(Shankararama Sharma, IISc Bengaluru Ph D student, was briefly in London and delivered a speech on Nama Japam in the February 2020 SIS satsang. This article expands on it.)

हरेर्नामैव नामैव नामैव मम जीवनम् । कलौ नास्त्येव नास्त्येव नास्त्येव गतिरन्यथा ॥

(Harērnāmaiva nāmaiva nāmaiva mama jīvanam| Kalau nāstyēva nāstyēva nāstyēva gatiranyathā||)

‘The name and only the name of the ‘Hari’ is my life. In this Kali Yuga there’s absolutely no other shelter.’ It relieves one from all bondage and is the giver of Mukti.

Of all the names with which the all-pervading reality is referred to, the epithet ‘Rama’ is unmatched in its glory. Three Avataras of Sriman Narayana were named Rama. Great saints shed tears of joy listening to the letters of the shabda ‘Rama’.

The fiery sage Vishwamitra, who was so stern with Dasharatha in demanding to take Rama with him to protect his sacrifice, turns into a soft and tender man (also friendly as his name denotes) as soon as he crosses the border of Ayodhya, and then addresses Sri Rama with a lovely voice:

रामेति मधुरां वाणीं विश्वामित्रो अभ्यभाषत |

(Rāmēti madhurāṁ vāṇīṁ viśvāmitrō abhyabhāṣata |)

The author of Ramayana, the first poet, Rishi Valmiki can’t have enough of Rama Nama and jumps up and down in its nectar:

कूजन्तं राम रामेति मधुरं मधुराक्षरम् ।

आरुह्य कविताशाखां वन्दे वाल्मीकि-कोकिलम् ॥
(kūjantaṁ rāma rāmēti madhuraṁ madhurākṣaram| Āruhya kavitāśākhāṁ vandē vālmīki kōkilam||)

The people of Ayodhya are even more immersed in the ocean of Rama Nama. If Vishwamitra says ‘Rama’ once and Valmiki twice, the citizens of Ayodhya can’t have enough of it:

रामो रामो राम इति प्रजानाम् अभवन् कथाः । रामभूतं जगदभूत् रामे राज्यं प्रशासति ॥

(Rāmō rāmō rāma iti prajānām abhavan kathāḥ| Rāmabhūtaṁ jagadabhūt rāmē rājyaṁ praśāsati||)

How can just a set of letters be powerful enough to elicit such tender emotions from even the tersest of people is a valid question. It surely must be the efficacy of the Nama itself. Narayana Bhattathiri in his Narayaneeyam expresses the power of the Nama beautifully:

नृणामबुद्ध्यापि मुकुन्दकीर्तनं दहत्यघौघान्महिमास्य तादृशः ।

यथाग्निरेधांसि यथौषधं गदानिति प्रभो त्वत्पुरुषा बभाषिरे ॥

Nr̥ṇāmabud’dhyāpi mukundakīrtanaṁ dahatyaghaughānmahimāsya tādr̥śaḥ| Yathāgnirēdhānsi yathauṣadhaṁ gadāniti prabhō tvatpuruṣā babhāṣirē||)

“Just as fire burns the fuel or as medicines cure diseases, chanting the names of Mukunda, even though unintentionally, burns all accumulated sins. Such is its potency.”

As illustrated in the above verse, the ‘Nama’ is like fire. A person needn’t have the knowledge that fire burns. Even in the absence of such knowledge, if the person puts their hand in the fire it is going to burn them. Likewise is the case with medicines. Your knowledge or ignorance of the constituents or the way the medication works is immaterial to its purpose — the eradication of your ailment.

Rituals and ceremonies are surely helpful in destroying sins and granting specific results, but they do not help in removing the impulse to sin. ‘Nama’ on the other hand removes the ‘Paapa’ as well as the impulse to commit ‘Paapa’.

The incessant chanting of ‘Rama Nama’ drowns one in bliss which can only be experienced. Words fail to capture its glory. If it weren't so, Hanuman wouldn’t have refused Sri Rama’s offer to accompany him to Vaikuntha and instead stayed back in this mortal world. He had discovered that ‘Rama Nama’ would bathe him in bliss which would diminish anything that Vaikuntha had to offer. Hence Adi Sankara says in his Rama Bhujangam:

सदा राम रामेति नामामृतं ते सदा राममानन्द-निष्यन्द-कन्दम् ।

पिबन्तं नमन्तं सुदन्तं हसन्तम् हनूमन्तमन्तर्भजे तं नितान्तम् ॥

(Sadā rāma rāmēti nāmāmr̥taṁ tē sadā rāmamānanda-niṣyanda-kandam| Pibantaṁ namantaṁ sudantaṁ hasantam hanūmantamantarbhajē taṁ nitāntam||)

‘I invoke Hanuman in my heart. The Hanuman who always bathes, prostrates, and laughs in the inexhaustible ambrosia of ‘Rama Nama’.

‘Rama’ is Shabda Brahma. Tangible Bliss.

The beauty of ‘Nama’ is that there are no rules to practise it. There are no regulations. No restrictions of time, place, gender, race, religion or any other classification that may be thought of.

The chanting should start as a practice, stay with you as your breath and end in being non-different from your being.

As Jnaanadeva says in his Marathi Abhang:

‘ज्ञानदेव मौन, जपमाला आन्तरी’

(‘Jñānadēva mauna, japamālā āntarī’)

‘Jnaanadeva has merged into silence. The rosary strings are within’

He no more chants the ‘Nama’. The omnipresent lord seated in his heart is continuously chanting the ‘Nama’. Incessantly. Without a break in time or space.

May Lord Rama through his ‘Nama’ grace us with a similar state — being non-different from the ‘Rama Nama’.