Chanting Mantras

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?  

My reply:

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).

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5 Comments

  1. Thanks Prabhu ji, for shedding light on a topic thats quite relevant to Sadhakas.

    My own experience is that just focusing on quantity only, very rarely takes one to quality Japa. However if one has a clear understanding of the Hari Naam, Naami and Bhakti, then even one mala of Japa is more satisfying, peaceful and generally starts making one’s life more and more happier improving relationships and one’s general outlook of the world. As this understanding gets firmed up, the quantity also improves and one could go on the designated number of 16.

    I am not sure how the Sastras address this, but IMHO quality should be solely and wholly stressed for neo Sadhakas. Slowly and steadily the quantity too would come through, rather than making a designated number sacrosanct.

    Does Sastras anywhere say that if one doesn’t chant 16 rounds, then one is not even a human as has been mentioned in the question?

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    1. Even if there were such a statement, it would not be 16 mala, it would be some bigger number like a lakh (about 64 mala). And even if there were such a statement it would not have been made in the same context as people would be quoting it.

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  2. Hare Krishna
    PAMHO 🙏

    I have been walking around, first thinking and now sometimes doing variations of the Maha Mantra.
    I have tried it and found truly some other vibration and effect in them, which enforced my faith in Krishna’s name and the Maha Mantra!
    But I am wondering if there is anything wrong with it.
    First variation:
    Radhe Krishna Radhe Krishna
    Krishna Krishna Radhe Radhe
    Radhe Rama Radhe Rama
    Rama Rama Radhe Radhe
    I felt this one vibrating more around the upper chest area, feels grounding, less colorless, more Earth…
    As soon as I noted this, I went back to the original, and found that the Maha Mantra has, in my experience, more a base ‘home’ on my third eye, crown and above, and it has a more ‘transparant’ aspect…
    I am wondering if anything could be wrong with it, since Hare points to Radhe.
    Second variation:
    Krishna Hard
    Krishna Krishna Krishna
    Hare Hare Hare
    Rama Hare
    Rama Rama Rama
    Hare Hare Hare
    With this variation I feel that I can put more emotional energy in the words,
    There is a space that calls for my attention when I chant like this, I experience more surrender, but there might be more (to much?!) Rajas…?!
    And it makes me more concentrated because I feel more involved…

    Dear Vraja Kishor Prabhu
    I would really love to know your thoughts on this.

    Hari Bolo, Aurora d.d.
    🕉

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    1. You can do things in whatever variation you personally like. But there is a very special meaning (many very, very special meanings, actually) to the exact words and word order in the Hare Krishna mahāmantra which you will not realize if you change them around or substitute.

      In the second variation you are just changing the emphasis. Again you are welcome to do this, but there is a very special secret in having hare first, and grouping them all in pairs. You will not get to see that if you don’t practice it that way.

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  3. Wow! I believe this post is very significant as it expresses an underlying instruction – although the spiritual practice is quite regulative, strict and precise we, as practitioners, are called to personalise (to a certain degree) it in order to advance faster and more consistently. Thank you.

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