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TO CHANT INATTENTIVELY (PRAMADA)
IS THE NINTH OFFENSE
All glories to Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and all His devotees; by their causeless grace alone, I perform congregational chanting of the holy name of the Lord.
The offense known as pramada or inattentive chanting
Shrila Haridasa Thakura then said, "O Lord Chaitanya, to Shrila Sanatana Goswami here in Jagannatha Puri and Shrila Gopala Bhatta Goswami in South India, you taught that the holy name must be chanted attentively. Inattention in chanting is namaparadha. One may carefully avoid all other namaparadhas, yet still not experience the ecstasy of the pure name. This is an indication of another type of namaparadha known as pramada, which prevents the chanter from reaching the stage of nistha, or firm faith. This in turn blocks the further growth of bhakti to the flowering of Krishnaprema."
Three kinds of inattention
Pramada means 'madness', but 'inattention' and 'carelessness' are also synonyms of this word. Inattentive chanting sows the seeds of anarthas which soon develop in the heart. Inattention is of three kinds. The first is called audasinya, or 'apathetic devotional service', meaning a lack of fixed resolve in sadhana. The second type is jadya, 'laziness' or even 'inertia'. The third kind is viskepa, which means 'distraction' or 'misplacing one's attention in engagements other than sadhana-bhakti.'
It is essential to give special attention to chanting while anuraga is undeveloped
By a special stroke of good fortune, a jiva develops enough sraddha to take shelter of the holy name. By regularly chanting a fixed number of holy names with special care and attention, he may, by degrees, progress to anuraga, or spontaneous attraction for the Lord's name. He should chant his prescribed number of rounds on a Tulasimala and increase his rounds with time. Before he reaches the stage of anuraga, he must be very cautious about offenses in chanting.
Most people are naturally very attached to material things, their memories always absorbed in matter. They may indeed chant the holy name of the Lord, but their minds may be far away from the chanting. Even if they daily chant one lakha (one hundred thousand) holy names on the japamala, not a drop of taste for the Lord's name will be produced in their hearts. It is difficult to restrain materialistic hearts from such offenses.
The process of overcoming apathy
One must make it his daily routine to chant for an hour in the company of saintly Vaishnavas in a sacred, undisturbed place.
Taking note of the Vaishnavas' devotional attitude and their relish for the holy name, the neophyte should try to emulate this mood and gradually rid himself of his apathy to chanting. Step by step, his mind and attention should become fixed in the holy name. By constant chanting, the sweetness of the holy name makes him anxious to taste more of that nectar.
Advanced Vaishnavas advise that chanting is best performed in the presence of Tulasidevi and in a place of Lord Krishna's pastimes. The chanter should always seek the association of saintly devotees and emulate their discipline. He must follow in the footsteps of previous acaryas in the joyful method of worshiping the Lord through His holy name. He may begin with an hour of such chanting, then two, then increase it to four until finally he will chant not less then three lakhas of holy names a day. This helps him to soon sever his links with materialism.
Another effective method for ridding oneself of apathy towards the holy name is to sit in a closed room alone and meditate on the name as did the previous sages. Or one can cover the head and face with a cloth and concentrate on the sound of the holy name. This will immediately fix the mind firmly on the holy name; slowly, one develops attraction for the name, and the offense of apathetic inattentiion will vanish.
Inattention arising from laziness (jadya) prevents a person from relishing the nectar of the holy name. He is slow to chant and remember the holy name. Even after trying, he very soon finds the effort unendurable and wants to sleep or otherwise engage himself in frivolity.
Advanced devotees are cautious against such an offense. They never waste a single moment in useless talks or activities. Their meditation on the Lord's holy name is unbroken. They are so absorbed in the nectar of the holy name that they do not want anything else. One must therefore aspire to associate with such rare devotees and follow their example, thus ridding himself of his laziness.
It is the nature of saintly Vaishnavas to be always engaged in devotional activities. They never waste time uselessly. One should become attracted to this devotional trait. One should ask himself how he also can become like these devotees, immersed in meditation upon the holy name; how, from this very day, he can increase his chanting step by step until such time as he can actually chant three lakhas of holy names with inspiration and eagerness. When Lord Krishna sees such enthusiasm, He reciprocates by removing the neophyte's mental inertia with the power of His name, and by allowing him to remain in the association of His advanced devotees.
Distraction in chanting breeds illusion which becomes the cause of further serious offenses against the holy name. This illusion, difficult to overcome, engenders attraction to wealth, women, position, success and the cheating propensity. When these attractions cover the heart, the neophyte becomes neglectful of the chanting of the holy name.
One must make a constant effort to try and drive such attractions away from the mind by diligently following the ways of Vaishnava culture. This will bring back his good fortune. For instance, he should nicely observe the Ekadashi vows, the appearance days of the Lord and other such important festival days.
He should spend the entire festival day and night chanting and singing the glories of the Lord in association of saintly devotees. The ideal way to observe these festivals is to be in one of the dhamas (Navadvipa, Vrindavana, Puri etc.) with sadhus (pure devotees in the line of Shrila Rupa Goswami) reading and discussing sastra (Vedic literatures like Bhagavadgita, Shrimad Bhagavatam and other Vaishnava scriptures). He should wholeheartily participate in the festival programs without anxiety and hesitation. These festivals will rekindle the dying spark of spiritual taste. Thus he will be attracted to the pastimes of the Supreme Lord.
Tasting the superior flavor of pure Krishna consciousness, he will naturally be disgusted by his inferior material attachments. He will be enraptured by sweet songs of the Lord's pastimes sung by the devotees, and his ears will fill up with nectar that dislodges his mind from matter and fixes it upon the holy name again. The devotee can then chant steadily in a joyous and peaceful mood.
Good advice for chanters
One must diligently complete the chanting of the daily prescribed number of holy names according to one's vow. But another kind of distraction occurs when one is too eager to complete the fixed number of holy names even at the sacrifice of quality. One must therefore always insure that he chants his rounds sincerely. Also, one should better improve the quality of his chanting rather than try to increase his daily number of rounds for show. The name of the Lord should be always be pronounced distinctly. Only by the grace of the Lord can this be achieved. Thus one should pray to the Lord that he never falls victim to the wiles of the illusion of distraction, and that he can continue to taste the full nectar of the holy name.
The secret to success is humility
The devotee should make it a regular practice to spend a little time alone in a quiet place and concentrate deeply on the holy name. He should utter and hear the name distinctly. It is impossible for the jiva to singlehandedly avoid and overcome the illusion of distraction. By the mercy of the Lord, however, this is accomplished with ease. Therefore it is essential to prayerfully beg for the Lord's grace with great humility, for this is the only means to salvation from this offense.
The necessity of developing enthusiasm
"O Lord Chaitanya!" cried Thakur Haridasa. "You are an ocean of compassion! I wholeheartedly beg for Your mercy. Indeed, if I was unable to pray to You in this way, then no one would be more unfortunate than I.
"Those who attempt to take up devotional service on the merits of their individual intelligence and mental expertise will find that all their endeavors are fruitless. Lord Krishna's mercy is the prime cause of all successful work. One who does not aspire to obtain the Lord's mercy is indeed a very unfortunate soul."
A note about the vow of nirbandha
Shrila Haridasa Thakur advised that we concentrate deeply on the holy name of Krishna. Lord Chaitanya's teachings on this matter are found in the Chaitanya Bhagavata, Madhya 23.650: "Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare. The Lord said, 'This is the maha-mantra; now go and do japa meditation, chanting these holy names a prescribed number of times (nirbandha) each day. You will achieve all desirable perfection from this chanting. Just chant the holy name constantly, because no rules or regulations can restrict chanting.'
The word nirbandha needs elaboration. The sadhaka should chant the mahamantra on a japamala of 108 Tulasi beads. Four rounds on the beads makes a granthi. By gradually increasing his chanting, the sadhaka should aspire to chant 16 granthis or one lakha of holy names: this number is considered as nirbandha. If chanting is then even further increased to three lakhas of names, the devotee will always be immersed in the Lord's holy name. All the previous acaryas and mahajanas have followed this instruction of Lord Chaitanya and attained perfection. Even now, anyone can attain perfection by proper chanting. Everyone, including the pure devotees, the salvationists, and the materialistic persons are eligible to chant the holy name of the Lord.
Two different moods of Krishnaprema are visible in pure devotees, but the nectar of the holy name is relished in both of these moods, in the happiness of meeting the Lord and in the pangs of separation from the Lord.
One who wears the gem of Harinama Cintamani as a crown upon his head will certeinly find shelter at Shrila Haridasa Thakura's lotus feet.