OHM Namo Bhagavathe Vasudevaya.
(Advantage of Namasankeerthan)
At the outset, by ‘Namamahathmyam’, I mean the benefit or advantage of reciting God’ name. Namajapam, Namasankeerthan, Nagarasankeerthan, Bhajan etc. are quite familiar to us from time immemorial or from the origin of man, but it is a very great subject, not possible to cover exhaustively in a small article. I am attempting only to throw some light partly on the mahathmyam alone of reciting God’s name
The existence of the rich tradition of Namasankeerthan is well known in almost all parts of the world from very ancient times. Namasankeerthan is often done by devotees singing in congregation. Sankeerthan means singing keerthans or songs in a ‘samyak’ or most beautiful way. When this is done by walking through the streets of city or cities, it becomes Nagrasankeerthan. Bhajan includes divine songs, accompanied mostly by musical instruments of different varieties. Bhajan mutts or Bhajan halls are also common even today. Thank God, in these days the number of ‘Satsangs’ are also seen increasing day by day in various parts of the world. A Malayalam verse lays down the benefit of Satsang as follows:
‘Chitswaroopamarivaneluppamay satsangatholam nannalla mattonnum’,
that is, there is no good thing other than Satsang , for God-realization.
In temples we watch the performance of pooja, we meditate on the Deity, whereas in Sankeerthan or Bhajan, we fix our minds on the lord by singing His divine names, His ‘gunas’ or dispositions and His Leelas or Dvine plays. Bhajan has the unique feature of inculcating Bhakthi directly in people. Sometimes we may go in trance or weeping or crying like a small child or dance, often ignoring completely the surroundings. Bhakthi really means remembering always God. ‘Sadhakas’ by repeated ‘Sadhanas’, like repetition of God’s name and constant prayers with austerities in all its sanctity, become ‘Sidhas’. At that stage, God becomes the same as man. They have no desires. God is everywhere. Love leads the Devotees to God. Our Sanathana Dharma teaches us that there is Divinity in anything and everything. So, there is divinity in music and hence musical reciting will be more beautiful, emotional and exciting. The saying goes that ‘Manthramoolam gurorvakyam’, and hence it adds another premium of beauty, if we learn it from a Sat-Guru.
It reminds me here, though some personal, the opportunity of my family in having got Darshan of H.H. Sree Maharanyam Muraleedhara Swamiji of Madhurapuri Ashram, Madras. It was a quite unique experience that ever remain fresh in my memory. The Ashram was like Vrindavan, every inch of it was permeated with the sublime presence of the Lord. The place was exquisitely beautiful. It was almost surrounded by mountains. On one side of the Ashram, beautiful and healthy cows along with their sweet calves were seen grazing freely. It really defied description. The atmosphere echoed with sweet and melodious ‘Akhandanama Sankeerthan’. On the other side of the Ashram, we found Tulasi plants, like a little dense forest amidst various kinds of other flowerings plants. Reaching closer, devotees were seen reciting Hare Rama keerthan, while perambulating around a tall and shining lighted brass lamp, near a most beautiful and effulgent vigraha of Lord Krishna. Devotees were deeply immersed in singing the Lord’s name and playing musical instruments according to its tune, while walking. My joy and ecstasy knew no bounds; I felt that I was in some heavenly world. Unknowingly within seconds we were also in that stream of devotees, walking and singing His glorious names.
The Veda Patasala on one side of the Ashram, like that we heard of in ancient Nalanda and Thakshasila, attracts special attention. The Sanctum Sanctorum there, is known as ‘Namadwaar’, being followed in the same way as those of Chaithanya Maha Prabhuji of the 15th centuary. Swamiji has started many such Namadwaars at different places in various parts of India and they are all functioning perfectly well with increased attendance of devotees, day by day.
A long cherished desire of Swamiji was materialized here in America at Manvel, Houston, when the Mayor inaugurated the first Namadwaar, outside India on Sunday, 28th February, 2010. The Namadwaar is a power house of Divine Prayers, for universal peace and harmony by the manifestation of the power of Divinity in each individual through the very simple path of chanting the Divine Name. Prayers to the Almighty from time immemorial are most powerful; they will never go in vain. Prayers, powered by the Divine names, are extra ordinarily powerful. All our ancient scriptures extol this fact in unequivocal terms.
In ‘KaliSantharanopanishad’, writen about 5000 years ago, it is laid down that, at the end of Dwapara Yuga, When Brahmarshi Narada asked Lord Brahma, as to what could be done for salvation in Kaliyuga, Brahma gave Narada, the following mantra: (This is the one Swamiji uses in all his Namadwaars):-
“Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,
Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare,”
and said that by the mere recital of this Mahamantra, consisting of 16 times the holy names of the Lord, man gets relieved from all the evils of Kaliyuga and that he could not find any other way to get-rid of the miseries, though he searched all the four Vedas. Sage Narada then asked Lord Brahma, ‘Lord, what are the rules to be observed for reciting this Mahamantra? ‘. In reply Lord Brahma said ‘There are no special rules to be observed for reciting this Mahamantra; it can be chanted by any one at any time, without regard to purity or impurity and anywhere and everywhere.
After giving us all Vedic Scriptures, Brahmarshi VedaVyasa said that he had searched all Sastras and finally found out that the very essence of all Sastras is to worship Lord Narayana, through Namasankeerthan, for real salvation. In this age of Kali many people are seen by nature knowledgeable but without character, hunting after pleasure without conscience, engaging in commerce without morality, using science without humanity, worshipping God without any sacrifice, impure of mind, engaged in politics without principles, gambling, drinking, illicit relations with women, falsehood, intoxication, passion, violence showing animosity, earning wealth without properly working, and thus committing real sins of the society, eventually ruining the human race and wasting the most sacred human birth. Namasankeerthan or chanting the names of God is the only way to reach the Supreme Lord, which is the ultimate aim of mankind.
To quote from our Puranas, a few examples stressing the importance of reciting God’s name:-
‘ Kalou kalmasha chithanaam papadravyopajeevanam,
Vidhi kreeya viheenam, gathir Govinda Keerthanam.’,
that is, Kali makes our mind poisonous, makes us living on polluted things and do rituals in an improper way using mean short-cuts, and therefore the only way out is to recite the names of Govinda to mitigate all evils.
Our Scripptures also tell us ;
‘Dhyanal krite; yanjai; tretayam; dwaparerarchanad,
Yadapnoti, tadapnoti, kalou sankeerthya Kesavam’, meaning,
for getting Salvation, meditation was the way in Krita Yugga or Satya Yuga; Yanja or sacrifice was the way in Treta Yuga; Archana or worshp of idols was done in Dwaapara Yuga. Namasankeerthan is the only way to achieve moksha in Kali Yuga. All our Scriptures exhort us for Namasankeerthan in this KaliYuga.
In the 11th Canto (ekadasa skanda) in Srimad Bhagavatha, it is written:
“Namasankeerthanam yasya, sarva papa pranashanam,
Pranamo dukha shamana: tam namami Harim param’. , that is,
prostrate unto that Supreme Power Sree Hari, the singing of whose Divine names, obliterates all sins, and paying respects to whom attenuates all the sorrows of the world. Namasankeerthanam causes inner transformation.
Bhagavat Gita re-iterates that Jnana is the highest state in life. As such, how can one attain the highest state by merely chanting the Lord’s Divine names? Our Swamiji answers the question simply quoting from the Gita itself as;
‘Swalpamalpasya dharmasya, trayate mahato bhayat’, meaning;
even if you perform the smallest Dharma, I will protect you from the worst fear. Smallest dharma is really Namasankeerthan, and ignorance or ajnana, is the worst fear. Annihilation of anjana is verily, Jnana.
In Adhyatma Ramayana by Ezhuthachan, Sutheekshna Muni, the best disciple of Rishi Agasthya, tells Rama, when asked what boon he wants from him;
‘Mutteedum bhakthya nin namamucharikkayeedanam.
he wants nothing except the blessings for reciting His name with the deepest devotion in mind
devotion in mind.
Bhakthakavi Poonthanam, sings in his famous ‘Jnanappana:
‘Sakthikoodathe namangaleppozhum, bhaktipoondu japikkanam nammude,
Sidhakalam kazhivolameevannam, sradhayode vasikkanamevarum..’
Here, ‘Japa’, is made of two letters, ‘ja’ and ‘pa’,
‘Jakaro janma vischeda: pakara: papanashanam’;
‘ja’ stands for liberation or moksha and ‘pa’ stands for obliteration of all sins. Thus, Japa atonce removes our sins and makes us free from janmas.
‘Bhaktitannil muzhuki chamanjudan , mathaneppole nrutham kuthikkanam,
Parilingane sancharicheedumbol, prabdangalasheshamozhinjupom’. , meaning
shortly, the japa of God’s name without any hesitation, will help us to get-rid of all our difficulties in life.
All famous Philosophies of great Sages like that of Madhvacharya, Ramanujacharya, Sankaracharya, Sri Vallabhacharya, etc. teach us the importance of reciting Nama or God’s name. God is love and our hearts should abound in unconditional Supreme Love for God. We should believe in God, as a fish believe in water. Only complete surrender to God is the way to realize the fullness and grandeur of His love. God is the only reality; the only Truth. He is atonce transcendent and immanent. One cannot but sing His glory, because we are all parts of the God – individual units of microcosms of the huge, voluminous and indefinable Macrocosm. The Supreme Power is Brahman, the Paramatma, and it is infinite. We are jeevatmas, the infinitesimals; the relation is like that of an ocean and a drop of water, thereof. If Brahman is fire, jeevatma is a spark, therein. The union of jeevatma with Paramatma or the Jeevatma-Paramatma aikyam, or Pindandam merging with Brhmandam or the Microcosm becoming one with the Microcosm, is the ultimate aim of our birth and it will be repeated until the last life exists.
Only God, the Supreme Truth is perennial; everything else is ephemeral. Sanathana Dharma, the perennial wisdom, makes it clear to us. We should try to concentrate on things which last long, for only it could give us permanent joy. So, we should concentrate on God. The higher the soul evolves the more spiritual the understanding becomes, until rapport with the Divine Spirit is attained. This is atonement and it makes a man perfect.
Jeevatma is chained to the earth by Karma and when karma ceases to exist the soul or jeevatma gets liberated. Karma is the law of consequences – of merit and demerit. Karma depends on Character. When we change our Character, we change our Karma. When character is lost, everything is lost. Character, in its turn, depends on habits. Good habits should be cultivated from the very childhood. For making easily eligible to be loved by God, we must remain grateful, humble, patient, generous, show response, be motivating, be brave in all our actions, be disciplined in prosperity, spread good ideas, fetch name, fame and reputation to the family and to the country by dedication to work, be intuitive, and also have patience, persistence, perseverance, and providence.
Sri Bhagavannama Bodhendra Swamiji says, “The ever blissful Supreme Lord, out of compassion for the welfare of the world, took up various forms such as Sri Vishnu, Sri Siva etc. Feeling that these forms alone will not suffice for redemption of the world, He also became the Divine Names, such as ‘Hari’ Shambhu’ etc., and is ever alive in theses names. Divine Namas are not mere names. Like the Deities, they are also verily the Lord, the ‘wordy idols’. Nama possesses all the powers of the Lord. There is no better boat than the recital of God’s name, to help us cross over the troubled ocean of life. Ajamila, the horrible sinner, as laid down in Srimad Bhagavatha, was purified and taken to Heaven, by the messengers of Lord Vishnu, when he uttered ‘Narayana’, through calling his own son.
Of all the wisdom so far I have gained, I tell you truly that the most important one is the knowledge about the mahathmya of Namasankeerthan, that we rarely recognize or appreciate until it has been depleted. So, make your decision to grab this precious moment in joy, faith and thankfulness to God, and chant:
“Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,
Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare,”
and count your many blessings instead of your blemishes, right from now onwards. In the beat of a heart, let this moment remain in history, as the most auspicious occasion to know how to commune with God.
May God bless all.
Jai Hind; 17th March 2010.