Liberation Through Chanting
By His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhuapada
Lecture given in Vrindavan, India, November 14, 1976
Chanting Hare Krishna can deliver us from material entanglement at once, provided the chanting is pure.
[Lord Rshabhadeva said:] "The true activity of the sense organs—mind, sight, words, and all the knowledge-gathering and working senses—is to engage fully in My service. Unless his senses are thus engaged, a living entity cannot think of getting out of the great entanglement of material existence, which is exactly like Yamaraja's stringent rope."—Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.5.27
Entanglement in material nature is caused by the senses. Bhaktivinoda Thakura has sung sharira avidya-jal: "The body is a covering of ignorance." Everyone has a material body, and everything is going on according to the body. This is maha-vimoha, "the great illusion." There are 8,400,000 forms of body according to mano, vacha, drik, karana: "mind, words, sight, senses," and so on. The body is the entanglement, the senses are the instruments, and we are acting with the senses to create another type of body for our next life.
Therefore the first business of life is to purify the senses. Bhakti, devotional service, means purifying the senses. In the Bhagavad-gita (3.42) it is said,
"The working senses are superior to dull matter; mind is higher than the senses; intelligence is still higher than the mind; and he [the soul] is even higher than the intelligence." And the soul is a very minute part of the Supersoul. That is also mentioned:
"If we divide the tip of a hair into a hundred parts and then take one of these parts and divide it again into a hundred parts, that very fine division is the size of but one of the numberless living entities." (Quoted in Chaitanya-charitamrita, Madhya-lila 19.140) From this verse you can get an idea of the size of the soul. Living entities are all chit-kana, particles of spirit, not matter.
Intelligence is working, then the mind is producing the senses, and the senses are transforming into a gross body. This is material existence. How finely organized it is! Where is the science to understand this? The rascals do not know anything except the body.
In our country Carvaka Muni has advised, bhasmi-bhutasya dehasya kutah punar-agamano bhavet: "Why are you thinking of your next birth? Another birth is not possible. We see that the gross body is burnt into ashes. And where is the soul? Who is coming back again? Don't care for all these things." Yavaj jivet sukham jivet: "Live happily. Eat, drink, be merry, and enjoy."
This philosophy is going on. "There is no mind, there is no intelligence, there is no soul, only this gross body, and as long as we possess this gross body, let us enjoy the senses." This is called maha-vimoha, the greatest bewilderment. People have no education about how we are existing in the material world, how nature is working. They are thinking there is no life after this one, but that is not the fact. They are living in a very great entanglement.
The spirit soul is a person, as Krishna is a person. Because the father is a person, the child is also a person. It cannot be otherwise. Or if the child is a person, the father must be a person. Krishna says, aham bija-pradah pita: "I am the father of all living entities." (Bhagavad-gita 14.4). We experience that all living entities are persons. Even a small insect, a small ant, is a person. If an ant is going in a certain direction and you stop it, it will struggle—"Why you are stopping me?" That shows that it is a person. It will try its best to go this way and that way to avoid your checking it. You can see this by practical experience. Even a small ant has all the propensities of a person. Ahara-nidra-bhaya-maithuna. These propensities—eating, sleeping, sex, and fearing—you will find everywhere. Vishaya, material enjoyment, is not only for the rich man. Vishaya means enjoyment of the senses. And that is available to all living entities.
Locana Dasa Thakura has sung, vishaya chariya, se rase majiya, mukhe bolo hari hari. We can have success in chanting when we give up sense enjoyment. This is the instruction. We must chant the Hare Krishna maha-mantra, the holy name of the Lord, purely, without offense. If we can chant the Hare Krishna maha-mantra purely even once, then immediately we become liberated.
The Lord's holy name is so powerful that chanting it even once immediately vanquishes the accumulated sinful reactions of millions of lives. Even a person who was sinful will fail to sin again.
But the difficulty is that we cannot come to the pure stage of chanting the Hare Krishna mantra. Due to our past habits our mind is disturbed. We cannot concentrate. Therefore I have fixed a minimum requirement for my disciples: They must chant at least sixteen rounds on their beads every day. We cannot imitate Haridasa Thakura, who was chanting day and night—300,000 holy names daily. That is not possible. Some people make a show of imitating Haridasa Thakura, but we see that they are chanting Hare Krishna but also smoking. We can understand their position. That kind of offensive chanting is going on.
We should try to avoid the ten offenses. [See the sidebar "The Ten Offenses in Chanting" at the end of the article.] Of course, in the beginning the offenses will continue. But by chanting repeatedly, the core of our heart will be cleansed.
People do not know what position they are in. They have dismissed everything—all the instructions of the scriptures, all the instructions of Krishna, all the instruction of the guru. "Oh, these are all mythology. There is no life after death." This is going on.
We should understand our position. But people have become dull, just like a stone or a tree. If you cut a stone, it does not respond; it does nothing. But if there is life, there is a response. If I pinch you, you will ask, "Why are you pinching me?" That is the difference between life and a dead body. As long as one is not conscious, he's as good as stone or wood. People have created such a strong heart in material existence that it does not respond even after suffering so much. This is the position.
The Krishna consciousness movement is meant to bring people to the right consciousness. When consciousness is covered, dull, it cannot respond. But it can be brought into the proper existence, and the process for that is to hear spiritual sound repeatedly. Krishna has given us one chance: our ear. We must properly use it.
Vedic knowledge is meant to be heard. It is therefore called shruti, that which is heard. The Vedic instruction must be gotten from the right person through aural reception.
"Sri Krishna, the Personality of Godhead, who is the Paramatma [Supersoul] in everyone's heart and the benefactor of the truthful devotee, cleanses desire for material enjoyment from the heart of the devotee who has developed the urge to hear His messages, which are in themselves virtuous when properly heard and chanted." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.2.17) We should engage our ears to receive Vedic knowledge very attentively. We have to approach the proper person to inquire and hear from, and we must serve that person. Then our knowledge will develop. That is the process.
As today's verse says, we can worship the Lord by the mind, by words, by seeing, and by all the senses. The mind is one of the senses. With the mind and the senses, we are trying to be happy in the material world, but there is no happiness, simply struggling. We have been put into the material nature. The jiva, the living entity, although part of Krishna, wanted to enjoy life separately or independently, without Krishna. The material world is where, without Krishna, we struggle for existence. Therefore if we want to stop the struggle for existence with the mind and senses, then we must come to Krishna. That is the natural position.
But people are not taught about Krishna. They are already in ignorance, and they are kept in ignorance. Rascals do not know that their real self-interest is to approach Vishnu or Krishna. Krishna comes personally to show His causeless mercy upon them, to exhibit Himself and show how He can be the friend of everyone. Krishna is not only the friend of Arjuna. Arjuna is the symbolic friend. In the Bhagavad-gita Krishna instructs Arjuna, His friend, but He is the friend of everyone. Suhridam sarva-bhutanam: "I am the friend of all living entities." (Bhagavad-gita 5.29)
We must take advantage of the instructions of Bhagavad-gita. They are not meant for Arjuna. Arjuna is already liberated, but he is placing himself as one of us just to take the lessons of Krishna for the benefit of the whole world. Arjuna is always with Krishna. He cannot be in ignorance. As one who is constantly living with Krishna, Arjuna has no ignorance, but he's putting himself forward as ignorant.
We also have the example of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He was inquiring from Ramananda Raya, His disciple. Does that mean that Chaitanya Mahaprabhu did not know the answers? No. He was showing how we can get knowledge by hearing from the authorities. Similarly, Arjuna's ignorance was like that of an actor. Actually he is liberated.
When Arjuna was advised to practice hatha-yoga, he said, "Krishna, it is not possible for me."
"For the mind is restless, turbulent, obstinate and very strong, O Krishna, and to subdue it, I think, is more difficult than controlling the wind." (Bhagavad-gita 6.34)
"I cannot do this."
He was frank enough. Or on behalf of us he said frankly, "It is impossible."
At least in the current age, Kali-yuga, to control the mind by meditation is not possible. Even five thousand years ago, during a more suitable age, Arjuna was unwilling to accept this yogic process.
"It is not possible. I am a politician. I am a military man. I have to fight. I have to see so many things. How can I control my mind? It is not possible."
That is the fact. Controlling the mind by the yogic process, by meditation, is impossible.
Chanting Is the Essence
To make spiritual advancement, however, we must control the mind. In this age we can control the mind and attain all spiritual success by chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra. That is the essential teaching of the shastras, or scriptures. Everyone is in ignorance—fools and rascals. And it is the duty of the spiritual master to present the essence of the shastra to everyone.
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu said, "My guru found Me to be a great rascal."
He was not a rascal, but He presented Himself as a rascal because we are rascals. The people of this age are all rascals.
Therefore Chaitanya Mahaprabhu said, "My guru saw Me to be a great rascal; therefore he forbid me to read the Vedanta."
Even for learned persons, the Vedanta, which contains the essence of Vedic philosophy in concise verses, is very difficult to understand. What will the rascals of this age understand about Vedanta? They will simply misrepresent it. They will simply mislead people. You see so many big, big politicians and scholars simply misleading people by quoting Bhagavad-gita. Bhagavad-gita is spoken on the battlefield, and they want to prove that it is about nonviolence. In this way people are being misled.
Therefore avoid this rascal process of reading something and misinterpreting it. We should not try to become very learned scholars by misreading the Vedic literature. Take the instruction of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu:
"In this age of Kali there is no other means, no other means, no other means for self-realization than chanting the holy name, chanting, the holy name, chanting the holy name of Lord Hari [Krishna]."
Lord Chaitanya has quoted this verse from the Brihan-naradiya Purana (3.8.126). The sadhu, the saintly person, will not speak anything that is not in the shastra. That is the qualification of the sadhu. The sadhu cannot manufacture anything.
So follow Lord Chaitanya's instruction: Chant Hare Krishna as many times as possible and be liberated.
Thank you very much.
Ten Offenses in Chanting
(1) To blaspheme the devotees who have dedicated their lives for propagating the holy name of the Lord.
(2) To consider the names of demigods like Lord Shiva or Lord Brahma to be equal to or independent of the holy name of Lord Vishnu.
(3) To disobey the orders of the spiritual master.
(4) The blaspheme the Vedic literature or literature in pursuance of the Vedic version.
(5) To consider the glories of chanting Hare Krishna imagination.
(6) To give some interpretation on the holy name of the Lord.
(7) To commit sinful activities on the strength of chanting the holy name of the Lord.
(8) To consider the chanting of Hare Krishna one of the auspicious ritualistic activities offered in the Vedas as fruitive activities (karma-kanda).
(9) To instruct a faithless person about the glories of the holy name.
(10) To not have complete faith in the chanting of the holy names and to maintain some material attachment, even after understanding so many instructions on this matter. It is also an offense to be inattentive while chanting.