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Re: Doubt

From: Krishna Susarla (krishna_at_ticnet.com)
Date: Wed May 13 1998 - 17:32:37 PDT

From: Mani Varadarajan <mani@best.com>

>Sincerity is always appreciated, nay requested, of
>Bhakti list members.  However, I request correspondents
>to refrain from condescending, abusive tones such as
>the following:
>
>> [the mood with which Chinmaya Mission members say "hari om"]
>> is nonetheless an annoyance for those of us who know better.
>
>While we may often fall short of the ideal, the Bhakti
>list is intended to be a polite group.


Hare Krishna. My apologies. Perhaps I should say that such chanting is
actually "differently appreciated." :-)

Anyway, the original question by R. Dinakaran was, why should "Hari Om" not
be said aloud or written? Since this phrase is found in many Upanishads, it
obviously must not be a scriptural directive. Hence, my point is that since
Vaishnavas generally regard such chanting by mayavadis as offensive, this
might explain why some of them discourage or forbid such chanting.

Why they regard such chanting as offensive might seem hard to understand.
After all, don't Vaishnavas always appreciate the chanting of the Holy
Names? An example of this is seen in the Sixth skandha of the Bhaagavatam,
wherein the Yama-duttas, after having failed to capture Ajaamila from the
Vishnu-duttas, complained to their master Yamaraaja that Ajaamila simply
chanted "Narayana" and thus they (the Yama-duttas) were defeated. Yamaraaja,
upon hearing his servants chant the Holy Name of the Lord (while
recollecting what had happened to them), was very pleased and thus
instructed his servants on how Lord Vishnu is the Supreme Personality of
Godhead. The point here is that great devotees, even when hearing accidental
chanting of the Lord's names from nondevotees, are very pleased.

Yet there is a world of difference between the chanting of an innocent
person and that of an offensive person. While both get transcendental
benefit, they are not received by devotees in the same way. The Yama-duttas
were simply fallen and ignorant, and thus they were basically innocent. On
the other hand, mayavadis will chant the Lord's names while actively
asserting that His names and form are made out of maya. They will assert
that the archa-vigraha of the Lord (as well as any other conceptions of the
Supreme Brahman having form) are merely means to an end, to be discarded
when one has reached some higher understanding. Thus, to them, Lord Vishnu
and the chanting of His names are simply a diversion for those whose
intelligence is less developed.

In particular, the preference of some mayavadis to chant "Hari Om" is pretty
easy to understand. "Om" to them brings up their conception of the formless,
nameless Brahman which is superior to all "saguNa" conceptions of Brahman
(such as Vishnu). The Chinmayananda people will probably say that "Hari Om"
somehow symbolizes the idea that one approaches God with a personalist
conception and later abandons it in favor of the "superior," impersonal
conception. This of course fits in well with their philosophy which holds
that the forms of Lakshmi and Vishnu are simply very elaborate symbols that
symbolize the gradual path to liberation. Of course, if your "heart is
better developed than your brain," as their leader once put it, you can
worship such "symbols," but this will only lead you to the understanding
that that's all they are.

So it's not hard to understand why some Vaishnavas might forbid the chanting
of holy names that are preferentially used by mayavadis. Personally, I have
mixed feelings about this. Although I can understand why one might regard as
offensive a nondevotee who chants "Hari Om" and similar phrases with an
impersonal understanding, to instruct others not to chant them also seems to
imply that that the Holy Names of the Lord can somehow be tainted by such an
act. Obviously, this can not be the case since the Lord, His Name, His
qualities, forms, and pastimes are always transcendental to the three modes
of material nature (the guNa-s). Then again, I suppose there are propriety
issues at stake; similar concerns are no doubt the basis of directives to
the effect that one should not even visit temples of demigods (even though
some of these demigods are very exalted devotees).

yours,

-- HKS