QUESTION: I have a few questions that are important to me. It would be very kind of you to speak to them.
Of the sādhanāṅga…
№ 32 is gīta, singing songs about Krishna
№ 33 is saṅkīrtana, “nāma-līlā-guṇādīnāmuccair-bhāṣā tu kīrtanam”
№ 34 is japa, “mantrasya sulaghūccāro japa ity abhidhīyate”
And a little later…
№ 45 is smṛti – yathā kathaṁ cin-manasā sambandhaḥ smritir ucyate
№ 46 is dhyāna – dhyānam rūpa-guṇa-krīdā-sevādeḥ suṣṭhu cintanam
My questions are:
What is the difference between gītā (32) and saṅkīrtan (33)? Is it that saṅkīrtan need not have a musical element?
ANSWER: Usually sankirtan involves three things: musical instruments, loud singing and many devotees. This distinguishes it both from gītā and japa. But, sometimes the words have been used interchangeably in the slokas.
QUESTION: If this is the case, is nāma-japa actually nāma-saṅkīrtan? (I noticed that in Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Haridās Ṭhākur refers to his counted nāma-japa as his nāma-saṅkīrtana).
ANSWER: If nāma is chanted loudly then it has one of the above characteristics of kīrtan. Yet, in the true sense of the word it is not nāma-saṅkīrtana. That is why I say that sometimes the words are used as synonyms.
QUESTION: I noted that in Bhakti-rasāmṛta Sindhu 1.2.231, 242 a musical element is clearly noted for nāma-saṅkīrtan, but the other references in BRS show saṅkīrtan without musical elements.
ANSWER: Remember the three basic components of saṅkīrtan may not always be present or mentioned. A word may take on nuances of meaning over time and usage. Although saṅkīrtana has the above components, it is also used just for saying something vocally or explicitly. In Nyāya books the word saṅkīrtana has been used just for the enumeration of topic. Similarly, the word bhajan originally meant to do seva, but now it is commonly used for doing japa or singing devotional songs. So we have to see the context and then give the meaning.
QUESTION: The difference between saṅkīrtan (33) and japa (34) at first seems to be that the former is loud (“uccair-bhāṣā”) and the later is very soft (“sulaghūccāram”), but another difference seems to be that saṅkīrtan is done for nāma-līlā-guṇa, while japa is of a mantra. The example given (verse 150) is the mantra “kṛṣṇāya namaḥ.”
This seems to confirm that nāma-bhajana on beads is nāma-saṅkīrtan, while recitation of mantra (“klīṁ kṛṣṇāya svāhā” etc) is japa. Is this correct?
ANSWER: Nāma-bhajan on beads is nāma-japa and not nāma–saṅkīrtana unless one sings it loudly. It may be that Haridāsa Ṭhākura was actually singing.
QUESTION: If this is correct, does this mean that nāma-bhajana on beads should be ucchair-bhāṣā?
ANSWER: Japa has three divisions: mānasika (in the mind), upāṁśu (chanting very softly), and vācika (audible). Bhakti-rasāmṛta Sindhu mentions the second one, upāṁśu.
When japa is done in the mind, it falls into the category of smaraṇa. When it is done loudly, it may fall into the category of saṅkīrtana, and there, in the definition of japa, only the second type has been included (upāṁśu or sulaghūccāram). Hari-bhakti Vilāsa mentions all three. If japa is mānasika it comes under the category of smaraṇa. Thus, sometimes the word nāma-smaraṇa is also used for nāma-japa.
QUESTION: Also, I wonder why rūpa-saṅkīrtan was left out from the definition of number 33?
ANSWER: In Bhakti Sandarbha Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī includes it. It was probably left out because the others are more commonly practiced.
QUESTION: The difference between 45 (smṛti) and 46 (dhyāna) seems clear – the first is “katham” (“somehow remembering”), and the second is suṣṭhu cintanam (“deeply contemplating”). But, what perplexes me is that I had considered japa a method of smaraṇa (aka dhyāna), yet the definition of № 46 (dhyāna) conspicuously leaves out nāma from the list of subjects (“rūpa-guṇa-krīdā-sevādeḥ”), while BRS 1.2.177 explicitly notes nāma in relation to smṛti (№ 45). So, what aṅga is chanting on beads?
ANSWER: If it is manasika japa, it is smaraṇa.
QUESTION: Why didn’t Śrī Rūpa mention the Hare Krishna mantra, but instead a regular mantra with a verb (namaḥ)?
ANSWER: He is giving an example of mantra-japa. He could also have given an example of nāma-japa.
QUESTION: Is it dhyāna/smaraṇa? If so, I am happy because I have been treating it like that, but confused because it would then not be one of the five special aṅgas (so why should I spend so much time and effort on it?), and I wouldn’t know why Śrī Rūpa would neglect to include “nāma” in his list of topics of dhyāna.
ANSWER: I think that Rūpa Gosvāmī includes both nāma–japa and nāma–saṅkīrtana under the heading of nāma–saṅkīrtana (63). This is clear from the five verses he cites from 1.2.230-234. First two seems to refer to kīrtana, third to japa, and the last two to both.
So, as long as you do nāma-seva either by japa or by kīrtana you are following one of the five important aṅgas.
The Gopi’s happiness and suffering is not independent of Krishna. If Krishna is not suffering, then the Gopi’s are not suffering. If Krishna is happy, even in separation from them, the Gopis feel happy because Krishna is happy. Our problem is that our happiness and suffering is independent of Krishna and Guru. Therefore, we approach Guru with the unconscious desire that he can make us feel happy, not the other way around.
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