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Greeting The Sun (Thoughts On Chanting Japa)

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The few years just prior to my becoming a devotee were filled with all kinds of material enjoyments. My family had recently moved to Florida from the cold North, and we were living on Ft. Myers beach. Ft. Myers beach in those years was really what I would call a heavenly planet. Long stretches of pure white sand beaches, crystal clear blue gulf water. Dolphins jumping and swimming, coconut palms, mango's, fragrant flowers, island breezes. The first high-rise hotel had yet to be built, and even though there were tourists, there weren't many.

My friends and I spent every moment we had (unless we were in school, which we skipped a lot too) running the beaches, the bays, exploring the mangrove islands, cruising in motor boats through the canals, skinny dipping at night in the warm phosphorescent water, and doing all the things that ordinary young teenagers did.

Sure, there were some struggles and suffering, but most of it was totally drenched in a heavenly sort of sense enjoyment.

In the midst of all that, I was still seeking that "purpose of all of this" and found a book on Hatha Yoga at the library. There was no philosophy in this book, it was only the poses. I found it very attractive and I took it home and started doing them. The one that was my most favorite was the Sun Pose, where you would face the East, and with folded palms, bend to "Greet The Sun". I loved that. I had some understanding that this didn't mean the "globe" itself, but the "being" that was the sun.

I'm going to skip over my introduction to Krishna consciousness here because that's really a topic for another post. So, later, a devotee who was on his way to India came to stay at our house. He brought japa beads and the Bhagavad Gita, and showed us how to chant japa. They were the really large size beads, made of some kind of wood (not Tulasi) and we didn't have bead bags, you wore them around your neck and chanted that way. My older brother and I would put our beads around our necks and go for long walks along the beach and chant japa.

No one told me about any kind of rules, regulations, requirements, offenses, sins, or any other thing I might do wrong. In the environment I was living in, and not having grown up with much religion, I did not relate at all to the concept of "sin".

I feel sure that if someone had told me all the things I could do wrong, the austerities that I must perform, the different offenses that could be committed in chanting the holy name, the ways I might break regulative principles, the concept of inattention, not chanting with devotion, the right time of day to chant, etc... I would have never even considered it.

The reason I did was because no one told me all those things. I was only told this is chanting Krishna's name, and anyone can do it, you can do it too, "try it you'll like it" so to speak. I already had an attraction to the maha mantra (which I'll explain another time). So, it seemed quite natural to "just chant".

As devotees, we all are working on improving our japa, we talk about how to chant as attentively as possible, avoid offenses, proper pronunciation, chanting early in the morning, following the regulative principles, attending japa workshops and retreats, all sorts of things. We discuss all these things a lot, and our endeavors to chant as purely and as much as we can.

Sometimes though, it occurs to me that for people who are new to Krishna consciousness all this can be rather overwhelming. These are all ways of creating a deeper relationship with the holy name (Krishna) but they aren't important for someone who is just getting their first introduction into chanting.

Chanting japa only means repeating the maha mantra quietly for your own benefit (meaning, rather than singing it loudly in pubic, as in sankirtan). Chanting japa can even be done without beads. We use beads to increase the meditation, and also to keep track of how many mantras we chant.

The main thing for anyone new to all this is just to chant.

You can chant anywhere, in any way. You can chant while you're walking, while you're working, while you're driving, while you're doing anything at all.

There is no need to worry about offenses or sins or any of that. Just chant. Lord Chaitanya gave us this mantra because in this age we are all fallen, we all commit offenses, we all have short attentions spans, we are all attracted to sin and sense pleasure.

Still, do to the mercy of Lord Chaitanya, we can all chant Hare Krishna.

Later on, if you want to develop a closer relationship with Krishna's holy name, you can begin to consider the ways to do that. The main thing though, is just to chant.

Who ever you are, whatever condition of life you're in, just chant Hare Krishna.

This post is called "Greeting The Sun" because I found out that the real "Sun" to greet is the holy name. This is the "Sun" that has risen in Kali Yuga, and anyone can turn and face Him and greet Him, simply by chanting the maha mantra.

"To penetrate the darkness of ignorance and bless everyone's heart, the holy name has risen like the shining sun. Drink the pure nectar of the holy name. There is nothing but the name to be had in the fourteen worlds. It has filled the soul of Sri Bhaktivinoda Thakura."

Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur

~ Oh yes, it was also the "Age Of Aquarius" days when I became of devotee... and by Western astrology, I am Aquarian. That song played on the radio all the time.... "Let the sun shine... let the sun shine, let the sun shine, the sun....shine in".....

So here's the sunshine, just let it into your life:

Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare
Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare

* Navasi's blog
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Comments
Thu, 10/30/2008 - 04:10 — Snehal
Snehal's picture
Chanting on fingers

Hare Krishna!

When I started chanting some 8 years back, I did it on the fingers. I remember it was very difficult to keep the count of number of times I chanted. Though I did just one round, it was really not a good quality one. I was told to do this by my cousin and I just did it because I believed in God.

But by Krishna's and my brother's mercy I started chanting seriously and on beads 3 years later. So I can relate to what you have beautifully expressed here.

haribol!

Snehal

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Thu, 10/30/2008 - 06:57 — Navasi
Navasi's picture
Chanting Seriously

That's very interesting, Snehal.

Yes, that's exactly what I was trying to say. We all have to start somewhere. There are so many ways different ways that we each start to chant.

Like for me, in this story. I had never even been to the temple yet (we lived many hours away) and the devotee that brought the beads only stayed for a few days, maybe 4 or 5.

He was dressed in ordinary clothes, with a regular haircut, and wasn't wearing and external signs of being a devotee. Yet, in those few days, he got me started chanting japa.

I had only a brief introduction to Krishna prior to this, and it was not at the temple.

These ways that people first find out about chanting japa, we have to be so careful that we don't overwhelm them. Once someone gets a taste of chanting the holy name, it's natural that they will then want to find out how to chant better, and more, and increase their efforts.

Everyone has to begin somewhere. Everyone progresses at a different rate also, and we want to make sure that we only encourage. Sometimes that means "pushing" a little, but not usually at the very beginning.

That's wonderful that you were given the mercy to find a way to chant serious japa on your beads. Truly, you are right in saying "by Krishna's mercy". It is absolutely the gift of the mercy of Krishna that we (any of us) take to the chanting of japa seriously.

We need to all pray for that mercy, and if we take to chanting seriously by Krishna's mercy, pray to always keep that mercy.

Like Bhaktin Carol was saying "this is a gift".... it's the greatest gift there is, and if we can take to chanting japa seriously, then we can of course consider ourselves blessed by Krishna's causeless mercy.

Anyone who chants the holy name at all is blessed by Krishna, but especially those who take it up seriously.

Thank you for sharing your story.

Hare Krishna,
Navasi

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Thu, 10/30/2008 - 02:55 — Go-Seva
Go-Seva's picture
Thank you for validating me

I really feel so much better after reading this, Navasi, and want to thank you for letting me know that I am doing OK.

Unfortunately, with two small children, I am generally unable to be very regulated in habits. On the few occasions I have been able to get up early and go downstairs and chant, it has been wonderful. More often, however, I must lay in bed and chant softly rather than wake up my son, who shares sleep with me (he's got a sixth sense of when I am away longer than to use the bathroom!) Also, I enjoy chanting during the day so my children can hear the Mahamantra and see the process of chanting.

During the day, I usually chant while cleaning the house, hanging clothes out on the line to dry, cooking meals and preparing snacks, showering, gardening, mowing the lawn, stoking the fire, hauling wood inside, driving , bathing the children, shopping in the store, or pretty much any other activity.

I infrequently use beads, although I prefer it, and wish to become more regulated in the future....But for now, this is all I can do. I want to associate with (and enjoy chanting!) the Holy Name as much as possible, and develop a nice taste, so I just think that chanting as much as possible whenever possible is my only salvation and my only solution.

Haribol!

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Thu, 10/30/2008 - 03:31 — Navasi
Navasi's picture
Doing The Best You Can

Haribol Lisa,

I'm glad this helped you.

It's good to recognize that we who are older devotees and write things here, are attempting to inspire others to do as much as they can possibly manage.

So, we share things we think will motivate and be helpful, and give others the desire to do more. It's not intended to make people feel discouraged.

However, everyone is on a different level, at a different place. Everyone comes to this website looking for inspiration, so between us all there is hopefully something for everyone to be inspired and helped by.

Speaking for myself, I am also far from being perfect, so sometimes my efforts to inspire, may actually discourage. That's when I hope others will also realize that "I'm doing the best I can too".

: )

That's great that you chant all the time that way! Excellent!

Hare Krishna,
Navasi

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Wed, 10/29/2008 - 10:15 — bhaktincarol
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Even without knowledge of rules

What you wrote is so beautiful.

I went through an experience where I realized, to some degree, how incredibly, and independently, powerful the Maha Mantra is. Independent of the individual's understanding -- powerful even when the chanter (or in my case, listener) had no expectation, no desire for purification, no instruction on how to serve Sri Krishna, and no understanding whatsoever about rules connected with chanting.

Several years ago I had been attacked. I was very weak, dehydrated, there were internal organs extending outside of my body, also damaged organs internally, I was fatigued beyond anything I'd ever experienced, and I was in more pain than I thought was possible to bear. This was prior to going into the hospital.

My connection to the Krishna Consciousness movement was minimal: 19 years earlier I had one meal ("to go") from a temple restaurant, had asked some questions, and had listened to the commercial recording of "My Sweet Lord" probably 3 or 4 times, ever -- without much interest.

I had, though, felt very drawn to the devotees since that one time to the restaurant, I thought about them sometimes, but my health had been poor and I hadn't been back.

When I was laying there injured, everything seemed to be a tremendous effort. Even though I was coping mentally, the thought kept coming back to me that a person couldn't possibly cope very long with that degree of pain. I thought it wasn't possible. I thought some sort of mental breakdown must be coming soon. One thinks they can't handle that degree of pain, but the suffering simply continues, there is no curtain drawn that relieves it. You just continue to experience.

My vision had become very poor and I was weak in speaking, so I was trying to find some audio product (which I only had to listen to) that I could focus my thoughts on, to get my mind off the suffering. I tried television, commercial radio, even tape recordings of nature sounds--these all just disturbed me more.

For some reason I was very confident in my mind that I needed to contact devotees. I didn't do anything that seemed unnecessary at that point. I had very little energy, I didn't feel I had much time left (to live). It was a very desperate time, where everything I did had to count, no longer was I doing things because someone said I was "supposed to", or because it looked right, or because it was expected. I had been brought up being told I was supposed to do things a certain way. When things were as bad as they were for me right then, those instructions that had seemed so important once, so confusing, at that point had the power of mere cobwebs. There was no strength to other ideas, just that I had to contact devotees.

I had very limited vision but was able to telephone devotees at a temple. The devotees were very kind, reading to me over the phone, delivering prasadam, and doing other things to help --but what I'm interested in discussing here is the Mantra. A devotee gave me cassette tapes of Krishna Conscious recordings. I remember listening to the Govinda Prayers and the Maha Mantra.

I was in such pain that I slept little, maybe an hour, hour and a half at a time. I began listening to the Mantra with headphones, whether asleep or awake, 24 hours a day on auto-reverse equipment, which plays continuously. Although other audio products only disturbed me more, I found myself completely drawn to the Maha Mantra and the Govinda Prayers. There was something in those words, in that sound, that I was drawn to, that I needed. I endured the pain, and my mind was focused.

Even though it was my first time listening to them, I was very aware (just of the FEELING) that I NEEDED to listen to those recordings, I didn't have a reason for that, I just knew it was so.

I didn't have knowledge in this life of what I should do when sick or dying, I didn't have reasons I believed in to listen to chanting. I wasn't about to try some new "thing" at that desperate moment. If anything, I had been taught to call a Christian minister or priest. Instead, something in me was totally drawn to, and ONLY COMFORTED by, the Maha Mantra.

I was able to endure the pain without medication (although I was given a few times without my permission) just listening to the Krishna Conscious tapes. I lived (!) -- apparently healthy, still in this body, although doctors initially said I was too far gone to work on. As soon as I could walk, I went to an ISKCON temple and have been coming ever since. All the doctors' dooming predictions, that I would never eat solid food, never walk, not even survive...I eat prasadam, walk on mountains at Krishna Camp at the rainbow Gathering, go on harinama (!), I had the wonderful opportunity of meeting the guru I am aspiring to -- His Holiness Bhakti Charu Swami !! And have the wonderfully blissful experience of listening to his classes. I have never before had such heavenly experiences in this life!

My life was so utterly dark, desperate, (and sinful). A lot has changed, from my physical situation, to what I attach my attention on now. I still don't know anything, and make all kinds of mistakes, but I can tell that my life is so completely different from what it was before that injury and my encounter with the Maha Mantra. It's like a completely different lifetime. I don't know how long this window of good health will last, but already I've been given 4 1/2 years in the association of devotees, and have been given the opportunity (the GIFT!-- it feels like a GIFT! to be able to try to serve Krishna and chant!) to chant the Mantra every morning, and any other time I want throughout the entire day!

Now I hope to learn to serve Krishna, and I chant with the idea of Krishna in my mind. I'm trying to live and chant according to rules. But also, to me there is something I observed, that even without an individual's knowledge of, or adherence to any rules, the Maha Mantra is a very powerful thing. And when most other things are stripped away from an individual, something deep within is drawn to the sound of Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare.

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Wed, 10/29/2008 - 23:26 — Jaaaay
Jaaaay's picture
bhatkincarol - what a wonderful

bhaktincarol - what a wonderful and touching story, I appreciate your sharing it with us. Hare Krishna!

Same with yours Navasi, great points raised, especially about the importance of chanting even before rules and regulations are introduced. Just see bhaktincarol's situation - now that's a live action example of the potency of the mahamantra!

Also, LOL @ the song lyrics you posted at the end ("let the sun shine...."). You know they made us learn that song at school? I think I was in either 5th or 6th grade. It sounded so old and weird to me at the time... oh the memories....

=)

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Wed, 10/29/2008 - 23:36 — Navasi
Navasi's picture
Anything For Krishna.....

:)

Well.... it is "old and weird" Jaaaay.... lol..

But, as we know... anything used in the service of Krishna.... then it's not old or weird anymore.

I'm not surprised they made you learn that song in school, it's pretty significant culturally and historically. Really, all that "harmony and understanding" ... peace and love consciousness going on was what created the conducive environment that allowed the US to be receptive to the message of Srila Prabhupad.

Now I've given you the chance to see the song you learned in relation to Krishna ;)

Navasi

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Wed, 10/29/2008 - 22:51 — Navasi
Navasi's picture
The Supreme Power

Dear Bhaktin Carol,

Well... what You wrote was so beautiful too! Thank you for sharing your personal story with us. I really appreciated reading it, and I feel sure others will/have also.

You're right about the power of the maha mantra, it's Krishna, who is the Supreme Power.

His power is not adjusted, changed, diminished, or lacking in any way, having anything to do with our "condition" of understanding, or lack of it, or following anything.

Krishna's power is unchanged. The power of the maha mantra is unchanged.

It's our reception of it, and degree of ability to benefit that is affected by the things we do, or don't do, follow or don't follow, understand or don't understand.

Because we want to benefit from chanting as much as possible we endeavor to follow things and understand things, as you are now doing.

I love what you said about how you feel the mantra is a gift, that being able to chant it is a gift. You're so very right! It truly is the greatest gift any of us could have, and we're all so fortunate that we have the chance to chant.

Thank you also for your thoughts about chanting. Very inspiring.

Hare Krishna,
Navasi

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Wed, 10/29/2008 - 04:35 — Radhikesh
Radhikesh's picture
Somehow or other

Haribol Navasi. Good points. Yes for a beginner in Krishna's service the rules and regulations should not matter. Rupa Gosvami says that somehow or other fix your mind in Krishna, and that the rules and regulations can follow later. So one should just chant and keep on chanting. This will give one a taste to do more. And then the rules and regulations will make sense.

It is always fun to start practicing Krishna consciousness - chanting the names, eating prasadam, reading Bhagavad gita etc. But if one is overwhelmed with the rules, one will miss out on the fun. Once we do the basics, then of course there is the vast intermediate zone (as Satsvarupa Maharaja says). That is where we start struggling with so many things which tests us. But thats for a different topic.

So let everyone enjoy chanting the names with gay abandon.

Radhikesh das

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Wed, 10/29/2008 - 05:26 — Navasi
Navasi's picture
The Most Important Rule

Haribol Radhikesh,

Thank you for your comments.

It's true what you're saying, that people need to develop a desire to do more, and that happens from chanting. No one follows rules without any reason to do so, or understanding of the benefit of them.

Reading your comment made me think of Srila Prabhupad saying that the most important rule is "always remember Krishna, and never forget Him".

So, if people think this is all about "rules" and therefore they never even have the desire to get to know Krishna, what to speak of "always remember Him and never forget Him", then the purpose and meaning of any rule has been entirely missed.

Krishna wants everyone :)

Hare Krishna,
Navasi

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Wed, 10/29/2008 - 07:21 — tekisui
tekisui's picture
Too late ...

Greetings.

Thank you for posting this topic. I have a question, please.

What would be some advice for those of us who "started off on the wrong foot already", so to speak - those of us who already think that rules are all-important, to the point that it is counterproductive for us?

For example - Myself, I have already brought a huge burden of concern for rules and regulations from before, mainly from Christianity. I feel a very strong urge to do things in accord with the rules, a strong sense of "This should be done this way, that that way, or you better don't do it at all" - which goes so far that I feel swamped, overwhelmed, and eventually even refrain from doing the practices once I see I can't do them in accord with the rules. For me, chanting has been quite a grim experience so far, studying also.

I've been told before not to be so concerned about the rules and just chant - but this doesn't really work for me, I feel so bad for not following the rules, my arms and hands feel heavy as lead, my voice shivers, I get troubles breathing and it all seems so fake ...

I thought this warranted a new thread, so I posted it in the Japa section here: http://connect.krishna.com/node/4376.

Thank you!
g