To chant or not to chant

A complete transcript and audio file of this talk can be found here
Why do we chant the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahāmantra? We cannot chant, but if I say you cannot chant, you will be hopeless. If you see one śloka then you will understand what you can do and what you cannot do. This is the vital and main śloka about Harinām-saṅkīrtan:
ataḥ śrī-kṛṣṇa-nāmādi na bhaved grāhyam indriyaiḥ
sevonmukhe hi jihvādau svayam eva sphuraty adaḥ
(Śrī Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu: Pūva-vibhāga, 2.234)
[“Although Kṛṣṇa’s Name, Form, Qualities, and Pastimes cannot be grasped by the material senses, through the spirit of dedication they manifest themselves on the tongue and to the other senses.”]
You cannot chant, because your tongue, your lips, and your body is mundane. Nāmādi means Nāma, Rūpa, Gūṇa, Līlā—Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s Name, Form, Qualities, and Pastimes: They are all transcendental, and your tongue is mundane. Nām nāmī abheda, Kṛṣṇa-nām and Kṛṣṇa are nondifferent: Kṛṣṇa is transcendental and Kṛṣṇa-nām is transcendental. This śloka mentions, na bhaved grāhyam indriyaiḥ: indriyaiḥ means senses. Pañcha indriyaiḥ are the five senses: eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and skin. Through these five senses you cannot contact the Name. Then how will you chant the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahāmantra, can you tell me? You are chanting, ‘Hare Kṛṣṇa Hare Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa Hare Hare‘ through your tongue, and your tongue is mundane, but Kṛṣṇa is transcendental and Harinām is nondifferent from Kṛṣṇa. Na bhaved grāhyam indriyaiḥ: and the scriptures say that you cannot chant, because you have no transcendental tongue. You can immediately understand through this śloka that you cannot chant.
Then what will you do? Will you stop chanting? What is the solution? Sevonmukhe hi jihvādau Svayam eva sphuraty adaḥ: you do sevā, and chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa is also one kind of sevā, because that order was given by your Guru. If you do sevā of Hari-nām in this way, then Hari-nām will appear in your heart. Then, as much as possible, you must try to chant. This is the main thing.
prabhu kahena, —’kṛṣṇa-sevā’, ‘vaiṣṇava-sevana’
‘nirantara kara kṛṣṇa-nāma-saṅkīrtana
(Śrī Chaitanya-charitāmṛta: Madhya-līlā, 15.104)
Mahāprabhu said, “Service to the Vaiṣṇava, service to Guru, can give you that transcendental form, and through that you can chant the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahāmantra.” Then, it is first necessary to give your service to Guru–Vaiṣṇava, and through that you will get everything. Your form will become transcendental.
We also see in the scriptures, in Chaitanya-charitāmṛta,
dīkṣā-kāle bhakta kare ātma-samarpaṇa
sei-kāle kṛṣṇa tāre kare ātma-sama
sei deha kare tāra chid-ānanda-maya
aprākṛta-dehe tā̐ṅra charaṇa bhajaya
(Śrī Chaitanya-charitāmṛta: Antya-līlā, 4.192-193)
[“At the time of initiation, when a devotee fully surrenders unto the service of the Lord, Kṛṣṇa accepts them to be as good as Himself. “When the devotee’s body is thus transformed into spiritual existence, the devotee, in that transcendental body, renders service to the lotus feet of the Lord.”]
 Then, nobody has received initiation from their Guru: the meaning can come this way. Dīkṣā-kāle bhakta kare ātma-samarpaṇa: when you take initiation from your Gurudev you surrender, ātma-samarpaṇa, and immediately Kṛṣṇa in the form of your Guru takes you and makes your body transcendental, and through that transcendental body you can worship Kṛṣṇa. This is the meaning.
Where is that consciousness? Everything depends upon the mood of service. You can chant Hare Kṛṣṇa, but service is essential for Guru–Vaiṣṇava and Harinām, and service to Guru–Vaiṣṇava is more essential and more effective. Where is the proof for that?
In the scriptures we can see that Kṛṣṇa Himself said,
ye me bhakta-janāḥ pārtha na me bhaktāś cha te janāḥ
mad-bhaktānāṁ cha ye bhaktās te me bhaktatamā matāḥ
(Ādi-purāṇa)
“Who is My devotee may not be My devotee, but who is My devotee’s devotee must be My devotee. They are My devotee, I have no doubt. Ye Me bhakta-janāḥ Pārtha na Me bhaktāś cha te janāḥ: who is My devotee is not really My devotee, but who is My devotee’s devotee, they are My devotee, of that I am two hundred percent sure.”
Why is Kṛṣṇa saying that? Kṛṣṇa wants to satisfy His devotee. That is, the devotee is twenty-four hours a day trying to give satisfaction to Kṛṣṇa through their service. That is the nature of the devotee, and Kṛṣṇa naturally wants to give return to them. The rules in the mundane and transcendental world are the same: to every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. When Kṛṣṇa will take, Kṛṣṇa must give return; Kṛṣṇa will not digest that. But how will Kṛṣṇa give return to His devotee? The devotee is engaged twenty-four hours for the service of Kṛṣṇa Himself, and so Kṛṣṇa does not get a chance to give return to His devotee. Automatically Kṛṣṇa is feeling indebted to His devotee, and so He is in a hopeless position, “They are giving so much, they are giving all to Me, and I cannot give anything in return to them.” And what He is trying to give in return, that is coming in a double way return to Kṛṣṇa. So, who is serving the devotee of Kṛṣṇa gets the chance to serve Kṛṣṇa in that way, and Kṛṣṇa gives much encouragement to the devotee’s devotee, “Oh, what I cannot do, you can do that! Then really you are doing My job. What I want to do, you are doing that. Then I am your slave.”
Na pāraye ‘haṁ niravadya-saṁyujāṁ, this śloka is in Śrīmad Bhāgavat (10.32.22), and if you discuss it, then you can understand this immediately: here Kṛṣṇa Himself says, “I cannot repay My debt to My devotee. But My devotee’s devotee is always serving My devotee. Then service to Harinām, service to the devotee’s devotee, is very essential, and Prabhupād Saraswatī Ṭhākur organised that in a very broad way. Saraswatī Ṭhākur gave much attention for the service to Vaiṣṇava, for the service to Guru.
Etat sarvaṁ gurau bhaktyā puruṣo hy añjasā jayet (“Everything can be automatically done if one engages in the service of the spiritual master with faith and devotion.). This is in Śrīmad Bhāgavat, and also:
tasmād guruṁ prapadyeta jijñāsuḥ śreyah uttamam
śābde pare cha niṣṇātaṁ brahmaṇy upaśamāśrayam
(Śrīmad Bhāgavatam: 11.3.21)
[“Therefore (because there is no lasting fulfilment in the material world), those who are in search of the highest good should surrender to a Guru who is adept in Sabda-brahma (revelations of the Divine, the scriptures) and Parabrahma (direct experience of the Divinity), and who is an abode of tranquility (unaffected by anger, greed, etc.).”]
tad-vijñānārthaṁ sa gurum evābhigachchhet
samit-pāniḥ śrotriyaṁ brahma-niṣṭham
(Muṇḍaka-upaniṣad: 1.2.12)
[“To understand these things properly, one must humbly approach, with firewood in hand, a spiritual master who is learned in the Vedas and firmly devoted to the Absolute Truth.”]
Through that sevā we can chant the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahāmantra. There is no other way.
We cannot stop to chant, however: that is also one kind of sevā. You can do sevā through your hand and through your mind, but you can chant Hare Kṛṣṇa everywhere and all the time. Also, if you do not follow some minimum rules and regulations, then you will forget the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahāmantra, and the tulasī beads will fast every day. You will try to make some excuse, “Oho, I cannot chant today because I have so much sevā!” For that reason Guru Mahārāj said, “You can chant a minimum of four rounds.”
Srila B.S. Govinda Dev-Goswami Maharaj, speaking in Miami, USA, on 16 July 1992 during His Divine Grace’s first world tour.
~~~~~~~~~~~
This excerpt is in response to the following question:
Devotee: I would like to hear something from your lotus lips on a controversial topic: it is said that Śrīla Bhakti Siddhānta Saraswatī Ṭhākur asked his disciples to chant sixty-four rounds, and then sometimes we heard that it was down to thirty-two. Then our Swāmī Mahārāj Prabhupād said you should try to chant at least sixteen rounds. Now you are saying a minimum of four rounds. And I can see that these rules of the chanting is one thing, but you are stressing love and affection; not ignoring the rules, but indicating something above the rules. Maybe you can give us some understanding on how this all can be harmonised.
A complete transcript and audio file of this talk can be found here
 

Cleaning the mirror of the heart

Every moment will be joyful in your life. Dedication to the Lord and chanting the Holy Name, the nondifferent form of the Lord, can give us all auspiciousness.

Question: I would really like to hear about Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, and how we can serve him.
Srila Gurudev: Mahaprabhu first indicated to beginners that you will get all the benefit of your spiritual life if you can chant the mahamantra properly. Your mind is like a mirror covered with dust, and through chanting that dust will be removed and you will see your true form. The suffering that we experience from so many things in this material world will also reduce and finally go out.
cheto-darpaṇa-mārjanaṁ bhava-mahā-dāvāgni-nirvāpaṇaṁ
śreyaḥ-kairava-chandrikā-vitaraṇaṁ
Through your chanting feelings of God will reveal in your heart, you will see your beautiful divine form, and your mood of service will give such happy light in your spiritual environment. You will get very close association with your Lord, like the feelings between a husband and wife.
cheto-darpaṇa-mārjanaṁ bhava-mahā-dāvāgni-nirvāpaṇaṁ
śreyaḥ-kairava-chandrikā-vitaraṇaṁ vidyā-vadhū-jīvanam
ānandāmbudhi-vardhanaṁ
When that divine form of the Lord as Harinam reveals within your heart then automatically joy will come, and every moment when you are chanting the Holy Name, the feeling of God’s association will come to you.
prati-padaṁ pūrṇāmṛtāsvādanaṁ
Every moment will be joyful in your life. Dedication to the Lord and chanting the Holy Name, the nondifferent form of the Lord, can give us all auspiciousness.
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu advised the conditioned souls in this way.
prabhu kahe—kahilāṅ ei mahāmantra
Of all mantras this is the best mantram in this age of Kali-yuga. Other practising processes will not be so fruitful. Meditation, chanting, and congregational chanting of this mantram, and service to this mantram, will give all good results to us.
Then if we want to satisfy Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu we will first try to chant the Hare Krishna mahamantra, and if we can do that continuously that is very good.

Be humble, be tolerant and give honour to others

Mahaprabhu gave eight verses as advice for the conditioned souls, and in the third verse He explained how attachment, love, and affection will grow for chanting the Holy Name. He gave this advice: if you can be humble, be tolerant, and give honour to others then you will be worry-free from your circumstances.
You can believe and you can live within the faithful plane. Faith is necessary. That is the first basis of this conception. Not only in the line of Krishna consciousness, but the first advice of all religious conceptions is, “Be faithful”. At first, beginners may not be able to maintain their faith because they are not seeing anything and not getting anything in their hand. They do not have practical knowledge and experience. For that reason strong faith will not come immediately. But through realisation, through association, through hearing, through reading, faith will become more and more strong. In different ways our faith will grow more and more, but the scriptures say that association is the best. If good association is not available then we can practise through reading the books, chanting the Holy Name, hearing from an expert, and so on.
We must try to realise our previous activity, our present spiritual situation, and our future prospect. It is necessary to take advantage of the value of the present time.
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu will be happy if we follow His directive to chant the mahamantra without offence. The mahamantra Himself is Radha and Krishna. Both Their Names are present within this mantra with a calling mood. Even within some processes in this material world we can see that sound can take form: now when you are talking to someone by telephone it is also possible to see their form, their mood, and so on. So, if we can chant properly They will reveal in our heart. We cannot say that it will happen immediately but anyone can get it, and if someone is sincere with their practice they will get some feelings from the beginning.

When Mahaprabhu said that there is no alternative other than chanting the Holy Name of the Lord, then it is not necessary to go left or right or anywhere else. Be steady, be faithful, and try, and success must come to you.

We are trying but not properly trying, because we are always mixing with material things, and it is natural. If we can chant without offence then proper purification will come and we must be benefitted through that. Time is a factor: it is in front of me and must give me some disturbance. But if we can see the eternal time that is nothing by comparison.
When Mahaprabhu said that there is no alternative other than chanting the Holy Name of the Lord, then it is not necessary to go left or right or anywhere else. Be steady, be faithful, and try, and success must come to you. And because “Hare Krishna” is Radha–Krishna then if They reveal in your heart you will automatically join with the Pastimes of Krishna-lila. That is the gift of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu: Krishna-prema, love for Krishna, affection for Krishna, and service for Krishna. When it will reveal in your heart then Krishna will also reveal with that mood.
In this way, many things in many places have given us the clue of practising life. But at first beginners must try with faith.
Srila Gurudev speaking in Italy, September 2000, during his Sixteenth World Tour.

Reference

The mahamantra:
hare kṛṣṇa hare kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa hare hare
hare rāma hare rāma rāma rāma hare hare

Related reading

Discussion of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s Siksastakam verses in Revealed Truth
Article on the mahamantra

The ray of joy

Mahaprabhu said, “Why will you chant the mahamantra? We will chant because,
cheto-darpaṇa-mārjanaṁ bhava-mahā-dāvāgni-nirvāpaṇaṁ
We want to remove the dust of our mind and we want to see our own divine form, our transcendental form.
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Bhava-mahā-dāvāgni-nirvāpaṇam: all inauspiciousness and difficulties will go. And, śreyaḥ-kairava-chandrikā: before the sun appears light comes in this world, and like that, before the Lord appears some light of the transcendent will come to us and we will feel what is day and what is night.
Mahaprabhu expressed this, and then vidyā-vadhū-jīvanam: finally Mahaprabhu said you will get service to the Lord in the transcendental world. Without feeling anything you will suddenly see, “I am there.” It is like our death: when death happens that man cannot understand, “I am going to die.” He may feel it is his deathbed but when he leaves the body he cannot feel it. He will see, “Oh ho, this is my body here and I am here.” Sometimes they try to go back inside the body but they cannot enter again. Our transcendental service connection will appear like that. Then we will be happy, and when we see our situation completely change we will see the ray of joy, the ray of sachidananda. Ananda, joy, ecstasy. We will try to go back quickly there and we will not wait.
Srila Gurudev, speaking in Byron Bay, Australia, 24 April 1999
 

Spiritual bearer

We are only chanting the mahamantra with a  calling mood.
hare kṛṣṇa hare kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa hare hare
hare rāma hare rāma rāma rāma hare hare
This is called the mahamantra. It is not only the Tarak-brahma-nama [mantra for deliverance from the mundane], but of all mantram it is the best—that is the mahamantram. The Lord Himself is living within this mantram, and we will feel His presence when we chant this mahamantra without offence. There are ten kinds of offences we must avoid, and then it will reveal in our heart. This tongue, this mind, everything is material and it will not appear on a material tongue. Where He will appear will be transcendental, and so first through chanting  I want to make myself  a transcendental receiver.
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You see with the radio, television, etc. there is a receiver, and then the picture comes, sound comes, everything comes. Only some electronic things are inside there, but when they are set right then they can receive everything. I want to make myself as a good receiver. You have seen the power of ether. Here, within five minutes you can get an answer from India. If you push some button and make some question, then the signal will go there and within five minutes it will come back to you. And what is the bearer? The bearer is ether. We cannot see ether and we cannot feel it also, but we see that some action comes through ether, and it has been discovered by the scientists.
Ether is the super-bearer in this material world, and Harinam mahamantra, the nondifferent form of the Lord, is the spiritual bearer and will make me transcendental when He appears fully with me. He will make me transcendental and He Himself will dance in His nondifferent form. He will reveal in the heart and all inauspiciousness will go out.
Srila Gurudev speaking in Byron Bay, Australia, 24 April 1999

The divine legacy of Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur

You are all in the group of Saraswati Thakur’s divine servitors. All over the world, not only our Mission. So many Missions have manifested in this world and all are the divine group of Saraswati Thakur’s servants. Finally all over the world everyone has received the Hare Krishna mahamantra, which was the preaching objective of Saraswati Thakur. Now that transcendental, subjective evolution has spread all over the world. I was recently questioned by someone, “You are seeing the world situation, what do you think it will be like?” I told and I believe the world will get more Krishna consciousness and day by day it will spread; the preaching will not stop. Krishna consciousness will never be stopped and it will grow day by day.
That objective was begun by Saraswati Thakur and his group. He wanted to preach Krishna consciousness out of India and all over the world. He sent, in his lifetime, two or three persons to London for preaching and so much money was spent for that. They were not so successful, no doubt, but Saraswati Thakur wanted that. Whoever would come to see him, seeing their capacity he would say, “You are an English-speaking man, you have that Krishna consciousness, and you can preach it.” Prabhupad A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami took that in his heart and after Prabhupad Saraswati Thakur, he did not forget it. He was always trying to preach and finally, he was successful. Now we are all taking his remnants and going country to country. Guru Maharaj liked him very much and Guru Maharaj gave so much enthusiasm to Prabhupad A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami. Others were envious of him but Guru Maharaj was not and always giving the conception of subjective evolution to him and Prabhupad A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami knew that. He was a very simple-hearted Vaisnava and he declared, “I am learning from Sridhar Maharaj.” This kind of declaration is not done by an ordinary man. One who has real substance in his heart, he can declare like that. “If you want to learn anything, go to Sridhar Maharaj and learn from him. He is my siksa-guru.”
I know him very well because at that time I was a child and lived with him. When all over the world they are chanting that Holy Name of the Lord and I am seeing that, then I understand it is coming down from above, it is not a material thing. If it was a material thing, after a few days it would be finished, but I am seeing that day by day this Krishna consciousness is spreading, and it will grow more. It is all the mercy of Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur. He started in Mayapur Vraja Patan and there was not one servant, only one maidservant cleaning, etc., but later, one by one they joined him. Now thousands of servants are trying to preach Krishna consciousness by the grace of Saraswati Thakur. We cannot glorify him properly, but we have tried to the best of our ability
Spoken by Srila Gurudev on the appearance day of Srila Saraswati Thakur, 1 March 2005, at the Soquel Seva Ashram, California, USA.

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