No matter how many religoius systems there are in this world, the Supreme Personality of Godhead is one. All the innumerable names of God found in various religious systems are the names of the same Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Of course, one should not consider the holy names of the Supreme Personality of Godhead to be the same as the names of lesser gods or demigods, even though they may be as exalted as Lord Brahmā and Lord Śiva. The Padma Purāṇa says:
yas tu nārāyaṇaṁ devaṁ
sa pāṣaṇḍī bhaved dhruva
“A person who considers demigods like Brahmā and Śiva to be on an equal level with the Supreme Personality of Godhead Nārāyaṇa is to be considered an offender, or pāṣaṇḍī.” While this is an entire subject matter by itself, the scope of this article is to study the power of the holy names of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Viṣṇu and the transcendental and sacred comparison between the names of Viṣṇu and Kṛṣṇa and how we can benefit from this knowledge.
THE POWER OF THE HOLY NAME
It is said that chanting the holy names of God is the easiest way to associate with Him because He and His names are nondifferent. The Padma Purāṇa says:
nāma cintāmaṇiḥ kṛṣṇaś
pūrṇaḥ śuddho nitya-mukto
“The holy name of Kṛṣṇa is transcendentally blissful. It bestows all spiritual benedictions, for it is Kṛṣṇa Himself, the reservoir of all pleasure. Kṛṣṇa’s name is complete, and it is the form of all transcendental mellows. It is not a material name under any condition, and it is no less powerful than Kṛṣṇa Himself. Since Kṛṣṇa’s name is not contaminated by the material qualities, there is no question of its being involved with Māyā (the illusory energy that bewilders all conditioned souls). Kṛṣṇa’s name is always liberated and spiritual; it is never conditioned by the laws of material nature. This is because the name of Kṛṣṇa and Kṛṣṇa Himself are identical.”
In this material world, the name and the person who is named are two separate entities. A name is attached to a person but the name itself is not the person. By uttering the name of a person, we will not be able to associate with that person in the same manner as we can when we are in the physical presence of that person.
But in the absolute world, there is no relativity or duality between the name and the named. It is said that when the holy name of Kṛṣṇa is uttered by the tongue, Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself is already dancing on the tongue. We can directly associate with Him just by chanting His name and take advantage of His protection. Great devotees like Prahlāda Mahārāja, Draupadī and Haridāsa Ṭhākura took shelter of the holy names of Kṛṣṇa and therefore they were protected even in the midst of the greatest trouble.
Even non-Vedic religious systems like Christianity, Islam and others also emphasize this principle of chanting the holy names of God regularly. Especially in this disturbing age of kali-yuga, chanting the holy name of God is the only effective way of deliverance from the material world.
harer nāma harer nāma
harer nāmaiva kevalam
kalau nāsty eva nāsty eva
nāsty eva gatir anyathā
“In this Age of Kali there is no other means, no other means, no other means for self-realization than chanting the holy name, chanting the holy name, chanting the holy name of Lord Hari (Kṛṣṇa).” [Brhan-nāradīya Purāṇa].
By chanting the holy name of Kṛṣṇa or Viṣṇu, one can cleanse one’s heart (ceto darpaṇa mārjanam) of the pollution caused by lust, anger, greed, envy, illusion and madness. Thus when one is completely cleansed of all sinful reactions, he becomes eligible to enter into the kingdom of God. One should be strongly determined to finish this process in this very lifetime. It is very much possible if one is serious about it.
VIṢṆU, RĀMA & KṚṢṆA
Of course, any name of God is equally good and can be chanted to attain perfection. Still, some recommendations are given in the Vedic literature regarding which name to chant in order to get the maximum purification in the short life that we are offered.
There is a very well-known prayer called the Viṣṇu-sahasra-nāma that is found in the Anuśāsana Parva of the Mahābharata. As the name suggests, it means the “Thousand Names of Lord Viṣṇu.” Each name eulogizes one of His countless great attributes or qualities. There are other variations of this prayer that are found in the Padma Purāṇa, Skanda Purāṇa and Garuḍa Purāṇa. This prayer is chanted widely by many Hindus.
However, we find an interesting statement made by Lord Śiva to his wife Durgā:
rāma rāmeti rāmeti
rame rāme manorame
“O Varānanā, I chant the holy name of Rāma, Rāma, Rāma and thus enjoy this beautiful sound. This holy name of Rāmacandra is equal to one thousand holy names of Lord Viṣṇu.” [Bṛhad-viṣṇu-sahasranāma-stotra, Uttara-khaṇḍa of Padma Purāṇa 72.335]
And then we find,
trir-āvṛttyā tu yat phalam
ekāvṛttyā tu kṛṣṇasya
nāmaikaṁ tat prayacchati
“The pious results derived from chanting the thousand holy names of Viṣṇu three times can be attained by only one utterance of the holy name of Kṛṣṇa.” [Brahmāṇḍa Purāṇa]
These authoritative statements confirm that the holy name of Rāma is a thousand times more powerful and the holy name of Kṛṣṇa is three thousand times more powerful than the holy name of Lord Viṣṇu.
WHY COMPARE WHEN ALL ARE THE SAME?
One may wonder why these comparisons are made when there is no difference between Viṣṇu, Rāma and Kṛṣṇa. The following Vedic references vividly elucidate this point. The Brahma-saṁhitā (5.46) states
dīpārcir eva hi daśāntaram abhyupetya
yas tādṛg eva hi ca viṣṇutayā vibhāti
govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi
“Kṛṣṇa expands Himself as Viṣṇu the way a bright candle kindles another. Although there is no difference between the power of one candle and another, Kṛṣṇa is compared to the original candle.” Kṛṣṇa and Viṣṇu possess equal power but Kṛṣṇa is the origin of even Viṣṇu. There are many who may contest this statement because they think Kṛṣṇa appeared only five thousand years ago whereas Viṣṇu has been appearing in His many incarnations since millions of years. The answer to that is that all forms of Godhead are eternally existing in Their respective eternal planets in the eternal spiritual sky but They sometimes descend to this material world to establish religious principles. Therefore, it is to be understood that although Lord Kṛṣṇa appeared on this earth five thousand years ago, He is eternally existent in His original planet called Goloka Vṛndāvana in the spiritual sky (goloka eva nivasati [Brahma-saṁhitā (5.37)]). When He manifests that same Goloka in this material realm, it is called Gokula.
In the spiritual world, the first expansion from Lord Kṛṣṇa is Lord Balarāma. From Lord Balarāma, the four-handed catur-vyūha (four-fold) expansions of Vāsudeva, Saṅkarṣaṇa, Aniruddha and Pradymuna become manifest. Among these four expansions, Lord Saṅkarṣaṇa expands Himself as Lord Nārāyaṇa. Lord Nārāyaṇa again expands Himself and the second set of catur-vyūha — Vāsudeva, Saṅkarṣaṇa, Pradyumna and Aniruddha — become manifest.
From this Lord Saṅkarṣaṇa becomes manifest the first Viṣṇu known as Lord Mahā-Viṣṇu who possesses an infinitely gigantic form and who lies down in the vast causal ocean. From His bodily pores, millions of universes emanate and they last for the duration of His one breath, which is equal to 311.04 trillion earth years. Every time He exhales, universes are created and when He inhales, they are dissolved and enter back into His body.
When the universes are created, He enters into each and every universe in the second Viṣṇu form known as Garbhodakaśāyī Viṣṇu. When eventually, the creation expands, the third form of Viṣṇu known as Kṣīrodakaśāyī Viṣṇu enters into each and every atom and also resides on the ocean of milk on His own planet in each universe called the Śvetadvīpa. From this Kṣīrodakaśāyī Viṣṇu, all the different incarnations of the Lord in this material world are manifested. This is a brief description of Kṛṣṇa’s expansions as Viṣṇu.
Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (1.3.28) says:
ete cāṁśa-kalāḥ puṁsaḥ
kṛṣṇas tu bhagavān svayam
mṛḍayanti yuge yuge
“All of the above-mentioned incarnations are either plenary portions or portions of the plenary portions of the Lord, but Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the original Personality of Godhead. All of them appear on planets whenever there is a disturbance created by the atheists. The Lord incarnates to protect the theists.”
The Brahma-saṁhitā 5.39 says:
rāmādi-mūrtiṣu kalā-niyamena tiṣṭhan
nānāvatāram akarod bhuvaneṣu kintu
kṛṣṇaḥ svayaṁ samabhavat paramaḥ pumān yo
govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi
“I worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Govinda [Kṛṣṇa], who is always situated in various incarnations such as Rāma, Nṛsiṁha and many subincarnations as well, but who is the original Personality of Godhead known as Kṛṣṇa, and who incarnates personally also.”
Every time the Lord descends, He does so to protect His devotees, punish the atheists and reestablish religious principles in the human society. He manifests as much power or opulence as is required for His mission at a particular given time, place and circumstance. The opulences of the Supreme Lord are analyzed by the great Parāśara Muni, the father of the exalted Vyāsadeva, as follows:
vīryasya yaśasaḥ śriyaḥ
saṇṇāṁ bhaga itiṅgana
“Bhagavān, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is defined by Parāśara Muni as one who is full in six opulences — who has full strength, fame, wealth, knowledge, beauty, and renunciation.” [Viṣṇu Purāṇa 6.5.47]
In other incarnations, Lord Viṣṇu partially displays these opulences but Kṛṣṇa is known as saṁpūrṇa bhagavān or the complete Absolute Personality of Godhead because He displayed all the six opulences in their complete, infinite fullness. This difference between Viṣṇu and Kṛṣṇa cannot be calculated materially. It is a transcendental distinction. Actually They both are one and the same Supreme Personality of Godhead. But according to the display of Their opulences, They are calculated differently.
His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda explains this point with a simple analogy in his purport to the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam verse 1.3.28. “When in a room small electric bulbs are displayed, it does not mean that the electric powerhouse is limited by the small bulbs. The same powerhouse can supply power to operate large-scale industrial dynamos with greater volts. Similarly, the incarnations of the Lord display limited powers because so much power is needed at that particular time. … All the different incarnations of the Lord indirectly or directly manifested different features, but Lord Kṛṣṇa, the primeval Lord, exhibited the complete features of Godhead, and thus it is confirmed that He is the source of all other incarnations.”
Lord Brahmā states in the Brahma-saṁhitā (5.48) thus:
jīvanti loma-vilajā jagad-aṇḍa-nāthāḥ
viṣṇur mahān sa iha yasya kalā-viśeṣo
govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi
“The Brahmās, the heads of the innumerable universes, live only for the duration of one breath of Mahā-Viṣṇu (311.04 trillion earth years). I worship Govinda, the original Lord, of whom Mahā-Viṣṇu is but a portion of a plenary portion.”
WHAT IS OUR BENEFIT?
This is the reason why the śāstras (scriptures) recommend everyone to chant the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra in this kali-yuga to facilitate our quick deliverance.
hare kṛṣṇa hare kṛṣṇa
kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa hare hare
hare rāma hare rāma
rāma rāma hare hare
iti ṣoḍaśakaṁ nāmnāṁ
“After searching through all the Vedic literature one cannot find a method of religion more sublime for this age of Kali than the chanting of the sixteen-word Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra, which can completely destroy the ill-effects of this age.” [Kali-santaraṇa Upaniṣad]
It is on the strength of such extensive scriptural evidence that Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, the devotee-incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, inaugurated the congregational chanting of Kṛṣṇa’s holy names 530 years ago for the deliverance of the population of kali-yuga.
yajanti hi su-medhasaḥ
“In the Age of Kali, intelligent persons perform congregational chanting to worship the incarnation of Godhead who constantly sings the names of Kṛṣṇa (Lord Caitanya). Although His complexion is not blackish (golden), He is Kṛṣṇa Himself. He is accompanied by His associates, servants, weapons and confidential companions.” [Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 11.5.32]
In one chant of the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra, the word Kṛṣṇa occurs four times and the word Rāma also occurs four times. Thus, by chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra once, one accrues as much benefit as chanting at least sixteen thousand names of Lord Viṣṇu or chanting the entire Viṣṇu-sahasra-nāma sixteen times over. Therefore, chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa is the most powerful method for spiriual perfection.
This extraordinary power of the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra can be practically observed. Our Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement comprises devotees from different walks of life, from different races, and different countries and cultures. Although they were addicted to so many sinful habits, just by chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra repeatedly everyday, they have easily given up all such bad habits and thoughts and became pure-hearted devotees of the Lord. In fact, many people comment that the devotees of our movement are bright-faced and happy.
Therefore, all intelligent people of the world are advised to take to the chanting of the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra and thus make their lives successful and return home, back to Godhead in this very life. One should not waste time with any other process. [End]