Nam Hatta: The Onus is On You
by Hansadutta dasa
In Chaitanya-charitamrita, Madhya-lila, Chapter Seven, Lord Chaitanya’s method of preaching and Prabhupada’s comments regarding the process of preaching Lord Chaitanya practiced while traveling throughout South India (a period of about two years) are very necessary for all devotees to study and understand clearly.
Because of the circumstances under which most of Prabhupada’s early disciples joined the movement, a widespread misunderstanding has become a great obstacle for people in general to accept and practice Krishna consciousness in a realistic and progressive way under all circumstances. That misunderstanding is that a serious candidate for accepting and advancing in Krishna consciousness must abandon his worldly environment and responsibilities to join a temple ashram and live a communal or communistic life style under the rigid authority of an ISKCON GBC or guru. Nothing could be further from the truth, as we can plainly understand from the following descriptions of Lord Chaitanya’s preaching method and Prabhupada’s purports, which clearly support and obviously encourage the process introduced by Lord Chaitanya in His dealing with the Kurma brahmana and everyone He encountered throughout His two years of traveling and preaching in South India.
Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta: Madhya-līlā Chapter 7
by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda
Text 125: “My dear Lord, there is no limit to my great fortune. It cannot be described. Today my family, birth and riches have all been glorified.”
Text 126:The brahmana begged Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, “My dear Lord, kindly show me favour and let me go with You. I can no longer tolerate the waves of misery caused by materialistic life.”
This statement is applicable for everyone, regardless of how rich or prosperous one may be. Narottama das Thakur as confirmed this statement: samsara visanale, diva-nisi hiya jvale. He states that the materialistic way of life causes a burning in the heart. One cannot make any provisions for the troublesome life of the material world. It is a fact that one may be very happy as far as riches are concerned and one may be very opulent in every respect, yet one has to manage the visayas to meet the demands of the body and of so many family members and subordinates. One has to take so much trouble to minister to others. Narottama dasa Thakura therefore prays: visaya chapiya kabe suddha habe mana. Thus one must become freed from the materialistic way of life. One has to merge himself in the ocean of transcendental bliss. In other words, one cannot relish transcendental bliss without being freed from the materialistic way of life. It appears that the brahmana named Kurma was materially very happy, for he expressed his family tradition as janmakula-dhana. Now, being glorified, he wanted to leave all these material opulences. He wanted to travel with Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. According to the Vedic way of civilization, one should leave his family after attaining fifty years of age and go to the forest of Vrindavan to devote the rest of his life to the service of the Lord.
Text 127: Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu replied, “Don’t speak like that again. Better to remain at home and chant the holy name of Krishna always.
PURPORT: It is not advisable in this age of Kali to leave one’s family suddenly, for people are not trained as proper brahmacharis and grihasthas. Therefore Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu advised the brahmana not to be too eager to give up family life. It would be better to remain with his family and try to become purified by chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra regularly under the direction of a spiritual master. This is the instruction of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. If this principle is followed by everyone, there is no need to accept sannyasa. In the next verse, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu advises everyone to become an ideal householder by offenselessly chanting the Hare Krishna mantra and teaching the same principle to everyone He meets.
Text 128: “Instruct everyone to follow the orders of Lord Sri Krishna as they are given in Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam. In this way, become a spiritual master and try to liberate everyone in this land.”
PURPORT: This is the sublime mission of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. Many people come and inquire whether they have to give up family life to join the Society, but that is not our mission. One can remain comfortably in his residence. We simply request everyone to chant the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. If one is a little literate and can read Bhagavad-gita As It Is and SrimadBhagavatam, that is so much the better. These works are now available in an English translation, and are done very authoritatively to appeal to all classes of men. Instead of living engrossed in material activities, people throughout the world should take advantage of this movement and chant the Hare Krishna maha-mantra at home with their families. One should also refrain from sinful activities-illicit sex, meat eating, gambling and intoxication. Out of these four items, illicit sex is very sinful. Every person must get married. Every woman especially must get married. If the women outnumber the men, some men can accept more than one wife. In that way there will be no prostitution in society. If men can marry more than one wife, illicit sex life will be stopped. One can also produce many nice preparations to offer Krishna—grain, fruit, flowers and milk. Why should one indulge in unnecessary meat eating and maintain horrible slaughterhouses? What is the use of smoking and drinking tea and coffee? People are already intoxicated by material enjoyment, and if they indulge in further intoxication, what chance is there for self realization? Similarly, one should not partake in gambling and unnecessarily agitate the mind. The real purpose of human life is to attain the spiritual platform and return to Godhead. That is the summum bonum of spiritual realization. The Krishna consciousness movement is trying to elevate human society to the perfection of life by pursuing the method described by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in His advice to the brahmana Kurma. That is, one should stay at home, chant the Hare Krishna mantra and preach the instructions of Krishna as they are given in Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam.
Text 129: Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu further advised the brahmana Kurma, “If you follow this instruction, your materialistic life at home will not obstruct your spiritual advancement. Indeed, if you follow these regulative principles, we will again meet here, or, rather, you will never lose My company.”
PURPORT: This is an opportunity for everyone. If one simply follows the instructions of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, under the guidance of His representative, and chants the Hare Krishna mantra, teaching everyone a far as possible the same principle, the contamination of the materialistic way of life will not even touch him. It does not matter whether one lives in a holy place like Vrindavana, Navadwipa or Jagnnatha Puri or in the midst of European cities where the materialistic way of live is very prominent. If a devotee follows the instructions of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, he lives in the company of the Lord. Wherever he lives, he converts that place into Vrindavan and Navadwipa. This means that materialism cannot touch him. This is the secret of success for one advancing in Krishna consciousness.
Text 130: At whosoever’s house Sri Chaitanya accepted His alms by taking prasada, He would convert the dwellers to His sankirtan movement and advise them just as He advised the brahmana named Kurma.
PURPORT: The cult of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is explained here very nicely. One who surrenders to Him and is ready to follow Him with heart and soul does not need to change his location. Nor is it necessary for one to change status. One may remain a householder, a medical practitioner, an engineer or whatever. It doesn’t matter. One only has to follow the instruction of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, chant the Hare Krishna maha-mantra and instruct relatives and friends in the teachings of Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam. One has to learn humility and meekness at home, following the instructions of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and in that way one’s life will be spiritually successful. One should not try to be an artificially advanced devotee thinking, “I am a first-class devotee.” Such thinking should be avoided. It is best not to accept any disciples. One has to become purified at home by chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra and preaching the principles enunciated by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Thus one can become a spiritual master and be freed from the contamination of material life.
There are many sahajiyas [pretenders] who decry the activities of the six Goswamis Rupa, Sanatana, Raghunatha das, Bhatta Raghunatha, Jiva and Gopala Bhatta Goswamis who are the personal associates of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and who enlightened society by writing books on devotional service. Similarly, Narottama dasa Thakura and other great acharyas like Madhvacharya, Ramanujacharya and others accepted many thousands of disciples to induce them to render devotional service. However, there is a class of sahajiyas who think that these activities are opposed to the principles of devotional service. Indeed, they consider such activities simply another phase of materialism. Thus opposing the principles of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, they commit offenses at His lotus feet. They should better consider His instructions and instead of seeking to be considered humble and meek, should refrain from criticizing the followers of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who engage in preaching. To protect His preachers, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has given much clear advice in these verses of Chaitanya-charitamrita.
Text 131-132: While on His tour, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu would spend the night at a temple or on the roadside. Whenever He accepted food from a person, He would give him the same advice He gave the brahmana named Kurma. He adopted this process until He returned from His South Indian tour to Jagannatha Puri.
Text 133: Thus I have described the Lord’s behavior elaborately in the case of Kurma. In this way, you will know of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s dealings throughout South India.
Text 134: Thus Lord Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu would remain at night in one place and the next moming, after bathing, start again. (Chaitanya-charitamrita, Madhya-lila, Chapter Seven, Verses 125-134)
This is the process which was actually practiced by Lord Chaitanya. It was also taught by Bhaktivinoda Thakura. In fact, he wrote a small booklet called Nama-hatta. Nama-hatta means the marketplace of the Holy Name. In that book he drew an analogy between the preaching of the Holy Name and a marketplace where one buys and sells commodities. The description given in that book is exactly like what we would call today multi-level marketing, such as practiced by Amway or Shaklee, where a friend comes to you and says, “Look, you buy soap, right?” and you say, “Yes, of course,” and he says, “So why not buy your soap from me?” He sells his friend soap, and his friend can also sell to his friends and relatives, and in this way make some money, and he can get the soap for practically nothing. And he tells his friends and relatives the same thing: “Look, you can sell to your friends and relatives.” In this way, multi-level marketing has become a dynamic way for American entrepreneurs to distribute their products.
Even companies like MCI have contracted Amway to sell their products. This is a natural, simple and convenient way for people to enterprise and circumvent the big corporate structures that have monopolized American industry. Similarly, 100 years ago, Bhaktivinoda Thakura suggested that the preaching of Krishna consciousness should be done in this way.
Just as Prabhupada came to us and taught us to chant Hare Krishna and follow the principles of Krishna consciousness, how to cook prasadam and he published these books, we in turn told our friends about it in those days, during the 60’s and 70’s. Of course, in those days, we did not have a home. We were in the street, having rejected society, so we did not have a social circumstance. We did not have an economic situation. We had given up society, because we were so frustrated and confused. But times have changed, and people are not wandering the streets like they were in those days. In the 60’s, Prabhupada gave us a home. He took us in, and we slept on the floor in the temple, and ate chapatis and rice and went about chanting Hare Krishna and convinced some of our peers to take up Krishna consciousness.
Unfortunately, many of us continued to project this method onto the whole world that people have to shave up and move into the temple and give up their car, bank balance, wife and kids and as a result, the Krishna consciousness movement is not spreading. In fact, it is disintegrating—not because there is something wrong with Krishna consciousness, but because in our shortsightedness we have failed to see the broader application.
There is no use of going to the forest for one who has failed to control his mind, because he only takes his uncontrolled mind with him. The best course of action is to remain situated in that environment where one finds himself due to the arrangement of Krishna and practice chanting the Holy Name of Krishna, expecting the mercy of the Lord in due course of time.
Everything depends on practice, and through practice of chanting the Holy Name a taste develops for hearing the transcendental vibration of Krishna’s Holy Name. Thus one naturally becomes indifferent to his family attachment, although he may be in the midst of such attachments (wife, children, house, car, etc.).
This method of practicing Krishna consciousness should be encouraged—not the misleading method of premature renunciation, which misleads one to mistake the abandoning of one’s material circumstance with renunciation. True renunciation is a side product of true attachment or taste for chanting the Holy Name of Krishna.
Simply making an external show of abandoning the troublesome objects of the senses (wealth, woman, prestige) will not help one to taste Krishna consciousness. It only creates pride and envy.
Some points to consider: One cannot abandon his mundane responsibilities. One cannot enjoy his mundane responsibilities. One should focus on the vibration of the Holy Name. We are in the midst of the ocean of material action and reaction. One wastes his valuable time and energy combatting the waves of the ocean. The aim is to come out of the ocean. Chant Hare Krishna, speak of Krishna, think of Krishna, serve Krishna—everything connected to Krishna. The flow of material activities is incidental. It will go on.
Devotees keep asking themselves, “How will the Krishna consciousness movement spread under the present circumstances?” They observe the lame leadership and feel personally helpless to make any change or contribution toward rectifying the situation or themselves. The answer to this debilitating state of thought is to see one’s self in the correct spiritual perspective. The devotees who helped Prabhupada spread his movement ISKCON are the same ones who can and will spread Krishna consciousness now and in the future. All that is required is that each individual devotee see himself as the servant of Prabhupada, now exactly as he was then (when Prabhupada was present). Act as rittvik representative of the acharya His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada, who said, “All of my disciples will take the legacy. If you want, you can also take it.”
Having been in this movement since 1967, practically twenty-six years, my personal experience watching the movement going through different transitions has convinced me that Nam-Hatta is the alternative, the way Krishna consciousness can be spread successfully. And it can be spread without any effort, avoiding the many problems we are experiencing now. The Nama-hatta approach will circumvent the power structure of the preaching institution. Our devotees have become so encumbered with managerial demands that they can no longer perform the simple, menial and humble task of telling people how to be Krishna conscious. Preaching is actually very easy. Anyone can do it, and we are organizing in this way, hoping that it will revive the momentum and spirit, the dynamic mood of the Krishna consciousness mission started by Srila Prabhupada. In conclusion, we quote Srila Prabhupada:
The temple center is started just to present an example to the neighboring residents, how they can make a small temple in each and every home. It is not necessary that hundreds and thousands of people will live in our temple, but if we can make effective propaganda, then the neighboring residents, householders, will be inclined to be initiated and follow the modes of temple life. So you can encourage the visitors, boys and girls, as well as married couples, to understand the value of life and how they can peacefully and happily live if they follow the routine worship method in the temple and establish this in their home to be happy in all respects. (Srila Prabhupada, letter to Tamal Krishna, June 1, 1969)