photo by Taruni Tulsi Dasi
The maha mantra is a prayer in which the devotee petitions the Lord for pure love. Prabhupada said the quality of one’s chanting depends on feeling, or the intensity of one’s prayer.
Feeling is first expressed in the heart before it’s expressed in words. The same is true with chanting. Kṛṣṇa is moved by love, not by parrot like repetition. Our challenge is not just to get our rounds done, it is to bring devotional meditation into our chanting. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur said, “Chanting is lip deep, not heart deep.”
Chanting is like the genuine cry of a child for its mother. The maha-mantra has many meanings. Here is a list of some of them:
“Please engage me in your service,”
“Oh my friend. Oh my friend,”
“Please accept me,”
“Please pull my heart to you.”
And there are many other meanings to the mantra that have been given to us by the previous acaryas.
The mood of your chanting is expressed through the particular meaning of the mantra you are meditating upon. As you chant, enter more deeply into the meaning and intent of the maha mantra. You may meditate on one of the meanings the acaryas have given, what it means to you, or a prayer to overcome a difficult anartha or situation you are dealing with. Or you may pray to the holy name simply for pure devotional service.
This kind of meditative chanting prevents what I call “Courtesy Japa” Courtesy japa is done as an obligation to a particular number of rounds we have vowed to chant, a courtesy to that number. Courtesy japa tends to be monotonous, robotic and mechanical.
In contrast to this, chanting is all about feeling, both expressing your feelings/prayers to Kṛṣṇa and also feeling Kṛṣṇa’s presence in His holy names. (Prabhupada said you can feel Kṛṣṇa in His name).
Devotees often ask how to control the mind during japa. I find that if I feelingly pray to the holy names, if I express my heart to Kṛṣṇa though His names, I transcend the fluctuations of my mind. In other words, when the heart expresses itself, the mind tends to turn off – or just follows the call of the heart. But when the mind is active and distracted, our heart tends to close. So the solution to controlling the mind is to open the heart.
As you chant reflect on what you are trying to achieve by chanting. This is what I call “intentional chanting.” Why are you chanting? Is it just to finish your quota, or is it to come closer to Kṛṣṇa through pure devotional service? As you reflect on what the maha-mantra means, and how that meaning relates to you personally, you naturally enter a deeper into your chanting.
Write down the realizations you get this week by meditating on the meaning of the mantra.