“Just as within the earth are found every kind of seed and within the sky live all the stars, Tulsidas knows that Shri Rama’s holy name is the reservoir of all dharma.” (Dohavali, 29)
जथा भूमि सब बीजमय नखत निवास अकास |
रामनाम सब धरममय जानत तुलसीदास ||
jathā bhūmi saba bījamaya nakhata nivāsa akāsa |
rāmanāma saba dharamamaya jānata tulasīdāsa ||
Friend1: Would you say that chanting the holy names is a relatively new process?
Friend2: As opposed to what?
Friend1: Some of the more traditional methods of worship, such as fire yajna, reading the Vedas, passing through the various stages of samskara, and so forth.
Friend2: I’m not sure. The holy name is as old as the person it represents, and that person is timeless. He is without origin, anadi, and without birth, aja. He is without end into the future, ananta.
Friend1: Okay, but we also know about the different ages in a single yuga, and how there is a specific method of connection recommended for each.
Friend2: You mean Satya, Treta, Dvapara, and Kali?
Friend1: Yes. I forget the specifics. I think Satya-yuga features dhyana, which is meditation. In Treta-yuga, the best way to connect is elaborate yajna, which is like a religious sacrifice. For Dvapara-yuga, it is archanam, or worshiping the deity.
Friend2: Harinama-sankirtana is for the age of Kali, the time period in which we currently live. Is that why you think the chanting of Hari’s names is relatively new?
Friend1: Exactly, and also the appearance of Shri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, which is relatively recent in the grand scheme of things.
Friend2: Even if you do think it is new, what is the big deal?
Friend1: Just that people might discount the authenticity of the process. If you are recommending something newly invented, perhaps say an experimental injection, I can come up with some pretty good arguments to decline.
Friend2: Such as?
Friend1: I lived just fine before this new medicine was created. In the past, there were treatments on the market for a few years before people realized the harmful side effects. For instance, they used to give pregnant women some medicine for nausea, and that medicine turned out to cause birth defects. It was a huge scandal. That was not the only one; the same has happened many times.
Friend2: Right, and so the tried and true methods of the past would have been a better way of dealing with the issues.
Friend1: Someone might say that they don’t need to chant the holy names. They do not want to follow some newly recommended process.
Friend2: That is fair, but understand that there is nothing new about the process. Chanting the holy names is kirtana, but kirtana can also mean “to describe.” In that respect, the Vedas in their entirety are kirtana.
Friend1: In what sense?
Friend2: That they exist and persist to glorify the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The acharyas of the bhakti tradition are not necessarily reinventing the wheel. Goswami Tulsidas makes a wonderful comparison to the sky and the earth.
Friend1: What is the comparison?
Friend2: That the sky already contains the stars. The earth already has the seeds necessary to continue life. In the same way, all of the results of following dharma are contained within the holy name. In this way, the holy name could be considered everything. It is neither a new invention nor an experiment. It is a fully authorized way to connect with the Almighty in consciousness, yoga.
Friend1: Okay, but what about the recommendations specific to each yuga?
Friend2: You might be interested to learn that each of the methods is effective in any of the other ages. Dhyana is possible today, as is yajna. Those methods may not be ideal, but they would still work. Sankirtana would work in the beginning of the cycle of creation. We find in Bhagavad-gita, also, that Krishna describes how His devotees are always chanting His glories:
सततं कीर्तयन्तो मां
यतन्तश् च दृढ-व्रताः
नमस्यन्तश् च मां भक्त्या
satataṁ kīrtayanto māṁ
yatantaś ca dṛḍha-vratāḥ
namasyantaś ca māṁ bhaktyā
“Always chanting My glories, endeavoring with great determination, bowing down before Me, these great souls perpetually worship Me with devotion.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.14)
Always His glories chanting,
Who endless mercy granting.
Not something concocted or new,
Found in previous ages too.
Maybe more ideal today,
Since lost in maya’s way.
But dharma eternal on scale of slide,
Whether in past or future to reside.