by Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura Prabhupada

The desire for sadhu-sanga and the inclination to serve Krishna (krishna-anusilana) appear in the jiva by the influence of sukriti.

The jiva’s aversion to Bhagavan is the result of his desire for sense enjoyment;consequently, he wanders throughout this world with the hope of attaining happiness. As long as his desire for worldly happiness does not wane, an inclination to serve Bhagavan cannot possibly arise in him. However, with the accumulation of abundant sukriti, or spiritual merit, his desire for worldly enjoyment slackens. This is the result of Bhagavan’s gradual mercy upon him. It is then that the desire for sadhu-sanga, the association of saintly persons, arises within him naturally.

Sraddha, or transcendental faith, arises by discussing topics about Krishna in sadhu-sanga. With the jiva’s increasing effort to engage in the cultivation of activities related to Krishna, a greed to attain Bhagavan appears within him. At that time, one should accept the shelter of the lotus feet of a guru whose character is spotless and who has full knowledge of philosophical truths. One should learn the art of bhajana from such a guru. Only by the strength of his bhajana does the jiva attain the complete mercy of Bhagavan.

To attain the mercy of Bhagavan is the sole purpose of sadhana

In the jiva’s condition of being completely captivated by maya, he must accept the activities of sadhana as indispensable in order to become eligible to attain the mercy of Bhagavan. Sriman Mahaprabhu has Himself said, “sadhana vina jivera sadhya vastu keha nahi paya – a jiva who does not perform sadhana does not attain his goal, or sadhya.” Although a person may have attained a little sraddha, if he is lazy about performing the activities of sadhana and simply sits back and hopes to attain Krishna’s mercy, he will not receive any real benefit. His life will simply pass by uselessly. Krishna is the embodiment of mercy, and in bestowing His boundless compassion upon the jivas, He has manifested the Vedic scriptures. Furthermore, He descends in every yuga and preaches the specific dharma, or spiritual means for deliverance, for that yuga. In this way, He endeavours to make all jivas under stand those Vedic scriptures and become favourably inclined toward Him. Particularly in Kali-yuga, His mercy is available without restriction. Those who do not become inclined to perform sadhana to attain Krishna, despite having such an opportunity, simply have no hope of ever attaining auspiciousness.

The specific result one attains at the stage of perfection is a function of the quality of one’s sadhana

Sri Krishna-candra is supremely independent. If He so desires, He can give His darsana to the jiva. That said, if a person’s heart lacks eagerness to perform even a little sadhana to attain Him, then that person’s yearning for Krishna cannot be genuine. Rather, it is simply a semblance of real hankering. Such a person would not in fact be satisfied even by the direct darsana of Bhagavan, but would return to this world from Vaikuntha to fulfil his hankering for the worthless happiness of this world.

The process of sadhana is nothing but the art of increasing one’s thirst to attain Bhagavan. A person receives the mercy of Krishna in proportion to the intensity of this thirst, which develops by performing sadhana marked by care and eagerness. When such sadhana is fully matured, Krishna manifests Himself to that person. He cannot withhold Himself.

The conditioned jiva will never achieve success if he relinquishes the activities of sadhana; he must embrace them with great care. He will approach perfection to the extent that he performs sadhana with honour.

What is sadhana?

Srila Rupa Gosvami has stated:
nitya-siddhasya bhavasya prakatyam hridi sadhyata

Sadhana is the process of awakening the eternal dormant propensity within one’s heart to love Krishna.
(Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu 1.2.2)

The jiva’s eternal constitutional nature is to be a servant of Bhagavan; and his eternal occupation is bhagavat-prema, to render loving service to Bhagavan.In the jiva’s conditioned state, his eternally perfect love is observed in the form of his love for sense objects. Sadhana is the process that revokes that love from the sense objects and causes this eternal love to appear in the heart.

The sastras delineate the various limbs of sadhana. Srila Rupa Gosvami has divided these into sixty-four divisions in his book Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu. Srimad-Bhagavatam divides them into nine forms, namely, sravanam, kirtanam, smaranam, etc. The essence of all sadhana, especially in Kali-yuga, is harinama – to chant the holy names of Krishna.

Sri nama-sankirtana is the highest sadhana, and the various other limbs of sadhana are its assistants.

When the best of scholars, Vasudeva Sarvabhauma, wished to know what is the highest sadhana, Sriman Mahaprabhu replied that harinama-sankirtana is topmost. This is described in Sri Caitanya-caritamrita (Madhya-lila 6.241):
bhakti-sadhana-sreshtha sunite haila mana
prabhu upadesa kaila nama-sankirtana
Sri Mahaprabhu also spoke the following words to Sri Sanatana Gosvami:
bhajanera madhye sreshtha nava-vidha bhakti
‘krishna-prema’, ‘krishna’ dite dhare maha-sakti
tara madhye sarva-sreshtha nama-sankirtana
niraparadhe nama laile paya prema-dhana

Among the various methods of performing bhajana, the best is to execute the nine prescribed processes of bhakti. These processes carry the outstanding potency to bestow both krishna-prema and Krishna. Among the nine processes of bhakti, chanting the holy names is foremost. If one chants without committing any offences, one easily receives the treasure of pure love for Krishna.
(Sri Caitanyacaritamrita, Antya-lila 4.70–71)

In this Kali-yuga, there is no other refuge for the jiva than chanting the names of Hari. Indeed, harinama is the only sadhana, and the other limbs of sadhana are accepted as its assistants.

In sastra we find the statement “‘eka’ anga sadhe, keha sadhe ‘bahu’ anga – some practise a single limb, whereas others practise many.” However, no one should think he can attain perfection by taking shelter of any limb other than harinama. When a sadhaka understands harinama to be the topmost sadhana and takes one-pointed shelter of nama, he can also perform the other limbs of sadhana. Sastra clearly declares:

harer nama harer nama harer namaiva kevalam
kalau nasty eva nasty eva nasty eva gatir anyatha

To attain one’s spiritual goal in Kali-yuga, there is no other way, there is no other way, there is no other way than to chant the holy name, chant the holy name, chant the holy name.

Sri nama is both the practice and the goal

Whoever is the recipient of Sriman Mahaprabhu’s mercy will single-mindedly take shelter of harinama without any duplicity. As he performs sadhana of harinama and gradually attains perfection, he will come to realise nama in the form of his sadhya, or goal. This is because Krishna’s name is both the goal and the means to attain it. There is no difference between Krishna’s name (nama) and Krishna Himself, the possessor of the name (nami).

Instructions to the sadhaka on the practice of chanting

It is necessary to deliberate a little on the subject of the practice, or sadhana, of sri nama. Sadhana is performed with the senses. Therefore, it is essential that the sadhaka firmly and expertly engage his senses in the activities of sadhana. One can perform the practices of sadhana in a charming way if one keeps the body healthy. This can be achieved by regulating one’s eating (yukta-ahara) and recreation (yukta-vihara).

In other words, if a person tortures his body by being falsely renounced, then all his senses become disabled. Consequently, instead of the sadhaka performing sadhana, he forfeits his life. In this regard, Bhagavan says in the Bhagavad-gita (6.16–17):

naty-asnatas tu yogo ’sti
na caikantam anasnatah
na cati-svapna-silasya
jagrato naiva carjuna

O Arjuna, yoga cannot be perfected by one who eats too much or too little, or who sleeps too much or too little.

yukta-ceshtasya karmasu
yogo bhavati duhkha-ha

For one who is moderate in eating and recreation, balanced in work, and regulated in sleeping and wakefulness, his practice of yoga destroys all material miseries.

The meaning here is that one who eats too much or hardly eats at all, who sleeps a lot or does not sleep enough, is never able to use his body and senses to perform the activities of sadhana. If a person does not allow his body to become unhealthy or his senses in active – by regulating all his endeavours including his eating, recreation, sleeping and waking – then his sadhana will be executed exquisitely and it will destroy all his miseries.

The implication is that one must engage one’s internal sense, the mind, in remembering and meditating upon sri nama, by protecting it from the four anarthas, or impediments to spiritual progress. These impediments are misconceptions about reality (svarupa-bhrama), the hankering for temporaty objects (asat-trishna), weakness of the heart in adopting the process of bhakti (hridayadaurbalya) and offences (aparadha). Moreover, one’s external senses should be protected from becoming habituated to activities that are unfavourable to one’s bhajana, such as over-eating, over-sleeping and endeavouring for sense objects. Instead, they should be incessantly engaged in the sadhana of nama-kirtana. The capacity to do so is indeed the expertise of a sadhaka.

The foundation of sadhana: determination to accept what is favourable for bhakti and to reject what is unfavourable

It is necessary for a sadhaka to be both vigilant and resolute in accepting what is favourable for his bhakti and rejecting what is unfavourable. Often various unfavourable things come into the life of a jiva in this material world, and if he does not carefully and decisively reject them, they will hinder his sadhana and delay him in attaining his cherished goal.

Sometimes one may think: “Let me do what is unfavourable for my sadhana today, and from tomorrow I will take special care to avoid this.’’ But one who manifests such weakness of heart (hridaya-daurbalya) will never attain auspiciousness. As soon as a sadhaka perceives something to be an obstacle to his bhajana, he should give it up immediately and embrace the mercy of Sriman Mahaprabhu. Determination is indeed the foundation of sadhana. If a person lacks determination, he cannot progress even a single step in his sadhana.

The sadhaka’s foremost assistant is sadhu-sanga

The sadhu is the sadhaka’s primary benefactor. The heart of the baddha-jiva is so captured by anarthas, that he cannot single-handedly remove them, despite his arduous attempts to do so. For one who remains in sadhu-sanga, however, anarthas have no chance of manifesting. Srila Narottama Thakura Mahasaya has rightly said:
kiva va karite pare, kama-krodha sadhakera
yadi haya sadhujanara sanga
What can lust and anger do to a sadhaka if he is in the association of sadhus?

Sadhu-sanga is absolutely essential for one who wants to properly perform the activities of sadhana. Sriman Mahaprabhu has said:

krishna-bhakti-janma-mula haya ‘sadhu-sanga’
krishna-prema janme, tenho punah mukhya anga

The underlying cause of the birth of bhakti to Sri Krishna is sadhu-sanga. Even after krishna-prema awakens in the heart, sadhu-sanga remains the foremost principle.
(Sri Caitanya-caritamrita, Madhya-lila 22.83)

mahat-kripa vina kona karme ‘bhakti’ naya
krishna-bhakti dure rahu, samsara nahe kshaya

Unless a person is blessed by an exalted saint, none of the activities he performs can be considered to be bhakti. What to say of attaining krishna-bhakti, it is impossible for him even to extricate himself from material existence.
(Sri Caitanya-caritamrita, Madhya-lila 22.51)

Incessantly accept the shelter of sri nama and pray for the mercy of sri nama

If one can chant the holy name in the association of a pure devotee who is attached to chanting, all his offences will be dispelled and nama-tattva will quickly manifest in his heart. Our prayer at the lotus feet of Sriman Mahaprabhu is that by incessantly chanting the holy name in the association of a suddha-bhakta we may soon experience the sweetness (rasa) of sri nama. We pray for nothing other than the mercy of sri nama.

Translated from Sri Gaudiya Patrika, Year 8, Issue 7
by the Rays of The Harmonist team.
Published in English for the first time in Rays of The Harmonist No. 16 Karttika 2006

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