QUESTION: So often we are taught to chant more and more. I’ve been advised to chant fast, with pronunciation almost an afterthought; but then I’ve also been instructed to chant with clear pronunciation, which slows it down. I’ve been told we can’t even be considered truly “human” unless we chant 108 mantras 16 times a day; but now I’ve been hearing from you that one should put the effort into wholeheartedly chanting one mantra. So, why have we been instructed to chant so many rounds if it’s not so beneficial?
I am not saying that we don’t need to chant as much as possible. I am saying the quantity is not the goal. To learn how to play a violin sweetly, for example, we have to practice a lot. The hours of practice isn’t the goal. The one sweet, heart-moving, tear-jerking note at the apex of a performance is the goal. Similar with chanting, to truly connect heart-to-heart with Krishna is the goal. It takes high-quality and significant-quantity practice and effort to get there.
We have to be aware of the words we are chanting. If we are chanting too quickly this may not be happening. For some people sometimes, however, trying to chant as quickly as possible helps them concentrate – because it becomes impossible to do anything else without totally screwing up the mantra at that speed. The technique can vary from individual to individual and from day to day – the goal is the same: to truly focus on a clear, true experience of Krishna-nāma so that we develop a direct relationship to Krishna.
QUESTION: You have mentioned that only those who understand Krishna somewhat can actually chant his names. So why have we been taught that anyone who utters Krishna’s names will be liberated?
You do not need to ask this question. You already know the answer. You have uttered Krishna’s name many times. Are you liberated yet?
A person will be liberated at some point due to even casually or indirectly contacting Krishna’s name, but it may not be very soon, and is not likely even going to happen in the next few hundred lifetimes unless and until that person stops causally and indirectly contacting that name and starts systematically, and deliberately contacting it, with devotional intent.
This is why you get some statements that, “anyone who utters Krishna’s name will be liberated” (viz. Caitanya Maṅgala) but you get other statements that, “even after chanting Krishna’s name for a million lifetimes, you will not get liberated” (viz. Caitanya Caritāmṛta). The explanation above reconciles the two: Anyone will be liberated (Caitanya Maṅgala) but it will not be a very long time, unless the do it without aparādhā, by the grace of Sri Caitanya’s teachings (Caitanya Caritāmṛta).