Mahanidhi Swami

Why do we chant the Hare Krishna maha-mantra? What are the results and benefits it gives?

Anyone anywhere in world who sincerely chants Hare Krishna will clearly know and directly feel, understand and experience his/her own beautiful personal benefits and results from chanting Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare

Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare!!!

As tasting reveals the quality of good kshira (sweet rice), your personal experience will reveal the benefits of chanting. Try it and find out!!!

In Gita (9.2), Sri Krishna says, “The religious practice [of chanting Hare Krishna] brings directly perceivable results, pratyakshavagamam dharmyam. And by regularly chanting Hare Krishna you will feel very happy FOREVER, su-sukham kartum avyayam.”

Commenting on this Gita verse, Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti said, “Pratyaksha means that this religious practice [of chanting Hare Krishna] brings devotion, direct experience of Sri Krishna and detachment, bhakti, anubhava and virakti (vairagya).”

In his comments, Madhusudana Sarasvati said, “This topmost dharma [i.e. chanting Hare Krishna] is the most purifying of all actions because it immediately uproots all of one’s sinful reactions from thousands of lifetimes, and destroys the cause of all sins i.e. ignorance.”

The golden avatara of Krishna prema, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who came to bless the world with Sri Harinama Sankirtana, personally described the amazing benefits and results of chanting Hare Krishna:

Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu said, “In this age of Kali, the chanting of Krishna’s Holy Names is the best [spiritual] practice, nama-sankirtana—kalau parama upaya. Those who are really intelligent will worship Sri Krishna by congregationally chanting Krishna’s Holy Names, and thereby receive the lotus feet of Krishna, sankirtana yajne kalau Krishna aradhana, sei ta’ sumedha paya Krishna carana.

“The performance of Harinama sankirtana destroys all bad habits and undesirables (anarthas); produces all good fortune; and increases one’s love of God, nama sankirtana haite sarvanartha-nasha, sarva-shubhodaya Krishna premera ullasa.

“Harinama sankirtana destroys one’s sins and the endless cycle of birth and death; purifies the consciousness; and it manifests all varieties of sadhana bhakti, sankirtana haite papa samsara nashana, citta-shuddhi sarva-bhakti-sadhana-udgama.

“By chanting Hare Krishna one gets Krishna prema and the nectarean taste of love divine. And finally one attains the direct service of Krishna and submerges in an ocean of nectar, Krishna premodgama premamrta asvadana, Krishna prapti sevamrta samudre majjana!” (Cc. 3.20.8-14)

These are the wonderful results and benefits of chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra.

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare

Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare!!!

Harinama sankirtana ki jai! Jaya Jaya Sri Radhe!

Mahanidhi Swami

  1. Oneness & Difference: Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva
  2. Milk & Yogurt Analogy

In Brahma-samhita (5.45), Lord Brahma prays:

ksiram yatha dadhi vikare-visesa yogat

sanjayate na hi tatah prthag asti hetoh

yah sambhutam adi tatha samupaiti karyad

govindam adi purusam tam aham bhajami

Srila Prabhupada translation: “Milk changes into yogurt when mixed with a yogurt culture, but actually yogurt is constitutionally nothing but milk. Similarly, Sri Govindaji, assumes the form of Lord Shiva for the special purpose of material transactions. I offer my obeisances at Lord Govinda’s lotus feet.” (SB 9.9.7 p.)

Bhanu Swami translation: “I worship the Supreme Lord Govinda who becomes the form of Shiva who is said to be non-different from Govinda, but who is also different because of his contact with the transformations of prakåti, just as milk becomes yogurt, which can be said to be non-different from its cause, but acts in a different manner.”

Sri Jiva Goswamipada’s tika (Bs. 5.45): “In the example of milk and yoghurt only that part which illustrates cause and effect [Vishnu & Shiva] should be taken. In this world, milk changes into yogurt, but the Lord Vishnu does not change into Shiva.

“Although the verse says vikare-visesa yogat, a special transformation, Vishnu is unchanging just like cintamani. By His inconceivable energy, Lord Vishnu continues to exist as He was before, even though He also becomes Lord Shiva.” (Bhanu Swami trans.)

This analogy clearly establishes the oneness and difference between Vishnu and Shiva. Just as the origin of yogurt is milk, so the origin of Lord Siva is Vishnu, Krishna. Yogurt however, can never again can become milk, but milk can, whenever required, become yogurt…burfi or ice cream!

  1. Oneness in Prema:

The next quote beautifully describes the oneness and non-difference of Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva. Srila Sanatana Goswamipada: “Vishnu is the form of Shiva and Shiva is the form of Vishnu. Vishnu is Shiva’s heart and Shiva is Vishnu’s heart. Just as Vishnu is full of Shiva, Shiva is full of Vishnu. Thus, I see no difference between Them, yathantaram na pashyami.” (HBV 14.193-4):

When asked about the Vishnu-Shiva oneness, Sri Advaita-vamsha Acharya 108 Sri Nikunja Gopala Goswami responded by bringing his two hands together while saying, “Shiva and Krishna are—One!”

Gaudiya Vaisnava Pandita Sri Krishna Dasji Maharaja, Bhakta Tirtha explained it thus: “Visnu and Shiva are one in name, qualities and prema—bhagavata bhakta prema abhinna! Shivaji is the bhakta shiromani, the crest jewel of all premi-bhaktas of Bhagavan Sri Krishna. Lord Shiva is the bhakta avatara like Sri Advaita Prabhu in gaura-lila.

“However, Vishnu and Shiva are different in tattva; Vishnu being Vishnu-tattva and Shiva being Shiva-tattva. And also Krishna and Shiva are different in svarupa, rudra nahe krishnera svarupa nahe.”(Cc. 2.20.308).

  1. Offense of Seeing Two

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada: “Shambhu [Shiva] is not a second Godhead other than Krishna. Those, who entertain such discriminating sentiment, commit a great offense against the Supreme Lord [second nama-aparadha]. The supremacy of Shiva is subservient to that of Govinda; hence they are not really different from each other.” (Bs. 5.45 tika)

Srila Sanatana Goswamipada: “To consider Lord Shiva different from Krishna is a great fault; it’s considered a sin. Bhagavan Sri Krishna forgives offenses against Himself but not against Shiva.” (Brhad Bh. I.2.86)

The Padma Purana describes the second offense in chanting Krishna’s Holy Name as: “One who sees differences between any of Lord Shiva’s qualities and names and those of Sri Vishnu is an antagonist to hari-nama.”

“Lord Vishnu cannot tolerate offenses against Lord Shiva, because Lord Shiva is the greatest of Lord Vishnu’s empowered incarnations.” (BBT tika BB I.2.86

  1. Differences: Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva

Identity

Srila Visvanatha Cakravartipada: “In the sense that the amsha (a part) and the amshé (complete source) are considered non-different [like the finger and body], Shiva is considered non-different from Krishna.” (SB 3.1.30 tika)

Sri Jiva Goswamipada: (Paramatma Sandarbha Anu. 18): “The Brahma-vaivarta Purana describes the difference between Vishnu and Shiva: Lord Shiva said, “I, Lord Shiva, and others, are not the Lord but single portions of Vishnu’s Shakti.”

Bhagavan Sri Baladevji: “Great devatas like Brahma and Shiva, and even the goddess of fortune and I, are simply parts of Krishna’s parts.” (SB 10.68.37)

Lord Vishnu and his various forms like Sadashiva have 60 transcendental qualities in varying amounts. However, Bhagavan Sri Krishna has 64 transcendental qualities in absolute perfect fullness and sweetness. Krishna’s four unique qualities are prema-madhurya, lila-madhurya, rupa-madhurya and venu-madhurya. Ordinary jivas of the material world can exhibit minute amounts of 50 qualities.

  1. Shiva the Devotee

Srila Sanatana Goswamipada: “Lord Rudra [Shiva] is the best of all the Vaisnavas (sarva-vaisnava-murdhanyo), and he propagates Vishnu bhakti (Vishnu-bhakti-pravartakah).” (Brhad Bh. I.3.10)

“Shiva is the greatest Vaiñëava because he initiates the teaching of pure devotional service. He founded the Rudra-sampradaya, one of the four authentic Vaisnava schools. He is more famous as a Vaisnava than as an incarnation of Vishnu.” (BB I.3.10 tika BBT)

Srila Krishnadasa Kaviraja: “Sadashiva always says, ‘I am a servant of Lord Krishna,’” shiva, ‘muni Krishna dasa’. (Cc. 1.6.80)

Shiva is often thought to be non-different from Vishnu, but the following verse, spoken by Shivaji Himself, proves the difference by saying that Vishnu is the original cause of Shiva and all of creation.

Lord Shiva said, “I worship You [Vishnu], who are my most worshipable supreme controller, bhaje bhajany ishvaram, and the origin of the material creation, bhava-bhaavam.” (SB 5.17.18)

As said earlier, Shiva-tattva is a vast and deep ocean of truth, full of dancing waves of wisdom. And it all exists for the purpose of loving exchanges with the source of all love and of all creation—Bhagavan Sri Krishna. By carefully studying this essay, we are sure that one will clearly (more clearly) understand the oneness and difference of Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva.

Sadashiva Mahavishnu Sri Advaita Prabhu ki jai!

Shankara Bhagavan ki jai! Vaisnavam Yatha Shambu ki jai!

Jai Jai Sri Radhe!

Mahanidhi Swami

Shiva-tattva or the identity, function and position of Lord Shiva is the one of the most difficult spiritual truths to comprehend.

Confusion arises from the fact that Lord Shiva has different forms and abodes that are situated either in ignorance, pure goodness or complete transcendence. In addition, the individual names of these forms and abodes are interchangeable depending on the scriptural reference.

For example, some scriptures say the completely transcendental Sankara is the source of the material Shiva. And other scriptures say Sankara is a name of one of the Rudras, the material expansions of Shiva that madly dance in ignorance at the time of universal destruction. One Vedic scripture says one thing, and another says the opposite. What is the result? CONFUSION!

Both Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva have a variety of forms and expansions within the spiritual and material realms. The easiest way to understand the Vishnu-Shiva relationship is by accepting Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s philosophy of “achintya bheda adheda tattva”, which means that God, Bhagavan Sri Krishna, is inconceivably, simultaneously one with and different from His own multifarious energies.

This two part article will present the Gaudiya Vaisnava conclusions (siddhanta) regarding Lord Vishnu and Shiva.

  1. Source of Shiva:

Bhagavan Sri Krishna expands into four forms known the chatur-vyuha comprising Vasudeva, Sankarsana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha.

Sadashiva and Maha-Visnu arise from Sankarsana; Garbhodakasayi Vishnu arises from Pradyumna; and Kshirodakashayi Vishnu (Paramatma) arises from Aniruddha.

In other words, Sri Krishna in His form as Lord Sankarsana expands as Sadashiva. However, Sri Krishna alone is the supreme, the origin and cause of all causes. In Gita (10.8), Sri Krishna emphatically proclaims this: “I am the source of everything and everything emanates from Me, aham sarvasya prabhavo, mattah sarvam pravartate.”

“Lord Shiva knows that Sankarsana is the original cause of his own existence, and thus he always sits in trance meditating upon Lord Sankarsana.” (SB 5.17.16.)

  1. Abode of Sadashiva

Sadashiva’s abode is called Sadashiva Loka, and it is situated above the material universe, slightly below Goloka. It is eternal, spiritual, inexhaustible, full of eternal happiness, and devoid of any disease.

Srila Sanatana Goswamipada: “The abode of Shiva lies outside the material universe and all its seven coverings.” (Brhad Bh. I.2.96)

Srila Rupa Goswamipada: “Shiva’s abode is manifest in the northeast part of Vaikunthaloka.” (Laghu Bh. I.5.298) “Sadashiva Loka is attained by the best of Lord Shiva’s devotees who know that Shiva is nondifferent from Sri Krishna and not by others.” (BBT tika, Brhad Bh. I.2.96)

III. Oneness: Sadashiva is Narayana

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhusana: “Sadashiva is without a trace of tamo-guna. He is the cause of all causes, and He is the Narayana vilasa form (anga-bhuta) of svayam-rupa Krishna (svayam-prabhoh). In the Taittiriya Upanisad, the names Narayana, Acyuta and Shiva are used to indicate only one person.” (tika Laghu Bh. I.2.31) “The Sadashiva mentioned in the Brahma-samhita is a vilasa expansion of Krishna, a form of Narayana. (tika Laghu Bh. I.5.298)

Vilasa are the expanded forms of Godhead endowed with different degrees of potency from the original Godhead, Bhagavan Sri Krishna. Sri Jiva Goswamipada (Paramatma Sandarbha 17): “Brahma-samhita (5.8,10) says that Lord Sadashiva is a direct expansion of Lord Vishnu. However, the other Shiva, the demigod Shiva, is not a direct expansion of Lord Vishnu.”

Vrindavana das Thakura: “While visiting the Lingaraja Shiva temple in Bhubaneshvar, Sri Chaitanydeva manifested symptoms of ecstasy. And a favorite kirtan mantra of Gauranga Mahaprabhu was a praising of the combined form of Krishna Hari and Shiva “Hari-Hara;” (hari-haraya nama krsna yadavaya namah).

Srila Visvanatha Cakravartipada: “Lord Sadasiva is transcendental to the three modes of material nature. He is the vilasa expansion of the Supreme Lord, Vishnu. And Sadasiva is also the source of the Siva serving as one of the guna avataras. Thus Sadasiva is equal to Lord Vishnu, superior to Lord Brahma, and superior to and separate from the conditioned, guna-bound jivas. (Bhagavatamrita-kana) [Shiva is Shiva-tattva; jivas are jiva-tattva]

Srila Prabhupada: “In the Vayu Purana there is a description of Sadashiva in one of the Vaikuntha planets. That Sadashiva is a direct expansion of Lord Krishna’s form for pastimes. It is said that Lord Shambhu [Shiva] is an expansion from the Sadashiva in the Vaikuntha planets (Lord Vishnu)” (Cc. 1.6.79 pur.)

Sadashiva Mahavishnu Sri Advaita Prabhu ki jai!

Shankara Bhagavan ki jai! Vaishnavanam Yatha Shambu ki jai!

Jai Jai Sri Radhe!

Mahanidhi Swami

What is the meaning of nama-abhasa chanting of Krishna’s Holy Name? Is nama-abhasa a stage of japa in sadhana bhakti? Are devotees chanting nama-abhasa?

This subject is not very clearly understood by many devotees. First of all, the term nama-abhasa describes the type of Krishna nama chanting DONE BY NONDEVOTEES and it applies only to them.

The term nama-abhasa means unintentional, by chance, accidental chanting done once or more in a person’s entire life, as seen in Ajamila. Does any devotee pick up his japa mala in the morning and chant 16 rounds accidentally, by chance?

For every devotee chanting Krishna’s name is an intentional, regulated daily sadhana practice performed as a means to attain spiritual perfection. In no way is it unintentional, accidental or by chance! In other words, no one sits down and deliberately chants the Hare Krishna maha-mantra by accident.

In fact, there is no shastra that says nama-abhasa is a stage of sadhana in chanting Hare Krishna. According to the absolute authority of shastra, nama-abhasa always refers to unintentional, accidental chanting as done by nondevotees.

To further understand the subject of nama-abhasa I researched the shastra. Other than the Bhagavatam and Chaitanya-caritamrta, the subject of nama abhasa is not mentioned in any Gaudiya Vaisnavas shastra. And for all Gaudiya Vaisnavas, these two sacred books are the topmost praman (proof) and final authority.

In the Ajamila story, nama-abhasa is described in SB 6.2.14:

säìketyaà pärihäsyaà vä stobhaà helanam eva vä

vaikuëöha-näma-grahaëam açeñägha-haraà viduù

“Chanting the name of the Lord while indicating someone else; or while joking in a friendly manner; or chanting the Lord’s name in order to fill up space while chanting verses; or chanting with neglect destroys unlimited sins and desires.” [these are the four types of nama-abhasa] Obviously, nama-abhasa and its stages does NOT apply to a devotee chanter.

Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti’s tika:

  1. Saìketyam means chanting while referring to someone/thing else but Krishna.
  2. Pärihäsyam means calling jokingly, but with affection, not with criticism. “O famous one! Your fame is like that of Krishna, so you can save me!”
  3. Stobham means to chant the name in order to provide proper meter during a discourse or song. Chanting name of Hari or Krishna to conclude a song.” See Note below:
  4. Helanam means chanting Krishna’s name with disregard and inattention. Also includes casual chanting of Krishna’s name while eating, playing or sleeping. Helanam chanting is also done without any criticism or disrespect.

NOTE: In their tikas to Srimad Bhagavatam 6.2.14 (The Ajamila Story), Sridhara Swami, Sri Sanatana Goswami, Sri Jiva Goswami and Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti all say the word STOBHA (a type of accidental, non-devotee chanting) means gitalapa puranartham krtam, as in completing a song.

For example, someone may conclude a mundane love song by saying, “I love you soooo much, Hari Hari, Hari”. These acharyas further say that derisive, contemptuous and hostile chanting, as in the case of Jarasandha’s 99 rebukes of Sri Krishna, CANNOT be called nama-abhasa.

Comment: The whole Ajamila story shows the phenomenal power of Sri Krishna’s transcendental name. Ajamila was a terrible sinner, a NONDEVOTEE, and somehow he ACCIDENTALLY CHANTED “Narayana” and became delivered. This is a clear example of nama-abhasa and the supreme power and mercy of Harinama.

The subject of nama-abhasa also appears in the Chaitanya-caritamrta (3.3.55-187), wherein Namacharya Sri Haridasa Thakura describes nama-abhasa as unintentional, accidental chanting. He cites the nondevotee Ajamila and a poor fellow being attacked by a wild boar as examples of nama-abhasa chanters.

Neither one of them was chanting Hare Krishna as a daily sadhana. Their chanting was purely unintentional, accidental. This is nama-abhasa! His discussion proves the great power of hari nama that even a nondevotee who contacts a mere glimpse of nama gets liberation, what to speak about devotee chanters.

In his entire delivery on nama-tattva, other than describing the nama-abhasa chanting of nondevotees, Sri Haridasa Thakura speaks only one verse (Cc. 3.3.185) about the chanting of devotees done as a daily sadhana:

aiche nämodayärambhe päpa-ädira kñaya

udaya kaile kåñëa-pade haya premodaya

“The first result of offenseless (shuddha-nama) chanting is that one’s sins are eradicated. As one continues chanting shuddha nama, one eventually attains Krishna prema.”

Comment: Here Sri Haridasa Thakura introduces shuddha nama, the stage after the offensive stage. This verse describes shuddha nama, which means chanting Krishna’s name without offenses. For devotees there are only TWO STAGES IN CHANTING: with offenses or without offenses, aka aparadha-nama and shuddha-nama.

In his comment on Srimad Bhagavatam 6.2.14, Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti says for a devotee there are only two stages in chanting Krishna nama: offensive and offenseless i.e. aparadha-nama and shuddha nama.

When a devotee BEGINS to chant shuddha nama, it brings the result of destroying all sins. As one continues to chant SHUDDHA NAMA, one will progress through the stages of nistha, ruci, bhava and on to Krishna prema which will appear in his heart as the culmination of shuddha nama chanting.

May all devotees avoid the ten offenses to Sri Harinama, chant shuddha-nama, and quickly progress to the nectar sweet ocean of Krishna prema!

Namacharya Sri Haridasa Thakura ki jai!

Jai Jai Sri Radhe!

Mahanidhi Swami

Devotees often feel frustrated and hopeless with their chanting of the Hare Krishna Maha Mantra. In humble sadness, they confess, “My heart must be hard as steel because when I chant Hare Krishna, I never cry nor does my hair stand erect.”

This idea of having a heart of steel, despite chanting Hare Krishna, comes from a Srimad Bhagavatam verse (2.3.24), translated by Srila Prabhupada thus: “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.”

The prolific translator, Bhanu Swami, gives a slightly different translation to (2.3.24): “That heart which does not transform on hearing the names of the Lord, even though HE SHOWS TEARS in the eyes and hair standing on end, is made of iron.”

Bhanu Swami says the verse describes someone who chants the Hare Krishna Maha Mantra, and though feigning symptoms of ecstasy i.e. crying or standing hair, does not experience any real change of heart or consciousness. This phenomena is seen in sahajiya Gaudiyas who, though making a show of tears and transcendental ecstasy, are completely attached to material life.

In his Sarartha Darshini, Srila Visvanatha Cakravartipada explains (SB 2.3.24) thus: “A show of tears and erect hairs alone do not prove that a person has a melted heart. Srila Rupa Goswamipada has said that some devotees may have melted hearts and be deeply in Krishna prema, even without showing external tears and hairs standing on end. Therefore this verse means that if someone’s heart does not transform [change or improve] with chanting, yet that person still shows tears in the eyes and hairs standing on end in imitation of bhava, then that means he has an iron heart.”

Basically, the Srimad Bhagavatam verse (2.3.24) above talks about change and transformation by contemplative chanting, hari nama dheyaih vikriyeta vikaro. The ultimate change or purification of heart is elevation to the stage of bhava bhakti, or intense loving feelings for Lord Sri Krishna. The tear-full eyes and erect bodily hairs, which may be present or not, are only the secondary characteristics of bhava.

Srila Rupa Goswamipada does not even mention them in his description of the nine symptoms of bhava bhakti. Bhakti-rasamrta sindhu (1.3.25–26) says, “The characteristics of a person who has developed the bud of bhava are as follows: tolerance, not wasting time, detachment from enjoyment, pridelessness, confidence in Krishna, longing for Sri Krishna, taste for chanting Krishna’s name, always describing Krishna’s qualities, and attachment to living in Sri Krishna’s abode [Vrindavana, Navadvipa].”

Bhanu Swami’s translation and Srila Visvanatha Cakravartipada’s tika will surely give relief to the many sadhakas who think their chanting is useless. Crying and other symptoms of transcendental bliss are sometimes experienced by a devotee who has attained the rare stage of bhava, intense loving attachment for Bhagavan Sri Krishna. This is the ultimate transformation effected by chanting Hare Krishna Maha Mantra.

True, we may not be in ecstasy when chanting Hare Krishna. But we should be confident that our chanting is definitely improving, changing and transforming us. Ceto darpanam marjanam means our consciousness, mind and heart ARE CHANGING AND BECOMING SPIRITUALIZED.

As we daily chant and progress toward bhava bhakti, bhava bhakti is moving toward us. Way before the stage of bhava, every chanter will experience some portion and degree of the nine symptoms of bhava. Correct and steady chanting is slowly softening our hearts. Don’t be sad, lament or feel that nothing is happening.

Just measure your own progress and see the changes and transformation that chanting has brought you. Yes, you can definitely see and feel that chanting Hare Krishna has made you much more tolerant, peaceful and detached from a lot of Maya. You are somewhat humble and much less proud. You don’t waste time and try to serve Krishna whenever possible.

You feel confident in Krishna’s presence and protection; He’s in every pillar! You have some drops of genuine longing for Sri Krishna too. And at least occasionally you really get a taste from chanting Hare Krishna. What to speak about living in Vrindavana, “O, how I love Vrindavana!”

All this personal experience proves that Sri Krishna’s all-sweet and powerful transcendental names are softening our hearts, purifying our minds, raising our consciousness, delivering us and preparing us to see Sri Krishna face to face.

Radha Govinda Yugala darshana ki jai! Hare Krishna Maha Mantra ki jai!

Jai Jai Sri Radhe!

Mahanidhi Swami

While discussing japa, Sri Sanatana Goswami does not distinguish between harinama japa and diksha mantra japa. For both he gives the following important rules which all devotees should follow.

First of all, he defines japa as silent murmuring of the mantra, upamshu, and then lays down the rules for it. This is the way Srila Prabhupada chanted his daily nama and mantra japa. Sri Rupa Goswami says, “Very soft repetition of the mantra is called japa.” (Brs.1.2.149)

Sri Sanatana Goswami says, “If one speaks during japa, one’s japa will be fruitless. One will not attain perfection in his mantra chanting if he chants japa while speaking, walking, lying down on bed, thinking of something else, sneezing, hiccupping or yawning.” (HBV 17.132-3)

He furthers explains the dangers of public chanting saying, “Ghosts, Rakshasas, Vetalas and other subtle beings steal the benefits of japa done in public. Hence the wise must do japa in secret, bhuta, rakshasas, vetalas haranti prakatam tasmat guptam japet sudhih.” (HBV 17.131)

“After completing one’s daily japa sankhya, the japa mala should be worshiped and kept in a secret place [one’s temple room or home], japanya-kale malam tu pujayitva sugopayet.” (HBV 17.130)

Proper japa means solitary concentration on the mantra while sitting in a sanctified place with one’s mind and heart focused only on the mantra—its meaning and form. The Srimad Bhagavat Mahatmya (5.73) says, “Japa is lost through a restless mind.”

The key to success in bhakti is having the right attitude and feeling of devotion, sincere humility and hankering for mercy expressed through all of one’s sadhana practices. In bhakti, it is quality and not quantity that brings perfection and success in sadhana.

In this regard, Sri Vallabhacharya teaches, “Lots of sadhana does not please Sri Hari, na hi sadhana sampattya na hari toshanam. It is only the devotees’ humility that can satisfy Hari, bhaktanam dainyam evaikam harih tushyati.” Humility means submitting to and following the authority and orders of Sri Guru and Shastra.

Sri Rupa Goswami says that the holy name only manifests within someone who has a humble service attitude, sevonmukhe he jihvadau svayam eva sphurat yada. (Brs. 1.2.234)

Often it is seen that pride and ego manifest in one who chants a high number of japa without the right devotional attitude. In his tika on nama-aparadha # 10, Sri Sanatana Goswami explains how false pride—EGO manifests in different devotees. “To think ‘I’ and ‘mine’ to be the greatest in connection with the holy name is the 10th offence to the holy name. ‘I am chanting more than you’, aham bahutara-nama-kirtaka. My tongue is the greatest chanter of the holy name. Thus chanting is under the control of my tongue. I am chanting the holy name myself.” (HBV 11.524)

This kind of feeling and attitude—EGO—which often arises, is far far away from Mahaprabhu’s order to chant with the utmost humility.

Commenting on His own trnad api sunichena verse (Cc. 3.20.21) Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu said, ““These are the symptoms of one who [correctly] chants the Hare Krishna maha-mantra. Although he is very exalted, he thinks himself lower than the grass on the ground, and like a tree, he tolerates everything in two ways. When a tree is cut down, it does not protest, and even when drying up, it does not ask anyone for water. The tree delivers its fruits, flowers and whatever else it possesses to anyone and everyone. It tolerates scorching heat and torrents of rain, yet it still gives shelter to others.

“Although a Vaiñëava is the most exalted person, he is prideless and shows respect to ALL LIVING ENTITIES knowing that Krishna is within them (jive sammana dibe jani krishna adhisthana). If one chants the holy name of Krishna in this way, pure love for Sri Krishna’s lotus feet will appear.” (Cc. 3.20.21-26).

In simple words, humility leads to prema and pride leads to failure. Chant Sri Krishna’s holy names with humility, full heart and attention, and soon the fruit of Krishna prema will be attained.

Sri Harinama Sankirtana ki jai! Jai Jai Sri Radhe!

Mahanidhi Swami

In Bhagavad-gita, Sri Krishna describes the “third eye” or Ajna Chakra Meditation Method.

In verses (5.27 & 8.10) Sri Krishna says, “A sadhaka should fix his vision and attention on the point between the eyebrows, the ajna cakra, chakshus antare bhruvoh: bhruvoh madhye.” Yoga sutras say that focusing one’s outer and inner vision on this point, bhruvoh madhye, will stop the stream of random, wandering thoughts that often distract us from attentive harinama/mantra japa efforts and remembrance of Radha-Krishna.

Then concentrated, focused, attentive and heart-felt japa and smarana can proceed smoothly. Commenting on this, Srila Prabhupada said, “By this yoga meditation practice one can control the senses, become free from fear and anger, feel the presence of the Antaryami Sri Krishna, and prepare for liberation.” (Bg. 5.27 p.)

It may be argued that just chanting Hare Krishna and sincerely practicing Krishna consciousness does all these things and more; it gives spiritual perfection. That is absolutely true! Our personal experience and Srila Prabhupada’s numerous statements to this effect are the proof.

Nevertheless, we are highlighting this physical concentration technique in the mood of accepting and doing things that will be helpful for our metaphysical development i.e. increasing our Krishna bhakti. Every day we chant Hare Krishna and try to think about, remember and meditate upon Radha-Krishna in Vrindavana. But where is the absorption, what to speak about attention and concentration?

Frustrated but steadily going, we cry out, “O Krishna” my mind is restless, very mad, powerful and relentless, chanchalam he manah Krishna, pramathi balavad drdham.” (Bg. 6.34) Our wayward minds just won’t let us concentrate on the beautiful sweet names, forms and pastimes of Radha-Krishna.” What to do—just chant more, remember more?

Yes!!! And also try the Chakra Japa Method.

  1. Sit comfortably straight;
  1. Take 5 very deep and slow breaths; inhale while thinking “Shyamaa Shyamaa, Shyamaa” and exhale thinking “Shyama, Shyama, Shyama”. Radha-Krishna, Hare Krishna, are our very Prananatha and Praneshvari, the beloveds of our life force.
  2. Focus your eyesight, vision and attention on the ajna chakra, the physical/psychic point between the eyebrows. Locate it and press it firmly with the tip of your middle finger. That’s your focal point.
  1. Now with closed eyes (if alert and well rested) or half-closed eyes do your daily harinama japa sankhya, mantra dhyana and lila smarana.

Whenever you sit for Radha-Krishna bhajan try this chakra japa technique and see/feel/taste the results. Simply wonderful!

It works for me and I hope it works for you too.

Raganuga Bhakti bhajan ki jai! Nama japa lila smarana ki jai!

Jai Jai Sri Radhe!

Mahanidhi Swami

  1. Create a Japa Cave

Having described the three salient features of a cave (darkness, solitude, silence), we will now explain how to make one. To obtain the positive effects of the Goswamis’ japa caves, we must try our best to establish something like a cave inside our house. It must be a solitary place as dark and quiet as possible; just like a real cave.

  1. Create Solitary Space

It is best to have one room reserved for puja and solitary prayer: “The Temple Room”. If you don’t have, then use temporary room dividers to section off part of your living room as your “Japa Space”.

For example, I have a 35 square feet “japa cave” sectioned off from a greeting room of 150 square feet. Call it your japa cave, puja room, prayer room, or meditation room.

Don’t bring your mobile into the cave. Keep it in another room, switched on silent and no vibe mode. Beg your dear ones to spare you for two hours, leaving you alone in the peace of solitude to communicate with Krishna. Enter your “cave”, sit on a pure asana of wool or silk and use it only for japa.

Now you can freely open your heart and reveal your mind; voice your divine aspirations; and feel the presence of Radha and Krishna as you attentively absorb yourself in chanting Hare Krishna. By doing this, you will realize that “Silence is Golden, but Solitude is Platinum”.

  1. Create Silence

When creating your “cave room”, try to make it as soundproof as possible. But remember that totally soundproof means no oxygen!

For concentrated japa, chant during the silent times of early morning and late night (3-6 a.m. & 11p.m.-3 a.m.). To enhance the silence during these times, or to create silence during noisy times in your home, you can wear plain “hearing protection headphones” [without built in sound system]. For the last 30 years, I have been regularly using a comfortable pair (Peltor H10A Optime 105) that very effectively create the silent space necessary for focused, concentrated japa.

If you are not so fortunate as to have a private japa cave in Vrindavana, then such headphones are the best alternative. Either alone or in combination, headphones and early morning hours provide the essential silence which will definitely improve the quality of your nama japa. And one thing I can definitely say is that at least for India, such headphones are a MUST!

  1. Create Darkness

Besides chanting in the naturally dark times of night and early morning, you can create cave darkness at any time by following the following steps:

  1. Turn off all lights (including clocks, night lights and power cords) in cave room and adjoining room if cave is within a larger room.
  2. Block all incoming sunlight by closing doors and using thick, dark colored window curtains. If you can’t see your hand in front of your face when sitting for japa, then you have created cave darkness. Even a little light will stop melatonin production and impede concentration.
  3. Cover the eyes with eye covers or masks as used for sleeping in airplanes.
  4. Cover the head and face with dark colored cotton cloth. Take a piece of thick cloth measuring 48 by 24 inches (120/60 cm.); fold it in half for a final size of 24 by 24. Use this cloth to cover the top of head and face to below the chin. Gather the excess cloth at the neck and close it with a clip or clothes pin. It should be so dark that you can’t see your hand in front of your nose. Of the two, I find colored cloth more effective and comfortable then wearing eye shades or masks. Colored cloth provide additional benefits as well.

Those aware of color healing can use different colored cloths to cover their heads. I will describe the qualities of two colors, indigo and green. Some say indigo is Krishna’s color, and green as in emerald or dark (Vrindavana) forest green is the color of the unified jyotis of Radha Govinda Yugala.

Green:

By nature green is a restful color which calms emotions and soothes the body and mind. Green represents energy, growth, hope and new life. Yogic healers say the sahasra chakra (crown chakra on top of head), which is the controller of all chakras, is nourished by green.

Indigo:

Indigo is a cooling and calming color. Indigo governs the ajna chakra (between eyebrows), which is the meditation point to focus on during japa that is mentioned in Gita 8.10, madhya bhruvoh. Healers say the indigo color helps raise the consciousness.

Now you are ready to practice “cave japa” in your private bhajana cave. However, the solitude, silence and darkness of your cave room might put you to sleep. To avoid this and get the full benefit from cave japa, one should rest early the night before in order to be fresh and completely awake.

You may feel a little uncomfortable at first, adjusting to headphones, head cloths, and chanting for two hours alone in the darkness. It would be a lot easier if we had private snake and scorpion free caves in the sacred land of Vrindavana.

By implementing these suggestions for improving japa, we are showing Krishna how sincere we are about chanting purely and lovingly. Krishna sees how seriously we are absorbing ourselves in this most important practice of Krishna consciousness. Gita says, as one surrenders, so Krishna rewards. Every surrendered devotee experiences that reward in his own way.

We guarantee that if you chant japa in a cave room of darkness and silence, especially in early morning, you will become very peaceful, centered on Krishna, and have many divine and richly rewarding spiritual experiences.

If this does not happen, then you can get a full refund by returning the darkness and silence to Krishna. Close your cave, sit down on the living room couch to chant japa, and then fall asleep with all the lights on.

Hare Krishna Maha Mantra ki jai! Cave Japa ki jai!

Namacharya Srila Haridasa Thakura ki jai!

Mahanidhi Swami

How do solitude, silence and darkness bring success in Nama japa?

  1. The Japa Space
  2. Solitude

Two bangles make noise, one makes none. One chanter alone is quiet, affording a chance for concentration. But two chanters end in chatter! And that matters, because concentration stops and distraction and inattention set in. For just this reason, our acharyas chanted in caves, alone, away from all. In solitude, they had the most amazing experiences while chanting Krishna’s Holy Names.

  1. Silence

Sound instantly attracts our minds, even when we are sleeping. If we could become fully absorbed in chanting japa, then we could chant anywhere without distraction. However, the Goswamis set the example of chanting japa in the total silence of caves. Caves are so silent that the sound of your heart may sound like thunder. It is said that in silence, God speaks. Quiet space is essential to japa success.

  1. Darkness

Besides providing silence and solitude, caves are completely dark. Why did our revered Goswamis and acharyas chant japa in the pitch black? Not only our Gaudiyas, but in the pursuit of enlightenment, all spiritual traditions have utilized darkness in the form of tunnels, catacombs or caves.

Although darkness has the negative quality of ignorance or tamo guna, it also has beneficial qualities. Darkness frees our mind from distractions, so we can focus on a chosen object i.e. Krishna’s lotus feet. Darkness blocks the mind and keeps it from running away with the senses.

The Vedas say, tamasi mam jyotir gama, which means, according to some yoga schools, “come to the light of pure consciousness through the agency of meditating in the dark”. And the Tao says, “When you enter absolute darkness, it soon turns into light.”

Scientists have proven that darkness activates the deepest centers within the brain i.e. thalamus, hypothalamus, pineal and pituitary. Darkness keeps the adrenal hormones at their lowest levels, which in turn creates an inner peace. In complete darkness, the visual and auditory abilities become even more sensitive.

Darkness stimulates the production of melatonin, a regulatory hormone known as “the sleep molecule”, which shuts down the body and mind so we can sleep. From 3 to 6 am, the best time for japa, the body produces more melatonin. So at this time, if one is awake and chanting japa in darkness [like Goswamis in their caves], melatonin will gradually accumulate in the brain, and enable one to experience dreams or visions [of Radha and Krishna] resembling one’s experience of dreams while sleeping.

In darkness, our internal perception naturally becomes more subtle, refined and sensitive. Emotional and feeling states are enhanced. Experienced dark room meditators claim that the increased melatonin levels facilitate the emergence of spiritual consciousness. All of these factors working together will surely give one the rich devotional experience he longs for while chanting “his daily rounds”.

In summary, experience has shown us that the peace and solitude of darkness combined with increased levels of the “spirit molecule” melatonin will greatly increase one’s absorption in japa and produce amazing experiences of Sri Krishna in His Holy Names.

Besides observing a regulated schedule and chanting in darkness, one can also increase his melatonin levels by eating the following melatonin rich foods: oats, corn, brown rice, ginger, ripe tomatoes, bananas, parsley, algae, dates, cottage cheese, pumpkin and pumpkin seeds, tofu, watermelon and apple seeds, almonds, peanuts, vitamin B-3, sunflower seeds, vitamin B-6, tryptophan [in peanuts & sesame seeds], lentils and avocado. In part three, we will describe how to create a japa cave.

Jai Jai Sri Radhe!

Mahanidhi Swami

Every day, we spend time chanting japa of the Hare Krishna Maha Mantra. But why don’t we feel anything from our japa—no experiences, no emotions and no revelations? What to speak of tears, trembling and darshana of Krishna?

We may not be seeing Krishna when chanting. But in a good japa session, a sadhaka will at least feel mentally refreshed from his communion with Radha and Krishna’s merciful Holy Names. His heart will replenish with sentiments of devotion, and he will feel increased enthusiasm to humbly serve Sri Guru, Vaisnavas and Bhagavan Sri Krishna.

The question above about “unproductive japa” has many answers, but definitely a big cause of “japa failure” is a lack of concentration and absorption. Everyone knows that concentration finishes a big task quickly, and a lack of it makes a small task drag on for eternity!

  1. Limited Time: Maximum Results

Most devotees are married and have very little time for Krishnabhajana. There is just no time for scriptural reading, studying or sadhu sanga. At best, we can find two hours in a day to chant “our sixteen rounds”. The sum total of our dailyKrishna bhajanahas to be compressed into two hours. So this limited time spentwithSri Harinama Prabhu should produce the maximum results. This article will show how to improve our concentration and absorption in Harinama japa, and thereby gain positive results and wonderful, divine experiences.

  1. Concentration & Absorption

The word concentration means the action or power of focusing all one’s attention; or dealing with one particular thing above all others. Synonyms for concentration: focus, center, fix, pointed.

In other words, while chanting japa we should focus our complete attention only on Radha and Krishna. All our thoughts and feelings should be centered, fixed on and offered to Radha-Krishna sitting with us in Their Holy Names. During our two concentrated japa hours, all other things should be disregarded.

The word absorption comes from the word absorb which means to soak up [as in liquid] or to take in and understand fully. Absorption is defined as a state of being so attentive to one thing that one is totally oblivious to anything else. For example, your son becomes so absorbed in Internet, that he doesn’t hear you loudly and repeatedly calling him for prasadam. Synonyms include being engrossed or engulfed in something, or being swallowed by it!

So our sincere efforts to concentrate during japa should culminate in japa absorption. We should soak up the sweet nectar of nama, take Him into our hearts, and become so attentive to Harinama Prabhu that we, at least for those two “precious japa hours”, forget everyone and everything else!

III. The Bhajana Caves

Caves or enclosed dark spaces have three characteristics in common i.e. solitude, silence and darkness—all very helpful for concentration and absorption in mantra and meditation. Our previous acharyas, knowing the value and absolute necessity of concentration and absorption in bhajana, chanted japa in underground rooms, generally a cave (guha, gupha).

In Vrindavana, the oldest bhajana cave is that of Srimati Paurnamasi visible in Nandagrama. As for Gaudiyas, Professor O.B.L Kapoor said that Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu Himself spent some time in a cave in Assam after visiting Sri Rupa and Sanatana in Ramakeli. That cave called “Chaitanya Gupha” is still visible today. (Philosophy and Religion of Sri Chaitanya)

Since that time, many Gaudiya Vaisnava acharyas, mahajanas and devotees have gone underground for private worship. Here is a list of famous devotees who chanted japa and meditated in caves, along with the place and its visibility today.

Namacharya Haridasa Thakura, Phulia West Bengal. Visible;

Rupa Goswamipada, Govindaji Mandira, Vrindavana. Visible;

Sanatana Goswami, Gokul Mahavana, Vrindavana, Visible?

Sri Jiva Goswamipada Vrindavana Nanda Ghata. Visible;

Bhugarbha Goswami Seva Kunja near Radha Damodara Mandira. Visible?

Shyamananda Prabhu, Radha-Shyamasundara Mandir Vrindavana. Visible;

Narayana Bhatta Goswami, Unchagoan. Visible;

Raghava Goswami, Govardhana Punchari. Visible.

  1. Characteristics of a Cave

As mentioned, caves have three things necessary for success in bhajana i.e. Darkness, Silence and Solitude. Mental and sensual distraction during japa prevent us from experiencing success in our practice. To facilitate concentration, we should try to create the tranquil atmosphere of a cave in our homes. We will explain exactly how to do that in part two.

Jai Jai Sri Radhe!