Human society is brought before the big question mark, “Does this all make sense?” the moment it is confronted with death – the existential dilemma. Vaisnava scholars hold that the teachings of Srila Sukadeva Gosvami begin in all earnestness after king Pariksit asked his urgent question: “What should I do now that I am at the brink of death? What should anyone do in this situation?”
We all live differently, but one thing is certain: each and every one of us will land before the threshold of death – so what should be done? Is there a solution to the great problem of death? You know, in the face of death nothing makes sense any longer, everything becomes meaningless. Whether you die today, tomorrow or some day in the future, in principle it doesn’t make a difference. So what gives life purpose? The human being answers this question by a certain life design defined by culture: “This makes sense – according to my culture these are my values and goals.” But these answers are only a blur, they are not true answers to this question. They are an attempt to pacify the mind. “Yes, I also achieved this! Yes, I raised a family, my life was of value…” This is a culturally defined speculative answer which doesn’t really solve the question of death.
What is the answer of Vaisnava authorities to this question? “O King, constant chanting of the holy name of the Lord after the ways of the great authorities is the doubtless and fearless way of success for all, including those who are free from all material desires, those who are desirous of all material enjoyment, and also those who are self-satisfied by dint of transcendental knowledge.”
My dear devotees, will you design your life according to cultural or spiritual guidelines? How do you want to solve your existential dilemma?
To prepare for an eternal life beyond the grasp of death we have to ask ourselves: what is the best process in order to do this? The goal is to achieve a life beyond the impurity of material desires for enjoyment or liberation. That means we have to become free from the foreign influences of matter, in other words we have to purify the heart. So the best process is the process that purifies the heart most effectively. As you go through the vast variety of spiritual practices you will find that the chanting of the Holy Name has a unique feature, and that is that when we chant, Krsna, who is inconceivably identical with His Holy Name, is with us immediately. It is impossible for us to purify our hearts, but Krsna can purify it easily and elevate us. In other words, the Holy Name comes along with His own inbuilt energy, the king of all of Krsna’s energies: the krpa-sakti, the energy of mercy, which transforms our consciousness and brings us into His presence. By Krsna’s krpa-sakti the devotee develops love for Him and the devotee’s original identity in relation to Krsna becomes revealed. Wonderful! And that is why chanting the Holy Name is not enough if the krpa-sakti is not evoked. Many chant Krsna’s name in the secular kirtana scene, but if you want to make advancement you need the krpa-sakti. So we have to ask ourselves, if Krsna has released His krpa-sakti when we chant His Name. If you do not know how to chant, the Lord will withhold His krpa-sakti. The Harinama-cintamani informs us that we must avoid two things: ignorance of Krsna and our position and anarthas, unwanted actions born from ignorance, first and foremost offenses. These two things must be removed in order to see the Holy Name for who He is: Krsna. Otherwise we cannot derive the benefit of chanting.
So we have to work on these two things: removing ignorance and avoiding offenses. Concerning the offenses, they all get their strength from one main offense – inattention to the Holy Name, turning away from Him. When we chant we have to bring our attention to Krsna. Haridasa Thakura says, “Simply by one’s own endeavor no one in this world can overcome distractedness. Such victory over the mind can only come about by Your merciful blessings. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary to beg for Your grace.”
Always chant after the ways of the great authorities, only then you can solve your own existential dilemma. You need to learn to chant so that the most important sakti of the Lord, His merciful blessings, is not withheld from you. As you start to avoid the offenses, starting with inattention, pray for Krsna’s help and mercy: “I can’t control this mind, it is like the wind, please help me!” Don’t worry, the krpa-sakti will come and your life will become a miracle!
From a lecture by Sacinandana Swami May 21st, 2018, Gainesville, USA