Deliverance through the Name

Question: The following quote is from CC, Antya Līla 3.50-54: 

yavana-sakalera ‘mukti’ habe anāyāse
’hā rāma, hā rāma’ bali’ kahe nāmābhāse

Haridāsa Ṭhākura in Bangladesh

Murti of Nāmācārya Haridāsa Ṭhākura in Bangladesh

One day Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu met Haridāsa Ṭhākura as usual, and in the course of discussion He inquired as follows, “My dear Ṭhākura Haridāsa, in this Age of Kali most people are bereft of Vedic culture, and therefore they are called yavanas. They are concerned only with killing cows and brahminical culture. In this way they all engage in sinful acts. How will these yavanas be delivered? To My great unhappiness, I do not see any way.”

Haridāsa Ṭhākura replied, “My dear Lord, do not be in anxiety. Do not be unhappy to see the condition of the yavanas in material existence. Because the yavanas are accustomed to saying ‘hā rāma, hā rāma‘, they will very easily be delivered by this nāmābhāsa. A devotee in advanced ecstatic love exclaims, ‘O my Lord Rāmacandra! O my Lord Rāmacandra!’ But the yavanas also chant, ‘hā rāma, hā rāma!’ Just see their good fortune!” (Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Antya 3.49-54)

An otherwise sinful person can be delivered by chanting the Holy Name even to indicate something else. Can you clarify what it means when Haridāsa Ṭhākura says “easily delivered”?

Does it mean that an otherwise sinful person who says “hārām” will go back to Godhead at the end of their life? Achieve impersonal liberation? Get a chance to become a devotee in a future life?

How does the position of one of our devotees, who is consciously trying to chant the Holy Name, but who may commit many offenses, compare to a sinful person who unknowingly chants the Name to indicate something else? A devotee follows principles at least better than most materialists, follows many aspects of devotional culture, does not kill cows and brahminical culture, etc., but may maintain material attachments, chant inattentively, neglect the order of their spiritual master, maybe even be critical of Hare Krishna leadership and thus commit Vaiṣṇava aparādha. Is such a devotee, guilty of committing offenses to the Name, in a more fortunate position or a less fortunate position than a sinful yavana who occasionally chants nāmābhāsa?

In short, the yavanas are “easily delivered” by chanting nāmābhāsa. Are neophyte devotees, who may be full of many offenses, also “easily delivered”? I gave up cow killing and have tried to do a little devotional service, including daily chanting of the Holy Names, although I admit that my chanting is very poor and I am guilty of countless offenses in my chanting. Do you think I will be “easily delivered”?

Thank you very much for your time! Hare Krishna.

Answer: The name of Krsna is nondifferent from Him because He is absolute, devoid of any duality. Being nondifferent from Him, the Name is potent like Him. Therefore, the Name can grant everything, whether chanted knowingly or unknowingly. But there is a condition. That is that the chanter must be free from offense. Indeed, bhakti is very simple and easy for a person who is free from offense, but as long as the offense is there, the Name does not manifest its power fully. Just as if a person puts a match stick to a stack of hay, then it will immediately burn – provided, the hay is dry. If it is not dry, then the matchstick will not burn the hay but will evaporate some of the water from it and then extinguish. Similarly, if a person is only sinful but not offensive, then such a person can be delivered even by nāmābhasa, but if one has committed offenses in this life or past lives, then the Name or nāmābhāsa will first work to neutralize the offense and the person is not going to be “easily delivered”.

The example of Ajāmila, which is given later on by Haridās Thākur, is such a case. Ajāmila was sinful, but not offensive. Therefore he got delivered by nāmābhāsa. But this does not happen to people in general who all chant nāmābhāsa. This shows that they are not free from offense.

A person who gets delivered by nāmābhāsa will not attain impersonal liberation but will go to the abode of God at the end of his life. The case of Ajāmila is a little special. Not only that he chanted nāmābhāsa, but he did it very affectionately, because he had much affection for his son, whose name was Nārāyaṇa. Therefore he was given the opportunity to practice devotion in the same life and when he attained love, he entered into Vaikuṇṭha. So the type of mukti that one will get from nāmābhāsa will also depend on the mood in which one chants nāmābhāsa, besides being free from offense.

As far as your question regarding who is more fortunate, a non-believer who chants nāmābhāsa or a believer who chants the Name but may commit offenses – it is the believer who is more fortunate. The reason is that the ultimate benefit awarded by nāma is not mukti but bhakti, or prema. The non-believer will only get mukti although it may be immediate, but a believer will ultimately get prema, although it may be delayed.

Nama Tattva

Nama Tattva

Certainly attaining prema is much superior, even if it comes belatedly. One may argue that Ajāmila got prema in the same life. In his case, it is to be understood that when he got prema, he was no more a non-believer, but he was affected by the dialogue between the Viṣṇudūtas and Yamadūtas and understood the supremacy of bhakti over varnāśrama dharma. Thus he gave up his home and family and went to Haridwar, where he attained pure devotion. So it was not nāmābhāsa that led him to achieve prema, but the Name. Formore details on this subject you may read my book “Nāma Tattva.”

Comments ( 18 )
  1. Angana dasi

    Jay Sri Radhe!

    Could You please define the difference between sinful and offensive person?
    As I understand, offense is an action against God’s will? And sin – against society’s? Could they be controversial?

    Thank You.

    • babaji Post author

      Offense is any act that displeases God and sin is against the injunction of God.

  2. Raul Domingo

    Hare Krsna! Since Ajamila’s affection for his son was a mundane material attachment, and since the Holy Name is absolute and beyond duality, how can the result attained by Ajamila’s chanting of namabhasa be influenced by affection for his son? Is this not the same as saying that the Holy Name is involved in duality?

    • babaji Post author

      Hare Krsna. Are you talking about nāmābhāsa being influenced by duality of the Holy Name? It appears that you are equating nāmābhāsa and the Holy Name.

    • Raul Domingo

      Babaji: Hare Krsna. Are you talking about nāmābhāsa being influenced by duality of the Holy Name? It appears that you are equating nāmābhāsa and the Holy Name.

      Raul: Please accept my humble obeisances. Excuse me if my question was not clear. It is not my intention the equate namabhasa with the Holy Name. I simply presumed that since the Holy Name is beyond duality, its abhasa is also beyond duality and not tainted by any qualities of prakrti.
      If namabhasa is non-material, then dualistic worldly emotions arising from the gunas such as affection for one’s son, should not have any effect on the fruit of namabhasa.
      Alternatively, if one asserts that worldly affection effects the fruit of namabhasa, as mentioned in the above article, the implication that namabhasa is material in nature seems unavoidable. How can we reconcile the apparent contradiction?

    • babaji Post author

      “I simply presumed that since the Holy Name is beyond duality, its abhasa is also beyond duality and not tainted by any qualities of prakrti.”
      This is not true.

      “Alternatively, if one asserts that worldly affection effects the fruit of namabhasa, as mentioned in the above article, the implication that namabhasa is material in nature seems unavoidable. How can we reconcile the apparent contradiction?”

      Where is the contradiction? In your alternative assumption, namabhasa and the worldly affection both are material.

      The difference between namabhasa and the Holy Name could be compared with the example of a plastic snake and real snake. You are afraid of a snake, which is real. When you encounter a plastic snake in the ground, you may also fear that. The plastic snake can be considered as snake-abhasa, it cannot bite you and doesn’t have the power of the real snake, but it can still instill fear in you.

      The plastic snake may even hiss, being operated by some battery. This will cause even more fear than seeing the plastic snake without hissing. This hissing-abhasa has nothing to do with the hissing of a real snake, but it has an influence on you. Similarly, when you recite Krsna’s name, then Krsna is influenced by that, because it is His own name. You may also call the name of your friend, which happens to be Krsna. Your friend is not Krsna, but because there is a similarity between your friend’s name and His name, Krsna becomes influenced by hearing it, even though your friends name is material and Krsna’s is not. When you call your friend Krsna, that is not chanting the name but namabhasa. Just as namabhasa can have an influence on Krsna, although it is not the name, the emotions related with namabhasa can also influence accordingly.

      However, in all this analysis you have to remember that the influence of namabhāsa was experienced by Ajamila because he was free from offence.

    • Raul Domingo

      Thank you Babaji Maharaja for taking the time to reply in such detail. If I have understood your reply correctly, you have explained:
      1) Namabhasa is not beyond duality and not beyond prakrti.
      2) Krishna is infuenced by namabhasa.
      3) The fruit of namabhasa is not actually bestowed by namabhasa. It is Krishna himself who has agency in bestowing the fruit of namabhasa because he is affected by its similarity to his Holy Name.
      4) In addition to being affected by the similarity between namabhasa and the Holy Name, Krishna is further influenced by the emotions of one who utters namabhasa.

      I am struggling with these points a number of reasons. Here is why I find all four assertions problematic.

      As far as I am aware, acaryas have gone to great lengths to establish that Krishna interacts exclusively with His internal potency. He never interacts in any way with his external energy, although it may appear so. The suggestion that Krishna is influenced by both a non-transcendental similarity to Holy Name and also by the bewilderment of material attachment for a son, implies that Krishna is affected by the gunas of prakrti.

      There are numerous scriptural references, such as Rupa Gosvami’s Namastakam (verse 3), claiming that namabhasa is indeed the direct agent in accomplishing the destruction of sins and the bestowal of liberation. If namabhasa were not beyond prakrti, then this would not be possible.

      Further corrections and helpful elaborations would be highly appreciated.

    • Babaji Post author

      Dear Raul, before we continue this discussion, it would help if you could clarify your understanding of what namabhasa means. Is it spiritual or material?
      If you say it is spiritual, then how it is so, because it is not the Name itself but only appears like that. What then is difference between namabhasa and the Name? Once it is established what namabhasa it, then I can reply.

    • Raul Domingo

      Raul: Dear Babaji Maharaja, thank you for your kind help. I will try to express my limited understanding.
      My understanding of namabhasa is based on the standard example found throughout scripture comparing suddha-nama to the sun and namabhasa to the first rays of dawn. For example, Bhaktirasamrta Sindhu (2.1.103)
      prodyann antah-karana-kuhare hanta yan-nāma-bhānor
      ābhāso ’pi ksapayati mahā-pātaka-dhvānta-rāśim 2.1.103
      “When just the semblance of His name appears in the heart, it destroys the greatest accumulation of sins, just as the light prior to the rising of the sun destroys all darkness.”

      Rupa Gosvami’s Padyavali 16
      aàhaù samharad akhilaà
sakåd udayäd eva sakala-lokasya
      taraëir iva timira-jaladhià
jayati jagan-maìgalaà harer näma
      “As the rising sun immediately dissipates all the world’s darkness, which is deep like an ocean, so the holy name of the Lord, if chanted once without offenses, can dissipate all the reactions of a living being’s sinful life. All glories to that holy name of the Lord, which is auspicious for the entire world!’ – (Çré Lakñmédhara)
      CC Antya 3.183-186
      haridāsa kahena, — “yaiche sūryera udaya
      udaya nā haite ārambhe tamera haya kṣaya
      caura-preta-rākṣasādira bhaya haya nāśa
      udaya haile dharma-karma-ādi parakāśa
      aiche nāmodayārambhe pāpa-ādira kṣaya
      udaya kaile kṛṣṇa-pade haya premodaya
      ‘mukti’ tuccha-phala haya nāmābhāsa haite

      Haridāsa Ṭhākura said, “As the sun begins to rise, even before it is visible it dissipates the darkness of night. With the first glimpse of sunlight, fear of thieves, ghosts and demons immediately disappears, and when the sun is actually visible, everything is manifest, and everyone begins performing his religious activities and regulative duties. Similarly, the first hint that offenseless chanting of the Lord’s Holy Name has awakened, dissipates the reactions of sinful life immediately. And when the Holy Name rises, one awakens to service in ecstatic love at the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa. Liberation is the insignificant result derived from namabhasa.”

      All these references prove that namabhasa is non-material, being the initial light appearing prior to the appearance of suddha-nama.

      CC Antya 3.55
      yadyapi anya saṅkete anya haya nāmābhāsa
      tathāpi nāmera teja nā haya vināśa

      Nāmācārya Haridāsa Ṭhākura, the authority on the chanting of the holy name, said, “The chanting of the Lord’s holy name to indicate something other than the Lord is an instance of nāmābhāsa. Even when the holy name is chanted in this way, its transcendental power is not destroyed.”

      This proves that namabhasa has transcendental power and thus cannot be reduced to a mere material simulacrum as proposed in the analogy of a fake snake.

      Now we come to what I believe is the crux of the matter.

      It is commonly argued that the word “abhasa” is used in two entirely different senses. The first sense, which involves the analogy comparing namabhasa to the first rays of the sun, is actually describing the glory of the Holy Name proper by kaimutya-nyaya. The word “abhasa” in this context obviously means spiritual light emanating from the Holy Name.
      The second sense of “abhasa” refers to the various types of namabhasa beginning with sanketya, wherein “abhasa” means “semblance”. It has been proposed that this abhasa is not beyond prakrti and that it is a mistake to identify it with the first type.

      However, I believe this distinction is erroneous. The reluctance to identify the power of first light of the Holy Name with sanketya is specifically refuted in Srila Baladeva Vidyabhusana’s Stavamala commentary. (Sri Namastakam 3).

      he bhagavan-nama-tarane krsna-nama-surya. iha jagati kah krti pandito janas ta udattam uccam mahimanam nirvaktum prabhavati. Na ko ‘pity arthah. Kuta iti cet tatraha. yasya tavabhasah sanketyadibhir uccaranam kavalito grasto bhava-dhvanta-vibhavah samsrti-timira-sampad yena tadrsah san tattvandhanam tattva-drsti-hinanam api bhakti-pranayinim krsna-bhakti-visayam drsam prajnam disati arpayatiti. Tavedrsa-mahimni vijno ‘pi samsayita vina tvat-tattva-vid-upadesad ato nirvaktum na prabhavatiti. Etat-padyarthas ca “om asya” iti srutau visphutah a isat sanketyadibhir nama bruvatam visnu-visayaka-sumati-labhabhidhanat.

      “O sun of the Holy Name of Bhagavan : O sun of the Holy Name of Krsna. iha : in this world. kah krti : which meritorious person, which pandita is able to enunciate the exalted glory of Your Lordship? No one. This is the meaning.
      “Anticipating the question, “Why?”, he states: Whose abhasa : utterance in order to indicate someone other than You and so on (sanketyadibhih), destroys the powerful darkness of spiritual ignorance and offers vision : enlightenment (prajna) pertaining to Krsna-bhakti even to those devoid of the vision spiritual truths.
      “Even a highly learned scholar would doubt such a glory of your Lordship without the instructions of a person enlightened about you. Therefore, he is not able to enunciate it. This is the meaning. The meaning of this verse is clearly expressed in the Sruti text beginning with Om asya (jananto nama-cid-viviktan mahas te visno sumatim bhajamahe) because it is stated that there is attainment of proper understanding of Lord Visnu for those who utter His Holy Name even slightly (a : isat : in order to indicate someone other than you and so on : sanketya etc.)”

      Maharaja, your Sanskrit capabilities far exceed mine. Please correct any significant errors of translation where necessary.

    • Babaji Post author

      Going along with your understanding of namābhasa, now my second question to you is that when Ajāmila called for his son, Nārāyaṇa, he also had sentiment of affection towards him. That sentiment of affection is also towards the object of namābhasa. So if namābhasa is spiritual, why do you think that the affection, which goes along with namābhasa, will be material? If namābhasa is spiritual, then the affection, which you may call bhavābhasa, also would have to be spiritual. What do you say about it?

  3. Vāyu.

    Although Ajāmila was a fallen brāhmaṇa of ancient times and his case seems to be special, it is possible that a sensitive and reprehensible person of our postmodernity may receive inspiration or teachings about śrī-nāma from viṣṇudūtas through some kind of hypnagogic state? In any case, could an individual receive śikṣā about śrī-nāma from vaikuṇṭha-vāsīs through an altered state of consciousness?

    • babaji Post author

      1. Yes, it is possible if the person is free from offence, as was the case with Ajāmila and if his life is in danger like Ajāmilas, which means he would have to be attacked by Yamadūtas even though he does not deserve it. In other words, the same condition that applied to Ajāmila must apply to such a person of the postmodern age.
      2. No, I don’t think so, because from the story of Ajāmila we understand that the Viṣṇudūtas did not come to instruct Ajāmila, rather they came to give him protection from the Yamadūtas in the process there happened to be dialogue between the Yamadūta and Viṣṇudūtas which Ajāmila was able to hear. There is no correlation between an altered stated of consciousness and the Vaikuṇṭha-vāsīs. I think this is an unintended extrapolation of this story.

  4. Sanjay

    Dear Vaishnavas,
    Please accept my humble obeisances.
    When Haridas Thakur is saying ‘all the sinful people will be delivered’, it should also mean offensive people as well. Otherwise what chance I have? I have envy and I am offensive, at least in the mind. Many times reading Shastra or hearing Sadhu a part of myself speaks out, this cannot be right, this should be like this. Or, This person has this problem, how can he be a vaishnava, hence speaking against that, how that could be an vaishnava aaparadh?

    Sinful is all kinds of sin. All sin is attributed to envy Krishna at root, including offending His devotees. In the BG 7.15 – “Those miscreants who are grossly foolish, who are lowest among mankind, whose knowledge is stolen by illusion, and who partake of the atheistic nature of demons do not surrender unto Me.”

    So, my question is, when a person is part of these 4 types, I am also one of them, and grossly sinful, what chances are there for them, if we differentiate between sin and offences?

    • babaji Post author

      Dear Sanjaya,
      there is a difference between sin and offence. Just by you, me or anyone else considering them as one will not make them one. They are different and they must be understood in their own light. When Krsna is speaking about 4 types of people in Bhagavad Gita in 7.15, He clearly says these 4 types of people do not surrender to Him. So if they do not surrender to Him where is the possibility of them being delivered? So if you consider yourself as one among these four types, then I seriously think that you have no chance. So my sincere advice to you is to join the four types of people who surrender to Him that are mentioned in 7.16.
      The second thing to be done is stop committing offence in future. If you continue to commit offence, then for sure there is no chance of deliverance. So you have to decide whether you want to be delivered or you want to be offensive. These two just don’t go together.

  5. Vāyu.

    Thank you very much for your kind reply, Bābājī. I regret to have used the term “altered stated of consciousness” (ASC) without clarification, since there is no a unique and precise definition of it and even has negative connotations. By ASC, I simply wanted to point out sharpened and transitory subjective states in which we can participate in unusual experiences (as in some kind of hypnagogic states: na pratyakṣam na jāgrati). In fact, Ajāmila’s perception of the legal debate between dūtas falls within what is known as near-death experience, which some researchers consider inside the umbrella of ASC.

  6. Parikshit Chauhan

    Jai Sri Radhey!
    Obeisances to honorable Vaishnavas!

    Can anyone please address my following questions:

    1. I have heard the cause of soul’s ignorance is envy for Krishna. Well, what I understand is the soul’s ignorance is acausal. It isn’t a result of a cause, it is beyond the cause-effect dynamics.

    The soul has always been in ignorance.

    So, to say, the soul has envy for Krishna, seens fictional to me.

    Kindly enlighten if I’m wrong.

    2. In Treta Yuga Krishna incarnates in Red. What’s that Red? What about Lord Ram?

    Thank You!

    • Malatimanjari Post author

      Dear Parikshit, as for your first question, you are right. The cause of the jīva’s bondage is anādyavidyā. Since jīva has never had knowledge of Kṛṣṇa, there cannot be envy. We do not subscribe to envyvāda.

    • babaji Post author

      The red form is called Pṛṣnigarbha. He appeared as the son of Pṛsṇi and Sutapā who were born as Vāsudeva and Devakakī in Dvāparayuga. Please read SB verses 10.3.32-41 and also 10.5.26.

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