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6. A Practical Support
Question: Are there any practical steps we could undertake which would enable us to advance to higher levels of chanting?
Answer: Many devotees in the past were successfully raising their meditation of the holy name to a higher level by obeying the following eight rules. These rules start with quite technical, or mechanical, arrangements and gradually lead to the point of controlling the thoughts and working on the inner attitude. Someone who wants to reform his chanting may require a certain run-up. We can compare this to the flying techniques of an albatross which runs 50 meters on the beach before rising up in the air. Once having successfully soared up into the sky, the bird is able to remain high in the sky for days, without any need to move the wings. Similarly, anybody who observes the following rules will surely come to the point of having wonderful experiences with the holy name.
1. Preparation: make a resolution the day before—"Next morning, I will chant with full concentration!". Go to bed early.
2. Start very early the next morning. Chant at a place free of distraction, either in the association of devotees or at a location which offers you maximum solitude. If the mind starts to flicker, calm it down by prayer, or try some breathing exercises.
The most effective practice for those unacquainted with pranaydma1 is to inhale and exhale deeply. Srlla Sanatana GosvamI recommends in Hari-bhakti-vilasa that before chanting gdyatrl-mantra one should perform some prdndydma exercises.
3. While chanting:
a) Chant your rounds fluently without interruption (control your speed in the beginning).
b) Take care of a clear, distinct pronunciation of the holy names.
c) Keep a straight, upright posture. (It is better to sit upright while chanting; this posture is in the mode of goodness. To lie down would be in ignorance, and to walk in passion.)
4.Concentrate the mind on the sound vibration.
5. Control the mind:
a) Draw it back when it drifts away.
b)"Relieve" it from the past by not delving on what happened the day before, or the week before, or the year before!
c) Abandon the planning of your daily schedule. (In case the shopping list or service schedule repeatedly turns up in the mind, one can shortly interrupt chanting and write down the points; then the mind will be calm again.)
6. Try to attain the state of mind recommended in the third verse of Sri Siksastaka (humility, tolerance, pridelessness, respect for all living beings). This attempt will succeed if your bear in mind that as the soul you are an insignificant minute part of the Lord.
7.Meditate on the meaning of the holy names while chanting, as it is revealed by Srila Prabhupada and the previous acaryas.
8. Chant with a feeling of longing for krishna.
Some devotees read or recite the Siksastaka prayers before chanting, in order to find the proper attitude. It is also helpful to chant all the rounds in succession, without interruption. Many devotees display pictures of their spiritual master and of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His associates, in order to chant in the best association. These are some general rules. The important point is that each devotee finds out individually, what helps him the most to improve his chanting.