The purpose of any yoga system, particularly bhakti-yoga, Is to again connect the disconnected soul to the Lord.
In the following meditations you will find inspiration to chant with full absorption, gain deep taste, and avoid distractions. It is simple:
- Find a peaceful moment before your japa or kirtan practice
- Listen to one of the guided meditations and apply the insights and instructions to your practice.”
- Should the mind wander—as it probably will—bring to mind the instructions you heard earlier and apply them as well as you can
- If time allows after your practice, reflect on how your chanting went. Such reflections will help you improve and build positive chanting habits.
When we chant, we wish to focus the mind on each and every name of the maha-mantra. A good way to do this is to first focus the mind on the 1st Hare of the maha-mantra, as presented in this exercise by Sacinandana Swami.
Another practical exercise which helps to align the mind, is called traktaka. It means “fixing the mind by gaze.” While listening to the exercise, begin chanting, fixing your gaze on the written letters of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra. You may use the maha-mantra image provided on the website, or your own if you like.
To align the heart means to chant with a heart full of devotion. How do we achieve this? One effective way is to begin by thinking about the Lord whose Name we are chanting and bring devotional feelings to our practice. Begin by sitting properly, with your spine erect. To evoke devotional feelings, you can read prayers, meditate upon them and carefully absorb their meaning. Continue chanting in this prayerful mood.
In this exercise we will bring together all three human endowments – body, mind and heart – to achieve full absorption. We will align the body by practicing posture and listening.
We will align the mind by breath control, and we will align the heart by meditating on the Lord and chanting in a prayerful mood.
How can we experience the real Holy Name, rather than a shadow of the Holy Name?
In this exercise we will practice chanting with Sambandha — to be connected with Krishna. Chanting in sambandha means to chant with a feeling of relationship to Krishna. It means to know deeply, from the heart, that you are an eternal soul and that Krishna is your master.
One way to enter into the presence of the Lord when chanting is to practice mantrartha-cintanam – meditating on the meaning of the mantra. This unleashes the intrinsic spiritual potency of the mantra. By reflecting on a pertinent verse from sacred scriptures we can prompt our awareness, and chant with absorption.
This meditation will act as a powerful inspiration to chant in relationship (Sambandha) with Radha and Krishna. Most of all, it will help you transform your daily life and make it deeply spiritual. You might even find that your so-called problems disappear… Please try it, it works. While listening to this exercise, begin to chant, entering into our one and only relationship—our relationship with the divine couple.
This meditation is about chanting in the mood of service. It all starts with giving your attention to the Holy Name. To listen to the Holy Name and welcome Him with rapt attention, is the foundational service in Kirtan and Japa. In other words we should desire to please Krishna by consciously chanting His Name! This will utterly transform your Japa and Kirtan! Turn to Krishna, offering your chanting as your service.
Meditating on or contemplating the meaning of the mantra is an ancient technique. Here, we will practice chanting while keeping the meaning of the mantra in our hearts. While thus infusing our awareness with the meaning, our minds will adopt the mood and become ‘one’ with the meaning.
In Sri Harinama Cintamani and Sri Caitanya Siksamrita, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura strongly recommends the meditations of Gopala Guru Goswami on the meaning of the maha-mantra. There are no hard and fast rules for how to use these meditations. The main point is to remain mindful of them while you chant japa or sing kirtan. You can either progress from one meditation to the next with each new round or keep the same meditation for a few rounds before progressing to the next.
Real spiritual practice starts from the understanding that “I am an eternal spiritual soul.” To enter this mood as an eternal servant of Krishna, there is one highly effective method known as the Bhuta-suddhi meditation. It removes our bodily identification and connects us to our eternal essence in relationship with Radha and Krishna.
This meditation introduces us to worshiping Krishna in the mind – manasi-puja. Srila Prabhupada gave this meditation himself and introduced it by saying, “Chanting the Hare Krishna mantra means keeping Krishna always within your heart.” He then guides us on how to offer Krishna an appropriate sitting place an to wothip Him with sacred water, as well as garments and ornaments.
Praying to Krishna is a verbal expression of the most important aspect of bhakti – to turn to Krishna. Good prayers should therefore not be a lip service but a heart service. The best prayers are those that come from a sincere heart that turns to the Lord, seeing him as the only shelter. In this meditation, we will imbibe beautiful prayers which has the potential to infuse our chanting with devotional feelings and can be recited before your Japa or Kirtan.
In this vivid and powerful meditation on chanting in the association of our spiritual master (as recommended by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura), we will greet and worship Srila Prabhupada in our hearts and chant in his presence. Bhakti-Shakti, or the energy to engage in bhakti, comes from the devotee. The prime devotee on our path to Krishna is our spiritual master. Therefore, we should seek the company of our guru when we chant.
When you sing kirtan or chant japa in the spirit of separation with some longing for the Lord, something wonderful happens. Externally, Krishna may be far away, and your situation as a soul fallen into the material world remains, but if you imbibe this mood of separation Krishna will come into your heart without delay. Vipralambha means: outside absence, inside presence. Externally, we feel apart from Krishna but internally we feel connected.
Reading prayers or singing songs can fill our hearts with devotion that releases us from the oppression of mechanical chanting. If you do this before or during your chanting, whether Japa or Kirtan, you will notice that where there was just emptiness, there is now fullness!
The nature of the Lord is such that whenever He sees someone walking on the path of Saranagati and taking shelter of His Divine Names, He will turn towards that devotee and say ‘Yes, what do you wish for?’ Before, during, or after your Japa and Kirtan, you can read or sing the songs from the Saranagati prayer collection, and inspire your chanting!
In his guide the Upadesamrta, Srila Rupa Goswami instructed that the essence of all instructions is to chant the Holy Name in Vraja while remembering Krishna and His transcendental form, qualities and eternal pastimes. Many of us have responsibilities in the West and don’t feel able to move to Vraja or stay there for long periods of time. This meditation offers a practice to help one mentally reside in the Holy Place.