Tag Archive for: How to Chant Mantras

By Mahanidhi Swami

Now we will discuss physical posture and its effect on chanting success. Yoga mantra sastras recommend that one should sit perfectly still (no shaking the head or pacing back and forth) with a straight back, because an upright posture keeps the nerves peaceful and aids concentration. Krishna gives the same instruction in the Bhagavad-gita verse 6.13: “One should hold one’s body, neck and head erect in a straight line and stare steadily at the tip of the nose.”

“Without moving the lips or tongue, shaking the head or neck, or showing the teeth, one should meditate on the syllables of the mantra, the meaning of each word, and the meaning of the whole mantra. Without knowing its meaning, one will not attain the goal intended by chanting that mantra.” (Yajnavalkya-smrti)

In summary, one should not move his lips, tongue or shows the teeth. One should close his eyes. Then chant silently in the mind while being deeply absorbed in the meaning of each word and the meaning of the complete mantra. Regarding the point of not moving the tongue, some yoga books claim that concentration is enhanced by holding the tongue firmly against the roof of the mouth while chanting the mantras within the mind.

One yogi said, “This helps circulate the prana by acting as a bridge between the head and the circuit on the front of the body. When doing so your aura automatically becomes brighter. If you add breath control, the aura becomes even brighter. So it would be good for health, mind and spirit.”

Of course, a program of yoga and pranayama for health is not the objective, but the principle is to do whatever works to fix the mind on Krishna and never forget Him. If one cannot concentrate while chanting silently in the mind, however, then one may move the lips slightly while inaudibly mouthing the words of the Gayatri.

Srila Sanatana Goswamipada gives some very particular instructions regarding mantras: “When chanting Gayatri japa the sadhaka should not move his head and neck about, nor show his teeth. He shall sanctify his mind by withdrawing it from the objects of the senses, and by silently meditating upon the meaning of the mantra. If the mantra remains within the mind, and the mind remains within the mantra (in other words—the mind and mantra are joined), then the characteristics of Gayatri japa are revealed to the chanter. While performing japa, the fingers must be kept together and slightly contracted at the base. If the fingers are separated, the effect of the japa will leak out through the spaces.” (HBV 17th vilasa)

Even though many physical suggestions are given herein, the mind is the main factor in successful Gayatri chanting. Perfection comes from intense meditation, not sitting postures. Meditation means deeply concentrating on Krishna who appears in the form of the mantra (mantra-rupa). The sadhaka must focus all his mental and intellectual energy on the mantra until it reveals its secrets. Lord Brahma, for example, focused on the Gopala-mantra until it fully bloomed within his consciousness. Meditation is the art of communion with Krishna after searching Him out in the dark core of the heart.

To avoid sleepiness and to attain maximum concentration one can sit in the siddhasana or the padmasana, which Lord Brahma used while chanting the Gopala-mantra. “Thus while sitting and chanting one may keep his body straight, and this will help one in the chanting process; otherwise one may feel sleepy.” (SB 7.15.31 p.)

Padmasana— First sit on the floor on a seat made of kusa grass, wool or silk. Hold the right- foot and place it on top of the left thigh with the outer edge of the foot pressed into the groin. Bring the right knee in to face almost forward. Lift the left foot over the right thigh, and bring it into the right groin. Move the feet further up into the groin and bring the knees closer together. Sit straight, extending the trunk up. Open the chest, and move the shoulder blades in. Lift the diaphragm up and relax the face.

If one cannot do asanas or sit up straight, then sit against a wall or in a firm chair. One should sit perfectly still, breathe slowly and deeply, keep the mouth closed, and the tongue still. Fixing the mind on Sri Guru, Sriman Mahaprabhu, and the lotus feet of Radha and Krishna or a personal ista-deva, begin chanting with total absorption, feeling, and surrender. Meditate deeply on the meaning of each word and on the conception of the whole mantra.

(Excerpt from Gayatri Mahima Madhuri by Mahanidhi Swami)

Asana pranayama and mantra dhyana ki jai!

Jai Jai Sri Radhe!

By Mahanidhi Swami

Determination, sincerity and devotion in mantra chanting will definitely bring perfection. Iskcon’s Deity worship manual also encourages correct posture along with manasika or silent japa chanting:

“Japa refers to the silent chanting of the Deity mula mantras, and the Gayatri mantras given by the spiritual master. Try to realize that the mantra is nondifferent from the Deity being worshiped. Sit properly on an asana, perform acamana, and cover the right hand with the upper cloth while chanting. The counting of mantras chanted with the fingers should not be exposed to view.” (Pancha Pradipa)

One will never attain the goal of life by worldly intelligence. By increasing the quality of the chanting, bhakti will enter the heart and carry one to the lotus feet of Giridhari. The only purpose of chanting these mantras is to develop pure love for Krishna. Chanting Gayatri is a powerful form of meditation that yields great results when done with sincerity and seriousness.

Srila Visvanatha Cakravartipada explains how even premamayi Srimati Radharani performs intense meditation upon Her beloved after offering prayers to Her Ishta-Devata:

“’If it is not false when people say, “Gandharvika and Giridhari are eternally one soul,” then please O Giridhari! In order to make this half of our soul happy, kindly appear now right here before My eyes!’

“Praying thus, Srimati Radhika then closed Her eyes, and began to meditate upon the beloved of Her soul, Sri Giridhari. Shutting off all the activities of Her senses just like a yogini, Radhika sat motionless while totally fixed in an unbreakable condition of silence.” (Prema Samputa)

All Vaisnavas who take initiation (mantra-diksa) are duty bound to chant their diksa mantras purely without offense daily for their entire lives. Such daily performance of religious rites is called ahnika. The mantras given by the guru may vary, but they usually include the Guru-mantra/gayatri, Gaura & Pancha Tattva m/g, Gopala-mantra, Kama-gayatri, Radha m/g, Panca-tattva mantra, and the Hare Krishna maha-mantra. Conceiving these mantras to be the form of Bhagavan, one should chant them with great faith, love and affection. These mantras are not ordinary; they are completely transcendental and full of unlimited spiritual power.

Before chanting one should bathe, apply tilaka, dress in clean cloth, tie the sikha, and sit on a pure asana. Diksa mantras should be chanted in a quiet, sanctified and peaceful place, ideally in view of the temple Deities or one’s personal Thakuraji.

One can only imagine how quiet and peaceful Vrndavana must have been five hundred years ago during the time of Sri Rupa and Sanatana Gosvami. Still the Gosvamis chose the most secluded places to concentrate on their chanting and lila smarana. In Gokula, Srila Sanatana Gosvami did bhajana in a cave fifteen feet underground. Raghava Gosvami stayed in a cave at Govardhana. And in Unchagoan, Narayana Bhatta Gosvami had a bhajana kutira twenty feet underground. These acaryas show the importance of a “distraction free enviroment” for proper concentration in bhajana.

In the absence of caves for chanting, some devotees today wear earplugs or sound headphones to block out distracting noises while chanting. Using such devices to create a quiet, distraction free environment will definitely improve the quality of one’s chanting. If one tries this technique he will realize the inner meaning of the phrase “silence is golden.” Personally, we often use such headphones while chanting and find them very helpful.

One should try to always chant near Thakuraji or Tulasi Maharani. Alternative places prescribed in sastras include simply facing east, or sitting beside or standing waist deep in a sacred river such as the Yamuna or Ganga. Also sitting beside the ocean or on a mountaintop are auspicious places to chant mantras.

Mantra benefits vary depending on the chanting location: “Chanting diksa mantras on one’s personal purified asana yield one time the benefit; chanting outside yields 1,000 times the benefit; chanting in a river yields 100,000 times the benefit; chanting in front of Thakuraji or the Deities gives unlimited benefit.” (Linga Purana)

“Gayatri japa done in a tulasi garden, in a goshalla, on a temple grounds, or in the presence of the guru very easily controls the mind, brings perfection and spiritual joy.” (Tantrasara)

One should not chant Gayatri in a moving vehicle, on a bed, or with one’s back to a temple, fire, peepul tree (ashvatta vrksha), or a body of water. After selecting the proper time and place, one should sanctify the mind and consciousness. This is done by performing acamana, bhuta-suddhi, and by begging for the mercy of Sri Guru and other personal guardians of devotion.

Bhuta-suddhi will be described in the next article.

(Excerpt from Gayatri Mahima Madhuri by Mahanidhi Swami)

Asana and Mantra Phala ki jai!

Jai Jai Sri Radhe!

By Mahanidhi Swami

In the Bhagavad-gita Krishna says that among sacrifices He is japa yajna, the sacrifice of chanting japa. The Agni Purana defines japa thus: “The syllable “ja” destroys the cycle of birth and death, and the syllable “pa” destroys all sins (papa). Japa, therefore, is that which destroys all sins, stops the cycle of birth and death, and liberates the soul from bondage.”

There are three forms of chanting mantras. The third form is called uccaih or loud chanting, which specifically refers to Hari Nama Sankirtana, which benefits both the chanters and any who hears. The other two forms refer to chanting diksa mantras or Hare Krishna mantra on japa beads.

They are upamsu (audible) and manasika (mental). Upamsu means murmuring or repeating the mantra while moving the lips and making a slight sound or whisper. Manasika (mental or meditative) japa is done by concentrating upon the meaning of each word, along with meditating on the mantra’s full conception without moving the tongue and lips or making any sound.

In this regard, Manu-samhita says, “Manasika japa is a thousand times greater than upamsu japa.”

Indeed, manasika japa is the most powerful form of chanting mantras. But it is only possible for sadhakas who are pure, peaceful, and filled with goodness (sattva-guna). So one can easily understand that manasika japa, or silent meditative chanting is very difficult to perform in this age of anxiety, agitation and mental impurity. Therefore acaryas recommend upamsu japa, uttering the mantras quietly and very clearly in order to remove ignorance and lethargy from the mind.

According to the personal servant of Srila Prabhupada, Hari Sauri Prabhu, His Divine Grace did upamsu japa while chanting Gayatri. Thus, one should choose a chanting method based on his qualification and the order of the spiritual master.

Diksa mantras work and give results only when one maintains internal and external cleanliness. To chant successfully one must acquire the good qualities of tranquility, self-control, austerity, and cleanliness, e.g. twice daily bathing and wearing clean cloth.

Other perquisites for chanting success are mental purity, achieved by chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra, reciting prayers for identity purification (bhuta-shuddhi), and deep concentration on the meaning of the mantras. The next installment will explain more details to bring mantra perfection.

(Excerpt from Gayatri Mahima Madhuri by Mahanidhi Swami)

Diksa mantras ki jai!

Jai Jai Sri Radhe!