If we want to chant good rounds, we need to live our lives in a way that supports and nourishes our chanting. Thus, to chant well on a consistent basis we need to live what I call “a holy name lifestyle.”
What is a holy name lifestyle? First, let me give you an example from my own life of what it isn’t. Once I was speaking ill of a devotee late at night – and I was really getting into it. You can guess how my rounds went the next morning? I couldn’t even concentrate. In fact, I didn’t even feel like chanting.
Here’s another example. For weeks I was working long hours in my business. After awhile I noticed that my desire to chant had significantly diminished. It became obvious that I needed more devotional activities in my life to energize my chanting. So even though I had many useful tools and techniques to help improve my chanting, my neglect of sadhana took away my impetus to use those tools.
Fertilize Your Japa
Just as we can act in ways that undermine good japa, we can act in ways that will automatically nourish our chanting. For example, there have been times in which I’ve had very demanding or difficult services, and when I accepted those difficulties and went on enthusiastically with my service, my rounds always got better – even if I made no effort to improve them.
Living our lives in a way that fosters good rounds is really an art. If you allow your life to be predominated by the modes of passion and ignorance, your mind will be disturbed and distracted while you chant. Then you will constantly be in competition with the passion and ignorance within you while trying to focus on the holy name. In this case, it can take you at least eight rounds just to clear out those modes before you can begin to focus on the holy names.
And you don’t need that kind of competition.
Let’s Do Something About This
Let’s look at how we can deal with this.
Make a list of things you do when you are not chanting that might be having a negative effect on your chanting.
Next, make a list of things you could do when you are not chanting that would improve your japa.
Be honest. If you have an attachment to doing certain things that end up having a negative effect on your chanting, admit it and deal with it. Or, if you are averse to doing things that could really be helping your chanting, deal with that also.
Now that you have acknowledged what you need to do and not do (you did the exercise, didn’t you?), you’ll need the impetus to make those changes. I’ve included the following quote to motivate you.
There are many regulative principles in the sastras and directions given by the spiritual master. These regulative principles should act as servants of the basic principle—that is, one should always remember Kṛṣṇa and never forget Him. This is possible when one chants the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra. Therefore one must strictly chant the Hare Kṛṣṇa maha-mantra twenty-four hours daily. One may have other duties to perform under the direction of the spiritual master, but he must first abide by the spiritual master’s order to chant a certain number of rounds. In our Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement, we have recommended that the neophyte chant at least sixteen rounds. This chanting of sixteen rounds is absolutely necessary if one wants to remember Kṛṣṇa and not forget Him. Of all the regulative principles, the spiritual master’s order to chant at least sixteen rounds is most essential –Caitanya Caritamrita Madhya-lila 2.113
To me, this is Prabhupada’s explanation of “there is no other way.” Try as we may to be Kṛṣṇa conscious, if we minimize the importance or quality of our rounds, we minimize our Kṛṣṇa consciousness. There is no way around this.
It does sounds heavy to say there is no other way. It’s true there are many ways to be Kṛṣṇa conscious and, many activities that will purify us. But without chanting the holy names there is no way to get Kṛṣṇa prema. Lord Caitanya came to give Kṛṣṇa consciousness in the mood of the gopis and He benedicted the fallen souls of Kali-yuga with the holy name as the means of attaining this position.
Otherwise, there is no other way to get this.
Wanting Is Not Enough
You may want to be Kṛṣṇa conscious – and that is a wonderful desire to have. But wanting alone is not enough. The mature stage of Kṛṣṇa consciousness is to actually have the desire to be Kṛṣṇa conscious (the more mature we are, the more intense that desire will be). We see that many people come to Kṛṣṇa conscious with the desire to be Kṛṣṇa conscious and later go away because they haven’t properly cultivated that desire through good sadhana and chanting. In other words, chanting is the process by which the “I want” (which often means it would be nice to be Kṛṣṇa conscious if I didn’t have to do all the hard work”) matures into an intense hankering for Kṛṣṇa.
If that desire is not developing, the first place to look is at the quality of your chanting. And if your chanting is to be blamed, it’s likely your lifestyle has something to do with it.
Are you living the holy name lifestyle?