Krishna is attracted by the sincerity and love of His devotee
Dear Bada Haridas,
I’ve been reading your blog posts and I really enjoy the question and answers format and content.
I wanted to express my appreciation for your insights, suggestions, lifestyle, kirtan, everything. You are very inspiring to me and I am grateful to have your association. I hope that you come for a visit soon and that we can do kirtan together.
My initial intention with this email was to just express my gratitude, but now I have my own question to submit.
Unfortunately, due to how I’ve structured my lifestyle, japa is not the highest priority and most of my rounds end up being quite inattentive. Are there any tangible steps one can take toward developing a taste for chanting? It’s something I’d love to develop but feel very lost in my attempts.
Also, when we chant, what is supposed to be going on in our mind? Are we supposed to think of Krishna? Are we supposed to see Krishna’s form in our minds as we chant? Or are we simply supposed to listen to the names again and again? I have a hard time with the latter when trying to get my day’s japa done, because the names go by so quickly. What is the proper way to engage the mind for focused japa?
Meditation of the Name and Form of Radha and Krishna
Hare Krishna. Thank you for your sincere question and your concern to chant better. Definitely our modern lifestyle, work etc., make sadhana difficult. Of course, a real taste for chanting comes at the stage of ruci, after the heart is thoroughly cleansed. But we can develop some taste for chanting when we feel that chanting is our chance to escape the mundane mind and have the association of Radha and Krishna on the spiritual platform. Chanting has to become our time to be with Krishna.
Krishna is present when we chant, now we have to be present. Usually the mind is busy remembering the past and projecting the future. No possibility of hearing our chanting. We have to bring our mind into the present to hear. One time Giriraj Swami asked Srila Prabhupada, “How should we hear?” and he answered, “As I am speaking. ” When someone is speaking to us, whether in the car or walking or wherever, we usually don’t have a hard time focusing and just hearing them. We come into the present and hear. Why such a hard time to hear our chanting? I think there are several reasons, but one is that it is not a meaningful conversation for us.
japa is our time to be with Krishna
So what to do? I suggest first, at least theoretically, approach your japa time as your time to be with Krishna. Calm the mind by offering prayers and just trying to be present and appreciate the opportunity you have. Be aware of your feelings, whatever they are, and bring them to Krishna. It could be, “Krishna, I’m completely distracted and have no love for You, please help me.” That’s a feeling. It’s not that we become overwhelmed by our feelings, but as we become aware that Krishna is observing us and hearing us chant, we also become aware of ourselves. There is a connection with Krishna and it is meaningful for us.
My experience is that chanting with sincere feeling helps me be more attentive and feel, at least sometimes, Krishna’s presence. It becomes meaningful for me and is not mechanical. The more we chant attentively, the more the heart is cleansed and we feel uplifted by it. Naturally we want more and more of that.
As for how to engage our minds when we chant, our acaryas have said that we need to hear. Srila Bhaktisidhanta has said, “As soon as the anartas are removed by chanting the holy names, the form, qualities, and pastimes of the Supreme Lord will automatically manifest. There is no need to artificially try to remember the Lord’s form, qualities, and pastimes.”
The Lord appears in the mind and heart of His devotees
Krishna is present and He will reveal His form, qualities, and pastimes in time. If we are in the present, chanting and hearing with feeling, (Srila Prabhupada said, “like a child crying for his mother”) it is natural that your favorite deities or picture of Krishna will sometimes come in the mind. That is nice even at our present stage and more will come as we are ready. If we are present, it’s not hard to hear (assuming your chanting is a normal speed, like 6-10 minutes a round).
One other suggestion. I’m assuming your “lifestyle” means you are chanting late in the day when you are already tired and distracted or that you are chanting here and there, without focus. Those are the general difficulties. If you can find a day off or some time once in a week or so when you can just sit and chant all or most of your rounds in a peaceful, pleasant place, without external distraction, that will give you a nice taste. Krishna will reciprocate your effort. Then you will naturally look for ways to improve your daily situation.
Krishna will reciprocate your sincere effort
It’s also very nice that you are organizing the kirtan programs. This service to the Holy Name will attract the mercy of the Lord.
One closing thought: Srila Bhaktisidhanta said, “The holy name and the Supreme Lord are non-different. When our anartas are destroyed, we will understand this fact. When you start chanting without offense, you will be convinced that all perfection comes from chanting the holy name.” (This should be a T-shirt)
I hope this helps. Let me know if it’s not clear or if you have any more questions. Thank you again.
Attentive, focused japa meditation
Dear Bada Haridas,
Thank you for such a thoughtful, well laid out and helpful email. I really appreciate how much effort you put into your response.
Today I had the day off and was home alone so I decided to give things a try. I read through your email again and noted the key points. There was a gem in every paragraph.
I managed to chant all of my rounds straight, from start to finish! I don’t remember the last time I did them all in one sitting. The first half were quite attentive and refreshing, really trying to focus on the points you made. I started to get a bit distracted and unable to sit still after a while, but I feel it is a great step in the right direction. Thank you for inspiring me to start getting my sadhana back in shape. I really truly hope to one day realize all of the points you made and get a taste for chanting; both in japa and kirtan.
I hope this meets you in very good health and that all of your traveling and preaching are bringing you great happiness.
Thank you. I’m glad it was helpful. I pray that you are able to continue and improve in this way. It’s worth the effort, to say the least. Material nature offers no end of distractions, but if you can develop good japa habits, (ie. consistently bringing the mind back) you can stay on track and over time your desire to chant will grow.
I have one other suggestion. Hearing from Srila Prabhupada, even a little bit every day, can be very powerful if you soak it in. Reading even a paragraph or listening to a class while you have breakfast or drive. Somehow fit in something here and there, it will make your mind stronger – in a good way!
By Krishna’s grace, my health has been good and I get a lot of inspiration, realization and purification from this service, the devotees I meet, and from Indradyumna Swami’s wonderful association.
Thank you for your blessings. Yes, I can personally attest to the unending stream of distractions. I was quite surprised when you said:
“But we can develop some taste for chanting when we feel that chanting is our chance to escape the mundane mind and have the association of Radha and Krishna on the spiritual platform.”
I had never considered viewing focused japa as a way to escape my racing mind.
Thank you for the reminder on the importance of reading Prabhupada’s books. Fortunately I’ve been reading some every day, even if just one page. I hope to increase the amount as time goes on. Currently I’m going through the Srimad Bhagavatam. I found a really sweet verse yesterday which I’ve shared below. I hope you’ll find it relevant given your current service which undoubtedly can be quite exhausting and take a lot of effort on your part.
I’m happy to hear your health is good and that you are soaking in so much of the great opportunity you are experiencing. Safe travels!
He also acknowledged the service of the devotees and vanquished their distress by His beautiful smile. The reflection of His face, decorated with earrings, was so pleasing because it dazzled with the rays from His lips and the beauty of His nose and eyebrows.
Devotional service to the Lord is very much obliging to Him. There are many transcendentalists in different fields of spiritual activities, but devotional service to the Lord is unique. Devotees do not ask anything from the Lord in exchange for their service. Even the most desirable liberation is refused by devotees, although offered by the Lord. Thus the Lord becomes a kind of debtor to the devotees, and He can only try to repay the devotees’ service with His ever-enchanting smile. The devotees are ever satisfied by the smiling face of the Lord, and they become enlivened. And by seeing the devotees so enlivened, the Lord Himself is further satisfied. So there is continuous transcendental competition between the Lord and His devotees by such reciprocation of service and acknowledgement.