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Faith and Conviction in the Power of Chanting the Holy Name


Japa of the holy name

II thought I would share a response I gave to a question about the 7th verse from Rupa Goswami's Upadeshamrita, or Nectar of Instruction, which Prabhupada has translated for us. I was asked if I believed in the power of the Holy Name to awaken our spiritual consciousness and give us a natural taste for chanting. I was also asked why we don't develop more of a taste after chanting for many years, and what we can do to increase our relish for Radha Krishna's holy name. Here is the verse and my answer: "Although the tongue of one afflicted by the jaundice of avidya [ignorance] cannot taste anything sweet, it is wonderful that simply by carefully chanting these sweet names every day, a natural relish awakens within his tongue, and his disease is gradually destroyed at the root.”

The first part of this verse is easy to be convinced about, since all devotees have been, or are presently, afflicted by some degree of ignorance, and corresponding lack of taste. How much I, or anyone, is not convinced that there is an ocean of nectar to be experienced by chanting the holy name, is more difficult to own up to, especially after years of practice. Any devotee accepts many things in theory. For example, we may believe our true identity is spiritual, not material, yet the realization may be lacking. Haridasa Thakur was praised for acting and speaking properly, whereas some others may either speak or act well, but not both. This teaches us that merely being able to repeat the theory—even really liking the theory—without realization, is insufficient to prevent deviations, and call our spiritual progress. We may be stuck treading water on the vast intermediate plane of anartha-nivritti [stage of eliminating unwanted thinking and acting], unsure how to change.

Having said that, I would also say that in general, anyone who has been initiated into the chanting of Hare Krishna, and is doing so with enthusiasm, has hope for success, and some experience of transcendence, either in japa or kirtan. Enthusiasm and a humble attitude are essential building blocks on the road to prema. Although Prabhupada defines enthusiasm in NOI, as endeavor executed with intelligence, in order for the intelligence to remain fixed, there must be some realization and taste. How much realization will be revealed in one’s intensity, and fixity of practice, and whether one is a religious devotee, mechanically following the rules (niyamagrha, as found in text 2 of NOI), or a spiritually minded devotee, who lives and breathes their spiritual life. Personally, the quality of my spiritual practice is mediocre, my taste for chanting small, yet I have faith to continue, praying for progress.

The reasons that our taste for chanting is lacking can be observed by how we have lived our life up to this point, and what our worldly attachments and hankerings are within our heart. If laulyam, or intense eagerness is the price for success, and this is deficient, we have to uncover our absorption. Our problem is a spiritual heart disease manifested as polluted consciousness. The process for recovering our spiritual health, or gaining a real taste, is cleansing the heart by pure chanting.

Pure chanting is impeded by committing offenses at the feet of the holy name, which includes offending advanced devotees. Therefore, if our taste is lacking we can understand we are currently committing offenses to the holy name, or have done so in the past. We read in the Cc, that the root cause of devotion to Shri Krishna is advanced devotee association. Thus, we must find them, serve and inquire from them, and chant with them. Having a serving attitude toward the devotees and Deities will purify us, and reveal the impediments to our progress.


>Pure chanting is impeded by committing offenses at the feet of the holy name, which includes offending advanced

Was wondering about understanding is that we get reaction from offenses to any devotees including advanced devotees.

degree of reaction

Offenses to great devotees is the mad elephant offense and is strongly brought to our attention, where offenses to other devotees--though it should still be avoided--doesn't carry the same reaction. We are advised not to offend people in general as well, when Bhaktivinoda outlines the offenses to chanting. Much depends on our attitude. Harmful intent is the worst!

Mad Elephant Offense

I see your point about the mad elephant offense in relation to pure or very advanced devotees - Srila Prabhupada also mentions the mad elephant offense in relation to vaisnavas and brahmanas in the following purport:

"Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu has described the vaiṣṇava-aparādha, or offense to a Vaiṣṇava, as "the mad elephant offense." One should be very careful not to offend a Vaiṣṇava or a brāhmaṇa. Even the great yogī Durvāsā was harassed by the Sudarśana cakra when he offended the Vaiṣṇava Mahārāja Ambarīṣa, who was neither a brāhmaṇa nor a sannyāsī but an ordinary householder. Mahārāja Ambarīṣa was a Vaiṣṇava, and consequently Durvāsā Muni was chastised."

Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 4.26.24 purport

Many times we see offenses against new devotees which are encouraged with the attitude "He's just a new bhakta, she's just a new bhaktine"....we never know who we are dealing with in devotional life - as a senior devotee once told me "It's never a bad thing to err on the side of caution when dealing with any vaisnava devotee(s) of the Lord."

Jayananda prabhu was a very good example of this.

long term vision

From one perspective--that of the highest devotee--everyone is more advanced than I. Although we are trying to be elevated to the 2nd stage of Madhyam where we have to make distinctions between different classed of persons, ie, the Lord, the devotees, the innocent, and envious, we are also advised to act as humble as the grass, tolerant as the tree, to offer all respect to others, while not wanting it for ourselves. This is the proper decorum for all classes of devotees, and we have to remember it, even--and especially--if we are in an official position to instruct others. Another important instruction, is that example is more important than our mere words. We should respect every creature, and every part of the material world as part of Krishna's energy. And in NOI, we are told to at least mentally respect someone who is chanting Hare Krishna. In the long term it isn't possible to know who is in what position spiritually. Someone's spiritual life may take off later in life, where someone else may perform some importance service, give inspiring classes, etc, and then fall away from their intensity of spiritual practices. I think of the story of the tortoise and the hare! Therefore, we have to be very thoughtful and humble about our own position, as we are only able to practice Krishna consciousness by the mercy of our gurus, and guru paramapara, and the most merciful Lord Chaitanya and Nitai, who they represent. And from the simple, though interestingly overlooked angle, what we do to others, while be done to us in kind, with interest!