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Mahanidhi Madan Gopal Das

Yes, there are and yes there are no rules in chanting Hare Krishna nama japa! In Siksastaka (2), Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu says, “In each of His unlimited names, Bhagavan Sri Krishna manifests all His transcendental power. There are no strict rules regarding REMEMBERING these names, niyamitah smarane na kalah.”

Commenting on this verse Mahaprabhu says:

khaite suite yatha, tatha nama laya
kala desa niyama nahi, sarva siddhi haya

“Regardless of time or place, one who chants the holy name, even while eating or sleeping, attains all perfection. (Caitanya Caritamrita 3. 20.18)”

One may think these verses mean that there are no rules in chanting and therefore anything goes! But actually Mahaprabhu is not saying that there are no rules. Sri Gaurahari is glorifying the unlimited and merciful power of Krishna nama by saying that one can REMEMBER nama at any time, even while eating or sleeping.

And due to His infinite power and love, Sri Hari Nama Prabhu will give one all spiritual perfection. Definitely one should not think that Mahaprabhu is saying here that you can chant your rounds while taking breakfast in bed!

In fact, there are specific rules in chanting japa. And Mahaprabhu personally instructed and empowered Sri Sanatana Goswami to describe them, which he did in “Hari Bhakti Vilasa”.

Let us take shelter of Mahaprabhu to better understand the idea of rules and no rules. 500 years ago, Sri Caitanyadeva Mahaprabhu introduced the ultimate transcendental philosophy as acintya bheda-abheda-tattva—simultaneous, inconceivable oneness and difference.

In other words, the transcendental Absolute Truth, Bhagavan Sri Krishna is inconceivably, simultaneously one and different from everything and everyone. Besides being a transcendental doctrine of reality, the principle of acintya bheda-abheda can be applied everywhere.

For example, the atma or soul is one with and different from the body. The husband is one with and different from his family. The citizen is one and different from the country. The student is one with and different from the school. The driver is one with and different from the car. “Hey you hit me” which means his car. The bhoga is one with and different from the refrigerator.

Similarly, in chanting Hare Krishna nama japa there are no rules regarding remembering, or the time and place. But then again there are rules. One must avoid the ten offenses in chanting, nama aparadha.

To help nama sadhakas quickly perfect their chanting of Sri Krishna’s sweeter than sweet Holy Names, we will now present a few helpful rules from Sri Sanatana Goswami. In 274 verses, the Hari Bhakti Vilasa (17) describes the Puruscarana Vrata for attaining siddhi or perfection in chanting diksa mantras. Although the many rules and benefits there describe diksa mantras, they can also apply to chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra.

JAPA FAULTS TO AVOID (japa dosa)

  1. Japa chanting is fruitless if you chant with—dirty hands, no asana, covered head, talking to others. 132
  2. You will not attain perfection in chanting (mantra siddhim navapnoti) if you chant absentmindedly, or while walking, lying down, sneezing, yawning, or hiccupping. 133
  3. One should chant a fixed number (japa sankhya:16, 32, 64) of rounds every day without fail. (199)

THREE TYPES OF JAPA

Beginning with the best, the 3 types are manasic—silent in mind; upamsu—whispering; and vacika—loud or soft. (155-156)

GLORIES OF MANASIC JAPA

Manasic is silent mental japa along with meditation on each syllable of the mantra. (158) Manasi japa is thousands of times more beneficial than the other two because it equals meditation on Bhagavan Sri Krishna (sahasro manasah prokto yasmad dhyana samo hi sah). (159)

Mahanidhi Madan Gopal Das: All types of chanting are equally powerful, nija sarva sakti. However, if one has the inner purity to mentally chant it will be most beneficial because it demands the most concentration on Krishna which means more absorption in Krishna and therefore faster results. Whereas in upamsu or vacika chanting one’s mind may be distracted or inattentive, and thus bring slower results due to distance from Krishna.

In all places and conditions (sarva dese sarva da), there are no faults in manasic japa (na dosa manaso japye). If one steadily chants this way, one will attain the benefits of all types of yajnas and homas (sarva yajna phalam labhet). Such yajnas do not yield even one-sixteenth part of the benefits of nama/mantra japa yajna. (161-162,164)

Sri Sanatana Goswami tika: “Because manasic japa (silent, mental japa) is faultless it is the best type, and manasic japa chanters are also the best.”

Conclusion: Sri Krishna Nama japa contains unlimited transcendental powers. Sri Harinama is eternal, sweet and blissful. Krishna’s beautiful names elevate and energize anyone who chants them anywhere at any time. Whether young—old, strong—weak, following—not following, living—dying, all will benefit by chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra.

However, if one wants to attain complete success in japa and the blissful eternal prema seva of Radha and Krishna in Goloka Vrndavana, one must surrender to Sri Guru, follow rules and regulations, and always with the greatest humility serve Sri Hari, Sri Guru and the merciful Vaisnavas.

Sri Sanatana Goswami highly extols the supreme efficacy of manasic Krishna nama japa. But unless one has a balanced and sufficiently pure mind (antah karan) it will be difficult to chant silently within the mind. Therefore, most Gurus recommend loud chanting to start with. Then progress to upamsu, whispering, and finally manasic or silent chanting when qualified with mental serenity and a satisfied heart.

Sri Krishna nama japa ki jai! Jai Jai Sri Radhe!

Mahanidhi Madan Gopal Das

Just before my merciful mentor left this world to enter Sri Radha’s eternal seva, we discussed the merits of different bhakti sadhana practices. Throughout that most wonderful and unforgettable Harikatha, he repeatedly stressed and proclaimed, with the firm conviction of a 101 years practice: “HARI NAMA WILL DO ALL THINGS! You need to chant Krishna nama and you will get everything—EVERYTHING!!!” Jai Gurudeva!

With lightning speed, he then quoted the following slokas to support his conclusion, and strengthen my faith and conviction in Sri Hari Nama-sankirtana. We hope these slokas will inspire everyone, and ignite their enthusiasm to chant more and more and more.

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

The last verse of the 18,000 in the Srimad Bhagavatam (12.13.23) says:

nāma-saṅkīrtanaṁ yasya, sarva-pāpa praṇāśanam
“Nama-sankirtana destroys all sins.”

Throughout the Caitanya-caritamrta, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu personally teaches about the power and benefit of Sri Hari Nama-sankirtana.

bhakti-sādhana-śreṣṭha prabhu upadeśa nāma-saṅkīrtana
Mahaprabhu said, “Nama-sankirtana is the best bhakti practice. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.6.241)

kale kalera dharma krishna nama-sankirtana
Mahaprabhu said, “Krishna nama sankirtana is the dharma for the age of Kali.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.11.98)

kṛṣṇa-sevā vaiṣṇava-sevana
nirantara kara kṛṣṇa-nāma-saṅkīrtana

Mahaprabhu said, “Serve Sri Krishna and the Vaisnavas and constantly chant Krishna Nama-sankirtana.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.15.104)

vaiṣṇava-sevā, nāma-saṅkīrtana
dui kara, śīghra pābe śrī-kṛṣṇa-caraṇa

Mahaprabhu said, “By serving Vaisnavas and doing Nama-sankirtana, you will very quickly attain the lotus feet of Bhagavan Sri Krishna.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2. 16.70)

bhāgavata karaha vicāra, pābe sūtra-śrutira artha-sāra
nirantara kara kṛṣṇa-nāma-saṅkīrtana, helāya mukti pābe prema-dhana

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu said, “By studying the Srimad Bhagavatam you will understand the essence of Sruti and Vedanta Sutra. And by constantly chanting Krishna Nama-sankirtana, you will attain liberation and the wealth of Krishna prema! (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2. 25.153-154)

nava vidhi bhakti sarva-śreṣṭha nāma-saṅkīrtana
niraparādhe nāma laile pāya prema-dhana

Mahaprabhu said, “Nama-sankirtana is the best form of sadhana bhakti. Chanting without offense gives the treasure of Krishna prema.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.4.71)

During the final days of His Puri lila, Sri Caitanyadeva plunged into the ocean of separation from His Prana-pati Vrajendranandana. Deep in the night, hidden inside the latern lit cave of the Gambhira, Mahaprabhu savored the sweet bliss of madhurya-rasa (rasa-asvadane) in the sanga of Damodara Svarupa and Ramananda.

Wrapped in a magical melody of joy, lamentation, anger, humility, anxiety, grief, intense eagerness and satisfaction, Mahaprabhu mercifully spoke the essence of Krishna consciousness. While sighing in bliss, overwhelmed in mahabhava, His molten heart pulsing with compassion, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu said:

nāma-saṅkīrtana haite sarvānartha-nāśa
sarva-śubhodaya, kṛṣṇa-premera ullāsa

“Nama-sankirtana destroys all anarthas, brings the rising of all good fortune, and thrills one with Krishna prema.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.20.11)

saṅkīrtana haite pāpa-saṁsāra-nāśana
citta-śuddhi, sarva-bhakti-sādhana-udgama

Mahaprabhu cried, “Hari Nama-sankirtana destroys sins and samsara. It cleanses the heart and manifests all types of bhakti sadhana.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.20.13)

kṛṣṇa-premodgama, premāmṛta-āsvādana
kṛṣṇa-prāpti, sevāmṛta-samudre majjana

“By Nama-sankirtana, Krishna prema will appear in the heart. One will taste the nectar of Krishna’s love; attain Krishna, and submerge in the nectar ocean of Krishna’s eternal seva.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.20.14)

khāite śuite yathā tathā nāma laya
kāla-deśa-niyama nāhi, sarva siddhi haya

Sri Gauranga said, “For chanting Krishna nama there are no rules regarding time and place. If one chants Krishna nama even while eating or sleeping, one will attain all perfection i.e. Radha-Krishna nitya prema seva in the kunjas of Vrndavana.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.20.14)

Sri Krishna nama sankirtana 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!