The importance of chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare is very strongly stressed in the Second Canto, 1st Chapter, 11th verse, of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam in the following way: Śukadeva Gosvāmī tells Mahārāj Parīkṣit: "My dear King, if one is spontaneously attached to the chanting of the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra, it is to be understood that he has attained the highest perfectional stage." It is specifically mentioned that the karmīs who are aspiring after the fruitive results of their activities, the salvationists who are aspiring to become one with the Supreme Person, and the yogīs who are aspiring after mystic perfections can achieve the results of all perfectional stages simply by chanting the mahā-mantra. Śukadeva uses the word nirṇītam, which means "it is already decided." He was a liberated soul and therefore could not accept anything which was not conclusive. So Śukadeva Gosvāmī especially stresses that it is already concluded that one who has come to the stage of chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra with determination and steadiness must be considered as having already passed the trials of fruitive activities, mental speculation and mystic yoga.
The same thing is confirmed in the Ādi Purāṇa by Kṛṣṇa. While addressing Arjuna He says, "Anyone who is engaged in chanting My transcendental name must be considered to be always associating with Me. And I may tell you frankly that for such a devotee I become easily purchased."
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 no 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.
Caitanya Mahāprabhu has recommended that everyone chant the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra just to cleanse the dust from the heart. If the dust of the heart is cleansed away, then one can actually understand the importance of the holy name. For persons who are not inclined to clean the dust from their heart and want to keep things as they are, it is not possible to derive the transcendental result of chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra. One should, therefore, be encouraged to develop his service attitude toward the Lord, because this will help him to chant without any offense. And so, under the guidance of a spiritual master, the disciple is trained simultaneously to render service and at the same time to chant the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra. As soon as one develops his spontaneous service attitude, he can immediately understand the transcendental nature of the holy names of the mahā-mantra.
In the Padma Purāṇa there is a statement about the importance of living at holy places like Mathurā or Dvārakā. It is stated there: "To travel to different places of pilgrimage means to attain emancipation from material bondage. This emancipation, however, is not the highest perfectional stage. After attaining this liberated stage, one has to become engaged in devotional service to the Lord. After attainment of the brahma-bhūta (liberation) stage one can further advance to engagement in devotional service. So this attainment of transcendental loving devotional service to the Lord is the goal of life, and it can be achieved very easily for one who lives in Mathurā-maṇḍala even for a few seconds."
It is further said: "Who is that person who will not agree to worship the land of Mathurā? Mathurā can deliver all the desires and ambitions of the fruitive workers and of the salvationists, who desire to become one with the supreme Brahman. Certainly Mathurā will deliver the desires of the devotees, who simply aspire to be engaged in the devotional service of the Lord." In the Vedic literature it is also stated: "How wonderful it is that simply by residing in Mathurā even for one day, one can achieve a transcendental loving attitude toward the Supreme Personality of Godhead! This land of Mathurā must be more glorious than Vaikuṇṭha-dhāma, the kingdom of God!"
Rūpa Gosvāmī has stated that the five kinds of devotional activities—namely, residing in Mathurā, worshiping the Deity of the Lord, reciting Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, serving a devotee, and chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra—are so potent that a small attachment for any one of these five items can arouse devotional ecstasy even in a neophyte.
Regarding worship of the form of the Lord, or Deity, Rūpa Gosvāmī has written the following verse: "My dear friends, if you still have any desire to enjoy the company of your friends within this material world, then don't look upon the form of Kṛṣṇa, who is standing on the bank of Keśī-ghāṭ (a bathing place in Vṛndāvana). He is known as Govinda, and His eyes are very enchanting. He is playing upon His flute, and on His head there is a peacock feather. And His whole body is illuminated by the moonlight in the sky."
The purport of this verse is that if someone becomes attached to the Śrī Mūrti, or Deity of Kṛṣṇa, by worshiping at home, then he will forget his relationship of so-called friendship, love and society. Thus it is the duty of every householder to install Deities of the Lord at home and to begin the process of worshiping along with all of his family members. This will save everyone from such unwanted activities as going to clubs, cinemas, dancing parties, smoking, drinking, etc. All such nonsense will be forgotten if one stresses the worship of the Deities at home.
Rūpa Gosvāmī further writes, "My dear foolish friend, I think that you have already heard some of the auspicious Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, which decries seeking the results of fruitive activities, economic development and liberation. I think now it is certain that gradually the verses of the Tenth Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, describing the pastimes of the Lord, will enter your ears and go into your heart."
In the beginning of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam it is said that unless one has the capacity to throw out, just like garbage, the fruitive results of ritualistic ceremonies, economic development and becoming one with the supreme (or salvation), one cannot understand Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. The Bhāgavatam deals exclusively with devotional service. Only one who studies Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam in the spirit of renunciation can understand the pastimes of the Lord which are described in the Tenth Canto. In other words, one should not try to understand the topics of the Tenth Canto, such as the rāsa-līlā (love dance), unless he has spontaneous attraction for Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. One must be situated in pure devotional service before he can relish Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam as it is.
In the above two verses of Rūpa Gosvāmī there are some metaphorical analogies, which indirectly condemn the association of materialistic society, friendship and love. People are generally attracted to society, friendship and love, and make elaborate arrangements and strong endeavors to develop these material contaminations; but to see the Śrī Mūrtis of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa is to forget such endeavors for material association. Rūpa Gosvāmī composed his verse in such a way that he was seemingly praising the material association of friendship, love, etc., and was condemning the audience of Śrī Mūrti or Govinda. This metaphorical analogy is constructed in such a way that things which seem to be eulogized are condemned, and things which are to be condemned are eulogized. The actual import of the verse is that one must see the form of Govinda if one at all wants to forget the nonsense of material friendship, love and society.
Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī has similarly described the transcendental nature of relishing topics which concern Kṛṣṇa. A devotee once said, "It is very astonishing that since I have seen this Personality of Godhead who is washed by the tears of my eyes, there is shivering of my body, and He has made me a failure in executing my material duties. Since seeing Him I cannot remain silently at home. I wish to go out to Him always." The purport of this statement is that as soon as one is fortunate enough to contact a pure devotee, he must be anxious immediately to hear about Kṛṣṇa, to learn about Kṛṣṇa, or, in other words, to become fully Kṛṣṇa conscious.
Similarly, there is a statement about hearing and chanting the mahā-mantra: "It is said that saints have been able to hear the vibrating strings of the vīṇā in the hands of Nārada, who is always singing the glories of Lord Kṛṣṇa. Now this same sound vibration has entered my ears, and I am always feeling the presence of the Supreme Personality. Gradually I am becoming bereft of all attachment for material enjoyment."
Again, he has described Mathurā-maṇḍala: "I remember the Lord standing by the banks of the Yamunā River, so beautiful amidst the kadamba trees, where many birds are chirping in the gardens. And these impressions are always giving me transcendental realization of beauty and bliss." This feeling about Mathurā-maṇḍala and Vṛndāvana by Rūpa Gosvāmī can actually be felt even by nondevotees. The places in the eighty-four-square-mile district of Mathurā are so beautifully situated on the banks of the River Yamunā that anyone who goes there will never want to return to this material world. These statements by Rūpa Gosvāmī are factually realized descriptions of Mathurā and Vṛndāvana. All these qualities prove that Mathurā and Vṛndāvana are situated transcendentally. Otherwise, there is no possibility of invoking our transcendental sentiments in these places. Such transcendental feelings are aroused immediately and without fail after one arrives in Mathurā or Vṛndāvana.
In these statements about devotional service, sometimes it may appear that the results have been overestimated; but actually there is no overestimation. Some devotees, as is evidenced from revealed scriptures, have had immediate results by such association, although this is not possible for all. For example, the Kumāras immediately became devotees simply by smelling the incense in the temple. Bilvamaṅgala Thākur simply heard about Kṛṣṇa and then immediately gave up his beautiful girl friend and started out for Mathurā and Vṛndāvana, where he became a perfect Vaiṣṇava. So these statements are not overestimations, nor are they stories. They are actual facts, but are true for certain devotees and do not necessarily apply to all. These descriptions, even if considered overestimations, must be taken as they are in order to divert our attention from the fleeting material beauty to the eternal beauty of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. And for a person who is already in contact with Kṛṣṇa consciousness, the described results are not unusual.
Some scholars argue that simply by following the principles of varṇa and āśrama one can gradually rise up to the perfections reached by practicing devotional service, but this argument is not accepted by the great authorities. Lord Caitanya also condemned this idea while He was talking with Rāmānanda Rai about the gradual development of devotional service. He rejected the idea of the importance of varṇāśrama-dharma when it was put forward by Rāmānanda Rai. He said that this advancement of varṇa and āśrama is merely external. There is a higher principle. In the Bhagavad-gītā also the Lord says that one has to give up all other principles of elevation and take simply to the method of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. That will help him in achieving the highest perfection of life.
In the Eleventh Canto, 20th Chapter, 8th verse, of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam the Lord Himself says: "One should execute the prescribed duties of varṇa and āśrama as long as he has not developed spontaneous attachment for hearing about My pastimes and activities." In other words, the prescribed forms of varṇa and āśrama are ritualistic ceremonies of religion intended for economic development, sense gratification or for salvation. All of these things are recommended for persons who have not developed Kṛṣṇa consciousness; in fact, all such activities are recommended in the revealed scriptures only to bring one to the point of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. But one who has already developed spontaneous attachment for Kṛṣṇa does not require to execute the duties prescribed in the scriptures.