Chanting the Lord's name with full attention removes hindrances to pure chanting.
This is the second in a series of articles on offenses to be avoided by anyone trying to progress spiritually by chanting the names of the Lord. This article discusses the offense of being inattentive while chanting the holy names.
One day I sat with a group of friends, speaking of the day's business. Some other people walked by, and one of my friends thought he heard his name.
"Did you mention me?" He asked the passersby.
"No, we said something else," they replied.
Disappointed, he turned back to our conversation.
I thought of how when we are in a crowded room, others' conversation becomes a background buzz, but if our name is spoken, somehow we distinguish it and become alert.
Krsna also is interested when it seems we're calling Him.
"Oh, do you want Me?" He asks.
But if we really said something else, or if we said His name carelessly, He will wait until we truly want Him. Therefore Srila Prabhupada writes and speaks about chanting the Hare Krsna mantra with quality. To take a vow to meet a quota of chanting is certainly valuable—simply doing so shows spiritual sincerity—but the quality must be there as well. For beginners, making our quota may seem enough of a challenge. Still, we must progress to chanting that is a true call to the Lord.
When we chant with attention and in a mood of surrender and devotion, Krsna naturally reciprocates with us. Then we quickly overcome all other obstacles to chanting, to spiritual life in general, and to our goal of perfect love for God. But if our chanting is without attention, all the hindrances will remain, if not increase.
Why is attentive chanting the key to being free from all other offenses to the name? When we chant with attention, we are in touch with Krsna, who will then show us how, for example, we are dealing with other devotees with less than respect.
The root of inattention is distraction, or having an interest in something other than the name we are saying. This interest can be in wealth, material success, the opposite sex, position in society, or so many other things. Chanting with distraction is like asking someone a question and then thinking of other things, maybe even looking out the window, when they respond.
Besides basic distraction, chanting is inattentive if one is lazy—one's sluggish mind keeps stopping its focus on the name. We can also just be indifferent to the name, which from a spiritual point of view is madness—how can a sane person not value the holy name?
Aids to Attentive Chanting
To chant with care and attention, we should first be attentive to completing a fixed number of Hare Krsna mantras daily. Any initiated disciple in the International Society for Krishna Consciousness must chant at least 1,728 mantras daily (16 times around the string of 108 beads), but beginners can start with any number, as long as there is steadiness. Steady, regular service is appreciated in any section of society; in spiritual life it is a sign of sincerity and devotion to the path.
To chant with full concentration, it is best to chant in a peaceful place.
The best places are sheltered from material influence. One can chant in a temple, a sacred place of Krsna's pastimes, or any quiet, secluded spot. One's home can be a temple, if Krsna's deity and Krsna's pleasure are made the center of life. The Hare Krsna movement has many temples for public worship and education. In India, numerous traditional temples are devoted to Lord Krsna, many at places where the He incarnated, displaying His divine activities.
Chanting with persons advanced in spiritual understanding helps too. Laziness will flee if our friends are those who eagerly absorb their consciousness in chanting, without wasting time in useless diversions. Naturally, in their company we will also imbibe a sense of urgency and determination.
It helps to chant at a quiet time (early morning is ideal). An inner mood of begging for Krsna's mercy is also essential. These remedies will soon vanquish our insane indifference to the holy name.
A Wish for Millions of Mouths
To deal with the foundation of inattention—interest in something other than Krsna and His name—it is wise to have times when we do nothing other than chant day and night. If on a holy day such as Ekadasi or the anniversary of Krsna's appearance we abstain from eating, sleeping, ordinary business, and so on, and simply chant for hours without interruption, gradually our mind will rejoice in Krsna. Such times of total absorption will aid our concentration on ordinary days of chanting.
Having conquered distraction, laziness, and inattention, we will chant, as Prabhupada says, like a child calling its mother—with great intensity, desire, and helplessness.
When our chanting is with full concentration of mind and heart, we will never find it boring, nor will we need to give much care to the stumbling blocks that trip so many on the path to perfection. The blocks will melt into the road, making our way easy and expeditious. Then, like the great teacher Rupa Gosvami, we will say, "I do not know how much nectar the two syllables 'Krs-na' have produced. When the holy name of Krsna is chanted, it appears to dance within the mouth. We then desire many, many mouths. When that name enters the holes of the ears, we desire many millions of ears. And when the holy name dances in the courtyard of the heart, it conquers the activities of the mind, and therefore all the senses become inert."
Urmila Devi Dasi and her family run a school in North Carolina. She is a fre-quent contributor to BTG and the major author and compiler of Vaikuntha Children, a guide to Krsna conscious education for children.