Question: How should we chant the Holy Name of Kṛṣṇa? What should be our mood and what should be our meditation?
kṛṣṇa-nāma-cintāmaṇi, akhila rasera khani,
nāmera bālāi jata, saba la’ye iha hata,
tabe mora sukhera udaya
“The Holy Name of Lord Kṛṣṇa is a cintāmaṇi jewel. It is a philosopher’s stone, a gold mine filled with the unlimited moods of loving exchange (rasa). It is the spring from which all nectar flows. It is eternally liberated. It is pure and sweet. When all impediments to the pure chanting of the Holy Name are taken away and destroyed, then my happiness will know it’s true awakening.” (Śaraṇāgati, Śrī Nāma-Māhātmya 8)
This verse is sung by, Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura. The Holy Name of Kṛṣṇa is filled with the deepest mellows of devotional service. Therefore, we must approach the Holy Name with great attention and respect. This of course presupposes having received the Holy Name from the lips of a pure devotee of Kṛṣṇa. Chanting that is done independent of the shelter of the Lord’s pure devotee will not have its full effect. So first we must take shelter of a bona fide spiritual master and then begin the chanting process.
The Holy Name is not an ordinary sound that is produced from this material plane. The Holy Name of Kṛṣṇa comes directly from the spiritual world and manifests on the lips of the pure devotees.
golokera prema-dhana, hari-nāma-saṅkīrtana
“The chanting of the Holy Name of Kṛṣṇa comes directly from the spiritual world.”
Unless and until the impediments (anarthas) to the pure chanting of the Holy Name are removed we will not be able to experience the full potency of the Holy Name.
kṛṣṇa-nāme bhakta kabhu jaḍa-buddhi kare na
anartha nā gele nāme rūpa dekhā deyā nā
“The genuine devotee never maintains materialistic conceptions about the Holy Name of Kṛṣṇa. If the deviations that impede devotional service (anarthas) have not been expelled, then the chanting of the Holy Name will never reveal the beautiful form of the Lord.” (Prākṛta-rasa-śata-duṣiṇī, 29)
Therefore, we must take the Holy Name of Kṛṣṇa in great earnestness and with the guidance of advanced devotees, then we will undergo purification and thus become eligible to taste the nectar of the Holy Name.
When we are on the path of the Holy Name many agents of Māyā may come to test us or to distract us from our endeavour. These are most notably kanaka, kāminī, and pratiṣṭhā – the desire for wealth, sense pleasure, and popularity.
In Vaiṣṇava Ke (Who is a Vaiṣṇava?), Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta has compared kanaka, kāminī, and pratiṣṭhā to a ferocious tigress who devours one’s Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
chāḍiyāche jāre sei ta’ vaiṣṇava
sei anāsakta sei śuddha-bhakta
saṁsāra tathā pāya parābhava
“The desire for enjoying cheap fame and material distinction acts like a ferocious tigress who devours one’s Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Similarly, dangerous are the desires for enjoyment of wealth and women. Someone who has transcended these materialistic desires through devotional service is indeed a real Vaiṣṇava. Someone with such Kṛṣṇa conscious characteristics is truly unattached to material life. He is actually a pure devotee of Lord Kṛṣṇa! Thus the cycle of repeated birth and death is easily defeated by a pure devotee of the Lord!”
Our first goal in Kṛṣṇa consciousness is to become a pure devotee of Kṛṣṇa. Without becoming a pure devotee of Kṛṣṇa one cannot enter into the mysteries of chanting the Holy Name. Professional kīrtana, frenzied dancing, and the mastery of knowledge (though popular in some societies) are not the symptoms of pure devotional service in love of God, nor do such things help us to progress in the right direction. One has to develop real detachment from wealth, sense pleasure, and the desire for popularity. To achieve that goal, we should be aware of the enemies within and with great earnestness we should strive to drive them out and not give them any opportunity to flourish.
Sometimes we hear that we should ‘dove-tail’ our desires in the service of Kṛṣṇa, but the problem with the ‘dove-tailing’ process is that the desires themselves become nourished by such a process and never actually go away. What is recommended is that the serious devotee should accept those things favourable to pure devotion and immediately give up the connection with anything detrimental to pure devotional service. The path of exclusive surrender to Kṛṣṇa begins in that way.
anukūlyasya saṅkalpaḥ prātikūlyasya varjanam
rakṣiṣyatīti viśvāso goptṛtve varaṇaṁ tathā
ātma-nikṣepa-kārpaṇye ṣaḍ-vidhā śaraṇāgatiḥ
“Acceptance of those things favourable to devotional service, the rejection of unfavourable things, the conviction that Kṛṣṇa will give me protection, the acceptance of Kṛṣṇa as one’s guardian or master, full self-surrender, and humility are the six types of surrender.” (Hari-bhakti-vilāsa 11.676 and Caitanya-caritāmṛta 2.22.100)
Service is all-important in the process of chanting the Holy Name, but service presupposes surrender. First surrender, then serve! Without surrender, what we call service is actually self-deception. Service means that there must be a master and the servant is surrendered to the master – then the transaction is one of service. Service does not mean to fulfil one’s desires and then offer the result to Kṛṣṇa. Service means to directly fulfil the desires of Kṛṣṇa under the direction of His bona-fide agent, the spiritual master.
When one is properly situated in the chanting process then meditation begins. Our foremost meditation should be on the sound vibration of the Holy Name. Then in due course the Holy Name will manifest as guṇa, rūpa, and līlā (qualities, form, and pastimes) of the Supreme Lord in the heart of the qualified devotee. An independent endeavour to meditate on the Lord’s qualities, form, and pastimes is not actually required. All that is required is that we chant the Holy Name purely. Then from within the Holy Name everything will be revealed.
Self-realization is a descending process. When the heart of a devotee is purified, then Kṛṣṇa takes His seat there and takes complete charge of His devotee. But if we have no faith in the Holy Name or if we want things cheaply without having the necessary qualifications then we will search here and there until we find a so-called guru who will guide us in perfecting an external show of devotion.
Those who have faith in the Holy Name never recommend any other process for perfection than purely chanting the Holy Name.
jaḍa-śūnya aprākṛta nāma chāḍa bale nā
“Other than the pure transcendental names of Kṛṣṇa, which are completely free from all material contact, nothing else should be spoken.” (Prākṛta-rasa-śata-duṣiṇī, 45)
bhoge mana jaḍe śraddhā cit prakāśa kare nā
nāme śraddhā nā haile jaḍa-buddhi chāḍe nā
“Those whose minds are absorbed in the spirit of enjoyment of matter, and who possess materialistic faith, can never experience the revelation of pure spiritual consciousness. Without absolute faith in the Lord’s Holy Name, one’s mundane mentality can never be cast off.” (Prākṛta-rasa-śata-duṣiṇī 70)
Faith is all-important for success in spiritual life. When proper faith is at the foundation of our spiritual journey then such faith will guide us and take us to the proper agent of Kṛṣṇa. When faith is at the foundation then having come in connection with Kṛṣṇa’s agent we will adhere to his instruction and follow his example as our life and soul. When faith is at our foundation then we will find that we have avoided both the cheaters and the cheating mentality that deceives the faithless. Let faith be our guide.