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Shrila Prabhupada states in Shri Chaitanya-caritamrita Adi-lila 17.23:
“Therefore our request to all our students is that they daily chant at least sixteen rounds of this harer nama maha-mantra offenselessly, following the regulative principles. Thus their success will be assured without a doubt.”
Shri Chaitanya-caritamrita Adi-lila 10.43:
“Certainly the chanting of 300,000 holy names of the Lord is wonderful. No ordinary person can chant so many names, nor should one artificially imitate Haridasa Thakura’s behavior. It is essential, however, that everyone fulfill a specific vow to chant the Hare Krishna mantra. Therefore we have prescribed in our Society that all our students must chant at least sixteen rounds daily. Such chanting must be offenseless in order to be of high quality. Mechanical chanting is not as powerful as chanting of the holy name without offenses.”
Purport by Swami Gaurangapada:
From the above statements of Shrila Prabhupada, we understand the the minimum quota of chanting sixteen rounds daily is to be chanted offenselessly to get the maximum benefit. By following Shrila Prabhupada’s instructions of chanting atleast 16 rounds daily, trying to avoid the ten offenses and by trying to increase the quality and quantity of chanting, one can gradually perfect one’s life and go back to Godhead. According to Shrila Prabhupada and all the Vedic scriptures, by constant chanting or by increasing one’s chanting to 32 or 64 rounds, one can speeden up the process of clearing the offenses. In fact it is the only way to successfully counteract the ten offenses. As we have seen in section (VII), according to Shrila Prabhupada, Padma Purana, Hari-nama-cintamani etc. constant or increased chanting is the most effective way to completely and quickly destroy the ten offenses. That is why Shrila Prabhupada mentions in a conversation that if the material fever of sense-gratification is not coming down by chanting 16 rounds, one should increase the chanting to 64 rounds daily. We feel that this statement is applicable to almost everyone of us.
Shrila Prabhupada prescribed a minimum of 16 rounds especially because of the Western devotees inability to chant for long periods on beads but he still encouraged everyone to increase the chanting to the stage of chanting constantly (see sections VII & VIII). From the important purports and verses from Hari-nama-cintamani (given in this book), we can conclude that a serious aspirant should not take 16 rounds as the maximum but always try to increase the quantity of his chanting without compromising on the quality ofcourse. He should distinctly pronounce, hear and meditate on every syllable of the maha-mantra with rapt attention.
It is very clear from the aboves verses directly being told by the Namacharya Haridasa Thakura to Lord Chaitanya that for a serious chanter there is no other way but to increase both the quality and quantity of his chanting more and more. If someone is totally averse to the process of increasing the quantity of his chanting beyond the bare minimum of chanting 16 rounds (Prabhupada said that he has minimized the minimum which was 64 to 16 rounds), then he will not achieve anything auspicious due to such a mentality according to Shrila Saravati Thakura (Shri Chaitanya-bhagavata, Antya-khanda 9.122 purp). Like we have seen in Section VIII, Shrila Prabhupada encourages even new devotees to increase their chanting. Even if a devotee is not able to increase his chanting to more than 16 rounds immediately, he should constantly endeavour in that direction. If he has a strong desire he will surely be successful. Chanting 32 rounds daily (50,000 names) can be an intermediate stage for those who can’t make it to 64 rounds. It is my personal realization that chanting 32 rounds daily gives one unimaginable additional spiritual strength and disinfects one even more from the onslaught of the illusory energy (maya) on a day to day basis.
Every spiritual aspirant should ultimately aim to reach the standard of chanting 64 rounds (100,000 names) daily which was the minimum prescribed by Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu Himself. Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Prabhupada used to say that our ‘lakshya’ (goal) should be to reach the standard of ‘laksha’ (100,000) nama.
After sincerely chanting for many years with a fixed quota, one will become fixed in the chanting. The chanting will then grant the chanter with the divine rememberance of the Lord and the consequential unlimited bliss at every second. At an advanced stage in life when one retires from active devotional service and resides in the dhama, the chanter can increase the chanting furthur to 200,000 names and then ultimately to 300,000 names daily as prescribed in the Hari-nama-cintamani. At that time the chanter will experience the fulfillment of his most cherished desires of rendering direct service to Lord Shri Nitai-Gauranga and Shri Shri Radha-Krishna in the spiritual realm.
As one practices chanting for some time, his speed of chanting will gradually increase according to Shrila Prabhupada. One can achieve the speed of chanting one round (108 times maha-mantra) in 6 minutes. Thus he will take around one and half hour for 16 rounds and 6 hours to chant 64 rounds. We personally feel that to give 6 hours a day (1/4th of the day) to the highest and the most sublime process of chanting which will perpetually put an end to our cycle of birth and death in this material world (which is going on for millions and millions of lives) and which will ensure our entry into the spiritual world of Vaikuntha (where there is no birth, old age, disease and death) to enjoy the personal association with Lord Krshna in our original spiritual bodies, is not such a big sacrifice and should be done without hesitation by atleast those devotees who want to make this their last life in this material world. The unlimited benefits and results we are going to get in return for the vow of chanting 100,000 names (64 rounds) daily cannot even be estimated. And one will start experiencing these benefits of increasing one’s chanting for the very first day itself.
According to Hari-nama-cintamani, one should not increase the chanting abruptly to 64 rounds but should gradually increase from 4 to 16 to 32 to 48 and then to 64 rounds daily. This is the recommendation to Shrila Haridasa Thakura, Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and also Shrila Sanatana Gosvami in the Hari-bhakti-vilasa. Though 100,000 names of Krishna are completed by chanting 58 rounds of the maha-mantra, the 64 rounds standard is given by Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura as it is in the multiple of ‘grantha’ (4-rounds). Also chanting additional 6 rounds makes up for any lapse or loss in the pronunciation of the 58 rounds.
The most munificent Supreme Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu accepts foodstuffs only in the home of those devotees who chant 100,000 names everyday as told by the Lord Himself. According to the repeated statements of Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada in his purports (Section VII), if one does not chant 100,000 names everyday then such a person is sure to gradually become attached to sense-objects due to his increasing material desires and thus loose his qualification to serve Lord Gaurasundara and His devotees. He also runs the risk of not being able to obtain Krishna prasadam because Krishna does not accept any kind of offerings from him. Also even if such a person may invent many varieties of devotional service in order to justify his not chanting 64 rounds everyday, he cannot achieve anything auspicious by sacrificing his primemost service to Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, which is to chant 64 rounds daily. Thus such a person is called patita or fallen is the estimation of Shrila Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada.
Shrila Prabhupada also accepts this calculation of his spiritual master in the Nectar of Instruction and prays to Lord Chaitanya on our behalf. By the causeless mercy of Shrila Prabhupada, we are able to get entry into the family of Lord Chaitanya’s devotees by beginning our chanting with a minimum of 16 rounds. But we should never commit the grave mistake of thinking that the chanting of 16 rounds is the maximum and thus criticize other devotees who want to raise themselves to the standard of chanting 64 rounds while actively performing their respective preaching services and participating in the morning and evening temple programs given by Shrila Prabhupada. According to Shrila Prabhupada and all the acaryas, a real preacher of the holy name in one who fully realizes and understands that the Hare Krishna maha-mantra is non-different from Krishna Himself. And to come to this level, one should himself chant offenselessly, which in turn is only possible by chanting constantly. And chanting constantly means to atleast chant 64 rounds (100,000 names) daily. The preaching will be effective to the extent the preacher is chanting the pure name. Thus the preachers of Krishna consciousness who want to actually deliver others by giving vaikuntha-nama or spiritually pure sound vibration, should gradually elevate themselves to the platform of laksha-nama. Without understanding this important point, some people criticize the very mentality of trying to increase the chanting beyond 16 rounds as an attempt to imitate Shrila Haridasa Thakura. Such a neophyte mentality is very detrimental to the very process of chanting and can spell the spiritual doom of the person who engages in such activities. Ofcourse as pointed out earlier, chanting 64 rounds daily should not be an excuse used by lazy devotees to avoid doing other services. If a devotee is sincere , he will find out the time and the ways and means of chanting 64 rounds daily without disturbing his other services. As the saying goes, where there is a will, there is a way!
Also chanting 64 rounds while engaged in active preaching can never be considered nirjana-bhajana. Ofcourse the devotees who chant 64 rounds should not get puffed up and look down on other devotees who don’t chant 64. They should feel themselves as so contaminated and fallen that chanting 64 rounds daily is the only hope for them to steadily remain in Krishna consciousness.
If one chants 64 rounds of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra daily with attachment then it automatically brings a great upsurge of humility and spiritual ecstacy in one’s heart. All good qualities manifest in the body of such a devotee. One becomes jubilant in deep rememberance of the Lord’s pastimes and constantly aspires to become the servant of the servant of the Lord’s devotees. One becomes severly pained by the seeing the miseries of other living entities (jive doya) and thus he becomes totally enthusiastic to vigorously preach the importance of chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra through his words as well as his example. One’s preaching becomes unlimitedly more effective and one can convert sinful people into devotees simply by one’s association or by preaching only a little. Through the process of sincerely chanting 64 rounds everyday, one can very quickly achieve the stage of nishtha (firm faith) or madhyama-adhikari (intermediate) platform by crossing the stage of anartha-nivritti (freedom from unwanted things in the heart). The progress from the stage of nishtha to prema (pure love of God) is quite fast if one sticks to this process of constant chanting. One should beg from the bonafide self-realized guru, his permission and blessings to chant 64 rounds. If one gets it then one will be successful very quickly in this chanting process.
Even if one is not able to immediately increase the chanting beyond the minimum of 16 rounds daily, one should sincerely work on improving the quality and attentiveness while chanting the minimum quota of 16 rounds. Thus one day he will surely develop an intense desire to increase his daily quota of chanting. I will end this note with a beautiful quote from Shrila Prabhupada in the Nectar of Devotion, Chapter 7:
“For example, it may be said that one should chant the Hare Krishna mantra at least one hundred thousand times daily on his beads. But if this is not possible, then one must minimize his chanting according to his own capacity. Generally, we recommend our disciples to chant at least sixteen rounds on their japa beads daily, and this should be completed. But if one is not even able to chant sixteen rounds, then he must make it up the next day. He must be sure to keep his vow. If he does not strictly follow this out, then he is sure to be negligent. That is offensive in the service of the Lord. If we encourage offenses, we shall not be able to make progress in devotional service. It is better if one fixes up a regulative principle according to his own ability and then follows that vow without fail. That will make him advanced in spiritual life.” (Purport ends)
All quotes of Shrila Prabhupada are copyrighted by the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International.