One day, Prakasananda Sarawati, a learned scholar who had several sanyasis of Mayavada school as his disciples, asked Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, “Why are you singing and dancing with lower class people? Why don’t you come in our section and study Vedanta? After all you are a sanyasi. Be amongst your comrades.”
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu humbly replied, “My Guru Maharaj told me that I am not qualified to study Vedanta. He told me that I will realise everything by simply chanting the holy names. And then my Guru Maharaj gave me a precious jewel in the form of a verse. He chanted thus: harer näma harer näma, harer nämai vakevalam, kala unästye vanästyeva, nästye vagatiranyathä. That in this age there is no other way except the chanting of the holy names of Lord Hari. My Guru Maharaj told me that, ‘You recite this name’, and I started chanting and tears were flowing from my eyes, my voice was choked up and limbs were trembling, I’m becoming mad. What is this name doing to Me? So I went to my Gurudev and asked him, ‘What’s happening?’ He said ‘You have attained perfection’.”
That is the power of the holy name. Nothing else has this power to awaken the dormant ecstatic love of God from our very heart, to awaken the sleeping soul. Bhaktivinode Thakur explains how Caitanya Mahaprabhu wandered from town to town and village to village with this message.
Srila Prabhupada used the example of how a cat holds a rat as well as her beloved kitten in her mouth, but there is a difference. For the rat, the cat is death personified. For the kitten, the cat is the most loving affectionate mother. The rat is always trying to figure out every type of way to escape from the cat but the kitten is always seeking shelter.
If the little kitten does not see the cat for even a minute, it’s in anxiety, feeling alone, unprotected. The conditioned souls are like the rat. We’re trying to escape the shelter of Krishna and therefore Krishna manifests as maya, the external energy and ultimately as death personified.
Krishna is no different than his name. He has incarnated within the name to give us shelter, to nourish us and to reveal all of his love to us. There is nothing so precious because nothing else can give us the benediction of eternal life and eternal love. But we must understand the value of chanting Krishna’s names.
When we’re trying to chant the holy name, the mind is wandering with so many ideas, so many thoughts, which really means your mind is trying to deceive you. And this is how maya through our mind is stealing away our life moment by moment. When we understand with faith, the power and glory of Krishna’s name only then can we take shelter, otherwise our chanting is merely casual.
The full-fledged love of God is to be realised in chanting his holy name. The essence of all religion is to show compassion to others especially by broadcasting the glories of the holy name. To chant the holy name, to serve the great souls and to show compassion to others is the essence of all religion.
Physically, we show compassion by doing welfare work for those who are suffering. Emotionally, we show compassion by encouraging people by kindness. Spiritually, we show compassion by trying to give people an understanding of the priceless value of Krishna’s name.
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu taught in every state of his life. The holy name has descended with all powers to bestow änandäm buddhi-vardhanaä, the inner fulfillment that everyone is searching for. And there are no hard and fast rules for chanting. That is why it is so suitable for Kali yuga.
We can learn so much scripture and we can have so much jyana (knowledge) and it’s good. But really our aim should be getting the taste for the holy names. So we can dance in ecstasy and feel transcendental joy and happiness. Mantra means divine sound vibration that reconnects the mind to God.
Even demons like Jagai and Madhai become pure and humble servants of the Lord, they dance in ecstasy while chanting the mahamantra. In this age of Kali, a tsunami, tidal wave of ignorance has just devastated and flooded the shore of humanity. Ignorance means to think I am this body, I am the enjoyer and this world is mine to enjoy and control.
The tidal wave of this ignorance has crushed human society and devastated morality, ethics and spiritual values. When the tidal wave of water hits, we see the type of devastation and it is every human being’s duty to help his or her brothers and sisters. People suffer because they are egoistic and selfish.
The author is the spiritual leader of ISKCON