“My Lord, O Supreme Personality of Godhead, in Your holy name there is all good fortune for the living entity, and therefore You have many names, such as Krishna and Govinda, by which You expand Yourself. You have invested all Your potencies in those names, and there are no hard and fast rules for remembering them. My dear Lord, although You bestow such mercy upon the fallen, conditioned souls by liberally teaching Your holy names, I am so unfortunate that I commit offenses while chanting the holy name, and therefore I do not achieve attachment for chanting.” (Lord Chaitanya, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Antya 20.16)
To those who may not be familiar, the experience of visiting a temple in India is often not smooth. As they are run by priests of a full-time occupation, there is quite a focus on money. Simply looking at the deity will cost you some cash. Then when you walk out and get a blessing on the head, the hand again comes out, looking for payment.
Then there are the rules for entry. Sometimes there are restrictions on nationality and religion. Sometimes entry is not allowed, for some service is taking place within the temple. There may be restrictions on attire as well. You must wear a certain outfit if you would like to gain admittance. Then within the temple, you have to follow regulations. You should bring an offering before the deity. If you have nothing to offer, no worries. There are plenty of spots where you can purchase offerings. You must make the offering in a certain way. The priest will ask for your name and family ancestry. Then they will recite various mantras and say that you are blessed.
The whole experience can easily turn an otherwise open-minded person into a skeptic of religious life, but in fact there is an ultimate purpose to all the rituals and regulations, regardless of whether one is outside or inside of a temple. The key is to remember, which is referred to as smaranam in Sanskrit. As we know all too well, there is nothing stopping us from remembering anything at any time. And so this can be used to our advantage in spiritual life, where with one method in particular there is no restriction on when one can receive the greatest blessings.
Have you ever been haunted by a bad experience? Obviously the experience only took place once, but the way it haunts you is through the memory of it. The cornerback in the National Football League has one job to do: stop the receiver in front of them from catching the ball. They could do a great job for the entire game, but then one slip up at the end ruins everything. One misplacement of the feet causes the receiver to get free. Their catching of the ball and running for a touchdown leaves all eyes on the defender and their mistake. If this error costs his team the game, the cornerback could be mentally scarred by the experience for quite a while.
You can also remember an experience of value. There is the potential for sadness here too, for by remembering a fond experience you realize that you no longer have that situation in life. Thus you lament over the changes that occur naturally with the passage of time.
With the holy name, you can remember something at any time and be happy about it. You may lament that the person being remembered is not with you at the moment, but to alleviate the suffering due to separation you can simply remember again. And how do you do that? Just chant the name.
Lord Chaitanya says that the holy name has full potency within it. We know of God’s potency in an indirect way. We see the massive heat and light that the sun gives off and we understand that whoever created the sun is someone special. We see the potency in the wind, which can topple even the sturdiest of buildings. The rain nourishes the field more quickly than we ever could.
While these examples show potency that we can appreciate, full potency is actually much greater. In His form of Shri Vishnu, the Supreme Lord inhales and exhales. Seems rather harmless, no? Who doesn’t breathe? With Vishnu’s breathing, however, innumerable planetary systems come into existence and then disappear. He does this effortlessly. He doesn’t even have to think about it.
The same potency of God is there in the holy name. This is because the holy name is God Himself. This is very difficult to believe, as the holy name is merely a sound. We can’t see it. We have trouble believing in things that we can’t see. So when we say the names of Krishna and Rama, we can’t understand how God can be with us.
The proof is in the example of the saints of the Vaishnava tradition. Lord Chaitanya is Krishna Himself, but He played the role of a humble devotee who always chanted the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. And what was the result? Was He poor? Was He destitute? Was He miserable? Though in the external guise of a renounced wanderer, Lord Chaitanya had more potency than anyone around Him. He could deliver any person, and He was always in ecstasy. This was because the holy name never left Him.
Getting the blessings from the temple priest may require some exchange of money, but that is not the case with the holy name. You can remember it at any time. There is never a bad occasion, as how can it be wrong to ask to be by the side of the Supreme Lord? If He is God, wouldn’t He accept anyone at any time, provided their desire is sincere? Chanting the holy names shows the sincerity in desire, and one who gives up the fear of rules and regulations in remembering the Supreme Lord becomes even more dear to Him.
Right dress for entry to clear,
Must pay up before coming near.
Rules for the temple are these,
An experience rarely with ease.
But remembering God not the same,
At any time can chant holy name.
To think of Supreme Lord never wrong,
Honor Chaitanya and sing maha-mantra’s song.