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Japa meditation — beyond the physical body and mind

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Hare Krishna Maha Mantra

Part One

Q.
Dear Bada Haridas,
You may remember I emailed you regarding the japa workshop and you sent me some wonderful prayers that were also very helpful.

After watching the workshop, trying to apply all the principles and making japa the central focus of my day I have to say my japa was revolutionized for about one year. (I had been chanting for four years previously to this.) I genuinely felt a deep connection with the holy name, trying to serve but after that something seemed to go. I was not only losing taste but falling back into bad habits of bad chanting. I know I had not been offending devotees in person but I was sure I was offending them in the mind and I thought this may be a clear link.

I tried to stop this but for some reason even then my japa would not improve to the same level once again.
I did not feel that it was a relationship anymore but once again just a process or robotic practice.

What has followed is that recently I had to have an operation and I am not allowed to speak for an extended period of time. I have been listening to Srila Prabhupada chant and chanting along with him in my mind but this is tough. Even while chanting in my mind my vocal chords move and this is detrimental to the recovery.

I wanted to seek your guidance on this matter. Both as to why my japa went bad and how to improve. Also please advise me how to chant when I physically can’t.

Anything you share will be of great value as I would love to improve my japa once again. Please feel free to be open and honest.

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Srila Prabhupada chanting japa

A.
Thank you for such sincere and honest questions. I really appreciate your desire to have a genuine relationship with Krishna. That’s not an ordinary thing. You are certainly going through a hard time now, but you should be encouraged that you had a nice taste for chanting, feeling a real connection, and you don’t want to go back to something less. That’s a good thing.

A few things come to mind. Of course, as you mentioned there is always the possibility of offenses to devotees and we should be very conscious about our attitude. But, assuming that’s not the issue, we always have to remember that the feeling of connection in chanting is Krishna’s reciprocation. We try our best to be attentive, prayerful and so on, but ultimately it is up to Krishna if and how He reciprocates with us.

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Child Krishna reciprocating the love of His devotees

Srila Rupa Goswami explains that the Lord is always there, but He may keep himself hidden. The devotee, not feeling His presence then “laments bitterly.” This is for our purification. As Sacinandana Swami says, “We have to be prepared to go through the desert of dry chanting. This forces us to examine our heart.”
Sometimes, we think we are doing something to make it happen, but it’s up to Krishna and we have to go on without expectation. He will reciprocate in His own time. After all it’s His job to purify our heart. We can’t actually do that on our own. We can only take shelter.

I think your situation of not being able to speak must be a special arrangement to teach you something very special about the Holy Name. Actually the Name is chanted not by the tongue, but by the soul within the heart. Only secondarily by the tongue. You can bring your consciousness into your heart and chant as pure spirit soul from there.


Part Two

Chanting from the heart

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Meditation on the Holy Name of Krishna

Q.
Your response was extremely encouraging, enthusing and refreshing to hear. Especially the part about it being an arrangement to learn to chant from the heart. With renewed vigor and patience I am going to try to do this.

A.
Thank you. I’m glad it was helpful.
One other thing I wanted to share from my experience:
Sometimes my consciousness is in my head and my chanting: moving the tongue, vocal cords, etc., all gets linked involuntarily together in an unconscious way. Hearing doesn’t really happen then and it can also strain the vocal cords.

I’ve had to become aware of this at japa retreats. Chanting 64 rounds and then leading kirtan. I have had to find ways to preserve my weak vocal chords. With a little awareness, the consciousness can be brought back into the heart. Chanting from there, as spirit soul, is completely different from mental chanting. In that place, I can chant, call out and hear, whether I’m making sound with my mouth or not. Also, with a little practice it’s possible to articulate the words of the mantra without using the vocal chords, or using them in a very relaxed way. This takes some practice and awareness. The main thing, of course, is bringing the consciousness into the heart.  I hope this makes sense. I thought it would be helpful in your present circumstance.

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Sacinandana Swami singing kirtan

I found the seminar by Sacinandana Maharaja to be very uplifting and also to the point for what you were asking. Maharaja has been a great inspiration for me in my chanting. I’ve gone through, and continue to go through ups and downs in my chanting and his kind words, encouragement, and realized  knowledge always help me get back to the essence of things.

Thank you again for your sincere desire to chant purely. I’m always happy to hear how things are going.
Wishing you all the best on your auspicious journey,

Your servant,
Bada Haridas

Date →
Aug 13