The following article is taken from the teachings of His Holiness Sachinanadana Swami, a disciple of Srila Prabhupada, adapted for our Chant Now friends and students.
MEETING THE LIVING NAME
Let us ask you a simple question: When are you alive?’
A possible answer: when spiritual energy – the life-force – is at work. When this energy leaves, the body is dead.
It is explained in the bhakti tradition that in this world of life and death only two spiritual entities exist: individual souls and the supreme soul, or our divine source. In the same tradition, this divine source is easily accessible through vibration, represented by the Hare Krishna maha-mantra. The art of chanting is to bring the two together, the soul and the source (represented through the sound vibration). All else is lifeless matter.
The maha-mantra is always alive but the soul becomes spiritually alive only when it actually meets the mantra and chants in that spirit. Otherwise the soul is like a spark out of fire. Almost dead.
Mechanical chanting, where we are absent-minded, will not work for we only meet the shadow of the mantra – not the real Living Names.
At Chant Now and in the Bhakti tradition you will find timeless teachings, tips and meditations that will help you connect with the actual living Hare Krishna maha-mantra. There is a progressive development in chanting where higher and higher stages await the chanter – each one bestowing different kinds of spiritual delights as the maha-mantra unfolds more and more of its excellences and qualities.
And then finally the greatest mystery will be revealed: that the maha-mantra is absolutely identical with Krishna, our source, and His pleasure potency, Sri Radha, Hare.
In one sense, that is the end of the journey. In another, it is only the beginning of yet another journey of divine love with the pure Holy Name (“suddha-nāma”).
A note specifically about chanting meditation “japa”:
The spiritual practice of japa chanting is ordinarily counted as one of the practices of dhyāna (meditation), hence the term ‘japa-meditation.’
However, in this Bhakti tradition, kirtan, or glorification aloud, takes precedence over silent meditation. So, while other traditions chant their japa silently within their minds, we chant softly or sometimes when devotional feelings take over, even loudly. Thus, elements of kirtan and specifically the audible utterance of the maha mantra have carried into japa meditation.
Another note about meditation:
Our teacher Srila Prabhupāda talked extensively about methods for mind and sense control. These are not an end in themselves but meant to help one absorb the mind in Krishna. When they help us do this they are welcome.
In this regard, Srila Prabhupada wrote:
“As stated in the Bhagavad-gita (8.8) it is said that one must practice the breathing exercise (abhyāsa-yoga-yuktena). By virtue of these processes of control, the mind cannot wander to external thoughts. Thus one can fix his mind constantly on the Supreme Personality of Godhead and can attain (yāti) Him… If one concentrates his mind on hearing and chanting Hare Krsna, the same result is achieved. (Srimad Bhāgavatam 3.28.9, purport)
Lastly, it is essential that you enter the mood of a receiver rather than achiever. While performing any spiritual practice, we have to train ourselves to do this because ultimately the secrets of Krishna consciousness are gifts given by Krishna. This means we have to attract the mercy of Krishna.
Two practical steps for entering the right mood and attracting Krishna are:
1) Open yourself up to higher guidance and watch readily for the little hints that come your way
2) Patiently endure the ups and downs as you enter new territories.
Exercising patience also means not to expect divine revelation in the way you want. If you gratefully accept whatever comes, you will get much more than you expect and often through unexpected avenues.
As Srila Prabhupāda says, “The Lord is all-powerful and in His presence anything can be made possible by His inconceivable energy.”