THE BHAKTIVEDANTA BOOK TRUST PRESENTS:
CHANT AND BE HAPPY
THE POWER OF MANTRA MEDITATION
|There are no hard-and-fast rules for chanting Hare Krsna. The most wonderful thing about mantra meditation is that one may chant anywhere and at any time.|
Techniques for Chanting
The meditation business is flourishing these days. Modern-day "messiahs," "gurus," and "incarnations," with all varieties of mantras, are a dime a dozen, as eager customers flock to the feet of self-styled saviors. One so-called guru instructs his disciples in supercharged techniques for becoming a financial success. Another tells his followers that meditation will make their intelligence sharper and the body more fit to enjoy sensual pleasures. Still other "gurus" claim that sex is the ultimate goal of life and that unlimited sex will free one from all material desires. Some chic spiritual seekers pay a lot of money for secret mantras that they believe will allow them to perform mystic feats. But the Vedic literatures issue stern warnings about charlatan gurus and bogus mantras.
If a person is actually serious about spiritual life, he or she must come in contact with a bona fide spiritual master and learn from him the science of Krsna consciousness. The Mundaka Upanisad states that "In order to learn the transcendental science, one must approach the bona fide spiritual master in disciplic succession, who is fixed in the Absolute Truth."
Not just any guru will do. This verse informs us that the spiritual master must be in disciplic succession from Lord Krsna, the supreme spiritual master. Such a genuine spiritual master receives Krsna's teachings through the disciplic chain and distributes them exactly as he has heard them from his spiritual master, without watering them down or altering them to suit his whims. A bona fide guru is not an impersonalist or voidist. He will never claim to be God; rather, he aspires to be a servant of God and His devotees. Such a guru is called acarya, or one who teaches by example. His life is free from all material desires and sinful behavior, his character is exemplary, and he must be qualified to deliver his disciples from the path of repeated birth and death. The Krsna conscious guru is absorbed in service to or meditation on the Supreme Lord at every moment.
Since the holy name of Krsna is completely spiritual, it must be received from a pure representative or servant of Krsna, who acts as a transparent via medium between God and the sincere spiritual seeker. Mantras received from any other type of "guru" simply will not work.
His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada writes in the Srimad-Bhagavatam: "Unless one follows the disciplic succession, the mantra one receives will be chanted for no purpose. Nowadays there are so many rascal gurus who manufacture their mantras as a process for material advancement, not for spiritual advancement. Still, the mantra cannot be successful if it is manufactured. Mantras and the process of devotional service have special power, provided they are received from the authorized person."
Receiving the Hare Krsna mantra from a bona fide guru who is in complete harmony with Krsna's teachings in Bhagavad-gita is the single most important aspect of chanting Hare Krsna.
Chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra is the simplest of all processes of self-realization. There are no exorbitant fees; the mantra is free. The thriving business of selling mantras is a form of cheating. The test of a person's sincerity is not that he pays some money, but that he is willing to change his life.
In order to chant Hare Krsna, one need not equip oneself with expensive props and paraphernalia, learn to stand on one's head, or perform other difficult postures or breathing exercises. The only equipment one needs is a tongue and ears. Everyone already has these. The tongue simply has to vibrate Krsna's holy names, and the ears must hear it. By this simple process alone, one can achieve all perfection.
How to Chant
There are no hard-and-fast rules for chanting Hare Krsna. The most wonderful thing about mantra meditation is that one may chant anywhere-at home, at work, driving in the car, or riding on the bus or subway. And one may chant at any time.
There are two basic types of chanting. Personal meditation, where one chants alone on beads, is called japa. When one chants in responsive fashion with others, this is called kirtana. Kirtana is usually accompanied by musical instruments and clapping. Both forms of chanting are recommended and beneficial.
To perform the first type of meditation, one needs only a set of japa beads. These may be purchased from any Hare Krsna temple or by filling out the coupon in the back of this book. Or, if you like, you can make your own beads at home.
If you decide to make your japa beads, follow these simple instructions:
To meditate with the beads, hold them in your right hand. Hold the first bead with your thumb and middle finger (see illustration on page 100) and chant the complete maha-mantra-Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Then go to the next bead, holding it with the same two fingers, again chanting the entire mantra. Then go on to the next bead and then the next, continuing in this way until you have chanted on all 108 beads and have come to the Krsna bead. You have now completed "one round" of chanting. Do not chant on the Krsna bead, but turn the beads around and chant on them in the opposite direction, one after another. Chanting on beads is especially helpful, for it engages the sense of touch in the meditative process and helps you concentrate even more on the sound of the mantra.
You may want to chant japa indoors, but you can chant just as comfortably walking along the beach or hiking in the mountains. Just bring your beads along with you. If you chant sitting down, you should assume a comfortable position (preferably not Iying down or slouching, for there's always the tendency to fall asleep). You can chant as loudly or as softly as you like, but it's important to pronounce the mantra clearly and loudly enough to hear yourself. The mind may have a tendency to wander off to other matters when you chant, for the mind is flickering and unsteady, always looking for something new and pleasurable to absorb itself in. If your mind wanders (to anything except Krsna and things related to Him), gently bring it back to the transcendental sound vibration. It won't be difficult, because the mind is easily satisfied when absorbed in the divine sound of the Lord's holy names (unlike other meditational practices, where one may be asked to fix his mind on "nothing" or "the void").
One may chant japa at any time, but the Vedic literatures note that certain hours of the day are most auspicious for performing spiritual activities. The early morning hours just before and after sunrise are generally a time of stillness and quietude, excellently suited to contemplative chanting. Many people find it especially helpful to set aside a certain amount of time at the same time each day for chanting. Start with one or two "rounds" a day, and gradually increase the number until you reach sixteen, the recommended minimum for serious chanters.
While japa is a form of meditation involving you, your beads, and the Supreme Lord, kirtana, on the other hand, is a form of group meditation, where one sings the mantra, sometimes accompanied by musical instruments. You may have seen a kirtana party chanting on the streets of your city, for the devotees frequently perform this type of chanting to demonstrate the process and allow as many people as possible to benefit from hearing the holy names.
One may hold a kirtana at home with family or friends, with one person leading the chanting and the others responding. Kirtana is more of a supercharged meditational process, where in addition to hearing oneself chant, one also benefits by hearing the chanting of others. Musical instruments are nice, but not necessary. One may sing the mantra to any melody and clap his hands. (Especially recommended are the traditional melodies, like those found on the cassette offered at the end of this book.) If you have children, they can sing along as well and make spiritual advancement. You can get the whole family together every evening for chanting.
The sounds of the material world are boring, hackneyed and monotonous, but chanting is an ever-increasingly refreshing experience. Make a test yourself. Try chanting some word or phrase for even five minutes. If you chant "Coca-Cola" over and over again, even for a few minutes, it becomes practically unbearable. There's no pleasure in it. But the sound of Krsna's names is transcendental, and as one chants he wants to chant more and more.
Enhancing Your Chanting
Although one receives immense benefit however and whenever one may chant Hare Krsna, the great spiritual masters who are authorities on chanting suggest that the practitioner employ certain practical techniques that will enhance the chanting and bring quicker results as well.
The more one chants, the more easily he will be able to follow the principles listed below, for as one chants, he gains spiritual strength and develops a higher taste. When one begins to relish spiritual pleasure from chanting, giving up bad habits that may hinder one's spiritual progress becomes much easier.
Eventually, serious chanters will want to take initiation from a bona fide spiritual master. Initiation is recommended in the Vedic scriptures, for it dramatically helps one in chanting Hare Krsna and assists in the awakening of our original spiritual consciousness. There are qualified spiritual masters in the International Society for Krishna Consciousness throughout the world who are willing to assist anyone sincere about becoming God conscious.
Srila Prabhupada has indicated that those desirous of taking initiation must follow the regulative principles mentioned earlier and chant each day on beads a minimum of sixteen rounds. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the incarnation of Krsna who popularized the chanting of the holy names five hundred years ago in West Bengal, India, introduced the system of chanting a fixed number of rounds each day. Careful completion of sixteen rounds daily will help the disciple to remember Krsna always.
That, in essence, is what Krsna consciousness is all about-always remembering Krsna and never forgetting Him. And chanting is the simplest way of maintaining this constant state of God consciousness, for the mystical potency contained in the mantra's vibration will always keep you in touch with God and your own original, spiritual nature. All of God's innumerable spiritual potencies, including His transcendental pleasure principle, are contained in His holy names. Therefore, the pleasure you will feel as you begin to chant will be far, far greater than any material happiness you have ever experienced. And the more you chant Hare Krsna, the happier you will feel.
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