Today, I thought I’d write about chanting the mahamantra or the Hare Krishna mantra.
The Hare Krishna Mantra:
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare
1 round of chanting means repeating the above 16 words or the mantra 108 times. This is called a japa. It is recommended that devotees chant 16 rounds a day, when they are comfortable of course. There’s no rush. Unless it’s your own need to get closer to Krishna as soon as possible. The important thing to remember is that you need to take your time as it is a gradual process. You need to avoid rushing through reciting the mantra. You can’t be mumbling the words. It’s important to hear the names of the Lord. It’s important to say them clearly in order to do that. The aim is to develop a love for singing the names of the Lord. In this age of Kali, this mantra is the incarnation of Krishna. This is Krishna here on earth for us, in the form of His Holy Names, dancing on our tongues, setting off waves in our minds and explosions in our hearts.
It is, of course, important to really concentrate while chanting. Our minds are unsteady and often wander over to a lot of other distant countries, meeting different people along the way. It’s important to call ourselves back and then let ourselves go, if that makes any sense.
Quick notes on chanting:
- It is advised to seek the blessings of Lord Chaitanya (another incarnation of Krishna) and other Prabhus or Devotees with this mantra before beginning the recitation of the Hare Krishna Mantra japa and at the beginning of each round:
Jayshree Krishna Chaitanya
Sri advaita gadhadara
Srivasadi Gaura Bhakta
- When your mind begins to wander, focus on the meaning of the mantra. Hare (pronounced ha-ray) is another name for Radha (Krishna’s consort) and means energy. Krishna is our Supreme Being and Rama is another one of His incarnations. So when we recite the mantra, we are pleading to be engaged in the Lord’s devotional service. We are asking to be engaged in only loving Krishna and serving Him.
NOTE:I have also read in some places that we are asking Radha, who is known for her unconditional love for Krishna and His greatest devotee, to teach us to love Krishna and engage us in His devotional service. However, the meaning of the mantra is the same: A plea to be engaged in serving Krishna and loving Him.
- If you’re chanting on beads, don’t use your forefinger to handle the beads. The forefinger is considered inauspicious because we often use it to point at someone, or when we blame or yell at someone. On beads, we must never cross the big bead, which is called the Guru/Krishna bead. You would start immediately after the big bead, saying the Jayshree Krishna Chaitanya prayer, and then the Hare Krishna mantra. Once you reach the big bead, at the end of 108 repetitions, you would turn the beads around and start again, with Jayshree Krishna Chaitanya prayers, and then the Hare Krishna mantra. So you would never go over the Guru bead. You go one way, and at the end of 1 round, you go back the way you came.
- If you find it difficult to remain focused, you could try meditating on a picture of Krishna and and Radha. I have tried this and it helps me focus. (I often imagine that I am singing the mahamantra to Krishna and that He is thoroughly enjoying it.)
- If you’re having trouble reciting the mantra, then SING IT! It’s fabulous. There are lots of recordings of devotees singing the Hare Krishna mantra. You could sing along, or perhaps compose your own tune. Ah, that would be a great service to Krishna and our fellow Vaishnavas. We could never have enough of these transcendental vibes!
- You can chant according to your mood. Chances are, your mood will change into ecstasy within a few minutes. I often chant/sing in accordance with how I’m feeling. If I’m feeling angry or I’m in the mode of passion, my chanting is louder and faster than normal. If I’m feeling rather lethargic and lackadaisical (gotta love that word), which is basically in the mode of ignorance, I chant/sing very slowly and try my best to hear the words I am saying. Within a while, the power of the Holy Name manifests itself and I often find that I am chanting with peace and out of love and ecstasy.
Remember, we are chanting for the satisfaction of Lord Krishna. We chant to get closer to Him than we already are, and to learn more about Him so that sooner or later, we can go back to Him and serve and love Him forever. So chant out of love. And if that’s missing, don’t worry. One step towards Krishna and He takes 10 steps towards you. As you chant more, as you develop a taste for the names of the Lord, the love will flow. Trust me, it really will 🙂 I’m talking out of personal experience. My next blog will be about my experiences with chanting the Holy Name. Tune in 🙂