QUESTION 1: What are the proper conceptions of the Name for persons who are just beginning to chant (i.e. those who are without attachment to Krishna in any particular rasa, but with a desire to somehow or other obtain such an attachment)?
Everyone has some “sambandha” with Krishna, and everyone should invoke his name in the context of that sambandha.
Sambandha means “bond” or “relationship.” Sambandha-jñāna (“knowledge of ones relationship to Krishna”) includes both the abstract and specific aspects of that relationship. The abstract aspects are much more relevant to the beginner, whose comprehension of Krishna is still abstract and somewhat vague. The specific aspects become more relevant as the practitioner clarifies his or her heart and soul through study and application of the mantra.
The abstract aspect of sambandha-jñāna is to know Krishna as the threefold manifest advaya-jñāna-tattva – the ultimate root of all beings and all things, including one’s very own self. Even the newest begginer to bhakti-yoga can be directly instructed about this philosophy. As they begin to comprehend this sambandha, their chanting of Krishna’s name naturally imbibes the sense of calling to the root of all reality, calling to the root and sustainence of one’s very own self.
“You are the root and essence of all the is real.”
“You are the root and essence of my very self.”
These conceptions of relationship to Krishna are pertinent and appropriate to every sādhaka, no matter how neophyte or advanced. But for the neophyte, this is all there is. For the advanced there is this and much more.
QUESTION 2: What are some possible conceptions after the appearance of greed in the heart for a specific relationship with Krishna?
In our quest for sambandha-jñāna we must hear about advaya-jñāna-tattva not only as the essence of everything (brahman), not only as the root of everyone and everything (paramātmā), but also as the delightful epitome of life itself – the Supreme Person (bhagavan). Then, hearing about Bhagavan in more detail from the śāstra, through the guidence of sādhu-guru, we will fairly soon find some details or aspects of Bhagavan that really “speak to” us, that “click” with us, and truly attract our heart and attention uncommonly and undeniably. This is the beginning of a rati-bija (seed of affection), described as laulya or lobha (longing and wanting, or “greed”).
If this never happens, we develop a bija for śānta-rati which is directed upon Paramātmā. If it does not happen with any specificity, but only as a general attraction, then we develop bija for service in general, dāsya-rati, directed upon Nārāyaṇa
In most cases, by attentively and thoughtfully hearing Srimad Bhagavatam from sādhu-guru, the attraction should gradually develop increasing specificity. Once we notice a spark of specific interest, we must enthusiastically fan that spark into flame – by hearing more and more about that topic of interest.
The more we recognize this spontaneous, undeniable interest in us for particular qualities of Krishna that express themselves in particular līlā with particupar parikara (associates), the more our sambandha develops some specificity, and moves away from the general, abstract sambandha characteristic of the yogi-bhaktas of śānta-rasa and the aśwarya-bhaktas of dāsya-rasa.
As specificity develops, the sādhaka would invoke Krishna’s name with increasingly specific subjective feeling. Somewhat generic examples include… “O Krishna my master,” or “O Krishna my friend,” “O Krishna my son,” “O Krishna my darling lover.”
With more clarity, one always hankers to keep Krishna with the devotee whose affection one cherishes. So for example, instead of “O Krishna my darling lover,” It could become “O Krishna our darling lover.” Or, “O Krishna, Rādhā’s darling lover.”
Each name in the mahāmantra takes an appropriate context relative to the chanter’s sambandha. For example, to one whose sambandha is mādhurya/ujjvala (Romantic), Hare means something like, “O Krishna’s enchanting beloved Rādhā.” Krishna means something like, “O Rādhā’s all-attractive beloved.” Rāma means something like, “O Radha’s delight/delighter.”
QUESTION 3: I’ve heard some devotees quote Aindra prabhu in saying that in the beggining one can conceive of the Name to be Gaura-Nitai.
“In the beginning” means in the beginning of the Kīrtan or initial batch of japa “rounds,” to evoke the presence of Sri Caitanya and his principle associates. He did not mean “in the beginning stages,” so far as I understand.
In Gauḍīya tradition, Kīrtan is performed for their pleasure, and it begins by inviting them to participate and dance in the kīrtan. This is usually done with specific songs and mantras. For example, in ISKCON and many similar Gaḍīya branches it is customary to chant “śrī kṛṣṇa-caitanya prabhu nityānanda…” before chanting “hare kṛṣṇa, hare kṛṣṇa…”
Aindra’s specific service, however, was to perform akhaṇḍa-nāma-kīrtan – 24 hour “unbroken” kīrtan of Krishna-nām. The Gauḍīya tradition is that akhaṇḍa kīrtan is purely hare kṛṣṇa mahāmantra unmixed with any other mantra – which even excludes śrī-kṛṣṇa-caitanya… Aindra’s unique service (coupled with his unique depth of practice) gave him a special realization about the viability of using the Hare Krishna mahāmantra to invoke the blessings and presence of Sri Caitanya Mahāprabhu and his principle associates.
His understanding, as far as I understand it:
Gadādhara Prabhu is one form of Rādhārānī in Gaura-līlā. So the name “Hare” (which primarily invokes Rādhārānī) can invoke Gadādhara. Mahāprabhu is Krishna in Gaura-līlā. So the name “Krishna” can invoke Him. Thus, “hare kṛṣṇa, hare kṛṣṇa, kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa, hare hare” can be sung with the sambandha of relationp to Gaura-līlā, to the effect of invoking “gadai gaura, gadai gaura, gaura gaura, gadai gadai.”
In Gaura-līlā Rādhārānī also appears as Mahāprabhu’s mood. Hence “Hare” can also represent Mahāprabhu’s mood. Balarāma appears as Nityānanda Prabhu in Gaura-līlā, hence “Rāma” can be used to refer to Nitai. Thus, “hare rāma, hare rāma, rāma rāma, hare hare” invokes “gaura nitai, gaura nitai, nitai nitai, gaura gaura.”
Vraja Kishor dās