The Practice of Chanting Hare Krishna
By His Holiness Sacinandana Swami
On Friday August 19th, the Harinam Ashram was in the belly of the beast in New York. The heat was digesting people in the subway system at Grand Central. When I walked through it, I said, “I don’t know if this is a reality, a dream, or a nightmare.” I was overwhelmed by the sheer mass of people and the desires they were carrying. Devotees were chanting in an atmosphere of raja-guna, unadulterated passion. Preachers in New York always face this atmosphere. In this situation, how can we chant with taste? Without a taste for the holy names, we will become distracted and cannot give it primary importance.
There is a song by Bhaktivinoda Thakur where he says, “Oh Lord, I have forgotten you. My tongue has become afflicted with the jaundice of ignorance. Engrossed in mundane pleasures, my tongue does not like the nectar of the name of Krishna. No taste! No taste! Yet, if I faithfully chant the name everyday, then just as sugar candy eradicates jaundice, my taste will gradually develop, Oh Lord. My problem is that I never have faith in the holy name. Oh merciful Lord, how can the 10 offenses, my misfortune, be destroyed?”
The 10 offenses are what keep you from tasting the holy name. It is something which blocks your ability to taste the sweet nectar of Hare Krishna. Therefore, if you want real spiritual life, you must work laboriously to avoid the 10 offenses - especially criticizing devotees.
"When the name 'Krsna' enters the holes of the ears, we desire many millions of ears."
- Srila Rupa Goswami, Vidagdha-madhav
Ten Offenses in Chanting the Holy Name
1) To blaspheme the devotees who have dedicated their lives for propagating the holy name of the Lord.
2) To consider the names of demigods like Lord Shiva or Lord Brahma to be equal to or independent of the name of the Lord Vishnu.
3) To disobey the orders of the spiritual master.
4) To blaspheme the vedic scriptures or scriptures in pursuance to the vedic version.
5) To consider the glories of chanting Hare Krishna to be an imagination.
6) To give some interpretations to the holy name of the Lord.
7) To commit sinful activities on the strength of the holy name.
8) To consider the chanting of Hare Krishna as one of the auspicious ritualistic activities which are offered in the Vedas as frutive activities (Karma kanda).
9) To instruct a faithless person about the glories of the holy name
10) To not have complete faith in the chanting of the holy name and to maintain material attachments, even after understanding so many instructions on this matter. It is also an offense to be inattentive while chanting.
Lord Caitanya says just do 2 things. Do not criticize Vaishnavas and chant the holy name. Lord Caitanya says “I will personally give you love of God if you do this.” These 10 offenses are nectar blockers - a new New York term. If you ever feel a lack of taste in spiritual life or if you are distracted, it must be that there is some fog of aparadha or offense that is obstructing your vision.
Chanting starts with hearing about the glories of the holy name. This stage is called Sravana-dasa. The next stage is Varana-dasa. This means you accept initiation. Next, the most difficult stage, is Sadhana-dasa. At this level of practice, you go into chanting every day in the morning hours (the best time of the day). This period can take a long time. Prabhupada said once if you chant for 50 years, you will go back to Godhead. It’s a practice - you aren’t yet perfect but you do it every day with affection. Bhaktivinoda Thakur says, “if I constantly chant your name every day, then gradually my offenses will go away and my taste for the holy name will develop.”
It is a great fortune that there are programs like the daily 6 hour harinam in New York City. Those of us who have other services please also know that every day you must chant the holy name, even if you do not have taste. You establish something in your consciousness by doing it daily because this chanting is the main vehicle, upaya, according to Lord Caitanya, to commence our journey through life and our inner journey from shraddha to prema.
In Lord Caitanya’s words, an “upaya” is a means or an instrument that allows us to go from point A to point B, or from sraddha, initial faith, to pure love of God, Krishna Prema. Lord Caitanya says that main upaya in Krishna consciousness is the practice of chanting the holy name. He says traditionally there are 9 processes of devotional service, but amongst all those, kirtan, the chanting of the holy name, is given primary importance for two reasons.
Kirtan has the amazing ability to free us from sinful reactions.
2. Kirtan can bestow upon the practitioner the rare priceless jewel of love of Godhead.
This is what is available for us. There is nothing else available in this age of Kali. You must not make the mistake of arranging the chanting throughout the day, where your daily tasks are the center and the chanting moves around it. If you do this you have the wrong priorities. You must put the chanting of the holy name in the center of your life and arrange your other activities and services around this. Remember that this is the main upaya in Kali Yuga. Otherwise how will you become free from your karmic reactions and conditionings? How will you ever attain love of God? That is an institutionalized pious dream. You must set the priorities straight.
I request you all to revisit these subjects. Where are you on your journey? How far is your practice? Have you gone to Sravana-dasa, Varana-dasa, Sadhana-dasa, Bhavapana-dasa, where you achieve an understanding of your spiritual identity as a spirit soul, and then finally Prema-sampatti-dasa, where you are no longer in this world and have joined Krishna in the spiritual world? Where are you? Are you thinking of your journey? Have you given up or gone on autopilot? Please allow yourself to make your journey successful through this process of chanting Hare Krishna.