Nama Article 19th December 2014
Excerpts from a discourse by our Sri Sri Muralidhara Swamiji on ThiruppAvai
"Srimad Bhãgavatam speaks of nine types of Bhakti sadhanas, viz. Sravanam, Smaranam, Kîrtanam, etc. The easiest of these is Kîrtan. Why so? If we take up 'Sravana' (listening) we need a suitable person ('vakta') to speak of Bhagavat 'gunãs' (qualities) to us. But he who speaks about the Lord's qualities to us should be a Bhakta. A man once told Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, "I desire to go around the world preaching Bhakti to people." Paramahamsa enquired of him, "Well! Have you seen God?" The man replied, "No!" Paramahamsa, "How then can you speak of Bhagavãn to others? How will you speak about one whom you have not seen? So, first you 'see' Bhagavãn and later think if it is necessary for you to preach!"
Once Maha Periyava addressed a big gathering, "All of you have assembled here eagerly to listen to me. You have extended a big welcome to me here and all of you are also lending assistance to the Mutt. Everybody says that I must speak something. Instead, I feel that I can spend the time better in meditating on Ambãl (Devi). What is the use of mere words? I feel that I should meditate on Ambãl. There is no use of offering any 'upadesa' to you all without doing any dhyana of Ambãl. And again there is no need for words once I successfully complete the dhyana of Ambãl and attain Her! This is because just by seeing me all of you will be transformed! Therefore, words are useless under all circumstances!"
So, which is the easiest of all the nine types of bhakti? It is Kîrtan - singing the glory of the Lord! This does not mean that it is necessary for one to possess melodious voice to sing the glory of the Lord. Whatever we know, whatever is our ability, just saying 'Krishna! Rama!' will suffice. Bodendra Swami chanted (japa) 'Eka-Nãma' (Single Name of the Lord) and that was 'Rama! Rama! Rama! Rama!' He did not sing any kîrtan using cymbals('jãlra'). So was Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. There is no greater scholar than Mahaprabhu. Mahaprabhu had also performed Divya Nãmas. But what did he sing? "Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare! Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare!" Only this was sung repeatedly as he went round in 'pradakshina'. It did not contain any variety of songs or 'sampradaya' (tradition). If there was anything else sung in between, it was only the rendering of a sloka from the Bhãgavatam. Even in Papa Ramdas's ashram the devotees perform Divya nãma by lighting a lamp or placing the Guru's picture and going round it, in pradakshina, as they chant the mantra of 'Sri Ram Jai Ram Jaya Jaya Ram!' This is the best way ('uttamam')!
Only if one is unable to get concentration ('nishta') in a single Name of the Lord should one go about singing the various Names and Kîrtans. It is very difficult to get the mind fixed in a single Name of the Lord ('eka Nãma'). But blessed indeed is he whose mind gets set in a single Name of the Lord ('eka Nãma')! So while saying that Sankîrtan is the only way out in Kali Yuga one need not feel anxious if he is unable to sing or possesses no knowledge of music.