There are four ways of chanting the Lord's name. One is through Keertana (song). Then there is Sankeertana (community singing). Another is Dhyana (meditating on the Divine). The fourth is contemplation of the form of the Divine.
In all these, meditating on the name is basic. By meditating on the Lord, Chaitanya and Meera experienced the ecstatic vision of the Lord within themselves. Both of them were immersed in the feeling of devotion to the Lord. Those who experienced the Lord by chanting the Divine name are Narada, Tukaraam, Tulsidas, Ramadas and others. In reply to a question from Narada, Krishna declared that He is present wherever His devotees sing His glories. The singing must not be merely a musical exercise but express genuine devotion.
Some devotees sing songs about the Leelas (sportive miracles) of God. Jayadeva, for instance, sang only about the sports of Krishna and was oblivious of all other things. He totally identified himself with Krishna.
|Radha always immersed in Krishna's thoughts|
God is one: names are many
Devotees are inclined to worship the Lord under different names. They consider the names different from each other. They forget that they are all equally, embodiments of the Divine: Sat-Chit-Ananda. (Being-Awareness-Bliss). There should be no feeling of high and low. Only the one who has the feeling of oneness can be called a renunciant. It is wrong to make a distinction between Rama and Shiva as some small-minded devotees do. Vaishnavites and Shaivites who go to the Tirumala temple hail the Lord as Venkataramana or Venkateshvara respectively, as if the two names are different, though they represent the same deity.
Thyagaraja pointed out that the word Rama is made up of the vital syllables "Ra" and "Ma" in the Narayana and Shiva Mantras respectively. In this manner devotees should seek unity in apparent diversity rather than seek to divide what is one.
|Lord Venkateshwara, the presiding deity at Tirupati|
The nature of the Divine can only be properly understood, by those who are filled with devotion. All should be filled with love. Love cannot flow from the Mantras of those who are steeped in selfishness and self-pride. Love flows from those who are humble. It cannot arise in those who are conceited and pompous. The love of God can arise only from loving thoughts. There must be yearning for God, just as one has to experience hunger to think of food. There is hunger for God in every one, but the disease of self-pride prevents one from feeling that hunger. The denial of God is a kind of disease. The unbeliever is afflicted by a variety of diseases like pride, envy, anger and greed.
One should be pure to be attracted by the Lord
There are some who have one foot on faith and the other on disbelief. For sometime they live with devotion and then they get lost in worldly concerns. The result is they have the worst of both worlds. One should not attempt to ride two horses at the same time. Stick to one thing and pursue it with determination. There is no such perseverance today because men are attracted by various worldly pleasures. It is not good to be lured by such attractions. Man should be attracted only by the Divine. Krishna has been described as one who is alluring in every way - by his looks, words and action. One should be pure to be attracted by the Lord. A sensuous person is like a rusty piece of iron, which cannot be attracted by a magnet.
|An artist's depiction of the Mahabharata War between Kauravas and Pandavas|
Bhajans are supremely valuable
People may say that when you go to Sai Baba, there is nothing but Bhajan. Realise that there is nothing greater than Bhajan. What bliss is there in Bhajans! What a demonstration of oneness is it when a myriad throats join in uttering the name of God! The vibrations emanating from them make the heart vibrant. If you sing alone in your shrine, the vibrations return to you as reaction. But in community singing, what you have is not a reaction but a wave of vibrations. They enter into the atmosphere and purify the polluted air. The atmosphere today is polluted by bad thoughts and feelings. When you sing the glory of God, the bad germs in the air are destroyed and the air gets purified by a treatment with anti-biotics as it were.
Bhajans are therefore supremely valuable. It has been said that in the Kali Age them is no greater spiritual practice than chanting the name of the Lord. Let one remember the name of Rama at the time of passing, whether he is a millionaire or a pauper, whether he is a scholar or an illiterate. Sing the name of the Lord and redeem your lives!
Source: Divine Discourse on October 23, 1994 at Brindavan