Yamarāja was describing the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the supreme controller, but the order-carriers of Yamarāja were very eager to know about the Viṣṇudūtas, who had defeated them in their encounter with Ajāmila. Yamarāja therefore stated that the Viṣṇudūtas resemble the Supreme Personality of Godhead in their bodily features, transcendental qualities, and nature. In other words, the Viṣṇudūtas, or Vaiṣṇavas, are almost as qualified as the Supreme Lord. Yamarāja informed the Yamadūtas that the Viṣṇudūtas are no less powerful than Lord Viṣṇu. Since Viṣṇu is above Yamarāja, the Viṣṇudūtas are above the Yamadūtas. Persons protected by the Viṣṇudūtas, therefore, cannot be touched by the Yamadūtas.
Yamarāja has described the qualities of the Viṣṇudūtas to convince his own servants not to be envious of them. Yamarāja warned the Yamadūtas that the Viṣṇudūtas are worshiped with respectful obeisances by the demigods and are always very alert to protect the devotees of the Lord from the hands of enemies, from natural disturbances, and from all dangerous conditions in this material world. Sometimes the members of the Kṛṣṇa consciousness society are afraid of the impending danger of world war and ask what would happen to them if a war should occur. In all kinds of danger they should be confident of their protection by the Viṣṇudūtas or the Supreme Personality of Godhead, as Kṛṣṇa Himself confirms in the Bhagavad-gītā (9.31): kaunteya pratijānīhi na me bhaktaḥ praṇaśyati. “O son of Kuntī, declare it boldly that My devotee never perishes.”
Material danger is not meant for devotees. This is also confirmed in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.14.58): padaṁ padaṁ yad vipadāṁ na teṣām. In this material world there are dangers at every step, but they are not meant for devotees who have fully surrendered unto the lotus feet of the Lord. The pure devotees of Lord Viṣṇu may rest assured that the Lord will protect them, and as long as they are in this material world they should fully engage in devotional service by preaching the message of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu and Lord Kṛṣṇa, namely chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa and the other aspects of Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
Direct Connection with Kṛṣṇa
When challenged by the Viṣṇudūtas to describe the principles of religion, the Yamadūtas had said, veda-praṇihito dharmaḥ: “The Vedic literature defines religious principles.” They did not know, however, that the Vedic literature contains ritualistic ceremonies that are not transcendental but are meant to keep peace and order among materialistic persons in the material world. Real religious principles are nistraiguṇya, above the three modes of material nature, or transcendental. The Yamadūtas did not know these transcendental religious principles, and therefore when prevented from arresting Ajāmila, they were surprised.
Materialistic persons who attach all their faith to the Vedic rituals are described in the Bhagavad-gītā (2.42), wherein Kṛṣṇa says, veda-vāda-ratāḥ pārtha nānyad astīti vādinaḥ: “The supposed followers of the Vedas say that there is nothing beyond the Vedic ceremonies.” Indeed, there is a group of men in India who are very fond of the Vedic rituals, not understanding the meaning of these rituals, which are intended to elevate one gradually to the transcendental platform of knowing Kṛṣṇa (vedaiś ca sarvair aham eva vedyaḥ [Bg. 15.15]). Those who do not know this principle but who simply attach their faith to the Vedic rituals are called veda-vāda-ratāḥ.
Herein it is stated that the real religious principle is that which is given by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Lord Kṛṣṇa states that principle in the Bhagavad-gītā (18.66): sarva-dharmān parityajya mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja. “Give up all other duties and surrender unto Me.” That is the real religious principle everyone should follow. Even though one follows the Vedic scriptures, one may not know this transcendental principle, for it is not known to everyone. To say nothing of human beings, even the demigods in the upper planetary systems are unaware of it. This transcendental religious principle must be understood from the Supreme Personality of Godhead directly or from His special representative, as stated in these verses.
In the Bhagavad-gītā Lord Kṛṣṇa refers to bhāgavata-dharma as the most confidential religious principle (sarva-guhyatamam, guhyād guhyataram). Kṛṣṇa says to Arjuna, “Because you are My very dear friend, I am explaining to you the most confidential religion.” Sarva-dharmān parityajya mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja: [Bg. 18.66] “Give up all other duties and surrender unto Me.” One may ask, If this principle is very rarely understood, what is the use of it? In answer, Yamarāja states herein that this religious principle is understandable if one follows the paramparā system of Lord Brahmā, Lord Śiva, the four Kumāras, and the other standard authorities. There are four lines of disciplic succession: one from Lord Brahmā, one from Lord Śiva, one from Lakṣmī, the goddess of fortune, and one from the Kumāras. The disciplic succession from Lord Brahmā is called the Brahma-sampradāya, the succession from Lord Śiva (Śambhu) is called the Rudra-sampradāya, the one from the goddess of fortune, Lakṣmījī, is called the Śrī-sampradāya, and the one from the Kumāras is called the Kumāra-sampradāya. One must take shelter of one of these four sampradāyas in order to understand the most confidential religious system. In the Padma Purāṇa it is said, sampradāya-vihīnā ye mantras te niṣphalā matāḥ: if one does not follow the four recognized disciplic successions, his mantra, or initiation, is useless.
At present there are many apasampradāyas, or un-bona fide sampradāyas, which have no link to authorities like Lord Brahmā, Lord Śiva, the Kumāras, or Lakṣmī. People are misguided by such sampradāyas. The śāstras say that being initiated into such a sampradāya is a waste of time, for it will never enable one to understand real religious principles and surrender to Kṛṣṇa.
Real religious principles are bhāgavata-dharma, the principles described in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam itself or in the Bhagavad-gītā, the preliminary study of the Bhāgavatam. What are these principles? The Bhāgavatam (1.1.2) says, dharmaḥ projjhita-kaitavo ‘tra: “In the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam there are no cheating religious systems.” In other words, everything in the Bhāgavatam is directly connected with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Bhāgavatam (1.2.6) further says, sa vai puṁsāṁ paro dharmo yato bhaktir adhokṣaje: “The supreme religion is that which teaches its followers how to love the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is beyond the reach of experimental knowledge.” Such a religious system begins with tan-nāma-grahaṇa, chanting the holy name of the Lord. After chanting the holy name and dancing in ecstasy, one gradually sees the transcendental form of the Lord, the qualities of the Lord, and the pastimes of the Lord. In this way one fully understands the situation of the Personality of Godhead.
One can come to this understanding of the Lord, however, only by executing devotional service. As Kṛṣṇa states in the Bhagavad-gītā (18.55), bhaktyā mām abhijānāti yāvān yaś cāsmi tattvataḥ: “One can understand Me as I am only by devotional service.” If a person is fortunate enough to understand the Supreme Lord in this way, the result is that after giving up his material body he no longer has to take birth in this material world (tyaktvā dehaṁ punar janma naiti [Bg. 4.9]). Instead, he returns home, back to Godhead. That is the ultimate perfection. Therefore Kṛṣṇa says in the Bhagavad-gītā (8.15):
mām upetya punar janma
saṁsiddhiṁ paramāṁ gatāḥ
“After attaining Me, the great souls, who are yogīs in devotion, never return to this temporary world, which is full of miseries, because they have attained the highest perfection.”
Evidence in Support of Chanting the Holy Name
There is no need to conduct research into the significance of the chanting of the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra. The history of Ajāmila is sufficient proof of the power of the Lord’s holy name and the exalted position of a person who chants the holy name incessantly. Therefore Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu advised,
harer nāma harer nāma
harer nāmaiva kevalam
kalau nāsty eva nāsty eva
nāsty eva gatir anyathā
[Cc. Ādi 17.21]
“In this age of quarrel and hypocrisy, the only means of deliverance is chanting the holy name of the Lord. There is no other way. There is no other way. There is no other way.” (Bṛhan-nāradīya Purāṇa 3.8.126) In this age, almost no one can perform all the difficult ritualistic ceremonies for becoming liberated. Therefore all the śāstras and all the ācāryas have recommended that in this age one simply chant the holy name. That will bring one all perfection.
In the assembly of Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī’s father, Haridāsa Ṭhākura confirmed that simply by chanting the Lord’s holy name a person is liberated, even if he does not chant completely inoffensively. Smārta-brāhmaṇas and Māyāvādīs do not believe that one can achieve liberation in this way, but the truth of Haridāsa Ṭhākura’s statement is supported by many quotations from the Vedic literature.
In the passage of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam under discussion, for example, Yamarāja says, “It should be understood that one is easily relieved from all sinful reactions by chanting the holy name of the Lord and chanting His qualities and activities. This is the only process recommended for relief from sinful reactions.” In his commentary on this verse, Śrīdhara Svāmī gives the following quotation: sāyaṁ prātar gṛṇan bhaktyā duḥkha-grāmād vimucyate. “If one continually chants the holy name of the Lord with great devotion morning and evening, one will become free from all material miseries.” Another quotation confirms that a person can achieve liberation if he hears the holy name of the Lord continually, every day, with great respect: anudinam idam ādareṇa śṛṇvan. Another quotation says,
śravaṇaṁ kīrtanaṁ dhyānaṁ
“One should always chant and hear about the wonderful activities of the Lord, one should meditate upon these activities, and one should endeavor to please the Lord.” (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 11.3.27) Śrīdhara Svāmī also gives the following quote from the Purāṇas: pāpa-kṣayaś ca bhavati smaratāṁ tam ahar-niśam. “One can become free from all sinful reactions simply by remembering the lotus feet of the Lord day and night.” Finally, he quotes from the chapter of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam under discussion (6.3.31):
tasmāt saṅkīrtanaṁ viṣṇor
mahatām api kauravya
“The chanting of the holy name of the Lord is able to uproot even the reactions of the greatest sins. Therefore the chanting of the saṅkīrtana movement is the most auspicious activity in the entire universe.”
All these quotations prove that one who constantly engages in chanting and hearing the holy name of the Lord, along with descriptions of His fame, form, and activities, is liberated. As stated wonderfully in verse 24, etāvatālam agha-nirharaṇāya puṁsām: [SB 6.3.24] simply by uttering the name of the Lord, one is freed from all sinful reactions.
The word alam in this verse indicates that simply uttering the holy name of the Lord is sufficient. There is no need of any other process. Even if a person chants imperfectly, he becomes free from all sinful reactions.
The liberation of Ajāmila proves this power of chanting the holy name. When Ajāmila chanted the holy name of Nārāyaṇa, he did not precisely remember the Supreme Lord; instead, he remembered his own son. At the time of death, Ajāmila certainly was not very clean; indeed, he was famous as a great sinner. Furthermore, one’s physiological condition is completely disturbed at the time of death, and in such an awkward condition it would certainly have been very difficult for Ajāmila to have chanted clearly. Nevertheless, Ajāmila achieved liberation simply by chanting the holy name of the Lord. Therefore, what is to be said of those who are not sinful like Ajāmila? It is to be concluded that with a strong vow one should chant the holy name of the Lord—Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare—for thus by the grace of Kṛṣṇa one will certainly be delivered from the clutches of māyā.
The chanting of the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra is recommended even for persons who commit offenses, because if they continue chanting they will gradually chant offenselessly. Then, by chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa without offenses, one increases his love for Kṛṣṇa. As stated by Lord Caitanya, premā pum-artho mahān: one’s main concern should be to increase one’s attachment to the Supreme Personality of Godhead and to increase one’s love for Him.
Since one may easily achieve the highest success by chanting the holy name of the Lord, one may ask why there are so many Vedic ritualistic ceremonies and why people are attracted to them. Yamarāja answers this question in the passage of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam under discussion. Unfortunately, unintelligent people are bewildered by the grandeur of Vedic yajñas, and thus they want to see gorgeous sacrifices performed. They want Vedic mantras chanted and huge amounts of money spent for such ceremonies. Sometimes we have to observe the Vedic ritualistic ceremonies to please such unintelligent men. In 1975, when we established a large Kṛṣṇa-Balarāma temple in Vṛndāvana, we were obliged to have Vedic ceremonies performed by brāhmaṇas because the inhabitants of Vṛndāvana, especially the smārta-brāhmaṇas, would not accept Europeans and Americans as bona fide brāhmaṇas. Thus we had to engage brāhmaṇas to perform costly yajñas. As these yajñas were being performed, the members of our Society performed saṅkīrtana loudly with mṛdaṅgas, and I considered the saṅkīrtana more important than the Vedic ritualistic ceremonies. The ceremonies and the saṅkīrtana were going on simultaneously. The ceremonies were meant for persons interested in Vedic rituals for elevation to heavenly planets (jaḍī-kṛta-matir madhu-puṣpitāyām), whereas the saṅkīrtana was meant for pure devotees interested in pleasing the Supreme Personality of Godhead. We would simply have performed saṅkīrtana, but then the inhabitants of Vṛndāvana would not have taken the installation ceremony seriously. As explained here, the Vedic performances are meant for those whose intelligence has been dulled by the flowery words of the Vedas, which describe sacrifices intended to elevate one to the higher planets.
Especially in this age, saṅkīrtana alone is sufficient. If the members of our temples in the different parts of the world simply continue saṅkīrtana before the Deity, especially before Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, they will remain perfect. There is no need of any other performances. Nevertheless, to keep oneself clean in habits and mind, Deity worship and other regulative principles are required. Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī says that although saṅkīrtana is sufficient for the perfection of life, worship of the Deity in the temple must continue so that the devotees may stay clean and pure. Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura therefore recommended that one follow both processes simultaneously. We strictly follow his principle of performing Deity worship and saṅkīrtana along parallel lines. This we should continue.
The Jurisdiction of Yamarāja
In this regard, Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura quotes the following verse from the prayers of Lord Brahmā (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 10.14.29):
athāpī te deva padāmbuja-dvaya-
prasāda-leśānugṛhīta eva hi
jānāti tattvaṁ bhagavan-mahimno
na cānya eko ‘pi ciraṁ vicinvan
The purport is that even though one is a very learned scholar of the Vedic śāstras, he may be completely unaware of the existence of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and His name, fame, qualities, and so forth, whereas one who is not a great scholar can understand the position of the Supreme Personality of Godhead if he somehow or other becomes a pure devotee of the Lord by engaging in devotional service. Therefore in verse 26 Yamarāja says, evaṁ vimṛśya sudhiyo bhagavati: those who engage in the loving service of the Lord become sudhiyaḥ, intelligent, but this is not so of a Vedic scholar who does not understand Kṛṣṇa’s name, fame, and qualities. A pure devotee is one whose intelligence is clear; he is truly thoughtful, because he engages in the service of the Lord—not as a matter of show but with love, with his mind, words, and body. Nondevotees may make a show of religion, but it is not very effective, because although they ostentatiously attend a temple or church, they are thinking of something else. Such persons are neglecting their religious duty and are punishable by Yamarāja. But a devotee who commits sinful acts unwillingly or accidentally, because of his former habits, is excused. That is the value of the saṅkīrtana movement.
In effect, Yamarāja warned his servants, “My dear servants, henceforward you must stop disturbing the devotees. The devotees who have surrendered unto the lotus feet of the Lord and who constantly chant His holy name are praised by the demigods and the residents of Siddhaloka. Those devotees are so respectable and exalted that Lord Viṣṇu personally protects them with the club in His hand. If you approach such devotees, He will kill you with that club. What to speak of you, if even Lord Brahmā or I were to punish them, Lord Viṣṇu would punish us. Therefore do not disturb the devotees any further.”
After warning the Yamadūtas in this way, Yamarāja then indicates who is to be brought before him. He specifically advises the Yamadūtas to bring to him materialistic persons attached to household life merely for sex. As stated in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (7.9.45), yan maithunādi-gṛhamedhi-sukhaṁ hi tuccham: people are attached to household life only for sex pleasure, which is very insignificant. They are always harassed in many ways by their material engagements for making money to maintain their families, and their only happiness is that after working very hard all day, at night they sleep and indulge in sex. Yamarāja specifically advises his servants to bring these persons to him for punishment and not to bring the devotees, who always lick the honey from the lotus feet of the Lord, who are equal to everyone, and who try to preach Kṛṣṇa consciousness out of sympathy for all living entities. Devotees are not liable to be punished by Yamarāja, but persons who have no information of Kṛṣṇa consciousness cannot be protected by their material life of so-called family enjoyment. The Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (2.1.4) says,
ātma-sainyeṣv asatsv api
teṣāṁ pramatto nidhanaṁ
paśyann api na paśyati
Materialistic persons complacently believe that their nations, communities, or families can protect them, unaware that all such fallible soldiers will be destroyed in due course of time.
In conclusion, one should try to associate with persons who engage in devotional service twenty-four hours a day. Then one can come to know the purpose of human life, which is to please Lord Viṣṇu. Varṇāśrama-dharma is also meant for that purpose. As stated in the Viṣṇu Purāṇa (3.8.9):
puruṣeṇa paraḥ pumān
viṣṇur ārādhyate panthā
[Cc. Madhya 8.58]
Human society is meant to follow strictly the varṇāśrama-dharma, which divides society into four social divisions (brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya, vaiśya, and śūdra) and four spiritual divisions (brahmacarya, gṛhastha, vānaprastha, and sannyāsa). Varṇāśrama-dharma easily brings one nearer to Lord Viṣṇu, who is the only true objective in human society. Na te viduḥ svārtha-gatiṁ hi viṣṇum: [SB 7.5.31] unfortunately, however, people do not know that their self-interest is to return home, back to Godhead, or to approach Lord Viṣṇu. Durāśayā ye bahir-artha-māninaḥ: instead, they are simply bewildered by Kṛṣṇa’s external, illusory energy. Every human being is expected to perform duties meant for approaching Lord Viṣṇu. Therefore Yamarāja advises the Yamadūtas to bring him only those persons who have forgotten their duties toward Viṣṇu. One who does not chant the holy name of Viṣṇu or Kṛṣṇa, who does not bow down to the Deity of the Lord, and who does not remember His lotus feet is punishable by Yamarāja. In summary, all avaiṣṇavas, persons unconcerned with Lord Viṣṇu, are punishable by Yamarāja.
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