From The Art of Chanting Hare Krishna by Mahanidhi Swami:
Saying the Hare Krishna mantra once on each of the 108 beads of a japa-mala constitutes one round. Chanting a fixed number of rounds of Hare Krishna maha-mantra japa is the most urgent necessity and important engagement of a devotee’s each and every day.
It should be completed before anything else. There are many Vaisnavas in Vrndavana who will not even drink a drop of water until they finish 64 rounds. Unfortunately, for many devotees this vital activity is often relegated to a secondary position while other concerns like body, family cares and tasks at hand take priority.
Under illusion, one wakes up in the morning thinking, “I have many pressing things to do - E-mails, phone calls, reading the newspaper and watching televised news. What’s the hurry? I have all day to chant my rounds.?br /> Chanting Krishna’s holy names, the very life breath of the soul, becomes a mere trifling thing to do at some other time. Pity how what should be done first is done last! In describing the word “determination? Srila Prabhupada said that chanting the holy names of Krishna is more important than eating and sleeping.
“If you cannot finish sixteen rounds, then you must not sleep on that day and you must not eat. Why don’t you forget to eat? Why do you forget chanting Hare Krishna? This is negligence, aparadha [offense], offense. Rather, you should forget your sleeping and eating and finish sixteen rounds. This is called determination.?(SPT 28/1/74)
To please Guru, Gauranga and Krishna purify the heart, and attain perfection on the path of devotion one must chant a fixed number of rounds daily. It only takes about two hours to finish sixteen rounds. Some devotees, due to mental purity and practice from the present and past lives, finish sixteen rounds in one hour.
Although sastras [scriptures] and sadhus [holy persons] show the need for chanting a fixed number of rounds daily, sadhakas [those trying to be devotees] in this dismal age of Kali often lack the determination to finish their daily quota. Lack of determination is caused by residual sins, mental impurity and attachment to sense enjoyment. Incapable of maintaining a steady vow, some devotees chant whimsically-one day sixteen rounds, one day eight, one day sixty-four, one day ten and one day none!
Sri Rupa Gosvami lists determination as one of the six favorable items for spiritual advancement. Synonyms for determination include courage, force, willpower, resolve and strength of mind. How can one obtain all these attributes and increase his determination? In Bhaktyaloka, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura states that determination comes by remembering and discussing the devotional practices of great souls like Sri Rupa, Sanatana Dasa Gosvami, and Thakura Haridasa.
Therefore, let us discuss the life of Haridasa Thakura who displays the best example of devotional determination to complete a fixed number of rounds. Even in the face of inconceivable opposition, Haridasa always finished his prescribed chanting. Late one night a prostitute approached Haridasa Thakura in a lonely place.
Exposing part of her body to his view, she sat down on the threshold of the door and spoke to him in very sweet words. “My dear Thakura, O great preacher, great devotee, you are so beautifully built, and your youth is just beginning. Who is the woman who could control her mind after seeing you? I am eager to be united with you. My mind is greedy for this. If I don’t obtain you, I shall not be able to keep my body and soul together.?br /> Haridasa Thakura spoke to her as follows. “I have vowed to chant ten million names in a month. I have taken this vow, but now it is nearing its end. I thought that today I would be able to finish my performance of yajna [sacrifice], my chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra. I tried my best to chant the holy name all night, but I still did not finish. Tomorrow I will surely finish, and my vow will be fulfilled.?(Sri Namamrta 1.14)
At another time Haridasa Thakura also displayed extraordinary determination. One miscreant Kazi tortured Haridasa Thakura by having him caned [beaten] in twenty-two marketplaces. Although Haridasa was practically beaten to death, he said:
“Even if my body is cut into pieces and I lose my life, I will never give up chanting the lord’s holy name.?(Cb. Adi 11.91)[Caitanya-bhagavat]
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, showed one of the greatest examples of determination in the modern age. At the age of seventy Srila Prabhupada left india, boarded a steamship, and went to America to spread the teachings of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. On the boat he suffered two life-threatening heart attacks. Undaunted he struggled for one year through winter snows and a chilly response from the public. Finally after vigorous sankirtana and preaching efforts, Srila Prabhupada registered his spiritual society in July 1966.
Eight months later Srila Prabhupada endured a third heart attack that paralyzed his left side. Generally no one survives three heart attacks. Recovering somewhat, Srila Prabhupada went to Vrndavana to take shelter of Radha-Damodara in Seva Kunja. After a short time, Srila Prabhupada regained his health, returned to America, and commenced a rigorous preaching schedule. During his remaining ten years on earth, Srila Prabhupada traveled thirteen times around the world opening temples, initiating disciples and writing books. Certainly a sadhaka will intensify his determination by remembering Srila Prabhupada, and talking about his exemplary devotional life.
A progressive sadhaka should always remember what the quality of his life was before receiving the causeless mercy of Sri Guru.
The grace of Guru gives one a new life of happiness and hope, fulfillment, peace and perfection. Recalling one’s previous useless activities increases one’s gratitude and affection for Sri Guru. This in turn deepens our determination to practice sadhana, and strive sincerely to achieve the goal of Radha-Govinda prema. May the following candid words of Srila Prabhupada bless all the readers with renewed determination to chant the holy names of Krishna: “I have gone through a variety of stages of life. So I have got full experience of this material world. A don’t want it. That determination is there. Society, family, love, friendship, these nonsense, everything-out! I have tasted. I am no more interested with this material world.?(SPC 16/4/77)[Srila Prabhupada Conversation]
Artwork courtesy of The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International, Inc. www.krishna.com