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Discussions specifically related with the various aspects of practice of bhakti-sadhana in Gaudiya Vaishnavism.

Three "Stages" of Chanting - suddha-nama, nama-abhasa, nama-aparadha

dauji - Wed, 11 Jan 2006 04:41:07 +0530
Dear Vaisnavas,

This question has a theoretical side to it, but since it relates to devotional practice I decided to post it here. Moderators, please move to a more appropriate section if necessary. Thank you.

In certain schools of thought, primarily those coming from an ISKCON/Gaudiya Math background, there are said to be three "stages" of chanting: nama-aparadha, nama-abhasa, suddha-nama. Sacinandana Swami, in his book The Nectarean Ocean of the Holy Name, describes them thusly:

"This is the pure stage of chanting where Krsna fully reveals Himself." He continues, "A devotee who chants suddha-nama observes Krsna appearing personally on his tongue. As an effect of this chanting, he is bestowed pure love of God."

"This is chanting on the clearing stage, with the deliberate endeavor to avoid offenses and to hear the holy name with full attention. On this stage, pure love of God will not manifest immediately—this is only attained by suddha-nama." He adds, "By serving the spiritual master with full attention while chanting namabhasa, one gradually rises to the platform of suddha-nama..."

"Chanting with offenses. On this stage, pure love is even further away than on the clearing stage. As long as the chanting is performed with offenses, it is absolutely impossible to attain love of God. Nothing else should be aspired than to to progress to the next stage as quickly as possible."

However, Satya Narayana Dasaji contends, in his book Nama Tattva, that this categorization of "stages" is erroneous. He states, "At present, there is a prominent misconception in regard to nama-kirtana that is held by many adherents of this practice." He continues, "In brief it may be stated that nama is always pure. It is the chanter who may or may not be pure. Although nama is always pure, it manifests its potency in proportion to the purity of the chanter. Furthermore, namabhasa refers to chanting performed unconsciously in reference to something else, as was the case with Ajamila. Therefore namabhasa can never refer to any practice of nama that is consciously undertaken as a stage of sadhana."

In regard to nama-aparadha Satya Narayana Dasaji states, " one chants namaparadha as a stage of sadhana. Rather one chants and may simultaneously commit aparadha. Hence, namaparadha and namabhasa can never be accepted as stages in the progress of nama-sadhana."

Satya Narayana Dasaji states that his treatise on nama-tattva is based on Visvanatha Cakravartipada's commentary on SB 6.2.9-10. However, I don't recall seeing a definition given by Cakravartipada on these terms included in the book.

I was hoping that Vaisnavas on this forum might help to shed some light on this debate for me.

Thank you.