Mahanidhi Madan Gopal Das
The method of chanting the holy name involves deliberating on the meaning of the syllables along with sincerely crying for the Lord. Success in any yoga system involving mantra meditation depends on remembering the meaning of the mantras being chanted. Patanjali stresses this point in the in the Yoga-sutra 1.28: “The sacred word Om connotes Isvara (Supreme Controller). One should chant japa of Om along with understanding its meaning (tad-japas tad-artha bhāvanam). Vyasadeva, the first commentator on the Yoga-sutra, says:
“The yogi who fully understands the relation between the word and the meaning must constantly repeat it, and habituate the mind to the manifestation therein of its meaning. The mind of the yogi who constantly repeats Om, and habituates the mind to the constant manifestation of the idea it carries, becomes one-pointed (ekagrata).”
For yogis of devotion, achieving the state of ekagatra, or one-pointedness of the mind, means to become absorbed in the transcendental sound of Kṛṣṇa’s holy name.
In Nāma Bhajana, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura tells how to become absorbed in chanting japa: “While chanting the name you should continuously remember Kṛṣṇa’s spiritual characteristics, and also explain the meaning of the name to your mind. While recollecting the meaning and form of the name you should pray to Kṛṣṇa with a piteous cry.
“This practice will attract the mercy of Kṛṣṇa, and lead you
forward on the path of devotion. The repeated remembrance of the meaning of the holy name will gradually purify the heart of all material contamination. Then the name will appear in person before the spiritual eyes of the devotee. When the svarūpa (personal form) of the name fully appears, it is identical with the blissful form of Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa. The appearance of the svarūpa of the name is the appearance of the svarūpa of Lord Kṛṣṇa.
“The more clearly and purely that the name is visible, the more one’s bhajana will proceed in the presence of Kṛṣṇa’s svarūpa. At this stage of chanting the holy name, the three modes of nature quickly disappear, and Kṛṣṇa’s spiritual qualities (guṇa) appear in the heart of the devotee. While doing bhajana, if the devotee can see the happy union of the name, form and qualities (nāma, rūpa, guṇas) of Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa, then by the grace of the Lord he will see the pastimes of Śrī Kṛṣṇa within his heart.” (Nama-bhajana)
The practice of remembering the meaning of the mantra with affection is also mentioned in Hari-bhakti-vilasa:
manaḥ saṁharaṇaṁ śaucaṁ maunaṁ mantrārtha-cintanam
avyagratvam anirvedo japa-sampatti-hetavaḥ (33)
To be attentive, purification of the heart is required. This means keeping silence and avoiding unfavorable talking. While chanting, one must affectionately remember the meaning of the mantra. Steadiness, patience, and attachment to chanting are all treasures of chanting.
An excerpt from the book Art of Chanting