“While suffering at the time of death, Ajamila chanted the holy name of the Lord, and although the chanting was directed toward his son, he nevertheless returned home, back to Godhead. Therefore if one faithfully and inoffensively chants the holy name of the Lord, where is the doubt that he will return to Godhead?” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 6.2.49)
म्रियमाणो हरेर् नाम
अजामिलो ’प्य् अगाद् धाम
किम् उत श्रद्धया गृणन्
mriyamāṇo harer nāma
ajāmilo ’py agād dhāma
kim uta śraddhayā gṛṇan
“I think there are many reasons to be fond of the story of Ajamila, as described in Bhagavata Purana. In the modern day, who is there that cannot relate to the predicament? In that ancient time there was one Ajamila, who fell victim to the ways of lust and trying to satisfy it. Today, practically every person is Ajamila. The degradation in allegiance to dharma is so deep that barely anyone stands a chance at reaching salvation in a single lifetime.
“We know what saved Ajamila: the name of Narayana. He happened to give this name to his son. Therefore, at the time of death Ajamila called out to the one he was most fond of: his son. He wasn’t calling out to the Narayana of Vaikuntha. Nevertheless, it was the messengers from that realm who arrived. The Vishnudutas intercepted the Yamadutas. The soul was slated to go to the land free of anxieties. Ajamila was not to face punishment in the court of Yama, the god of death.
“I was thinking that while the story is nice and gives hope to the rest of us, what about to the people who don’t fall into sinful life? The ones who follow dharma strictly. They don’t associate with prostitutes and they worship Narayana faithfully. They call out to the real Narayana, the husband of Lakshmi, at the time of death. Isn’t it unfair to them that a sinner would have the same opportunity at liberation?”
The entire affair highlights the importance and potency of the holy name of Hari. There is no difference between God and the sound vibration used to address Him. It is for this reason that the Vaishnava acharya recommends chanting the holy names, especially in this fallen age of Kali, as the primary means of rescue: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Another issue to consider is that despite our ability to decipher based on external circumstances, the burden of the final judgment does not fall upon us. The Yamadutas were surprised that the Vishnudutas intercepted them. Despite their complaints, there was nothing that could be done. Ajamila was going to be saved.
In the same way, a person we may consider to be a sinner or lowly or degraded in terms of consciousness could have done or said something in the past that greatly pleased the Supreme Lord. Bhagavan may even decide to take such a person back to the spiritual world on an auspicious day, such as the appearance anniversary of Mahadeva, the great god.
Whether we think it is fair or not, the outcome is not in our control. If accidentally saying the name of Narayana at the time of death can rescue a person, why should I not constantly chant such a name? Why should I not glorify Ajamila rather than be envious or consider him a competitor? Why should I not be awe-inspired at the extension of causeless mercy showered upon the world by Narayana, who cares not about a person’s past, but only to where they are going and what is in their heart today?
As with Ajamila seen,
The slate wiped clean.
Past sinful life though,
Straight to Vaikuntha to go.
Vishnu that determination making,
Of who to where at what time taking.
If even by saying accidentally so,
Impetus now for me to go.