— Chapter Twelve —

Chanting Inattentively is Offensive

All glories to Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu; all glories to all devotees of the Lord. I can perform congregational chanting of the holy name of the Lord by their causeless grace alone.

Pramada or inattentive chanting

SRILA HARIDASA THAKURA further explained, "O Lord Caitanya, You instructed Srila Sanatana Gosvami here in Jagannatha Puri, and Srila Gopala Bhatta Gosvami in South India, that the holy name must be chanted attentively. Inattention in chanting is namaparadha. One may carefully avoid all other namaparadhas, yet still not experience the of the pure name. This is an indication of another type of namaparadha known as pramada, which restricts the natural growth of pure devotion.

Inattentiveness is negligence

"Inattentiveness and negligence are synonymous. Negligent chanting sows the seeds of ananhas, which soon fructify. Inattentiveness is of three kinds. The first is called audasinya, or apathetic devotional service, meaning a lack of fixed resolve in sadhana. The second type is jadya, 'laziness' or even 'inertia'. The third kind is viksepa, which means 'distraction' or misplacing one's attention in engagements not directly connected with sadhana-bhakti.

One must chant attentively to develop anuraga

"By a special stroke of good fortune, jiva develops enough sraddha to take shelter of the holy name. By regularly chanting a fixed number of holy names with special care and attention, he gradually progresses towards anuraga, or spontaneous attraction for the Lord's name. He should chant his prescribed number of rounds on a tulasi-mala and gradually increase his chanting with time. Before he reaches the stage of anuraga, he must be extremely cautious about his chanting.

"People are naturally attached to material things. Their memories are absorbed in matter. On the one hand, someone chants the holy name, but his mind and attention are far away from his chanting. Even if he chants one lakh (one hundred thousand) holy names on his mala, not a drop of taste for the Lord's name is produced in his heart. This is a vivid example of inattentive chanting and its result. It is difficult to restrain the heart of a materialist from such offenses.

The process of careful chanting

"One must make it his daily routine to chant for an hour in the company of a saintly Vaisnava in a lonely, secluded spot. Taking note of the Vaisnava's devotional attitude and his relish for the holy name, the neophyte should try to emulate this mood and gradually rid himself of his apathy to chanting. Step-by-step, his mind and attention becomes fixed in the holy name.

By constant chanting, the mellow of the holy name makes him anxious, to taste more of that nectar. He is attracted to be in the presence of Tulasi-devi and to reside in a place of Lord Krsna's pastimes. Always seeking the association of saintly devotees, he takes up their discipline. He follows in the footsteps of previous pure devotees in relishing the sublime joy of intimate devotional service, or bhajana. He begins with an hour of bhajana, then two, then increases it to four; finally, he chants not less than three lakhs of holy names a day. This helps him to soon sever his links with materialism.

"Another effective method to remove apathy towards the holy name is to sit in a closed room alone and meditate on the name as did the previous sages. If that is not possible, then one should cover the head and face with a cloth and concentrate on the holy name. Slowly, one develops attraction for the holy name. Apathy and inattentivencss will gradually vanish.

The symptoms of laziness or jadya

"Indulging in laziness (jadya) prevents a person from relishing the nectar of the holy name. He begins by chanting and remembering the holy name, but very soon feels it unendurable and wants to sleep. Advanced devotees are cautious about this offense. They never waste a single moment in useless talks or activities, constantly meditating on the Lord's holy name. They are so absorbed in the nectar of the holy name that they do not care for anything else. One must make an effort to associate with such rare devotees and follow their example, thus ridding oneself of laziness. It is the nature of saintly Vaisnavas to be always engaged in devotional activities. They never waste rime uselessly. Seeing this, one will become immediately attracted to this devotional trait.

One will ask himself how he can also become like these devotees, immersed in meditation upon the holy name? How, from this very day, can he gradually increase his chanting until he can actually chant three lakhs of holy names with inspiration and eagerness? When Lord Krsna sees such enthusiasm, He reciprocates by removing the neophyte's mental inertia with the power of His name, and by bringing him into the association of advanced devotees.

Distraction (viksepa) and the antidote

"Distraction in chanting produces a type of illusion, causing serious offenses against the holy name that are very difficult to overcome. This illusion leads to craving for wealth, women, position, success and even cheating. When these attractions cover the heart, the neophyte gradually loses interest in chanting of the holy name.

"One must make a constant effort to drive these thoughts away from the mind and diligently follow the rules of Vaisnava etiquette. This endeavor will bring back his good fortune. Hs must begin by observing ekadasi vows, appearance days of the Lord and other important festival days. He should spend the entire festival day and night chanting and singing the glories of the Lord in association of saintly devotees. The ideal way to observe these festivals is to be in one of the dhamas (Navadvipa, Vrndavana, Puri, etc.) with sadhus (pure devotees in the line of Srila Rupa Gosvami) reading and discussing sastra (Vedic literatures like Bhagavad gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam and other Vaisnava scriptures). He should wholeheartedly participate in. these festivals without anxiety or hesitation. These festivals will gradually re-kindle the dying spark of spiritual taste. Thus he will gradually again become attracted to the pastimes of the Supreme Lord.

"Tasting the superior flavor of pure spirituality, he'll naturally be disgusted by his inferior material attachments. He'll be enraptured by the sweet songs about the Supreme Lord sung by the devotees, and his ears will fill up with nectar. His mind will become dislodged from matter and fixed in the pastimes and holy names of the Lord. When his mind is once again settled upon the holy name, he can chant eternally in a joyous and peaceful mood.

Enthusiasm for chanting

"One must diligently complete the prescribed number of holy names according, to his vow, and he must always check that he chants his rounds sincerely. Those who chant distractedly are always eager to somehow complete the fixed number of holy names and be done with it. It is important to concentrate on the quality of the chanting and not on trying to artificially increase the number of holy names. The name of the Lord should be pronounced distinctly. Only by the grace of the Lord can this be achieved. Thus one should pray to the Lord that he never falls victim to the wiles of the illusion of distraction, and that he can continue to taste the full nectar of the holy name.

Procedure for overcoming distraction

"The devotee should make it a regular practice to spend a little time alone in a quiet place and concentrate deeply on the holy name. He should utter and hear the name distinctly, It is impossible for the jiva to singlehandedly avoid and overcome the illusion of distraction, by the mercy of the Lord, however, this is accomplished with ease. Therefore it is essential to fervently beg for the Lord's grace with great humility. This is the jiva's only means of salvation.

The necessity of developing enthusiasm

"O Lord Caitanya! You are an ocean of compassion! My anxious heart begs mercy from You. If I do not become conscientious and pray for Your grace, then no one is more unfortunate than I am.

"Those who attempt to take up devotional service on the merits of their individual intelligence and mental expertise will find that all their endeavors are fruitless. Lord Krsna's mercy is the prime cause of success in all work. One who does not aspire to obtain the Lord's mercy is indeed a very miserable soul.

"A little earlier we spoke about concentrating deeply on the holy name. Lord Caitanya's advice to everyone on this matter is found in the Caitanya-Bhagavata [Madhya-lila 23,650]:

"Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare; Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare. The Lord said, 'Here is the maha-mantra, now go and do japa meditation and chant the holy names a prescribed number of times (nirbandha).

You will achieve all desirable perfection from chanting. Just chant the holy name constantly, because no rules or regulations can restrict it.'

&qout;The word nirbandha needs elaboration. The sadhaka should chant the maha-mantra on Tulasi beads. A japa-mala has 108 beads. Four rounds on the mala makes a granthi. By gradually increasing his chanting, the sadhaka should aspire to chant 16 granthis or one lakh of holy names; in particular this number is considered as nirbandha. If chanting is then even further increased to three lakhs of names, the devotee will always be immersed in the Lord's holy name. All the previous acaryas and mahajanas have followed this instruction of Lord Caitanya and attained perfection. Even now, anyone can attain perfection by proper chanting. Everyone, including the liberated souls, the salvationists and materialists, are eligible to chant the holy name of the Lord. A distinctly different mood of chanting is visible in liberated souls, but the nectar of the holy name is relished in any of these moods, whether in spiritual enjoyment because of union with the Lord, or in the pangs of separation from the Lord."

One who wears the gem of Harinama Cintamani as a crown upon his head will certainly find shelter at Srila Haridasa Thakura's lotus feet.