MY FAMILY AND I spend a few minutes each morning memorizing Sanskrit verses, or slokas. One of us recites a sloka line by line, and the rest of us repeat. We've followed this simple practice for a year now, and already I can see some good effects. Our home is becoming more spiritualized, more "Krsna-ized."
Srila Prabhupada explains in Bhagavad-gita As It Is that the practices of Krsna consciousness respiritualize us. A transcendental flow of sound in the form of mantras can animate our spiritually inert minds.
The Hare Krsna maha-mantra is the chief of all mantras. And the verses of the Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam are all considered mantras.Krsnas own words and the descriptions of His qualities and activities are on the same absolute platform as Krsna Himself. They are therefore known as sabdabrahma, transcendental sound.
Learning verses helps us remember Krsna at various times of the day. When the moon floats in the sky or the sun rises, we can remember, prabhasmi sasi-surayah: "I am the light of the sun and the moon" (Bhagavad-gita 7.8). When we drink raso 'ham apsu kaunteya: "I am the taste of water" (Bhagavad-gita 7.8). When we cook patram puspam phalam toyam yo me bhaktya prayacchati: "If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit, or water, I will accept it." (Bhagavad-gita9.26). When we go to work karmany evadhikaras te ma phalesu kadacana: "You have a right to perform your prescribed duty, but you are not entitled to the fruits of work" (Bhagavad-gita 2.47). Or when our mind feels disturbed asamsayam maha-baho mano durnigraham calam/ abhyasena tu kaunteya vairagyena ca grhyate: "O mighty-armed son of Kunti, it is undoubtedly very difficult to curb the restless mind, but it is possible by suitable practice and by detachment" (Bhagavad-gita6.35).
Lord Krsna in the form of sound can be with us in all phases of our life. Krsna is already with us, but we have lost touch with Him. Learning verses is an effective way to remember Him again.
Learning verses will also help us become purified of the muddy covering of Maya, the goddess of illusion, who uses her charms to distract us from life's purpose of spiritual perfection. Maya allures everyone in gross and subtle ways. TV, music, football, computers, sex, gossip, a new mountain-bike, the beauty of nature all these temporary shadows of reality are apt to distract us from our eternal connection with Krsna. But the challenge of learning a new verse will help our wandering mind concentrate on something real and strengthen our ability to distinguish reality from illusion. Through the eyes of scripture (sastra-caksuh) we'll see the world for what it is.
Learning verses is fun, too. As a family, we have a lot of fun quizzing one another and bringing verses into our conversations.
Srila Prabhupada wanted his followers to learn verses. The verses he learned as a child proved useful in his preaching later on. And your children too, by learning some verses, will later in life be able to draw upon a storehouse of essential knowledge in concise form.
The Vedic culture is preserved mainly through sound. So the Krsna consciousness movement, through sound, is trying to establish spiritual culture in every home. One way we can take part in this great effort is by being repositories of mantras. Our attempt to understand Krsna consciousness and spread it to others will be enhanced when supported by the sound of scripture.
You may be finding all this a bit daunting. When you hear a class at a temple or listen to a taped lecture by Srila Prabhupada, you may sometimes feel lost in a maze of unfamiliar verses and unfamiliar words. But as you hear more, you'll pick up certain words that appear regularly. Besides the names of Lord Krsna, you'll often hear words like karma, jnana, bhakti, tattva, jiva, and dharma. As these words become familiar, your knowledge will expand until you feel at ease reading Srila Prabhupada's books or hearing him or his devotees speak.
If you have a big block about Sanskrit, it's fine to simply learn the verses or at least the ideas in English. The pure sound of the Sanskrit language has benefit, but as Srila Prabhupada explained, the thoughts behind the language are its most important feature.
Somehow or other, add mantras to your life.
Rohininandana Dasa lives in southern England with his wife and their three children. Write to him at Woodgate Cottage, Beckley Nr. Rye, E. Sussex TN31 6UH, UK.