(In the afternoon of the 11th April (1936), Deputy Collector Śrīyukta Amarendranātha Pāla Chaudhurī of Rāṇāghāṭa came to Caṭaka-parvata and heard hari-kathā in the presence of Śrīla Prabhupāda. Śrīla Prabhupāda’s wonderful instructions are presented below)
Above all else, remembrance of Hari is the most necessary thing. This depends upon Śravaṇa, and kīrtana. Only after Śravaṇa and kīrtana can one perform smaraṇa.
‘‘We are in the midst of calamities!” Many times, this type of consideration forces us to cultivate a taste for hari-kathā. Only through the continual hearing of hari-kathā does kīrtana and smaraṇa occur. Whenever we perform kīrtana of Hari, then immediately remembrance of Hari comes to us. When the innate taste to hear and chant awakens within us, then this leads to ātma-samarpaṇa (self-surrender).
āradhānānāṁ sarveṣāṁ viṣṇor-ārādhanaṁ param
tasmāt parataraṁ devi tadīyānāṁ samarcanam
(Padma Purāṇa 6.253.176)
This means that of all engagements, the service of Viṣṇu is the best engagement, and taking the association of those who serve Him and serving them is an even greater engagement – then our life will be a ‘life of dedication.’
In this world we accept the unholy association of various kinds of people. We have rejected the service of Kṛṣṇa, who is adhokṣaja (who transcends mundane perception), and we take up public service etc. which only gives fleeting results. Only if Bhagavān gives us His mercy will we attain the association of a sādhu who performs kīrtana and speaks pure hari-kathā.
We must consider the life that will result from our present transgressions. There is a huge chasm between ourselves and the Supreme Controller, and it is necessary to bridge that gulf. Then we must cross the bridge without plunging into that abyss, in order that we may come before Him.
Form, taste, smell, sound and touch – these things are constantly charming us. We should hear how we may become associated with Bhagavān. Some of us have clerical employment, some have a business and others are doing something else. Yet even after accepting retirement, we still continue to ruminate over the memories of such activities.
Birth after birth we have performed public service. Even animals behave in various ways for the benefit of their own kind. But as humans, should we not attain a higher promotion? Everything here is of a temporary and mortal nature; but have we discussed the connection to that which is always eternal? The significance of this human life is that it enables us to deliberate upon the next life and eternal life. In this life we are able to hear hari-kathā and speak hari-kathā, and this is the only method by which remembrance of Hari is awakened. We have no other activity to do here except hari-kathā. King Parīkṣit only had seven days, but there is no certainty that we even have seven days. Our necessity is to perform kīrtana of the Śrīmad Bhāgavata – such discussions on the Śrīmad Bhāgavata are not meant for earning money and food.
(That evening, sitting at the Bodhāyana-kuṭīra, Śrīla Prabhupāda spoke the following glorious instructions that are written below)
Kṛṣṇa is full of mercy, He is the Complete Reality. Similarly his mercy also bestows complete mercy. The Complete Reality gives Himself to the incomplete. In this way the incomplete can easily attain the Complete Reality. Without approaching the Complete, it is impossible to achieve complete auspiciousness. If we attain finite happiness or limited happiness, then our hopes can never be complete.
śrī-kṛṣṇa-caitanya-dayā karaha vicāra
vicāra karile citte pābe camatkāra
(If one deliberates upon the mercy of Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya, one’s heart will be struck with wonder. – Cc. Ādi 8.15)
Due to His compassion for everyone, Śrī Caitanyadeva instructed us to perform constant hari-nāma-kīrtana. Anyone who has heard this statement, “Constantly chant hari-nāma,” has been given this instruction. There is no time when one should not chant hari-nāma –hariḥ sadā kīrtanīyaḥ (Hari should always be glorified). Śrīman Mahāprabhu said, “May śrī-kṛṣṇa-saṅkīrtana be forever victorious.” By hearing kīrtana one will begin to perform it, and by performing kīrtana, smaraṇa arises. When the person performing kīrtana glorifies Hari, then hari-kathā enters the memory.
Bhagavān is full of great compassion and He has given us the opportunity to perform śravaṇa and kīrtana of bhagavata-kathā. The Śrīmad Bhāgavata declares:
kaler doṣa-nidhe rājannasti hy eko mahān guṇaḥ
kīrtanād eva kṛṣṇasya mukta-bandhaḥ paraṁ vrajet
(O King, Kali-yuga is an ocean of faults, yet it has one great quality – one that performs kṛṣṇa-kīrtana can certainly attain liberation from material bondage and receive entrance to the highest destination. –Bhāg.12.3.51)
In life and in death, we have no other refuge or activity than performing kīrtana of kṛṣṇa-kathā. For one who properly performs kīrtana of Kṛṣṇa, his whole ātma is completely bathed in sevā-rasa. Just as when a mirror is covered with dust and we cannot see our own reflection within it, similarly, while we perform activities other than the kīrtana of kṛṣṇa-kathā, then different types of coverings surround the mirror of our consciousness and we cannot see our own svarūpa. If we perform kīrtana of He who is all-attractive, then, by His mercy, we can easily become attracted to Him.
kṛṣṇa-varṇaṁ tviṣākṛṣṇaṁ saṅgopāṅgāstra-pārṣadam|
yajñaiḥ saṅkīrtana-prāyair yajanti hi su-medhasaḥ
(In the age of Kali, Kṛṣṇa appears in a golden form, chanting the two syllables kṛṣ-ṇa. He descends along with His weapons, potencies and eternal confidential associates. Those with intelligence worship Him by the performance of saṅkīrtana-yajña. – Bhāg.11.5.32)
Those persons who are most intelligent (su-medhasa) are the ones who perform kīrtana of kṛṣṇa-kathā, and those persons with poor intelligence (ku-medhasa) are those that perform other activities (anyābhilāṣa), jñāna, karma and ritualistic sacrifices. Vārṣabhānavī (Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī) constantly chants kṛṣṇa-nāma. She is not simply the effulgence of Kṛṣṇa, in actuality She is none other than Kṛṣṇa Himself. We can hear the words of Śrī Rādhā in the pāda of Caṇḍīdāsa:
kevā sunāila Śyāma nāma
kāṇera bhitara diyā, marame paśila go
ākula karila mana prāṇa
(Who made Me hear the name of Śyāma? When it entered My ears and into My heart, it agitated my mind and my life-airs.)
Vārṣabhānavī (Śrī Rādhā) is the greatest of all intelligent persons, and Gaurasundara is the original personality amongst those who are most intelligent:
nāmnām akāri bahudhā nija sarva-śaktis
tatrārpitā niyamitaḥ smaraṇe na kālaḥ
etādṛśī tava kṛpā bhagavān mamāpi
durdaivam idṛśam ihājani nānurāgaḥ
(O my Lord, Your Holy Name bestows auspiciousness upon all and You have unlimited Names such as Kṛṣṇa and Govinda by which You reveal Yourself. In such Holy Names You have kindly invested all Your transcendental potency. And in chanting these Names, there are no strict rules concerning time or place. Out of Your causeless mercy, You have descended in the form of divine sound, but my great misfortune is that I have no love for Your Holy Name. – Śikṣāṣṭakam 2)
We do not know that thing which is Kṛṣṇa, thus Kṛṣṇa has placed all His potencies within kṛṣṇa-nāma, and has descended in this world in the form of His Holy Name. Amongst His secondary Names (gauṇa-nāma) there are some differences between the Śabda and Śabdī (the Name and the Named) – He who is indicated by the name) but in regards to His primary Names there is no difference. There is no consideration of eligibility when one takes up the chanting of the Holy Name; however, in worship of the Deity, eligibility is a consideration. For example, one should have accepted dīkṣā, taken bath etc. There is no consideration of time, place or circumstance in connection to hari-kīrtana. It is necessary to perform kīrtana loudly. If one does not perform loud kīrtana of hari-kathā, but simply engages in gossip as if he had five mouths, then he will be seized and swallowed by the serpent of time. Such hari-kīrtana is a sign of the greatest type of compassion, yet some people cannot understand this and say –
mālā jape śālā, kara jape bhāi
yo āpnā man man jape usko balihāri jāi
(“Hey śālā! You chant on beads? O brother, you are chanting on your hand? But whoever chants within his mind, I say to him, ‘Well done!’”)
“Do not speak hari-kathā loudly! Just chant within your mind.” This is the instruction they give, but such people themselves simply talk drivel, because most people always look up from what they are doing when useless talks are going on. This has been forbidden by Mahāprabhu. His declaration is kīrtanīyaḥ sadā hariḥ (always perform kīrtana of Hari) and nāma-līlā-guṇādīnām-uccair-bhāṣā tu kīrtanam (kīrtana means to loudly call out the Lord’s name, pastimes, qualities etc.). One who performs loud kīrtana is most munificent; he never commits violence towards others. But for those who take up silence – who do not perform kṛṣṇa-kīrtana – their suppression of the urge to speak becomes an inauspicious practice, both for themselves and for others. In their minds they constantly think about the objects of the senses; they commit violence unto themselves and also to others. Thus, Mahāprabhu’s instruction is to always perform kīrtana. While listening to this kīrtana, if your friends are there, then they will rectify any mistakes within it. Also, if you perform kīrtana without any type of duplicity, caitya-guru (the Lord within the heart) will correct any mistakes found there. Due to duplicity, some people harbour a desire within their hearts for name and fame and thus accept the path of silence (mauna-dharma). Bakaḥ parama-dhārmikaḥ (the silent meditation of the crane is the most virtuous of all). But driven by their deceit, those that follow the path of silence will suddenly perform sinful activities. In order to cultivate their own selfish interests, the maunī (those that take a vow of silence) and the dhyānī (those that sit and meditate) behave in a disruptive way with others. If there is no kīrtana of kṛṣṇa-kathā in the world, the path of distress will gain greater strength. That person who is merciless and does not distribute Kṛṣṇa’s mercy according to time, place and circumstance eventually kills himself.
There are two types of people that never perform kṛṣṇa-kīrtana – firstly there are those that are extremely foolish – this means Māyāvādīs (impersonalists), aparādhīs (offenders), dhyānīs (those performing so-called meditation), maunīs (those that take a so-called vow of silence) etc. Then there are others who do not actually perform kṛṣṇa-kīrtana, but nevertheless continue to think, “We are performing kṛṣṇa-kīrtana.”
Apart from hari-kīrtana everything else that remains is babble – it is simply the shrieking of a she-jackal. Apart from kṛṣṇa-kathā, nothing else should be allowed to enter our ears. Therefore, one must hear gaura-vihita-Śravaṇa (topics about Mahāprabhu and His teachings) and only then, gaura-vihita-kīrtana (one can glorify Mahāprabhu and His teachings). The gates of Śravaṇa and smaraṇa are closed for those who are maunīs. Due to their endeavours for seclusion and their vows of silence, those who remain contemptuous of hari-smaraṇa block the road to Śravaṇa and kīrtana. The Śrīmad Bhāgavata says:
śṛṇvataḥ śraddhayā nityaṁ gṛṇataś ca sva-ceṣṭitam
nātidīrgheṇa kālena bhagavān viśate hṛdi
(For those who always hear with faith about the Lord, and sincerely make endeavours to do so, within no time the Lord Himself manifests in the heart. – Bhāg.2.8.4)
Bahubhir-militvā yat kīrtanam tadeva saṅkīrtanam – kīrtana which is performed by many people is known as saṅkīrtana. What is Śrī Gauḍīya Maṭha doing at present? Many preachers perform kīrtana of hari-kathā in many different ways. Some perform hari-kīrtana with the help of tunes and rhythm, some by dancing, some by giving classes at diorama exhibitions and some by writing books.
Saṅkīrtana is not for satisfying peoples material senses through the medium of sura (tunes), tāla (rhythm), laya (tempo) and māna (metre) or making loud noise for some other similar purpose. Actually, such is not genuine kīrtana of Kṛṣṇa. When we say ‘kṛṣṇa-saṅkīrtana,’ it should be understood to be the transcendental kīrtana of the transcendental name, the transcendental form, the transcendental qualities, the transcendental pastimes and the special characteristics of the transcendental associates of the transcendental Kṛṣṇa. However, kṛṣṇa-kīrtana is also not performed by neglecting sura, tāla, māna and laya. Sura, tāla and māna should all be used for kṛṣṇa-kīrtana. The six rāgas and the thirty-six rāginīs are the servants of kṛṣṇa-kīrtana. The proper way of performing hari-kīrtana is by engaging kāya-mana-vākya (body, mind and words). Kīrtana with our mind, kīrtana with our words and kīrtana with our body must be performed simultaneously. If the mind is not engaged in kṛṣṇa-kīrtana, if it is always preoccupied with other thoughts, then it is not actual kīrtana of Kṛṣṇa.
What does Nārada do? At every moment, he performs kṛṣṇa-kīrtana with all his senses. What does five-headed Śiva do? He performs kṛṣṇa-kīrtana. What does four-headed Brahmā do? Kṛṣṇa-kīrtana. Vyāsa, Śuka, the four Kumāras and Śeṣa all perform kṛṣṇa-kīrtana. All the personalities in our guru-varga perform kṛṣṇa-kīrtana and none of them observes so-called vows of silence. Bhāgavata-dharma is not a dharma that observes so-called silence – it is kīrtana-dharma, it is saṅkīrtana-dharma.In Śrī Gauḍīya Maṭha, whoever is preaching by compiling books or writing articles for periodicals are performing kṛṣṇa-kīrtana. They are performing kṛṣṇa-kīrtana through the medium of the ‘Big Mṛdaṅga’ which also includes opening a post-office and establishing a printing press. Organising exhibitions is also kṛṣṇa-kīrtana. Some perform kṛṣṇa-kīrtana through their own good conduct. In order that this kṛṣṇa-kīrtana does not fade into thin air, it is being recorded in books, so that people in the future will also be able to hear this kṛṣṇa-kīrtana. However, those who only perform solitary meditation, who remain in silence, can hardly even benefit themselves and indeed they cannot give any benefit to others at present, what to say of people in the future!