Japa And The Mind

Japa and the Mind

Ravindra Svarupa

How is attention controlled by buddhi?

64 rounds is one lakh or names or 100,000 names. Haridas Thakura chanted 3 lakhs, which means chanting the whole day. Prabhupada originally wanted all of us to chant 64 rounds a day.

Yoga is centered on controlling the mind and draw it away from sense objects. When we chant 64 rounds we discover how much an enemy the mind is. We have decided to be devotees but the mind has not. Prabhupada says the mind is the repository of all ideas of sense gratification. The mind continues with its ideas of sense gratification as we go on with bhakti. This is referred to as the divided self. This makes us initially uneasy until the mind is conquered. The mind needs to be trained. The mind is that part of material nature that we are most closely connected with. People try to control things outside of themselves but don’t try to control the mind.

Don’t worry if the mind is not a devotee. I am a vaisnava but my mind is not. In this way we can put some distance between ourselves and our minds. We want to fix our minds on Krsna without deviation. Japa is the perfect time to do this. Japa is much more simple than other activities we do; there is me, the mind, and the holy name. Focus means to control attention and attention is controlled by buddhi.

Mind should be like a candle in a windless place. If we don’t follow regulative principles, it’s like wind blowing on the candle. If we practice bringing the mind back from the objects of sense gratification, it loses the propensity to think of sense gratification. We have to give Krsna in the Holy Name the courtesy of my attention. When you lose attention, bring it back, and continually do this. Don’t be discouraged, just be humble. I’ve been conditioned for millennium so I am not used to thinking of Krsna.

Sadhana means to practice chanting the Holy Name while trying to give up offences. If we chant and don’t endeavor to give up offences, it is called nama aparadha. Chanting with aparadha is like cooking with smoke. Bhaktivinoda says is just recitation of the letters of the alphabet. If there is smoke there is fire, but in aparadha the fire is so small, that you can go on chanting for hundreds of years without effect. There is no anartha nirvritti in nama aparadha. In nama aparadha there is not purification.

Namabhasa it the first rays of the real name, the dawning twilight. Namabhasa chanting destroys all sinful reactions, and the result is liberation. The pure name gives prema. Namabhasa is cleansing the heart. With the first light of dawn, the forest becomes safe. So the first light of the name purifies us.

During namabhasa, inattention while chanting simply means not thinking of Krsna. Three kinds of inattention:

Falling asleep


Indifference or boredom

Arjuna says the mind cannot be controlled. Krsna agrees it’s difficult to control the mind, so we are entitled to have a hard time. But He says it can be done by vairagya, detachment. Detachment means following the regulative principles. It calms the wind that blows the candle. Abhyasa. The root meaning of this word is practice. The central idea of practice is repetition. This is how we learn any skill. That’s why we chant everyday. It’s our practice. So if we cultivate detachment and practice everyday, we can control the mind.

How do we create emotion? If we give Krsna our attention, within that attention are the seeds of love. If you love someone, you’ll pay attention, but if you pay attention to someone, you will get to like them. Just like you might not like Muslims, but if you get to know one of them, you’ll like them. If you pay enough intention to something, it becomes interesting. Even rocks are interesting to people who pay attention to them.

We have issues with Krsna and that’s why it’s hard to pay attention to Him.

When we chant, we are asking Krsna to be re-established in our relationship with him. Even our mind wanders, Krsna sees that we are making an effort when we bring it back.

The maha mantra is also a prayer. Visvanatha Cakravarti says that wherever there is a prayer there is a request for a benediction. It’s not that we shouldn’t ask for anything, we should ask for the right thing. The mantra is in the vocative. We are asking for service when we chant. Ultimately, we need to come to the point that we want His service more than we have ever wanted anything in our lives.

The problem is that we want Krsna but we also want other things. This is the offence of maintaining material desires. It is not an offence to have desires, it is an offence to maintain the desires.

“Please give me devotional service, but not just yet.”

“Please destroy my material desires, but not this one.”

We should pray for Krsna to destroy all my desires. If we don’t pray in this way, we lack faith that this alone will make us happy. We should pray to Krsna to eliminate whatever is getting in the way of pure devotional service. We can pray specifically for those things that get in the way of pure devotional service. This will produce feeling.

Our misfortune, as described in the siksastakam, is that we commit offences. When Mahaprabhu quoted this verse he experienced humility and lamentation. Don’t feel bad about feeling bad. It’s humility. So no matter how bad I chant, Krsna is still allowing me to chant. Actually, He has been proactive in bringing me back. Krsna has sent so many of his pure devotee servants who have spent their lives just for us, to try to bring us back. We are actually fortunate that we have taken the Holy Name.

When we see our material desires (the Holy Names shines light on unpleasant things) we should know that it is Krsna who destroys material desires, not us. Our material desires are like Hiranyakasipu and Lord Nrsimha can come and destroy them. By chanting we are showing Krsna we are interested in advancing.

By chanting, we are allowed to get on a first name basis with Krsna (it’s His personal name).

If I am a good devotee, I may be in maya, but because I am steady, you won’t be able to see it by my behavior.