Chant, chant, chant. Can’t, can’t can’t.
by Vishakha Devi dasi
Whether one chants meditatively on beads or exuberantly with musical instruments, the Hare Krishna mantra is the easiest and most potent means to spiritual advancement.
“O my Lord, Your holy name alone can render all benediction to living beings, and thus You have millions of names, like Krishna and Govinda. In these transcendental names You have invested all Your transcendental energies. There are not even hard and fast rules for chanting these names. O my Lord, out of kindness You enable us to easily approach You by Your holy names, but I am so unfortunate that I have no attraction for them.”—Sikshashtaka, Verse 2
Srila Prabhupada was once amused by a cartoon portraying a woman imploring her husband “Chant, chant, chant,” and then the man replying “Can’t, can’t, can’t.” “This is the situation,” Srila Prabhupada explained. “Chanting is so easy and the benefits of chanting are so great, yet simply out of stubbornness, people refuse to chant.”
Chanting is easy. As Lord Chaitanya says, there are no hard and fast rules. Anyone can chant at any time, in any place, under any circumstances, and without any previous qualification. All that’s required is to repeat Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. These sixteen transcendental sounds compose the maha-mantra—the supreme combination of sounds for freeing one’s mind from anxiety. The Narada-pancharatra states that all mantras and processes for self-realization are compressed into the Hare Krishna mantra.
Srila Prabhupada explains that the name Krishna means “the all-attractive one,” and the name Rama means “the all-pleasing one.” When combined with Hare,the Lord’s devotional energy, the words mean “O all-attractive, all-pleasing Lord, kindly engage me in Your service.” In other words, Krishna, Rama, and Hare are not sectarian names but are spiritual, surpassing all material strata—sensual, mental, and intellectual. The Lord is one, yet He has unlimited names, owing to His unlimited activities and unlimited qualities. “If you think that Krishna is the name of a Hindu God,” Srila Prabhupada said, “then you can chant any bona fide name of the Lord—Allah, Buddha, Jehovah. We chant Hare Krishna because that’s what’s recommended in the scriptures.”
Because the omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient Lord is nondifferent from His name, the benefits from chanting defy the imagination. By chanting God’s names we can revive our spiritual consciousness, and when we chant purely, the Lord is present, dancing on our tongue. This quality of the Lord, to personally and fully appear when His name is vibrated, is unknown to nondevotees. And even among devotees, there is much to be realized. The scripture Chaitanya-charitamrita tells that in Chandapura, India, five centuries ago, a number of scholars were once discussing the glories of chanting. “By chanting the holy name of the Lord,” some of them said, “one is freed from the reactions of sinful life.” Others said, “Simply by chanting the holy name of the Lord, a living being is liberated from material bondage.”
Also present at the gathering was Haridasa Thakura, the great devotee whose life exemplified the perfection of chanting Hare Krishna. Haridasa Thakura objected to the opinions of the scholars, saying, “These two benedictions are not the true result of chanting the holy name. By chanting the holy name without offenses, one awakens his ecstatic love for the lotus feet of Krishna. Liberation and extinction of the reactions of sinful life are two concomitant by-products of chanting the holy name of the Lord.”
Haridasa explained that just as the first hint of sunlight dissipates the darkness of night, similarly the first hint of offenseless chanting dissipates the reactions of sinful activities immediately. And, as when the sun is present everything is visible, similarly when one chants the holy name offenselessly, ecstatic love of God manifests within the heart.
So, perfection is available through pure sound. The only difficulty is that either we refuse to chant, or if we do chant, we chant offensively. Refusal may come from a lack of interest or faith in spiritual life. Offenses are due to a lack of purity. But one can overcome these difficulties simply by seriously and sincerely chanting, for the holy name is self- sufficient.
Rupa Goswami, an exalted devotee and personal associate of Lord Chaitanya, expressed his appreciation of the effects of chanting the holy name: “I do not know how much nectar the two syllables Krishna have produced. When the holy name of Krishna is chanted, it appears to dance within the mouth. We then desire many, many mouths. And when that name enters the holes of the ears, we desire many millions of ears.”
Except for stubbornness, there is no reason why one can’t chant Hare Krishna. Chanting is so easy that even if you can’t chant audibly for some reason, you can still chant within your mind and experience the potency of transcendental vibrations. And as you chant, your taste and desire to chant will increase. And your love for God will increase. So who can’t chant? Only one who doesn’t chant thinks “can’t.”
Whatever one’s frame of mind or physical circumstances, one can benefit spiritually by chanting Hare Krishna; no one is disqualified. In fact, a devotee in distress may be in an advantageous position, for he can call out to Krishna with true feeling. As Srila Prabhupada writes, ‘A helpless man can feelingly utter the holy name of the Lord, whereas a man who utters the same holy name in great material satisfaction cannot be so sincere' (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.8.26, purport).