“The sound representation of the Lord is nondifferent from the Lord Himself because the Lord and His representation in sound are absolute knowledge. Lord Chaitanya has instructed us that in the holy name of the Lord, as sound representation of the Lord, all the potencies of the Lord are invested. Thus one can immediately enjoy the association of the Lord by the pure vibration of the sound representation of His holy name, and the concept of the Lord is immediately manifested before the pure devotee.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.5.25 Purport)
The Swiss Army Knife comes in handy in many different situations. If you need to open a bottled beverage, there it is with its opener. If you purchase a product in the store and it is inconveniently packaged in plastic that is practically impossible to open, there are the tiny scissors to help you out. If you need to jot down an important phone number, there is the tiny pen found within the knife. Then, of course, there are the times you need a knife, something sharp to cut something else. All of this is available in one valuable tool, so it is nice to keep it with you. The tight knot of ignorance, which has the extended effect of ruining your outlook on life and making you do all the wrong things, can be cut very quickly with one valuable tool, which brings all auspiciousness at the same time.
What is this tool? For it to work so effectively, it has to have applicability for more than one type of person. As a crude example, some prescription drugs only work with certain patients. If you are taking another kind of prescription drug, you can’t take others. If you have some other type of ailment, this one drug will not work for you. There are all sorts of restrictions, and so the consent of a doctor is required before you can take these more potent medications.
With ignorance, sometimes you might not want to have it dispelled. Think of the drunkard who likes to drink so much that they don’t want anyone changing their ways. Try teaching mathematics to someone who is intoxicated. Actually, try teaching them anything; they won’t learn. The recipient also has to be worthy. A child who doesn’t understand higher concepts can’t be taught much. Someone who doesn’t speak the particular language you use will not understand you.
With the ignorance borne of the darkness of the material world, there are several ways to remove it. The most obvious way is through knowledge. Hear from the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, on how the soul is the chief resident of the body and that everything else is part of the temporary house. Any activity you do to try to make the house more comfortable does only that, fix the house. The resident is not affected. The influence of this behavior on the resident is a negative one, as it forces them to remain occupants for the foreseeable future. At the time of death, the resident moves on to another house to repeat the cycle.
The chief work of study in the Vedas is the Bhagavad-gita, which dispels this flawed identification with the body at the outset. Hear from Shri Krishna, the speaker of the Gita, and take away lessons on karma, duty, reincarnation, the modes of nature, and how to transcend birth and death. But the Bhagavad-gita is a Sanskrit work, so in order to understand it we need to consult a translation done in a language we know. We also need someone to explain the verses, as there is a rich tradition packed into each word. The tradition represents the culture, and so without knowledge of the culture, the verses themselves won’t mean anything to us.
Inherently required is some kind of intelligence. You need to be a good student to get into a good college, and so to understand the teachings coming from the best university of spiritualism, you need to be pretty good at learning. This automatically means that some will not be eligible to attend the university. They will not be able to understand the Bhagavad-gita, so the method of knowledge gathering to dispel ignorance is not available to them.
Another option is to work according to regulative principles. This is generally known as “doing good things”. “Be good; follow the righteous path; don’t sin.” To follow this option you need an expert guide, who can tell you right and wrong. You also need to know what your goal is, what you are working for. Sure, I can work without being attached to the results, but why am I working in the first place? In addition, I need the ability to work. If I can’t work, then this option is not available to me.
Another option is mysticism. Find a remote area, sit on a deerskin rug, and chant the sacred syllable “om” over and over again. Completely abstain from sex life, eat and sleep very little, and focus your mind on the self, which is your identity. By the way, you can’t practice this for fifteen minutes a day and expect to get anywhere. This has to be your only occupation for it to work in dispelling ignorance. As soon as you break away from the yoga, you return to the pool of ignorance, and thus have to start all over the next time you meditate.
The one tool that is all-applicable is the holy name. As Lord Chaitanya instructs, all potencies of the Supreme Personality of Godhead are invested within His name. There are also thousands of names, and the sound is so powerful that you don’t even have to be consciously hearing it in order to see effects. A famous highway robber during an ancient time once chanted the holy name of Rama backwards over and over again and as a result emerged a realized soul capable of authoring transcendental literature that is still relevant to this day.
So which name should we chant? Krishna is considered the best name because it means all-attractive. It is the most complete description for God, and it also happens to represent the same speaker of the Bhagavad-gita. From the name Krishna we know there is full knowledge. There is full attractiveness as well, since Krishna is the most beautiful. The same effect from studying the Vedas, working in detachment, and meditating in yoga is found through chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”
Chanting the holy names is the real peace formula, and the activity belongs to the category of bhakti-yoga, or the yoga of devotion. Through the holy name you realize not only your true self but also the Supreme Lord. Knowing one without the other is incomplete knowledge, because the two are inherently linked. One is the master and the other the servant. In devotion the holy name is heard in a mood of devotional surrender. When that mood exists, the root cause of ignorance is removed, and one is able to live happily knowing that the Supreme Controller is constantly with them.
Range of applicability is method’s test,
Can’t help a few and ignore the rest.
All potencies in holy name God invests,
Thereby making it method of yoga the best.
In study you must know how to read,
In yoga stringent meditation must heed.
In work attachment must go without,
In each method people who are shut out.
But God is available easily to all,
Names of Krishna and Rama call.