Chanting & Hare Krishna Mantra
Many devotees have asked this same question of Srila Prabhupada and other senior devotees. At the beginning of our chanting, we have a sincere desire to explore the chanting. We begin to chant on the inspiration of the spiritual master and other devotees and we are deeply inclined to "do it right."
This fresh, simple mentality usually offers some "taste" or inclination to chant carefully. We feel focused, enlivened, and concerned with chanting carefully and attentively. However, at the beginning stages of sadhana (spiritual practice) we mostly chant out of duty, on the order of guru, and whatever taste we experience is secondary. We have material desires and we're not really convinced chanting alone will make us happy. We chant in the morning but throughout the day our mind is attracted to millions of other things.
As we progress, often we become more causal about the chanting. We expect that very quickly we'll see Krishna everywhere. When that's not the case, we become discouraged or mechanical about the chanting. It's difficult to focus the mind, yet we are compelled by the order of guru and the deep knowledge that chanting is what we have to do to purify ourselves and eventually get to know Krishna.
As we progress further, and the heart becomes more pure, we begin to become free from unwanted things within the heart. Our chanting becomes deeper and our longing to understand Krishna through His name becomes more pure and sincere. Our desires for material things decrease. We become more focused. We begin to realize that the Holy Name has everything that we want, and that true happiness can only come from chanting Hare Krishna!
From this point, we truly begin in earnest to chant the Holy Name. More and more, we begin to relish the chanting itself. We actually begin to develop a deep attraction for the holy Name that compels us to continue chanting.
I suggest that you read Nectar of Instruction written originally by Srila Rupa Goswami and translated by Srila Prabhupada. This will help you understand the process further.
I hope this is helpful.
Thanks for your question.
This is a very common dilemma. Generally, devotees go through times when it's difficult to chant, and the mind becomes restless. It's important to just keep chanting. Try to chant in the early morning - no phones, no sounds, just a few pictures and a peaceful atmosphere.
Feeling guilty won't help, but being determined and enthusiastic to improve will be very helpful. Depending where you live, you may be able to attend one of the many japa retreats being held at various places. Also, there is an online japa (personal chanting) conference every Saturday morning which you can find out about via Krishna.com and perhaps you can attend that.
Association of devotees who are serious about chanting can be very helpful in improving your japa.
I hope this is helpful.
Hare Krishna! Thanks for your question. Actually the most important thing when chanting the maha mantra is to hear the mantra. Other feelings and thoughts will come naturally as we begin to hear the Mantra and relate deeply to the Lord as He appears in His Holy Name. It is not necessary to try to feel or think about anything. Just chant and hear.
According to Lord Chaitanya the most important feeling ultimately, is humility. When one is thinking himself lower than the straw in the street, more tolerant than the tree, offering all respects to others, wanting none for himself/herself, in such a state of mind one can chant the Holy Name constantly. So considering that one is a tiny soul, in a vast and complicated universe and that each soul really has no control of anything except his/her ability to worship the Lord will help us to remain humble and sincerely call out to Krishna to accept us!
I hope this is helpful.
How will I know if my chanting is bringing me closer to Krishna? How long does it take to become Krishna conscious?
You can see that the chanting is helping you come closer to the Supreme when you see that your mind and senses are coming under control. When you see that you are less attracted to material things, or less frequently hankering and lamenting over material success or failure, then you can know that the chanting is bringing you closer to Krishna. Gradually you will develop a taste for chanting. You will long for the time and a peaceful place to chant His Name. You'll come to feel His presence and aspire to engage in his service.
How long this takes is up to you. How carefully you follow the process, what you eat, who you associate with, what you do when you're not chanting, will all affect how quickly you can perceive success. For example, let's say you have a disease. Your doctor gives you a diet, some medicine, and tells you to do some exercise. If you take the medicine now and again, ignore the exercise and diet, and wonder, "how fast will I get well?" the answer is "probably not very fast." You have to do it all to really be cured. So the time frame is in your hands.
Seek out good association, good opportunities to read and study the sastra (scriptures), good service, avoid eating tamasic and rajasic foods (foods in the modes of passion and ignorance), eat only prasad (food offered to Krishna), chant your rounds in the morning in a good place, free from distractions. All this things will maximize the speed of the effect. Good luck!
All the best!
Fortunately, the Hare Krishna mantra works whether we believe in it or not. We don't have to understand or believe in medicine for it to work, and the science of chanting Hare Krishna is subtler than any chemical process. It has a profoundly beneficial effect on the consciousness, whether or not one is aware of the science at all. Try it and see.
Is it actually possible that an average person in these troubled times can become fully Krishna conscious? If so, why do some people lose interest in their practice, even after practicing for some time?
First, it should be understood that anyone who takes up the process of Krishna Consciousness is not an average person, but an exceptional person. Krishna explains in the Bhagavad-gita that only one out of many, many persons looks for spiritual solutions and tries to connect with Krishna. Lord Krishna says that such a great soul is very rare.
That being said, this material word is quite problematic and it's not possible to overcome it by ourselves. We need the help of guru, Krishna and other devotees. By seeking guidance from guru, and taking shelter of the holy name we can make advancement and become aloof from the sufferings of the material world.
Also, material things need to be kept in perspective. For example, this material situation is temporary. Whatever happiness or suffering we're experiencing now will go away in short order. If we look back in our lives, we'll find that what once seemed like a very serious problem seems insignificant a few months or a few years later. Life goes on. Happiness and suffering continue to come and go. We should try not to get too involved in these things and realize that our ultimate goal and happiness will come from connecting with Krishna.
When the senses—particularly the mind—become attracted to material things, we tend to falsely think that we can find happiness from eating, smelling, touching, playing with, loving, or otherwise interacting with material objects. We can then lose interest in our chanting and spiritual activities and drift back into material illusion, only to wake up and find ourselves once again sad and wondering, "what am I doing here?" Then, if we're lucky, we again take up the process of spiritual life. Hopefully after only a short detour.
Keeping good association, reading and chanting regularly, taking guidance from the guru, and living a life guided by the principles of bhakti-yoga will help us develop strength and determination.
I hope this is helpful.
If the mind wanders while we're chanting, is it OK to watch lectures, listen to Krishna bhajans and kirtans or try to bring a picture of Krishna to mind? What things should we not do while chanting?
While chanting we should focus on the sound of the holy name. The holy name is Krishna Himself, so everything is there when we are hearing sri nama. Certainly we can look at pictures to keep focused on Krishna's form, but it's not helpful to do other things while chanting japa.
Classes, bhajans, etc. should receive our full attention, and chanting japa should also get all our attention. It isn't possible to place full attention on 2 things at once. Anything that requires or demands our attention is not good company when chanting japa. The first business when chanting japa is to offer full attention to the sound of the holy name.
I hope this is helpful.
Constant chanting will get us constant service to Krishna, and constant service to Krishna will get us constant chanting!
Chanting doesn't just mean japa, our private meditation, but rather glorifying the Lord and His name at every moment with our mind, speech and actions. And it should be done in every way possible—hearing, chanting, remembering, serving the Lord and His devotees, and taking full shelter of the Lord with our every endeavor.
Of course, these things happen gradually. But one begins by chanting regularly each day, doing some service for the Lord and His devotees, honoring food offered to the Lord, and reading shastra like the Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam. All these things will support our ability and desire to chant. Gradually we will develop a strong desire to chant, which will in turn allow us to keep the holy name of Krishna in our mind and heart all the time.
I hope this is helpful.
I've never read anything like this. The shastras, scriptures, define a devotee as one who chants the holy name sincerely, even once. If we accept that definition, then the idea that "only a devotee is allowed to chant the Hare Krishna Mantra" becomes clearer. This isn't to say that only people who are devotees can chant, but if one chants then one is a devotee, so therefore only devotees chant ;-).
That being said, there are different qualities of chanting. No matter how one chants, there is some benefit because Krishna's name is very powerful. Any soul that comes in contact with His name becomes purified and proceeds forward in his/her spiritual journey.
On the other hand, a person who sincerely chants the holy name with the intention of serving the Lord and/or getting to know the Lord through His name will achieve a deep relationship with the Lord and the Lord will also reciprocate deeply in that friendship. A person who chants carelessly or without sincere intent will also benefit, but only minimally. Their relationship with the Lord will develop slowly.
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu specifically offers the chanting of the maha-mantra as the prime benediction for humanity in this difficult age of Kali, (quarrel and hypocrisy ) He says that in Kali-yuga, the Supreme Lord has kindly invested all of His potencies in His holy name, and there are no hard-and-fast rules for chanting such names. In this regard, Srila Prabhupada says:
"The mention of such rules refers to kala-desha-niyama, or regulations of time and place. Normally there are strict regulations governing the time, season, place, conditions, etc., under which one may execute a particular Vedic ceremony or chant a particular mantra. However, one should chant the holy name of Krishna everywhere and at all times, twenty-four hours a day. Thus there is no restriction in terms of time and place. This is the meaning of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's statement."
So chanting the Lord's names is especially meant to allow us to get to know Him through His name and by taking advantage of that process one is considered a devotee in the eyes of the Lord.
I hope this is helpful
Devotees of Krishna chant many different names of the Supreme Person. Many Vaishnava songs are composed exclusively of names of Krishna representing His different pastimes. We also chant different names of Krishna during daily temple worship.
However, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu specifically recommended the maha-mantra—Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna, Krishna, Hare Hare , Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—as the most potent names particularly recommended for this age.
Srila Prabhuapda comments:
"The Supreme Personality of Godhead has many names, which are all non-different from the Supreme Person. This is spiritual existence. By chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra, consisting of names of the Supreme Lord, we find that the name has all the potencies of the person.
The Lord's activities are many, and according to His activities He has many names. He appeared as the son of Mother Yasoda, and also as the son of mother Devaki, and therefore He is named Devaki-nandana and Yasoda-nandana.
Parasya shaktir vividhaiva sruyate. The Lord has a multitude of energies, and therefore He acts in multifarious ways. Yet He has a particular name. The sastras recommend which names we should chant, such as Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare. It is not that we have to search for some name or manufacture one. Rather, we must follow the saintly persons and the sastras in chanting His holy name." (Srimad-Bhagavatam, 8:1:13 Purport)
The song "Jaya Radha Madhava," which devotees chant daily before reading the Srimad-Bhagavatam, is also composed of several wonderful names of Krishna, and so is Om Namah Bhagavate Vasudevaya. Actually there are so many it is impossible to enumerate here.