By: Mahanidhi Swami
I. SAMBANDHA JNANA (Chant japa with knowledge)
To properly chant japa, you must have the basic knowledge of the material world; God; the living entity (jiva), and their relationship. In brief, sambandha jnana means knowing, believing, accepting, and realizing that Bhagavan Sri Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and that you are Sri Krsna’s eternal servant linked to Lord Krsna by the bond of love (prema). The loving relationship between you and Bhagavan Sri Krsna is eternal, and it can be uncovered by chanting the Hare Krsna Mahamantra, which is the most powerful, purifying and liberating spiritual vibration in the universe.
II. NAMA MAHIMA (Read the glories of the Holy Name)
Every day before chanting japa, preach to your mind about the glories, identity and power of Sri Krsna’s Holy name by reading verses glorifying Sri Krsna’s Holy Name. e.g. nama cintamanih krsnas, caitanya-rasa-vigrahah/ purnah suddho nitya-mukto, ‘bhinnatvan nama-naminoh, “The Holy Name of Krsna is transcendentally blissful. It bestows all spiritual benedictions, for it is Krsna Himself, the reservoir of all pleasure. Krsna’s name is complete, and it is the form of all transcendental mellows. It is not a material name under any condition, and it is no less powerful than Krsna Himself. Since Krsna’s name is not contaminated by the material qualities, there is no question of its being involved with maya. Krsna’s name is always liberated and spiritual; it is never conditioned by the laws of material nature. This is because the name of Krsna, and Krsna Himself are identical.”
Bhagavan Sri Krsna’s Holy Name is cintamani, ‘a thought gem’, the object that fulfills all one’s desires. To the materialist, the Holy Name gives religiosity, wealth, sense gratification and liberation. But to the sincere, pure-hearted sadhaka, the cintamani nama gives pure, unalloyed, sweet love for Radha and Krsna. Sri Krsna’s Holy Name is beginningless, unlimited, fully conscious and inseparable from the infinite consciousness, the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself. Whatever is in Bhagavan Sri Krsna is in the Holy Name, for the two are non-different. Krsna’s Holy Name is eternally situated in pure goodness (suddha-sattva), and free from material contamination. Though Sri Krsna’s Holy Name descends into the material world, the Holy Name like Sri Krsna Himself remains forever pure, eternal, transcendental; it is the embodiment of the highest sweetness (rasa). [See AOC Ch. 1: The Holy Name is Transcendental, The Value of Cintamani Nama Pg. 1-4] Although living entities in the material consciousness distinguish between one’s name , form, qualities and activities, we should understand and accept that Bhagavan Sri Krsna’s name, form, qualities and pastimes are eternal parts of one inseparable spiritual principle. Krsna’s name is Krsna’s form; Krsna’s name contains all the sixty four qualities of Krsna in full; and Krsna’s name includes all His transcendental pastimes in Vaikuntha, Goloka and Vraja. By chanting the Name of Krsna, you will realise and see Sri Krsna’s beautiful, sweet form, qualities and pastimes within the divine vibration of the Hare Krsna Mahamantra. [See AOC Ch. 2]
III. NAMA APARADHA (Avoid the ten offenses to Krsna’s Holy Name)
One must especially avoid inattention in japa because inattention or carelessness is the cause of all the other offenses. Therefore one must be very careful at all costs to avoid inattention and its three varieties described below.
INATTENTIVE JAPA: THREE TYPES
1.) Indifference, apathy, lack of attraction
This means you cannot put your heart into chanting because your material attachments are pulling your attention away from the Holy Name.
This means chanting with a dull mind; pausing in the middle of a round and stopping japa to take rest. Laziness can be overcome by taking a vow to always chant a minimum of four rounds whenever you sit for japa. [See AOC Ch. 13: Increasing Determination Pg. 191]
Distraction means instead of Sri Krsna’s all-attractive, sweet Holy Name, your mind fixes its attention on women or men, money, progress and position.
If you desire to obtain Krsna-prema, you must chant the Holy Name by carefully avoiding each of the ten offenses. In your heart, you must fervently beg at the feet of Sri Nama Prabhu and Lord Gauranga to give mercy to destroy the offenses. If you feel truly repentant and continuously keep chanting then the offenses will go and the fruit of the Holy Name will appear in the form of suddha nama, bhava nama and prema nama (pure love of God).
Please Note: Every day before chanting japa, you should recite the Siksastakam prayers while meditating on the meaning; and you should also review the ten offenses and especially the three aspects of inattentive japa. See also AOC Ch.3: Offense: Inattentive Chanting; Eleventh Offense: Rectification; Summary on Overcoming Distraction; The Reality of Attraction Pg. 52-57.
IV. MANTRA ARTHA CINTANAM (Meditate on meaning along with japa)
While chanting the Hare Krsna Mahamantra, you should meditate on the meaning of the Holy Name while hearing the transcendental vibration.[See AOC Ch. 11: Effect of Japa with Meaning Pg 151; One Hundred Percent Krsna Lila Pg. 155; Union and Separation in the Mahamantra Pg. 160; Acaryas’ Meaning of the Mahamantra Pg.161; Meaning of the Mahamantra from Hari-bhakti-vilasa Pg.162; Meaning of the Mahamantra by Gopala Guru Gosvami Pg.163; Meaning of the Mahamantra by Sri Jiva Gosvami Pg. 166; Meaning of the Mahamantra by Srila Ragunatha dasa Gosvami Pg.168; Meaning of the Mahamantra by Srila Visvanatha Chakravarti Thakura Pg.169; Meaning of the Mahamantra by Thakura Bhaktivinoda Pg.170; Meaning of the Mahamantra by Srila Prabhupada Pg.171; Ch. 13: Five A’s in Chanting Pg. 194-197] In his book, Nama Bhajana, Bhaktivinoda Thakura says, “While chanting japa, you must explain the meaning of the Holy Name to your mind in order to quickly purify your heart, and cause the Name to appear personally before your spiritual eyes.”
V. SARANAGATI (Chant with surrender)
While chanting japa, you should simultaneously cultivate the six attitudes of surrender (saranagati). [See AOC Ch 13: Shelter and Surrender Pg 180]
1.) Happily accept whatever increases your Krsna bhakti.
2.) Disdainfully reject anything which impedes your Krsna bhakti.
3.) Believe fully that Krsna is your only protector and depend on Krsna alone.
4.) Be convinced that Bhagavan Sri Krsna is your only real and eternal maintainer and provider.
5.) Think of yourself as low, worthless, wretched, unqualified and without possession.
6.) Humbly accept your position as Sri Krsna’s eternal servant and willing to do whatever Krsna desires.
Reject the false notion that you are the doer, the provider, the protector; and that you own your body, wife, children and house. Accept wholeheartedly that Bhagavan Sri Krsna is the factual owner, controller and doer. Act only as Krsna desires and not according to your individual wants. You should always think that in life, in liberation, in misery or in happiness—you are nothing but a humble servant of Bhagavan Sri Krsna.
VI. VANDANAM (Prayers to the Holy Name)
Before chanting japa you should recite different prayers to the Holy Name because this will purify your mind, create a feeling of humility and establish the mood of service (seva-bhava) in your mind. Sample prayers [See AOC Ch. 4: Offense: Inattentive Chanting Pg.54; Ch.8: Prayers before starting Japa, Yugala Mantra for Direct Service, A Sadhaka’s prayer to Sri Nama Prabhu, Prayers to Overcome Offenses, End with Prayer Pg 125-131; Ch.9: Conclusion Pg.139; Ch.10: Know Your Mind Pg.146; Ch. 11: Japa Means Radha Dasyam Pg. 157; Ch. 13: Shelter and Surrender Pg. 181; Five A’s in Chanting Pg 194-197]
Examples from Harinama Cintamani:
1.) O Haridasa Thakura! May I once and for all give up all bad association; take full shelter of Lord Caitanya’s lotus feet; and become fully satisfied and attain spiritual perfection by purely chanting Sri Krsna’s Holy Names.
2.) O Bhaktivinoda Thakura! Please bless me that I will take complete shelter in Radha and Krsna, Radha and Krsna’s devotees and the practice of pure devotional service. Then I will receive the full effect of chanting the Holy Name, and the Holy Name of Krsna will become the one and only center of my life.
3.) O Haridasa Thakura! May I become like a honeybee lingering at your lotus feet, and thereby attain the touchstone of Krsna’s Holy Name (Harinama Cintamani) as my life and soul.
4.) O Sri Caitanyadeva! Although I continually chant Krsna’s Holy Name, my mind is full of material desires and I am not receiving the touch of the Holy Name. O Lord, be merciful to me! Please descend into my heart and dance on my tongue in the form of your sweet name. Keep me anywhere in the material world or the spiritual sky, but I beg you to please give me the nectar of your Holy Name.
5.) O Sri Nama Prabhu, my dearly beloved Lord and Master! Please help me to chant clear, attentive rounds with my mind completely fixed on your beautiful transcendental form, qualities and pastimes. Without your mercy, I cannot accomplish anything. Feeling very anxious in my heart, I sincerely beg for your mercy because you my Lord are merciful by nature. I am sure you will help me to chant purely with complete attention.
6.) O Sri Nama Prabhu! May I always accept everything that is favorable for serving and chanting the Holy Name. May I instantly reject everything that is unfavorable for serving your Holy Name. May I have full faith that Sri Krsna’s Holy Name is my only protector and my only maintainer. O Holy Name! May I moment to moment feel myself as low and worthless and thus surrender all the actions of my body, mind and words at your divine lotus feet. O Holy Name! May I constantly recognise and rectify any mistakes in chanting. May I continually improve the quality and quantity of my chanting while diligently avoiding all aparadhas.
HARE KRSNA HARE KRSNA KRSNA KRSNA HARE HARE
HARE RAMA HARE RAMA RAMA RAMA HARE HARE
OM TAT SAT!