The realization of truths that are beyond the grasp of matter is called Swarupa-siddhi. This is a true knowledge of the relationship between Krishna and jivas, and when this is acquired, the endeavor for Prem as a means and Prem as an object of pursuit is gained. The spiritual region of Krishna, His spiritual Name, His divine attributes and spiritual pastimes—the necessary object of pursuit—come under Prem. This is delineated in the Prasno-panishad.
NAMA has been accepted on all hands to be an incarnation of Krishna on this earth. A word though He looks to be, still by His unimaginable powers He is Spiritual and is a special incarnation of Krishna. As Krishna and His Name are identical, Krishna has descended to the earth as NAMA; so Krishna NAMA is the first introduction to Krishna. With determination to reach Krishna, jivas must first accept the Name of Krishna. In going to determine the significance and origin of Hari Nama, Sri Gopalguru Goswami, the dearest disciple of Sri Swarupa Damodar Goswami, writes “Blessed are they no doubt who utter Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare / Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare even indifferently (from the Agni Purana); those who chant are free from every spot of sin (from the Brahmanda Purana); Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu simply collected them together. These Hare Krishna utterings, coming out from the lips of Sri Chaitanya, inundated the whole world with the flood of Prem; Glory be to this NAMA by His will!” Hence, Sriman Mahaprabhu, as mentioned in the Chaitanya Charitamrita and the Chaitanya Bhagavat, Himself sang and taught the jivas to count these sixteen names of thirty-two letters in beads of tulasi. Sri Gopalguru Goswami explains these sixteen names in the following way:
At the utterance of Hari, all sins are washed off from the heart of the wicked. As the flame will burn the finger even though unconsciously you thrust it into the fire, similarly even the very casually pronounced Hari-nama will burn every bit of sin in you. Absolute Truth, whose form is Chidananda, to light, destroys Avidya or illusion and its works. All this is the work of Hari-nama. Or as He takes off the three-fold pangs of miseries, distresses and afflictions, hence He is called Hari (lit, to steal away [all one’s obstacles]). Or Hari is so called because He drives out all the three-fold distresses of every animate and inanimate being, or because the mind of the fourteen worlds is charmed by hearing and singing the Spiritual Attributes of Hari or as He, by His exceeding beauties before which the loveliness and beauty of a thousand Cupids hide their face in shame, fascinates all men and incarnations, He is called Hari; and in the vocative case of Hari, it is Hare. Or again, according to the views of the Brahma-samhita—She who fascinates the mind of Hari by Her Prem-Swarupa, attachments, and love is Hara or in other words Srimati-Radhika, daughter of Brisabhanu, and in the vocative case of Hara it is Hare.
The meaning of “Krishna” according to the views of Agama is derived from and means that this Krishna Who is Ananda in Form and attracts every object is Para-Brahman. Krishna when in the case of address is also Krishna. The Agama says: “O Ye Goddess! All guilts and sinful motives vanish from the heart at the very sound of Ra and the door in the form of Ma is attached to it in order to shut out those evils from re-entering the heart. This together give us Rama.” The Puranas have further said that Krishna, Who is cleverer than the cleverest, more witty than the greatest wit, Who is the Presiding Deity of all spiritual pastimes and Who is eternally engaged in spiritual dalliance with Sri Radha, is termed as Rama.
Devotees, who thirst for Prem and are on the way to it, sing and realize this Hare Krishna Nama by counting. While chanting and remembering the Name, incessantly they remember His spiritual characteristics by way of explaining to the mind the meanings of NAMA. By this means their heart is very soon freed from every spot of scrapes and becomes pure and stainless; and with the morning twilight of NAMA as the heart is purified by constant remembrance, NAMA dawns in the horizon of the pellucid heart with full shining rays.
Those who have accepted NAMA are either self-realized devotees or are still trotting onward to self-realization. Of these, the latter class of devotees are divided according to their early or advanced stages. Devotees, besides these, who are eternally free, no more confound the soul with the body, never identify themselves with body and mind. Devotees in their early stage begin to chant the Name by a fixed number, and as they gradually increase the countings, they come to a stage when their tongue stops not for a moment from singing NAMA. Though choler-tongued by Avidya, devotees in their first stage have no taste for NAMA, still a patient and continuous utterance of the Name proves to be the only remedy; now they feel uneasy if stopped from singing the Name, and a constant and regardful chanting produces a supreme liking for Him. Zeal and earnestness to avoid sacrileges to NAMA are very needful in the first stage, which can be done only by an avoidance of the worldly minded men and in the company of devotees. Incessant chanting of NAMA will, when the first flow has passed away, naturally increase a love for the Name and kindness to jivas. In this Karma, Jnana and Yoga have nothing to do. If their workings be even then strong, they may help the devotees of NAMA in maintaining their livelihood. If KRISHNA-NAMA be sung with a firm inclination, it will ere long cleanse the heart and burn Avidya; and when Avidya vanishes, the brighter illumination of a true unbiased abnegation and a sense of the relationship between Krishna and jivas will appear in the heart. Numberless times has this been proved to be true among the wise.
With a happy heart one should re-collect the meaning and form of NAMA and should pray to Krishna with a heart-rending lamentation and this will draw the grace of Krishna which will lead him onward in the path of BHAJAN; or else, births will pass in vain like Karmis [those engaged in karmic activities for sensual and mental happiness] and frustrated Jnanis [those engaged in dry philosophical speculation and learning].
Those who are bent on BHAJAN may be divided into two distinct classes. Some bear only the burden, others appreciate the real worth of things. Those who long for enjoyment or for self-destroying salvation [merging into the impersonal Brahman] and are attached to worldly affairs are only yoked to the heavy load of virtue [dharma], wealth [artha], enjoyment [kama] and salvation [moksha]—they are unaware of the fact that Prem is the best sap [nourishment and taste]. So, such load-bearers fail to progress in BHAJAN in spite of their utmost strivings, whereas the essence-seekers aiming at Prem-lata very soon reach the longed-for ultimate. They are called Prema-rurukshu (those who earnestly strive for ascending up to the reign of Prem); they alone can in a very short time ascend up to the sphere of Prem or easily become Paramahansas. Thus when he, who so long simply did bear burdens only, learnt to love the Truth in the company of Sadhus and soon also turns to long for Prem.
Good acts done in previous births, that look forward to devotion, invigorate reverence and a strong desire for the service of Godhead, which reverence and desire turn into an appetite for devotion in the company of devotees. BHAJAN along with true devotees awakens Sadhana-bhakti that looks forward in expectation of Prem. If one adopts the process of Sadhana as directed by true and pure devotees, he will ere long almost turn mad for ascending the stage of Prem where it can be tasted; but again this Prem will remain far in the background if he associates with half-true devotees and cannot exclusively devote himself to the service of Krishna. In this stage, (1) his strong love for the fleeting world, (2) his identification of the soul with the material frame of flesh and blood and the subtle body of mind, (3) his knowledge of things other than Krishna, and (4) his extreme servile attitudes towards Maya do not allow him to regard and love true devotees—crafty thoughts beguile his heart. In this way the practitioners of devotion have to remain long confined to the early preliminary rights of a devotee in his first stage. Reliance and faith in Krishna they have no doubt, but it is so tender, fickle and so unsteady that they may at any moment be led away by contradictory arguments of conflicting schools and accordingly they may come by the company of “so-called” preceptors and Sadhus. In order to make steady their perturbed state of mind, they are to learn the process of deduction (the path of Sruti from a true spiritual preceptor) the true process of worship. A firm faith in NAMA will be awakened in the heart after worshiping the Deity in this way for a long time; then at last they are bent on NAMA-BHAJAN in the company of devotees.
The case is different with those few lucky ones who have an exclusively firm faith in Krishna-NAMA; they take, by the unbounded grace of Krishna, shelter at the feet of such a spiritual guide who is an ontologist of NAMA, i.e. who has realized and does see the Swarupa (form) of NAMA. Of the rights of such a preceptor, Sri Mahaprabhu says that though formal initiation may not be necessary, still a guide is essential in NAMA-BHAJAN. The mere letters of NAMA may be had at any place and from anybody, but the profound and unknown truth that is lurking behind these letters can only be exposed by the grace of a true preceptor who is purely devoted to Krishna; the grace of the spiritual guide alone can pass over from the early twilight of NAMA to the pure light of it and can save them from the ten sacrileges hindering the true service of NAMA.
Those who are devoted to NAMA have already from the beginning attained the stage of the second class of the Swarupa (form) of NAMA. They are practically no longer bound to Nambhasha (utterance of the Name avoiding the ten profanations). Truly speaking, they earnestly desire Prem—they are true Prema-rurukshu. It is their religion to have Prem for Krishna; they make friendship with true Vaishnavas, they cast kind glances at and show compassion to tender and unsteady Vaishnavas, and they are indifferent to those who being puffed up with false vanity of their erudition are malicious and inimical to the devotees and Srimurti [the Deity] of Bhagavan. Failing to distinguish right from wrong, the beginners who are confined to the primary rights only sometimes fall into deplorable condition; the middle order of Vaishnavas who are earnestly anxious for Prem, behave differently from the three classes of Vaishnavas and soon are blessed with Prem or ascend to the highest or superior order of Vaishnavas. These middle orders of Vaishnavas are best to be associated with.
These Prema-rurukshu devotees chant and tell their beads three lacs of times in twenty-four hours, and such felicity they find in NAMA that a moment they cannot spare without Him; then when no time can be kept in time of sleep, etc., they become incessant in their Bhajan. Repeated remembrance of the meaning of NAMA as explained by Sri Gopal Guru Goswami will, be degrees, drive out every scrap from the nature man and then NAMA appears in person before the spiritual eyes of the devotee. When the Swarupa (form) of NAMA fully appears, it is identical with the spiritual form of Krishna—the appearance of the swarupa of NAMA is the appearance of the swarupa of Krishna. The more clearly and purely is NAMA visible, the more BHAJAN proceeds in the presence of His swarupa, the more do the three elements of which primordial matter is said to be composed, namely Satya (the strand of goodness), Raja (the strand of activity) and Tamo (the gloom of pride, haughtiness, etc., of the lowest inherent principal), disappear and there appear the spiritual attributes of Krishna in the heart of the devotee. Then again, when there is a happy union of the name, form and attributes of Krishna, and devotees in their BHAJAN see them, the lila (pastimes) as Krishna is awakened by the grace of Krishna in their pure heart as soon as they are absorbed in deep and easy natural meditation. Incessantly then does NAMA dance on their tongue, the form of Krishna is then visible to the soul’s eye, all the attributes of Krishna are then observed in the heart and the bud of lila [Krishna’s pastimes] blooms in their soul while they are buried in meditation. In this stage, five conditions of the practicing devotee are to be noticed:
1. Sravan-dasha, 2. Varan-dasha. 3. Smaran-dasha. 4. Aapan-dasha. 5. Prapan-dasha.
The happy mood which the devotee feels at the time of listening to the object of pursuit and the means to hear from the lips of a true Spiritual Preceptor may be called Sravan-dasha. In this stage, every bit of knowledge about how to take NAMA without committing any sacrilege to Him, and of the processes and fitness of taking NAMA is gained; this facilitates the continuity of NAMA.
When fit to receive, the strung-together beads of NAMA-PREM can be had of Sri Gurudeva, i.e. the disciple with every delight and from the deepest recesses of his heart cordially welcomes the boon of surrendering himself to the feet of Sri Guru for pure and unalloyed BHAJAN and receives invigorating strength and faculty from him; this is Varan-dasha (i.e. the choice of Sri Guru for Bhajan by the acceptance of NAMA and strength from Him).
Remembrance, contemplation, concentration, constant meditation and trance (final beatitude) are the five processes of Smaran. From remembrance of the NAMA, the devotee thanks of the form which gives him a steady conception of the attributes; this steady conception of the attributes gives him a firm conviction of pursuing the lila of Krishna, and having entrance in the lila he is completely absorbed in Krishna-Rasa: This is Aapan-dasha. By these Smaran and Aapan, the devotee can know and adore the eternal and daily lila of Krisna at eight different periods of the day; and when he is deeply absorbed in it, he realizes his own self and that of Krishna. These self-realized devotees are Paramahansas [swan-like saints who know and disseminate the highest spiritual knowledge].
Then at the time of his departure from this world, the devotee, by the grace of Krishna, becomes an associated counter-part of ideal object of his worship in Braja [the holiest place of Lord Krishna’s pastimes] and thus attains the summum-bonum of NAMA-BHAJAN.
Should then all who are seekers after Prem leave the stage of a house-holder and accept Sannyasa or the fourth stage? The answer is, that be he in bustee or solitude, in palace or bower, be he in the stage of a Grihastha or a Vanaprastha or Sannyasa—in whatever stage he may be, the Prema-rurukshu should prefer to live in that stage only which will be favorable to the attainment of Prem and should at once desert the stage that is a burden or antagonistic to his BHAJAN. In this connection, the lives of Srivas Pandit, Sri Pundarik Vidyanidhi, Sri Ramananda and other personal attendants of Krishna are worth recollection. They are all born Paramahansas. Ribhu, Janaka, etc., in the days of yore are seen to be Paramahansas even though they led the lives of house-holders; while on the contrary, finding the household life to be detrimental and a bar to BHAJAN, Sri Ramanuja Swami, Sri Swarupa Damodar Goswami, Sri Madhavendra Puri Goswami, Sri Haridas Thakur, Sri Sanatana Goswami and Sri Raghunathdas Goswami all renounced the stage of a householder and accepted Sannyasa. Krishna’s loving beauty is so enamoring that even the god of lusts is charmed by Him, and Krishna Himself is charmed by His own beauty, and loveliness covets the pleasure enjoyed by the best of His lovers—Sri Radha, by lovingly serving such a form as His. So anointing Himself with the luster and complexion of Sri Radha and having been imbued with Her ardent longings of love, Krishna is ever dallying as an exemplary lover of Himself as Sri Gauranga. Sri Krishna, the essential nature of the Supreme Being—the only Real and Eternal Truth is the only Object of love, and Sri Gauranga the possessor and distributor of that love.
Krishna is simultaneously dallying with His dear consort in the groves of Vrindavana and tasting the extract of love-succus flowing from His consort as Gauranga in Navadvip, Himself singing Krishna’s name and teaching others how to love Krishna and sing His name. In so doing He distinguishes pointedly the real name, identical with the Object Himself, from the apparent or false one which is taken profanely, blasphemously or in vain. He emphasizes that in this Kali-yuga worldly people indulge in (1) duplicity, (2) intoxication, (3) sensuality, (4) killing of animals, (5) mercenariness, and so are unable to meditate upon or worship Vishnu and to perform Vedic sacrifices. So the chanting of Krishna’s name is the only meditation, the only sacrifice, the only worship in the Kali age—Name is the means, Name is the end. But it should be noted with utmost care that Krishna’s name is not mere combination or utterance, and appearance is not identity. The fire and the glow-worm, though similar in appearance, are not identical. The minutest spark of fire set consciously or unconsciously, seriously or playfully, will instantly burn an inflammable thing, whereas a thousand glow-worms will not be able to do that even in a thousand years. Krishna’s name is identical with Krishna Himself and pregnant with all the properties and attributes of Krishna. So His Name, unlike all other names, is full of energy, perfect, eternal, pure, devoid of illusion and eternally free. Aurora is sufficient to dispel the darkness of night and to drive the wild animals to their lairs and thieves and dacoits to their resorts; it enables us to distinguish the various objects of senses and ushers the advent of the glowing lamp of heaven. So does Nama-bhasha (chanting the holy Name while avoiding the ten offenses) stop poverty from planting our pillows with thorns, destroy our worldly hankerings and dispel the illusory gloom, so that we may see the Name face to face. When the ever-burning sun peeps out of the eastern horizon, its every-effulgent rays make us see it face to face and feel its golden rays and enable us to see all objects bathing therein. The sun is seen and felt by us with its own rays and heat and not with the help of any other glowing object. The brightest candles of the universe put together cannot make the sun visible to us. When our dreamy nights are at an end, when we shake off the torpor, open our eyes, turn them to the east, we see the Name-Sun with all his glory and beauty.