JAPA — Our Time to be with Krishna


Dear Bada Haridas,
I’ve been reading your blog posts and I really enjoy the question and answers format and content.

I wanted to express my appreciation for your insights, suggestions, lifestyle, kirtan, everything. You are very inspiring to me and I am grateful to have your association. I hope that you come for a visit soon and that we can do kirtan together.

My initial intention with this email was to just express my gratitude, but now I have my own question to submit.

Unfortunately, due to how I’ve structured my lifestyle, japa is not the highest priority and most of my rounds end up being quite inattentive. Are there any tangible steps one can take toward developing a taste for chanting? It’s something I’d love to develop but feel very lost in my attempts.

Also, when we chant, what is supposed to be going on in our mind? Are we supposed to think of Krishna? Are we supposed to see Krishna’s form in our minds as we chant? Or are we simply supposed to listen to the names again and again? I have a hard time with the latter when trying to get my day’s japa done, because the names go by so quickly. What is the proper way to engage the mind for focused japa?


Hare Krishna. Thank you for your sincere question and your concern to chant better. Definitely our modern lifestyle, work etc., make sadhana difficult. Of course, a real taste for chanting comes at the stage of ruci, after the heart is thoroughly cleansed. But we can develop some taste for chanting when we feel that chanting is our chance to escape the mundane mind and have the association of Radha and Krishna on the spiritual platform. Chanting has to become our time to be with Krishna.

Krishna is present when we chant, now we have to be present. Usually the mind is busy remembering the past and projecting the future. No possibility of hearing our chanting. We have to bring our mind into the present to hear. One time Giriraj Swami asked Srila Prabhupada, “How should we hear?” and he answered, “As I am speaking. ” When someone is speaking to us, whether in the car or walking or wherever, we usually don’t have a hard time focusing and just hearing them. We come into the present and hear. Why such a hard time to hear our chanting? I think there are several reasons, but one is that it is not a meaningful conversation for us.

So what to do? I suggest first, at least theoretically, approach your japa time as your time to be with Krishna. Calm the mind by offering prayers and just trying to be present and appreciate the opportunity you have. Be aware of your feelings, whatever they are, and bring them to Krishna. It could be, “Krishna, I’m completely distracted and have no love for You, please help me.” That’s a feeling. It’s not that we become overwhelmed by our feelings, but as we become aware that Krishna is observing us and hearing us chant, we also become aware of ourselves. There is a connection with Krishna and it is meaningful for us.

My experience is that chanting with sincere feeling helps me be more attentive and feel, at least sometimes, Krishna’s presence. It becomes meaningful for me and is not mechanical. The more we chant attentively, the more the heart is cleansed and we feel uplifted by it. Naturally we want more and more of that.

As for how to engage our minds when we chant, our acaryas have said that we need to hear. Srila Bhaktisidhanta has said, “As soon as the anartas are removed by chanting the holy names, the form, qualities, and pastimes of the Supreme Lord will automatically manifest. There is no need to artificially try to remember the Lord’s form, qualities, and pastimes.”

Krishna is present and He will reveal His form, qualities, and pastimes in time. If we are in the present, chanting and hearing with feeling, (Srila Prabhupada said, “like a child crying for his mother”) it is natural that your favorite deities or picture of Krishna will sometimes come in the mind. That is nice even at our present stage and more will come as we are ready. If we are present, it’s not hard to hear (assuming your chanting is a normal speed, like 6-10 minutes a round).

One other suggestion. I’m assuming your “lifestyle” means you are chanting late in the day when you are already tired and distracted or that you are chanting here and there, without focus. Those are the general difficulties. If you can find a day off or some time once in a week or so when you can just sit and chant all or most of your rounds in a peaceful, pleasant place, without external distraction, that will give you a nice taste. Krishna will reciprocate your effort. Then you will naturally look for ways to improve your daily situation.

It’s also very nice that you are organizing the kirtan programs. This service to the Holy Name will attract the mercy of the Lord.

One closing thought: Srila Bhaktisidhanta said, “The holy name and the Supreme Lord are non-different. When our anartas are destroyed, we will understand this fact. When you start chanting without offense, you will be convinced that all perfection comes from chanting the holy name.” (This should be a T-shirt)

I hope this helps. Let me know if it’s not clear or if you have any more questions. Thank you again.

Your servant,
Bada Haridas