[Advaita-l] Fw: Clinging To The Divine Name: The Purest, Highest Dharma
badisa66 at yahoo.com
Sat May 16 09:58:42 CDT 2009
Namaste. i found the following article to be very interesting and inspiring spiritually, and would like to share with other members in this group. Namaste.
--- On Fri, 5/15/09, Exotic India <info at exoticindia.com> wrote:
From: Exotic India <info at exoticindia.com>
Subject: Clinging To The Divine Name: The Purest, Highest Dharma
To: badisa66 at yahoo.com
Date: Friday, May 15, 2009, 8:02 AM
Article of the Month - May 2009
Clinging To The Divine Name: The Purest, Highest Dharma
Each of us has to go one day. There are two ways of going. First
is being led away by ferocious servants of Yama the god of death.
The other is to be carried away in a divine airplane by servants
of Shri Narayana, the Supreme God, whose rule holds sway over all,
including Lord Yama.
Understandably, the latter destiny awaits only those who are
stainless, sinless and pure. However, the question here is whether
such an existence is possible, because the Bhagavad Gita clearly
'As fire is clouded by smoke, so is all karma clouded by some
defect (dosha) or the other'. (18.48)
'No one can ever remain, even for a moment, without performing
Therefore, our position can be summed up as follows:
We cannot exist without doing karma, and since there is no
stainless karma, we can never aspire to that supremely pure status
where we can hope to meet the divine end mentioned above.
Therefore, do what we may, we are fated to be carried away be the
gruesome, cruel servants of Yama.
Not at all. Shrimad Bhagavatam, the cream of all Vedic Literature
(Shastra), assures us that even though we are all inevitably
entangled within the negative (and positive) residue of the karma
we perform, nevertheless, not only is salvation accessible to all
humanity, the path to liberation is simple and uncomplicated.
The Shrimad Bhagavatam unfolds as a dialogue between the renowned
sage Shri Shukadeva and King Parikshit.
At one point the following conversation takes place:
King Parikshit: Please explain to me how a person can save himself
from falling down into torturous hells?
Shri Shukadeva: A man should definitely atone (prayashchit) for
his sins in this very life, otherwise he will definitely go to
hellish regions after death. Hence before one is overtaken by
death or disease, one should try to atone for one's sins, taking
into consideration their gravity, just as an expert physician
promptly adopts a remedial dosage of medicine, depending on the
severity of the malady.
Parikshit: Even after having atoned for a sin, and knowing very
well that committing a sin is against our interest, we commit
those very sins again and again. Therefore, it seems that
atonement for sins is meaningless like the bath of an elephant,
who, no sooner having taken a bath, besmears itself again with dust.
Shri Shukadeva: You are right. The results of karma cannot be
totally rooted out by karma alone. The atonements laid down in our
scriptures for the expiation of sins are for the ignorant only,
and as long as ignorance (avidya) remains, our desires will not be
uprooted completely and the tendency to commit the same acts again
and again will not go away. Hence true atonement consists of
knowledge, which washes away our ignorance. Just as diseases do
not attack a person who eats only pure and healthy food, the one
who regularly follows regular regulative principles (niyam),
gradually becomes eligible for salvation. These principles are -
penance, celibacy, subjugation of the senses, controlling the
mind, charity, truthfulness, inner and outer purity, nonviolence etc.
After having given this long list of do's and don'ts, knowing
fully well that following all these is quite difficult for
humanity in general, the great sage then presents an extremely
Shri Shukadeva: However, a few rare persons, completely
surrendered to Lord Krishna, annihilate their sins thoroughly
merely by their unswerving devotion to the Lord. A sinner is not
purified to that extent by penance etc., as he is by surrendering
his life to the Lord and serving the Lord's devotees. King
Parikshit! Bhakti is the most correct, fearless and blissful path,
because on this way are found highly-disciplined,
fully-surrendered devotees of Lord Krishna. Remember, even as many
rivers cannot purify a pot of wine thoroughly, similarly, several
acts of penance, even though they may be well performed, cannot
purify a person whose face is turned away from God
(Bhagavat-vimukh). Those who have even once in their life, set
their mind on the lotus feet of Lord Krishna, have already atoned
for all their sins. Not even in their dreams do they see Yama or
In a manner typical of Indian scriptures, Shri Shukadeva then goes
on to narrate an ancient story to illustrate this profound principle:
Long long ago there lived a learned Brahmin named Ajamila. He was
a good natured, virtuous, gentle, humble and pure Brahmin. Indeed
he was the abode of all good qualities. Once, he went to the
forest on the instructions of his father to collect flowers and
fruits. While returning he saw a shameless man in the company of a
prostitute. Both of them were drunk and embracing each other in a
semi-clad state. Ajamila tried his best to control himself with
patience, using all his knowledge of the scriptures; but, agitated
by lust, he was unable to stabilize his mind or calm down his heart.
Possessed by the devil of lust, he started brooding over the
prostitute and in the process abandoned all his prescribed
religious duties. Not only did he bring her home, but also in
trying to please her showered all his ancestral wealth on her. He
also left his legally wedded wife who had come from a respectable
Brahmin family. With his judgment thus paralyzed under the lustful
glance of the prostitute, after squandering all his money on her,
he now started to generate money by foul means to sustain her.
Living in this manner, he begot ten sons from the prostitute, the
youngest of whom was his favorite, who by a chance of fate, he had
named Narayana. Deeply attached to the toddler, he used to
experience much delight watching his infantile antics and
listening to his childish babble. Thus Ajamila, the fallen
Brahmin, continued to lead his debauched life and it was in his
eighty-eighth year that time caught up with him.
As he lay on his bed, Ajamila saw three ferocious Yamadutas
(servants of Yama), carrying a noose, coming to carry him away.
Not knowing what to do, the agitated Ajamila called out to his son
Narayana playing nearby. No sooner had he uttered that name, which
is none other than an epithet of the Supreme God, than the
servants of Lord Narayana, hearing their Master's name, rushed to
his side. At that time, the servants of Yama were extracting
Ajamila's subtle body from his physical body. The messengers of
Shri Narayana forcefully stopped them from doing so.
Thus prevented from carrying out their duty, the Yamadutas
demanded: "Who are you who thus defy the order of Yama, the lord
of dharma? Where have you come from and why are you stopping us
from taking him away?"
When the Yamadutas inquired of them in this manner, the servants
of Lord Narayana smiled and answered: "If you really are the
executors of Yama, the lord of dharma, tell us what is the true
nature of dharma? On what principles do you inflict punishment?
Who is the deserving candidate for punishment? Are all karmis
(those who perform karma) liable for punishment, or only some of
The servants of Yama replied: "What is ordained in the Vedas is
dharma and what is against the prescription of the Vedas is
adharma. Nobody invested with a body can be actionless (akarmi)
even for a single moment and any action is inevitably bound to be
a contaminated by an admixture of the three gunas (qualities of
nature) - Sattva (good), Rajas (mix) and Tamas (bad). Therefore,
everybody performs both meritorious deeds (punya) and sin (paap).
The amount of good (dharma) or bad (adhama) karma an individual
performs here, the same amount of fruit does he enjoy after death."
Hearing this discourse by the Yamadutas, the divine messengers of
Shri Narayana replied: "What a pity that you, the so-called
custodians of dharma, are behaving in a manner which will send out
a wrong message about dharma to the common people."
"This Ajamila has already atoned for all his sins. Indeed, he has
atoned not only for sins performed in one life but for those
performed across the millions of births he has taken; because he
has, even though helplessly, uttered the Name of Shri Narayana.
The very act of uttering the four syllables NA-RA-YA-NA has
absolved him of all sins. A thief, drunkard, or even one who
murders a Brahmin or a woman, for all these sinners, uttering the
Name of Narayana is the ultimate atonement because calling out the
Lord's Name brings the sinner to God's attention and the chanter's
mind is attracted to the Lord's divine qualities and form, thus
leading to its (mind's) purification."
"A sinner is not so thoroughly purified to that extent by
performing the expiatory acts mentioned in the Vedas, as he is be
the mere utterance of the Name of the Supreme Lord Narayana, as
His Name acquaints one with His excellences and attributes. This
is because even after performing the atonements prescribed in the
Vedic Scriptures, our mind again runs to towards sin. Therefore,
those who want to perform an atonement which annihilates sin from
the very root, should repeatedly extol the excellent attributes of
Narayana, as condensed in His Names, which purifies the mind as no
other sadhana can, and thus prevents one from committing the same
sin again and again. Therefore, do not take Ajamila by the wrong
way (a sinner's path leading to Yama), because he has uttered the
Name of the Lord just before dying and has washed off all sins."
"The Lord's Divine Name, even if uttered - to denote another
person (and not the Lord), or as a joke, for musical
entertainment, or even involuntarily while falling, slipping,
being bitten by a serpent, when afflicted with fever, or injured
by a weapon, one is immediately absolved from all torments of
hell. In the Vedas, proportionately heavy and light processes of
atonement have been delineated depending upon the magnitude of the
sin. Some of these atonements extend upto twelve years. However,
there is no such differentiation in the case of the Lord's Name.
No doubt, the various acts of repentance like austerity (tapasya),
charity (dana) etc., do absolve one of the sins, however, the
heart stained by the residue of the sins (samskaras) is not
purified, which requires the supreme presence of the Lord, in the
form of his Divine Name."
"As fire burns grass to ashes, so does the sacred Name of God,
whether chanted knowingly or unknowingly, burns to ashes all sins
of man. If a person, even though he may be unaware of its potency,
takes the dose of an effective medicine, the latter will act to
cure his ailment because its potency doesn't depend upon the
patient's understanding of its effectiveness. Similarly, even
though one may not know the value of chanting the Holy Name of the
Lord, the mere chanting of it will prove effective."
Thus the messengers of Shri Narayana convincingly explained to the
Yamadutas the essence of Param-Dharma or 'Bhagavat Dharma',
meaning the 'Higher-Dharma', and liberated Ajamila from their clutches.
Meanwhile, from his deathbed, Ajamila had been listening to this
conversation, and thus realized the truth about the two dharmas -
the first materialistic/ritualistic dharma expounded in the Vedas,
and the other Higher, Pure Dharma. The former being within the
bonds of the three gunas, and the other beyond these three
material bonds of nature. Now that he had heard the glory of the
Supreme Lord Narayana, there was kindled in his heart, loving
devotion (Bhakti) for God. Remembering his evil past, he felt a
deep remorse within himself:
"Alas, being a servant of my senses, how degraded I became. Shame
on me. Desecrating my brahminhood, I begot children in the womb of
a prostitute. I degraded my family tradition and giving up my
legally wedded virtuous wife, took up the company of an unchaste
"The dialogue I just witnessed, was it real or a dream? Where have
the noose-bearers who were just now dragging me gone? Where are my
four beautiful saviors? Though wretched in the present state, I
must have performed some auspicious deeds in my previous births,
otherwise, how could the tongue of an impure sinner like myself
utter the Divine Name of Shri Narayana at the time of death? Where
do I shameless rogue and sinner stand in comparison to the
supremely auspicious Name of Shri Hari?"
"Now that I am saved, I will control my mind and senses and try my
best to prevent myself from plunging down into dark hells. I
identified myself with the body and thus set out on the path of
fulfilling its (never-ending) desires and ruined myself in the
process. Now I will not again fall victim to the lure of physical
pleasure, and live with full self-control."
"The Lord's maya in the form of a woman bewitched me and I became
a mere plaything in her hands. She made me dance to her tune like
a pet-animal kept for amusement. Now I have recognized the
Absolute Truth Shri Narayana, and will give up the illusory
notions of 'I' and 'mine', and by chanting the Holy Name of God,
purify my mind and fix it on the Lord."
Thus through only a moment's association with the servants of Shri
Narayana, there arose in Ajamila's heart intense detachment
(Vairagya) from the material world, and giving up all associations
and attachments, he immediately went off to Haridwar, where taking
shelter in a temple he fixed his mind on the Lord. Having thus
withdrawn all his senses from the outside world, he soon saw again
in front of him the four divine messengers. Ajamila bowed down to
them, gave up his body, and accompanied by them, climbed onto a
golden airplane and then proceeded through the skies to the abode
of the Lord.
Doubt: Yamadutas carry one away only when one's stipulated
life-term is over. Then how come Ajamila was given an extended
lease of life?
Resolution: Ajamila had not exhausted his stipulated life. He was
being carried away by the servants of Death even before his
scheduled time because of the intensity of his sins. An extreme
sinner is unable to fulfill the stipulated time allotted to him.
Therefore, technically speaking, he still had some time left.
Doubt: If Ajamila was an extreme sinner all his life, how did he
become eligible for God's grace?
Resolution: After God's messengers had redeemed Ajamila, he did
not revert back to his old ways, like most of us would have done.
He promised himself that after getting out of my deathbed, I will
devote the rest of my life exclusively to God. We also see that
Ajamila, when he was confronted with the sight of the shameless
couple in the forest, tried with all his power to restrain
himself. He tried his best but failed. Then, in the end, after
being saved from the Yamadutas, he gave up his life to God.
Therefore, Ajamila relented both before and after committing the
sin. The Bhagavad Gita says:
"Desire is the constant enemy of the gyani (wise)." (3.39)
This verse separates the wise from the ignorant. The wise, when
desire first tries to take its hold over him, realizes it as an
enemy and tries to resist it. He may fail in the effort.
Afterwards, there is bound to be some trace of dukha as a result
of succumbing to desire. The wise obviously recognizes desire as
the root cause of this suffering. Here we may be certain that
since he is aware of the negative nature of desire before and
after the act, he certainly must have nurtured the same feelings
even while he was acting according to the desire. However, in the
case of the ignorant fellow, he first welcomes the onslaught of
desire as a friend. After he has been carried away by the wave,
and the resultant dukha has set in, only then does he realize
desire as his foe. Therefore, for the ignorant, desire becomes
undesirable only after indulging in it, and is not his constant enemy.
Hence we too should honestly peep into ourselves. When we sin, do
we really try to the best of our abilities to restrain ourselves
before indulging in it? If yes, we too are definitely eligible for
God's grace and eventually salvation.
For any of us who have recovered from a near death experience, it
is a strong message that we must realize that the rest of our life
now belongs to God. By His grace we are now especially eligible
for ultimate salvation. By no means are we to revert back to our
The Yamadutas meanwhile, who had been restrained by the messengers
of Lord Narayana, had hurried over to their master and informed
him of what had transpired. Hearing what they had to say, the
great god Yama was extremely pleased; because in describing the
course of events, his servants mentioned the name 'Narayana' many
times, and Yama, himself being a great devotee of the Supreme
Lord, was reminded of the lotus feet of the Lord. Then Yama said
to his followers:
"Not me, but someone else is the Supreme Ruler of the world. The
universe lies woven into Him, like warp and woof woven into a
cloth. The Supreme Religion of God (Bhagavat Dharma) is extremely
sacred, pure and secret. It's secret is known to only twelve of
us: Brahma, Narad, Lord Shiva, Sanat Kumar, Kapil Muni, Manu,
Prahlad, King Janaka, Bhishma, Bali, Shri Shukadeva and myself."
"The essence of this Dharma is as follows: Through the utterance
of His Divine Name, man should cultivate Bhakti towards God.
Indeed, this is the Highest Dharma or duty of man. Look at the
great efficacy of uttering Lord Vishnu's Name that even a great
sinner like Ajamila was rescued from the clutches of the noose of death."
"On the verge of death, when one's faculty cannot be concentrated
on the Lord, Ajamila simply shrieked out (and not devotionally
chanted) for his son, (and not the Lord) as Narayana, and attained
liberation. Alas! Even the most knowledgeable and intelligent
people are sometimes deluded by God's maya and their intelligence
gets attracted and entangled in the flowery language of the Vedas
promising attractive fruits of karma. They engage themselves in
big and exhaustive karmas, rituals etc, and not knowing the
supreme efficacy of uttering God's Name, they do not take recourse
of this simple means to salvation. The simplicity of chanting God's
Name is in indirect proportion to the supreme result it generates.
This very simplicity in fact makes people disbelieve it, making
them resort to highly complicated rituals, karma, ceremonies etc."
"An intelligent man, with one-pointed determination, performs only
those acts which are conducive to developing Bhakti towards the
Supreme Lord. Such persons are not eligible for punishment from
me. Even if they inadvertently do commit a sin, it is destroyed by
the chanting of God's Name. Such bhaktas are always protected by
Lord Vishnu's mace, hence my dear messengers, do not even think of
ever approaching such noble souls. Neither we nor Kala
(All-destructive Time), has the power or competency to punish them,"
"Paramhamsas (ascetics of the highest order) are exalted people
who have no taste for material enjoyment, but constantly drink the
sweet fragrant honey of the Lord's lotus feet. You should bring to
me only those people who are averse to the taste of this honey,
because they are attached to family life, which is but the path to
hell. Bring only those fellows to me whose tongue does not sing
the glorious Names of God, whose heart does not ever remember His
lotus feet, and whose head does not bow before Lord Krishna. Our
jurisdiction extends over only those who are followers of dharma
(or adharma). Over rest of the people who are followers of
Param-Dharma, we have no control."
Finally Yama, like a true Vaishnava bhakta said: "May the Lord
Narayana pardon me for the offence committed by my men, who set
out to carry away Ajamila for punishment even though he had
annihilated all his sins by uttering the Divine Name in his last moment."
Doubt: If we agree that all sins are destroyed by uttering the
Lord's Name, what comes next? What if we sin again before we die?
Reply: If we sin again then all the sins which have been destroyed
will spring back to life again.
Doubt: Then how will we be redeemed? It is not always possible
that we are able to take the Lord's Name at the moment of death,
since we often loose control of our thoughts and organs. So, what
can one do?
Resolution: The answer to this question is that the name of the
Lord should be uttered till the last possible moment. If no sin is
committed in between the time the name is spoken and the person
dies, it is considered that he took the Name at the time of death.
When we utter the Divine Name we wash away all our previous sins,
and if we don't sin again, then where is there scope for any doubt
regarding our salvation?
Our general impression is that to atone for small sins we have to
undergo smaller repentances and for bigger offences we have to
undergo bigger ones. If this is the case, what about those sins we
have accumulated over millions of our births? By this calculation
we can never atone for them. Thus, there has to be a simpler, more
As long as we have not developed Bhakti towards God, we are
governed by Yama, and the Yamadutas control us through the
repeated cycles of birth and death. However, when we develop
Bhakti (loving devotion) towards God, we go beyond the law of
karma and experience the law of grace instead. Yama merely
dispenses justice, but the Lord bestows grace. In fact, developing
an interest in the Divine Name is but a manifestation of God's
grace, because only when He showers us with extreme grace do we
develop affection for His sacred Name. With it comes the
realization that the purpose of life is not just to create more
good karmas, but to terminate karmas once and for all by
transcending the entire karmic process. The Name of the Lord
operates in both ways - it activates a release from karma as well
as the result of karma.
The scriptures clearly state that in this Kaliyuga, there is no
hope for salvation other than chanting the glorious Names of the
Supreme Lord, because this is the only way to rid oneself of sins.
It is easy to perform good deeds, but extremely difficult to stop
performing sins. The surest, easiest way to stop these sins from
clinging to us is by continuously clinging to the Divine Name,
since we cannot even for a moment remain without doing karma, and
no karma, whatever its nature, can be totally stainless and free of sin.
Sinning (because of its inevitability) is an ordinary offence, but
not realizing and accepting it is a much greater offence. By
taking the shelter of the Divine Name, we not only acknowledge
this not so positive, inevitable and continuous part of our
existence, but also, most importantly, become eligible for Divine
Grace and are immediately saved from its (karmas) unhappy effects.
The name Ajamila too is significant. It can be interpreted in two
ways. The first is Aja + mila. 'Aja' means maya and 'mila' means
one joined, thus meaning one enmeshed within maya.
The second way is Aj + amil. 'Aj' means the Supreme Lord Vishnu
and 'amila' means disjoint, signifying one who is away from God.
Both these interpretations define the modern individual of today.
Actually, we place too much faith in our own name, but none on
God's. If we are able to have faith in the Divine Name, then no
need for those heavyweight sadhanas. However, engaged in karma
over numerous lifetimes, by our very nature we are unable to place
faith in any means which doesn't require a heavy dose of karma.
Therefore, when you stumble while walking, do not exclaim Oh! Oh!
Rather say Narayana, Krishna, Rama, Shiva or any other name of God
you are fond of; and if possible, do name your child on your
The story of Ajamila occurs in detail in the Shrimad Bhagavatam 6.1-3.
This article by Nitin Kumar
References and Further Reading
Chinmayananda, Swami. The Holy Geeta: Mumbai, 2002.
Dogre, Shri Ramachandra Keshav. Shrimad Bhagavat Rahasya
(Collection of Discourses): Delhi.
Jyotirmayananda, Swami. Mysticism of the Srimad Bhagavatam:
Prabhupad, A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami. A Second Chance (Discourses on
the Story of Ajamila): Mumbai, 2007.
Prabhupad, A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami. Srimad Bhagavatam (47
Saraswati, Acharya Bhagavatananda. Shrimad Bhagavat Parijat:
Saraswati, Swami Akhandananda. Bhagawatamrit (The Elixir of the
Bhagwat): Mumbai, 2005.
Saraswati, Swami Akhandananda. Bhagavata Darshan (Collection of
Discourses in Two Volumes): Mumbai, 2003.
Saraswati, Swami Akhandananda. Bhagavat Vyanjan: Mumbai, 2006.
Saraswati, Swami Akhandananda (tr). Shrimad Bhagavata Purana (2
Volumes): Gorakhpur, 2004.
Shastri, Shri Krishanshanker. Shrimad Bhagavatam Mahapuranam (With
Eight Commentaries): Gujarat, 1966.
Tagare, G.V. (tr). The Bhagavata Purana (5 Volumes (Annotated))
Tejomayananda, Swami. Shrimad Bhagavata Pravachan (Discourses on
The Shrimad Bhagavata Purana): Mumbai, 2006.
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