500 years ago, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the great apostle of love for God and the founder of the kirtan movement, was renowned throughout India as the greatest scholar. As a teenager, he founded his own school of logic in Navadvip, a famous university city. Yet despite his brilliant intellect, he left behind only eight verses that contain the essence of his life and teachings.
In these verses, Chaitanya praises kirtan, the singing of the Names of God, as the prime benediction for humanity because they not only cleanse away lifetimes of karmic reaction, they give one a taste of the happiness we are seeking and reawaken our dormant spiritual love for God and all living beings.
Kirtan – The Essence Of Bhakti
Jagad Guru: Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Lord Chaitanya, He was a great scholar. He appeared in Navadvip. As we already mentioned Navadvip was a college town, college city, full of logicians and scholars of the highest caliber and you know that was their fun, you know, defeating the other people in debate and scholarly discussions in logic and so on. So Chaitanya appeared in this atmosphere and when He was still very young, He already started His own school of logic. He had many students and was also engaged in defeating all the debaters and philosophers and He became renowned throughout India as the greatest scholar. Yet He left only eight writings, eight verses that He wrote. The only thing He actually wrote was eight verses and in these eight verses you’ll find the summary of His teaching, of His life, the essence. We will not speak on all these eight verses. The first verse is this:
All glories to the Sri Krishna Sankirtan, the congregational chanting of the Names of God. It cleanses the dust from the heart which has accumulated for a long, long time and it extinguishes this fire of conditional life, conditioned life, material existence, it extinguishes this fire of material existence and it saves a person therefore from the wheel of repeated birth and death and furthermore it gives a person a taste of that nectar for which he is always anxious.
So in this first verse Chaitanya first describes that by the congregational hearing and chanting of God’s Names, the karmic reaction or the sinful reaction which has accumulated for lifetimes, which has accumulated on the mind and heart, gets cleansed away. The sinful reaction is wiped away. So this frees a person from having to be reborn over and over again in the material world of birth and death. So furthermore, beyond offering liberation from the wheel of birth and death, Chaitanya describes more than just this the congregational chanting, the chanting of the Names of God, actually gives a person a tastes of the nectar of love for God. This is more than, this is above just freeing the person from the sinful reaction to his activities, his previous activities.
Sometimes people they want to know how to become free from karmic reaction. How to become free from the sinful reactions, the burden of sins that has accumulated on their heart and on their mind for so many lifetimes, how to become cleansed of this. Here is the answer: the Holy Names of God purify a person from this karmic reaction. The Names of God, Chaitanya teaches, they’re no different than the Supreme Person Himself and as such they are all pure and purifying. Therefore a person does not need to engage in any other process to become purified other than hearing and chanting God’s Names. Beyond being purified, beyond being cleansed of their sinful reactions from this, apart from it is the fact that the names of God actually bring a person to taste love for God. You can have your heart and mind cleansed of past sinful reaction but not taste love for God.
An example, there are so many examples, but there are different methods to become purified of sinful reactions. A person can be freed from sinful reactions from his past activities but he may not be tasting love for God. He may go right back out again and engage in more sinful activities. In the Sri Isopanishad there is a very important verse in this connection. It is the last verse of the Sri Isopanishad, the last mantra in the Sri Isopanashad, mantra eighteen and it says as follows:
“Oh my Lord, powerful as the fire, O omnipotent one, now I do offer you all obeisances, falling at your feet on the ground. O my Lord, please lead me on the right path to reach you, and as you know all of what I have done in the past, please make me free me from the reactions to my past sins so that there will be no hindrance to my progress.”
Sri Isopanishad, Mantra 18
Now here the devotee is praying, the Sri Isopanishad is praying to, “Free me from my past sinful reaction,” purify me of the reaction to my past sinful activities for a reason. Why? Not as the end in itself. It says, “Please make me free from the reactions to my past sins so that there will be no hindrance to my progress.” And what is his progress? What does he want? He is saying, “Oh my Lord please lead me on the right path to reach You.” So being free, the only reason he wants to be free from the reactions to his past sins is because he doesn’t want to have a hindrance to his reaching the Supreme Person. He doesn’t want something to get in the way of his reaching the Supreme Person. There is a reason to it. It’s not the end in itself just being purified. That’s not what he’s interested in. What he’s interested in is reaching the Supreme Person.
So many people they’re interested, they are simply interested in being purified as the end in itself, not for any reason. The reason is they want to feel clean they don’t want to feel burdened by their sinful reactions or they don’t want to go to hell. They don’t want to go into a hellish condition because they don’t want to suffer. That’s why they want to be cleansed of their sins so they don’t need to suffer in the future. This is their reason. Or they may want to experience being purified, so they can go out and sin again and get contaminated again.
These people are compared to elephants who, they go and bath very nicely in the river and get all clean. Then they go on the shore and throw dust all over themselves again. If you watch elephants they go in the river and they bathe you know all serious about it, they seriously bathe, very seriously they are really into it, then they go up on the shore and they take the dust and they throw it all over themselves again, okay? So some people are like that. They’ll chant the names of God or they’ll go and confess to the priest or they’ll try to experience surrender to Jesus or whatever. Right after that, oh, they go out and engage in the same sinful activities. So their interest is to enjoy without having to suffer, okay? So the reason these people want to be purified of the reactions to their sins is so that they don’t need to suffer or so that they can enjoy more nicely.
But here the devotee is interested in and asking to be purified of past sinful actions because he doesn’t want to have any hindrance, any blocks in his reaching the Supreme Person. This is the difference. So in the one case, the person’s interest is, the actual devotee, he is interested in actually achieving reaching God, reaching the Supreme Person and in the other case the persons are not interested in reaching the Supreme Person. They’re not interested in actually reaching God, knowing God, their interest is the world. Their interest is either Bhukti, sense enjoyment, or Mukti, simply liberation from their suffering, that’s all. So the devotee of God, the pure devotee of God, he is not interested in Bhukti or Mukti. He is interested in Bhakti, loving service to the Supreme Person.
Some of these people, they are always talking about being purified of your sins, being freed from your sins, “being saved” they call it. These people if you ask them, “what is heaven?” They want to go to heaven. They imagine they are going to be in heaven. What is heaven? Their whole idea of the Kingdom of God is that it’s a Kingdom but there is no Supreme Person. In other words they want the Kingdom of God but they’re not interested in the Supreme Person. When they think of the Kingdom of God in their imagination there’s no Supreme Person there. There’s just gold streets and no death and it’s really nice and their family’s there their friends are there. This is the Kingdom of God and they still get to play the role of Supreme enjoyer.
If God exists in His Kingdom it’s like an invisible intangible force that’s sort of everywhere that blesses everybody so that we can all enjoy nicely, you see. So they’re not interested in reaching the Supreme Person. They are not interested in the Supreme Person at all. They are interested in them self. They are self interested. So a person then can be saved in the sense that he can be cleansed of the reactions to his past sinful activities. He can be cleansed of this but, he’s not necessarily actually liberated. He’s not necessarily with God. He’s not necessarily even on the right path. If he does not move forward to engaging in devotional service to the Supreme Person. If he simply lapses back into his business of trying to be the enjoyer then there’s not really any gain.
So in the first verse Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is saying that this congregational chanting of the Names of God is the prime benediction for humanity at large because it spreads the rays of the benediction moon. It cleanses the heart and mind of all the dust which has accumulated for lifetimes and it helps to give a person a taste of the nectar of love for God. In the second verse He prays:
“Oh my Lord, You have kindly given us Your Holy Names to chant. You have so kindly appeared as Your Holy Names. Each and every one of Your Holy Names is invested with all Your transcendental energies and You have hundreds and millions of Names like Krishna, Govinda, etc. So many names You have and there’s no hard and fast rules for chanting these Holy Names of Yours but, unfortunate as I am, not having any devotion, I am not attracted to Your names.”
So Chaitanya, in His second verse, again is centered upon the Names of the Supreme Person. Chant the Names of the Supreme Person. The Names of the Supreme Lord are full with all His power, all His transcendental energy. In His third verse, in the third verse He prays:
“One can chant the Holy Name of the Lord in a humble state of mind being more tolerant than a tree, feeling himself lower than the straw in the street, devoid of all sense of false prestige, ready to offer all respects to others and never desiring anyone to show him respect. In such a state of mind one can chant the Holy Name of the Lord constantly.”
So here He’s giving a description of a person who has actually come to the platform where he’s really chanting the Name of God.
All eight verses of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu are directly connected, are directly concerned with chanting the Names of the Supreme Person and devotion to the Supreme Person, surrender to the Supreme Person. So we should not take these verses lightly, considering that Lord Chaitanya does everything consciously, there must be some reason why He only wrote eight verses when He was capable of writing millions. We should consider it. Why is this? Obviously the reason that Chaitanya wrote only eight verses is to put emphasis on those. Obviously if Lord Chaitanya had written a million verses then these eight verses would be hard to find. You know, sometimes when somebody writes too much you don’t ever find the essence if there’s too much there.
So Chaitanya Mahaprabhu obviously wanted to let us know the essence of His appearance, why He’s appearing. What is His life? What is His purpose? What does He want from us? What we should do. He made it very simple. So anyone who respects Lord Chaitanya will not be able to deny the process of congregational chanting of the Names of the Supreme Person. Nobody will be able to deny this. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu influenced even the impersonalists. Now they all feel the need to chant the Names of God. Even the impersonalists in Sankaracharya’s schools are chanting the Names of God. If for no other reason that, if they don’t then they are considered that they are rejecting Lord Chaitanya and the people in India at least would not be interested in them. So if for no other reason than that, they will chant in some of their programs, they’ll be chanting the Names of God. One man, Swami Shivananda, previous, he’s not around now, he has many disciples who became famous like Swami Satcitananda and Swami Vishnudevanada and Satyananda and many famous disciples who became great teachers of impersonalism in modern life, contemporary society. Swami Shivananda even today in his ashrams in India, they chant the Hare Krishna Mantra twenty four hours a day there’s always somebody. He inaugurated that, “you must have chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra twenty-four hours a day in all of our centers.” Even though they don’t really accept or know the Supreme Person, they still feel this need that this is so important. They can’t deny it even though they are impersonalists.
So Chaitanya’s influence is there and His influence is in this connection. It is very simple. The Supreme Person Himself appeared to let us know how to come to Him and He says, “This is how you come to me. You chant My Names, you hear and you chant My Names. You don’t need to worry about anything else. There are no hard and fast rules.” Okay, we were worried about that one, just about ready to ask you about that. “How? You know, do we be in the temple or do we have to, you know, bathe first? Or you know, do we have to do something, shave our heads or, you know, something, something before?”
Chaitanya is saying, don’t worry about it, just hear and chant the Names of the Lord and they will purify your mind and heart and give you a taste of the nectar of love for God and this will free you from this wheel of birth and death, it will take you to Him. This is the aim of life. It is the aim of meditation. Why is everybody meditating? They want some nectar. They are sitting there. What are they looking for? They’re trying to get some nectar. First they’re trying to get away from all the hassles then they want some nectar. They are anxious for some higher taste. What is it? Chaitanya’s saying it’s in the Name of God. That’s where the nectar is.
Everybody’s going around like bees, yeah, or more like flies trying to take nectar from so many places most of them filthy. They land on anything. They’re trying to taste the nectar. Oh is there some here, you know? The nectar, they are looking for nectar. They try some nectar here, there, everywhere looking for some nectar. Trying to suck some nectar out, try this, try that, their little tongue, tchik, tchik, tchik. You ever see a fly, they’ve got their little tongue tchik, tchik, tchik, trying everything they land on everything trying to look for nectar, they’re looking. We are all like that looking here, there, everywhere.
Some guys take any drug that comes along, for example. Maybe this is it, waiting for the nectar. Anything, they’ll do anything looking for the nectar. They’ll have any kind of sex. They have, you know, they just trying everything. It’s come to the absurd point. It’s come to absurdity in the search for the nectar. They still haven’t found it. Chaitanya is saying, in the Name, in the Names of God that’s where there is the nectar.
Chant the holy name, chant the holy name, chant the holy name!
Thank you, very much.