Preface to Sri Namamrta
On June 7, 1977, about four months before Srila Prabhupada left this world, I wrote him a long letter. Although I had been his disciple already for a number of years, I had written to him only once before, because I felt very timid about taking his time unnecessarily. At this point, however, I felt an urgent need to write to him, because I wanted to propose an idea that had occurred to me while contemplating the possibility that he might leave us before too long. As Srila Prabhupada's health was very poor at that time, I, like so many of my Godbrothers and Godsisters, felt compelled to deepen my understanding of my relationship with my spiritual master with reference to his anticipated absence. The obvious and compelling question was, "In what form will my relationship with Srila Prabhupäda continue after his physical departure?" Taking shelter of sastra, I found this statement in Srila Prabhupada's commentary to Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.28.47:
- ... The disciple and spiritual master are never separated, because the spiritual master always keeps company with the disciple as long as the disciple follows strictly the instructions of the spiritual master. This is called the association of vani (words). Physical presence is called vapu. As long as the spiritual master is physically present, the disciple should serve the physical body of the spiritual master, and when the spiritual master is no longer physically existing, the disciple should serve the instructions of the spiritual master.
I could understand, therefore, that if I were to always very seriously attend to his instructions, I would always be able to feel enlivened by Srila Prabhupada's transcendental presence within my heart. This understanding was confirmed when I glanced at Srila Prabhupada's expression of dedication to his spiritual master in the first volume of the Bhagavatam, where he writes,
- "To Srila Prabhupada Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Maharaja, my spiritual master.... He lives forever by his divine instructions and the follower lives with him."
Now, where are those instructions? Those instructions are enshrined primarily within his books. As Srila Prabhupada stated upon his return to Vrndavana from London, shortly before his physical departure, "There is nothing new to be said. Whatever I had to say I have already said in my books. Now you must all try to understand it and continue with your endeavors...." He also stated at around the same time, "If I depart, there is no cause for lamentation. I will always be with you through my books and my orders. I will always remain with you in that way."
It is clear from these instructions, then, that Srila Prabhupada lives on, in full transcendental manifestation in his divine instructions, and that we can contact him and receive his mercy by understanding and by executing those instructions. Anyone who makes even a humble endeavor to research any particular philosophical point within Srila Prabhupada's books will discover a cornucopia of transcendental knowledge and insight. The thought occurred to me, however, that other than attending temple classes on Srimad-Bhagavatam and Bhagavad-gita, few of us, for whatever reasons, undertake a systematic and comprehensive study of Srila Prabhupada's books, even if we have the opportunity to do so.
I began, therefore, to reflect on how Srila Prabhupada's disciples and future followers might be provided some system for drawing out instructions on specific subjects from his books in an easy and convenient manner. With this concern in mind, I wrote Srila Prabhupada a letter in which I proposed that some sort of comprehensive, systematic compilation of all of his instructions from his books be executed. I offered to accept that difficult task, even though I felt personally unqualified to do so. Later that month, I received the following reply from Tamala Krsna Goswami, who was then acting as Srila Prabhupada's secretary:
- My dear Subhananda Prabhu,
- Please accept my humble obeisances. I have been instructed by His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada to reply your letter dated June 7th, 1977. His Divine Grace was very pleased to hear your proposal for systematically amassing a subject by subject encyclopedic compilation of all of Srila Prabhupada's teachings and instructions as found in his books. Srila Prabhupada said that he knows that you are a scholarly devotee and are just fit for doing this job. He said, "It is a very welcome suggestion."
Although most often preoccupied with other projects since receiving this order from my spiritual master, I have often meditated on how best to fulfill this instruction and have, at different times, discussed the concept of this project with senior Vaisnavas. The basic conclusion of such meditations and discussions has been that the encyclopedia itself should not be merely a quantitative compilation of all of Srila Prabhupada's words on every subject (which would be extremely voluminous), but that it should follow the traditional encyclopedia format. Since the publication of Preaching Is the Essence and The Spiritual Master and the Disciple, however, many devotees have urged me to produce comprehensive compilations of Srila Prabhupada's instructions on at least the most important subjects of Krsna consciousness, two of which have already been covered in these two publications.
It therefore seemed natural that the next compilation (I hope to produce one every year or so) should be on the chanting of the maha-mantra, because this is the foundation of the practice of Krsna consciousness. I therefore now humbly offer this book, Sri Namamrta: The Nectar of the Holy Name, to all of Srila Prabhupada's disciples and granddisciples. All of us should absorb our minds in these nectarean instructions with rapt attention and conscientiously apply their conclusions in our practical spiritual life. By studying Srila Prabhupada's instructions on this most important of subjects, we will become fully convinced of the central importance of offenseless chanting of the holy name of Krsna in our endeavor for spiritual advancement.
Sri Namamrta is divided into five principal parts:
- Part One reveals the chanting of the holy name, the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, as the yuga-dharma, the principal and universal religion for this age of Kali
- Part Two delineates the wonderful, transcendental attributes and effects of the holy name
- Part Three offers a wide variety of practical instructions on the practice of the chanting of the holy name
- Part Four deals with the necessity for propagating the holy name throughout human society.
- Part Five presents a variety of important instructions on the holy name not included in the other four sections
With few exceptions, I have not included general references to sankirtana that do not make specific reference to nama-sankirtana, the chanting of the holy name. I have also decided not to include in this book the numerous descriptive narrations of chanting of the holy name in caitanya-lila (as found in Sri Caitanya Caritamrta). Such descriptions can be found easily enough through the indexes to the various volumes of Sri Caitanya Caritamrta. I have decided, thus, to restrict this compilation to specific instructions about the holy name, as such.
At the end of the book, one will find two helpful appendixes:
- The first is a collection of songs written by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Srila Narottama dasa Thakura, and Locana dasa Thakura on the glories of the holy name.
- The second appendix lists over sixty of the most important verses from Vedic and Vaisnava literature glorifying the holy name.
A few words of explanation concerning the system of compilation and organization used in this book, as well as about some innovations, are in order here:
- (1) In going systematically through Srila Prabhupada's books, whenever I come across a purport dealing with the subject at hand, I have the relevant passage typed on an index card, and then I title it. Generally, I include only one central topic per index-card entry.
- (2) If, within any purport, distinctly different points are made about the subject, separate index-card entries are made, and each is appropriately titled and categorized.
- (3) In cases where two different but related points are presented in one interwoven discussion, or where one point applies equally to two or more different topic categories, identical entries are prepared and placed within appropriate categories. There is, in other words, a small degree of unavoidable duplication of entries. (In some cases, such duplicate entries will be titled differently, appropriate to their respective categories.)
- (4) Within any particular subsection, where two or more entries are very similar in content, rather than duplicating exact or near-exact entry titles, I have allowed one entry title to suffice for the consecutive entries.
- (5) Rather than including Sanskrit or Bengali verse transliterations for every verse cited, transliterations are given only for the most important verses (those included in Appendix II). The transliterations for any other verses can be found in Srila Prabhupada's books.
- (6) When I have cited verses that appear, in their original textual context, in conversational form, I have indicated who the speaker and hearer are whenever possible. Further, as is often the case in Sri Caitanya Caritamrta, when a traditional scriptural verse is cited in conversation (as, for instance, between Lord Caitanya and Rupa Goswami), only the original speaker and hearer are given.
In closing, let me say that it is my humble and fervent hope that by carefully studying, absorbing, and implementing the nectarean instructions found within this volume, many, many sincere souls will feel renewed inspiration to take the holy name of Sri Krsna as their life and soul.