The simple process of offenselessly chanting and hearing the holy name of the Lord will gradually promote one very soon to the stage of emancipation. There are three stages in chanting the holy name of the Lord. The first stage is the offensive chanting of the holy name, and the second is the reflective stage of chanting the holy name. The third stage is the offenseless chanting of the holy name of the Lord. In the second stage only, the stage of reflection, between the offensive and offenseless stages, one automatically attains the stage of emancipation. And in the offenseless stage, one actually enters into the kingdom of God, although physically he may apparently be within the material world. To attain the offenseless stage, one must be on guard in the following manner.
When we speak of hearing and chanting, it means that not only should one chant and hear of the holy name of the Lord as Rāma, Kṛṣṇa (or systematically the sixteen names Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare), but one should also read and hear the Bhagavad-gītā and Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam in the association of devotees.
If one always chants the holy name of Kṛṣṇa, gradually one is freed from all reactions of sinful life, provided he chants offenselessly and does not commit more sinful activities on the strength of chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra. In this way one is purified, and his devotional service causes the arousal of his dormant love of God. If one simply chants the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra and does not commit sinful activities and offenses, one’s life is purified, and thus one comes to the fifth stage of perfection, or engagement in the loving service of the Lord (premā pum-artho mahān).
(Sri Caitanya Caritamrta—–1:8:26—–purport).
Certainly the chanting of 300,000 holy names of the Lord is wonderful. No ordinary person can chant so many names, nor should one artificially imitate Haridāsa Ṭhākura’s behavior. It is essential, however, that everyone fulfill a specific vow to chant the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra. Therefore we have prescribed in our Society that all our students must chant at least sixteen rounds daily. Such chanting must be offenseless in order to be of high quality. Mechanical chanting is not as powerful as chanting of the holy name without offenses.
(Sri Caitanya Caritamrta—–1:10:43—–purport).
The whole process can be summarized as follows: The advanced devotee who chants the holy name of the Lord in a perfectly offenseless manner and is friendly to everyone can actually relish the transcendental taste of glorifying the Lord. And the result of such realization is reflected in the cessation of all material desires, etc., as mentioned above. The neophytes, due to their being in the lower stage of devotional service, are invariably envious, so much so that they invent their own ways and means of devotional regulations without following the ācāryas. As such, even if they make a show of constantly chanting the holy name of the Lord, they cannot relish the transcendental taste of the holy name. Therefore, the show of tears in the eyes, trembling, perspiration or unconsciousness, etc., is condemned. They can, however, get in touch with a pure devotee of the Lord and rectify their bad habits; otherwise they shall continue to be stonehearted and unfit for any treatment. A complete progressive march on the return path home, back to Godhead, will depend on the instructions of the revealed scriptures directed by a realized devotee.
The advanced devotee who chants the holy name of the Lord in a perfectly offenseless manner and is friendly to everyone can actually relish the transcendental taste of glorifying the Lord. And the result of such realization is reflected in the cessation of all material desires, etc., as mentioned above. The neophytes, due to their being in the lower stage of devotional service, are invariably envious, so much so that they invent their own ways and means of devotional regulations without following the ācāryas. As such, even if they make a show of constantly chanting the holy name of the Lord, they cannot relish the transcendental taste of the holy name. Therefore, the show of tears in the eyes, trembling, perspiration or unconsciousness, etc., is condemned. They can, however, get in touch with a pure devotee of the Lord and rectify their bad habits; otherwise they shall continue to be stonehearted and unfit for any treatment.
In this age, the worship of the śālagrāma-śilā is not as important as the chanting of the holy name of the Lord. That is the injunction of the śāstra: harer nāma harer nāma harer nāmaiva kevalaṁ/ kalau nāsty eva nāsty eva nāsty eva gatir anyathā (CC.1:17:21). Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī’s opinion is that by chanting the holy name offenselessly one becomes completely perfect. Nevertheless, just to purify the situation of the mind, worship of the Deity in the temple is also necessary. Therefore when one is advanced in spiritual consciousness or is perfectly situated on a spiritual platform, he may take to the worship of the śālagrāma-śilā.
(Sri Caitanya Caritamrta—–1:13:86—–purport).
To emphasize something to an ordinary person, one may repeat it three times, just as one might say, “You must do this! You must do this! You must do this!” Thus the Bṛhan-nāradīya Purāṇa repeatedly emphasizes the chanting of the holy name so that people may take it seriously and thus free themselves from the clutches of māyā. It is our practical experience in the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement all over the world that many millions of people are factually coming to the spiritual stage of life simply by chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra regularly, according to the prescribed principles. Therefore our request to all our students is that they daily chant at least sixteen rounds of this harer nāma mahā-mantra offenselessly, following the regulative principles. Thus their success will be assured without a doubt.
(Sri Caitanya Caritamrta—–1:17:23—–purport).
The Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Second Canto, Third Chapter, verse 24, also states that if a person does not cry or exhibit bodily changes after chanting the holy name of God without offense, it is to be understood that he is hardhearted and that therefore his heart does not change even after he chants the holy name of God, Hare Kṛṣṇa. These bodily changes can take place due to ecstasy when we offenselessly chant the holy names of God: Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare.
When one is free from all ten of these offenses in chanting the holy name of God, he develops the ecstatic bodily features called pulakāśru. Pulaka means “symptoms of happiness,” and aśru means “tears in the eyes.” The symptoms of happiness and tears in the eyes must appear in a person who has chanted the holy name offenselessly. Here in this verse it is stated that those who have actually developed the symptoms of happiness and tears in the eyes by chanting the glories of the Lord are eligible to enter the kingdom of God. In the Caitanya-caritāmṛta it is said that if one does not develop these symptoms while chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa, it is to be understood that he is still offensive. Caitanya-caritāmṛta suggests a nice remedy in this connection. There it is said in verse 31, Chapter Eight, of Ādi-līlā, that if anyone takes shelter of Lord Caitanya and just chants the holy name of the Lord, Hare Kṛṣṇa, he becomes freed from all offenses.
In the Padma Purāṇa also it is stated, “The chanting of the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra is present only on the lips of a person who has for many births worshiped Vāsudeva.” It is further said in the Padma Purāṇa, “There is no difference between the holy name of the Lord and the Lord Himself. As such, the holy name is as perfect as the Lord Himself in fullness, purity and eternity. The holy name is not a material sound vibration, nor has it any material contamination.” The holy name cannot, therefore, be chanted offenselessly by one who has failed to purify his senses. In other words, materialistic senses cannot properly chant the holy names of the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra. But by adopting this chanting process, one is given a chance to actually purify himself, so that he may very soon chant offenselessly.
(Nectar of Devotion).
The chanting of the holy names of Kṛṣṇa is so sublime that if one chants the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra offenselessly, carefully avoiding the ten offenses, he can certainly be gradually elevated to the point of understanding that there is no difference between the holy name of the Lord and the Lord Himself. One who has reached such an understanding should be very much respected by neophyte devotees. One should know for certain that without chanting the holy name of the Lord offenselessly, one cannot be a proper candidate for advancement in Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
(Nectar of Instruction).
It is not advisable in this Age of Kali to leave one’s family suddenly, for people are not trained as proper brahmacārīs and gṛhasthas. Therefore Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu advised the brāhmaṇa not to be too eager to give up family life. It would be better to remain with his family and try to become purified by chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra regularly under the direction of a spiritual master. This is the instruction of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. If this principle is followed by everyone, there is no need to accept sannyāsa. In the next verse Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu advises everyone to become an ideal householder by offenselessly chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra and teaching the same principle to everyone he meets.
(Sri Caitanya Caritamrta—–2:7:127—–purport).
A person born in a family of the low caste which is accustomed to eat dogs is so positioned due to his past sinful activities, but by chanting or hearing once in pureness, or in an offenseless manner, he is immediately relieved of the sinful reaction. Not only is he relieved of the sinful reaction, but he immediately achieves the result of all purificatory processes. Taking birth in the family of a brāhmaṇa is certainly due to pious activities in one’s past life. But still a child who is born in a family of a brāhmaṇa depends for his further reformation upon initiation into acceptance of a sacred thread and many other reformatory processes. But a person who chants the holy name of the Lord, even if born in a family of caṇḍālas, dog-eaters, does not need reformation. Simply by chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa, he immediately becomes purified and becomes as good as the most learned brāhmaṇa.