Chapter 3 from the book, Going Beyond Vaikuṇṭha, 4th edition by Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja
In telling Gopa-kumāra the sādhana for attaining Vaikuṇṭha, the four-armed eternal associates of Nārāyaṇa said:
manyāmahe kīrtanam eva sattamaṁ
lokātmakaika-sva-hṛdi smarat smṛteḥ
vāci sva-yukte manasi śrutau tathā
dīvyat parān apy apakurvad ātmya-vat
Because it engages the voice, ears and mind, and because it attracts others as it does oneself, we consider that kīrtana is better than trying to remember the Lord with the fickle mind.
There are so many kinds of sādhana for attaining Vaikuṇṭha, and this refers to the entire realm of Vaikuṇṭha, up to Vṛndāvana. For everyone in a general way, it is said that there are many sādhanas for attaining Vaikuṇṭha, such as ninefold bhakti, fivefold bhakti, sixty-four kinds of bhakti and so on. Amongst all of these, three are primary: hearing (śravaṇa), chanting (kīrtana) and remembering (smaraṇa). Of these three, kīrtana and smaraṇa are primary. What is the meaning of smaraṇa? Rūpa Gosvāmī says it means that while your tongue is chanting your favourite name of Bhagavān, your mind is remembering Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes.
In our sampradāya there are many who consider that, leaving aside all other methods, only meditation (dhyāna) should be done. Especially for developing rāgānuga-bhakti, meditating on the topics of Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes and remembering His eternal eightfold daily pastimes (aṣṭakāla-līlā) have been recommended as the best type of smaraṇa. But here Sanātana Gosvāmī, through the medium of Gopa-kumāra and the four-armed eternal associates of Nārāyaṇa, is saying that saṅkīrtana is the best method of all. Why? Because the mind is restless; it won’t remain steady. If anyone can deeply meditate on the pastimes of Kṛṣṇa with a steady mind, then that is all right. But in almost every situation the mind is not peaceful; it remains restless. Therefore there is only one plan (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 11.2.40):
jātānurāgo druta-citta uccaiḥ
With a melted heart, loudly sing about the names, forms, qualities and pastimes of Bhagavān. When one sincerely chants his favourite name of Bhagavān, then from the tongue that name will enter the mind and then the heart, thereby quieting all of the senses. If by any separate endeavour one tries to control the restless mind, he will not be able to do so. For concentrating the mind, kīrtana is necessary, and especially for Kali-yuga, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu has given us nāma-saṅkīrtana as the religion for the modern age (yuga-dharma):
harer nāma harer nāma
harer nāmaiva kevalam
kalau nāsty eva nāsty eva
nāsty eva gatir anyathā
Bṛhan-nāradīya Purāṇa (38.126)
In Kali-yuga, hari-kīrtana is the only means of deliverance. There is no other way.
Only nāma-saṅkīrtana will make the restless mind steady, and is therefore the best method of all. If one performs smaraṇa that is dependent on kīrtana, then that will be effective. Arising on the tongue, nāma-saṅkīrtana will control all of the remaining senses and the mind also; otherwise the mind is like a horse without a rider. If there are no reins and no rider, what will the horse do? Run here and there according to his own desire. But if the rider of kīrtana climbs upon the horse of our mind and takes the reins, then the horse of the mind will not run aimlessly but will go wherever the rider directs him. So what the four-armed eternal associates of Nārāyaṇa were saying was conducive for the cultivation of bhakti, and ultimately for gaining entrance into Vraja. For this reason Jayanta gave Gopa-kumāra this mantra to chant:
śrī-kṛṣṇa gopāla hare mukunda
govinda he nanda-kiśora kṛṣṇa
hā śrī-yaśodā-tanaya prasīda
We have heard that anyone who doesn’t perform kīrtana that is full of the names of Bhagavān, but only chants the gopāla-mantra, will not be able to enter Goloka Vraja. But it has also been said that the sixty thousand sages who witnessed the pastimes of Rāma in Satya-yuga performed sādhana by chanting the gopāla-mantra, and as a result they attained the forms of gopīs in their next lives. And those who cite this reference say, “So how can the gopāla-mantra be considered inferior? The kāma-gāyatrī is inferior? They will not take one to Goloka? The gopāla-mantra and the kāma-gāyatrī are mantras of perfection! Anyone who performs sādhana by chanting them will certainly attain Goloka!”
How can we harmonise this? Harmonising this seems to be a very difficult task because it appears that there is a contradiction in our siddhānta. Some say that only nāma-saṅkīrtana will take us to Goloka, but others have written that by chanting the gopāla-mantra so many people went to Goloka Vraja. So how can we reconcile this?
Very easily: where is perfection attained? Where is sādhana practised? In this material world, and those sages of Daṇḍakāraṇya were practising sādhana by chanting the gopāla-mantra. From the mantra, sambandha-jñāna arose and ultimately transformed into permanent sentiment (sthāyibhāva), and according to their particular internal natures, they attained perfection. They reached the limit of this world and became qualified to go beyond. Then, by the influence of Yogamāyā, such perfected souls take birth in the womb of gopīs when the manifest pastimes of Kṛṣṇa appear in one of the material universes. After taking birth in Vraja from the womb of a gopī, they become either a sakhā, a motherly or fatherlike guardian of Kṛṣṇa, or a gopī. But they must first take birth in Gokula and develop an identity.
Then there is no necessity of chanting the mantra any longer. Rather, by hearing and chanting about Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes – and by the association of Gopāla Himself, the gopīs and all of His other eternal playmates – one will himself become part of Kṛṣṇa’s eternal entourage and then go to Goloka Vṛndāvana. One will not go directly. Therefore everything is reconciled like this: first there is svarūpa-siddhi, internal realisation of one’s eternal identity, and then after relinquishing the material body comes vastu-siddhi, taking birth in a spiritual body within the Lord’s pastimes. The mantra is only useful in sādhana. There is no necessity of it in the stage of perfection.
So, saying that the gopāla-mantra will take one to Goloka Vraja is correct: it will bring us to the entrance, and then we will enter and the activities of the mantra will cease. Both ideas in regard to the mantra are correct. But without the gopāla-mantra and the kāma-gāyatrī, will our sādhana be complete with only nāma-saṅkīrtana? No, because by nāma-saṅkīrtana alone we will not be able to chant śuddha-nāma, the pure name of Kṛṣṇa. First, from the influence of the mantra, sambandha-jñāna will come, then we will feel a particular devotional sentiment within us, and finally our eternal svarūpa will arise. After this, by becoming deeply absorbed in nāma-saṅkīrtana, everything will be completed.
Suppose we are cutting grass, and someone says to us, “Please use a golden blade to cut the grass.” Will we use a golden blade to cut the grass? No, an iron blade will be more effective. Similarly, because we are in such a conditioned state, chanting the gopāla-mantra and kāma-gāyatrī is also necessary. At different stages, different things are necessary, but we shall understand nāma-saṅkīrtana to be the best thing in sādhana, and in perfection. The gopāla-mantra is effective only in sādhana, but not in the stage of perfection. The perfected soul will not chant it, because its work has been completed. We must understand this point well: nāma-saṅkīrtana is necessary in the conditioned state, but along with it we must chant the gopāla-mantra, the mantra of Mahāprabhu (gaura-gāyatrī), and all other mantras that our spiritual master has given us. The efficacy of these mantras is that they make sambandha-jñāna arise and the attachment to sense enjoyment fade away. Anyone who follows this method sincerely for one year, or even six months, will certainly see what its result is. If the desired result doesn’t come, then there must be some problem. Perhaps the seed, the mantra, was not very potent because the giver was not pure, or perhaps we are not chanting from the heart or we are cheating in some way. Rather, giving it our heart, with deep faith and firm determination we should chant.
tan-nāma-saṅkīrtanam eva mukhyam
tat-prema-sampaj-janane svayaṁ drāk
śaktaṁ tataḥ śreṣṭhatamaṁ mataṁ tat
Of the many types of kṛṣṇa-kīrtana, glorification of His name is primary. Because it is capable of bestowing the great wealth of pure love for Him very quickly, it is considered the best.
There are many types of kṛṣṇa-kīrtana – glorification of His qualities, of His form, of His pastimes – but the glorification of His name is the foremost. If I call out “Come over here,” who will come? Many people may come. If I describe some qualities of the person I want, then still many may come. But if I call out the name of the specific person I want, then at once only that person will come. Similarly, there is glorification of Bhagavān’s qualities, forms and pastimes, but for calling out to Him and remembering Him, the nāma-saṅkīrtana of Bhagavān is the best. Included within this nāma-saṅkīrtana will be glorification of His qualities, forms and pastimes. In this way – “O Govinda, O Gopīnātha, O Madana-mohana!” – our kīrtana should be full of His names. And of these names, those which refer to Kṛṣṇa’s relationship with the gopīs are the best of all. If one desires to very quickly attain the lotus feet of Śrī Kṛṣṇa and attain the prema of Vraja, then nāma-saṅkīrtana is the best and most powerful method. This is the conclusion of Sanātana Gosvāmī, because if we chant nāma-saṅkīrtana with great sincerity, then very quickly kṛṣṇa-prema will arise.
baliṣṭhaṁ sādhanaṁ śreṣṭham
It is said that nāma-saṅkīrtana is the best and most powerful method for attaining the treasure of kṛṣṇa-prema because, like the most supremely magnetic mantra, it pulls Śrī Kṛṣṇa towards a sādhaka. Therefore Gopa-kumāra was instructed to again return to the material world where his spiritual master instructed him on kīrtana, and gave him this mantra to chant:
śrī-kṛṣṇa gopāla hare mukunda
govinda he nanda-kiśora kṛṣṇa
hā śrī-yaśodā-tanaya prasīda
Here, one doubt may arise. Sanātana Gosvāmī and Caitanya Mahāprabhu were contemporary, and at that time the preaching of the mahā-mantra was going on. Mahāprabhu had begun the specific propagation of the mahā-mantra in Navadvīpa, and in Purī also it was going on. But in his Bṛhad-bhāgavatāmṛta, Sanātana Gosvāmī did not write anything in relation to the mahā-mantra; instead he gave the mantra containing the names śrī-kṛṣṇa gopāla hare mukunda…, so should we think he didn’t know of the mahā-mantra? What was the reason for his not giving the mahā-mantra?
The mahā-mantra is especially meant for Kali-yuga, whereas this mantra from Bṛhad-bhāgavatāmṛta is for all time, as are the gopāla-mantra and the gāyatrī-mantra. But more importantly, Gopa-kumāra had the internal sentiment of a cowherd boy, and therefore more explicit names such as Śrī Yaśodā-tanaya and Nanda-kiśora Kṛṣṇa were given to him. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu and the Gosvāmīs chanted the mahā-mantra knowing that ultimately the only meaning of the mahā-mantra is Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa Themselves, but ordinarily one wouldn’t see this meaning there. They chanted it with intense feelings of separation full of rasa and the sentiments of Vraja. Anyone who comes to know this meaning will definitely prefer chanting the mahā-mantra over the mantra, śrī-kṛṣṇa gopāla hare mukunda… . But because Gopakumāra was merely a simple cowherd boy who had no knowledge of tattva, he would have been unable to detect the sentiment of Vraja within the mahā-mantra.
We cannot see a plant or a tree within a seed but they are there, and an expert can examine a seed and determine whether it will produce one thing or another. Or if there are two pots of yoghurt, one may examine them side by side and determine which one is naturally sweet. The pot of yoghurt that has had sugar added will have a slightly pinkish appearance, and should only cost three rupees per kilo. Why? Because the cream has been removed from this yoghurt, it has been skimmed, and a little sugar has been added to give it some artificial sweetness. But the other pot containing only simple and pure yoghurt with its own natural white colour and sweetness is worth ten rupees per kilo because it has been made from whole milk and therefore there is ghee in every particle of it.
Similarly, the Gosvāmīs have examined the sixteen names in the mahā-mantra, extracted the meaning, and tasted it. When chanting the mahā-mantra, the deity whom we are aspiring to serve is inherent within the names that we are calling. For instance, in “Hare Rāma”, to us the name “Rāma” means only Rādhā-ramaṇa Kṛṣṇa, and “Hare” means Śrīmatī Rādhikā, the one who steals Śrī Kṛṣṇa away to the kuñja, gives Him great pleasure, and serves Him with prema-bhāva. When chanting “Hare”, we are exclusively calling Śrīmatī Rādhikā. If anyone receives this understanding from a sad-guru or a rasika Vaiṣṇava, and chants the mahā-mantra full of this sentiment, then their eternal svarūpa will appear within them very soon. Otherwise, if we have received the mantra in a crooked way, we will think that its meaning is not Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa Themselves, but something else.
So in the Bṛhad-bhāgavatāmṛta, Sanātana Gosvāmī has given the mantra, śrī-kṛṣṇa gopāla hare mukunda… because for some this is necessary, but ordinarily for the jīvas of Kali-yuga the mahā-mantra has been given, and in accordance with the scriptures it should be firmly adhered to and chanted always.
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