grāheṇa yūtha-patir ambuja-hasta ārtaḥ
The history of delivering the leader of the elephants, whose leg was attacked in the river by the superior strength of a crocodile, is described in the Eighth Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. Since the Lord is absolute knowledge, there is no difference between His holy name and the Personality of Godhead. The leader of the elephants was much distressed when he was attacked by the crocodile. Although the elephant is always stronger than the crocodile, the latter is stronger than the elephant when it is in the water. And because the elephant was a great devotee of the Lord in his previous birth, he was able to chant the holy name of the Lord by dint of his past good deeds. Every living entity is always distressed in this material world because this place is such that at every step one has to meet with some kind of distress. But one who is supported by his past good deeds engages himself in the devotional service of the Lord, as confirmed in the Bhagavad-gītā (7.16). Those who are supported by impious acts cannot be engaged in the devotional service of the Lord, even though they are distressed. This is also confirmed in the Bhagavad-gītā (7.15). The Personality of Godhead Hari appeared at once on the back of His eternal bearer, Garuḍa, and delivered the elephant.
The elephant was conscious of his relation with the Supreme Lord. He addressed the Lord as ādi-puruṣa, or the original enjoyer. Both the Lord and the living beings are conscious and are therefore enjoyers, but the Lord is the original enjoyer because He is the creator of everything. In a family, both the father and his sons are undoubtedly enjoyers but the father is the original enjoyer, and the sons are subsequent enjoyers. A pure devotee knows well that everything in the universe is the property of the Lord and that a living entity can enjoy a thing as ordained by the Lord. A living being cannot even touch a thing which is not allotted to him. This idea of the original enjoyer is explained very nicely in the Īśopaniṣad. One who knows this difference between the Lord and himself never accepts anything without first offering it to the Lord.
The elephant addressed the Lord as akhila-loka-nātha, or the Lord of the universe, who is therefore the Lord of the elephant also. The elephant, being a pure devotee of the Lord, specifically deserved to be saved from the attack of the crocodile, and because it is a promise of the Lord that His devotee will never be vanquished, it was quite befitting that the elephant called upon the Lord to protect him, and the merciful Lord also at once responded. The Lord is the protector of everyone, but He is the first protector of one who acknowledges the superiority of the Lord instead of being so falsely proud as to deny the superiority of the Lord or to claim to be equal to Him. He is ever superior. A pure devotee of the Lord knows this difference between the Lord and himself. Therefore a pure devotee is given first preference because of his full dependence, whereas the person who denies the existence of the Lord and declares himself the Lord is called asura, and as such, he is given protection by the strength of limited power subject to the sanction of the Lord. Since the Lord is superior to everyone, His perfection is also superior. No one can imagine it.
The elephant addressed the Lord as tīrtha-śravaḥ, or “as famous as a place of pilgrimage.” People go to places of pilgrimage in order to be delivered from the reactions of unknown sinful acts. But one can be freed from all sinful reactions simply by remembering His holy name. The Lord is therefore as good as the holy places of pilgrimage. One can be free from all sinful reactions after reaching a place of pilgrimage, but one can have the same benefit at home or at any place simply by chanting the holy name of the Lord. For a pure devotee, there is no need to go to the holy place of pilgrimage. He can be delivered from all sinful acts simply by remembering the Lord in earnestness. A pure devotee of the Lord never commits any sinful acts, but because the whole world is full of the sinful atmosphere, even a pure devotee may commit a sin unconsciously, as a matter of course. One who commits sinful acts consciously cannot be worthy of being a devotee of the Lord, but a pure devotee who unconsciously does something sinful is certainly delivered by the Lord because a pure devotee remembers the Lord always.
The Lord’s holy name is called śravaṇa-maṅgala. This means that one receives everything auspicious simply by hearing the holy name. In another place in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, His holy name is described as puṇya-śravaṇa-kīrtana. It is a pious act simply to chant and hear all about the Lord. The Lord descends to this earth and acts like others in connection with the activities of the world just to create subject matters for hearing about Him; otherwise the Lord has nothing to do in this world, nor has He any obligation to do anything. He comes out of His own causeless mercy and acts as He desires. The Vedas and Purāṇas are full of descriptions of His different activities so that people in general may naturally be eager to hear and read something about His activities. Generally, however, the modern fictions and novels of the world occupy a greater part of people’s valuable time. Such literatures cannot do good to anyone; on the contrary, they agitate the young mind unnecessarily and increase the modes of passion and ignorance, leading to increasing bondage to the material conditions. The same aptitude for hearing and reading is better utilized in hearing and reading of the Lord’s activities. This will give one all-around benefit.
It is concluded, therefore, that the holy name of the Lord and topics in relation with Him are always worth hearing, and therefore He is called here in this verse nāma-dheya, or one whose holy name is worth chanting.