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Appendix 5 Meditation for the Modern Age
The different methods of yoga like ashtanga yoga, hatha yoga, jnana yoga are not prescribed for this age of Kali yuga. This age is characterised by short life, fast paced life, little time and intelligence to undergo Vedic study etc. The scriptures prescribe a very simple form of meditation—chanting of Hare Krishna maha mantra. The sixteen Sanskrit words Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare constitute a mantra, or transcendental sound formula. This powerful mantra, known as the mahamantra, has been prescribed by the great spiritual authorities as the easiest and most effective method of attaining self-realization in the present age.
Regular chanting of this maha mantra and hearing this transcendental sound vibration purifies the heart of the chanter and establishes pure love for God in his heart. Our entanglement in material affairs begins from material sound. Each day we hear material sounds from radio and television, from friends and relatives, and according to what we hear, we think, desire, feel and act materially. Thus we remain within the material sphere of existence, taking on one material body after another and undergoing the miseries of birth, death, old age and disease. But, as Srila Prabhupada points out, "There is sound in the spiritual world also. If we approach that sound, then our spiritual life begins." The living being in materia] life is likened to a dreaming man, who accepts the situations of happiness and distress within his dream as ultimate reality. He dreams of finding a treasure, but in truth he is not a penny richer. He dreams of being attacked by a tiger, but he is not actually in danger. When he is awakened by the sound of his alarm clock, he realizes his actual situation. In the same way, one who chants the transcendental sounds of the name of Krishna gradually wakes up from the dreamlike condition of material life to his original spiritual position.
Spiritual sound has special qualities. Hearing the sound "water" reminds us of the taste of the water and its qualities. But because of the distinct difference between material sound and its object, the sound "water" cannot quench our thirst. The name Krishna however is absolute sound vibrated from the spiritual platform and is therefore non-different from Krishna. And because Krishna is omnipotent, His transcendental energies are manifested within the sound of His name. The vibration "Hare Krishna" has the power to purify the mind and the consciousness. Since every living being is eternally related with Krishna, the chanting of His names is often compared with the natural call of a child for his mother. The word mantra means that which delivers the mind (man "mind", tra "that which delivers the mind from material illusions and anxieties").
Chanting purifies the mind just as medicine prescribed for a bodily ailment gradually restores the body to its natural, healthy condition. One who engages in this practice, known as mantra meditation, gradually develops great mental control and attains a heightened sense of awareness. In this pure state of spiritual consciousness, free from inebrieties such as tension, confusion, depression, and feelings of envy and hatred, one experiences real peace of mind.
How to chant
Take the japa-mala in the right hand, holding it between the thumb and the middle finger. The index (first) finger is not used,as it is considered contaminated.Start at the bead next to the head bead (the biggest bead). Before the Hare Krishna maha-mantra japa, chant the Panca-tattva maha-mantra:
sri krishna-caitanya prabhu nityananda sri-advaita gadadhara srivasadi-gaura-bhakta-vrnda.
Chanting these names of Lord Chaitanya and His principal associates helps us become free from offences in chanting.
Now chant the complete maha-mantra on the first bead. Then move your thumb and middle finger onto the next bead. After chanting 108 times, you will again reach the head bead and will then have completed one mala or "round". Now turn the whole set of beads around in your hand without crossing the head bead and start another round by again chanting the panca-tattva mantra followed by the Hare Krishna maha manta. Chanting is simple but should be performed properly for best results. Chanting should be at least loud enough that a person next to the chanter can hear it. While chanting, concentrate on hearing the maha-mantra. This concentration is mantra-meditation and is powerful for cleaning our hearts. It is difficult to stop the mind wandering but, as with anything else, practice makes perfect. Note that the mantra should be chanted distinctly so that each syllable can be clearly heard.
The best time to chant is early in the morning (during the brahma-muhurta, the auspicious period before sunrise). One can chant in any situation - on a train, while going to work or walking on the street - but it is best to finish our fixed quota of chanting with full concentration early in the morning, before starting one's routine daily activities.