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Techniques of japa - Art of chanting

Govindaram - Wed, 10 Nov 2004 01:47:52 +0530
I hope admin moves this to copy/paste section even though I wrote out all this from the Book. Just want to share with all here, I already posted on various forums already. I'll just post it all here.
Govindaram - Wed, 10 Nov 2004 01:49:25 +0530

Theory of Concentration

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura cites the following verse to prove that one is chanting with offenses (nama-aparadhas) if he is not experiencing any ecstatic symptom while chanting Hare Krsna:

Certainly that heart is steel-framed which, in spite of one's chanting the holy name of the Lord with concentration, does not change when ecstasy takes place, tears fill the eyes and the hairs stand on end. (SB.2.3.24)

This verse emphasizes the need to chant "with concentration." The Rudra-yamala-tantra II.27.43 states: "A yogi attains yoga only in super concentration." In other words, a bhakti-yogi (a Krsna devote) will attain yoga (establish a connection or relationship with the Supreme Lord) only by completely concentrating on Krsna's eternal service. What exactly is concentration? Concentration means to steadily focus, or to hold the mind on one form or object for a long time.

Concentration, known as dharana in Sanskrit, is the sixth step on the yoga ladder: yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, samadhi. Technically, the term dharana means fixing the mind on one object (desa-bandhas cittasya dharana). However, when there is difficulty in keeping the mind fixed within a limited area of focus, one may keep the mind moving within a broader area in which everything relates to the central object of concentration or meditation. This is one of the main points of this book. When the mind refuses to"just hear the holy name", then it may be allowed to meditate on Krsna's form, qualities, pastimes, dhama, or a painting of the Lord. The Kurma Purana says dharana means to concentrate the mind steadily on one point for twelve seconds. Twelve such dharanas (144 seconds) is dhyana (meditation, and twelve such dhyanas is samadhi (25 minutes and 28 seconds).

From 'The Art of Chanting' by Mahanidhi Swami
Page 141 Entitled Yoga Techniques of Concentration
Govindaram - Wed, 10 Nov 2004 01:51:43 +0530

Sridara Dasa's Eight Steps to Better Japa

A helpful Godbrother once gave us the following eight ways to perfect japa. These suggestions basically coincide with the teachings of Bhativinoda Thakura.

1. Establish a disturbance free environment for intensified chanting, because distraction or inattention leads to all other offences. Earplugs or hearing protector headphones can be used to block out external noise distractions. Such induced silence helps fix the mind and heart on the beautiful names, forms and pastimes of Radha-Syamasundara.

2. Keep your eyes closed and concentrate with a submissive mind and a humble heart full of prayer and petition. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura recommends covering the head with a cloth to prevent the eyes from roaming.

3. Sit firmly and fix the mind by a mechanical process of pranayama. Incidentally, Hari-bhakti-vilasa recommends pranayama before chanting Gayatri.

4. Clearly understand the sense perceptual process, and then learn to negate or turn off all sensory stimuli except the hearing the maha-mantra.

5. Enter into the four states mentioned in the trinad api sahisnuna verse: (Humility, tolerance, pridelessness, respecting all). Visualize and conceptualize your tiny infinitesimal nature through Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's graphic examples (straw, tree).

6. While chanting, always remember the mantra is a personal address to Radha and Krsna; not a parrot's vibrato.

7. While chanting, repeatedly fill the mind with the wonderful meanings of the holy name given by the previous acaryas.

8. Expect exhaled experiences and spiritual realizations by this most powerful and sublime sound vibration.

From 'The Art of Chanting' by Mahanidhi Swami
Govindaram - Wed, 10 Nov 2004 01:52:42 +0530

(One who attains unshakable faith in chanting rises to the stage of ruci)

na dhanam na janam na sundarim
kavitam va jagad-isa kamaye
mama janmani janmanisvare
bhavatad bhaktir ahaituki tvayi

O Lord of the universe, I do not desire material wealth, materialistic followers, a beautiful wife or fruitive activities described in flowery language. All I want, life after life, is unmotivated devotional service to You.

Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s purport: “My dear Lord krsna, I do not want material wealth from You, nor do I want followers, a beautiful wife or the results of fruitive activities, I only pray that by Your causeless mercy You give Me pure devotional service to You, life after life.” (Cc. Antya 20.29-30)

One who attains unshakable faith in chanting rises to the stage of ruci, where he continually relishes the “taste” of Krsna’s name. Fixed in Krsna consciousness, he shuns all material sense enjoyment due to experiencing a higher taste in association of the Lord. At this stage, one’s taste or attraction for devotional practises (sravanam, kirtanam, arcanam) exceeds his attraction to any type of mundane engagement. The forth sloka describes the symptoms of a person with nama-ruci: He does not care a fig for women, wealth, fame, followers or fruitive gain.

From ‘The Art of Chanting’ by Mahanidhi Swami Page 99 Entitled Illumination on Sri Caitanya’s Siksastaka
Govindaram - Wed, 10 Nov 2004 01:53:59 +0530

11. Offense: Inattentive Chanting

Inattention while chanting is also considered an offence. In fact Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura says that distraction (inattention) or attraction to other things while chanting japa is the root cause of all offences:

"Distraction in chanting produces a type of illusion, creating serious offenses against the holy name that are difficult to overcome. This illusion leads to craving for wealth, women, position, success, and cheating. When these material attractions cover the heart, one loses interest in chanting the holy name." (Harinama-cintamani)

"If you become inattentive that is offense. You should know this. Try to avoid. Krsna is giving us chance to meet Him in so many ways: nama, rupa, lila, parikara, vasistha." (SPT 30/10/72)

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura describes three types of inattention under the category of pramada, which means complete madness. In other words, it is definitely a symptom of insanity if one begs Krsna to come by calling out His names, and then simultaneously ignore Him and pays no attention to Him. The three types of inattention are apathy, laziness and distraction.

Apathy, indifference (audasinya)
1) The heart of a neophyte devotee is usually infested with many material attachments. At the time of chanting he will feel a strong attraction to them, and this will prevent him form putting his heart into the holy name. Even if he chants sixty-four rounds, he will still remain apathetic and derive no taste from chanting. For the indifferent chanter it is a Herculean task to complete sixteen rounds without interruption.

Remedy: Chant with advanced Vaisnavas while observing their concentration and enthusiasm for japa. Inspired by their example, one will abandon his apathy and fix his mind on the holy name. Gradually the honey sweetness of the holy name will inundate the heart, and intoxicate the mind with eagerness for more nectar.

It is also extremely favourable to chant before Tulasi-devi or in Vrndavana at one of Radha-Madhava's lila-sthalis. Another way to remove apathy is it sit alone in a locked room and carefully meditate on the name. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura recommends covering the head and face with a cloth to facilitate full concentration on the transcendental sound vibration. As one cultivates attraction and taste for the name, the offense of inattention and apathy will automatically vanish.

2) Laziness (jadya)
Inattention arising from laziness (jadya) prevents one from relishing nectar of the holy name. Laziness means chanting with a dull mind, pausing in the middle of a round to do something else, or interrupting japa to take rest.

Remedy: Associate with Vaisnavas who do not waste time with useless talks or acts, but who constantly chant and mediate upon the holy name. One will receive the mercy and enthusiasm to conquer the lazy mind by following in the footsteps of advanced Vaisnavas.

3) Distraction (viksepa)

Distraction in chanting begets illusion, the cause of all other forms of inattention chanting such laziness and apathy. Distraction also produces many offenses and keeps one from giving up attraction to women, wealth, position, success and the cheating propensity. Absorption in these items of attachment results in distraction, and the inability to concentrate on anything else. At this stage, the mind is tuned into worldly things and not really hearing the holy name at all.

Remedy: To conquer distraction one must make a concerted effort to drive out such attractions from the mind by diligently following rules of Vaisnava behaviour, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura gives a practical remedy to remove the disease of distraction. He says one can increase his taste for chanting by enthusiastically observing festival days such as Ekadasi, Janamastami, Radhastami and various Vaisnava tirobhavas. On Ekadasi, for example, one can take a vow to not eat or drink even a drop of water. One can then pass the whole day and night singing the glories of the Lord in the association of rupanuga Vaisnava, preferably in a holy dhama (Mayapur or Vrindavana). Along with chanting japa, kirtana and bhajans, one can read and discuss sastras like Srimad-Bhagavatam. As the ears eagerly drink the sweet nectar of asta-kaliya-lila bhajanas sung by expert kirtaniyas, the mind will become completely enchanted and fixed on the transcendental vibration. The serene devotee will now steadily chant the holy name in a joyous mood, forever free from the offense of inattention.

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura says that enthusiastic participation in such festivals without anxiety or hesitation will rekindle the dying spark of spiritual taste. Thus a genuine attraction for radha-Govinda's blissful pastimes will awaken, and completely rid the heart of all mundane distractions. Relishing the refined tastes of pure Krsna consciousness, one will never again indulge in his former material attachments.

Praying for Krsna's mercy is another good way to overcome distraction. The compassionate Lord always helps a sincere sadhaka. Pray to krsna to help you chant distinctly and attentively. Everything is possible if the mind focuses on Krsna: "Please Krsna! I don't chant very well and I can't concentrate. Today, my deviant mind refuses to follow my direction. Please help me! Please allow me to taste the full nectar of the name. Without Your mercy, there is no hope at all for such a fool as me."

Eleventh Offense: Rectification

In addition to the suggestions given above, one can remove offense of inattention by chanting the holy name with great enthusiasm.

"Even if one gives up all other nama-aparadhas, if he is still inattentive, he can never have attraction for the holy names. If one maintains his enthusiasm for devotional service, one will never become apathetic, lazy or distracted in chanting the holy names. By enthusiastically chanting the holy names one can quickly come to the platform of steadiness (nistha) in devotional service". (Bhaktyaloka)

Summary on Overcoming Distraction

When chanting the Hare krsna maha-mantra one should not be restless, thinking, "I have to do this or I have to go there. I must finish my rounds quickly so I can solve a pressing problem." Just chant japa; don't think of business, personal needs or family concerns. Tolerate the impish mind; remain aloof, unaffected and undisturbed. Krsna will personally adjust everything if we surrender to His holy names. There is actually only one problem facing everyone: "How can we attain krsna-prema?"

Once a disciple asked, "How will it be possible, Prabhupada, for a man whose mind is clouded to constantly chant Hare Krsna? A man who is always thinking thoughts about family, friends, country, and nation?"

Srila Prabhupada replied, "Yes. Think of but at the same time chant. Two things will go on and this chanting of Hare Krishna will conquer. As maya is forcing you to drag you from Krsna consciousness, you also force maya by chanting Hare Krsna. There is fight. And maya will go away"! (SPC 23/12/68)

One must set aside some time to peacefully remember Krsna's names. During these precious moments alone with the Lord, one should concentrate all his desires, thoughts and feelings on Krsna's divine names, forms, qualities, pastimes and associates. Attentive japa pleases the Lord and ultimately solves all problems.

"A devotee can very peacefully chant the holy name of the Lord by behaving more humbly than the grass, being tolerant like a tree and offering respects to everyone, without expecting honour from anyone else. Such qualifications make it easier to chant the holy name of the Lord". (SB 7.5.23-24 p.)

The previous acaryas were particular about chanting in ultra quiet, undisturbed settings. Just imagine how tranquil Vrndavana was five hundred years ago? Yet to avoid any possible distractions the medieval saints Sanatana Gosvami chanted japa in a cave twenty feet under the ground in Goloka! Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura recommends chanting in a quiet "distraction free zone" to fully concentrate on the holy name. In his house in Godrumadvipa, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura constructed a small "meditation room" with a thick door to create a quiet place for concentrated japa. He advices sadhakas to make similar arrangements for staying alone in a secluded place in order to absorb the mind in the holy name.

When the mind wanders, one must withdraw it from sense objects and concentrate intently on the mantra. A transcendental sound vibration that can free or deliver (tra or trayate) the mind (mana) from material attraction and attachment is called a mantra. Meditate deeply on the meaning of the maha-mantra. Do not be distracted by random thoughts or external influences. Chant Krsna's names with feelings of devotion. Lastly and most importantly, one must turn to Krsna in the mood of a beggar, praying intensely for His mercy. Seeing your sincerity, Krsna will surely reciprocate and capture your full attention once again.

The Reality of Attraction

The sublime teaching of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura give additional insight for stopping the offense of distraction or inattention: "The personality called "Krsna" attracts the three worlds. It is reality that attracts. Whom does Krsna attract? Magnets attract iron, not wood. Similarly, the Lord attracts the servitors who are eager to serve and worship Him. The servitors are attracted by charm of the service.

"But on his path, if the servitor is distracted by something else, then this original attraction will evade him. On one side there is the attraction of the material world, which is the cause of bondage. On the other side is the attraction of Krsna, which is the cause of all bliss.

"In this world the objects of the senses-the form, the smell, the touch and the sounds of external objects are very close to me. That is why I-the weak person, become attached to them. Under circumstances, only if we can continuously hear about the Supreme Lord from the guru and sadhus can we be protected from these nearby enemies.

"If we are not attracted by the lotus feet of Krsna then we will definitely be attracted by maya. When Krsna's name, form, and pastimes will attract us, we will get relief from our present role as the enjoyer. The more we discuss topics of Krsna, the more we rid ourselves of the false identity of the enjoyer. Then Krsna will really attract us." (Prabhupada Sarasvati Thakura p.94)

From 'The Art of Chanting' by Mahanidhi Swami Page 52 Entitled Nama-aparadha
Govindaram - Wed, 10 Nov 2004 01:55:00 +0530

The Friction Stick Phenomena

The sastra state that by chanting Krsna's holy name one will eventually see the Lord's transcendental form, qualities and pastimes. How does this happen? The Svetasvatara Upanishad 1.13-14 gives a wonderful explanation how transcendental sound reveals the form of God:

"The material form (murti) of fire when latent in its source (i.e. the firewood) is not perceived-but yet remains there in its subtle form. When two sticks of wood are rubbed together with enough force or friction, then that dormant fire manifests.

"Similarly, by making one's own body the lower friction stick (arani) and the syllable om (pranava) the upper friction stick, and by practising the friction of meditation (dhyana) one may see the Supreme Personality of Godhead hidden within one's heart."

The verse above explains that the form of God is within every body (friction stick), and the form of God is within the name Om, (the second friction stick). However, without applying the proper process of sadhana, namely chanting and meditation, one will not perceive the Lord either in his heart or in the holy name. One can conclude from this sastric statement that by sincerely chanting and meditating upon the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, which contains om, one will perceive the form of Krsna within his heart.

Therefore, using the "friction stick" of the maha-mantra is a prerequisite for attaining either internal or external darsana of Lord Sri Krsna.

From 'The Art of Chanting' by Mahanidhi Swami Page 178 Entitled Nama, Rupa, Guna and Lila in the Holy Name.
Govindaram - Wed, 10 Nov 2004 01:55:57 +0530

The Three M's-Method, Mood and Mellow

The Three M's-method, mood and mellow is a technique wherein the chanter concentrates on one area according to his level of advancement. For instance, due to a lack of mood and mellow, a neophyte chanter (kanistha-adhikari) may focus all his attention on perfecting the methods of chanting. As the sadhaka advances in surrender and realization, he rises to the intermediate stage of steady chanting (madhyama-adhikari) where mood comes into play.

On the platform of mood the mind begins to melt for sri-nama. Genuine feelings for Krsna and Krsna's devotees arise and grow within the heart. At this level the mood of devotion deepens, humility intensifies and the hankering to attain Radha-Govinda prema accelerates. The sadhaka now serves and relishes sri-nama with great joy and enthusiasm.

Rising to the platform of mellow, the sadhaka continually chants on his beads, and within his mind while ever increasing the flavour of his love for sri-nama and Yugal-Kishor. By chanting with mellow or bhakti-rasa the sadhaka advances to the topmost platform of pure devotion (uttama-adhikari), and becomes fixed in his eternal loving service to Radha-Syama.

1. Method-The method of chanting refers to physical considerations such as sitting straight on an asana, chanting during the peaceful predawn hours, and associating with lovers of nama. It also includes using tulasi beads; clear pronunciation; concentrating on the meaning of the mantra; reviewing and avoiding the ten offences, and repentance for transgressions.

2. Mood-The mood of chanting the holy name combines the actions of mind and heart-namely thinking and feeling. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu advised all devotees to be free from false ego, and to think oneself lower than a blade of grass. With feelings of deep submission and surrender one should beg Sri Radha for service.

Haridasa Swami, a medieval saint of Vrindavana, wrote wonderful vraja-bhasa songs in praise of his Lord Bankibihari. Whenever he sang one of his compositions, all the trees, birds and forest animals would become completely captivated. Similarly, you must learn to chant Krsna's names with so much devotion and sweetness that the birds stop chirping to listen to your chanting; the deer gather around to gaze at you with tear-filled eyes; and the trees bend over to touch you with their leaves, being so moved by the sweet sound of nama.

From the beginning of ISKCON, Srila Prabhupada emphasized the mood of chanting. Merely chanting the holy name of not enough. The chanting must be backed up with such feelings of separation that one's eyes fill with tears. Prabhupada instructed devotees to cry out the holy names like a lonely child in separation from his loving mother.

"Tears for Krsna are as good as associating with Him personally. Your feelings and tears of Krsna Consciousness will make you more enriched in spiritual advancement." (SPL 16/9/67)

The combination of chanting and crying for krsna is an essential practice for followers of Srila Prabhupada. In fact, one of Prabhupada's disciples institutionalized these practices. Our glorious Godbrothers Gaura-Govinda Swami once said in reference to the elegant ISKCON temple in Bhubanesvara, "I have opened a crying school here so we may cry our hearts out in harinama; begging for the mercy of Nitai and Gaura!"

3. Mellow-This is the advanced stage of chanting japa where the holy name combines with mellow. Realizing his sthayi-bhava, permanent loving relationship with Krsna in a particular mellow or rasa such as madhurya rasa, a sadhaka will chant purely while tasting bhakti-rasa (mellow) and remembering the naimittic (occasional) nitya-lila (eternal pastimes) of Krsna. While chanting the holy name the sadhaka will meditate on his spiritual body (siddha deha), and serve Radha-Govinda's eight-fold daily pastimes (asta-kaliya lila) within his mind (manasi-seva).

In the beginning, the rock stubborn, lazy mind will rebel with a thousand excuses and obstacles to foil one's attempt to implement the three M's. Persevere; hold on to your beads! By the mercy of Sri Guru and Gauranga one will patiently progress through the three stages of method, mood and mellow. With a little practice any sincere devotee can chant japa, and remember the exciting pastimes of Lord Gauranga and Radha-Govinda. It is not difficult; always remember that the word "impossible" does not exist in the dictionary of Prabhupada's followers.

"For the simple person it is very easy {to become vasudeva-parayanah) and for those who are crooked, demons, it is very difficult" (SPT 16/5/76)

From 'The Art of Chanting' by Mahanidhi Swami Page 203 Entitled Japa Meditation Techniques
Govindaram - Wed, 10 Nov 2004 01:57:09 +0530

Change the Vision
(from the Chapter Nama-aparadha) Page 40

Implementing these four principles will help overcome the offence of sadhu ninda (offending saintly persons):

Cultivate the "finding good" nature-No devotee is absolutely bad. Everyone has some good qualities; so try to see the good in everybody. Develop the mood of sincerely appreciating the value of others. This will act as a powerful antidote against faultfinding.

No one is an eternal rogue-Before passing judgment on others, one should always remember that every saint had a past (Valmiki, Mrgari) and every sinner has a future (Ajamila, Jagai & Madhai). Even a first-class rogue is a potential saint of the future. Place a sinner in the company of saints, and his bad nature will change in a moment. Lord Jesus said, "Hate the sin, not the sinner."

Try to see Krsna everywhere-The ultimate doer behind all action is Krsna, the cause of all causes. Krsna is within everything and everyone; and everything is within Him. Try to feel Krsna's presence everywhere, and see His divine hand in all events.

Change the attitude-Turn the mind from bad to good, negative to positive; and suddenly you will find heaven on earth. What is the use of reading sastra and chanting Hare Krsna if one keeps an evil eye and a foul tongue? Why do you maintain a vision of enemies and speak badly of others?

Always remember that the environment around us is positive and favourable. It is helping us. Sri Krsna personally arranges it for our improvement and spiritual elevation. Everyone and everything in the environment is friendly, moving us toward our goal of surrendering to Krsna, taking full shelter only in Him, and loving Him without reservation. Learn to see all with love and you will see love everywhere!

Gauranga Worships the Devotees

In this pastime, Lord Gauranga reveals how to rid the heart of envy, which is the fundamental cause of offending others. Always serve the devotees with humility, and think of yourself as a "servant of the servant of the servants of the Lord".

"When Lord Caitanya returned to Mayapur after receiving initiation from Isvara Puri in Gaya. He was a different person. He was no longer arrogant and proud of His learning. Now due to tasting krsna-prema, Lord Caitanya displayed genuine humility and respect for all. Seeing the Lord's transformation, Advaita Acarya, Srivasa Thakura and other senior Vaisnavas were pleased and offered their blessings, "May you attain pure devotion to Krsna".

"Lord Caitanya replied, "Because you are Krsna's devotees you have the power to give someone the gift of devotion. Whoever serves you will certainly attain devotion to Krsna, because Krsna is merciful to anyone who serves His devotees.' After saying this, the Lord began to humbly, cheerfully and enthusiastically serve all the devotees.

"Lord Caitanya washed their clothes and folded their dhotis. Respectfully folding His hands, Lord Caitanya honoured all the devotees. He was not ashamed to serve. All the Vaisnavas, who were actually His servants, would try to stop the Lord by saying, "Stop what are you doing, what are you doing?" In this way, every day Lord Caitanya acted like a servant of His servants. What will the Supreme Lord not do for His servants? Just to serve them He renounces His own nature. By personally serving the Vaisnavas, Lord Caitanya taught this truth to everybody: 'Whoever desires to worship Lord Krsna must first worship Krsna's dear and saintly servant.'" (Caitanya-bhagavata)

From 'The Art of Chanting' by Mahanidhi Swami