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NITAAI-Veda.nyf > All Scriptures By Acharyas > Shachinandana Swami > The Nectarean Ocean of the Holy Name > VI. Tips to Improve One's Chanting > 1. Practice in Chanting

1. Practice in Chanting

Chanting the panca-tattva-maha-mantra1


The first practical tip is to chant the following mantra before chanting the Hare krishna maha-mantra:


(jaya) srl-krishna-caitanya   prnbhu nityananda

sri-advaita gadadhara   srwasadi-gaura-bhakta-vrnda


This panca-tattva-mahd-mantra is greatly beneficial, because the holy names of Sri krishna Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Sri Nityananda Prabhu, Sri Advaita Acarya Prabhu, Sri Gadadhara Pandita, Sri Srivasa Thakura, and all the other devotees of the Lord2 immediately purify and spiritually elevate the chanter. This mantra blesses him with the ability to chant the Hare krishna maha-mantra without offenses, for Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is the most generous incar¬nation of God (mahd-vadanya-avatara). He does not consider the offenses committed by a fallen soul. By chanting His Name one receives the full benefit of chanting the maha-mantra. When Lord Caitanya was spreading the holy name in Navadvipa by chanting and dancing, He came to the quarters of some drunkards. Through his mercy, even the drunkards staggering out of the bars began to chant the holy name. Lord Caitanya is so special because He shows His mercy to the most fallen. He blesses them with the ability to start spiritual life, especially by chanting the Hare krishna maha-mantra. Therefore, we chant the panca-tattva-mahd-mantra before we start to chant the Hare krishna maha-mantra.


It is even said that in kali-yuga, where so many offenses are committed, the panca-tattva-mahd-mantra is more important than the Hare krishna maha-mantra. Then why, one may wonder, don't we give up the chanting of the Hare krishna maha-mantra altogether and chant only the panca-tattva-mahd-mantra? The answer is that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu has instructed us through His personal example to chant Hare krishna, and we simply follow His order.


Chanting Everywhere


The question where and when to chant Hare krishna is answered by Srila Prabhupada:


krishna consciousness is called sanatana-dharma or bhdgavata-dharma. Sandtana means "eternal, always and everywhere." Bhagavata means pertaining to Bhagavan, the Lord. The Lord is the master of all time and all space, and therefore the Lord's holy name must be heard, glorified and remembered everywhere in the world. That will bring about the desired peace and prosperity so eagerly awaited by the people of the world.1


In other words, because krishna is present everywhere at all times, one should glorify Him at any place and time. If somehow or other one meets a great personality like Srila Prabhupada, one immediately and naturally offers prostrated obeisances and glorifies him: nama orh visnu-padaya . . . one does not simply continue with his present occupation, thereby ignoring Srila Prabhupada! This would be an utterly improper behavior towards such a great, respected person. Now, since krishna is present everywhere, one is always together with Him at any place and time and thus should constantly chant His glory. Therefore, the devotee always remem¬bers krishna and chants His holy name. As Lord Caitanya spoke out:


Regardless of time or place, one who chants the holy name, even while eating or sleeping, attains all perfection.2


Srila Prabhupada demonstrated by his personal example how krishna can be glorified in all occasions. One who can constantly chant the holy names, will never fall into material consciousness. Just imagine, to simply chant continuously, no matter where you are. I know it is very difficult, but you should try, if not loud then in your mind, and you will see how your whole life changes.


As a matter of course, we should not chant while talking to someone or if by chanting we shock or annoy others. But else, we should simply chant Hare krishna as soon as there is some free time. While going to the car, while starting the car, while driving on the highway, while taking a shower, or while accepting prasadam; whether in the underground, at home or in the office—we should always chant. There are no strict rules and regulations how to remember the holy name. We only have to chant


Hare krishna Hare krishna krishna krishna Hare Hare

Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare


24 hours a day—this is the instruction of Srila Prabhupada and Haridasa Thakura. Then one is never in material consciousness and spares about 100 per cent of his difficulties. Of course, we should preferably chant at a place free from dis¬traction and disturbances. The advise to chant everywhere does not mean to chant one's rounds in the brahmacari-asrama or on the "prajalpa lounge" in the temple, where the inattentive chanters gather. For those who would like further evidence, let us now look into some inspiring quotes about always chanting.


Chanting at All Times


One day Vallabha Bhatta said to Advaita Acarya, "Every living entity is female (prakrti) and considers krishna her husband (pati). It is the duty of a chaste wife, devoted to her husband, not to utter her husband's name, but all of you chant the name of krishna. How can this be called a religious principle?"


Advaita Acarya responded, "In front of you is Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the personification of religious principles. You should ask Him, for He will give you the proper answer."

Hearing this, Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu said, "My dear Vallabha Bhatta, you do not know religious principles. Actually, the first duty of a chaste woman is to carry out the order of her husband. The order of krishna is to chant His name incessantly. Therefore one who is chaste and adherent to the husband krishna must chant the Lord's name, for she cannot deny the husband's order. Follow¬ing this religious principle, a pure devotee of Lord krishna always chants the holy name. As a result of this, he gets the fruit of ecstatic love for krishna."1


Srila Prabhupada once wrote to Professor Staal:


By devotional service, by understanding well the Supreme Person¬ality of Godhead, one can go to His abode and never come back again to this material condition. How is it possible? The answer is, simply by chanting His name constantly.2


Have you ever thought of chanting Hare krishna constantly? Maybe sometimes when reading about it, but then it is forgotten again! Therefore we should engrave this advice deeply into our memory. The reason why chanting constantly appears so difficult is the lack of taste, as Srila Prabhupada explains:


A devotee should be very much careful to see whether his time is being spent unnecessarily. He should ask himself, "Am I now engaged in maya's service or krishna's service?" This is a symptom of an advanced devotee. Nama-gane sada rucih: such a devotee is never tired of chanting, singing, or dancing. The word sada means "always", and ruci means "taste". A devotee always has a taste for chanting Hare krishna: "Oh, very nice. Hare krishna, Hare krishna, krishna krishna, Hare Hare / Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare." This is taste. Of course, this taste takes time to awaken, but when Rupa GosvamI was chanting he was thinking, "I have only one tongue and two ears. What can I appreciate of chanting? If I could have millions of tongues and trillions of ears, then I could relish something by chanting and hearing." Of course, we should not imitate him, but the devotees of the krishna consciousness movement must at least be very careful to complete their sixteen rounds, their minimum amount of prescribed chanting. Nama-gane sada rucilr. we have to increase our taste for singing and chanting Hare krishna.1


This taste can be achieved simply by chanting more and more! Once Srlla Prabhupada proudly praised his disciples, "These devotees! They can chant constantly, twenty-four hours a day. They are completely satisfied with it." Such devotees Srlla Prabhupada wanted to see.


Chanting in the Morning


"Morning is the best time to hold spiritual services", Srlla Prabhupada writes.2 The time shortly before sunrise, called brahma-muhiirta3, is the best time for chanting. It is recommended that the devotee rises very early and chants in a peaceful and concentrated atmosphere. If at all possible, the rounds should be finished before 10 o'clock a.m. The morning hours are ruled by the mode of goodness, the afternoon and the early evening by the mode of passion, and the night by the mode of ignorance. One should chant his rounds during the time which is under the influence of goodness and avoid chanting later in the day; otherwise it will be difficult to concentrate and go swiftly ahead.


If due to sickness one cannot complete his rounds, then they must be finished immediately the very next day. However, some¬one who is well should never go to sleep without having com¬pleted his rounds. Of course, there are also other processes of bhakti-yoga, as have been mentioned earlier. It is certainly a matter of individual taste to which process one is more attracted. Let us look into the minimum amount of rounds.


Chanting at Least Sixteen Rounds


How many rounds should we chant at least? According to Srlla Prabhupada, his spiritual master Srlla Bhaktisiddhanta SarasvatI Thakura considered a person as fallen {patita) if he did not chant sixty-four rounds every day. Srlla Prabhupada soon realized that his Western disciples were not able to keep such a high standard, and thus by his mercy, everybody can be rescued simply by attentively chanting at least sixteen rounds daily. Therefore Srlla Prabhupada is called patita-pavana, "the savior of the most fallen souls".


In a conversation in the Caitanya-caritamrta, the devotees wanted Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu to accept a servant as a companion on His journey. As a sannyasT, however, Lord Caitanya wanted to travel on His own, free from the obligation of caring for another person. Finally, Sri Nityananda Prabhu convinced Him with the following argument: Since your two hands will always be engaged in chanting and counting the holy names, how will you be able to carry the water pot and external garments?1


In other words, the Lord needed both His hands for chanting and counting His rounds and was not able to carry anything. From this, it is clear that even Caitanya Mahaprabhu counted His rounds. Srlla Prabhupada explains in the purport to the above verse: From this verse it is clear that Caitanya Mahaprabhu was chanting the holy names a fixed number of times daily... In addition to other duties, He introduced this system ...Caitanya Mahaprabhu used to count on His fingers. While one hand was engaged in chanting, the other hand kept the number of rounds. This is corroborated in the Caitanya-caritamrta and also in Srlla Rupa Gosvaml's Stava-mala...


Therefore devotees in the line of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu must chant at least sixteen rounds daily, and this is the number pre¬scribed by the International Society for krishna Consciousness. Sixteen rounds is about 28,000 names. There is no need to imitate Ha-ridasa Thakura [who chanted 300,000 names every day] or the other Gosvamls, but chanting the holy name a fixed number of times daily is essential for every devotee.


On another occasion, Srila Prabhupada said:


This chanting of sixteen rounds is absolutely necessary if one wants to remember krishna and not forget Him.1


Among all the regulative principles given by the spiritual master, his order to chant at least sixteen rounds is the most important one. Once in London, a devotee only managed to chant fifteen rounds by the late evening, and then went to sleep because he was very tired. During the night he heard the bell ringing. He went downstairs, opened the door, and there was Srila Prabhupada standing before him. "Have you chanted your sixteen rounds?" Srila Prabhupada asked. Before the devotee could answer, he woke up, realizing that Srila Prabhupada had appeared in a dream. Immediately he sat up in his bed and chanted the last round.


Chanting Loudly Enough to Hear Oneself


When Haridasa Thakura became very sick due to old age, Sri Cai-tanya Mahaprabhu addressed him as follows:


Now that you have become old you may reduce the number of rounds you chant daily. You are already liberated, and therefore you need not follow the regulative principles very strictly.2

In the purport to this verse, Srila Prabhupada writes: The first regulative principle is that one must chant the Hare krishna maha-mantra loudly enough so that he can hear himself and one must vow to chant a fixed number of rounds.


Chanting Should be Accompanied by Regulative Principles


For a few months the sons of Prajapati Daksa drank only water and ate only air. Thus undergoing great austerities, they recited this mantra: "Let us offer our respectful obeisances unto Narayana, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is always situated in His transcendental abode. Since He is the Supreme Person {paramahamsa), let us offer our respectful obeisances unto Him."1

These verses may provide the impression that the chanting of the maha-mantra or other Vedic mantras has to be accompanied by severe austerities. However, in kali-yuga it is impossible to perform the above-mentioned types of austerities. People cannot subsist merely on drinking water and eating air for many months. Such a process cannot be imitated. But at least one has to follow a certain form of renunciation in order to chant successfully.


At least the four regulative principles of krishna consciousness should be followed: no illicit sex, no meat-eating, no intoxication, and no gambling. Everyone can practice this tapasya (austerity) quite easily. Then the chanting of Hare krishna will become successful without delay.


Why these restrictions, which exist since ancient times? As we will see, there is a very interesting correlation between following these four principles and the four principles of dharma or religion.2

These four principles are self-evident. If we can rest our lives upon them, they will elevate us enormously—if we violate them, there will be degrading reactions:


1. Daya (compassion) is destroyed by killing or meat-eating,

2. Tapah (restraint and austerity) are destroyed by intoxication,

3. Satyam (truthfulness) is destroyed by lying and gambling, and

4. Saucam (cleanliness)—both external and internal—is destroyed by illicit sexual relationships. 


Most probably not many readers will find it difficult to abide by the first three of the regulated principles, but even experienced devotees report that the sexual drive—either grossly or subtly (in the mind)—pushes vehemently for activity. At the same time, every one knows that there is no lasting fulfillment possible. This push can be compared with an itching sensation, which demands scratching.1 Although there is temporary relief, the itching sensation will soon return with redoubled strength until blood will flow. What to do? The scriptures very clearly state that the conditioned soul may be restricted from sense enjoyment—but if there is no higher taste, it will remain addicted to those pleasures. If, however one experiences a higher taste he/she can easily forsake the lower taste.2


All material pleasures, including the sex pleasure are not supply¬ing what the soul looks for. Material pleasures have a beginning and an end and are ultimately sources of misery. However, this can only be clearly understood by someone who has tasted the ecstasy of krishna consciousness. The holy name—when chanted seriously and without offenses—can quickly bring us there, even for a beginner. Then to give up pleasures that are seen as insignificant is natural. One feels like Yamunacarya who described his meditation on krishna: Since I have been engaged in the transcendental loving service of krishna, realizing ever-new pleasure in Him, whenever I think of sex pleasure I spit at the thought, and my lips curl with distaste.3


Chanting in Front of Tulasi


In connection with the ten offenses and their rectification, it is recommended again and again to associate with pure Vaisnavas. The holy TulasI is one such pure devotee of the Lord in the form of a

plant. Therefore, chanting in front of Tulasi is immensely powerful, as the personal example of Srila Haridasa Thakura shows:Haridasa Thakura constructed a cottage in a solitary forest. There he planted a Tulasi plant, and in front of the Tulasi he would chant the holy name of the Lord 300,000 times daily. He chanted throughout the entire day and night.1


Srila Prabhupada comments:

Without difficulty one can sit down anywhere, especially on the bank of the Gariga, Yamuna2 or any sacred river, devise a sitting place or cottage, plant a TulasI, and before the TulasI chant the Hare krishna maha-mantra undisturbed. Of course, in places like Europe, there are no holy rivers like the Gahga and the Yamuna, only the river Rhine and the Thames, where fish are drifting bottom up! Thus we have to create such a holy atmosphere ourselves. One can plant TulasI and chant the Hare krishna maha-mantra in her presence without being disturbed. Srila Prabhupada continues the above purport:


The process of chanting the Hare krishna maha-mantra with a vow before the TulasI plant has such great spiritual potency that simply by doing this one can become spiritually strong. Therefore we request the members of the Hare krishna movement to follow Haridasa Thakura's example rigidly. Chanting sixteen rounds does not take much time, nor is offering respects to the TulasI plant difficult. The process has immense spiritual potency. One should not miss this opportunity.