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Service and Chanting

February 8th, 2000 | No Comments

Q. I find it a huge burden to count rounds yet I readily chant either aloud or in my mind throughout the day. Why is it so important to chant a prescribed number of rounds daily?

A. Counting is maya. Maya means to measure. Under the influence of maya we try to measure everything and bring it within our grasp. The finite tries in this way to capture the infinite. This is futile. So we are not to count, but to chant, and chant always, kirtaniyah sada harih.

Thus the idea that chanting a fixed number of rounds is somehow a magic spiritual formula appears less than spiritual. Basic spiritual sensibility dictates that whereas chanting a certain number of times has little if anything to do with attaining perfection, the quality of our chanting has everything to do with such attainment. Counting is maya, and chanting is the means of deliverance from maya.

However, maya also means mercy. It is Mahaprabhu’s mercy that he allows us to chant a particular number of rounds and be known as devotees thereby, when the true spiritual mandate for devotees is one of loving Krishna and thus chanting constantly. So, before love fully blossoms, we should chant a prescribed number of rounds. The number prescribed by Sri Guru is his mercy, his generosity, for the real standard of a Vaisnava is kirtaniyah sada harih. We are not to argue with mercy and call for justice in the face of its descent.

Regarding service and chanting, I think it is important to note that Rupa Goswami says that in the beginning, because one is afflicted with the jaundice of avidya, the sweetness of krishna-nama does not manifest. However, its medicinal effects do, and over time its sweetness will be tasted by the healthy patient.

So service must be there, and a service ego is all-important, but it should not break down when one’s guru-ordained service is to chant a prescribed number of rounds. Some time should be set aside daily to sit and think only of Krishna in prayer through the taking of Krishna-nama—that rain cloud-colored youth, dressed in dazzling lightning-like garment, cow herding as he enters the forest, the apple of Sri Radha’ s eye—he whom we are serving. Are we not?

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