Jiva Gosvami celebration

The Holy Name is Always Pure

Question: It is recommended that one who chants with offenses should continue chanting to become free from those offenses. Does this mean that one should continue chanting with offenses or with nāmābhāsa?

Answer: No. Why should one chant with offenses?  Chant the name and avoid offenses. And why chant nāmābhāsa? Just chant the name. I think there is some confusion about nāma, nāmābhāsa, and nāmāparādha

Some practitioners think that when people chant in the beginning stage, they chant nāmāparādha. After making progress and avoiding offenses, they chant nāmābhāsa mixed with nāmāparādha. When, by the mercy of their guru, they realize that they are servants of Kṛṣṇa and become free of offenses, they chant the pure name, which grants Kṛṣṇa-prema.

To have clear understanding, we should know the difference between nāma and nāmābhāsa.  A devotee chants nāma as part of his or her sadhana. Sādhanā is always done consciously and with purposeful intent. Nāmābhāsa is not a stage of sadhana as it is not chanted consciously. Therefore, if one is chanting nāma as part of one’s sādhanā, then it is not considered nāmābhāsa. 

An ābhāsa is an act of devotion done incidentally. For example, when Ajāmila called his son, whose name was Nārāyaṇa, that was nāmābhāsa because his intention was to call his son, not Bhagavān Nārāyaṇa. Ajāmila’s calling out was not a purposeful act of devotion or part of sādhanā.

Concerning nāmāparādha, no one chants the Lord’s name as sādhanā with an intention to offend the Lord. One simply chants the Lord’s name and may commit aparādha, either while chanting or at another time. Therefore, there is no possibility that nāmāparādha or nāmābhāsa are stages of nāma sādhanā.

If one chants “Kṛṣṇa” or the Lord’s name directly, referring to Him, then he or she is chanting nāma. But if one chants the words “Kṛṣṇa”, “Rāma”, or so on, referring to some other person than the Lord, that is nāmābhāsa. Incidental chanting of the holy name of God while referring to someone else with the same name is called nāmābhāsa. Nāmābhāsa is also possible when the Lord’s name is part of another name. The English word “diorama” includes the word “rāma”, although it does not refer to Lord Rāma. This chanting of “Rāma” as part of “diorama” is another instance of nāmābhāsa.

Thus, when people chant the Lord’s name, such as the mahāmantra, they chant nāma and not nāmābhāsa or nāmāparādha, regardless of what stage of bhakti they are on. The name is always the name and it is always pure. It is only the chanter who is impure. As long as the chanter is impure, the holy name does not reveal its full potency. It is not that the name chanted by a neophyte is nāmāparādha, or that by chanting nāmāparādha, one gradually comes to the level of chanting nāmābhāsa and finally to the pure name.

If it were true that everyone chants nāmāparādha in the beginning, then no one would ever advance beyond that stage. Rather, everyone would eventually fall down due to nāmāparādha. But this is not the case. Therefore, such an understanding is improper. 

Furthermore, if one chants the mahāmantra, how can that be nāmābhāsa? He is calling Kṛṣṇa’s name, not someone else’s name. For a sādhaka, the name is always the name. The only obstacles are the offenses against the name. As one becomes clear of offenses, the name manifests its potency to the chanter.

Offenses are like a cloud that covers our vision of the sun. Similarly, offenses obscure the full radiance of the name from our vision. The name is always pure and full of potency, but offenses act like a barrier around us. They obstruct our vision of the name. This is the same principle that impedes our realization of Kṛṣṇa. Although Kṛṣṇa is present everywhere, we don’t see Him because of our nondevotional attitude. If we become devotees in the true sense, we can feel His presence always.

Further details are explained in this booklet

9 thoughts on “The Holy Name is Always Pure”

  1. How can one chant without offenses when the mind in Kali Yuga is uncontrollable?

    Do thoughts in the mind that are offensive effect the chanter by obscuring Nama?

    If so how can we stay away from offenses in the mind? It seems nearly impossible.

    1. Please read the ten offenses carefully and then let me know which offense/s you commit by doing what you are referring to in your question.

    2. Well the first offense and the third offense would be my current dilemma. When I am with my Guru I feel fine and I have no doubt in him, but when I leave that place after sitting with him sometimes I doubt him.

      Also sometimes I will read my Gurus commentary he has written on the Srimad Bhagavatam and say “I would have said it like this” and I find faults in him. I dont do it purposefully but it just pops into my head. So this fault finding thing, I do it with a lot of people, especially karmis. But I also do it with devotees, including my Guru. I look at myself in the mirror and question “why cant you control your mind? Your Guru is a great devotee from a long lineage and has done nothing but good for you!”.

      What kind of vile mentality do I have? I chastise myself harshly sometimes. I go through mental states where I feel I am being punished very, very badly by Krsna. I dont eat and I punish myself with harsh austerities sometimes.

      I am sorry if this was a bit to much.

    3. My guess is that it is rooted in your childhood samskara. Probably it has something to do with your relation with your dad or some other fatherly figure. Maybe your dad was too controlling or something that you did not like about him, but you repressed your feelings. I don’t know you and am making a wild guess based upon what you have described.

    4. Some how I have figured out something from this exchange.

      I am going to take formal initiation on Feb.28 2020 from my dear Guru, I dont want to be having these doubts in him any more.

      Actually you actually know my Gurudev.

      He was good friends with your Guru.


  2. Radhe Radhe!

    Thank you for this post and for the Nama Tattva booklet, which I’ve read a few times now. It is a book that one can read again and again and gain new insights each time!

    As for the post and the topic of Nama Tattva, can you please explain more about how aparadha impedes us in our chanting of the name. I know there is a quote from somewhere that says if you don’t feel ecstasy from chanting the Name, that is because you’ve committed offenses towards the Name. And the solution is to continue chanting. The struggle here seems to be, or maybe it’s a question rather — how long until we might see even the slightest change in our lives or the slightest taste in chanting the Name? I understand that it is a relative question as each individual is at a different level. But sometimes it feels discouraging if we’ve been intentionally chanting the Name for a long time and aren’t able to see any progress. Any insight you could give here would be greatly appreciated! Jai Sri Radhe!

    1. My guess is that you have not learned how to chant properly. Every action has an outcome. Proper action brings proper result. I may be wrong but this is what I guess.

  3. Thank you for your reply Babaji. So could you please tell us how to chant properly? Here are some questions that would help to better understand proper japa practices. Is it ok to walk or pace back and forth while chanting? Are there prayers to recite before and after japa? For those who’ve made a vow to chant a specific number of rounds, what happens when that becomes unmanageable for whatever reason? Are they to chant as many as they can attentively, with concentration and then chant the rest while driving to work (for example) so that they’re not breaking their vow? What are some practices you’ve seen or heard of that are examples of not chanting properly? And again, what are all of the elements of proper chanting? Would you also say that proper chanting can have a gradation of steps? Perhaps at first one would only chant one round in a committed fashion, every day, while sitting, with upmost concentration. Then in time increase the number. Later adding slokas for before and after? Adding acaman? Adding a normal morning sadhana routine of chanting specific prayers to lead one into their japa practice? Etc. etc. Thank you for your time. Jai Sri Radhe!

    1. We just had a japa retreat here in Vrindavan. You need to experience something like that. Some things can be explained only in person.
      But in general, my advice is not to do anything else while doing japa. Sit straight without moving/rocking back and forth etc and chant.
      Chanting your allotted rounds while driving is not advisable.
      If you want to see the result of chanting, then you need to do it as an independent act without mixing with anything else. Try to chant a whole day, dropping everything else, and see how you feel. Ultimately I advise doing japa under someone’s personal guidance.

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