“The special qualification of the pure devotee is that he is always thinking of Krishna without considering the time or place. There should be no impediments. He should be able to carry out his service anywhere and at any time.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 8.14 Purport)
Go through the different scriptural works and you’ll find specific recommendations offered for receiving specific benefits. For instance, if someone has been giving you trouble, like a boss at work, there is a method for curtailing your anger and dealing with the belligerent party in a way that will neutralize them. If you’re down on your luck in personal affairs, wherein you’re trying to either find a spouse or beget children, there are rituals and regulations recommended. Each practice is specific to time and circumstance, and so we see the many different religions that are popular today. Yet the core foundational practice for the spirit soul, what it needs to find pleasure, cannot be checked by any condition. This practice can be implemented in any situation, a fact which reveals the supremacy of its original teacher, who also happens to be the beneficiary of that practice.
The original scriptural tradition of India is the Vedas, and its works are comprehensive and voluminous. There is no equivalent of a Bible in the Vedas because the entire purpose of the original books of knowledge is to glorify God. As one of the features of God is His possession of limitless, glorious attributes, how can He be described in just one or two works? There are original texts that are informative and concise, and then supplements are added on by future generations of learned men.
Each subsequent generation has their own worldview, which means they gain a new perspective to use in their glorification of God. In this way the Vedas constantly expand, with the original conclusion remaining the same. Combing through the vast Vedic literature, we see that there are recommendations for such things as finding wealth. “Do such and such ritual once a month in your home. Invite a brahmana [learned priest] or do the worship yourself. Gather specific paraphernalia, and chant specific mantras. Offer some food items, and at the end eat whatever is left over. By eating the remnants of sacrifice, you will get the boon you are looking for.”
“The devotees of the Lord are released from all kinds of sins because they eat food which is offered first for sacrifice. Others, who prepare food for personal sense enjoyment, verily eat only sin.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.13)
In the Bhagavad-gita it is explained that devotees eat the remnants of sacrifice, while non-devotees prepare food for only their own enjoyment. Sacrifice is borne of prescribed duties, so by performing them there is no sin incurred. A sin is a negative reaction, so the sacrifice thus avoids negative consequences. With the other route, you invite danger, and since the path is not sanctioned, the higher authorities cannot be blamed for the negative consequences that result.
But what if we reference one of these ancient religious texts and find that we don’t have the tools necessary to perform the sacrifice that we want? Say that we want a beautiful wife and we’re told to worship Lord Shiva. What if we don’t know how to worship him? What if we don’t have the items to conduct the worship? And what about the specific fasts? If I already don’t eat spinach, what will avoiding spinach during a specific month of the year do for me?
The rituals and regulations exist for a higher purpose. They are meant to purify our existence, to keep us on the regulated path of life. Nevertheless, attaining the highest benefit in life is not dependent on any specific ritual. Rather, only love is required. And since love is the universal language, it can be spoken by any person, of any age. In divine love, the heartfelt offerings are made directly to the Supreme Lord, the original person.
To love God properly, you should know how to address Him. To address Him properly, you should know some of His features. His all-attractiveness is His most inclusive feature, with a close second being His ability to give transcendental pleasure. Hence the names “Krishna” and “Rama” are most appropriate for Him. His energy is what carries out His work, so through chanting, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, one addresses God perfectly.
This mantra can be chanted in a specific way, such as while seated in a sanctified area. But at the same time, it can also be chanted anywhere. The name is what makes the process effective. This name is learned through hearing, so anyone who is fortunate enough to hear the aforementioned mantra is very fortunate. Those names automatically satisfy every other sacrifice, as the boon of pure love for God is the final target, the objective of all objectives.
Question: Won’t general prayer do the same thing? Why do I have to chant?
Hints of devotional service are seen in all religious traditions. The weekly visit to the church and the daily prayers offered to the higher being indicate devotion. Yet again, these practices have some type of dependency. What if there is no house of worship? What if you can’t find an area for prayer? The name, on the other hand, can be chanted at any time, and at any place. It can be sung to melodies as well. Kirtana-yoga is thus a wonderful way to practice this chanting, wherein there is congregational singing of the holy names in a call-and-response fashion.
The holy name is everything, and through sole dependence on it in bhakti-yoga, one realizes God. Through avoiding sinful activities like meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex, the consciousness is cleared all the more, giving more sweetness from the transcendental chanting. The fact that a single sound vibration can deliver God’s personal presence shows His supreme benevolence and how He is the ultimate well-wisher for every single person.
Religious traditions there are many,
Rituals and regulations thus plenty.
Some help to get a beautiful wife,
Others remove obstacles from life.
But know that there is a final goal,
Rituals thus like spiritual bridge’s toll.
Highest system has no dependence,
Is practiced regardless of residence.
All practices satisfied through holy name,
Hear and chant it for God’s company to gain.