Discussions specifically related with the various aspects of practice of bhakti-sadhana in Gaudiya Vaishnavism.
Mental japa vs. spoken japa? - Which? When? Any guidelines?
vamsidas - Thu, 23 Oct 2003 04:02:27 +0530
Over the years, as my focus has improved, I have been able to complete 64 rounds of japa in just a little more than 6 hours.
Of course, as a very busy Westerner, this means that I rarely have a day when I can discipline myself to chant 64 rounds, unless it's a weekend without so many chores or an Ekadasi when I'm not working. And those don't occur nearly enough (my fault!).
Recently, though, I have been reading about the practice of "mental" japa. Maybe it's my clumsy tongue, or maybe it's my energetic mind, but I find that I can complete a round of "mental" japa in about two-thirds the time that it takes to complete a round of vocalized japa.
I am hoping that some of the devotees here can offer some guidance -- both practical and sastric -- regarding the benefits of mental vs. vocalized japa. If I could be convinced that "mental" japa were equally (or more) beneficial than vocalized japa, all of a sudden 64 rounds would be very much within reach on most days -- at least I could discipline myself to set aside 4 hours in a day far more readily than I can set aside 6.
Dear readers, do the above numbers suggest any problem(s) with my japa? And do you have any advice and counsel regarding mental vs. vocalized japa? Thanks in advance!
adiyen - Thu, 23 Oct 2003 08:00:04 +0530
Problems? No, sounds like you are doing well.
Iskcon has taken on its head the scriptural statement that by chanting loudly one is saving all living entities within hearing, and this is very magnanimous, but generally Japa means softly muttering or silent mental repetition of mantra. This view is common to all Hindus and all Vaishnava Sampradayas.
Loud chanting is Kirtan.
When I joined a Math 16 years ago I started doing soft Japa, as I was instructed. Back then, we'd all be doing our Japa after Mangal Arti, men and women together in different parts of the temple room - you couldn't hear a sound! Funny but one of my Iskcon friends thought this was an issue, she did a survey, 'Should men and women be allowed to chant Japa together?' I answered her, 'Chanting together is Sankirtan'. Of course in Iskcon temples, with the men's loud voices and the women's soft voices, chanting together can affect individual Japa.
Now my Babaji Gurudev gave me Harinam, chanting on my beads without even moving his lips. But when he does Kirtan he chants so loud and bangs his brass gong, he gets everyone to bash something loudly, it's the loudest Kirtan I've ever been in, my ears are left ringing.
Once out on Parikrama a young Babaji passed me chanting Japa on his mala very loudly. It is not a common sight, but just to show you that there is variety in this, and I simply follow Guru.
Madhava has already posted the scriptural authority of the three types of chanting, silent-soft-loud, somewhere here.
TarunGovindadas - Thu, 23 Oct 2003 10:16:26 +0530
sorry, cant find Madhavajis posts with the search machine. any clues?
adiyen - Thu, 23 Oct 2003 12:57:02 +0530
QUOTE(TarunKishordas @ Oct 23 2003, 04:46 AM)
sorry, cant find Madhavajis posts with the search machine. any clues?
Here's a thread called 'Japa'!http://www.gaudiyadiscussions.com/index.ph...4&t=740&hl=japa
vamsidas - Thu, 23 Oct 2003 14:58:45 +0530
QUOTE(adiyen @ Oct 23 2003, 07:27 AM)
Thank you! How very encouraging! Maybe "chanting" 64 rounds regularly is within my reach after all! Of course, then there's the much more vexing problem of the QUALITY of my japa...
Just to confirm what was mentioned in that thread: there are several posters here who have been initiated into various of the "orthodox" parivars. Have each of you been given any specific instructions regarding mental vs. vocal japa? Are there any specific circumstances in which one is preferred over another, or is mental japa always considered the best? (though, of course, given Haridas Thakur's example, there's certainly nothing WRONG with loud, muttered or silent japa)
It's quite amazing how much one has to "unlearn" after being exposed to other practices for a couple of decades. It's rather daunting at times, but if nothing else I suppose this "unlearning" process helps to keep one humble.
Madhava - Thu, 23 Oct 2003 15:51:34 +0530
Are there any specific circumstances in which one is preferred over another, or is mental japa always considered the best?
The point of japa, or any practice for that matter, is to bring the mind in contact with Radha and Krishna. Though in principle mental japa is best, for a person who cannot properly concentrate, vocal japa is obviously a better way to go for the time being. I never personally asked about this, since I am comfortable with mental japa, but on some incidents devotees have asked Baba about this, and repeated questions along the lines "is it really necessary to practice mental japa" eventually lead to an answer of "do what you can".
adiyen - Fri, 24 Oct 2003 06:00:41 +0530
QUOTE(vamsidas @ Oct 23 2003, 09:28 AM)
Have each of you been given any specific instructions regarding mental vs. vocal japa?† Are there any specific circumstances in which one is preferred over another, or is mental japa always considered the best?
Really, Vamsiji, the question doesn't arise. Japa is soft and Kirtan is loud. All Hindus know this. They would have just seen the anecdote about Haridas Thakur as an interesting exception, showing that he was truly unique. It is interesting how Westerners will pick up on things which Indians do not notice.
Mind you, Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad certainly chanted his Japa aloud, we know from the tape, and we must assume he got this from his Guru.
Yet have you noticed that in the core tenets of the Gaudiya Math, the Mahamantra is in fact never chanted aloud? In Kirtan it must be 'broken' into two parts, never chanted right through. I believe this is a concession to the belief that Mahamantra is actually a diksha mantra, and therefore for silent Japa, just as the followers of the Nitai-Gaur-Radhe-Shyam group believe. In my Math days everyone 'chanted' Japa silently or softly, as I've indicated.
But the Mahamantra is not like other secret diksha mantras. It is magnanimous. So there can be no prohibitions on it.
Can I ask you not to be too concerned about quality of your Japa? Please enjoy it - Krishna is appearing on your tongue, rejoice!
I had a friend who had so much guilt about his 'inability' to chant 'properly' that he committed suicide, after chanting for 3 days and nights continuously. I feel there is something wrong with this view.
Mahamantra Japa should be joyful, perfect or otherwise.
It's an exclamation of joy in the presence of the Lord.
Whether we are worthy or not, the merciful Lord comes to us.
RADDD - Fri, 12 Dec 2003 18:29:39 +0530
I have never really understood why mental japa is superior to loud japa. Is it because it does not attract attention and those can be done in all circumstances? Shrila Haridas Thakur always chanted loudly(Shri Caitanya Bhagavat) and this did not please people. It seems people don't like hearing the names of God. They think this is disturbing. So Haridas Thakur was asked why he did so and he replied by quoting a puranic verse that loud chanting is a hundred times better than silent chanting because others can banefit from it. I think in CC where he discused with Lord chaitanya he also said that when devotees will loudly chant the holy names, both moving and non-moving living entities will be liberated.
As to the quality of the chanting, i think one should be worried even very worried about it. That is the most important thing we do. Should the quality not matter? Although someone might have commited suicide apparently because of the "quality" of his japa, I also worry everyday but the only result is that it increases my determination to chant better.Maybe the person who commited suicide was mentally unstable. I think most people in this world are always very worried for one thing or the other without committing suicide.
Since both types of japa are common and authoritative, one can choose the style he prefers.
Madhava - Fri, 12 Dec 2003 19:11:51 +0530
I have never really understood why mental japa is superior to loud japa.
Did you read the thread linked to in this thread?
"yasmAd dhyAna-samo hi saH" -- because it is equal to meditation.
From a pragmatic point of view, imagine keeping your tongue, vocal cords etc. running for eight hours or more every day. That should make an argument in favor of mental japa if one intends to regularly chant for longer periods of time.
Shrila Haridas Thakur always chanted loudly (Shri Caitanya Bhagavat) and this did not please people.
According to Advaita-prakasa, he chanted one lakh speaking, one lakh muttering and one lakh mentally. Unfortunately I don't have a Bengali copy of Caitanya Bhagavat to look up the exact incident there.
Rasaraja dasa - Fri, 12 Dec 2003 22:59:10 +0530
QUOTE(RADDD @ Dec 12 2003, 04:59 AM)
As to the† quality of the chanting, i think one should be worried even very worried about it. That is the most important thing we do. Should the quality not matter? Although someone might have commited suicide apparently because of the "quality" of his japa,† I also worry everyday but the only result is that it increases my determination to chant better.Maybe the person who commited suicide was mentally unstable. I think most people in this world are always very worried for one thing or the other without committing suicide.
Dandavats. All glories to the Vaisnavas.
I don't believe that Adiyen meant that one shouldn't be concerned with the quality of japa; just not too concerned. The difference being is that discipline is meant to help one not discourage. If one is so overly concerned with the quality of their japa then that will cloud the mind during japa. So in essence you can take this concern over a perceived impediment and make it an impediment of its own.
As with any practice or offering we make to Mahaprabhu and Srimati Rhadarani it is the devotion which brings one into their service as opposed to purely quality. I remember a popular ISKCON analogy that if a wealthy person gives a $1,000 dollar donation and a pauper gives .05 cents that the pauper receives the most benefit. The offering itself may be smaller or of less ďqualityĒ but the devotion behind it is far greater. The funny thing is I wondered why devotees didnít apply that analogy to their own devotion practices and disciplines. I agree with Adiyen that it is a sad and even destructive phenomenon in ISKCON that the disciplines many times steal the spotlight from the goal.
I believe that a follower of ISKCON needs to understand that Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja was a realistic individual who was taking a very pragmatic approach to his preaching. As much as I would prefer not to tow the Srila Narayan Maharaja followers line I think it does fit in some instances: Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja was teaching the ABCís or Vaisnava siddhanta as he thought most effective to his audience. I donít want to get anyone back into judging the result of this approach; letís just say it had its advantageous points and itís limitations. Still Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja approached the implementation on his movement like a school teacher approaches students.
I donít believe, to the contrary of many ISKCON devotees, that Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja necessarily expected his disciples and followers to never explore realms outside of the exact presentation found in his books. Sure there are comments to that effect but again I think it was his attempt to keep his somewhat young, idealistic and immature disciples under wraps to some extent and, in my opinion, the focus on discipline is very much a part of that attempt. I do think that Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja and most importantly Bhaktisiddhanta did believe in a more, how do I say this right, elementary approach to service to Mahaprabhu.
Aspiring to be a servant of the Vaisnavas,
Pagal Baba - Fri, 12 Dec 2003 23:57:00 +0530
You members of the animal kingdom are discriminating against your plant godbrothers and godsisters, who can only do mental japa. Possessing vocal chords does not make you superior. Also, plants are better at sitting in one place to do bhajan, since they don't need to move around all of the time like the animals.