Try chanting Japa in any rhythmic melody you like and see if it increases your remembrance during Japa. The secret buried deep in the scriptures for more blissful and absorbing Japa of the Hare Krishna mahamantra.
● Chanting in a Musical Way
Many devotees find it much more absorbing and relishable to chant their daily rounds of japa in a musical way by singing the holy names. It not only deepens our mood of calling out to Nam Prabhu, but our bliss of chanting increases beyond bounds.
Personally, I can testify that singing the holy names during japa gives me more bliss, remembrance and realizations in the Nam than when I just chant softly to myself. Just like we experience a unique feeling of ecstasy by singing the verses written in the scriptures and by our Acharyas, in comparison to just reading them.
Speed also plays an important role in invoking remembrance. If we just quote some verse or sing very fast, it does not give our mind enough time to properly delve into the meaning of each word, which in turn checks us from fully relishing the nectar which is stored in that verse.
Our mind does not get the scope to properly visualize, process or remember the words or names that we are chanting and it immediately jumps to the next line without first fully relishing the first line.
For example, if I sing: jaya radhe, jaya krishna, jaya vrindavan, sri govinda, gopinatha, madana-mohan, really fast then my mind does not get enough time to remember that Yogapith Vrindavan where Govindadev is sitting with His sakhis, immediately it goes from Govindadev to Gopinath’s lila.
Gopinath has His own pastimes of rasa lila in Vamsivat, etc. When one is singing or chanting very fast, it becomes difficult to fully immerse oneself in the meaning of each word. As Srila Prabhupada used to say, when we chant very slow then the mind wanders and if we do too fast then also the mind wanders as we do not have enough time to focus on the name.
● All Senses Get Involved in Kirtanmoy Japa
Sanatana Goswami says vishuddham bhakti acharam, the topmost bhakti is to always remain in contact with the Supreme Lord and His pastimes via Sankirtan, kirtan. Kirtan means singing. Sada sangata apekshaya means Kirtan is for one who always wants to remain in touch with the Lord.
Haridas Thakur and Bhaktivinoda Thakur, in the presence of Gauranga Mahaprabhu, are directly recommending that some rounds in your japa should be done as kirtan. It’s not a light statement, it’s very important, but unfortunately it is taken very lightly.
It is mentioned in Harinam Chintamani, sankhya madhye kichu nam koribe kirtan, sarvendriya sphurti hoye ananda nartan. Haridas Thakur recommends us to loudly sing some of our rounds too. Why?
Because through that the Lord and the lila will be revealed to all your senses. Sarvendriya sphurti, sphurti means revealing. All your senses will become absorbed in the lila and the Lord, His forms and ananda nartan, you will not only feel bliss, all your senses and even your soul will begin dancing in ecstasy. This is possible through Kirtanmoy japa.
Otherwise Haridas Thakur would not emphasize or would not highlight this characteristic of singing while doing japa. Sankhya madhye kichu nam koribe kirtan. Sankhya means japa, Sankhya means which we count, japa. So Haridas Thakur is recommending that you do kirtan even for some of your daily rounds. That way we will not forget to do Kirtan daily.
● Whole World Becomes One in Kirtan
Srila Haridasa Thakura used to sing the names also, because he himself highlights this feature of singing japa and it is proved by the fact that he used to participate in every Sankirtana of the Lord.
The Supreme Lord is revealed to all the senses by chanting in such a manner. If this was not a unique characteristic of kirtan and it was possible with japa only, then he would not have said this.
Japa is very nice but two things happen in Kirtan. One is that the speed becomes a bit slower when we have to sing the mantra. So the mind has ample time to meditate on the meaning of each name.
If you will ask any devotee in the world what they like more – japa or kirtan, the 99% answer will be kirtan. While participating in kathas, in lectures, sometime devotees fall asleep but in kirtan nobody falls asleep.
Now it is Kirtan melas, kirtan is everywhere. Even non devotees join devotees in this kirtan, the whole world becomes one in kirtan. Normally non-devotees do not accept our philosophy but when the Kirtan portion comes, everybody joins it.
● Quality and Quantity in Sadhana
Sankhya madhye kichu nam koribe kirtan. It is a very very important instruction. When we chant fast, there is no time to focus on each word of the Hare Krishna Maha Mantra.
However, when you slowly sing Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare; then one can actually bring to the mind the lilas of Radha-Krishna and Nityananda Gauranga easily as there is ample time for the mind to focus on each Name. Every word becomes alive and we feel like we are just watching those lilas. That is why you can see that most of the recorded Kirtans of Srila Prabhupada are in a slow tempo.
For siddhas who are realizing every single name in full bloom, quantity is not a concern. So Siddhas can chant with quality and quantity both. But for those who have not reached that platform, we have to focus on quality.
For example Haridas Thakur, even though he was a siddha and he had his fixed quantity, still he would never compromise on quality. The proof of that is he told Gauranga Mahaprabhu that I cannot complete my rounds now,p so he wants to leave this world.
He was chanting with a particular speed. He could have increased the speed also and finished his 3 lakhs. The quality of chanting is so important that he preferred to leave this world and end his manifest pastimes than to compromise on the quality by completing the quantity at a faster speed.
For us, quality is even more important. Because according to Caitanya Caritamrita, ek krishna nam hoibe sarv paap nash. One Krishna Nam is enough to destroy all your sins and take you to Goloka if there is quality. But there is no quality due to our offenses. So if we chant with quality then how will that be like? Even though it will take longer to complete our daily vow, the goal of remembrance will be achieved.
● The Goal is to Remember 24 Hours
If you chant in a musical way, then you will relish the Nam. In that case, even if it takes more time, you will nevertheless still feel blissful. You will not count how many rounds are remaining. You will feel like going on and on.
So if we have the quality, then quantity automatically comes. In fact one should initially chant slower so that the whole name and the form of the name, the syllables, can reveal themselves. What matters is the quality of remembrance. If you are able to remember the Lord’s pastimes throughout the day and night or not.
Ultimately the goal is to remember the Lord 24 hours. That is what Haridas Thakur said, that is what Prabhupada said. Since we cannot remember 24/7, we chant at least 16 rounds. So that at least we can remember the Lord for few hours daily.
But we don’t feel the rasa by mechanical chanting, because our mind gets no time to process each name. By singing each name we slow down a bit, thus our remembrance of rupa, guna, and lila becomes very strong.
● Kirtan Reveals the Nam Bhagavan
Our Harinam japa, Shravan, Tulasi sewa, Vigraha sewa, everything is ultimately meant for the purpose of making all our senses relish kirtan and that is the highest goal. Nityananda Gauranga are sankirtanaika-pitarau, it is not mentioned – japaika-pitarau.
They have come to give sankirtan. They are the inaugurators of kirtan. So our japa can also become Kirtan. Param Vijayate Sri Krishna Sankirtanam. The 1st verse of Shikshastakam talks about the supreme victory of Sankirtan and next verse talks about Namruchi.
So everything is ultimately Kirtan. Then why can’t our japa be kirtan and why can’t our shravan also be kirtan? Even singers and musicians feel drawn to the rhythmic sounds of kirtan. As we can see, Kirtan attracts all.
● Go Deeper in Sadhana
Why is the music industry in this world so famous? There so many podcasts where people give talks, yet their listeners are still outnumbered by the number of people who like to hear music.
As soon as one hears music, one feels like closing one’s eyes. When you close your eyes that means you are going deeper into something. Naturally you are visualizing the meaning of what you are singing or hearing.
Whereas in talking you are kind of externalized, you are not fully absorbed in the sound vibration. Sometimes japa becomes like that, because we are just inaudibly repeating the mantra. But when our japa becomes a little musical, immediately it becomes so much more blissful.
Even as a brahmachari, I observed that the devotees who would engage in Kirtan for long periods of time would be the most sober and advanced devotees. Everybody is stressing on chanting 64 rounds, but the stress on its quality should also be there.
Everyone is emphasizing on the chanting of 64 rounds, but in truth, even one name chanted purely has the power to transform us into pure devotees.
The goal should be remembrance. Not to complete so-and-so number of rounds. Remember the names, like my Gurudev told me ‘nam chinta’. If one can remember the name, then one can increase the quantity. But first there should be quality.
Mahagraha habe chitte namera sankhyaya, when you will chant with quality and remembrance then mind will push you to go on without stop. The quantity will automatically come. Not by force but spontaneously. That goal we must reach.
● Every Lila is a Song
Param vijayate sankirtanam. So that is the sankirtana yagya. Whether it is Krishna nam, Radha’s nam, etc., ultimately all our sadhana, all our practices, all our bhajan should have the kirtan touch. Because Kirtan is the all in all in Goloka.
Katha Ganam. When we will go in the nitya lila, we will not be doing japa, our every word will be a song. The gopis are actually singing Krishna’s name while churning buttermilk. So everyone is singing, every lila is full with singing.
So why not give singing touch to all our Bhakti practices. My humble request to everyone is to try chanting Japa in any rhythmic melody you like and see if increases your remembrance during Japa. This is Kirtanmoy Japa.