● Srila Prabhupada: “I think you should know that it is not offensive to think of pastimes while chanting, but rather it is REQUIRED.”
How do you take Harinam? How do you worship Harinam? My Srila Gurudeva used to repeat and emphasise only two words as the essence of all his instructions: NAM CHINTA — Remember The Name, not just utter or hear the Name only.
● The Essence of All Instructions
It took me years to realise the depth of these two words constantly emanating from his lotus mouth. Everything is there in these two words. This is the essence of all of Srila Rupa’s instructions also in Upadeshamrita: SMRTYOH KRAMENA — Gradually increase your rememberence from the Name to the Form, then to His Qualities, and finally to the Pastimes of Krishna. Those who constantly remember the lotus-eyed Lord become very beautiful to look at. The whole creation becomes attracted to them (yah smaret pundarikaksham…)
● Without Remembrance, All is Zero
Everything you do in life is a big ZERO without remembrance. Hear me, it is truly a very big ZERO, only elongating our stay in this cycle of birth and death! And with remembrance, even the smallest activity becomes infinitely precious and the very cause of our freedom. Only our daily remembrance counts. Everything else is chewing the chewed, which we have been fruitlessly doing for the past zillions of lifetimes in this material world.
● Falldowns Are The Norm Without Remembrance
You cannot maintain any of your Bhakti activities for more than a few days without positive remembrance. Unless you start doing your daily activities only after sufficient remembrance of the Lord in the morning, you will fall down zillions of times without any steady progress. Devotees fall away because they can‘t remember and relish, so they give up Harinam. The ultimate core purpose of Maya is thus to make us forget Krishna somehow or other.
● How Much Do You Remember Daily?
Chanting Harinam is to make us remember the Lord and not just to somehow finish the quota of Harinam daily. I don’t ask my disciples only how many rounds they have chanted but for how long they actually remembered the form and pastimes of the Lord in the Names they chanted.
● Only 5-10 Mins of Remembrance in 2 Hours of Chanting
This remembrance is the only real eternal bank balance of the soul. Otherwise it just becomes a race to complete the chanting quota by hook or by crook. After chanting Harinam for hours, one somehow manages to remember Krishna only for 5-10 minutes during those hours and that too half-heartedly.
● Not Remembering is the Mother of All Offenses
One does get the results of Namabhasa like freedom from karma and liberation while chanting Harinam without remembrance. But chanting without remembrance leads to a much severe problem — pramada or inattentive chanting, the mother of all offenses.
● No Pure Love Without Remembrance
We may get freedom from material karma by Namabhasa by just chanting and hearing Harinam without remembering, but that is more than offset by the even more heinous unatoneable reactions we get due to the ten offenses in Harinam by doing only Nam Japa but not NAM CHINTA or NAM SMARA — not remembering the Form and Pastimes in Harinam while chanting it.
● Chanting Means To Be Immersed in Thoughts of Krishna
The very question was asked to Srila Prabhupada by Sivananda das about should we think of Krishna’s pastimes while chanting. Some may argue that Srila Prabhupada is recommending this remembrance only for advanced devotees. But that is not true at all because his below answer was in the very early years (1968) to a very new devotee Sivananda das, who had obviously just started chanting the Hare Krishna Maha Mantra.
Srila Prabhupada’s letter to Sivananda das, Los Angeles, 4 December, 1968:
“Regarding your first question, is it offensive to think of Krishna’s pastimes while chanting, I think you should know that it is not offensive, but rather it is required. One must try for the point when he simply hears Krishna, and immediately all of Krishna, His pastimes, His form, His quality, are in his thoughts. So to always be immersed in thoughts of Krishna this is our process.
When we are full in Krishna then where there can be any chance for maya in us? So this is our duty to remember Krishna’s pastimes. One who cannot remember Krishna, let him always hear Hare Krishna, and then when he has perfected this art, then always he will remember Krishna, His activities, His qualities, and so on.”