Chapter Eighteen

 

CHANTING THE HOLY NAMES OF THE LORD

 

DEVOTEE: When I see the solemn Rabbis davening, it is hard to imagine that they are searching for the same ecstasy from love of God that a Hindu is trying to achieve during a bhajan or kértana.
RABBI: Our natural love for God (EL KNA) must be revived. Therefore, it is written, "And ye who ceave to the Lord your God, ye are alive today"[] R. Simeon further said: "In all things there is "drawing near" for him who understands how to accomplish the union and to worship the Lord, for when the sacrifice is offered in the manner due, all grades are brought near as one unity, and the light of Countenance is present in the world, in the Sanctuary, and the "other side is the subdued..."[Zohar]
"When the dawn brightens and he recites his prayers, and unifies the Holy Name in the manner due, he is encircled with a thread of grace; he looks into the firmament, and a light of holy knowledge rests upon him. As the man is thus adorned and shrouded with light all things tremble before him, for he is called the son of the Holy One...the Lord is nigh to all who call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth." [Zohar 57a] [Ps.CXLV, 18]
Therefore, it has been taught that a priest who knows not how to unify thus the Holy Name can not perform proper service, for on the achievement of that unity hangs both celestial and terrestrial worship. The priest must, therefore, strive to concentrate heart and mind on the attainment of this unification, so that those above and those below may be blessed. [Zohar III 57a] [2 Sam. VIII, 23]
DEVOTEE: Certainly, the Vedas also highly recommend the regular praising of the Lord's holy names. In fact, in this present age, called Kali-yuga, the chanting of God's names is the method recommended by Lord Caitanya Mahäprabhu for people in general to realize God. It is said, "harer näma harer näma harer nämaiva kevalam kalau nästy eva nästy eva nästy eva gatir anyathä "In the age of Kali, the present age of materialism and quarrel, there is no alternative, there is no alternative, there is no alternative for making positive spiritual advancement but the chanting of the holy name, the holy name, the holy name of the Lord." [Båhad Näradéya Puraëa]
While anyone can chant the holy names of the Lord, in order to receive the full benefit of the chanting, pure love for God, one must chant without offense. When we are chanting the holy names, we are praying to the Lord to be engaged in His service. Offenseless chanting therefore means that our heart is so pure that we have no other motivation for chanting the holy names than to serve the Lord. We must unify our desire with the desire of the Lord. The chanting of the Lord's holy names is both the means and the end of the process, which is to revive our dormant love for God.
RABBI: It is amazing how similar the Jewish teachings are to the Vedic version. Although Jews may not chant Krsna, the principle is the same, to perfect our lives by prayer.
DEVOTEE: Rabbi, the Vedas explain that one may experience great ecstasy by properly chanting the Lord's holy names. In the Jewish religion, does perfect chanting of the holy names (prayer) also allow one to experience spiritual ecstasy and if so, what are the symptoms of one who is experiencing such joyful ecstasy?
RABBI: People who have dedicated their lives to the service of God may at times feel unlimited joy or ecstasy while engaged in prayer. It is said, "Permute the letters back and forth, and in this manner, you will reach the first level. As a result of the activity and your concentration on the letters, your mind will become bound to them. The hairs on your head will stand on end and tremble. Your lifeblood is in your heart, and regarding this it is written, "the blood is the soul" [Deuteronomy 12:23]. It is likewise written, "The blood in the soul will atone" [Leviticus 17:11]. This blood within you will begin to vibrate because of the permutations that loosen it. Your entire body will then begin to tremble, and all your limbs will be seized with shuddering. You will experience the terror of God and will be enveloped with fear of Him. You will then feel as if an additional spirit is within you, arousing you and strengthening you, passing through your entire body and giving you leisure. It will seem as you have been anointed with perfumed oil, from head to foot. You will rejoice and have great pleasure. You will experience ecstasy and trembling--ecstasy for the soul, and trembling for the body. [Meditation and Kabbalah, Treasury of the Hidden Eden p85-86]
DEVOTEE: The stage of bhava, love of God, is manifested by eight transcendental symptoms, namely inertness, perspiration, standing of hairs on end, failing in the voice, trembling, paleness of the body, tears in the eyes, and finally trance. Sometimes, materialist devotees of the Lord imitate these symptoms. But it is easy to understand that they are pretenders because it will be found that they are still addicted to all kinds of forbidden activities like smoking, drinking, or illegitimate sex with women. [Bhag. 2:3:24 Purport]

 

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