Excerpts from a discourse by our Sri Sri Muralidhara Swamiji
'Nãmasankirtanam yasya sarva pãpa pranãshanam
pranãmo dukkhashamanah tam namãmi Harimparam!'
In the Karma 'kãnda' (chapter) various atonements ('prãyaschiita'), as laid down in the Dharma Shastra/Manusmriti, have been prescribed.
One may ask, 'Well! He can perform those atonements. Can't he?'
The answer is, 'Yes, he can. But no purpose would be served by that!'
A man was pushed into a situation of accepting a bribe. The bribe amounted to one lakh rupees. He consulted his parents and they advised him, "No, don't accept it. It is verily a sin.' He approached the 'Shastrigal' (Priest) and the latter said, "There is an atonement ('prayaschitta') for this. It will cost 10,000 rupees and you will be relieved of this sin."
He calculated the ultimate profit - 'the income from the bribe is 1,00,000 rupees and the expense for obliterating the sin is only 10,000 rupees. I stand to gain 90,000 rupees'.
So, this encourages him to commit sins in future. Does it not? So, this kind of 'prayaschitta' is like 'manye kunjarashouchavat'.
'Manye kunjarashouchavat' - What does this mean? The elephant has a big body. It takes the mahout lots of effort to clean this big body. He orders the elephant to lie on different angles and with a black wood that is like a black stone scrubs the body repeatedly - thoroughly. Just through watching him bathe the elephant we experience pain in our hands! He bathes it so thoroughly. He then leaves the elephant on the banks and goes back to the water to clean his hands and legs. When he turns around he finds the elephant picking up some sand and dropping it on its body! Just as the elephant throws sand on its body no sooner than it has been given a thorough clean up, so, too, does this man even before the process of atonement for a sin committed is complete, commits another.
But, if you do Nãmasankirtan, it not only becomes atonement for all the sins committed but is also 'shipram bhavati dharmãtma' == It also completely erases the feeling ('buddhi') to commit a sin again. Very soon it makes you a Dharmãtma (righteous person).
That is the 'prabhãva' (glory) of Nãmakirtan.