The Divine Name

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Blessed Immortal Atman! Beloved sadhaks and seekers upon the path that leads to fearlessness and freedom, upon the path that leads to the cessation of all sorrow, that brings about eternal satisfaction and the attainment of supreme bliss!

God is intangible: avyakta, adrishta, agochara (unmanifest, unseen, imperceptible). All this is made very clear in the Vishnu-sahasranama. He is gudhah (hidden): eko devah sarvabhuteshu gudhah (The one Lord is hidden in all beings). He is sukshmati sukshma (subtler than the subtlest), avangmano-gochara (not known by the senses or the mind), yato vacho nivartante aprapya manasa saha (whence all speech, along with the mind, turn back not reaching It). He is beyond thought, beyond speech.

What then is the way to approach God? We are bound in gross physical consciousness, severely limited to thinking in terms of name and form. Without the basis, support, of names and forms, there is no vichara (enquiry into the nature of the Self) in our antahkarana (inner being). That being the case, what is it that can link us with that which is beyond thought, speech and mind, beyond the grasp of the intellect? Is there some bridge for us bound us as we are in gross conceptual thinking, objective thought? All our vrittis are vishayakara vrittis (thoughts of sense-objects). We can only think in terms of time and space, name and form, here and there, this and that—not of the transcendental. Bound in this state of limited, finite consciousness, what is the possibility of trying to link ourselves with that which is infinite, with that which is beyond time and space, beyond name and form?

It is here that the great science of the practice of the Divine Name comes as an answer to this problem, this great barrier between the known and the unknown, the finite and the infinite, the manifest and the unmanifest, the individual and the universal. The Divine Name is like a boatman who touches both banks. He comes to this bank and he can take us across, because he goes to the other bank as well. The Name has this great advantage.

God is intangible. Whatever we know of God in temples and mosques, synagogues and churches is only created by man, conceptual. We have to superimpose upon the symbols and images our imagination, our ideas of the higher Being. However, this intangible Being is present with us in one tangible aspect, which we can actually create, experience, feel and practise. That is Name, which we ourselves can articulate very clearly. It has a sound we can hear with our ear, and we can write it with our hand.

The rupa of Bhagavan (the form of God) is beyond our comprehension. But here is something, an aspect of God identical with Him, discovered in ancient times. It is the mantra (sacred syllable or word) of the supreme absolute Being. Here is a “being” that is name, and yet it is formless. Therefore it has contact with the formless world. Itself being devoid of rupa (form), being nirakara (formless), it has contact with the nirakara parabrahma tattva (formless supreme Reality). Parabrahma is nirakara, nirguna (without form, without attributes), but here It is nirakara but saguna (formless but with attributes). It is in the form of sabda (sound). It is in the form of nama. It has vibration. It has a tangible sound form which we can hear with our gross ear. We can even put it on tape, reproduce it, amplify it, broadcast it. So, here is something which you can do what you like with.

And the greatest, astounding truth about it is: it is Divinity in manifestation as sound. It is Divinity manifest as sabda or nada (the primal mystic sound), which Vedanta refers to as sabda-brahman, nada-brahman. He Who is beyond nada is caught by nada. He can be thus approached by this particular nada because it is nirakara. So, it is at once a tattva (principle) that has access to the beyond, the formless parabrahma tattva, to that field, and at the same time it has access to saguna (with attributes), the field in which we are living.

For us, everything has some quality. And this has one of the five main qualities perceived by us (form, taste, sound, touch, smell). It has sabda (sound) and is identical with God. Nama and nami (The Lord and His Name) are identical. Thus, every mantra composed out of the Divine Name, containing the Divine Name, framed around the Divine Name—Om Namah Sivaya, Om Namo Narayanaya, Om Sri Ram, Om Sri Krishnaya Namaha—every mantra is structurised around this direct manifest form of the Supreme Self in the form of nada, that is nam.

Therefore, Patanjali has a sutra which says that perfection can be obtained through repetition of the Name. And Jagat Guru Lord Krishna says: “He who repeats My Name at the time of leaving the body attains Me. He does not return once again into this mortal world.” Abheda, abhedata of nama and nami (The non-difference, identity of the Lord and His Name) has been established by the direct experience of those who have practised this path and attained perfection.

And one among those whom we know within historical memory, who attained sakshatkara (realisation) sheerly through making use of the Divine Name, was the Guru of Shivaji, Sri Samartha Ramdas, who knew nothing, who did nothing except practise “Sri Ram Jai Ram Jai Jai Ram.” And on the other side of the Indian subcontinent, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu attained Divine-consciousness, was inebriated with God-consciousness, through nam sankirtan: “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare.” He spread this great way to God-consciousness throughout the length and breadth of India. He established the supremacy of the Name as the one unfailing, sure method in Kali Yuga. Kaliyuga kevala nama adhara (The Name of the Lord is the only refuge in this Iron Age).

And it is only the revival of an ancient method. Even before Lord Rama incarnated Himself in this world, the hunter and dacoit Ratnakar attained perfection through constant practice of the Divine Name. He was illiterate, uncouth, uneducated, of the forest hunting tribe, and he actually did the Name in the wrong way, ulta (reverse). As the great Tulsidas said: “The whole world knows that Valmiki attained Brahmic-consciousness, attained the realisation of aham brahmasmi by doing japa, even in a wrong way.” He is renowned in Indian spiritual history as one who attained the supreme state of Brahmic-consciousness by japa and japa alone, because he knew nothing else. He did not know Sanskrit, nor Vedanta, nor the Upanishads, nor the Bhagavata, anything. He did not know hatha yoga, nor ashtanga yoga, nor kundalini, anything. He did not know asana, pranayama, anything. And, therefore, he could only do what he was capable of doing. He got hold of Ram Nam and became endowed with Brahmic-consciousness, became an illumined sage. He became the great sage Valmiki who produced the immortal epic, the Valmiki Ramayana. He had been a murdering desperado—cruel, violent, a sinner—yet he became one with Brahman in his spiritual consciousness solely through the repetition of the Divine Name.

All saints and spiritual teachers who have come in India over the past three or four hundred years have never failed to emphasise and lay great stress upon the practice of the Divine Name as the unfailing and certain way to attain God-realisation. And Gurudev, in the third of his Twenty Spiritual Instructions says: “Do japa of some mantra or just Om, according to your taste or inclination, from 108 to 21,000 times daily.” The Yogic calculation of human breathing is that there are 21,000 breaths within each cycle of twenty-four hours. They say that with each breath utter the Name of God. Therefore, the third instruction is to take up this unfailing, sure path. In this lies your highest welfare. The path of the Divine Name in this Kali Yuga is the supreme, the least complicated, the most efficacious, unfailing, simple and powerful path. May Gurudev’s grace and blessings give you success in your spiritual life and sadhana. God bless you!

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