To say that Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu came to offer the sale of the century would be an understatement.
By Jitendra Savanur
An offer too good to refuse.
In the retail industry, a tremendous amount of planning and strategy is involved in pricing products. Using thorough research into the thinking patterns of shoppers, every retail company strives to come up with attractive offers to draw customers. One approach to pricing in the retail industry is discounts. The discount-centric pricing strategy (also known as high-low pricing) involves offering attractive discounts on various products periodically. During the short time when the products are on sale, a hyped sense of urgency is created in customers, which drives them to the store to buy the item on sale. This strategy works well because when customers see that they are buying a product at a reduced price (although that reduction in price is just seasonal, and somewhat fictitious), they get a sense of the accomplishment of having saved money. Thus people swarm retail stores on special days like Black Friday or Boxing Day to avail themselves of “doorbuster” discounts offered by retailers, even waiting in long queues for hours.
Humans tend to look for options that require them to put in the least effort possible to achieve something. And if that effort is significantly less than what’s needed to attain their objective at some other time or in some other place or circumstance, then that is considered a big win. Giant retail businesses take advantage of this thinking time and again.
The good news for us, the people of Kali-yuga, the present age of spiritual decline, is that the path of liberation and spiritual perfection has a discount. This discount is not seasonal, but always available to us. It is not meant to lure us into unnecessary spending, but to enable us to give up the allurements of this world. It indicates the supreme compassion of God and can propel us towards spiritual emancipation.
Srimad-Bhagavatam (12.3.52) says,
“Whatever result one obtained in Satya-yuga by meditating on Vishnu, in Treta-yuga by performing sacrifices and in Dvapara-yuga by serving the Lord’s lotus feet one can also obtain in Kali-yuga simply by chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra.” Just as a doctor prescribes medicines to a patient based on the patient’s ability to withstand the medicine, scriptures prescribe different processes for liberation in different ages according to the abilities of people of those ages. Meditation on Lord Vishnu, the essential part of yoga as originally practiced under Vedic authority, was the method prescribed for liberation in Satya-yuga, the first – and most spiritually conducive – of the four world ages described in the Vedic literature. Srimad-Bhagavatam mentions that Dhruva, a disciple of Narada Muni, attained Lord Vishnu by performing this kind of meditation, with strict postures and bodily control.
In Treta-yuga, the second age, brahmanas achieved wonderful things just by uttering mantras, and hence their yajnas (sacrificial rituals) were full of sophistication, unparalleled by any yajnas we see today. All who took part in traditional Vedic yajnas made gradual spiritual advancement.
In Dvapara-yuga, the third age, the recommended spiritual practice was deity worship. The deity, a manifestation of the Supreme Lord perceptible to us, has been a means of spiritual connectivity for ages. For us today, however, following the numerous intricate rules and regulations of traditional deity worship is difficult, if not impossible.
Thus our inability to follow the processes prescribed for the other three ages is certain.
The Brahma-vaivarta Purana states:
“Thus in the age of Kali the practices of austerity, yoga meditation, Deity worship, sacrifice and so on, along with their various subsidiary functions, are not properly carried out, even by the most expert embodied souls.”
The Process for Us
But chanting the holy names of God – Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare – is an easy and sublime process that can gradually uplift us from our material conditionings and empower us to please God and redeem our true nature as His servants. Since God is Absolute, there is no difference between Him and His name, form, pastimes, and abodes. In Sikshashtaka (2), Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu prays, nija-sarva-shaktis tatrarpita: God has invested all His potencies in His holy name. Thus when we chant the holy names we are directly connecting with Krishna, and when our chanting matures and becomes offenseless, we will experience the ecstasies of bhakti, or devotional service. This opportunity to chant the holy names is indeed a boon, given that there aren’t even hard and fast rules for chanting them (niyamitah smarane na kalah).
In the Brihan-naradiya Purana, it is stated,
“In this age of quarrel and hypocrisy, the only means of deliverance is the chanting of the holy names of the Lord. There is no other way. There is no other way. There is no other way.” Thus by offenseless chanting of the holy names of God in the association of devotees, we can attain spiritual perfection even in one lifetime. There is no need to engage in prolonged meditation or the other complex processes mentioned above. And unlike retail discounts, this divine discount is available to us always, anywhere and everywhere. Therefore let us avail ourselves of it and perfect our lives.