?
So, is it that all the power of the mahamantra is in the letters alone? There is this other school of thought especially in the Bhakti tradition where – it is said that actually the exact pronunciation is not all that important. So, is it in the meaning? Now, actually when we chant the Hare Krishna mahamantra, is it that when we utter the mantra something – some understanding has to awaked in our heart? And then that is when the potency of the mahamantra is registered? Now we see broadly speaking the intellectual appreciation of the holy name – if we understand the philosophy – through philosophy the glory of the holy name that inspires us to take shelter of the holy name more seriously.
Quite often we will see that if we hear some seminar on chanting, and then afterwards at least for some time we chant a little more seriously, because what is happening there is – the intelligence has gained renewed conviction, that this is important thing, and therefore the mind will always go here and there, but when our intelligence is strongly convinced we will get the mind back. We will get the mind back and we will focus on the holy name. So, in that sense, because of that our chanting improves. So, the intellectual aspect – the comprehending of the holy name, that can help in chanting. At the same time that is not alone.
The difference between intellectual conviction about the glory of the holy name and sphotabad is – in sphotabad the sound itself creates some meaning inside us, and then there is the effect, whereas when we are talking about the holy name, it is something that has come before. Now I intellectually understand the glory of the holy name, and then I focus on the sound, and then when there is contact of the soul of our consciousness with the sound of the holy name, there is purification. So, sukhena brahma samsparsham atyanta sukham asnute (Gita 6.28), Krishna says that sukhena is happiness, brahma samsparsha. Now samsparsha is the same word that Krishna uses in the Bhagavad-gita – yehi samsprashaja bhoga dukha yona ye evate. When there is contact with the senses with the sense objects, there is pleasure but the pleasure is the womb of misery, but here Krishna is using the same word, samsparsha – contact. So, when there is contact of the soul with Brahma, with spiritual reality, then sukhena brahma samsparsa, there is sukha, What kind of sukha? Atyantam sukham asnute. There is an ultimate happiness.
So, the both aspects are there, but the point is – the potency of the holy name is experienced when there is contact of our consciousness with Krishna. So, if I am just uttering the Hare Krishna mahamantra – the letters are coming out very precisely, but if I am not attentive – the taperecorder also can also produce the words very nicely, but if I am not conscious there will not be much benefit, and on the other hand I know all the philosophy of the holy name, but I am not concentrating that will also not help much.
So, Jiva Goswami concludes that this are both valid in their own ways, but the important thing is that the potency of the holy neither dependent on the letters themselve
s, nor is it dependent on the consciousness of the hearer alone, like in Varnavad the potency is in the letter. In spotabhad it is in the consciousness of the hearer, the meaning awakens.
The potency of the holy name is actually because of Krishna’s omnipotence. It is because Krishna is omnipotent, Krishna manifests his omnipotence through the holy names. So, the potency of the holy names is not restricted to just the literal recitation of the words, nor is it restricted to the comprehension that happens on hearing the words. The potency is because Krishna by his omnipotence chooses to invest his omnipotence in the holy names. Nam namakiri bahuda nija sarva saktis tatra arpita – arpita means he has offered it, he has invested his omnipotence in the sound of the holy names. This can help us to understand that sometimes some devotees, they may chant the Hare Krishna mahamantra with great sincerity, and they actually experience some connection with Krishna, but if you look objectively their pronunciation may not be all that fine.
In some languages say that the word ra sound is not there only. So, Hale Lam Hale Lam Lam hale Hale – they will chant like that, and actually they have bhava. Some Sanskrit scholar may – you are not referring to Ram, who is you Lam? Who is Lam, they are talking about Dalai Lama, Lam, but no it is not like that. Actually the intention is there to chant the holy names. They have the intention – they are seeking Krishna, and the potency is – because Krishna is omnipotent and omnipotent Krishna reciprocates. So, that brings us to the next part.
So, the holy name is Krishna. How? So, ontology is the word that is used to – it is about the branch of philosophy that studies the nature of reality. That is called ontology. So, ontology basically means fact. So, the factual reality is that Krishna and his holy name are non-different. So, Krishna is his holy name. That is the fact because Krishna has an omnipotence to manifest as the holy name, but at the same time Krishna’s omnipotence – Krishna’s non-difference from his holy name is not always perceived by everone.
That perception depends on individual consciousness. That perception of the non-difference of Krishna and his holy name, that is matter of individual or subjective realization.
So, for example if you consider the deity – when we do the prana pratistha, at that time Krishna manifests as the deity. At the same time everybody who comes and worships the deity, they may not feel the presence of Krishna when they go in front of the deity. So, there is – one thing is the reality, and the other is the experience. So, our experience does not always match the reality. Just like if a person is going in a desert and they see a mirage – their experience is – at least at that time of perception they are seeing water over there, but the reality is there is no water over there. So, there is our experience and there is a reality, and our experience in terms of our perception – our perception and the reality may not always match. This happens even in the material world, and that can happen in the spiritual realm also.
So, when we chant the holy names we quite often do not experiences this non-difference of Krishna and his holy names, but ye yatha mam prapadyante tams tathaiva bhajmayham – as Krishna says in Gita (4.11) – “As all people surrender unto me, I reward them accordingly.” So, in the mood in which we approach the holy name, the serious with which we chant, the reverence with which we try to utter the holy name, to that extent Krishna reciprocates and reveals himself. Just as with respect to the deities also – those who serve the deities very reverentially, those who serve the deities consistently they start experiencing Krishna.
So, Srila Prabhupada – the first deities that we got in our movement – it was in New Jagannath Puri in San Franscisco, and then Srila Prabhupada says in one lecture there that – there or in Dwarakadish? Srila Prabhupada says the same thing several times, but he says that, “If you serve Krishna seriously, this very deity will talk with you, but if not then this will remain stone for you.”
So, “This is will remain stone for you”, that means it is not that it is stone alone, it is Krishna,
but for the observer depending on the consciousness it may not be perceived as Krishna.
In the 6th Canto of the Srimad Bhagavatam –
at this point are there any questions or comments?
Q: Is it that pronunciation as well as the intent, both are important or is it intent alone that matters?
CCP: Actually Krishna is bhavagrahi. So, primarily what he looks at is the intent. At that the same time the intent also needs to be expressed through action. Just like we have the principle of manasa puja where manas puja – a person can just worship Krishna in the mind. In the mind they can say, “I want to offer garlands, I want to offer necklaces, I want to jewels to Krishna”, and that is also accepted as a form of bhakti, but manas puja is not an excuse for not doing the actual puja. It is when we cannot do the actual puja, at that time we are not disconnected from Krishna, just because we are not able to do the actual puja. Krishna accepts the intension of the mind also, but if somebody has a – somebody says, “Oh in my mind gave a millions dollars to Krishna”, and in real life I don’t give anything.
So, if manas puja becomes an excuse for not doing any effort practically, that is undesirable. The point is that if there are certain material restrictions which do not allow us to serve Krishna practically, then the principle of manas puja is – the restriction may impede a specific form of service, but the restriction cannot stop us from connecting with Krishna. When I cannot do something practically, still in my mind I do it, I will be connected with Krishna, but if I am sincere, then I will not be just satisfied by doing it in my mind, I will also do is practically. So, in the same way the most important thing is the intent to want to call out to Krishna, the intent to connect with Krishna by chanting his holy names.
At the same time if I have that sincere intent, then I should also make efforts to pronounce properly. So, in some cases, for some reasons, as I said, if some particular sound is not there in somebody’s language only. Then trying to utter that sound itself becomes such a herculean effort that they just find chanting draining because of that. Then Krishna is understanding. Just utter the name as well as one can, but if is just a small oversight which needs a little attention, it can be fixed, then it is not that we can say Krishna is bhagagrahi. So, I chanted Hare Krishna mahamantra, but Hare Krisha Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama – so, I am missing out Hare Hare, and why? It’s not because I am so filled with bhava. It is just that I am careless, I am in a hurry to complete the holy names, complete the matras, then that is not good. So, that means that the intension is what is primarily important, but where there is sincere intention there will also be serious attempt at competent execution. That sincerity of intention is should also be expressed through the competence of execution, but if under unavoidable circumstances the competence of execution is not possible, then the sincerity of intention is also accepted, but the sincerity of intention is not to be to taken as a licence for incompetence in execution.
If somebody is cooking for Krishna, “Oh, I was thinking of Krishna, I was chanting Krishna’s name. The bhoga got burned.” – “No.” – “It was all fine because I was remembering Krishna.” It’s fine, it’s good to remember Krishna, but that sincerity of intention also should be accompanied by competence of execution.
So, it is – as much as possible we try to be competent, but the competence – so, there are both extremes. Earlier I said that some people look at the competence of execution and they don’t see the sincerity of intention. Somebody can just recite the verses so precisely, must be a great soul, but they are simply reciting to do a performance so that they can get dakshina afterwards. They are not really interested in Krishna. So, the competence of execution alone not the proof of spiritual stature, and conversely the sincerity of intention alone without any effort at competence of execution, that is also not good.
So, we should have sincerity of intention and couple it with competence of execution as much as we can, but in some situations if the competence of execution doesn’t work out that is also fine. Krishna will see the sincerity of intention.
Q: This varnavad, spotavad – roughly the schools of thoughts are talked about in the academic universities also?
CCP: Yes, see Jiva Goswami – his contribution was – not that he thought of these things. These are existing schools of thought, but he presented them in a bhakti frame work. So, that way the varnavad as I said that, that itself is often related with Karma Mimamsa where often the God’s are also considered to be the servants of the mantras. That means if the exact mantras are recited, God has to come over there. So, it is that mantra is recited, then the God is summoned by the power of the mantra – by here the word God I am not referring to the supreme being, the devatas – the gods, they are forced to come because even they are subordinate to the power of the mantras. That is the idea. So, in Karma mimasa, the mantras themselves are considered to be extremely powerful, and they are often considered sources of independent power, higher than the power of God also.
So, what Jiva Gosawmi has done is, he has taken the existing schools of thoughts that were there, and often these were not necessarily devotional. So, he has explained them in a devotional perspective.
Q: When we chant the holy names is it that Krishna who is inside comes out, and then there is illumination or is it that we call out Krishna. So, Krishna comes from outside to inside.
CCP: See, when we talk about Krishna in his various manifestations, they are non-different. So, Krishna as the supersoul in the heart and Krishna as the holy name, both of them are non-different, but it is that at different times in our spiritual life we may feel more connected with a particular manifestation. Just like say if you are doing kirtan before the deities – so, we may have different options, we may just behold the deities, keep our eyes open and try to focus on the deities. Another option would be, I will just close my eyes and just focus myself on the sound of the holy name. Both are perfectly ok. The point is that I will have to remember Krishna. So whether I remember Krishna when he is manifesting as the holy name – sound of the holy name, or whether he is manifesting as the deities and I am calling out to the deities through the holy names or by uttering the holy names –
So, yena kena prakarena mana Krishna nivesayat. So, however we can fix the mind on Krishna that is fine. So, it also depends on how the process begins. That it depends on our level of consciousness. So, it may be that the chanting can be an expression of our awareness of Krishna’s presence or the chanting can be a call to invoke Krishna’s presence.
That means say internally I remember Krishna. I remember some pastime, I feel some emotion, then I call out, “Krishna, Krishna.” That is – the chanting is an expression of my awareness of Krishna’ presence, or it could be that actually I am not – I am getting dragged by anxiety, I am being dragged by desire – at that time I want to be rescued from it. So, I call – Krishna. So, there I am not feeling Krishna’s presence right now, but I am calling out so that I invoke Krishna’s presence. So, it can work both ways. So, if I am already am feeling bhakti in my heart, and then I call out Krishna’s names. So, it is more like the presence that I am expressing already. My awareness of my presence I am expressing, but there can be other times when I am actually calling out for Krishna to make his presence felt to us. So, that’s why chanting it is said is both a prayer and the fulfilment of the prayer.
Chanting is a prayer in the sense that we are calling out to Krishna, but Krishna is non-different from his holy name. So, I call out to Krishna and then Krishna comes as his holy names, and that means that the prayer is fulfilled over there. So, chanting is both a prayer which is a call for Krishna, and it is also the fulfilment of the prayer because chanting brings us in the presence of nama prabhu, the holy name which is a manifestation of Krishna. So, then it depends on our consciousness whether – when we are experiencing Krishna. Is it we experience Krishna and call out the holy name, or we call out and we experience Krishna through that? So, both ways are possible. The important thing is to not get too caught in hair-splitting kind of analysis, and focus on remembering Krishna. So, whichever way it works out that is perfectly fine.
Q: If we have say atheists like Ravana or Indrajit chanting mantras; they were expert chanters of mantras. So, how was their chanting?
CCP: Actually mantra is technology. It is basically technology, and technology is a means for manipulating matter. So, technology itself is value neutral. That means say if we have nuclear weapons; nuclear weapon or nuclear energy as technology, that can be used for generating electricity and constructive purposes. That can be used for making nuclear weapons and can be used for devastatingly destructive purposes. So, by itself the technology of nuclear energy is value neutral. It can go this way, and it can go that way. So, similarly mantras are not as understood in the bhakti tradition, mantras as understood in the broad tradition of mimamsa, they are value neutral. That means anybody who chants the mantras properly, they can access power, and if we see that way if Krishna talks about the qualities about brahmanas – in Gita (18.42) he says, “samo damas tapah saucham, sanatir, arjavam eva cha, jnanam, vijnanam, astikam, brahma, karma, swababha cha.” So, he gives a list of qualities, and he doesn’t talk about bhakti as a quality of the brahmanas. He talks about astikyam. Astikya now in contemporary usage – the word astik and nastik, they refer to believer in God and non-believer in God, but in traditional India, the word astik refers to those who believe in the Vedas, those who accept the authorities of the Vedas, and nastik are those who do not accept the authority of the Vedas. So, the brahmanas they are accept the authorities of the Vedas. That is required. Then they are brahmana – astikyam.
But within the Vedas – the Vedas are vast bodies of knowledge, and there may be brahmanas who may not be devotees of Visnu or Krishna. So, they accept the authority of the Vedas, but they accept the karma kanda sections, they may accept the mantra chanting sections by which they get material powers. So, this kind of brahmanas, they are there. They are interested in the Vedas as manuals for manipulating matter through mantra chanting or through fire sacrifices, through various rituals, and that is why actually – now certainly Ravana and Indrajit were expert mantra chanters, but they had their brahmanas. They were paid priests you could say. They were called as Yatu-dhanas, and when Ram and Ravana, they would go out for battle, at that time Ravana had all this Yatu-dhanas chanting matras to invoke auspiciousness for himself. So, there can be brhamanas like that. We have Sukracharya also, his example in the 8th Canto. He was a brahmana, and what did he do? After Bali Maharaj had been killed, he brought him back to life, and after he brought him back to life, what he did was – he got into doing yajnas, and by the performance of yajnas he became powerful, and then when he eventually got the seat of Indra – after that also he told him to do more yajnas, by which his hold on Indra’s seat could become stronger , but through it all when Visnu came to him as Vamanadev, he told him, “Don’t give him the charity that he has asked for.” That means that he had faith in the Vedas, but he did not have faith in the purpose of the Vedas which is, “Vedac ca sarvair aham eva vedyo.” (Gita 15.15) That by all the Vedas I am to be known, that they did not know.
Q: Same thing applies to the yajna- patnis
CCP: Yajna Patni’s are also like that. Yajna Patni’s – they may not be that great in chanting mantras and all that the way the husbands were, but they were aware of the goal of Krishna. They were devoted to Krishna, but whereas the yajnic brahmanas, they themselves were not.
So, now moving onwards – in the 6th Canto of the Srimad Bhagavatam is the story of Ajamil, and in this story of Ajamil there is an elaborate description of the glories of the holy name, and while describing the glories – the pastimes itself illustrates that he chanted the holy name without really intending to address Narayana, and he chanted at the time of death, and he chanted out of fear, and yet he was delivered. So, it’s a very extraordinary description of the potency of the holy names, that a person who did so many wrong things throughout his life, and suddenly that person just and he was delivered. Now unfortunately in the history of India, this pastime, or pastimes like this have often been misused to rationalize wrong doing.
So when Srila Bhaktiviod thakur was there in Bengal, at that time it was quite common that people would come. They were all Bengali vaisnavas. So, they would be Vaisnavas. So, they would go to the market and they would come back with bead bag in one bag in one hand and fish in the other hand. So, they would be chanting and they would be eating meat. It was normal. “Whatever wrong doing we do it is all right”, and then they were – you know when the Britisher’s came to India at that time, in the early 19th century and that time they started coming to India, that was the time – that was the age of Victorian morality in British history. Victorian morality means – at that time Britain was highly puritanical. Externally, very high moral standards they are trying to profess. Internally all the rot was there, but externally they were pretending. So, when the Britishers came to India, they said, “This Indians have no sense of morality. They are so uncultured.” So, one of the things they said is that, “This hindus, they believe that no matter how sinful you are, you just utter one name of Visnu, and you will be delivered from all sins. It is only because the culture believes in such superstitions that this culture is so immoral, and as long as this belief is not wiped out, there is no hope for morality to come back. There used to be very scathing critics of the doctorine of Bhakti that came over, and Bhakti Vinod Thakur and thereafter Bhaktisiddantha Saraswati Thakur they lived at such a time, and what Bhakti Vinod Thakur did was – every scripture or every scriptural statement – no scriptural statement can be taken as a absolute statement without considering the broader context.
So, even if we look at this Ajamil pastime itself. Ajamil pastime demonstrates that Ajamil just uttered once Naryana and he was delivered. Now this pastime is being narrated by Sukhadev Goswami to Parikshit Maharaj who is preparing for his death. Now on hearing this pastime Parikshit Maharaj doesn’t say, “No need to hear seven days Bhagavatam. I will utter Narayana and I will be delivered.” So, he doesn’t use it as a rationalizing for short-cuts on the spiritual path. In fact the conclusion of that very pastime is that actually – Sukhadev Goswami says over there that Ajamil chanted once without proper intention at the time of death, but if we chant intending to address the Lord and chant throughout our life and chant with diligence, chant repeatedly, then how much more sure we are to get the benefit. So, the point is that the declarations of the extraordinary potency of the holy name – they are not meant to be used as statements which are to – are statements by which we justify not following the standard process. Rather this extraordinary glories of the holy names – they are meant to inspire us to follow the process of the holy name, follow the process of chanting.
Here also that same mood that we see in Caitanya Mahaprabhu – he says, “Duraivam Idrisam Iha jani Nanuragaha – Unfortunately I have no attraction to the holy names. So, what does it mean? That means he is not thinking that, “Oh! The holy name is so glrious. I will just chant and I will be delivered. All of Krishna’s potency is there in the holy name. I will just chant once. Everything will happen.” No, he is thinking, “Oh, the holy name is so glorious. I should serve the holy name diligently. I am so unfortunate that I don’t have taste for the holy name.” So, there is the – so, the extraordinary promises or the extraordinary demonstrations of mercy in the scripture – they are meant to reinforce our inspiration to practice the ordinary process of bhakti. I will repeat this. In the scripture there are extraordinary statements, there are extraordinary declarations, extraordinary demonstrations of the potency of bhakti, of the potency of the holy names. That is meant to inspire us to follow the standard process. It is not meant as a justification for giving up the standard process. So, when that is done, then it becomes a serious problem. So, the acharyas throughout, they have always focussed on encouraging people to follow the standard process.
Extraordinary demonstrations of mercy are meant to inspire us to follow the standard process for getting mercy, not excuses for avoiding the standard process.
If we start thinking that, “Ajamil was delivered like that. I will also be delivered like that. So, I will do whatever I want to throughout my life, and at the end of my life I will chant.” Now that is not the mood of devotion. The mood of devotion is, “Krishna is so merciful. Let me serve him right away.”
For example we have Uddhava saying, “How merciful is Krishna that Putana came with the intension to poison him and still Krishna made her a nurse.” Now what is his conclusion? Whom else can I surrender apart from Krishna? He didn’t say, “I will also become a demon. I will also poison Krishna and Krishna is also deliver me also.” He didn’t think like that. So, the extraordinary demonstrations, they are not exaggerations. See, exaggeration means, something which is not the reality, but we just make it big and tell it. That are not exaggerations. This are incidents that have happened, and they are reported in scriptures, but it is not the mood of a devotee that a devotee demands things like that to happen in life. Those incidents they demonstrate Krishna – how merciful Krishna is, and then that should inspire us to whole-heartedly surrender to such a merciful Lord. Not that we demand that the replication of that exact mercy in our lives. So, in that connection – So, when this idea was widespread in Bengal that, “You know you just chant the holy names and you can be delivered of all sins. Whatever wrong you do it doesn’t matter. When this idea was there, Bhaktiviond Thakur and Bhaktisiddhantha Saraswati Thakur very strongly countered it. Bhaktivinod Thakur quoted many different verses from scripture and he in his Harinam Cintamani and other books, he talks about different levels of chanting the holy names. We know about this. There is the aparadh nam, there is the namabhas, and then there is the sudhha nam. So he says, What does it mean? Aparadh nam, namabhas and suddha nam –
So, the nam is abhinattam nama namine. So, the name and Krishna are non-different, but the experience that I have in chanting Krishna’s name, that will be different depending on my consciousness. So, if I am inattentive, if I am distracted, if I am indulging in wrong activities, at that time I chant, then although Krishna and his names are non-different I am not going to experience that. My chanting may be at aparadh nam.
So, I am not experiencing Krishna over there. I am just experiencing a shadow of Krishna’s presence. So, there in nambhas there is greater experience of Krishna, in suddha nam there is even greater experience. There is complete experience of Krishna. Nobody can completely experience in his wholeness, but there is still much deeper experience of Krishna. So, this is in reciprocation to – this is in accordance to the principle of reciprocation – ye yatha mam prapadyante tams tathaiva bhahamyaham. So, when Caitany Mahaprabhu is saying – durdaivam idrisam iha jani, I am so unfortunate that I have no taste for the holy name. That means that he is also taking the mood of a sadhaka and he is saying that, “Oh I am unable to rise towards higher levels in chanting.
Caitanya Mahaprabhu of course is God and he is completely pure, but he is taking the role of a sadhaka for us. So, we move from aparadhanam towards namabhas, towards suddha nam. So, now in this case an example can be given of how the chanting works
Kulasekhar Maharaj in the Mukunda Mala Strotra, he compares the holy name to a weapon. He says, “satrur chedeyaika mantra.” Actually it is a long verse in which he compares the holy name to a weapon in 8-9 different ways, but the theme is, kstru chedeyaika mantram. This holy name is like a weapon which pierces the enemy and that enemy is – lust, anger, greed in our heart, it pierces.
So, now if say an enemy is attacking, and I have got a bow and a arrow. Now I have to – it is not just that I take the bow and arrow and close my eyes and shoot the arrow anywhere. No, I have to take a target and hit the enemy. Then the enemy will be checked. Otherwise if I am just shooting arrows here and there, the enemy may be held back, and after I stop shooting the enemy the enemy just comes straight, or if I am just shooting here and there and the enemy is still coming because noting is hitting the enemy, and he will come and attack us. So, at one level the arrows potency is there. The arrow can injure the enemy, but the arrow will injure the enemy when the arrow hits the enemy. If the arrow doesn’t hit the enemy, then the arrow doesn’t have the potency. So, like that when we chant the holy names – one utterance of the holy name, that can destroy more sins than that we can commit. That statement is there in the Puranas. Now what does it mean. You may say, “I have chanted for so many years, so many names I have chanted, but so much sinful desires are there, so many reactions are coming in my life. What is happening?”
So, actually that statement is – we utter one holy name and it can destroy more sins that one can commit. That statement is like saying, “You shoot one arrow and you will get the Olympic gold.” Yes, even the person who wins the Olympic gold he or she shoots only one arrow, but in order to get that one arrow right they practice shooting thousands and thousands and millions of arrows before that. So, similarly now all that time when earlier they were practicing, they may sometimes hit the bull’s eyes, sometimes not hit the bull’s eye’s, sometimes completely miss the bull’s eye, doesn’t matter, but all that practice if it is done with attention, with endeavour, then that is getting them closer and closer and closer to hitting the bull’s eye, to the target.
So, like that it’s not that the chanting of the holy names is – if it is not awakening the love for Krishna within our heart, that does not mean it is a waste. It means that it’s like – I am shooting the arrow but I am not hitting the bull’s eye. So, I will keep practicing, and when I am practicing also – if a person is say practicing for Olympics in archery – it’s not that they have to shoot arrows, they have to shoot arrow with a conscious endeavour to hit the target. Even if they do not succeed they will succeed only when they keep endeavouring and try to come closer and closer to the target.
So, like that when we try to chant the holy names, we may not feel the need of the love of Krishna awakening right now, but as we are chanting and endeavouring to concentrate, endeavouring to be prayerful and receptive when Krishna manifests, actually we are coming closer and closer to the bulls eye, we are coming closer and closer to the time when we can utter that one pure name and we will be flooded with ecstasy. So, that means chanting is a – it is a process by which we are getting purified. Every day we chant, every mantra that we chant, that is having an effect. Because it is not chanted that purely – so, it may not have the kind of extraordinary effect that was there when Caitanya Mahaprabhu would chant the holy names or his associates would chant the holy names, but still the effect of the mantra is there, and as we keep chanting the effect will become gradually more and more. So, that is how we move from aparadh nam to nabhash, and ultimately towards suddha nam. So, when we chant the holy names, that mood which Caitanya Mahaprabhu demonstrates here – unfortunately I have not taste for the holy name. That mood will now be further described in the next verse where he talks about humility. That I will talk in my next class.
Q: When Caitanya Mahaprabhu clearly told Jagai, Madhai, “sin no more.” And the Goswamis continued on legacy. So, how was it that by the time of Bhaktivinod Thakur the holy name was being misappropriated? Was there breakage in the paramapara?
CCP: Not exactly a breakage in the sense that there was no Gaudia Vaisanava’s, but there was a major disconnect that happened. See broadly speaking in any religious group that is there, there are the leaders and there are the followers. So, the followers are the – in Christianity they call the 1.02.50 (laty??) the general people. For them they have their lives, they have their careers, and along with that they also have their bhakti, they also have their religion as a part of their life, and they are the leaders who are actually the systematisers of the tradition. They make sure that the tradition is understood properly, taught properly, and the other people also live the tradition. Now if we look at Gaudia history – this is a little elaborate subject. I will try to keep it as short as possible.
Caitanya Mahaprabhu had two different kinds of followers. Most of his followers in Bengal were grihasthas, and his followers in Vrindavan were sansyasis, and the Bengalis – if you look at the post-Caitanya Maharparbhu legacy – most of the Bengali books that were written they were about Gaura Lila. Philosophical books – Caitanya Bhagavat, Caitanya Mangal – they were actually – after Caitanya Mahaprabhu departed, 27 biographies were written, and the Caitanya Caritramrita was the last biography, but what was written in Bengal was mostly Bengali books about Gaura Lila, and then there were bhajans and all that, but it was largely the legacy that continued on with Vaisnavism was not all that theological or philosophical. It is more centred on chanting and on the glory of Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
Now when the Goswamis went to Vrindavan, at that time they were not in a place where people knew Caitanya Mahaprabhu so well also. Caitanya Mahaprabhu had come and created a sensation for the two months that he was there, but it was just two months and after that he had gone after that. So if we see, the Goswamis – all the book that they wrote were in Sanskrit, because in Vrindavan who is going to know Bengali. They wrote the books the Sanskrit, and the books that the goswamis wrote, they were not so much about Caitanya Mahaprabhu, they were about Krishna, because in Vrindavan again who going to know Caitanay Mahaprabhu so much. So, almost all the books that the Goswamis wrote were in Sanskrit and about Krishna, and Krishnadas Kaviraj Gowami Maharaj was the person who actually brought this two traditions together.
Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami was born and brought up in Bengal, and then he went to Vrindavan, and he studied in Vrindavan. So, Caitanya Caritamrita is actually a book of theology in the format of a biography. So, now he was in Vrindavan, but he wrote a book in Bengali. You wonder in Vrindavan who is going to read a book in Bengali? But he was actually in Vrindavan and he was integrating the Gaura Lila the people over there knew in general with the Guara Siddhantha which had been systematised by the Goswamis, and then that book was brought back, and that book became like a standard book for Gaudia vaisnavism to understand both the lila and siddhantha of Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
So, this way things did go on, but there was the popular cultural practice of Gaura bhakti – the bhakti that was taught by Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and then there were the grihasthas – the vrajavasis or Vrindavan Goswamis were sanyasis. The Bengali followers were grihastas. So, now what happened is that the grihastas gradually they developed into Jati Goswamis. There was the Nityananda Vamsa and the Gadadhar Vamsa, Advaita vamsa, and they to some extent – some of them were great souls, but many of them they developed an elitist mentality. So, they had monopoly of whom they could give initiation to, and then they started – they themselves were practicing, but they were not so much like missionaries, and as long as – see the overall – no movement can stay isolated from the broader culture. So, the broader culture in India that time – the cast system was very strong. The brahmanas had powers, and that sort of mentality came in here also, and then there were the sanyasis who were renunciates like the babajis, they were very other-worldly. They would just go from place to place, they would stay under trees, they were not really concerned with creating a systematic legacy.
So, broadly at that time when initiations were there, the standard way would be – if somebody has to take initiation, they would take initiation from the caste goswamis. Occasionally some people would take initiation from the travelling babajis. Some babaji would come along, and you take initiation from them. That was rare, but overall – so, the babajis were not so much involved in – they just do katha and they would keep travelling. They were not so involve in creating a system, and the caste goswamis who were there, they started focussing more on maintaining their own power, and now what happens? When we have to maintain power, then they want followers, and therefore they started speaking only those sections which would attract followers.
So, there i
s the sections about the glory of how merciful the holy name is, how powerful the chanting of the holy name is – You just speak that, and the regulating aspect which had the potential to alienate people –“I will follow all this, but I will not do this.” – they started downplaying that. So, it was there in the tradition, but they stated downplaying that. That is why when Bhaktivinod Thakur came – see in one sense Bhaktivinod Thakur was an outsider – outsider in the sense that Bhaktiviod Thakur was not born in the Gauria Vaisnava family. He was born in the shakta family, and through his search – we can just imagine how much the Gauria tradition must have been actually lost that he had to search for several years just to find out the copy of Caitanya Caritramrita. So, what happened is that because Caitanya Caritamrita has so much philosophy, that was not such a widely read book. There was gaur lila in terms of Caitanya Bhagavat, Caitanya Mangal, that was widely read.
Caitanya Caritamrita was also available, but not that widely available. So, Bhativinod Thakur grew up in a time when he had heard about Gaura Lila and he read about Caitanya Mahaprabhu also. He knew about Caitanya Mahapabhu, but this book which gives us a systematic understanding of Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s teachings and it shows his life in the light of his teaching, that was not available. So, then what did he do? He actually realized such a glorious legacy. It is such a glorious message that Caitanya Mahaprabhu is giving, but how will I share it, how do I understand it? How will I share it? So, he actually took initiation – So at that time – we often have that vision of the acharyas as great people who behaved in extraordinary ways, and they were very saintly, that is true, and at the same time the acharyas lived in a particular time, and they had to work in particular ways to actually effect the change. So, what he did was that he – because he was a outsider and he needed some kind of authorization, otherwise who will hear him when he speaks? So, he took initiation from Vipin Vihari Goswami. Vipin Bihari Goswami was a Jati Goswami – there were the Jati Goswamis and there were the renounced babajis. So, he took initiation from Bipin Bihari Goswami, and that is how he became legitimatized to teach Gauria Vaisnivism, but then his primary inspiration did not come from Bipin Bihari Gosami. It came from Jagannath Das Babaji who is like a renounced babaji.
So, that is why Bhaktisiddhantha Saraswati Thakur talked about the parampara, he connects Bhaktivinod Thakur with Jagannath Das Babaji, not so much with Bipin Bihari Goswami. So, he got primary inspiration from him. So, what Bhakti Vinod Thakur did was – he got the position in the eyes of the tradition through his connection with Vipin Bihari Goswami, and of course he had a position in the British Government by which he had credibility in the eyes of the general people, because at that time to be a officer in British government – that had a lot of respect.
That way he used the position from both the – at that time the contemporary government structure and the position from the traditional structure – power structure, and he used it both and he reformed the tradition. So, basically sakalena mahata yogo nastha parantapa – That by the power of time things do get deteriorated, and the acharyas often have to be very resourceful in making sure that they bring things on track.
Q: What about the books that Narottam Das Thakur, Shyamananda – they had written?
CCP: Yes, see there were – the bhajans that they had written were popular.
The legacy of books that were brought down from the goswamis from Vrindavan here – see, sankrit in India – at least in recent history was never language of the general people. Sanskrit was a language of the elite, and in general the way the tradition lived on was through the oral tradition, not the written tradition.
If you look at the books of Biswanath Chakraborty Thakur or his commentary on the Bhagavatam – now practically nowhere you will find something like – “Sense gratification is sinful, you will have to give it up.” Because the books were written by scholars for scholars. That was the tradition at that time, and this kind of instructions – “Do this, don’t do this.” – they were conveyed in the oral tradition. So, in every place there will be some sadhus, and the sadhus will tell you, “You should do this, you should not do this.” So, that is why in the previous acharayas books we don’t find much practical instructions. Yes, there is practical instructions in terms of principles, but not too much specifics.
So, at that time the primary knowledge in dissemination happened through the oral tradition, and the oral tradition in each place was in the vernacular language. So, in Bengal it was Bengali, and as I told earlier the books of the goswamis were in Sanskrit. So, because they were in Sanskrit, they were not really available for people in general.
In fact the – some of the caste brahmanas, they were so elitists that when the Britishers came to India, they were strongly criticising Hinduism, especially Vaisnavis – as they criticized Vainavism and Saktaism – both especially among the Indian tradition. They say that the sakta workship is so brutal, so ghastly, and this Krishna worship it is so immoral. That was their criticism, but the point which I am making is – that they were writing books upon books in English criticizing, but the Brahmanas who were supposed to be the guardians of the tradition, they were just satisfied in their Sanskrit learning and they were not just relevant to the people over there. So, that is why ultimately the knowledge has to be presented in the language of the people.
So, what Bhaktiviod Thakur did was – he took the knowledge that was there in sankrit or in Bengali, he made it available in English, more than Bengali to the Sanskrit that was available. So, that is how the books were there, but the oral tradition – if that is not vibrant, then what is there in the books that has not come out. It is only towards the end of 18th century that the printing press stated coming to India. At that time books started becoming widespread. So, Bhaktivinod Thakur himself used the printing press very powerfully, because he was a grihastha. He could not travel so much and do preaching. So, he created we could say a virtual network of Vaisnava follower, not through the internet, but through his magazines. Now he had subscribers for his magazines and he would write articles, he would actually review books of contemporary authors, he would comment on contemporary trends in Sajjan Toshan, and that way he created a whole network of followers of Gaudia Vaisnivism in Bengal and Orissa.
Q: When the songs were available and songs also present the philosophy, didn’t that guard the tradition?
CCP: Yes, the songs were there. At the same time what happened is, there were many apasamradayas also who came, and the apasampradayas – they also had their songs, and sometimes what is there is not as important as what is popularized. So, what Bhaktivinod Thakur did was, quite often he would take the musical meter and the poetic structure of the songs of these apasamradays – aula, baula etc., and he gave pure Vaisnava Siddhantha in that meter, in that music. So, like we have mantra – Prabhupada did in ball room, the same mantra but in the contemporary musical…1.16.49…
So, that time music also – it keeps changing. So, what was there – the kind of Bengali music of Narottam Thakur, that is not always the same as say by the time of Bhaktivinod Thakur. Just like in movies also we see, the kind of songs 50 or 100 years ago, and the kind of songs now, they are different. So, at that time what was contemporary – Bhaktivinod Thakur took that and he represented that in his songs also.
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