ISKCON Prabhupada Village
Chanting Hare Krishna

Srila Prabhupada ChantingWhat's So Special About Chanting Hare Krishna?
By Stephen Knapp

Most people have heard the Hare Krishna mantra at some time or other, but what the heck is so special about this mantra? Why are we supposed to spend time chanting it? What can it do for us?

First of all, let me explain a little about mantra-yoga. Mantra-yoga is actually a mystical tradition found in almost every spiritual path in the world. It may involve the softly spoken repetition of a prayer or mantra for one's own meditation, or it may be the congregational singing of spiritually uplifting songs, prayers, or the sacred names of the Supreme Being. It all involves the same process, but in the Eastern tradition it is called mantra-yoga because it is the easy process of focusing our minds on the Supreme, which helps spiritualize our consciousness. Man means the mind, tra means deliverance. Therefore, a spiritual mantra is the pure sound vibration for delivering the mind from material to spiritual consciousness. This is the goal of any spiritual path. Although all spiritual traditions have their own prayers or mantras, the Vedic mantras are especially powerful and effective in uniting us with the spiritual realm. However, a complete yoga process is generally a blend of a few yoga systems, such as bhakti-yoga with mantra-yoga. Therefore, bhakti-yoga, as described in the previous chapters, also includes mantra-yoga, or the process of concentrating on the sound vibration within a mantra. This is especially important in this age of Kali.

According to the predominant types of sound vibration people associate with through T.V. and radio, or in reading articles in magazines and newspapers, they become attracted to certain things or drawn towards certain viewpoints. When television shows, songs on the radio, stories in magazines, and advertising everywhere propagates the concern for temporary sense gratification, then people lose their interest in the real goal of life. They simply become absorbed in the thoughts of whatever type of sound vibration enters their consciousness. When nonsensical sound vibrations enter and contaminate the ether, the air, water, and the very molecular structure of each and every person, place and thing, then we cannot expect anything else but continued and worsening turmoil and perplexities in the world.

There are many kinds of sound vibrations, mantras, or prayers that can be used for gaining money, maintaining health, defeating enemies, getting good luck, subduing evil spirits, counteracting snake bite, and so on. There are countless mantras or prayers for temporary results, not only in the Vedic culture but in other cultures as well. The most powerful mantras are those that can completely free one from this material world and the cycle of birth and death and allow one to enter the spiritual realm. As already established, there is no mantra more powerful for this purpose than the Hare Krishna maha-mantra.

The way the maha-mantra works is a science. The proper way to chant is to give up all of our internal thoughts. As mentioned before, it is almost impossible to meditate on the void and empty our mind of all thinking. Our mind is always being pulled here and there by something. But the chanting process is easy because we simply concentrate on the mantra. However, our meditation on the mantra will be most effective if we can avoid the internal dialogue we always have within our mind. We should not be chanting while we make plans for the day, or while focusing our attention on other things. The maha-mantra is the Supreme in the incarnation of sound. Therefore, we must chant with complete respect and veneration. The process is to simply chant and hear. That is all. If we can do that, then we will make rapid progress in self realization.

To begin progressing on the path of chanting the maha-mantra, it is prescribed that the practitioner chant on beads called japa-mala, similar to a rosary that consists of 108 beads with one extra head bead, which is larger than the others. This represents the 108 Upanishads, or, as described elsewhere, Krishna represented as the head bead surrounded by 108 of His most beloved devotees. For making your own japa beads, read this complete article at: http://www.stephen-knapp.com/chanting_hare_krishna.htm

One chants the Hare Krishna mantra once on each bead from the head bead all the way around the 108 beads. This is one round, or one mala. Then without chanting on the Krishna bead, turn the beads around in your hand and go in the opposite direction and chant another round. One should try to set a certain amount of time aside each day, preferably in the morning, to peacefully sit down or walk and chant the particular number of rounds you have set for yourself. One may chant two rounds, four rounds, or whatever one can do.

For those who are serious, it is prescribed that they chant a total of at least sixteen rounds every day. With a little practice, this normally takes about two hours. Two rounds will take about fifteen minutes. But one should set a fixed number of rounds to chant every day. Then one can also spend some time reading Bhagavad-gita or Srimad-Bhagavatam to enhance his or her spiritual development. A daily program of chanting and reading will produce definite results very quickly.

As you become regulated in your chanting and study, on a daily basis, changes will begin to manifest in your consciousness that may be imperceptible at first, while other changes begin that will be noticeable from the start. You will often notice an internal energy within you that was not there before. Amongst other things, you may also feel self confidence in your own position and purpose in life, and a closer affinity with God and all beings. Of course, this is just the beginning, so if you do this regularly, deeper insights and realizations will occur as your consciousness acquires more clarity and purification.

This is an edited version of a detailed, comprehensive article written by Stephen, Sri Nandanandana das. To read the article in full click here: http://www.stephen-knapp.com/chanting_hare_krishna.htm

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