Thursday, May 1, 2014

Chanting the Holy Name

"Nama cintamani krsna chaitanya rasa vigrahah
Purnam suddho nityamukto bhinnatvat nama-naminoh
The Name of Krsna is spiritual gemstone, the form of all transcendental mellows. It is complete, pure, and eternally liberated, due to the non-difference between the Name and the Named (Krsna)"

Forty years ago, I was initiated into the chanting of the Hare Krsna Mahamantra - Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare, which I would chant 1,728 times daily (16 malas of 108 beads) or approximately 25,000 Names of God daily.  However, when I got into Self inquiry, it was one of the things I let go. 

Sporadically over the years, I have taken it up again, chanting the required 16 malas or "rounds" of the mantra - something that generally takes 1-1/2 to 2 hours. 

As I mentioned in my Advaita Apostasy post, I have felt somewhat dissatisfied of late. In the last few years, I have had a number of mild to severe health problems, including a minor heart attack.  I was also approaching my 60th birthday, which I reached this last Tuesday.   In spite of having some recognition of Consciousness, and recognizing clearly that I am NOT the body, there was still something missing.

Browsing through the Srimad Bhagavatam, I came again across the story of Vyasadeva's dissatisfaction.  Now, for those who don't know, Vyasa, is considered to be an incarnation of God, who at the beginning of Kali Yuga - the present age - compiled all of the Vedic literatures - the 4 Vedas, Upanisads, the epics Mahabharata and Ramayana, and so on.  However, he still felt unhappy despite having given this incredible knowledge.  His Guru, Narada Muni approached him and asked about his dissatisfaction, and ultimately explained that, while he had given the knowledge of Self realization, he had failed to describe the actual pastimes of God. That the Name, Form, and Pastimes of God are transcendentally sweet and those things alone can satisfy the heart.

Much like Vyasa, and not being particularly satisfied at heart, and additionally recognizing that, although it may not come immediately, certainly physical death is an inevitability for all of us, and perhaps sooner for some, I recently took to chanting the Hare Krsna mantra again.

When my spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, first asked his disciples to chant, he said that they should chant 64 rounds daily (100,000 names daily or 64 rounds - which generally requires 6 to 8 hours).  The devotees sort of stared blankly at him, and said "No way!"  So then, he suggested 32 rounds, which was again met with a look of disbelief.  Finally, he said 16 rounds, which became the standard. However, the tradition was a minimum of 64 rounds, and he mentioned this on a number of occasions, and also encouraged us to chant the Holy Names constantly. 

So, with all these things in mind, and not being particularly  occupied otherwise, I made a commitment to chanting at least 64 rounds daily.  It wasn't very easy at first, but I would often remember Srila Haridasa Thakur (the  photo above is of a deity  of him), who used to chant 300,000 names daily or approximately  192 rounds, giving VERY little time for anything besides chanting. Of course, there were no TV's or video games to distract one from his business, and it was possible to live much more easily without a job.

One of my favorite verses has always been:
"Smartavyah satatam visnur vismartavyoh na jatucit
Sarve vidhi nisedha syur etayor eva kinkarah"
"Always remember God and never forget Him. All of the other rules and regulations are the servants of these two (to always remember and never forget)."

Chanting, for me, is the easiest way to be in constant attentiveness to the Divine - hearing and feeling God within and all around me.  And that, I believe, IS the  prime purpose of life... to fully recognize our true spiritual nature, above simply the recognition of being Consciousness, but as sparks of the Orignal Godhead, or part and parcel of Sri Krsna.  And certainly NOT to try to increase our individual enjoyment and seek to become God ourselves. 

Okay, I'm ranting a bit, and I apologize. I do know that there are various paths to the Absolute, and according to time and circumstances, we each need to find that path which truly calls to our heart and seems to be the highest opportunity for our spiritual awakening.  For me, I can find nothing that so attracts me and gives me solace, as chanting the Divine Names of Sri Sri Radha Krsna - 
Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

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