Mystic Experience and the Name of God
From Back to Godhead
By Achyutananda Das
Taking into account the many descriptions of Godhead found in ancient books, scriptures and the eternal wisdom heard by disciples from their venerable masters, the Absolute Truth may be defined as follows: He is by Himself and for Himself; He has all knowledge, strength, opulence, fame, beauty and renunciation; He is the Fountainhead of limitless energies and the Fountainhead of infinite qualities all of which are identical with Himself. He has infinite forms, all of which have equal powers and qualities; and He has infinite Names with which He is identical. And, He is beyond the scope of the organic senses. We cannot see Him, hear Him, touch Him, smell or taste Him with our eyes, ears, hands, noses or tongues. The Name of God can only be spoken through spiritual lips; in which case, in our Krishna Consciousness society, which preaches the group chanting of the Name of God, exactly what are we all doing? Why chant the 16-word mantra of Hare Krishna if God’s Name is beyond our power to utter? This sensible question deserves a sensible answer, and to do justice to this common inquiry we can only go to the writings of those souls who actually have had spiritual bodies, senses and faculties and who had regular intimate communion with Krishna.
Bhaktivinode Thakur is one such spiritual entity whose poems, writings and powerful, inspiring personality is moving mountains of darkness from the hearts of the devotees. He has written, “O Harer Nama [the Name of God], You enter my ear, my tongue and penetrate my heart and tears spring from my eyes, turning the dust at my feet to clay. Thus the impressions of my steps are left so that others will follow my way.” So it is not by his own initiative that anyone may chant the Name, but it is the Name which takes the initiative and out of His own prerogative descends to the soul of the aspirant.
When the Name pierces all the physical, mental and intellectual boundaries up to the soul, then the full Personality of Krishna with all His qualities, forms, etc. is realized. It is just like this: on a cloudy day we cannot see the sun, but it is due to the sunlight itself that we see the clouds. When by the heat of the sun the clouds break, the clear light is seen and then the full sphere of the sun is seen at last, revealing the world, myself and of course the full sun itself. Krishna descends to our consciousness in the same manner. First as a principle that is to say, by our reason we come to the knowledge that we and this world must have a creator who is different but not apart from us. Then if the seeker is more fortunate, a firm belief can become lodged in his mind.
As the Divinity comes down through the chanting of the Name, real spiritual experience enters one’s senses, and sometimes he feels or sees God everywhere. Where the devotee is determined to seek after God above and beyond anything else, it is a sign that Krishna is piercing his finer sentiments until, face to face, the devotee sees Krishna, having totally surrendered to Him. Those learned in the science of Krishna declare this stage to be “Samadhi,” or trance.
Such a state is very rarely to be found in any person, and yet nowadays we frequently read about states which resemble samadhi achieved by quite a number of mystical people. How can we be sure of authenticity?
There are eight symptoms which precede samadhi, which are as follows: 1) stunned sensation, 2) chills, 3) what we know as goose bumps or horripilations, 4) trembling, 5) perspiration, 6) tears, 7) choking and 8) trance. But just by seeing these outer signs, can we conclude that a person is really in samadhi? No. And many cases of such tricks or accidents of nature occur. Once a scholar was reading this description to some elderly religious women. He noticed that all through his discourse one women was weeping constantly. He thought that she might be approaching that rare state, and afterwards bowed to her and praised her devotion. But the old grandmother said, “No, I am not a devotee. I had a son he died last year. You look just like my boy!” With that she departed the temple, leaving the foolish scholar baffled.
We must never judge the true contact with God by material or outward symptoms, though they may resemble the eight sattvik, or pure, symptoms of samadhi. Once a yogi came to a village and displayed his power of walking across the surface of a river. All the people showered coins and praises on him, but one wise old man approached him and said, “Swamiji, you have two cents worth of power!”
“How is that?” the yogi retorted, amazed by such denseness and arrogance.
“Because for two cents I can take you across the river on my boat!”
No matter how wonderful the feats of magic or of nature may look, we must always weigh them on the scales of eternal, blissful knowledge. At this moment huge waves are crashing together in the ocean. Niagara Falls is discharging billions of kilowatts of energy, even galaxies are colliding somewhere, causing inconceivably blinding light and explosions terrible enough to dwarf 1000 megaton hydrogen bombs but sitting aloof from any of this temporary if grand phenomena, the soul of man remains untouched. No matter how great the impressions of phenomena are, they are only elements changing energy into other elements, and cannot pierce to the true depths of the soul. But if one man makes 1 per cent of spiritual progress, he has made eternal progress which benefits all beings. For when Krishna actually does descend to any soul, He can project His energy to all things near and far.
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s inconceivable spiritual potency is such. When His chanting was vibrated, even trees and wild animals forgot their conditional natures and danced in ecstasy. Any of the supremely fortunate people who witnessed His pastimes became powerhouses of divine energy, each and every one capable of continuing the smooth flow of Krishna Consciousness to all, as that consciousness itself descended from Krishna’s realm.
No personality, incarnation, saint or great emperor has revealed such vibrant outbursts of direct contact of God as Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Sometimes He would, in the transcendental feeling of separation, be endowed with all the eight above-mentioned symptoms. Raising Himself to full height, He would crash to the ground wailing for Krishna. The devotees often feared all His bones broken to splinters. After chanting the Hare Krishna Mantra, Chaitanya sometimes began to roll to and fro. Rivers of tears flowed from His eyes. And then He gave an extremely confidential teaching: “I have no trace, not a tinge of love for Krishna in Me for if I did, how is it that I could remain alive within this body?”
Not to speak of the trances and “experiences” recorded by many curious seekers of “bliss consciousness,” cosmic and “expanded” consciousness, Lord Chaitanya, in the ecstasy of love of God, felt His own love hopelessly inadequate. He made light of the many symptoms He exhibited, and when He spoke at all it was not of Himself, but of the pure love of God which was His life and mission.
Now, if it is possible to connect oneself with the current of blissful consciousness, what is the method? There are many doors but which one leads to the goal? We are not yet possessed of pure intelligence, so how can we know which way is right? Again the answer descends from Krishna, enriched by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and revived by Bhaktivinode Thakur, whose potency was infused into Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati, who in turn bestowed his great love and mercy and sublime wisdom upon Prabhupad Bhaktivedanta Swami, the writer’s own divine master. Now available for all, regardless of rank or status and free of charge, the same primeval Krishna Consciousness is being distributed by Prabhupad’s Society. Carried along spiritual currents, the Name divine, the Maha Mantra comes, as we spread the glorious chanting of Hare Krishna.