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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!