Srila BR Sridhar Maharaja.
We have removed the article originally appearing here entitled “Descent of the Holy Name” and replaced it with a chapter from the “Search for Sri Krishna”. For a detailed explanation of why the original article has been removed CLICK HERE. Most of the content for the replacement article “Service of the Holy Name” is based on THIS RECORDING.
Student: I have one question about chanting the Hare Krishna mantra on beads (japa-mala). My spiritual master has given me many preaching duties, so sometimes when I am trying to concentrate on my japa-mala, instead of hearing the holy name, I think of all these different duties I have to do.
Sridhar Maharaja: Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur emphasized that kirtan means not only loudly singing the holy name, but preaching. Jiva Goswami has given a definition of sankirtan: bahubhir militva yatkirtanam tad eva sankirtanam: “When many people come together and glorify the Supreme Lord, Krishna, it is known as sankirtan.” Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu came and introduced sankirtan. In this age of Kali, if the holy name is chanted congregationally, the combined efforts will be fruitful (sango sakti kalau yuge). There is the difference between the preaching mission of Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur, and the so-called bhajana of the sahajiyas, or imitationists.Once, one of our Godbrothers was the subject of our guru Maharaja’s stern remark. He was a man of good character, but his tendency was generally towards nama bhajan. He did not like to do any other service, but was only inclined to chant the name of Krishna on his beads. I was in charge of the Delhi temple at the time, and was intimate with him, so I wrote to Prabhupada: “If you permit, I would like to engage my Godbrother in some preaching work here in the Delhi temple”. The letter that he wrote is still here. He wrote me in his letter, “If you can bring him there and make him help you in the work of preaching, then you will be doing the service of a real friend to him. I don’t recognize that sitting in the jungle of Balihati only chanting, counting beads, is Krishnanusilanam, the proper cultivation of Krishna consciousness”.
PREACHING MEANS A FIGHT
So, kirtan means preaching, sravanam, kirtanam. Kirtan does not simply mean loudly chanting, but preaching. And preaching means there must be a fight with the opposition party. Kirtan means a fight. Kirtan creates the divine vibration which will fight with all the ordinary vibrations that are floating in this world in subtle and gross waves. So, Prabhupada told us that our tulsi beads should not fast. His minimum advice was that we must do some service in the form of chanting Hare Krishna while counting on beads, at least once daily. His exact words were, malika upabasa na: “The beads should not fast.” And his general instruction was to preach as much as possible.
Once I had a talk with one of the big spiritual leaders of the Udipi temple in Madras. He told me, “Sometimes I preach about Madhvacharya and the bhakti cult, but I have no time for sadhana, (regulated spiritual practices such as japa, gayatri mantra, scriptural study, and so on). I supported him. Our Gurumaharaja said that hari-katha, preaching about Krishna, is no less important than sadhana. Rather, it is a more living thing. Preaching is more vital. When we are preaching, automatically we must have the maximum concentration. On the other hand, while chanting on our japa beads, we may be absentminded. When we are speaking about Krishna to another person, we must be all-attentive. Otherwise we cannot speak accurately. All our attention will automatically be concentrated when we talk about Krishna. And in writing about Krishna, accuracy is even more necessary than in speaking about Krishna. So, writing is also kirtan. The cultivation of Krishna consciousness may even be more intense when we are engaged in writing about Krishna.
GAUDIYA MATH: WAR AGAINST MAYA
So, the preaching mission of Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur, the Gaudiya Math, has declared totalitarian war against maya, illusion, and even all other existing conceptions of religion. And our authority is Srimad-Bhagavatam and Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Divine love is the supreme most goal of every soul. Beauty and love is the summum bonum, our highest attainment; that is the ultimate controlling principle, and not power. And beauty and love are found at their highest position in Krishna in Vrindavan. The ultimate conception of the Absolute Truth is that of reality the beautiful and divine love. At the same time, the difference between lust and love should be clearly realized. That should not be misconceived. The acme of dedication is demonstrated in the love of the inhabitants of Vraja.
So, preaching (sankirtan), and not counting beads (japa), is the real service of Krishna. But because we have taken a vow, and it is ordered by Mahaprabhu and our Gurudeva, we must chant the holy name while counting beads; it is our duty. Our guru Maharaja told us, “The japa beads must not fast.” So, if we engage ourselves in preaching work, there should be no doubt that we are really obeying the order of Mahaprabhu. Although he has advised us to chant one hundred thousand names, or sixty-four rounds daily, that is a provincial saying. What is really all important is the spirit of service. We are not told that the Gopis always count the name on tulsi beads, yet they possess the highest position in the service of Krishna in Vrindavan.
VRINDAVAN EXPRESS TRAIN
So, Krishna nama will help us greatly to go towards Vrindavan. Its importance is there. Like an express train, the holy name of Krishna carries us to the goal without stopping at any other station. If we are chanting the name without any formal petition, without asking, “Give me this, give me that,” it acts like a special train that will go to Vrindavan non-stop. There, the impurities of karma and jnana are absent. The devotees of Vrindavan simply think, “I want Krishna. I do not know what is good or bad. I simply want Krishna.”
Student: How many rounds did your guru Maharaja ask his initiated disciples to chant each day? Did he prescribe any set number?
Sridhar Maharaja: His general recommendation was to chant twenty-five thousand names, sixteen rounds, daily, or at least four rounds minimum. When someone had no work, he could chant one hundred thousand names, or sixty-four rounds.
Student: Would Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur give harinam initiation to someone who could only chant four rounds daily?
QUALITY NOT QUANTITY
Sridhar Maharaja: There was no such consideration. Formally, one had to do some counting, but there was no rigid limitation. What he wanted from us was intense engagement in the service of the Lord, under the guidance of a Vaishnava, because the all-important point is service. Our attainment of the goal is not insured simply by increasing the number of times we repeat the name; only by increasing the quality will we reach success.
There are so many sayings in the scriptures to encourage our realization of the holy name in different ways, but Srila Rupa Goswami has given us a central thought. He quotes the Padma Purana: atah sri Krishna namadi na bhavad grahyam indriyah. Our senses, physical or mental, are ineligible to come in touch with the transcendental. The name is non material (aprakrita), without mundane limitation (vaikuntha). It belongs to another plane. So, nothing about Krishna – His name, form, qualities, or pastimes – can be touched by our physical or mental senses. But when we have a serving attitude, He comes down to us of His own accord. Only then can our tongue really pronounce the name of Krishna. Otherwise, only the physical sound of the letters of the name can be produced.
Our tongue, our hands, physical sound, all these mundane things cannot come in touch with Krishna. Some intervening medium is necessary to connect this body with the supra-mundane. And that connection is our earnest desire to serve Krishna, to satisfy Him. A bulb won’t light if there is no electricity. Only when the electrical current is there will the bulb be illuminated. So, the name may appear on the tongue and in the ear, in the mind, or in writing, but we must have the connection from Vaikuntha to this mundane world. And that connection is devotional service, a functional serving attitude. That alone can connect the physical realm with Vaikuntha and Vrindavan.
FIRING BLANK MANTRAS
Krishna will appear of His own accord. He will descend upon your tongue, and then your tongue will be able to chant the name of Krishna. A gun that has no bullet, but only a blank, may make some sound, but no bullet is actually fired. Similarly, chanting the name of Krishna without an attitude of service produces sound, but that is only tongue deep. It is like firing a gun with blanks instead of bullets. Our chanting of the holy name of Krishna must be surcharged with a serving temperament, the tendency to satisfy Krishna.
Otherwise the sound we produce is bogus. It is only an imitation, or a permutation. The holy name cannot be experienced by our senses. It is supra-mental and transcendental. An ordinary sound of this mundane world cannot be the name of Krishna. Our ear cannot even hear the name if that mediator, the serving attitude, is not there. The earnestness to satisfy Krishna’s will must mediate between Krishna and the ear, through the mind. Then only will Krishna’s name enter our ear and reveal to us His form, qualities, and pastimes. The holy name is not physical, it is aprakrita, transcendental, supra-mundane. Only through our service attitude will it come down to this mundane world.
Our Gurumaharaja laid the highest stress on developing a serving attitude. Otherwise it is all bogus, all imitation. And people will say, “Oh, there is no Krishna there. These men are hypocrites. They are only dancing and making noise, they are not surcharged with a serving spirit.” Only through service can we directly come in contact with Krishna. The real point is to practice how to attain the spirit of service, Vaishnava seva. The Vaishnava is doing service, and we must imbibe from him the methods of attaining this serving attitude.
Under the order of a devotee we must practice to give ourselves. Self-abnegation and self-dedication are necessary. And that positive thing we will receive from a devotee. If children are given pen and paper in the beginning, it will not be fruitful, so a stone is given, and on the earth they practice writing. So, in the beginning, we must try to practice how we can develop a serving attitude, dedicating habit. It is our innate wealth, and that is our solace.
If we try to develop a serving attitude, the pure devotee will help us. It is said that if one is miserly, he should at least give some trash in charity to anyone. One says to a miser, “At least give some ash to others and let your hand practice giving.” So, the serving spirit is a high thing. We must practice to give ourselves in the service of Krishna. We must not be afraid that we are not attaining the highest form of service in nama bhajan, the worship of the holy name. We should not think, “Why have I been asked to sweep the temple? Any ordinary man can do this.”
We must not be afraid of that. It is necessary for us to acquire a service attitude. Self-giving, selflessness, and self-forgetfulness are required. It is said that Socrates is an example of self-forgetfulness and Jesus Christ is an example of self-sacrifice. And for what purpose? For the cause of the Supreme. And for that we must have a positive connection with a devotee. Under his order we will connect with the plane of service. Our energy may go to the transcendental plane only by his grace or mediation. So, our Gurumaharaja, Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur, laid ninety percent stress on developing a service attitude for preaching, and that should be our aim, whatever our position may be.