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The Descent of the Holy Name
A Gaudiya Vaisnava Perspective

Observations by Srila Bhakti Raksak Sridhar Maharaja

His Holiness B.R. Sridhara Maharaja sat on the roof of his quarters in Navadvipa (West Bengal). The now very old sadhu was in a contemplative mood, and to approach him in this state disturbed me. He motioned that I should sit in front of him, so I timidly went and sat down on a grass mat at his feet. There was no one to be seen for miles around. "There are many things to see from up here by which we can remember Sri Caitanya.," His Holiness said. "We have this Ganges, this forest, the temples, His favorite tree, banana. What have you come here to ask me?"

"Can you explain how, if the Name is a spiritual thing-how is it that we are all chanting it with a material tongue?" I asked, feeling quite foolish. After some silence he began to speak, "Nitai Caitanya, Nitai Caitanya," and then he proceeded:

"It cannot be uttered by a material tongue, nor can a material ear hear the Name. He [the Name] is adhoksaja beyond experimental knowledge], having reserved the right of not being exposed to organic senses. All the experience, knowledge and memories that we have are gleaned with the help of mundane sense perception. Our tongue is comprised mostly of earth and water elements; the nerve endings extending to all parts of the body carry charges of electricity, also a material element. If an object is too far away, it is not touchable, seeable, tasteable, etc; if an object is too close, it is also imperceptible; we can't see our own tilak mark or even our own eyelids.

"When the senses are extended by microscopes and telescopes, these instruments have more range, but are still limited to the material sphere. The telescope cannot penetrate te outermost covering of the universe; the microscope lens is composed o atoms and therefore cannot see the atom or anything smaller than the atom. Likewise, the system of mental speculation is also inefficient to perceive the spiritual elements. Mind is a material element whose density is very slight. (Bhagavad-gita VII:4) Higher abstractions are no more spiritual than hard rocks. There is a common belief that by extending the potency of the mind we can conceive of the infinite, but this process is defective. If the infinite can be confined in a limited mind, then it is not infinite. I don't even know how many hairs are on my head. Mental speculators grind their brains over abstract aphorisms of Zen and Upanisads and think that by their own power they can achieve something like infinity. The result is mental masturbation. The mind explodes and dies of exhaustion. And the reaction is deplorable; total forgetfulness of the self and the infinite.

'There are channels by which the infinite descends. He is all power glory, beauty, knowledge, wealth and renunciation. He is dominant, all extending, free and autocratic. The infinite cannot be contained in a limited sphere, as I've just said, but if He is really infinite then He has the power of making Himself known in all His fullness to the finite mind. When out of His own prerogative, he takes the initiative and reveals Himself to the devotee, there is actual perception of Godhead, self realization, transcendental revelation. By the channel of transcendental sound He comes by vibrating the spiritual tongue of the pure devotees representing Him to the world. The spiritual element vibrates the spiritual tongues of the perfect devotee's audience, which have hitherto never been vibrated.

"The pure devotee utters the Name of God. Our material ears hear some sound that resembles the transcendental Names of Krsna; our eardrum moves the liquid of the inner ear, half water and half air, which vibrates the ethereal element and touches our mind. At this point, soul has still been untouched, and there has been no genuine spiritual experience. By hearing with the mind's impressions, we enjoy the sound of the cymbals, the beat of the chant, the pleasant company and effect of listening and hearing. But it doesn't stop here. Piercing the mind, the original sound uttered by Gurudeva moves our intellect, and we consider philosophical and metaphysical truths. For millions of years, sages chanted this on the banks of many holy rivers. Ides flood everywhere about the possible effects of the mantra. This, while being quite blissful, is not spiritual revelation in the true sense. Beyond the intelligence is the spiritual element-soul, myself. That sound having cut through all my senses including the mind and intellect, now vibrates the finest sentiments of my own real existence. This is the perception of the holy Name on the spiritual plane with my spiritual ear. Then, the soul inspired, recapitulates, sending vibration back into the intelligence, mind and so on-the whole process inverted-out to my external tongue and we say, 'Hare Krsna! That Hare Krsna is He, And we dance in ecstasy.

"Sound, sounds, sounds," His Holiness repeated slowly. "Sounds. Catch hold of the sounds. Seize the sound waves traveling within the either, and your happiness in spiritual life is assured. Once sage has explained in his sutra that massive epidemics are due to contamination of the ether by impure sound. When the lawyers and pleaders in court begin to tell lies in the name of justice, these sound vibrations contaminate the ether, which in turn contaminates the air and water which people breathe and drink, and epidemic is the result.

"When four-headed Brahma creates the universe, the seed ingredient is sounds. 'OM.' And from that 'om' the Gayatri mantra is born: In this sound, the fourteen planetary galaxies sprout like whorls of spiraling stars and planets, with the sun situated in the very center of the universe. Each planetary system is composed of a different sound uttered by Lord Brahma. Each galaxy provides the infinite jivas with their particular spheres of karma (action), dhama (religion), artha (economic development), kama (sensual enjoyment and its resultant suffering), and moksa (facility of liberation). It is the function of Brahma to provide these different galaxies and planets according to the sinful and meritorious deeds of the innumerable. Lord Brahma utters a different sound for each planetary system and his engineer, Sri Visvakarma creates the planets according to those sounds. The subtle elements and gross elements are distributed in this way. In our planet, the predominating elements are earth and water. In other worlds, only water is found. On the sun, fire is the prominent element. If a spiritual individual, under the effects of illusion, or maya wishes to end his gross existence, he may enter a planet of air, ether mind or intelligence and live as a ghost.

"The individual jiva is also endowed with a particle of creative power. And the ordinary individual as well creates his tiny sphere of influence by sound. Some jiva's spheres of influence are no bigger than their own craniums, and some jivas have influence over a community, a nation, or even a whole planet. The beauty and harmony of their particular spheres of influence depends on the quality of sounds they produce.

"When one nation tries to conquer another, the first points to capture are the radio stations, the newspapers, the journals-the lines of communication. By sending out its manifesto by sound, the government can move the former leaders from their posts and capture the country. Then, also by sound, the new government becomes established. If there should be any defect in that sound, then the whole thing is ruined. That is why there is so much alteration in the world situation. The sound of all these jivas is, to quote the Bible, 'Babel.' Nonsensical sounds are entering and contaminating the ether, the air, the water, and the very molecular structure of each and every person, place and thing.

"A person's mind is composed of two functions, technically termed sankalpah and vikalpa. Sankalpa refers to the mind's desire to join thoughts into concepts, theories and tableaus of theories. Vikalpa is the mind's function of rejecting thoughts, simplifying and limiting experiences which are gathered through the senses of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. Both functions are controlled by sound. Here is an experiment; Close your eyes. When I repeat a number, you will see the number flash before your mind like a cash register. One. . .Three. . .Seven. . .Four. . .The processes of sankalpa and vikalpa respectively make the thoughts come and go. This is a very simply form of the mind's process. On a more complicated scale there is the very risky business of intentionally invading the sound waves with defective sound. The lines of communication are filled with impure sound from the earliest schoolbooks to the most advanced so-called philosophy. The White House filibusters are another excellent example of intentional pollution of sound channels. If we were to infuse spiritual sound into the ether, if we were to saturate the ether with the transcendental sound vibration of Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, this maha-mantra would purify, enlighten and saturate every being with its potencies.

"In Sri Caitanya's eight verses, which comprise the final message of all spiritual instructions, the fist verse gives five effects of the transcendental sound of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra as follows: Ceto-darpana-marjanam. It wipes the material dust from the mirror of the mind. The mind is like the intermediate connecting medium between the spirit and that material external covering called the body. The soul has no material activity. When covered by maya, or illusion, the soul remains dormant in a state of suspended animation. The magnitude of the soul is so great however, that it infuses consciousness on all sides. Through the medium of the mind, the senses act and we 'know' things. If this 'glass.' The mind, is put out of focus by the external nature, we suffer confusion, pain, disease and death. Yes, death is a state of mind only, as 'I'm drowning! 'I'm giving birth!' 'I'm sick!' etc. When the mind is cleansed by the maha-mantra, the mind is forcibly purified. All the material concoctions, which are the cause of our suffering, are forcibly murdered, starved to death. They thrive on material sense pleasures. Flooding the mind with transcendental sound is just like stepping on the pin of a bomb: All those misconception of material suffering and enjoyment are shattered, murdered, and the material mind is conquered wholly, leaving no enemies behind. The mind then reflects the spiritual knowledge, quality and energy of the soul itself.

"Bhava-maha-dvagni-nirvapanam. The fire of conditional life is thus extinguished. Nirvana, which most people are trying to understand from Buddhist texts, means extinguishing the fire of material existence. This body has been burning from the very beginning of its duration by the process of digestion. Biologists all declare that the body is a burning organism, giving off heat, water vapor and carbon dioxide. After seventy or more years, our body is consumed by that smoldering digestive fire and we move into another body, only to burn up that one too. It is like chain smoking; with the lit end of the cigarette you light up a fresh cigarette, and on and on. By the potency of the transcendental sound the cause of that fire is extinguished.

"Sreyah-kairava-candrikavitaranam vidhyavadhujivanam. The transcendental sound then spreads the light of benedictions, peaceful suggestions and fearlessness, and no more anxieties invade the mine. We approach the world after coming out of the womb with many deep-rooted fears; Is there safety? Is there happiness: Is there peace? The answer is the basic seed. Om in this sense means one big spiritual yes. Om, yes-a positive answer. Simply by negating the mind, the questions of the soul are not satisfied; something positive must be given. The maha-mantra floods the mind with affirmative suggestions of truth.

"Anandambudhi-vardhanam pratipadam purnamrtasvadanam. A full draught of an ocean of blissful nectar is served to the soul, who has been thirsty from time immemorial.

"Sarvtama-snapanam param, vijayate sri-krsna-sankirtanam. This point has two fold meaning, one external and one internal. Sarvatman means 'all souls.' The holy Name bathes all souls with spiritual bliss, knowledge and love. The transcendental sound completely overcomes the souls with His sublime potencies. But atman has many meanings, as given by Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Atman means the supreme absolute truth, the body, the mind, the intelligence, endeavor, conviction and nature. By uttering the pure sound of the maha-mantra one invades the very cause of everything that exists. The mind, body and soul, and even nature itself can be changed into transcendental nature by one heart-felt exclamation of 'Hare Krsna.' Capture the sound waves which are the cause of every item of existence and saturate them with the holy Name. The result will be the total transformation of energy. An asrama, temple, and all the paraphernalia in them, are all divine. The environment in which we live in the asrama is not the same as the one in which we were born. It is 'there' it is Goloka, and the more we progress in our sadhana the more He will reveal Himself to us.

These truths about the descent of the Hare Krsna mantra were alluded to by Jayadeva Gosvami, jagat-guru, who has written a beautiful verse in description of this process: 'O Hari Nama, You enter my ear and touch my heart, and tears flow from my eyes and fall to the ground; making soft clay, my footprints are left for my successors to follow my way."

"It must be noted that if the teacher is bogus, then that Name will not touch the spiritual spark within the coverings of mind and body. It may sound the same, but it is not-just as milk ;and whitewash look the same but they are altogether different.,

"Now many such artificial gurus are about, and this fact is, as it were camouflaging the genuine devotees. If someone finds a treasure beneath a tree and marks the tree with his initials and then comes back to find every tree marked with the same initials, he is unable to recall the original tree.

This is now often the case, since false holy men are running rampant. But if one is fortunate enough to know the scriptures and tradition, and if one is truly sincere, he will find a genuine sadhu, hear the Name, and begin authentic spiritual life. Then he or she will find a great gift indeed. "The original sentiments invoked by the Name are concentrated blissful recollections of the pastimes of Krsna as performed in the spiritual world. These sentiments are in all souls and are five in number: the neutral sentiment, the serving sentiment, the sentiment of friendship, parental sentiment, and the sentiment of intimate love. Krsna is called akhila-rasamrta-sindhu, the ocean of all transcendental sentiment. In the Bhagavat-gita Krsna says, ye yatha mam prapadyante, tams tathaiva bhajamya-ham: 'I reciprocate all the different services rendered to Me within the sphere of these different sentiments, or rasas.' While all of these relationships or spiritual sentiments are on the self-same absolute platform, one may simultaneously acknowledge certain distinctions within them.

"For example, Krsna exchanged loving sentiments with the neutral devotees, who do not take active engagements in His interest at His own sweet time and liking. If He wants to play the flute He picks it up, and He sets it down when He likes. To His servants, He is the noble master. In this relationship there is more facility to please the Lord, to bring His food, His favorite clothing. Yet there is still some hindrance, since He may tell the servant to be gone, and the servant must obey out of duty. The friendship rasa has two stages. The first stage is friendship with feeling of respect and reverence. Arjuna has this type of friendly relationship with Krsna. He begs forgiveness from Krsna for unknowingly calling Him in jest or for associating with Him without bowing down, etc.

"When friendship with Krsna is more developed, the respect and honorable formalities disappear. Jumping on Krsna's shoulders, wrestling and playing as though Krsna were their equal, Sudama, Sridama and the other cowherd boys revel in endless sports. Sometimes they even consider Krsna their inferior: 'Oh Krsna, He's the youngest one of us. He's also the lightest. We can all overcome Him in wrestling, so go lightly with Him.' As sugar cane juice is concentrated into molasses and then into crystal, so also the friendly rasa with added feelings, develops into parental affection. 'Krsna is my son,' says Mother Yasoda. 'I must always look after His needs and protection. If I don't see Him for even five minutes I get so scared. I see huge trees falling on Him and horrible demons capturing Him. Oh there You are! Why do You scare Your mother like that? Always stay in my presence; I can't stand to have You out of sight.' Even the punishment of the beloved is seen in this intimate relationship.

"As concentrated sugar becomes rock candy, so the parental exchange of rasas condenses into conjugal love, in which there is complete dedication to the desires of Krsna, with no tinge of desire for one's own pleasure. 'I am Yours'-complete, unconditional surrender. 'If you trample my body underfoot or embrace me too tightly, for Your pleasure. I am happy. If You want to throw me into hell and keep me far from Your company, I am prepared to go. If You forget me, that's okay, but I cannot forget You. You are always my beloved."

By this time His Holiness had become exhausted. After forty years of lecturing previous to the use of microphones, his voice had become very thin. We were only on inch apart, face to face. He sat there with his eyes closed, and it was clear that he was experiencing those things of which he spoke.

Just then the loud gong began to toll in crescendo, reaching four loud blasts and reverberating into silence.

"Go down now. It's time for aratika. Could you follow my words?"

"Yes," I said.

"Did you like it?"


"That's all right. Go down now."

Re-typed by Sriman Puru Das from
Journal of Vaisnava Studies
Vol 2, No. 2/ Spring 1994
Publisher: Steven J. Rosen

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