[Advaita-l] Fw: Clinging To The Divine Name: The Purest, Highest Dharma

ramesh badisa 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 
karma.' (3.5)

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.

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The Shrimad Bhagavatam unfolds as a dialogue between the renowned 
sage Shri Shukadeva and King Parikshit.

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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 
simple path:

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 
his servants.

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."

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"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."

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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 
wine-drinking woman."

"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 
earlier life-styles.

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."

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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 
elegant solution.

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 
favorite God.

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: 
Ghaziabad, 2007.

Prabhupad, A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami. A Second Chance (Discourses on 
the Story of Ajamila): Mumbai, 2007.

Prabhupad, A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami. Srimad Bhagavatam (47 
Volumes): Mumbai.

Saraswati, Acharya Bhagavatananda. Shrimad Bhagavat Parijat: 
Varanasi, 2002.

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)) 
Delhi, 2002.

Tejomayananda, Swami. Shrimad Bhagavata Pravachan (Discourses on 
The Shrimad Bhagavata Purana): Mumbai, 2006.


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