“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)
सततं कीर्तयन्तो मां
यतन्तश् च दृढ-व्रताः
नमस्यन्तश् च मां भक्त्या
satataṁ kīrtayanto māṁ
yatantaś ca dṛḍha-vratāḥ
namasyantaś ca māṁ bhaktyā
1. Why should I chant the holy names?
The recommendation is from shastra, which is the highest authority. Rather than try to figure out the mystery to life on our own, in the short amount of time we have, the better option is to work up the chain. This is the descending process of knowledge gathering, as opposed to the ascending process.
As a simple example, there is a small flame nearby. The young child has not yet learned the properties of fire. Curios as they are, they approach the flame, ready to place a hand on top.
An adult is standing nearby. They have two choices. They can quickly spring into action, preventing injury for the child. They can simply explain the before and after, that contact with the fire will cause pain.
The other option is to do nothing. Let the child figure things out on their own. This is the ascending process. If the injury is not too severe, hopefully the child places the episode in the memory bank, to be used for making informed decisions in the future.
The rational guardian would choose the first option. This helps every person involved. The child avoids an unnecessary injury. They learn the lesson all the same. They are qualified to pass on the information to others, to continue the flow of knowledge.
Shastra recommends chanting the holy names for our happiness. The practice is sourced in the original person, who describes this very activity as one of the traits of saintly people. They are always engaged in kirtana, which can also refer to describing the glories of the Almighty.
2. Why should I always chant the holy names?
Shri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu recommends that kirtana should take place in a constant flow. Kirtaniyah sada harih. Hari refers to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. It is one of His many names. Kirtana is chanting or describing.
Mahaprabhu says that the chanting should take place all the time. This is because the practice is unlike common religious practices. As there is no material gain on the other side, the before and after is absent. That is to say, I am chanting the holy names for a higher benefit, and therefore stopping and starting are not necessary. They are not like different states of an automobile, which are determined by what action needs to be accomplished.
3. What will be the benefit of chanting the holy names?
The benefit is too vast and complex, but yet simple at the same time. Everything that is wrong today. Every source of misery and distress. Every reason to feel depressed, to think that the future is hopeless, that having taken birth was a complete waste.
Chanting the holy names is the cure. Conducted in Mahaprabhu’s way, in a continuous flow, like rivers rushing into an ocean, bringing purpose to life. One who is really alive can glorify the Supreme Lord, through poetry, song, devotional activity, lecturing, writing, leading an exemplary life, or practically any other activity involving human effort.
4. When should I stop chanting the holy names?
We should never stop chanting the holy names. Stopping indicates that a goal has been attained, that something has been extracted from the other side. I stop digging once I find the object being sought. I stop working once I have enough money to live comfortably. I stop serving the sick once they have become healthy.
Chanting the holy names aligns with dharma. Vedic literature explains that dharma can only be one and it is sanatana. This means that chanting the holy names is the eternal occupation. Its scope of applicability has no beginning and it has no end.
5. Which names should I chant?
Mahaprabhu recommends chanting the names of Hari. There are many; prominent among them are Krishna and Rama. The Supreme Lord, who is a person, has an accompanying pleasure potency, who is also an energy.
That energy can also be addressed when chanting the holy names, such as in the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Whichever the chosen name, it should be authorized. That is to say, we should not concoct objects of worship or assign Divine status based on personal whims.
This chanting of the holy names is everything, and it is especially potent in a degraded period of time such as Kali Yuga. In this age of quarrel and hypocrisy, a human being is fortunate to make it out of the womb alive. As children, they face the unknown of mysterious injections on a periodic basis. More recently, they are lucky if allowed to breathe freely when mixing with society.
Even in these inauspicious times, there is a way to connect with God. Chanting the holy names is as good as meditating in a secluded place, visiting sacred pilgrimage sites, associating directly with the object of worship, and finding elevation through dedicated yoga practice. It is the preferred way to meet dharma’s obligations in the present circumstances.
As Chaitanya recommending,
Into infinity extending.
Always holy names chanting,
Supreme bliss granting.
Since to God the person connected,
Not for trivial rewards expected.
With eternal dharma aligning,
Meaning to existence defining.
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