The Supreme Principle
It is not about only a number---the principle is to always chant, always remember Krishna, never forget him. That is the basis of all rules---the supreme rule. We are also advised to chant a fixed number of rounds as did Lord Chaitanya. So in the beginning before we take a vow to chant a certain amount at initiation by a bona-fide guru, we do what we can---whether 1 or 2 or 4 rounds etc and maintain that without fail, increasing from there. All the principles of K.C and many recommended details are given in Prabhupada's Nectar of Devotion (his summary of Rupa Gosvami's Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu). Somehow to have attachment for and faith in Krishna
"‘Krsna is the origin of Lord Visnu. He should always be remembered and never forgotten at any time. All the rules and prohibitions mentioned in the sastras should be the servants of these two principles.'" From Padma Purana as quoted in Chaitanya Charitamrita Madhya lila 22.113
Prabhupada exemplified the teachings of Rupa Gosvami in his Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu (summarized by Prabhupada in Nectar of Devotion) by stressing attracting people to Krishna before introducing the various rules or "dos and don'ts". Study Prabhupada's preaching in the early days in New York and you will see this in practice. I think that is what Navasi's blog on "Feeding the Children" was stressing. She asked me to comment on my comment there so I decided to make a blog about it.
To the stress rules first in a beginning talk is really backwards. First become attracted to Krishna with the desire to love him as worthwhile goal (even in a very basic way), then if you truly want (or think you want to understand) Krishna then the rules are not seen as restrictions but as ways to foster your goal. The rules or externals are not ends in themselves but as a way to uncover who you really are---a servant and lover of Krishna. Of course chanting and serving Krishna are always there both as a spiritual practitioners (sadhaka) and as a siddha (perfect devotee) but the rules of vidhi bhakti will be given up at the time when our love for Krishna guides us. (The pure devotee guru acting on as a 2nd class devotee, follow the rules to teach us) The highest devotee having perfected his sadhana (spiritual practices) is attracted to Krishna as his most cherished object of affection. He or she can not, not remember Krishna or serve him. Krishna becomes his or her everything.
Though we are considered to be on the path of raganuga bhakti (spontaneously love) we don't have raga or spiritual emotion for Krishna, so we are serving Krishna through the rules of vidhi bhakti under the guidance of a particular pure devotee. Different gurus may have different recommendations of applying the details meant to foster the goal.
16 rounds is not a magic number per say. If you have vowed to do it, then it is a duty to chant AT LEAST 16, and there is power in following it, and there can be what appears to be magic results: changing someone into a devotee. Prabhupada wanted us in the beginning days to chant 64, but we were not able to do it. Imagine if those original devotees in New York could have done it---then that would be the standard today! So 16 has become the number. The important point is to chant attentively and purely with faith that the name is non-different from Krishna and is the best use of our time. Chanting is always auspicious, yet it is more so when we are intensely feeling for Krishna. Our goal is to cry for Krishna, to want to love him as much as our life. Though we fall short, we are cultivating the desire for obtaining prema or love for Krishna by the process of bhakti yoga.
It is not about only a number---the principle is to always chant, always remember Krishna, never forget him. That is the basis of all rules---the supreme rule. We are also advised to chant a fixed number of rounds as did Lord Chaitanya. So in the beginning before we take a vow to chant a certain amount at initiation by a bona-fide guru, we do what we can---whether 1 or 2 or 4 rounds etc and maintain that without fail, increase from there. All the principles of K.C and many recommended details are given in Prabhupada's N.O.D. as above mentioned. Somehow to have attachment for and faith in Krishna
From there we go through the different stages of devotional advancement. In the Gita 4.10 purport Prabhupada quotes this verse from Bhakti Rasamrita Sindu:
"In the beginning one must have a preliminary desire for self-realization. This will bring one to the stage of trying to associate with persons who are spiritually elevated. In the next stage one becomes initiated by an elevated spiritual master, and under his instruction the neophyte devotee begins the process of devotional service. By execution of devotional service under the guidance of the spiritual master, one becomes free from all material attachment, attains steadiness in self-realization, and acquires a taste for hearing about the Absolute Personality of Godhead, Sri Krsna. This taste leads one further forward to attachment for Krsna consciousness, which is matured in bhava, or the preliminary stage of transcendental love of God. Real love for God is called prema, the highest perfectional stage of life."
[Then Prabhupada concludes that quoted verse with this explanation:]
"In the prema stage there is constant engagement in the transcendental loving service of the Lord. So, by the slow process of devotional service, under the guidance of the bona fide spiritual master, one can attain the highest stage, being freed from all material attachment, from the fearfulness of one's individual spiritual personality, and from the frustrations that result in void philosophy. Then one can ultimately attain to the abode of the Supreme Lord. "
So personally I begin my day with sitting down with my wife and chanting before our Deities for 2 and 1/2 hours. We both lived in Temple communities (in different places) for 12 years and received good training of the disciplines of spiritual life. Chanting our japa and reading the scriptures became firmly established as a way of life. That made living and working in the world much easier.
I have had many ups and downs over decades of spiritual practice. I am an example that it is not just about the time we put into our spiritual life, but the quality and heart we give to it. We do what we feel is important to us. Necessity rules! At times K.C can be the muzak for our life---not good. We want our material life to be like muzak--we do it out of duty, while our real enjoyment and excitement is our Krishna conscious spiritual activities.
I was very fanatical for many years so I am quite conscious of the pitfalls of that, and may overly compensate. We need good progressive guidance. I have been transformed by such broadminded deeply Krishna conscious guidance. We want to be essence seekers (sahagrahi) as opposed to just being rules conscious. Or as is stated in 4th activity listed in Nectar of Instruction, verse 2:
"One's devotional service is spoiled when he becomes too entangled in the following six activities: (1) eating more than necessary or collecting more funds than required; (2) overendeavoring for mundane things that are very difficult to obtain; (3) talking unnecessarily about mundane subject matters; (4) Practicing the scriptural rules and regulations only for the sake of following them and not for the sake of spiritual advancement, or rejecting the rules and regulations of the scriptures and working independently or whimsically; (5) associating with worldly-minded persons who are not interested in Krishna consciousness; and (6) being greedy for mundane achievements."
Then the positive:
"There are six principles favorable to the execution of pure devotional service: (1) being enthusiastic, (2) endeavoring with confidence, (3) being patient, (4) acting according to regulative principles [such as sravanam kirtanam visnoh smaranam [SB 7.5.23] -- hearing, chanting and remembering Krishna], (5) abandoning the association of nondevotees, and (6) following in the footsteps of the previous acharyas. These six principles undoubtedly assure the complete success of pure devotional service."
These ideals are simple enough yet we still need experienced devotees who can share their experience in how to follow them.
In addition there are 6 principles of surrender given by different acharyas (holy teachers) which are meant to guide us in following our practices as quoted from the Narada Bhakti Sutra by Prabhupada:
When a person becomes firmly convinced about the importance of devotional service, he surrenders unto the Supreme Lord. There are six symptoms of surrender: (1) One should perform only those actions favorable for devotional service to Krsna. (2) One should give up everything unfavorable for discharging devotional service. (3) One should firmly believe that Krsna will protect one in all circumstances and that no one is a better protector than Krsna. This conviction should be distinct from the monistic philosophy that one is as good as Krsna. Rather, one should always think that Krsna, or God, is great and that one is always protected by Him. (4) One should have the conviction that Krsna is one's maintainer, and one should not take shelter of any demigod for maintenance. (5) One should always remember that one's activities and desires are not independent. In other words, the devotee should feel completely dependent on Krsna, and thus he should act and think as Krsna desires. (6) One should always think himself the poorest of the poor and feel totally dependent on the mercy of Krsna."
"A devotee who follows these six principles of surrender always thinks, "O Lord, I am Yours in every respect; I am Your eternal servant." In this way a pure devotee becomes cleansed. There is a nice verse in this connection in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.29.34):
martyo yada tyakta-samasta-karma
niveditatma vicikirsito me
mayatma-bhuyaya ca kalpate vai
"A person who gives up all fruitive activities and offers himself entirely unto Me, eagerly desiring to render service unto Me, achieves liberation from birth and death and is promoted to the status of sharing My own opulences." To be elevated to such a point of devotional life, one has to execute the directions of the scriptures. But even after becoming elevated in devotional life, one should not think, "Oh, I am already elevated to the highest stage; therefore I may violate the scriptural regulations for executing devotional service."
"Devotional service is dormant in every living being, for by nature every living being is part and parcel of the Supreme Lord and it is the healthy condition of the part to serve the whole. It is just like the situation of the parts of the body. The hand and the leg serve the body; similarly, as part and parcel of the Supreme Lord, every living entity is bound to serve the Supreme Lord in his healthy condition. When he is not thus engaged, he is in a diseased condition, but as soon as he engages all his senses in the transcendental loving service of the Lord, he is in his normal, healthy condition."
Krishna consciousness is not meant to be unnatural repression but joyful acceptance of what is favorable for loving Krishna. By having the necessity to be Krishna conscious we will want to avoid those things that take us away from that. Depending on one's past life's devotional service and our current determination to obtain the goal we will take more or less time to have the intensity of eagerness for Krishna. The point is to see the value of the path and make that one's primary aim in life---serving and loving Krishna and those that are dear to him. Krishna is more present in the hearts of the realized devotees then even in the scriptures. We have the book Bhagavatam (scripture) and the person Bhagavatam (who is the scripture in practice) The scripture is the passive agent of Divinity, the advanced devotee the active agent of Divinity.
Krishna consciousness is deep and mysterious---simple for the simple, difficult for the complicated--yet we can learn what we need to cross the material ocean by receiving mercy of saints instructions and practical understanding. We are aspiring Vaishnava's who serve the Lord by the mercy of advanced Vaishnava devotees. We pray to Lord Nityananda for the serving ego, as opposed to our current material exploitive ego which gives us so much trouble in trying to serve Krishna.