Excerpt taken from Sri Chaitanya-bhagavata, Adi-Khanda, Part Two, Chapter 16, Texts 268-290, purports by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur
At that time there was a famous village named Harinadi in the district of Yashohara. On seeing Sri Haridasa loudly and constantly chant the holy names, a local seminal brahmana who was envious of devotional service angrily put forward some false arguments.
“O Haridasa, what is this behavior? Why are you loudly chanting the names of the Lord?”
That foolish, ignorant, atheistic, fallen brahmana said, “There is no injunction for loudly chanting the names of Hari in any scripture; rather, it is recommended that one chant within his mind. Therefore the loud chanting of Hari’s names by Haridasa is prohibited by the scriptures. Therefore his engagement in such activities is most improper.”
Being controlled by such blind faith, that brahmana arrogantly asked Haridasa the reason for his loud chanting. His conception was that since Haridasa Thakura was not born in a seminal brahmana family, he was completely unqualified to act as a spiritual master, the giver of the holy names. He feared that if Haridasa loudly chanted the names of Hari he would have to automatically hear the holy names from the mouth of a pure devotee and thus naturally become his disciple, so he wanted Haridasa to refrain from loudly chanting hari-nama, which is the function of a jagad-guru. This proves the brahmana’s foolishness, ignorance and mistaken ideas regarding the scriptural conclusions.
“The injunction is that one should chant in his mind. Which scripture says that one should chant loudly?
“Who has taught you to chant the name of Hari loudly? Please give your explanation before this assembly of learned scholars.”
The word shiksha refers to one of the six corollaries of the Vedas by which word pronunciation is regulated.
Haridasa said, “You all know the glories of Lord Hari’s holy names.
“Therefore I have simply repeated and will repeat whatever I have heard from you.”
Thakura Haridasa, who never expected any honor but always honored others, humbly replied, “I have not learned the incomparable glories of Hari’s names from the shastras through the path of argument. Now and in the future I simply repeat whatever I have heard from those who are conversant with the glories of the holy names and who constantly chant the holy names of the Lord.”
“If one chants loudly, he gets one hundred times more benefit. The scriptures never condemn loud chanting, rather they glorify it.”
The result one achieves by mentally chanting the names of Hari is multiplied one hundred times by chanting loudly. This is the injunction of all scriptures.
It is a fact that by chanting loudly one obtains one hundred times greater results. And there is no fault in such chanting. It is to be understood that those who consider the Hare Krishna maha-mantra should only be chanted softly in japa are averse to realizing the purport of the scriptures.
The three names of address—Hare, Krishna, and Rama—are meant both for japa and kirtan. One can call the Lord in his mind or out loud. If one calls the Lord loudly, then many persons can hear the name of the Lord and obtain auspiciousness by such hearing. Hearing the names of the Lord is one of the nine principle limbs of devotional service. Unless the sadhus loudly chant the names of Hari, no one becomes qualified for the devotional process of hearing.
Therefore the false arguments of those who are averse to loud chanting are certainly incited by Kali. The chanting of the holy names is more or less imperceptible in the activities of meditation, sacrifice and Deity worship; that is why in Kali-yuga various controversies arise in the performance of meditation, sacrifice and Deity worship. When those who are victims of Kali come forward to place obstacles in the path of the devotees’ worship of Hari, then those devotees who are engaged in the Satya, Treta and Dvapara processes of meditation, sacrifice and Deity worship do not enter into argument; but those devotees who chant the names of Hari remove the wicked habits of the victims of Kali and chant the unlimited glories of the holy names for the eternal benefit of such people. This is the actual medicine for their argument-infected hearts.
“If one loudly chants the holy names of the Lord, he obtains one hundred times more benefit than by chanting softly or remembering the holy names.”
The brahmana said, “How does one get one hundred times more benefit by loud chanting?”
Haridasa replied, “My dear sir, listen to the verdict of the Vedas and Srimad Bhagavatam in this regard.”
Haridasa then revealed the purport of all the scriptures as he began his explanation in the ecstasy of Krishna consciousness.
“Listen, dear brahmana. If even animals, birds or insects hear the holy names from the mouth of a pure devotee, they will go to Vaikuntha.”
“O brahmana, when the transcendental sound of Krishna’s holy names emanates from the mouths of sadhus, bhaktas or Vaishnavas and enters the ear holes of any living entity interested in serving the Lord, then that sound vibration certainly frees him from the bondage of maya.”
The transcendental sound vibration removes the living entities’ propensity for enjoyment and awakens their propensity for service to the Supreme Lord. Since unlike those of conditioned souls in the material sky, there is no ignorance or material enjoyment in the devotees’ tongues, which are abodes of Vaikuntha, and since the transcendental holy names are full manifestations of advaya-jnana, or the transcendental reality, devotees do not become entangled in material enjoyment while chanting. Therefore if a living entity chants the transcendental name of the Lord, he becomes jivan-mukta, liberated even in this life. In order to become liberated from the bondage of material existence, a conditioned soul should accept mercy from a liberated soul by accepting mantra-diksha, or initiation. When one has perfected his chanting, he becomes qualified to loudly chant the holy names. He then becomes extremely distressed on seeing the conditioned souls’ anarthas born of prajalpa and mundane words that gratify the mind, both of which are unrelated to Krishna; as a jagad-guru, he removes their propensities for mundane enjoyment and sends them to the kingdom of Vaikuntha.
Ordinary foolish people think, “The shastric statement that just by once chanting or hearing the transcendental name of the Lord one is certain to go back to Vaikuntha is simply an exaggeration.” But actually the extraordinary influence of the transcendental name is not under the jurisdiction of the most tiny brains of such illusioned materialists who want to measure everything with their blunt material senses. If one considers the transcendental name to be in the category of material objects, then his enjoyment-prone evil propensities do not allow him to understand the extraordinary, transcendental, spiritual name that is not perceivable to material senses. That is why the absence of faith in the Vedas or in Vaishnava literatures in pursuance of the Vedas is proof of a living entity’s misfortune.
Once the cowherd men headed by Sri Nanda came to Ambikavana on the bank of the River Sarasvati. After worshiping the demigods and brahmanas with a vow, they took rest there. At that time a fierce-looking great snake began to swallow Nanda. Hearing Nanda’s cry of distress, Lord Krishna, who maintains His surrendered souls and who is affectionate to His father, touched that great snake with His left foot. The serpent was immediately freed from his reptilian body and appeared in the effulgent form of a Vidyadhara, and by the order of the Lord he began to relate the history of his sinful activities in his previous life. While offering prayers, he describes the glories of receiving the touch of the Lord’s lotus feet, which are rarely attained by the demigods, in the following verse from Srimad Bhagavatam (10.34.17) [here cited by Haridas Thakur]:
“‘Anyone who chants Your name purifies all who hear his chanting, as well as himself. How much more beneficial, then, is the touch of Your lotus feet?'”
“Moreover, O Lord, I have been directly touched by Your lotus feet. Now I will return to my own planet and purify everyone by my touch, as I have been purified by the touch of Your lotus feet. By the statement, ‘By once chanting the holy names of the Lord a person purifies himself and others,’ the argument that chanting the holy names requires prior faith (in other words, the consideration that until knowledge of one’s relationship with the Lord based on faith is awakened, there is no need to chant the holy names) is refuted.
“One can and should chant the names of the Lord while avoiding the ten offenses even during the four faithless situations of sanketa (indirectly), parihasa (jokingly), stobha (as musical entertainment), or hela (neglectfully). By using the verb grihnan, or ‘while chanting’ in its present tense, the argument that the names are dependent on completeness (in other words, the necessity of considering that until one is able to fully chant the names of the Lord, it is improper and useless to partially chant the names) is refuted. This means that one can and should chant the names of the Lord, even unclearly, improperly, and incompletely or partially. By using the word akhilan, or ‘to the audience,’ the argument that chanting is dependent on qualification (in other words, the necessity of achieving mundane, temporary, external qualifications like taking bath, performing austerity, worshiping the Deity, maintaining purity, studying the Vedas, accepting sannyasa, practicing yoga, performing sacrifice and accumulating piety) is refuted (in other words, any person in any condition can and should chant the holy names of the Lord). By using the word sadyah, or ‘immediately,’ the argument that chanting is dependent on time (in other words, the consideration that one is purified by chanting only at particular times, not at any time) is refuted (in other words, if a person purely chants the holy names at any time, he can be fully purified). The use of the word srotrin, or ‘to the audience’, indicates that one should hear the holy names of the Lord. The word eva, which in this verse bears the meaning of iva or api, indicates that the chanter of the holy names can purify the audience like himself. So by this example the glories of the holy name are further enhanced, because the practices of both hearing and chanting yield the same results. By using the word cha in this verse, it is indicated that I will certainly and thoroughly purify persons who engage with me in hearing and chanting, because I have been touched by Your lotus feet. There is no doubt about this.” (Sri Sanatana Prabhu’s and Sri Jiva Prabhu’s Vaishnava-toshani)
“Although animals, birds and insects cannot chant, when they hear the holy names they will all be delivered.
“If one silently chants the names of Krishna, then he is delivered; but if one loudly chants, then he delivers others also.”
One who softly chants the transcendental names benefits only himself, whereas one who loudly and congregationally chants the transcendental names can benefit the audience along with himself. Only a spiritual master who is engaged in krishna-kirtan is compassionate to all living entities and able to perform the highest welfare activities for all.
“Therefore the scriptures say that one gets a hundred times more benefit by chanting loudly.
“‘One who loudly chants the holy names of the Lord is a hundred times greater than one who silently chants, because those who chant silently purify only themselves, while those who chant loudly purify themselves as well as those who hear them.’ [This verse was spoken by Prahlada Maharaja in the Naradiya Purana.]
“The Puranas say that a person who chants the Lord’s name loudly is a hundred times more pious than the person who chants to himself.”
Persons who loudly and congregationally chant the holy names of Hari obtain one hundred times better results than those who chant the holy names softly. If a person secretly hears some ordinary words on the pretext of hearing hari-nama from a foolish so-called guru and, being tempted by material enjoyments, engages in motivated worship, then he will never achieve eternal auspiciousness. Whereas if one loudly chants the pure holy names heard from the mouth of a liberated maha-bhagavata spiritual master, then other Vaishnavas who hear that chanting will discuss the glories of hari-nama amongst each other. As a result, the loud chanters are more benefited than the soft chanters.
Those who cannot realize the difference between nama-aparadha, namabhasa, and suddha-nama often commit the first of the ten nama-aparadahas—criticizing a sadhu or Vaishnava who has fully taken shelter of the holy names—and they commit the grave offense of disregarding the spiritual master by considering him a mortal being and envying him. They commit offense by considering material objects as worshipable and seeing Lord Vishnu, the controller of all, as equal to the demigods. As a result, they become Vaishnava offenders by being faithless of the unalloyed Vaishnavas. They then become inattentive to the service of Sri Nama Prabhu, and the offenses of considering the glories of chanting the holy names as imaginary, and giving some interpretation on the holy names captures them. They then consider the holy names as equal to pious activities and become attached to committing sinful activities on the strength of chanting the holy names. Being greedy for donations, such people accept the garb of a guru and, like common
merchants, pretend to give instructions on the holy names to faithless persons. In this way, they bring inauspiciousness to the entire world. Being overwhelmed by thoughts of “I” and “mine”, they gradually become averse to the Vedic literatures and literatures in pursuance of the Vedic version. These ten offenses result in the falldown of chanters; but by the influence of good association the loud chanters of the holy names understand these offenses and therefore retire from the inconvenience of nirjana-bhajana [silent chanting in a secluded place].
“O brahmana, listen carefully to the reason behind this. One who softly chants the holy names liberates only himself.
“One who loudly chants the names of Govinda, however, liberates himself along with all living entities who hear him.
“Although all living entities have a tongue, only the human beings are able to chant the names of Krishna.”
Apart from human beings, all other living entities also have tongues. Yet even though they are able to make various sounds, no living entity other than a human being is able to chant the names of Krishna. Some people may say, “The birds can also imitate making sounds like the name of Krishna, and as a result they can also attain a higher destination such as liberation.” In reply to this, it may be said that imitating and following are two completely separate activities. Although the imitators may make various sounds perceivable to senses in the material sky as the name of Krishna, they are not uttering with service-inclined tongues the pure holy name of Krishna situated in the spiritual sky and perceivable to purified senses. The materially motivated sounds resembling the holy names that are uttered for the purpose of material enjoyment that is unrelated to Krishna are not vaikuntha-nama, or spiritual names. Since such sounds are able to award insignificant results, they are simply known as nama-aparadha, or offenses to the holy names, and as such, they cannot awaken one’s love for Krishna, which is the fruit of chanting the pure names.
“Tell me, what is wrong with that activity by which living entities who have taken useless births will be delivered?”
Although all living entities are not able to chant the spiritual names, they can certainly hear the spiritual names chanted by devotees of the Lord. The lives of those who are not qualified to hear the spiritual names are certainly most useless. Since by hearing the chanting of the spiritual names all living entities can be eligible for liberation in this lifetime, such loud chanting of Hari’s names can never be the subject of argument, fault or criticism.
“One person may maintain himself, while another may maintain a thousand people. Of the two, consider carefully who is better. This is the superior characteristic of loud chanting.”
A selfish person maintains himself, whereas another person may maintain a thousand persons apart from himself. Of the two, whom should we accept as greater? If we carefully consider, we will understand that loud chanters are not selfish; rather, they are selfless benefactors of others. Therefore loud chanters are superior to those who only chant softly, and loud chanting is hundreds and thousands of times superior to chanting only softly.