The Universality of Kīrtana (4)

The power of kīrtana is not dependent on any specific time or place. Although kīrtana has become more popular in Kaliyuga than in other yugas, its potency is not derived from Kaliyuga. Kīrtana is spiritual and anything spiritual does not depend on time or place. This is described in the following anuccheda of Bhakti Sandarbha.

Anuccheda 273

Therefore, after hearing of the supreme fixity in Bhagavān of the people of Kaliyuga, the people of other yugas pray to take birth only in Kaliyuga to attain this fixity. Karabhājana makes this point in his next statement:

O King, people of other ages, such as Satyayuga, aspire to take birth in the age of Kali, because in Kaliyuga, many people will be devoted to Nārāyaṇa (nārāyaṇa-parāyaṇāḥ). (SB 11.5.38),

Here, “devotedness to Nārāyaṇa” (tat-parāyaṇatvam) means “the state of being filled with exceedingly great love for Him” (tadīya-premātiśayavattvam). This is implied by the effect of such love, namely, the supreme tranquility (paramāṁ śāntim) mentioned in the previous verse. That those who have attained love for Nārāyaṇa are established in supreme tranquility is affirmed in this verse:

muktānām api siddhānāṁ nārāyaṇa-parāyaṇaḥ
sudurlabhaḥ praśāntātmā koṭiṣv api mahā-mune

O great sage, even among millions of liberated and perfected beings, a person whose interior faculty of awareness is unwaveringly tranquil (praśāntātmā) and who is exclusively intent upon Bhagavān Nārāyaṇa (nārāyaṇa-parāyaṇaḥ) is exceedingly rare. (SB 6.14.5)

Here, one should not misconstrue that the preeminent quality of kīrtana is due to its affiliation with Kaliyuga, because bhakti in its totality is beyond the limitations of time and place.

We also find specific reference to the name [as being beyond time and place] in the story of Kṣatra-bandhu from Viṣṇu-dharma:

O hunter, in uttering the names of Hari there are no rules and prohibitions pertaining to time and place, and there is no restriction on chanting even in an impure state.

In Skanda Purāṇa, the Vaiśākha-māhātmya of Padma Purāṇa, and Viṣṇu-dharma, it is said:

At all times and in every place, one should sing the names of the wielder of the disc weapon, Bhagavān.

And again, in Skanda Purāṇa:

The name of Hari is not dependent upon any particular place, time, condition, or purity of the heart. Rather, it is fully independent and awards the result desired by the aspirant.

And in Viṣṇu-dharma:

For one in whose heart Govinda is present, the age of Kali is Satyayuga, and for one in whose heart Acyuta is absent, the age of Satya is Kaliyuga.

One should not misunderstand that people in Kaliyuga obtain great benefit from such a simple process only because they are unable to perform other types of sādhana, and not because nāma-sādhana is itself so powerful.

In Viṣṇu Purāṇa, it is said:

By fixing the intellect on Him [Acyuta Śrī Kṛṣṇa], one does not go to hell. As concerns meditation on Him, even the pleasure of heaven is felt to be an obstacle.  By virtue of absorption of the mind and self (ātmā) in Him, even the planet of Brahmā appears insignificant. Becoming situated in the hearts of those who are pure in mind, this imperishable Bhagavān, grants them liberation. Thus, it is not at all surprising that a person’s sins are completely dissolved by singing the names of Acyuta. (VP 6.8.57)

In this verse of Viṣṇu Purāṇa, by the logic of kaimutya (the a fortiori argument), kīrtana is shown to be superior to the remembrance of Kṛṣṇa (smaraṇam), which persists even in the state of samādhi. Therefore, it was said earlier:

O King, for those seeking fulfillment of material desires [icchatām, i.e., kāminām], for those who are indifferent to worldly existence and seeking liberation [nirvidyamānānām, i.e., mumukṣūṇām], and for those already established in immediate realization of the Truth [yoginām, i.e., jñāninām], this constant chanting of the holy name of Bhagavān Hari has been ascertained [both as the means of attainment (sādhana), in the case of the first two, and as the completion state (sādhya), in the case of the last]. (SB 2.1.11)

And in Vaiṣṇava-cintāmaṇi:

The remembrance (smaraṇam) of Viṣṇu, which destroys sin, is attained through tremendous effort. Yet, superior to this is kīrtana , which is accomplished merely by moving the lips.

The superiority of kīrtana is shown elsewhere also:

O descendant of Bharata, the names of Hari are always present on the tongue of one by whom Vāsudeva has been perfectly worshiped for hundreds of previous lives.

The preeminence of kīrtana is also understood from the Nāmāparādha-bhañjana-stotra, already cited in Anuccheda 265, which states that the holy name delivers one even from offenses to Hari. Thus, in all yugas, singing Bhagavān’s name has the same power. Nonetheless, in Kaliyuga Bhagavān personally advocates the method of kīrtana out of His grace, and for this reason kīrtana has been specifically praised in scripture for the age of Kali. So, if one performs any other type of bhakti in Kaliyuga, it should be accompanied by kīrtana, for it is said:

In the age of Kali, the Supreme Absolute [Bhagavān] appears within this world with a non-blackish complexion and constantly sings or describes the names of Kṛṣṇa, accompanied by His associates, servants, weapons, and confidential companions. Those endowed with discriminating wisdom worship the Absolute in this form primarily through the sacrifice of the self in complete [sam, i.e., samyak] kīrtana [involving the totality of one’s being]. (SB 11.5.32)

Out of the various forms of kīrtana, nāma-kīrtana is especially glorious of its own accord, as expressed in these words:

In the age of Kali, the name of Hari, the name of Hari, the name of Hari is the only means of deliverance. There is no other way, there is no other way, there is no other way.

Consequently, the conclusions expressed in the three verses, beginning with SB 11.5.36, cited in Anucchedas 271-273 respectively, are certainly appropriate.

Commentary 

The greatness of kīrtana is not limited to Kaliyuga but is eternally existent, in every place and time. Kīrtana is also not praised simply because people in this age are disqualified for other spiritual practices, which would make it no more than a last resort for the incompetent. The potency of the holy name is not dependent on time or place. It is absolute. Anyone can participate in kīrtana, anywhere and at any time.

Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī writes that kīrtana is superior even to remembrance (smaraṇam), because smaraṇam is not possible in an unclean heart. It takes a lot of practice before one can master the mind to attain remembrance of Bhagavān. Kīrtana, however, can be performed without much effort even by an impious person. Therefore, it is recommended that while undertaking other devotional acts, such as picking flowers, making garlands, cooking, or cleaning, one should also do kīrtana. Of all types of kīrtana, that of the holy name is especially recommended, and of the various types of nāma-kīrtana, that of the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra is the best. If one practices this limb of bhakti while avoiding the offenses discussed earlier, he or she will attain the intended result very quickly.

According to sage Karabhājana, the wise (sumedhasaḥ) worship Bhagavān through saṅkīrtana-yajña. This implies that those who are not endowed with sufficient wisdom take to other processes. Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī writes: “Nonetheless, in Kaliyuga Bhagavān personally advocates the method of kīrtana out of His grace…” The Bhagavān mentioned here is none other than Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. He is called the father of saṅkīrtana, because He is the one who propagated kīrtana in the present age. Before His advent, kīrtana was not popular, although it is mentioned in the Purāṇas, including Śrīmad Bhāgavata Purāṇa. The closing verse of Śrīmad Bhāgavata says, “Nāma-saṅkīrtana of Kṛṣṇa’s name relieves one from all sins” (SB 12.13.23). The root cause of all sin is aversion to Bhagavān (bhagavat-vimukhyatā). Nāma-saṅkīrtana destroys such aversion and awards love of Bhagavān.

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