03 Offenseless chanting of the holy name
One should avoid offenses against the holy name:
[Lord Caitanya to Sanatana Gosvami]: "One should avoid offenses against devotional service and the holy name."
The eleventh item is to avoid offenses when rendering devotional service and chanting the holy names.
– Sri Caitanya caritamrta Madhya lila 22.117
Mechanical chanting is not as powerful as offenseless chanting:
Mechanical chanting is not as powerful as chanting of the holy name without offenses.
– Sri Caitanya caritamrta Adi lila 10.43
The offenseless chanter of the holy name is as auspicious as the Lord and can purify the world:
The offenseless chanter of the holy name of the Lord is as auspicious as the Lord Himself, and the movement of pure devotees of the Lord all over the world can at once change the troublesome face of the world. Only by the propagation of the chanting of the holy name of the Lord can we be immune from all effects of the age of Kali.
– Srimad Bhagavatam 1.16.32−33
How to Develop Offenseless Chanting
Repeated chanting brings one to the stage of offenseless chanting:
The chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra is recommended even for persons who commit offenses, because if they continue chanting they will gradually chant offenselessly. By chanting the Hare Krsna mantra without offenses, one increases his love for Krsna.
Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti thakura quotes this verse from the Padma Purana:
namaparadha−yukt namany eva haranty agham
avisranti−prayuktani tany evartha−karani ca
Even if in the beginning one chants the Hare Krsna mantra with offenses, one will become free from such offenses by chanting again and again. Papa−ksayas ca bhavati smaratam tam ahar−nisam: one becomes free from all sinful reactions if one chants day and night, following the recommendation of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
– Srimad Bhagavatam 6.3.24
To become free from offenses to the holy name, one must continue to chant constantly and also humbly offer prayers in glorification of the holy name:
While chanting the holy name of the Lord, one should be careful to avoid ten offenses. From Sanat kumara it is understood that even if a person is a severe offender in many ways, he is freed from offensive life if he takes shelter of the Lord’s holy name. Indeed, even if a human being is no better than a two-legged animal, he will be liberated if he takes shelter of the holy name of the Lord. One should therefore be very careful not to commit offenses at the lotus feet of the Lord’s holy name.
The offenses are described as follows:
(a) to blaspheme a devotee, especially a devotee engaged in broadcasting the glories of the holy name,
(b) to consider the name of Lord Siva or any other demigod to be equally as powerful as the holy name of the Supreme Personality of Godhead (no one is equal to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, nor is anyone superior to Him),
(c) to disobey the instructions of the spiritual master,
(d) to blaspheme the Vedic literatures and literatures compiled in pursuance of the Vedic literatures,
(e) to comment that the glories of the holy name of the Lord are exaggerated,
(f) to interpret the holy name in a deviant way,
(g) to commit sinful activities on the strength of chanting the holy name,
(h) to compare the chanting of the holy name to pious activities,
(i) to instruct the glories of the holy name to a person who has no understanding of the chanting of the holy name,
(j) not to awaken in transcendental attachment for the chanting of the holy name, even after hearing all these scriptural injunctions.
There is no way to atone for any of these offenses. It is therefore recommended that an offender at the feet of the holy name continue to chant the holy name twenty four hours a day. Constant chanting of the holy name will make one free of offenses, and then he will gradually be elevated to the transcendental platform on which he can chant the pure holy name and thus become a lover of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
It is recommended that even if one commits offenses, one should continue chanting the holy name. In other words, the chanting of the holy name makes one offenseless. In the book Nama−kaumudi it is recommended that if one is an offender at the lotus feet of a Vaisnava, he should submit to that Vaisnava and be excused; similarly, if one is an offender in chanting the holy name, he should submit to the holy name and thus be freed from his offenses.
One should be very humble and meek to offer one's desires and chant prayers composed in glorification of the holy name, such as ayi mukta−kulair upasyamanam and nivrtta−tarsair upagiyamanad [SB 10.1.4]. One should chant such prayers to become free from offenses at the lotus feet of the holy name.
– Srimad Bhagavatam 7.5.23−24
By developing one's service attitude toward the Lord, one can come to chant without offense:
Caitanya Mahaprabhu has recommended that everyone chant the Hare Krsna mantra just to cleanse the dust from the heart. If the dust of the heart is cleansed away, then one can actually understand the importance of the holy name. For persons who are not inclined to clean the dust from their heart and want to keep things as they are, it is not possible to derive the transcendental result of chanting the Hare Krsna mantra. One should, therefore, be encouraged to develop his service attitude toward the Lord, because this will help him to chant without any offense. And so, under the guidance of a spiritual master, the disciple is trained simultaneously to render service and at the same time to chant the Hare Krsna mantra. As soon as one develops his spontaneous service attitude, he can immediately understand the transcendental nature of the holy names of the maha mantra.
– The Nectar of Devotion
One can chant Hare Krsna offenselessly by developing genuine humility:
Devahuti shows us the process for understanding transcendental subject matters. It is not by challenge but by submission. The entire bhakti process is a process of submission. That is also Caitanya Mahaprabhu's teaching:
trnad api sunicena taror iva sahisnuna
amanina manadena kirtaniyah sada harih
[Cc. adi 17.31]
If one is interested in advancing in chanting Hare Krsna, Caitanya Mahaprabhu advises that one be humbler than the grass and more tolerant than the trees. One should not be very proud of his intelligence but should give all respect to others. In this way, one can chant Hare Krsna offenselessly.
– Teachings of Lord Kapila, the Son of Devahuti
When one realizes that the holy name and the Lord are identical, he can chant offenselessly:
When one realizes that the holy name of the Lord is identical with the Supreme Person, he becomes completely eligible to chant the holy name of the Lord.
– Sri Caitanya caritamrta Adi lila 7.73
The holy name cannot be chanted offenselessly by one who is not pure:
It is said in the Padma Purana: "There is no difference between the holy name of the Lord and the Lord Himself. As such, the holy name is as perfect as the Lord Himself in fullness, purity and eternity. The holy name is no material sound vibration, nor has it any material contamination." The holy name cannot, therefore, be chanted offenselessly by one who has failed to purify his senses. In other words, materialistic senses cannot properly chant the holy names of the Hare Krsna maha−mantra. But, by adopting this chanting process, one is given a chance to actually purify himself so that he may very soon chant offenselessly.
Caitanya Mahaprabhu has recommended that everyone chant the Hare Krsna mantra just to cleanse the dust from the heart. If the dust of the heart is cleansed away, then one can actually understand the importance of the holy name. For persons who are not inclined to clean the dust from their heart and want to keep things as they are, it is not possible to derive the transcendental result of chanting the Hare Krsna mantra.
– The Nectar of Devotion
Effects of Offenseless Chanting
By chanting offenselessly, one comes to realize that the lord and his name are nondifferent
Offenseless chanting leads to realization of oneness of the holy name and the Lord Himself:
The chanting of the holy names of Krsna is so sublime that if one chants the Hare Krsna maha mantra offenselessly, carefully avoiding the ten offenses, he can certainly be gradually elevated to the point of understanding that there is no difference between the holy name of the Lord and the Lord Himself.
– The Nectar of Instruction Text 5
One must come to the understanding that the holy name of the Lord and the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself are identical. One cannot reach this conclusion unless one is offenseless in chanting the holy name. By our material calculation we see a difference between the name and the substance, but in the spiritual world the Absolute is always absolute; the name, form, quality and pastimes of the Absolute are all as good as the Absolute Himself. As such, one is understood to be an eternal servant of the Supreme Personality of Godhead if he considers himself an eternal servant of the holy name and in this spirit distributes the holy name to the world. One who chants in that spirit, without offenses, is certainly elevated to the platform of understanding that the holy name and the Personality of Godhead are identical.
– Sri Caitanya caritamrta Adi lila 8.16
To realize that Krsna and His name are nondifferent, one has to chant the holy name offenselessly:
Unless one is advanced in krsna prema, love of Krsna, he cannot see or understand. By the blunt material senses, we cannot even understand the name of Krsna. People are always asking, "Why are these people chanting Hare Krsna?" They cannot understand, although Krsna realization begins with the name. The name of Krsna and Krsna are nondifferent, but we cannot realize this intellectually. We have to practice chanting Hare Krsna to realize it. When we actually advance in devotional service and chant the Hare Krsna maha mantra offenselessly, we will realize that Krsna and His name are nondifferent.
– Teachings of Lord Kapila, the Son of Devahuti
Other effects of offenseless chanting
The meaning and effect of offenseless chanting:
[Suta Gosvami to the sages at Naimisaranya]: 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].
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. A pure devotee of the Lord does not commit any offense while chanting the holy name of the Lord. There are ten different offenses in the chanting of the holy name of the Lord. To chant the holy name under the direction of a pure devotee is offenseless chanting. Offenseless chanting of the holy name of the Lord is transcendental, and, therefore, such chanting can at once purify one from the effects of all kinds of previous sins. This offenseless chanting indicates that one has fully understood the transcendental nature of the holy name and has thus surrendered unto the Lord.
– Srimad Bhagavatam 1.18.19
Offenseless chanting awakens one's original dormant Krsna consciousness and is the beginning of sadhana bhakti:
The process of devotional service beginning with chanting and hearing is called sadhana bhakti. This includes the regulative principles that are intended to awaken one to devotional service. Devotional service is always dormant in everyone's heart, and by the offenseless chanting of the holy names of the Lord, one's original dormant Krsna consciousness is awakened. This awakening to Krsna consciousness is the beginning of sadhana bhakti. This can be divided into many different parts, including faith, association with devotees, initiation by the spiritual master, engagement in devotional service under the instructions of a spiritual master, steadiness in devotional service and the awakening of a taste for devotional service. In this way, one can become attached to Krsna and His service, and when this attachment is intensified, it results in ecstatic love for Krsna.
– Sri Caitanya caritamrta Madhya lila 19.177
By chanting offenselessly, one gets immediate shelter at Krsna's lotus feet:
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu further advised Subuddhi Raya: "Begin chanting the Hare Krsna mantra, and when your chanting is almost pure, all your sinful reactions will go away. After you chant perfectly, you will get shelter at the lotus feet of Krsna."
The ten kinds of offenses should be considered. In the beginning, when one is initiated into the chanting of the Hare Krsna maha−mantra, there are naturally many offenses. However, the devotee should be very careful to avoid these offenses and chant purely. This does not mean that the Hare Krsna maha mantra is sometimes pure and sometimes impure. Rather, the chanter is impure due to material contamination. He has to purify himself so that the holy names will be perfectly effective. Chanting the holy name of the Lord inoffensively will help one get immediate shelter at Krsna's lotus feet. This means that by chanting purely, one will immediately be situated on the transcendental platform.
– Sri Caitanya caritamrta Madhya lila 25.199
One can come to the bhava stage only by offenseless chanting of the holy name:
[Saunaka Rsi to Suta Gosvami]: Certainly that heart is steel−framed which, in spite of one's chanting the holy name of the Lord with concentration, does not change when ecstasy takes place, tears fill the eyes and the hairs stand on end.
The whole process of spiritual culture is aimed at changing the heart of the living being in the matter of his eternal relation with the Supreme Lord as subordinate servant, which is his eternal constitutional position. So with the progress of devotional service, the reaction of change in the heart is exhibited by gradual detachment from the sense of material enjoyment by a false sense of lording it over the world and an increase in the attitude of rendering loving service to the Lord. It is expected by all means that by discharging regulated devotional service one must manifest the change of heart. If there is no such change, the heart must be considered steel−framed, for it is not melted even when there is chanting of the holy name of the Lord. We must always remember that hearing and chanting are the basic principles of discharging devotional duties, and if they are properly performed there will follow the reactional ecstasy with signs of tears in the eyes and standing of the hairs on the body. These are natural consequences and are the preliminary symptoms of the bhava stage, which occurs before one reaches the perfectional stage of prema, love of Godhead.
If the reaction does not take place, even after continuous hearing and chanting of the holy name of the Lord, it may be considered to be due to offenses only. That is the opinion of the Sandarbha. In the beginning of chanting of the holy name of the Lord, if the devotee has not been very careful about evading the ten kinds of offenses at the feet of the holy name, certainly the reaction of feelings of separation will not be visible by tears in the eyes and standing of the hair on end.
The bhava stage is manifested by eight transcendental symptoms, namely inertness, perspiration, standing of hairs on end, failing in the voice, trembling, paleness of the body, tears in the eyes and finally trance… real, steady bhava is definitely displayed in the matter of cessation of material desires (ksanti), utilization of every moment in the transcendental loving service of the Lord (avyartha−kalatvam [Cc.Madhya 23.18−19]), eagerness for glorifying the Lord constantly (nama−gane sada ruci [Cc. Madhya 23.32]), attraction for living in the land of the Lord (pritis tad−vasati−sthale [Cc.Madhya 23.18−19]), complete detachment from material happiness (virakti), and pridelessness (mana−sunyata). One who has developed all these transcendental qualities is really possessed of the bhava stage, as distinguished from the stonehearted imitator or mundane devotee.
The whole process can be summarized as follows: The advanced devotee who chants the holy name of the Lord in a perfectly offenseless manner and is friendly to everyone can actually relish the transcendental taste of glorifying the Lord. And the result of such realization is reflected in the cessation of all material desires, etc., as mentioned above. The neophytes, due to their being in the lower stage of devotional service, are invariably envious, so much so that they invent their own ways and means of devotional regulations without following the acaryas. As such, even if they make a show of constantly chanting the holy name of the Lord, they cannot relish the transcendental taste of the holy name.
– Srimad Bhagavatam 2.3.24
One who chants offenselessly develops symptoms of ecstasy and becomes eligible to enter the kingdom of God:
[Lord Brahma to the demigods]: Persons whose bodily features change in ecstasy and who breathe heavily and perspire due to hearing the glories of the Lord are promoted to the kingdom of God, even though they do not care for meditation and other austerities…
When one is free from all ten offenses in chanting the holy name of God, he develops the ecstatic bodily features called pulakasru. Pulaka means "symptoms of happiness," and asru means "tears in the eyes." The symptoms of happiness and tears in the eyes must appear in a person who has chanted the holy name offenselessly. Here in this verse it is stated that those who have actually developed the symptoms of happiness and tears in the eyes by chanting the glories of the Lord are eligible to enter the kingdom of God.
– Srimad Bhagavatam 3.15.25
By offenseless chanting, one attains God realization, develops mystic powers and, ultimately, becomes a confidential devotee of the Lord:
[Narada Muni to Srila Vyasadeva]: Thus he is the actual seer who worships, in the form of transcendental sound representation, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Visnu, who has no material form. O brahmana, thus by the Supreme Lord Krsna I was endowed first with the transcendental knowledge of the Lord as inculcated in the confidential parts of the Vedas, then with the spiritual opulences, and then with His intimate loving service.
Communion with the Lord by transmission of the transcendental sound is nondifferent from the whole spirit Lord Sri Krsna. It is a completely perfect method for approaching the Lord. By such pure contact with the Lord, without offense of material conceptions (numbering ten), the devotee can rise above the material plane to understand the inner meaning of the Vedic literatures, including the Lord's existence in the transcendental realm. The Lord reveals His identity gradually to one who has unflinching faith, both in the spiritual master and in the Lord. After this, the devotee is endowed with mystic opulences, which are eight in number. And above all, the devotee is accepted in the confidential entourage of the Lord and is entrusted with specific service of the Lord through the agency of the spiritual master. A pure devotee is more interested in serving the Lord than in showing an exhibition of the mystic powers dormant in him. Sri Narada has explained all these from his personal experience, and one can obtain all the facilities which Sri Narada obtained by perfecting the chanting process of the sound representation of the Lord.
– Srimad Bhagavatam 1.5.38−39
One who sincerely chants the holy name without offense is better than a brahmana:
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu then glanced with mercy at the Muhammadan governor. Giving him assurance, He asked him to chant the holy names Krsna and Hari.
It is Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's mercy that He advises everyone−even candalas, mlecchas and yavanas−to chant the holy name of the Lord. Whoever follows Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's instructions will certainly be purified, and one who sincerely chants the holy name offenselessly is already more than a brahmana.
– Sri Caitanya caritamrta Madhya lila 16.187
When one chants the holy name offenselessly, he can make disciples all over the world:
When one is completely fit to chant the holy name [offenselessly], he is eligible to make disciples all over the world, and he actually becomes jagad−guru. Then the entire world, under his influence, begins to chant the holy names of the Hare Krsna maha−mantra. Thus all the disciples of such a spiritual master increase in attachment for Krsna, and therefore he sometimes cries, sometimes laughs, sometimes dances and sometimes chants.
– Sri Caitanya caritamrta Adi lila 7.83
Even unintentional chanting can be offenseless if not performed to counteract sinful activities:
[The Visnudutas to the Yamadutas]: Ajamila has already atoned for all his sinful actions. Indeed, he has atoned not only for sins performed in one life but for those performed in millions of lives, for in a helpless condition he chanted the holy name of Narayana. Even though he did not chant purely, he chanted without offense, and therefore he is now pure and eligible for liberation. The Visnudutas continued: Even previously, while eating and at other times, this Ajamila would call his son, saying, "My dear Narayana, please come here." Although calling the name of his son, he nevertheless uttered the four syllables na−ra−ya−na. Simply by chanting the name of Narayana in this way, he sufficiently atoned for the sinful reactions of millions of lives. Previously, when engaged in sinful activities to maintain his family, Ajamila chanted the name of Narayana without offenses. To chant the holy name of the Lord just to counteract one's sinful activities, or to commit sinful activities on the strength of chanting the holy name, is offensive (namno balad yasya hi papa−buddhih). But although Ajamila engaged in sinful activities, he never chanted the holy name of Narayana to counteract them; he simply chanted the name Narayana to call his son. Therefore his chanting was effective. Because of chanting the holy name of Narayana in this way, he had already vanquished the accumulated sinful reactions of many, many lives. In the beginning he was pure, but although he later committed many sinful acts, he was offenseless because he did not chant the holy name of Narayana to counteract them. One who always chants the holy name of the Lord without offenses is always pure. As confirmed in this verse Ajamila was already sinless, and because he chanted the name of Narayana he remained sinless. It did not matter that he was calling his son; the name itself was effective.
– Srimad Bhagavatam 6.2.7−8
Even though he was sinful, Ajamila's casual chanting was inoffensive because it was not performed to counteract his sinful activities:
Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti thakura's commentary to texts nine and ten of this chapter form a dialogue concerning how one can become free from all sinful reactions simply by chanting the holy name of the Lord…
Ajamila had named his son Narayana, and because he loved the boy very much, he would call him again and again. Although he was calling for his son, the name itself was powerful because the name Narayana is not different from the Supreme Lord Narayana. When Ajamila named his son Narayana, all the reactions of his sinful life were neutralized, and as he continued calling his son and thus chanting the holy name of Narayana thousands of times, he was actually unconsciously advancing in Krsna consciousness.
One may argue, "Since he was constantly chanting the name of Narayana, how was it possible for him to be associating with a prostitute and thinking of wine?" By his sinful actions he was bringing suffering upon himself again and again, and therefore one may say that his ultimate chanting of Narayana was the cause of his being freed. However, his chanting would then have been a nama−aparadha. Namno balad yasya hi papa−buddhih: one who continues to act sinfully and tries to neutralize his sins by chanting the holy name of the Lord is a nama−aparadhi, an offender to the holy name. In response it may be said that Ajamila's chanting was inoffensive because he did not chant the name of Narayana with the purpose of counteracting his sins. He did not know that he was addicted to sinful actions, nor did he know that his chanting of the name of Narayana was neutralizing them. Thus he did not commit a nama−aparadha, and his repeated chanting of the holy name of Narayana while calling his son may be called pure chanting. Because of this pure chanting, Ajamila unconsciously accumulated the results of bhakti. Indeed, even his first utterance of the holy name was sufficient to nullify all the sinful reactions of his life. To cite a logical example, a fig tree does not immediately yield fruits, but in time the fruits are available. Similarly, Ajamila's devotional service grew little by little, and therefore although he committed very sinful acts, the reactions did not affect him. In the sastras it is said that if one chants the holy name of the Lord even once, the reactions of past, present or future sinful life do not affect him. To give another example, if one extracts the poison fangs of a serpent, this saves the serpent's future victims from poisonous effects, even if the serpent bites repeatedly. Similarly, if a devotee chants the holy name even once inoffensively, this protects him eternally. He need only wait for the results of the chanting to mature in due course of time.
– Srimad Bhagavatam 6.2 "Supplementary note"