Once you’ve hear it you’ll never forget it. You may not know what the words mean–nevertheless there’s something captivating about the Hare Krishna chant. Is it the catchy tune or the fascinating way in which the words are repeated and reversed? People who chant Hare Krishna say both contribute to its appeal. But they know that the secret of the chant’s attraction is the quality of the sound itself.
Anyone can take three words and make a song out of them, combining them in a cleaver way. But can that concoction be meditated on all day and all night? Would the chanters of those words report, as do the chanters of Hare Krishna, that the practice is freeing them from anxiety, opening up their minds to a liberated view of themselves, and investing them with blissfulness? No, of course not. The invented litany would only drive its creators to distraction.
But the sound of Hare Krishna is so enriching that a whole culture has been founded on it. Furthermore the people who chant Hare Krishna are developing good character, gaining knowledge of both the material and spiritual worlds, and helping other people to be free from pain. There is, then, a special quality to the sound of Hare Krishna. What is it?
The words Hare, Krishna and Rama have a special quality because they are seeds of spiritual consciousness. They are not a product of an earthbound language changing through the centuries. They are names of God, as ceaselessly energetic as God Himself.
When you pronounce these sounds, you are propelled into your eternal position as a particle of spiritual energy, a person living in a transcendental nature. Hare Krishna reveals to you the person you really are.
Meditation Beads for Chanting Hare Krishna Mantra
Includes a string of 108 hand-carved tulsi japa beads (japa mala), a cotton carrying bag, counter beads,
How to Chant Hare Krishna
There are no hard-and-fast rules for chanting Hare Krishna. 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 Hare Krishna 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.
To meditate with the beads, japa beads hold them in your right hand. Hold the first bead with your thumb and middle finger and chant the complete maha-mantra-Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, 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 Krishna bead [the bead that is bigger than all the others]. You have now completed “one round” of chanting. Do not chant on the Krishna 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 lying 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 exceptKrishna 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 Krishna’s names is transcendental, and as one chants he wants to chant more and more.
Enhancing Your Hare Krishna Chanting
Although one receives immense benefit however and whenever one may chant Hare Krishna, 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.
1. Just by chanting Hare Krishna, one will automatically want to follow the four regulative principles of spiritual life:
A. No eating of meat, fish, or eggs.
B. No intoxication.
C. No gambling.
D. No illicit sex (sex outside of marriage or not meant for the procreation of God conscious children).
The four above-mentioned activities make it especially difficult for one to progress in spiritual life, because they increase one’s attachment to material things. Therefore they are not recommended for one who has taken up the chanting of Hare Krishna. The chanting is so powerful, however, that one may begin chanting at any stage, and the chanting will help one to make the necessary adjustments.
2. One should regularly read the Vedic literatures, especially the Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam. If one simply hears about God, His uncommon activities and transcendental pastimes, the dust accumulated in the heart due to long association with the material world will be cleansed. By regularly hearing about Krishna and the spiritual world, where Krishna enjoys eternal pastimes with His devotees, one will fully understand the nature of the soul, true spiritual activities, and the complete procedure for obtaining release from the material world.
3. In order to be more fully immunized against material contamination, one should eat only vegetarian foods that have been spiritualized by being offered to the Supreme Lord. There is a karmic reaction involved when one takes the life of any living being (including plants), but the Supreme Lord states in the Gita that if one offers Him vegetarian foods, He will nullify that reaction.
4. One should offer the fruit of one’s work to the Supreme Lord. When one works for his own pleasure or satisfaction, he must accept the karmic reactions to his activities, but if one dedicates his work to God and works only for His satisfaction, there is no karmic reaction. Work performed as service to the Lord not only frees one from karma, but awakens one’s dormant love for Krishna.
5. As much as possible, one who is serious about chanting Hare Krishna should associate with other like-minded persons. This gives one great spiritual strength. Srila Prabhupada formed the International Society for Krishna Consciousness so that persons who are sincere about becoming conscious of God and their eternal loving relationship with Him may benefit from associating with others who are also on the path back home to the spiritual world.
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 Krishna 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 Krishna always. That, in essence, is what Krishna consciousness is all about-always remembering Krishna 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 Krishna, the happier you will feel.