“Talking of Krishna or singing of Krishna is called kirtana. Lord Chaitanya also recommends kirtaniyah sada harih, which means always thinking and talking of Krishna and nothing else. That is called Krishna consciousness.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 2, Ch 32)
Friend1: Kirtaniyah sada harih!
Friend2: Yes, always chant the holy names of the Lord.
Friend1: That’s from Lord Chaitanya, right?
Friend2: Correct. From the full quote, the golden avatara gives the conditions necessary for accomplishing the goal. A person should be humbler than the blade of grass, more tolerant than the tree, ready to offer respect to everyone else and never expect respect from others.
Friend1: Expect respect. That’s catchy.
Friend2: It is.
Friend1: Those conditions are difficult to create, wouldn’t you say?
Friend2: Of course.
Friend1: So does that mean we shouldn’t always chant the holy names of Hari?
Friend2: Looking for an excuse out of it, are we?
Friend1: No, I’m just wondering that if the conditions aren’t there, does it mean a person’s chanting has less efficacy?
Friend2: Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is merely stating the truth. If you see someone who actually always chants the holy name, it means that they have those other attributes. By the way, kirtana doesn’t have to be chanting only. It can be writing, talking, cooking, or even traveling.
Friend1: I see. Sort of like the Olympic athlete. They don’t just do the event that they’re participating in. There’s training and attention to diet also; i.e. preparation.
Friend2: Exactly. As all of those things are part of being an athlete, any type of glorification of God, anything supporting the structure of the house of devotion, that is kirtana.
Friend1: Here’s a doubt I heard recently. It’s about the guru and their experience.
Friend1: The doubt says that the guru is certainly amazing. They have seen God. They have experienced something out of this world. But what if we don’t meet someone like this?
Friend2: What do you mean? If you’re describing them, then you have met them. Am I missing something?
Friend1: No. Say that you get the information second or third-hand. You’re hearing about someone who is God-realized. It’s nearly impossible to meet someone like that in real life. From this doubt, the question is about the benefit of devoting yourself fulltime to spiritual life. Isn’t it better to play it safe and engage in other things throughout the day? After all, every person has a unique experience through life. What someone realized so many years ago may not really apply to the people of today.
Friend2: Ah, I see. That is an interesting doubt, for sure. There are several flaws in the premise, though.
Friend2: First, there is no such thing as second or third-hand when it comes to receiving the instructions of the acharyas.
Friend1: What do you mean?
Friend2: Let’s say I am fortunate enough to have an amazing realization. I write it down. Then my written thoughts get preserved in book form. Someone reads that book a hundred years later. How is that information coming to them second-hand?
Friend1: It’s not.
Friend2: Exactly. With the Vedic tradition, you have countless souls who have had tremendous realizations. Some of them have met God face to face. They have behaved in such a way to get the attention of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who though formless has His eyes everywhere. They have received the favor of the origin of the entire creation, who though always neutral is partial to His devotees.
Friend1: Okay, but what about the variation in realizations? One spiritual teacher has their experience, and a different teacher has another experience. How do we reconcile? I think this person advocates the balanced approach due precisely to the discrepancy.
Friend2: Well, that is another flawed premise. There is no such thing as balance or overdoing it. You’re either on the genuine spiritual path or not. You can’t mix the two. What we know to be a balanced approach is actually mixed spiritual life. It is impure because there are still some hints of desire for material gain, renunciation, or mystic perfection.
Friend1: That makes sense. In pure devotion, aren’t you only doing one thing, though?
Friend2: You still have to eat. You have to do some kind of work, even if you are completely renounced.
Friend1: Doesn’t Shri Krishna say in the Bhagavad-gita that the self-realized soul has no work to do?
yas tv ātma-ratir eva syād
ātma-tṛptaś ca mānavaḥ
ātmany eva ca santuṣṭas
tasya kāryaṁ na vidyate
“One who is, however, taking pleasure in the self, who is illumined in the self, who rejoices in and is satisfied with the self only, fully satiated – for him there is no duty.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.17)
Friend2: There is no prescribed duty for that person. They don’t have to fit into any occupation to move further along in the chain of karma. They still work, though. It’s not like they sit around like a rock. In pure devotion, every action you do is connected to the Divine. As explained before, that is the meaning to what Lord Chaitanya recommends. Always be in kirtana of the Supreme Lord Hari.
Friend1: I see. One point left. What about the variation in experiences of spiritual teachers?
Friend2: Skepticism is a sign of intelligence. Of this there is no doubt. Yet skepticism doesn’t prevent the complete rejection of authority.
Friend1: Doesn’t or shouldn’t?
Friend2: Doesn’t. Every person accepts authority to one degree or another. For spiritual life, to see if what a teacher is saying is bona fide, you have to extend a little faith in the beginning. After doing that, by practicing what is recommended, you can judge whether or not the philosophy is valid.
Friend1: Makes sense.
Friend2: So many people have followed Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s recommendation faithfully. Each person who has lends further support to the original recommendation. Since they experience the bliss of surrender in devotion, sharanagati, they heartily recommend the process to others. They know that real objectivity is to return the spirit souls to their eternal occupation. Bias is a form of cheating, and anyone who recommends further indulgence in sense gratification under the weak shelter of the material energy is not presenting the full facts. The bhaktas, the devotees of the Lord, know both sides of the argument, so their position represents real objectivity.
Bhaktas giving objectivity real,
Since also burn of kama did feel.
With proper judgment to reside,
Since with understanding of each side.
Chaitanya to always chant recommending,
Kirtana also when glories to Lord sending.
Balanced approached possibly better to be?
Extend faith and validity for yourself see.