Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya asked Caitanya Mahaprabhu, ‘Which item is most important in the execution of devotional service?’ Mahaprabhu replied that the most important item was the chanting of the holy name of the Lord. Then Mahaprabhu quoted a verse from Brhan-naradiya Purana: ‘In this age of quarrel and hypocrisy, the only means of deliverance is the chanting of the holy names of the Lord. There is no other way. There is no other way. There is no other way.’ (cc Madhya.241-2)
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu always emphasized the supremacy of nama-bhajana in His preaching. In Jagannatha Puri, Mahaprabhu also instructed Sanatana Gosvami on this point:
bhajanera madhye srestha nava-vidha bhakti
‘krsna-prema’, ‘krsna’dite dhare maha-sakti
tara madhye sarva-srestha nama-sankirtana
niraparddhe nama laile paya prema-dhana
Of all the different spiritual practices, the nine forms of bhakti (sravanam, kirtanam, etc) are the best because they have great potency to deliver Krsna and ecstatic love for Him. Of these nine practices, nama-sankirtana is the best. By chanting the holy name without offense, one very easily obtains the priceless treasure of krsna-prema. (cc. Antya 4.70-1) “The Caitanya-caritamrta states that of the nine ways of devotional service to obtain love of God, the foremost is nama-sarikirtana. One who chants nama without offenses surely achieves love of God. Bhakti-sandarbha says no form of bhakti (i.e. mathura-vasa, sadhu-sariga, sri-murti seva, and bhagavata-sravan) is complete without Sri Krsna nama-sankirtana. The Hari-bhakti-sudhodaya says that sahkirtana is the best and foremost of all spiritual practices for attaining Krsna’s mercy. If the other practices of bhakti are helpful to it, they should then be accepted.” (Sri Caitanya’s Teachings) “Sri-nama bhajana is more powerful than all other forms of bhajana (nava-vidha-bhakti). There is no difference between nama (the holy name) and nami (Bhagavan, who possesses the name.) If you chant nama without offense, you will very quickly attain all perfection. All nine forms of bhajana are, automatically carried out by performing nama-bhajana. When one utters sri-nama, he is engaged in hearing and chanting (sravanam, kirtanam). As one continues to chant, one also remembers the pastimes of Krsna, and within the mind one serves Krsna’s lotus feet (pada-sevanam), worships Him (arcanam), offers prayers (vandanam), serves Krsna in the mood of a servant (dasyam) or friend (sakhyam), and offers one’s very self to Krsna (atma-nivedanam).” Jaiva Dharma ch. 4)
Upon completing the description of the sixty-four limbs of devotional service, Srila Rupa Gosvami mentions five of them as the most important items. Srlla Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura clearly shows how each one of these five most potent devotional processes points to the chanting of the holy name.
Sarasvati Thakura once explained that after careful consideration of the five limbs of bhakti, the best practice is sri-nama bhajana. The next entry shows how chanting Krsna’s holy names is the root of all nine forms of devotion and is glorified above all.
(1) Sadhu-sanga-assotiating with devotees is recommended to create a taste or inclination for sri-nama bhajana. This comes from associating with holy saints who are attached to chanting Krsna’s holy names with firm faith and who systematically chant the names.
(2) Bhagavata-sravaha-hearing Srimad Bhdgavatam which itself declares sri-nama bhajana to be the highest virtue. In its beginning, middle (sixth canto, Ajamila story), and end, the Srimad Bhagavatam repeatedly stresses the efficacy of sri-nama bhajana.
(3) Mathura-vasa-sri-nama bhajana is situated at the root of residence in Vrndavana or Sridhama Mayapur. The sadhus living in or visiting these holy places are always engaged in nama-sahkirtana.
(4) Sri-murti-seva-the service of Krsna’s Deity is always conducted with mantras full of God’s names. The Hari-bhakti-vilasa and Sri Jiva Gosvami say that Deity service must be accompanied with chanting the Hare Krsna mantra for it to be accepted.
(5) Nama-sankirtana-is directly chanting the holy names.
According to Sri Jiva Gosvami, chanting the holy name is not only the greatest form of sadhana, but it must accompany every other form of devotional service: “Chanting the holy name of Krsna is the chief means of attaining love of God. This chanting does not depend on any paraphernalia, nor birth in a good family. All the Vedas proclaim that by humility and meekness one attracts the attention of Krsna. Therefore, chanting Hare Krsna is the greatest sadhana (maha-sddhananam), and the fulfillment of all sacrifice, penance and austerities. Simply by chanting one achieves ecstatic love of God and complete perfection in life. Therefore, whatever one does in executing devotional service must be accompanied with the Chanting Of the holy name.” (Bhakti-sandarbha 270)