The main thing is to want to chant Hare Krishna. Doing the chanting is extremely easy, it’s just words, anyone can say them or think of them. Wanting to chant is the trick, its the hard part. So to work on my japa I try to work on increasing my desire to chant. Here are a few helpful ways I have sometimes been able to do that.
This is the Real Stuff, the Pure Stuff
We get told all the time that this or that or the other thing is “pure devotional service,” but the raw, bare truth is that none of that stuff is. Sorry. Everything we do, we do because we like it to, or because we have to do it. Everything we do gives us some sort of material benefit or prevents us from suffering some material ill. Chanting Hare Krishna (especially nāma-japa – which is generally done when we are all alone, with no one watching, and without arts or decoration) gets us nothing; no one will become our fan or our follower, no one will give us any position or reward from it – because no one even knows what we are doing – the entire thing is a private, internal affair. You can chant for material things, but that’s a whole different thing – it’s not our interest. We are trying for attentive and devotional chanting. Such chanting will not pay our bills or find us a job or make us sexy and suave.
Chanting is just you and Krishna’s name, and no one else even really cares.
That’s why its the real thing. It’s the real “pure devotional service” – an expression of affection for Krishna that has no ulterior motive and brings no extrinsic reward: anyābhilāṣitā-śunyaṁ jñāna-karmādy-anāvṛtam anukūlyeṇa-kṛṣṇānu-śīlanaṁ.
When the shaved heads, long braids, tilok and indian cloth is set aside; when the “prabhu” “mahārāja” “gurudeva” and “śrī śrī” is dropped and forgotten; when the good-citizen or bad-citizen badges fall off; when whatever you do in the temple or outside the temple is over and done… this is what it all boils down to, this is the bottom line. The amount of interest we have in our private cultivation of nāma-mantra is the only thing that really matters – for its the only true measure to answer the question, “how much advancement have I made?”
When I started to realize this, I became a little depressed, actually, especially at first – but I also automatically started paying a lot more attention to unpretentious nāma-japa.
This is the Only Thing
Look around the world carefully, always. It is all the same pattern just repeating in very, very slightly different ways over and over and over and over again, millions and billions and trillions of different times. Everything that exists, ev-ery-thing, is only a combination of śakti and śaktimān – prakṛti and puruṣa. There is only one pattern: puruṣa seeking the pleasures in its prakṛti. Repeat that pattern an infinite number of times with infinite microscopic variances in the exact flavor of pleasure the puruṣa seeks from the exact instance of prakṛti – and you have the created the entire universe.
This realization has helped me be less distracted by all the dazzling, infinite patterns that line the shelves, flash on smart phones, notify my newsfeeds, flicker on the big and small screens, shake their tail feathers on the sidewalks, and flexing their neck muscles in their wolf-packs. It has helped me to realize, “Wow, I’ve already been everywhere, been everyone, done everything – probably literally over the course of infinite lives, but also ideally because everything is just a minutely different version of the same story. So I guess there’s nothing out there that’s really important for me.”
The original pattern, and patterns built directly off it, are the best. The rest are reflections – exports, “made in China.” The original pattern – śakti and śaktimān enjoying their inherent pleasures – is encapsulated in the words “Hare Krishna” and “Hare Rāma” making itself freely available to unfold in my consciousness and grant me the direct experience of the adi-rāsa, the original flavor, the original pattern of life. Whatever interests me out there is best discovered in here.
“I waste my time everyday, dallying with illusions. But now, for at least just a few minutes, let me do something real and significant.”
I might not be able to make my whole like spiritual and pure, but let me at least have a little bit of time in the day that is purely spiritual – the time for nāma-japa.
I came to realize that trying to make my life “24 hours Krishna consciousness” was just my attempt to be impressive. Better to have even 5 minutes of real Krishna consciousness (focused purely on Krishna’s name with no extrinsic motives) than to have 24 hours of strutting about demonstrating how to be Krishna conscious (even writing this article is so impure, but hopefully it will help many people chant and therefore inadvertainly make Rādhā and Krishna pleased with me.)
“Shrink the universe.”
This means reducing everything to its original form, which is only in the mantra. It also means becoming like a kid playing with toys, unable to hear his mother standing right in front of him. His universe has shrunk to exactly the size of his toys, and thus his concentration is so strong it is very difficult to break. Shrink the universe to the mantra and chant it.
“Nothing truly exists except this.”
Only consciousness exists, everything else exists as a byproduct, within consciousness. The “original pattern” (śakti-śaktimān) is consciousness as an experienced object and consciousness as an experiencing subject – in which the object provides bliss to the subject. The external world is an substandard object precisely because it is “external” – extrinsic to the essence of who and what I am. The real object is in the nāma-mantra and I need to discover it.
“I offer you myself.”
I am consciousness. Consciousness is awareness. Awareness is attention. I am my attention. I will pay attention to Krishna. By doing this I literally “offer myself” to Krishna.He enjoys existence, and I offer myself as a platform of consciousness upon which (within which) he can expand his existence, and thus expand his enjoyment. Thus, literally, I am his strī.
“Withdraw. Withdraw within.”
Sometimes, pulling my attention from everything else and investing it in chanting has a visual and tactile experience to it. Its something like a trees roots (if the tree were made of vapor) withdrawing from the holes they have deeply sunk themselves into, down so many lanes, in so many homes, across so much space and time. Withdrawing like vapor inhaled and compacted within. Envisioning this scene often helps inspire the actual task it represents.
“This is the root upon which the tree can stand.”
This one helps me when I have significant material worries on my mind. I don’t want to chant for the purpose of fixing my material problems, but the truth is that the material problems will be resolved easily, or else will not be damaging in their effect, when the name is chanted purely. So I remind myself that Krishna is the root which sustains all existence, and if I connect more directly and willingly with that root, my need to fend for myself will dissolve.
I may add to these in the comments. If you like this, you may want to subscribe to the comments so you get a notice when something is added. In the comments you are also welcome to share similar tips, or to ask for clarification about what I’ve shared here.
– Vraja Kishor dās