21 Even the lowest of men can be elevated by the holy name

Even The Lowest Of Men Can Be Elevated By The Holy Name

The holy name is readily available to even the lowest type of man:

"'The holy name of Lord Krsna … is so powerful that save for the dumb who cannot chant it, it is readily available to everyone, including the lowest type of man, the candala…'"

– Padyavali (24), by Rupa Gosvami
– [cited: Sri Caitanya−caritamrta Madhya lila 15.110]

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu distributed the nectar of the holy name to everyone:

The most munificent Supreme Personality of Godhead, known as Gaurakrsna, distributed to everyone−even the lowest of men−His own confidential treasury in the form of the nectar of love of Himself and the holy name. This was never given to the people at any time before. I therefore offer my respectful obeisances unto Him.

– Sri Caitanya−caritamrta Madhya lila 23.1

Regardless of social position, one should chant the holy name to overcome the spell of maya and attain the transcendental platform:

Following the orders of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Govinda, His personal servant, called for all the poor beggars, who were unhappy due to their poverty, and fed them sumptuously. Observing the beggars eating prasada, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu chanted, "Hari bol!"  and instructed them to chant the holy name. As soon as the beggars chanted the holy name, "Hari bol," they were immediately absorbed in ecstatic love of Godhead. In this way Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu performed wonderful pastimes.

Krsna conducts the material world under the three modes of material nature, and consequently there are three platforms of life−higher, middle and lower. On whatever platform one may be situated, one is tossed by the waves of material nature. Someone may be rich, someone may be middle class, and someone may be a poor beggar−it doesn't matter. As long as one is under the spell of the three modes of material nature, he must continue to experience these divisions.

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu therefore advised the beggars to chant "Hari bol!" while taking prasada. Chanting means accepting one's self as the eternal servant of Krsna. This is the only solution, regardless of social position. Everyone is suffering under the spell of maya; therefore the best course is to learn how to get out of the clutches of maya… One can overcome the spell of maya and attain the transcendental platform by agreeing to engage in the devotional service of the Lord. Devotional service begins with sravanam kirtanam; therefore Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu advised the beggars to chant the Hare Krsna maha−mantra for elevation to the transcendental position. On the transcendental platform, there is no distinction between the rich, the middle class and the poor.

– Sri Caitanya caritamrta Madhya lila 14.44−46


By chanting the holy name, one can be delivered regardless of caste, creed, color or social position:

Generally brahmanas are puffed up with false prestige because they belong to the aristocracy and perform many Vedic sacrifices. In South India especially, this fastidious position is most prominent. At any rate, this was the case five hundred years ago. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu actually started a revolution against this brahminical system by inaugurating the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra. By this chanting, one can be delivered regardless of caste, creed, color or social position. Whoever chants the Hare Krsna maha−mantra is immediately purified due to the transcendental position of devotional service. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is here hinting to Vallabha Bhattacarya that an exalted brahmana who makes sacrifices and follows the Vedic principles should not neglect a person who is engaged in devotional service by chanting the holy name of the Lord.

– Sri Caitanya caritamrta Madhya lila 19.69

Even the lowest class of men is delivered from sinful activities simply by hearing the holy name of the Lord:

[King Citraketu to Lord Sankarsana]: My Lord, it is not impossible for one to be immediately freed from all material contamination by seeing You. Not to speak of seeing You personally, merely by hearing the holy name of Your Lordship only once, even candalas, men of the lowest class, are freed from all material contamination. Under the circumstances, who will not be freed from material contamination simply by seeing You?

As stated in the Srimad Bhagavatam (9.5.16), yan−nama−sruti−matrena puman bhavati nirmalah: simply by hearing the holy name of the Lord, one is immediately purified. Therefore, in this age of Kali, when all people are very contaminated, the chanting of the holy name of the Lord is recommended as the only means of improvement.

harer nama harer nama harer namaiva kevalam
kalau nasty eva nasty eva nasty eva gatir anyatha
[Adi 17.21]

"In this age of quarrel and hypocrisy the only means of deliverance is the chanting of the holy name of the Lord. There is no other way. There is no other way. There is no other way." (Brhan−naradiya Purana)

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu introduced this chanting of the holy name five hundred years ago, and now through the Krsna consciousness movement, the Hare Krsna movement, we are actually seeing that men who are considered to belong to the lowest class are being delivered from all sinful activities simply by hearing the holy name of the Lord. Samsara, material existence, is a result of sinful actions. Everyone in this material world is condemned, yet as there are different grades of prisoners, there are different grades of men. All of them, in all statuses of life, are suffering. To stop the suffering of material existence, one must take to the Hare Krsna movement of sankirtana or Krsna conscious life.

Herein it is said, yan−nama sakrc chravanat: the holy name of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is so powerful that if once heard without offenses, it can purify the lowest of men (kirata− hunandhra− pulinda− pulkasah). Such men, who are called candalas, are less than sudras, but they also can be purified simply by hearing the holy name of the Lord, not to speak of personally seeing the Lord.

– Srimad Bhagavatam 6.16.44

Chanting of the holy names delivers one from the effects of sins and of lower−caste birth:

[Suta Gosvami to the sages at Naimisaranya]: Sri Suta Gosvami said: O God, although we are born in a mixed caste, we are still promoted in birthright simply by serving and following the great who are advanced in knowledge.Even by conversing with such great souls, one can without delay cleanse oneself of all disqualifications resulting from lower births. And what to speak of those who are under the direction of the great devotees, chanting the holy name of the Unlimited, who has unlimited potency? The Personality of Godhead, unlimited in potency and transcendental by attributes, is called the ananta [Unlimited].

The dvija−bandhu, or the less intelligent, uncultured men born of higher castes, put forward many arguments against the lower−caste men becoming brahmanas in this life. They argue that birth in a family of sudras or less than sudras is made possible by one's previous sinful acts and that one therefore has to complete the terms of disadvantages due to lower birth. And to answer these false logicians, Srimad Bhagavatam asserts that one who chants the holy name of the Lord under the direction of a pure devotee can at once get free from the disadvantages due to a lower−caste birth… Offenseless chanting indicates that one has fully understood the transcendental nature of the holy name and has thus surrendered unto the Lord. Transcendentally the holy name of the Lord and the Lord Himself are identical, being absolute. The holy name of the Lord is as powerful as the Lord. The Lord is the all−powerful Personality of Godhead, and He has innumerable names, which are all nondifferent from Him and are equally powerful also. In the last word of the Bhagavad−gita the Lord asserts that one who surrenders fully unto Him is protected from all sins by the grace of the Lord. Since His name and He Himself are identical, the holy name of the Lord can protect the devotee from all effects of sins. The chanting of the holy name of the Lord can undoubtedly deliver one from the disadvantages of a lower−caste birth. The Lord's unlimited power is extended on and on by the unlimited expansion of the devotees and incarnations, and thus every devotee of the Lord and incarnations also can be equally surcharged with the potency of the Lord. Since the devotee is surcharged with the potency of the Lord, even fractionally, the disqualification due to lower birth cannot stand in the way.

– Srimad Bhagavatam 1.18.18−19

By chanting the holy name, even a lowborn person's body is changed into that of a brahmana:

[Sukadeva Gosvami to King Pariksit]: My dear King, a devotee who has taken shelter of the dust from the lotus feet of the Lord can transcend the influence of the six material whips−namely hunger, thirst, lamentation,illusion, old age and death−and he can conquer the mind and five senses. However, this is not very wonderful for a pure devotee of the Lord because even a person beyond the jurisdiction of the four castes−in other words, an untouchable−is immediately relieved of bondage to material existence if he utters the holy name of the Lord even once.

Not to speak of a sanctified devotee, even a candala, an outcaste, who is untouchable, is immediately freed from material bondage if he utters the holy name of the Lord even once. Sometimes caste brahmanas argue that unless one changes his body he cannot be accepted as a brahmana, for since the present body is obtained as a result of past actions, one who has in the past acted as a brahmana takes birth in a brahmana family. Therefore, they contend, without such a brahminical body, one cannot be accepted as a brahmana. Herein it is said, however, that even vidura−vigata, a candala−a fifth−class untouchable−is freed if he utters the holy name even once. Being freed means that he immediately changes his body. Sanatana Gosvami confirms this:

yatha kancanatam kamsyam rasa−vidhanatah
tatha diksa−vidhanena dvijatvam jayate nrnam

When a person, even though a candala, is initiated by a pure devotee into chanting the holy name of the Lord, his body changes as he follows the instructions of the spiritual master. Although one cannot see how his body has changed, we must accept, on the grounds of the authoritative statements of the sastras, that he changes his body. This is to be understood without arguments. This verse clearly says, sa jahati bandham: "He gives up his material bondage." The body is a symbolic representation of material bondage according to one's karma. Although sometimes we cannot see the gross body changing, chanting the holy name of the Supreme Lord immediately changes the subtle body, and because the subtle body changes, the living entity is immediately freed from material bondage. After all, changes of the gross body are conducted by the subtle body. After the destruction of the gross body, the subtle body takes the living entity from his present gross body to another. In the subtle body, the mind is predominant, and therefore if one's mind is always absorbed in remembering the activities or the lotus feet of the Lord, he is to be understood to have already changed his present body and become purified. 

– Srimad Bhagavatam 5.1.35

By chanting the holy name offenselessly, even a person of low birth is freed from sinful reactions, becomes qualified as a brahmana, and becomes eligible to perform Vedic sacrifices:

[Devahuti to Lord Kapila]: To say nothing of the spiritual advancement of persons who see the Supreme Person face to face, even a person born in a family of dog−eaters immediately becomes eligible to perform Vedic sacrifices if he once utters the holy name of the Supreme Personality of Godhead or chants about Him, hears about His pastimes, offers Him obeisances or even remembers Him.

Herein the spiritual potency of chanting, hearing or remembering the holy name of the Supreme Lord is greatly stressed. Rupa Gosvami has discussed the sequence of sinful activities of the conditioned soul, and he has established, in Bhakti−rasamrta−sindhu, that those who engage in devotional service become freed from the reactions of all sinful activities. This is also confirmed in Bhagavad−gita. The Lord says that He takes charge of one who surrenders unto Him, and He makes him immune to all reactions to sinful activities. If by chanting the holy name of the Supreme Personality of Godhead one becomes so swiftly cleared of all reactions to sinful activities, then what is to be said of those Persons who see Him face to face?

Another consideration here is that persons who are purified by the process of chanting and hearing become immediately eligible to perform Vedic sacrifices. Generally, only a person who is born in a family of brahmanas, who has been reformed by the ten kinds of purificatory processes and who is learned in Vedic literature is allowed to perform theVedic sacrifices. But here the word sadyah, "immediately," is used, and Sridhara Svami also remarks that one can immediately become eligible to perform Vedic sacrifices. A person born in a family of the low caste which is accustomed to eat dogs is so positioned due to his past sinful activities, but by chanting or hearing once in pureness, or in an offenseless manner, he is immediately relieved of the sinful reaction. Not only is he relieved of the sinful reaction, but he immediately achieves the result of all purificatory processes. Taking birth in the family of a brahmana is certainly due to pious activities in one's past life. But still a child who is born in a family of a brahmana depends for his further reformation upon initiation into acceptance of a sacred thread and many other reformatory processes. But a person who chants the holy name of the Lord, even if born in a family of candalas, dog−eaters, does not need reformation. Simply by chanting Hare Krsna, he immediately becomes purified and becomes as good as the most learned brahmana.

Sridhara Svami especially remarks in this connection, anena pujyatvam laksyate. Some caste brahmanas remark that by chanting Hare Krsna, purification begins. Of course, that  depends on the individual process of chanting, but this remark of Sridhara Svami's is completely applicable if one chants the holy name of the Lord without offense, for he immediately becomes more than a brahmana. As Sridhara Svami says, pujyatvam: he immediately becomes as respectable as a most learned brahmana and can be allowed to perform Vedic sacrifices.

– Srimad Bhagavatam 3.33.6

Even a low−class person can become a brahmana and fit to perform Vedic sacrifices by chanting the holy name:

[Devahuti to Lord Kapila]: "'To say nothing of the spiritual advancement of persons who see the Supreme Person face to face, even a person born in a family of dog−eaters becomes immediately eligible to perform Vedic sacrifices if he once utters the holy name of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, or chants about Him, hears about His pastimes, offers Him obeisances or even remembers Him.'"

This is a quotation from Srimad Bhagavatam (3.33.6). According to this verse, it doesn't matter what position a person holds. One may be the lowest of the low−a candala, or dog−eater−but if he takes to chanting and hearing the holy name of the Lord, he is immediately eligible to perform Vedic sacrifices. This is especially true in this age of Kali… A person born in a brahmana family cannot perform Vedic sacrifices until he is properly purified and has attained his sacred thread. However, according to this verse, it is understood that even a lowborn person can immediately perform sacrifices if he sincerely chants and hears the holy name of the Lord. Sometimes envious people ask how Europeans and Americans in this Krsna consciousness movement can become brahmanas and perform sacrifices. They do not know that the Europeans and Americans have already been purified by chanting the holy name of the Lord

Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare 
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

This is the proof. Svado 'pi sadyah savanaya kalpate. One may be born in a family of dog−eaters, but he can perform sacrifices simply by chanting the maha−mantra. Those who find fault in the Western Vaisnavas should consider this statement from Srimad Bhagavatam and the commentary on this verse by Srila Jiva Gosvami. In this regard, Srila Jiva Gosvami has stated that to become a brahmana, one has to wait for purification and undergo the sacred thread ceremony, but a chanter of the holy name does not have to wait for the sacred thread ceremony. We do not allow devotees to perform sacrifices until they are properly initiated in the sacred thread ceremony. Yet according to this verse, an offenseless chanter of the holy name is already fit to perform a fire ceremony, even though he is not doubly initiated by the sacred thread ceremony. This is the verdict given by Lord Kapiladeva in His instructions to His mother, Devahuti. 

– Sri Caitanya caritamrta Madhya lila 16.186

Although born in a Muhammadan family, Haridasa thakura became a regularly initiatedbrahmana as well as Namacarya by dint of chanting the holy name:

According to external vision, Haridasa thakura belonged to a Muhammadan family. Nevertheless, because he engaged himself in performing the yajna of chanting the Hare Krsna maha−mantra, he became a regularly initiated brahmana. As stated in Srimad Bhagavatam (3.33.6):

yat−prahvanad yat−smaranad api kvacit
svado 'pi sadyah savanaya kalpate 
kutah punas te bhagavan nu darsanat

Even if a devotee comes from a family of dog−eaters, if he surrenders to the Personality of Godhead he immediately becomes a qualified brahmana and is immediately fit to perform yajna, whereas a person born in a family of brahmanas has to wait until completing the reformatory processes before he may be called samskrta, purified… A person who is not purified by the prescribed process of samskara is called asamskrta, but if one remains kriya−hina even after being purified by initiation−in other words, if one fails to actually apply the principles of purity in his life−he remains an unpurified mleccha or yavana. On the other hand, we find that Haridasa thakura, although born in a mleccha or yavana family, became Namacarya Haridasa thakura because he performed the nama−yayna a minimum of 300,000 times every day.

– Sri Caitanya caritamrta Antya lila 3.124

Vallabha Bhattacarya admitted that those who chant the holy name are qualified as brahmanas and Vaisnavas:

Thereafter, Vallabha Bhatta invited Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu for lunch, and the Lord introduced the brothers Rupa and Vallabha to him. From a distance, the brothers Rupa Gosvami and Sri Vallabha fell on the ground and offered obeisances to Vallabha Bhatta  with great humility. When Vallabha Bhattacarya walked toward them, they ran away to a more distant place. Rupa Gosvami said, "I am untouchable and most sinful. Please do not touch me." Vallabha Bhattacarya was very surprised at this. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, however, was very pleased, and He therefore spoke to him this descrlption of Rupa Gosvami. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu said, "Don't touch him, for he belongs to a very low caste. You are a follower of Vedic principles and are a well experienced performer of many sacrifices. You also belong to the aristocracy." Hearing the holy name constantly vibrated by the two brothers, Vallabha Bhattacarya could understand the hints of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Vallabha Bhattacarya admitted, "Since these two are constantly chanting the holy name of Krsna, how can they be untouchable? On the contnry, they are most exalted."

Vallabha Bhattacarya's admission of the brothers' exalted position should serve as a lesson to one who is falsely proud of his position as a brahmana. Sometimes so−called brahmanas do not recognize our European and American disciples as devotees or brahmanas, and some brahmanas are so proud that they do not allow them to enter temples. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu herein gives a great lesson. Although Vallabha Bhattacarya was a great authority on brahmanism and a learned scholar, he admitted that those who chant the Lord's holy name are bona fide brahmanas and Vaisnavas and are therefore exalted.

– Sri Caitanya caritamrta Madhya lila 19.65−71

By the mercy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, even unclean yavanas can become cultured Vaisnavas by chanting the holy name:

Let me offer my respectful obeisances to Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, by whose mercy even unclean yavanas become perfectly well−bred gentlemen by chanting the holy name of the Lord. Such is the power of Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.

There is a persistent misunderstanding between caste brahmanas and advanced Vaisnavas or gosvamis because caste brahmanas, or smartas, are of the opinion that one cannot become a brahmana unless he changes his body. As we have discussed several times, it is to be understood that by the supremely powerful potency of the Lord, as described by Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami, everything is possible. Caitanya Mahaprabhu is as fully independent as Krsna. Therefore no one can interfere with His activities. If He wants, by His mercy He can convert even a yavana, an unclean follower of non−Vedic principles, into a perfectly well−behaved gentleman. This is actually happening in our propagation of the Krsna consciousness movement. The members of the present Krsna consciousness movement were not born in India, nor do they belong to the Vedic culture, but within the short time of four or five years they have become such wonderful devotees, simply by chanting the Hare Krsna mantra, that even in India they are well received as perfectly well behaved Vaisnavas wherever they go.

– Sri Caitanya caritamrta Adi lila 17.1

Author: ISKCON Desire Tree

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