Evidence in Support of Chanting the Holy Name
There is no need to conduct research into the significance of the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra. The history of Ajamila is sufficient proof of the power of the Lord’s holy name and the exalted position of a person who chants the holy name incessantly. Therefore Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu advised,
harer nama harer nama
harer namaiva kevalam
kalau nasty eva nasty eva
nasty eva gatir anyatha
“In this age of quarrel and hypocrisy, the only means of deliverance is chanting the holy name of the Lord. There is no other way. There is no other way. There is no other way.” (Brhan-naradiya Purana 3.8.126) In this age, almost no one can perform all the difficult ritualistic ceremonies for becoming liberated. Therefore all the sastras and all the acaryas have recommended that in this age one simply chant the holy name. That will bring one all perfection.
In the assembly of Raghunatha dasa Gosvami’s father, Haridasa Thakura confirmed that simply by chanting the Lord’s holy name a person is liberated, even if he does not chant completely inoffensively. Smarta-brahmanas and Mayavadis do not believe that one can achieve liberation in this way, but the truth of Haridasa Thakura’s statement is supported by many quotations from the Vedic literature.
In the passage of Srimad-Bhagavatam under discussion, for example, Yamaraja says, “It should be understood that one is easily relieved from all sinful reactions by chanting the holy name of the Lord and chanting His qualities and activities. This is the only process recommended for relief from sinful reactions.” In his commentary on this verse, Sridhara Svami gives the following quotation: sayam pratar grnan bhaktya duhkha-gramad vimucyate. “If one continually chants the holy name of the Lord with great devotion morning and evening, one will become free from all material miseries.” Another quotation confirms that a person can achieve liberation if he hears the holy name of the Lord continually, every day, with great respect: anudinam idam adarena srnvan. Another quotation says,
“One should always chant and hear about the wonderful activities of the Lord, one should meditate upon these activities, and one should endeavor to please the Lord.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 11.3.27) Sridhara Svami also gives the following quote from the Puranas: papa-ksayas ca bhavati smaratam tam ahar-nisam. “One can become free from all sinful reactions simply by remembering the lotus feet of the Lord day and night.” Finally, he quotes from the chapter of Srimad-Bhagavatam under discussion (6.3.31):
“The chanting of the holy name of the Lord is able to uproot even the reactions of the greatest sins. Therefore the chanting of the sankirtana movement is the most auspicious activity in the entire universe.”
All these quotations prove that one who constantly engages in chanting and hearing the holy name of the Lord, along with descriptions of His fame, form, and activities, is liberated. As stated wonderfully in verse 24, etavatalam agha-nirharanaya pumsam: simply by uttering the name of the Lord, one is freed from all sinful reactions.
The word alam in this verse indicates that simply uttering the holy name of the Lord is sufficient. There is no need of any other process. Even if a person chants imperfectly, he becomes free from all sinful reactions.
The liberation of Ajamila proves this power of chanting the holy name. When Ajamila chanted the holy name of Narayana, he did not precisely remember the Supreme Lord; instead, he remembered his own son. At the time of death, Ajamila certainly was not very clean; indeed, he was famous as a great sinner. Furthermore, one’s physiological condition is completely disturbed at the time of death, and in such an awkward condition it would certainly have been very difficult for Ajamila to have chanted clearly. Nevertheless, Ajamila achieved liberation simply by chanting the holy name of the Lord. Therefore, what is to be said of those who are not sinful like Ajamila? It is to be concluded that with a strong vow one should chant the holy name of the Lord—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—for thus by the grace of Krsna one will certainly be delivered from the clutches of maya.
The chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra is recommended even for persons who commit offenses, because if they continue chanting they will gradually chant offenselessly. Then, by chanting Hare Krsna without offenses, one increases his love for Krsna. As stated by Lord Caitanya, prema pum-artho mahan: one’s main concern should be to increase one’s attachment to the Supreme Personality of Godhead and to increase one’s love for Him.
Since one may easily achieve the highest success by chanting the holy name of the Lord, one may ask why there are so many Vedic ritualistic ceremonies and why people are attracted to them. Yamaraja answers this question in the passage of Srimad-Bhagavatam under discussion. Unfortunately, unintelligent people are bewildered by the grandeur of Vedic yajnas, and thus they want to see gorgeous sacrifices performed. They want Vedic mantras chanted and huge amounts of money spent for such ceremonies. Sometimes we have to observe the Vedic ritualistic ceremonies to please such unintelligent men. In 1975, when we established a large Krsna-Balarama temple in Vrndavana, we were obliged to have Vedic ceremonies performed by brahmanas because the inhabitants of Vrndavana, especially the smarta-brahmanas, would not accept Europeans and Americans as bona fide brahmanas. Thus we had to engage brahmanas to perform costly yajnas. As these yajnas were being performed, the members of our Society performed sankirtana loudly with mrdangas, and I considered the sankirtana more important than the Vedic ritualistic ceremonies. The ceremonies and the sankirtana were going on simultaneously. The ceremonies were meant for persons interested in Vedic rituals for elevation to heavenly planets (jadi-krta-matir madhu-puspitayam), whereas the sankirtana was meant for pure devotees interested in pleasing the Supreme Personality of Godhead. We would simply have performed sankirtana, but then the inhabitants of Vrndavana would not have taken the installation ceremony seriously. As explained here, the Vedic performances are meant for those whose intelligence has been dulled by the flowery words of the Vedas, which describe sacrifices intended to elevate one to the higher planets.
Especially in this age, sankirtana alone is sufficient. If the members of our temples in the different parts of the world simply continue sankirtana before the Deity, especially before Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, they will remain perfect. There is no need of any other performances. Nevertheless, to keep oneself clean in habits and mind, Deity worship and other regulative principles are required. Srila Jiva Gosvami says that although sankirtana is sufficient for the perfection of life, worship of the Deity in the temple must continue so that the devotees may stay clean and pure. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura therefore recommended that one follow both processes simultaneously. We strictly follow his principle of performing Deity worship and sankirtana along parallel lines. This we should continue.