Found in Sanga, Sanga 2002.

Q. I was born as a Christian, but I do love to chant Krishna’s name as well as Christ’s. Does chanting the name of Christ lead to the same result as chanting the name of Krishna and is there any difference between realizing Christ and realizing Krishna?

A. In the most general sense there is no difference in chanting one name of God or another. Chanting the name of God is all-auspicious. Sri Caitanya tells us that there are innumerable names of God invested with his potency. However, if one wants to serve eternally in Krishna’s Vraja lila, one should chant Krishna nama and other names of Krishna that pertain to his Vraja lila. So if your attraction develops in this way, then focus exclusively on Krishna nama.

Different religious institutions are formed only for the purpose of fostering the culture of love of God. Go where your heart takes you. You may have been born in one religion, but birth should not necessarily be the determining factor in one’s religious preference.

Q. I am chanting Rama nama 10,000 times per day as my sadhana. Scriptures say that japa can be done only after getting initiated by a guru. If this is so where do I get initiated?

A. You can be initiated into the Gaudiya lineage by any number of gurus from a variety of missions. You should try to locate a Gaudiya mission in your area and inquire there. If there are no Gaudiya missions in your area, try to make plans to visit one in the near future. My particular monastery is located in northern California. You are more than welcome to visit and discuss this issue in greater detail.

Q. Rama Rahasya Upanisad says liberation comes to a person who chants “Rama” 960 million times. How is it possible to complete this amount of chanting in the present lifetime?

A. The point of this Upanisadic statement is that incessant chanting of God’s name grants liberation. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu taught kirtaniya sada hari, constant chanting of God’s name. Under good guidance one can gradually come to this stage. Sriman Mahaprabhu tells his followers that this stage is attained by cultivating humility, tolerence, showing genuine respect for others, and expecting no honor for oneself.

Q. I am a businessman and daily I chant one round of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra. I chant when I am in a car or whenever I am alone. But I am not happy and fully confident that Lord Krishna will bestow his mercy on me to the extent I am expecting him to. My concern is that people do lot more to get his attention and I feel I am doing too little. What else should I do to get his attention?

A. Bhaktivinoda Thakura taught that one should begin chanting one round of nama japa (chanting on beads). As one’s taste for chanting increases, one should increase to two rounds and never chant less than this. In this way one should gradually increase one’s chanting, never decreasing the number of rounds one chants daily.

In all of this it is essential to chant under the guidance of an advanced devotee whom one accepts as his guru. One should regularly hear his gurudeva’s teachings and follow him in all respects. Nothing will please Krishna more than this. Indeed he himself is trying to serve such devotees, and if you assist him in this, this is real service.

Q. Can the Hare Krishna Maha-mantra be used for a more traditional mental recitation without worrying about how many times the mantra is uttered but trying to concentrate intently on each utterance? Traditional mantra meditation holds that mental utterance is more powerful, is this true for the maha-mantra?

A. Remembering (smarana) or meditating (dhyana) requires purity of heart in order for it to be effective. Thus mental utterances are considered more powerful than verbal ones because they necessitate a controlled mind, whereas verbal utterances of God’s name do not. However, from this it should be obvious that verbal utterances of God’s name are more powerful because they can be effective even when the mind is uncontrolled, and through such verbal utterance one can gradually bring the mind under control. The scriptural verdict is that chanting God’s name aloud in kirtana is most efficacious. The first effect derived from such chanting is the cleansing of the heart. To the extent that one’s heart is cleansed of desire one can effectively engage in meditation on God’s name silently in japa. Otherwise japa can be uttered aloud or audibly to oneself as a limb of kirtana.

Thakura Haridasa, who Sri Caitanya dubbed “Namacarya” (the acarya of the Holy Name), used to chant 300,000 names daily. He chanted 100,000 aloud, 100,000 audibly to himself, and 100,000 within his mind.

The mala of japa beads consists of 108 beads representing a garland of gopis around Krishna (the head bead). Eight of these 108 beads are distinguised from the other 100 by a string. Among the eight (asta sakhis) Radha is the foremost. We want to be connected with her group in terms of our participation in Krishna’s romantic affairs.

Krishna also has 108 groups of cows categorized by color and shape. They consist of four primary colors with 25 subdivisions in each group of the primary colors totaling 100 groups. Eight other groups differing in shape are added to these 100 bringing the total to 108. Sometimes is is also explained that Krishna has 108 groups of cows distinguished by eight principal colors. Different devotees have different experiences. At any rate, Krishna calls his cows by chanting on a mala of 108 jewels, and he is very careful not to miss any of them. Similarly we should chant our japa attentively, aspiring for service to Krishna in his lila with his cows, praying not to be left behind as Krishna enters the forest with the herd.

Q. Why do we stress chanting on beads so much? Is there a problem with this kind of meditation practice based on a certain amount of time each day vs. counting on beads a certain number of rounds each day?

A. It is possible that the traditional counter beads took the place of clocks, but there also seems to be an emphasis on the number of names chanted, as opposed to the time involved in chanting daily.

The Gaudiya tradition of chanting japa involves chanting on beads made from the sacred basil (Tulasi). Thakura Haridasa followed this tradition, and furthermore he regularly chanted his japa in the presence of the Tulasi plant. If one can plant Tulasi in his home and chant the maha-mantra on Tulasi beads given by one’s guru for a prescribed amount of time, or counting a prescribed number of names daily in the presence of Tulasi, one will make rapid advancement in spiritual life.

Q. I had the opportunity to visit you at Audarya and now I have a strong desire to follow the process of bhakti. Without the mercy of Sri Guru I know I will never be successful in this goal. I already follow your instruction to chant the maha-mantra near the Tulasi plant. If I continue to follow this instruction when can I become initiated?

A. I am happy that you have followed my advice and are chanting regularly in the company of Tulasi devi. Please continue to follow this program and come here and visit with me whenever you can. Perhaps when your schooling is completed you can move to California.

Before giving initiation I would like you to subscribe to Audarya Audio and receive my lectures on CD every month. Listening to them will prepare you for Hari Nama diksa.

Q. Sometimes when I am chanting Hare Krishna on my japa mala I imagine playing with Krishna and his friends in the forest. A guru never gave me a spiritual identity (siddha deha) but I feel attraction to meditate in this way. I feel this type of meditation along with my chanting is good for advancing my relationship with Krishna and his associates. What is your opinion about this?

A. If you have attraction for sakhya rasa (friendship with Krishna), you should approach your guru and discuss it with him. Other than in the most general way, remembering Krishna’s cowherd lilas while chanting Krishna nama should be done under spiritual guidance. Cultivating sakhya rasa should be done in the spirit of selfless service manifesting in a sense of equality with Krishna. This type of bhajana requires that one adopt the ego of the parikara (associate) of Krishna representing the particular sentiment that corresponds with one’s own emerging spiritual sentiment. This is not a cheap thing and is not for neophytes. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura taught that this type of bhajana is enacted on the platform of advaya jnana tattva, beyond the mind.

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