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Japa workshop

The process, techniques, and methodology
Chanting, while mostly devotional, is also a technical process of meditation. This section will help you to understand more of what is involved and how to improve your japa meditation.
The proper use of beads
Chanting a mantra or hymn softly and slowly is called japa and chanting the same mantra loudly is called kirtana.When japa is practiced it is for the personal benefit of the chanter, but when kirtana is performed it is for the benefit of all who may hear.
Japa chanting is best done on a set of beads. The more attentively and sincerely you chant the names of God, the more spiritual progress, you will make.
Japa beads consist of 108 beads strung together, plus one much larger bead known as the Krishna bead.
Before chanting, we must first take shelter of Lord Caitanya by chanting the panca-tattva-mantra: jaya sri krishna caitanya, prabhu nityananda, sri advaita, gadadhara, srivasadi gaura bhakta vrinda
Start at the first bead and chant one mantra; repeat until you reach the last bead. This is one round.
Before each round, chant the panca-tattva-mantra again.
Don't chant on or cross the larger bead (Krishna bead). Reverse the direction of your chanting at the end of ecah round.
Pronunciation:
One should note in this connection that chanting involves the activities of the upper and lower lips as well as the tongue. All three must be engaged in chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra. The words “Hare Krishna” should be very distinctly pronounced and heard. Sometimes one mechanically produces a hissing sound instead of chanting with the proper pronunciation with the help of the lips and tongue. Chanting is very simple, but one must practice it seriously. (Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi 7.32, purport)
While different tongues pronounce the mantra a little differently and the sastra does state that the holy name is still effective even if improperly pronounced, it is still beneficial to concentrate and practice clear pronunciation.
Typical problems
"H" in Hare: sometimes dropped
"A" in Hare: sometimes sounds like "O" as in Lorry; should be "uh" as in Hurry.
"R" in Hare: sometimes sounds more like "D"
"E" in Hare: sometimes sounds like "I" as in Bit; should be "ay" as in Ray.
"K" in Krishna: sometimes sounds more like "G" in Grip.
"R" in Krishna: sometimes dropped: "Kishna"
"N" in Krishna: sometimes dropped: "Krisha"
"A" in Krishna: is sometimes run together with the next Hare: "Krishna-ray"
Rama: be careful not to call out for Rum!
Sometimes with "Rama Rama Rama," you get the "revving-up-the-motorbike" effect: "manar-manar-manar-manarrrr!" (trying to chant too fast)
Note: Both Ram and Rama are OK
Result of poor pronunciation
Odi gish-odi gisha gisha gish-odiyodiOdi rumma odi rummanar-manar-manar odiyodi !
(hint: try to chant the above quickly and you might recognise it!)
Chanting speed
In the beginning you may be slow (around 10 minutes per round)
It is important to practice proper pronunciation, but in time you should naturally speed up (about 7–7½ min/round)
Ultimately it is individual, but many devotees find that speeding up increases the intensity of their chanting and their concentration level.
If your rounds are taking too long, it could mean that you are distracted.
Try to maintain good, clear pronunciation with a good speed.
Some devotees can chant a round in 5 – 5½ min, but be careful not to lose the clarity of the syllables!
Posture
One's mental and physical state is affected by one's bodily posture and can be altered by changing the posture. You can affect the mind's ability to concentrate by remaining peaceful and adopting a good posture.
Perhaps you have already experienced the difference between chanting sitting in a conventional chair (legs down) and sitting cross-legged. Try sitting cross-legged with a little extra support under your bottom. The back and neck should be erect in a straight line, the head up. Breathing should be deep and rhythmic.
Common pitfalls
“Prajalpa-japa”: Unnecessarily talking while chanting.
“Dive-bomb japa”: Falling asleep while chanting (head nodding off).
“Radar japa”: constantly looking around.
“Machine-gun japa”: much too fast while shaking the finger.
“Jibber-japa”: it is just gibberish, no one can understand it.
“Day-dreamy japa”: not concentrating, following the wandering mind.
Attentiveness
This is the most essential part of chanting: how attentive are you?
Imagine you are driving a car and you have a passenger sitting next to you. The passenger is continually pointing things out and trying to draw your attention to them: “Oh, look there's a shoe sale on! Look at those nice shoes! Ah, look at that guy with the funny hat! Are those your gloves on the back seat? Look out, no, no, turn left! Oh, I thought we had to go left. Look at the TV shop — is that your favorite football team playing? Uh-oh, check this out: there's a guy getting arrested over there….”
If you keep getting distracted by what your passenger is saying, you're going to crash the car.
The passenger is like your mind, and driving the car is like chanting your rounds. However, if someone keeps talking to you and you continuously ignore them, eventually they are just going to shut up. That is the best way to deal with the mind: just ignore it and keep your attention on “the road”, the distractions will eventually shut up.
An interesting exercise: Keep a list of all the subjects brought up by the mind during your japa and then review it at the end. Usually you can just throw away the whole list because you didn't need to think about any of these things at all. It is a very graphic way of proving to yourself that you don't always need to take the mind so seriously.
Concentration exercises: There are some exercises you can try in order to strengthen your ability to concentrate. The mind is like a muscle that needs exercise. These exercises may give you a more constructive way to engage the mind.
The big picture: Chanting is just not about getting the technique right. It is just as important to not lose sight of the big picture. We are ultimately not independent of Krishna, and we must always humbly pray to Him and seek His shelter and guidance. We must always see that we have to get to the platform of taste in our chanting and ultimately attain love for Krishna.
Attitude
Your mood, attitude, or mentality is also very important while chanting. Chanting is not just a mechanical process. It must be accompanied with the appropriate feelings, performed for the right purpose, and with proper consciousness.
Enthusiasm: One should realize that love for Krishna is the ultimate goal. He should have total eagerness to attain it, even to the point of crying for it, like a baby. That is the price one must pay.
Prayer: Remember that the maha-mantra is a prayer. Remember the meaning of the prayer, and offer it in a prayerful mood: a communication between you and God — a very personal experience.
Dependence: A devotee feels helpless without the Lord's mercy and dependent on the holy names.
Humility and reverence: When we take darsana of the Deity, we must first take our shoes off, ring a bell, bow down, conch shells blow, the curtains are drawn — we are seeing the form of the Lord. The same respect and reverence should be given to the holy name.
Service: Chanting is a kind of service. It should be performed in a serving mood, serving the holy name by uttering it. Not that we are the master of Krishna, causing Him to manifest.
Gratitude: Be thankful to the Lord for the mercy that He is bestowing upon you and all the fallen souls in the form of His holy name
Tolerance: All difficulties and obstacles of the mind must be tolerated. One may not have any taste for chanting or find the process hard to follow. All discomforts must be tolerated for Krishna's satisfaction.
Patience: It may take a lot of practice before one gets better at chanting. One must patiently continue to endeavor. We are eternal, so there is no need to panic.
Determination: Never become discouraged. Always continue with determination knowing that success is ultimately guaranteed.
Remember the importance of chanting: Be conscious of the importance of this chanting process. Remember that it is essential to our spiritual advancement.
Faithfulness: We must cultivate our faith in the holy name, put our trust in it.
Please let me in: Ask Krishna to allow us to enter into the inner realisations of chanting the holy names.
Further Reading: Japa Reform Notebook by Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami.


The daily schedule
General Daily Programme:
5:00 Rise5:30 Chant7:00 Have arati in the temple room.Chant a round together and/or read together. 7:30 Breakfast8:00 Get ready for work
Beginners Daily Programme:
Rise at least half an hour earlier than at present.Bathe and get yourself ready.Chant japa for 15 – 30 minutes.Read Bhagavad-gita for 15 minutesTake prasadam and prepare yourself for work.
Importance of Regulation
In regulated life only can one understand transcendental knowledge. (Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.25.1purport)
He who is regulated in his habits of eating, sleeping, recreation and work can mitigate all material pains by practicing the yoga system. (Bhagavad-gita 6.17)
Hearing and chanting
Spiritual life begins with hearing and chanting. Together they form the essence of the means of advancement.
By hearing and chanting:
one's heart and mind are purified and elevated,
one gains spiritual strength,
one pleases Krishna.
In the beginning it may be difficult, but with constant practice one gradually develops a taste.
Action
Most people hear and speak about mundane topics.
Result
Their minds become absorbed in mundane thoughts.
Action
Keep the natural tendency to hear and speak, but change the subject to Krishna.
Result
This way, one's mind will become spiritually enlightened.
Hearing
The Vedanta-Sutra 4.4.22 says anavrtti sabdat, "one is liberated by sound."
Sound is the subtlest element that we can perceive. Therefore transcendental sound can most effectively enter the mind and heart to produce change.
When a man is sleeping, he can be awakened by sound. Similarly, the conditioned souls sleeping in illusion can be awakened to knowledge of God by hearing transcendental sound. (1)
Sri Krishna, the Personality of Godhead, who is the Supersoul in everyone's heart and the benefactor of the truthful devotee, cleanses desire for material enjoyment from the heart of the devotee who has developed the urge to hear His messages, which are in themselves virtuous when properly heard and chanted. (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.2.17)
Chanting
People always want to see God, but we cannot see God with our blunt material senses. However, if we please Krishna with our devotional service, He reveals Himself. The sastra states that such devotional service begins with the tongue: through chanting and taking prasadam. Thus seeing God begins with the tongue - a rather unusual principle! (2)
The yuga-dharma (process of religion for this age) consists of chanting the holy name congregationally (3) (nama-sankirtana) and chanting the glories of the Lord and His holy name (nama-pracara). (4)
Two main categories of hearing and chanting
1. Knowledge and glorification
Explanations of Krishna consciousness.
Glorification of the Lord.
Preaching.
Reading or Writing about Krishna.
2. The holy names
Private meditation (japa)
Singing out loud while dancing (kirtana)
Sitting & singing with instruments (bhajanas)
Singing the holy names in public (harinama)
When transcendental knowledge is:
1. Received (heard)
One learns to see things differently.
One's doubts and illusions are destroyed.
2. Given (chanted)
One gains deeper understanding and assimilates the knowledge he has received.
One gains the special mercy of Krishna.
Two conditions for the proper transmission of spiritual knowledge:
1. Must be heard with the right attitude
with humility and respect,
open-minded, not challenging,
with desire to learn and understand.
2. Must come from the right source
from a genuine devotee,
not mayavadi or professional speaker,
from one who has controlled senses and sufficient knowledge.
Both the hearer and the speaker must be qualified.
Further reading
Bhagavad-gita 7.1 purport, (last two paras), Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.1.6 purport; 1.2.14 and purport; 1.2.17–18 and purport; 2.1.11; 1.1.14Chanting the holy names of the Lord
Chanting the holy names of the Lord is the central practice of Lord Caitanya's followers. Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya once asked Lord Caitanya, "Which item is most important in the execution of devotional service?" The Lord replied that the most important item was the chanting of the holy name of the Lord.
harer nama harer namaharer namaiva kevalamkalau nasty eva nasty evanasty eva gatir anyatha
In this age of quarrel and hypocrisy, the only means of deliverance is the chanting of the holy names of the Lord. There is no other way. There is no other way. There is no other way.(Brhan-naradiya Purana 38.126)
Footnotes:
(1) A pure devotee always engages in the service of the Lord, taking shelter of His lotus feet, and therefore he has a direct connection with the saffron mercy-particles that are strewn over the lotus feet of the Lord. Although when a pure devotee speaks the articulation of his voice may resemble the sound of this material sky, the voice is spiritually very powerful because it touches the particles of saffron dust on the lotus feet of the Lord. As soon as a sleeping living entity hears the powerful voice emanating from the mouth of a pure devotee, he immediately remembers his eternal relationship with the Lord, although up until that moment he had forgotten everything.(Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.20.25 purport)
(2) That devotional service begins from jihva, tongue. This tongue means can be utilised in devotional service in two ways, namely by chanting the holy name of God and by tasting prasadam. If one engages his jihva, tongue, in devotional service by chanting the holy name, Hare Krishna maha-mantra, and tasting only Krishna-prasadam, not anything else, then Krishna, being pleased by his devotional service, He will manifest Himself, reveas Himself. (Srimad-Bhagavatam lecture, Los Angeles, 20 January 1969)
(3) I shall personally inaugurate the religion of the age — nama-sankirtana, the congregational chanting of the holy name. I shall make the world dance in ecstasy, realising the four mellows of loving devotional service. (Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi 3.20)
(4) The religious practice for the Age of Kali is to broadcast the glories of the holy name. Only for this purpose has the Lord, in a yellow color, descended as Lord Caitanya. (Sri Caitanya-caritamrta Adi 3.40)
The Panca-tattva mantra
Jaya Sri Krishna CaitanyaPrabhu NityanandaSri Advaita GadadharaSrivasadi Gaura-bhakta-vrinda
Before chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra, one must first take shelter of Gaura-Nitai, and Their principal associartes, by reciting the Panca-tattva mantra. This frees one from the reactions of his offenses while chanting Hare Krishna because Lord Caitanya is the most magnanimous incarnation of the Lord and His mercy is easily achieved.
Panca = Five; Tattva = Truths; "The Absolute Truth in five features".
Hare Krishna Maha-mantra
Srila Prabhupada once announced, "The chanting of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's name is more essential than the chanting of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra." (1) One smart devotee then inquired whether we should therefore chant rounds of the Panca-tattva mantra to which Srila Prabhupada replied, "No — because Lord Caitanya's instruction was to chant Hare Krishna."
Hare Krishna Hare KrishnaKrishna Krishna Hare HareHare Rama Hare RamaRama Rama Hare Hare
The Hare Krishna maha-mantra is a very simple mantra consisting of only three words: Hare, Krishna, and Rama.
Hare means unto Mother Hara (i.e. Lord Krishna's personal pleasure potency, Srimati Radharani).
Krishna means the all-attractive Lord.
Rama means the source of all enjoyment.
When we chant Hare Krishna we are praying: "O energy of the Lord (Hare), O Lord (Krishna and Rama) please engage me in Your service!"
Maha-mantra means it is the Great Mantra Of Deliverance.
Lord Caitanya and the Vedas both recommend this process:
hare krishna hare krishnakrishna krishna hare harehare rama hare ramarama rama hare hareiti sodasakam namnamkali-kalmasa-nasanamnatah parataropayahsarva-vedesu drsyate
The sixteen words of the Hare Krishna mantra are especially meant for counteracting the contaminating influence of the age of Kali. After searching through all the Vedic literature, one cannot find a better method.
Footnote
(1) There are offenses to be considered in chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra, but there are no such considerations in chanting the names of Gaura-Nityananda. Therefore, if one chants the Hare Krishna maha-mantra but his life is still full of sinful activities, it will be very difficult for him to achieve the platform of loving service to the Lord. But if in spite of being an offender one chants the holy names of Gaura-Nityananda, he is very quickly freed from the reactions to his offenses. Therefore, one should first approach Lord Caitanya and Nityananda, or worship Guru-Gauranga, and then come to the stage of worshiping Radha-Krishna.
One should first take shelter of Gaura-Nityananda in order to reach, ultimately, Radha-Krishna. … It should be noted in this connection that the holy names of Lord Krishna and Gaurasundara are both identical with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Therefore one should not consider one name to be more potent than the other. Considering the position of the people of this age, however, the chanting of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s name is more essential than the chanting of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra because Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is the most magnanimous incarnation and His mercy is very easily achieved. Therefore one must first take shelter of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu by chanting Sri-Krishna-Caitanya Prabhu Nityananda Sri Advaita Gadadhara Srivasadi Gaura Bhakta-Vrnda. (Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi 8.31 purport)
The glories of the holy name
Krishna and His name are non-different. (1)
The Lord's name has descended from Goloka. (2)
Krishna's name is iInvested with the Lord's spiritual potency. (3)
Krishna's name purifies the heart and mind. (4)
The chanting process is simple, sublime, and all-auspicious; even a child can take part.
It frees one from sinful reaction and material bondage. (5)
Chanting "Rama" gives the same result as chanting the 1000 names of Visnu. (6)
Chanting "Krishna" once has the same potency as 3,000 names of Visnu.
The Lord's holy names are even effective for someone not even aware of their potency.
Chanting contains the benefits of all other Vedic rites; to chant is the same as having performed all the Vedic processes of purification. (7)
Chanting is the means for attaining pure love of God (Krishna-prema) in this age.
It protects you from maya and falldown.
It purifies the atmosphere.
It yields the same results as the processes of previous yugas.
It elevates one even from a low background.
Chanters are the most attractive to Krishna.
All the Vedic knowledge is contained within the maha-mantra, the essence of the Vedas is to chant, and by chanting one realises the meaning of the Vedas.
Chanting is the ultimate means to attain the ultimate success.
Vedic verses glorifying the holy names
By once chanting the holy name of the Lord, which consists of the two syllables ha-ri, one guarantees his path to liberation. (Skanda Purana)
Simply by chanting one holy name of Hari, a sinful man can counteract the reactions to more sins than he is able to commit. (Brhad-visnu Purana)
If one chants the holy name of the Lord, even in a helpless condition or without desiring to do so, all the reactions of his sinful life depart, just as when a lion roars, all the small animals flee in fear. (Garuda Purana)
Whatever result was obtained in Satya-yuga by meditating on Visnu, in Treta-yuga by performing sacrifices, and in Dvapara-yuga by serving the Lord's lotus feet can be obtained in Kali-yuga simply by chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra. (Srimad-Bhagavatam 12.3.52)
To say nothing of the spiritual advancement of persons who see the Supreme Person face to face, even a person born in a family of dog-eaters immediately becomes eligible to perform Vedic sacrifices if he once utters the holy name of the Supreme Personality of Godhead or chants about Him, hears about His pastimes, offers Him obeisances or even remembers Him. (Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.33.6)
My dear Narada, actually I do not reside in My abode, Vaikuntha, nor do I reside within the hearts of the yogis, but I reside in that place where My pure devotees chant My holy name and discuss My form, pastimes and qualities. (Padma Purana)
O King, constant chanting of the holy name of the Lord after the ways of the great authorities is the doubtless and fearless way of success for all, including those who are free from all material desires, those who are desirous of all material enjoyment, and also those who are self-satisfied by dint of transcendental knowledge. (Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.1.11)
Those who are actually advanced in knowledge are able to appreciate the essential value of this age of Kali. Such enlightened persons worship Kali-yuga because in this fallen age all perfection of life can easily be achieved by the performance of sankirtana. (Srimad-Bhagavatam 11.5.36)
Living beings who are entangled in the complicated meshes of birth and death can be freed immediately by even unconsciously chanting the holy name of Krishna, which is feared by fear personified. (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.1.14)
One can refer also to the story of Ajamila.
Footnotes:
(1) The name of Krishna and Krishna are nondifferent, but we cannot realize this intellectually. We have to practice chanting Hare Krishna to realse it. When we actually advance in devotional service and chant the Hare Krishna maha-mantra offenselessly, we will realise that Krishna and His name are nondifferent. (Teachings of Lord Kapiladeva p. 12)
(2) Golokera prema dhana, harinama sankirtana
(3)O my Lord, Your holy name alone can render all benediction to living beings, and thus You have hundreds and millions of names like Krishna and Govinda. In these transcendental names You have invested all Your transcendental energies. There are not even hard and fast rules for chanting these names. O my Lord, out of kindness You enable us to easily approach You by chanting Your holy names, but I am so unfortunate that I have no attraction for them. (Siksastaka 2)
(4) Glory to the Sri Krishna sankirtana, which cleanses the heart of all the dust accumulated for years and extinguishes the fire of conditional life, of repeated birth and death. This sankirtana movement is the prime benediction for humanity at large because it spreads the rays of the benediction moon. It is the life of all transcendental knowledge. It increases the ocean of transcendental bliss, and it enables us to fully taste the nectar for which we are always anxious. (Siksastaka 1)
(5) Although Kali-yuga is an ocean of faults, there is still one good quality about this age: Simply by chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra, one can become free from material bondage and be promoted to the transcendental kingdom. (Srimad-Bhagavatam 12.3.51)
The chanting of the holy name of the Lord is able to uproot even the reactions of the greatest sins. Therefore the chanting of the sankirtana movement is the most auspicious activity in the entire universe. (Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.3.31)
(6) If a person utters the name Rama only once, he gets the result of chanting one thousand names of Visnu. And if somebody once chants the name Krishna, he achieves the results obtained by chanting the name Rama three times. In other words, uttering the name Krishna once is equal to uttering three thousand other names of Visnu. (Mukunda-mala-stotra 2)
(7) Oh, how glorious are they whose tongues are chanting Your holy name! Even if born in the families of dog-eaters, such persons are worshipable. Persons who chant the holy name of Your Lordship must have executed all kinds of austerities and fire sacrifices and achieved all the good manners of the Aryans. To be chanting the holy name of Your Lordship, they must have bathed at holy places of pilgrimage, studied the Vedas and fulfilled everything required. "Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.33.7)
Three levels of chanting
1. Namaparadha: Conditioned chanting with offences
(aparadha = offence)
This is the level that most people start on when they first take up regular chanting. The ten kinds of offences are covered in the next section. If one's chanting remains on this level, he will never understand Krsna properly, even after thousands of years of such chanting. He remains in the material world.
To attain the next stage one must continue to humbly chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra regularly and repent, "I have committed offences unnecessarily or unknowingly." Then one will attain the next stage called namabhasa (offenceless chanting).
2. Namabhasa: Liberated chanting without offences
(abhasa = morning twilight ; "the shadow of the holy name")This stage of chanting immediately frees the chanter of all sinful reactions and gives liberation. It has two divisions: namabhasa and sraddha-namabhasa.
Namabhasa: If someone chants the holy name accidentally, or as a joke, in the course of ordinary discussion, or negligently
Sraddha-namabhasa: This is when a completely faithful devotee chants on the liberated platform and avoids all the offences. This is almost on the transcendental platform. Continued chanting on this level leads to the next.
3. Sudhanama: Pure chanting in love of God
(sudha = pure) The perfectional stage: while the devotee fully relishes the nectar of the holy name (nama), he sees Krishna's form (rupa), realises His qualities (guna), and remembers His pastimes (lila).
The ten offenses
Padma PuranaBrahma Khanda 25.15–18Ten offenses to the Holy Name
(1)satam ninda namnah paramam aparadham vitanuteyatah khyatim yatam katham u sahate tad-vigarham
To blaspheme devotees who have dedicated their lives to chanting the holy name of the Lord. The holy name, who is identical with Krsna, will never tolerate such blasphemous activities.
(2)sivasya sri-visnor ya iha guna-namadi-sakalamdhiya bhinnam pasyet sa khalu hari-namahita-karah
To consider the names of Lord Siva or Lord Brahma to be on an equal level with the holy name of Lord Visnu.
(3)guror avajna
To disobey the orders of the spiritual master or to consider him an ordinary person.
(4)sruti-sastra-nindanam
To blaspheme the Vedic literatures or literatures in pursuance of the Vedic version.
(5)artha-vadah
To give some interpretation on the holy name of the Lord.
(6)hari-namni kalpanam
To consider the glories of the holy name of the Lord as imagination.
(7)namno balad yasya hi papa-buddhirna vidyate tasya yamair hi suddhih
To think that the Hare Krsna mantra can counteract all sinful reactions and one may therefore go on with his sinful activities and at the same time chant the Hare Krsna mantra to neutralize them is the greatest offense at the lotus feet of Hari-nama.
(8)dharma-vrata-tyaga-hutadi-sarva-subha-kriya-samyam api pramadah
To consider the chanting of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra to be one of the auspicious ritualistic mantras mentioned in the Vedas as fruitive activity.
(9)asraddadhane vimukhe ’py asrnvatiyas copadesah siva-namaparadhah
It is an offense to preach the glories of the holy name of the Lord to the faithless.
(10)srute ’pi nama-mahatmyeyah priti-rahito narahaham-mamadi-paramonamni so ’py aparadha-krt
If one has heard the glories of the transcendental holy name of the Lord but nevertheless continues in a materialistic concept of life, thinking “I am this body and everything belonging to this body is mine [aham mameti],” and does not show respect and love for the chanting of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, that is an offense.
api pramadah
It is also an offense to be inattentive while chanting.
1. Blaspheming devotees (sadhu-ninda)
A sadhu is anyone who is surrendering to Krishna. One who shows gross irreverence or disrespect to those devotees who have dedicated their lives to Krishna is compared to a mad elephant (hati mata), which comes and tramples the creeper of devotion.
Examples are criticising a devotee because:
He has a lower social status.
His manners are not yet so polished.
He eats too much prasadam.
He had previously had very bad habits.
He has been weak and temporarily gave up devotional service.
A devotee should be like the honey bee that always looks for the nectar and not like the fly that always looks for stool or open sores. One associates with whatever qualities he focuses on, and thus he cultivates those qualities.
How to counter-act the offence- Humbly approach that devotee, offer obeisances, and ask forgiveness.
2. Names of demigods
This applies mainly to India, where many people worship demigods.
The demigods are subordinate to and dependent on Krishna. Whatever powers the demigods have and whatever benedictions they can offer are only possible because Krishna empowers them and gives them His sanction.
A devotee must know that the name of Krishna is absolute and non-different from Krishna Himself, whereas the names of the demigods are relative and different from them.
How to counter-act the offence: Study the scriptural statements regarding the nature of the holy name and Krishna; take shelter of the holy name and beg forgiveness
3. Orders of the spiritual master (guror avajna)
Explicit instructions must be followed.
Under certain circumstances the spiritual master may deliver advice or suggestions but leave it up to the disciple to choose what to do.
This offence includes having a material conception of the guru or envying him
How to counter-act the offence: Humbly approach the guru, offer obeisances, and ask forgiveness.
4. Blaspheming the Vedic literature (sruti-sastra-nindanam)
To disbelieve the Vedic statements.
A devotee should accept that his disbelief may be due to his own limited perception. Even if he doesn't understand, he should still have faith in the Vedas.
How to counter-act the offence: Offer flowers to the Srimad-Bhagavatam and Bhagavad-gita.
5. Considering the glories of the holy name imaginary (artha-vadah)
To consider these statements exaggerations just to motivate people.
To think that devotees have given artificial importance to the holy name.
How to counter-act the offence: Study the philosophy; take shelter of the holy name and beg forgiveness.
6. Giving some mundane interpretation (hari-namni kalpanam)
To think that chanting creates a chemical reaction in the brain and simply produces some euphoric effect.
Thinking that Hari means impersonal Brahman, Krishna refers to the mind, and Rama means satisfaction etc.
To define the holy name of the Lord in terms of one's mundane calculation.
How to counter-act the offence: Reveal it to the devotees and beg forgiveness.
7. Committing sinful activities (namno balad yasya hi papa-buddhir)
To commit sins with the expectation of neutralising the reactions by chanting.
Prabhupada often repeated that this is the greatest offense.
After taking shelter of the holy name, one should strictly restrain himself from committing sinful acts.
Accidental sins don't count
How to counter-act the offence: The only thing that can help is to sincerely repent.
8. Auspicious ritualistic activities (karma-kanda)
Karma-kanda: performing religious ceremonies, following austere vows, practicing renunciation, penances and austerities, fire sacrifices in order to gain material benedictions from the demigods.
To equate chanting to other spiritual activities, such as meditation, austerity, penance or sacrifice.
One should not try to utilise the holy name for one's personal service.
Chanting the holy name is meant for attaining love of God.
How to counter-act the offence: Approach the devotees and attain sambandha-jnana from them.
9. Instructing a faithless person
To glorify the importance of the holy name, or elevated information of Krishna to persons who have no interest; who are not ready to hear, or who may as a result of hearing become more antagonistic.
Pseudo-spiritualists selling the holy name to unqualified persons.
When you make this offence, you run the risk of diminishing your own faith.
What about public chanting and preaching?
You can get people to chant; by chanting they will be purified and appreciate the holy name. Srila Prabhupada encouraged everyone to chant, but he didn't immediately tell them all the details.
How to counter-act the offence: No recommendation given for counteracting this offense. Just don't do it.
10. Incomplete faith / material attachments
Material attachments; to be attached to the misconception of possessing something, or to accept the body as one's self, while executing the process of spiritual cultivation.
We must have a service attitude and let go of the attachments.
We may be attached but if we are stubbornly attached, one should intend to get free of attachments. We should mark them with 'X' just as a woodcutter marks trees to be cut down in the future.
Having complete faith in the holy name means that you feel the holy name is all you need (to be happy, etc). Keeping material attachment means that you still need these things.
How to counter-act the offence: In order to develop complete faith and give up attachments, associate with advanced devotees and chant with them.
It is also an offense to not have complete faith in chanting the holy name and to retain material attachments even after understanding so many instructions on this matter.
This is like invitng someone around to visit, and then ignoring them. You are calling out to Krishna, but meanwhile you are distractedd by the mind or by what is going on elsewhere.
Examples: While chanting, reading the noticeboard, having a chat, thinking in the mind about different things.
To have the full effect, the holy name must enter the ear and make an impression on the mind. The mind must be focused on the sound vibration. This is an association with Krishna. We want to associate as fully as possible.
How to counter-act the offence: Pray to the holy name that one may always chant clearly and hear attentively.


Concentration exercises:



Each-mantra-of-each-round:
You have to chant and hear each mantra. Right here and now.
Focus on this bead you are now holding between your fingers, this mantra that is now being uttered from your lips and now entering into the ear.
And then move onto the next mantra, which you must focus on in the same way… and the next… and the next.
This may work for 10 or 15 mantras, maybe even 30, and the mind will become diverted again. Then you have to pull the mind back and set to it again.
Continue to do this and you will succeed
At the end of each round, take stock of how well you did, and resolve to make the next round even better: “This time I am going to concentrate fully on each and every mantra of this round – all 108.”
The attitude is, “Right now, this is the only round that counts.”
And so it goes on for each and every mantra of each and every round… You will see steady improvement… And if you practice this each and every day, your rounds in general will steadily improve.
Emphasizing individual words – gradually build up:
At the beginning of each round, decide on a particular word or words in your mantra to emphasise, e.g. the first "Hare" of the first half, or every "Krishna", or the two "Ramas" in the last line.
You will see how the words you emphasise start to stand out more
With each round, add to it: the double "Krishna" and the double "Rama".
Again, these words in the mantra will stand out more.
Keep adding to it, never take a step backwards, or allow an emphasis you have already established slip away, until finally you are emphasising every word of the mantra.
Reading it:
If the maha-mantra is written on the wall somewhere, try reading it while you are chanting it.
With each word of the mantra that you are chanting, follow it on the wall with your eyes.
This way, you are engaging one additional sense in helping you to concentrate.
Blank the Mind:
Take a moment to put the mind in "blank" state and try to hold it in that state while you chant.
Chanting in Unison:
Form a group (or pair) and chant a round or two in unison.
The strength in numbers and trying to keep the same pace really helps in conquering the minds failing attention span.
Four Steps:
First of all, make sure you are not tired.
Make sure you have proper pronunciation.
Make sure you are not being distracted by anything. Then fix on your concentration.


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