Pure harināma cannot be chanted without sādhu saṅga
[The following is an excerpt from a bhāva anuvāda of the kathā given by Śrīla Bhakti Vijñāna Bhāratī Gosvāmī Mahārāja on December 25, 2011 and February 11, 2017. Editors’ input: Additional text has been included in square brackets to facilitate proper flow of content.]
You cannot chant harināma without sādhu-saṅga. You could be chanting nāma-aparādha or nāma-ābhāsa at the best, but not śuddha-nāma. Only by śreṣṭa-sādhu-saṅga (association with advanced devotees) is chanting real harināma possible. This is because it is essential to possess greed to attain hari-bhakti and this greed will only awaken after one witnesses the exemplary activities of an uttama-bhāgavata. One cannot develop greed for an object without first having seen it.
This is evident in the interaction between Sanātana Gosvāmī and the jailer. When Sanātana Gosvāmī promised the jailer a handsome reward if he were to release Sanātana Gosvāmī from custody, the jailer did not relent. Only after Sanātana Gosvāmī placed the reward of 7,000 gold coins in front of him did greed arise. Merely upon hearing, the greed was not incited. Now Sanātana Gosvāmī did not need to further say anything. The jailer thought, “Even if I work all my life, I would not be able to earn 7,000 gold coins,” and immediately he freed Sanātana Gosvāmī.
The same jailer, who refused to free him earlier out of fear of the emperor, became fearless on seeing the 7,000 gold coins placed in front of him.
kāmāturānām na bhayam na lajjā,
kāmāturānām paśu bhī samāna
A person whose heart is infested with lust has no fear or shame. That is why the moment he saw 7,000 gold coins, the jailer’s fear and shame vanished.
So it is said:
krīyatāṁ yadi kuto ’pi labhyate
tatra laulyam api mūlyam ekalaṁ
janma-koṭi-sukṛtair na labhyate
(Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya 8.70)
[Pure devotional service in Kṛṣṇa consciousness cannot be had even by pious activity in hundreds and thousands of lives. It can be attained only by paying one price: that is intense greed to obtain it. If it is available somewhere, one must purchase it without delay.]
What is the mūlya - price? It is only lobha, greed, which cannot be instigated unless the object is seen. Just like a businessman samples his goods first, and once the customers’ greed awakens upon seeing the goods, he takes the orders. Otherwise how will anyone buy without experiencing the product first?
There is also a positive side to desire or greed arising on sight. When by the unsurpassed mercy of a pure devotee, the wealth of kṛṣṇa-bhakti is shown to somebody, only then that person actually develops intense greed for devotional service. [Hence pure bhakti or pure chanting of the holy names cannot be performed without sādhu-saṅga.]