Main Principles of Japa

Aparadha, Namabhasa, Suddha nama


When namabhasa is complete, all sins and anarthas (unwanted desires in the heart) are dissipated, and the devotee chants purely. Then suddha-nama offers the devotee the highest spiritual success: love of Krsna.

“Anyone wanting to attain the highest spiritual success of chanting purely must approach a bona fide spiritual master and serve him sincerely and with care. Gradually, as all the anarthas or unwanted desires in the heart are destroyed, the transcendental name of Krsna appears and dances on the tongue of the devotee. The devotee must relish the holy name, now nectarean in taste, at every moment. Thus spiritually intoxicated, the devotee always feels like dancing. As the holy name dances, the devotee likewise dances, and at that moment the ecstasy of love of Godhead also enters dancing into devotee’s heart. The entire world falls at his feet and maya runs away.

“Lord Krsna is the omnipotent spiritual sun, and He and His name are identical. Thus, the holy name is like the all-powerful, brilliant sun that disperses the darkness of maya or nescience. To stream mercy upon the conditioned souls, the sun of the holy name has arisen on the horizon of this material world.

“But sometimes clouds and mist obscure one’s vision, and then the sun is not visible. The jiva is covered over by the cloud of anartha and the mist of ignorance. The cloud and mist spread a blanket over the jiva’s vision so that he is unable to see the sunlike holy name. The sun is too big for any cloud or mist to cover, but if the jiva’s vision is obfuscated, then the sun is hidden from him.

“Hankering for things temporary and unreal, weakness of the heart and mind, and offenses produce a cloud of anarthas that keeps the jivas in constant suffering. Asattrsna (thirsting for the illusory) indicates desires for things not related to Lord Krsna, or in other words, the craving for so-called material gains; hridaya-daurbalyam refers to propensities of the heart and mind that arise from a condition of spiritual weakness; and aparadha means offenses. These three anarthas are to avoided, for they form a cloud that hides the sun of the holy name. The holy name is always perfect in itself, but namabhasa obfuscates the jiva’s vision of it.

“As long as the jiva is not firmly established in the knowledge of sambandha-tattva, or the correct understanding of the relationship between God, His energies, and the jiva, he will continue to chant in the namabhasa stage. When the jiva takes full shelter of a bona fide spiritual master, he becomes expert in executing devotional service under his guru’s guidance; then gradually the clouds and mist are dispersed.

“The namabhasa stage is not to be underestimated, for it avails many positive benefits to the jiva and increases his piety. Verily, namabhasa is one of the jiva’s greatest virtues. It offers him more good fortune than religiosity, vows, yoga, sacrifices and so on, put together. Now by chanting all his sins are absolved; he is thus liberated from the effects of Kali-yuga. Instead, Kali becomes a well-wishing servitor of the jiva providing security and equanimity. The miseries inflicted by demons, ghosts, hobgoblins, evil spirits and malefic planetary influences are easily averted. Even if a jiva is destined for the hellish planets he attains liberation; all his prarabdha-karma (sinful reactions of previous lives’ activities that are taking effect now) is counteracted. Namabhasa is greater than the result of studying all the Vedas, of visiting every pilgrimage place or of performing every possible altruistic and pious work.

“Faithful chanting that is still afflicted by anarthas is known as sraddha-nama, as You Yourself have explained, my Lord. The element of real sraddha (faith) is absent in the four attitudes of namabhasa chanting, and sanketa chanting is tinged with neglect. Nonetheless, even hela-namabhasa (chanting with neglect) gives one liberation, what to speak of faithful chanting. Chanting with faith establishes one on the platform of sambandha-jnana, which results in rati or attraction for He holy name. Sraddha-nama clears away anarthas very easily and quickly.

“Short of krsna-prema, every other success is available in namabhasa. When anarthas are nullified, then namabhasa is converted to nama or suddha-nama, the pure name. By pure chanting and by following the rules of sadhana as instructed by guru, sadhu and sastra, one slowly but surely acquires krsna-prema—love of Godhead. But namabhasa chanting can never give krsna-prema.

“I bow down to that fortunate soul who has freed himself from committing namaparadha, offenses against the holy name, in the namabhasa stage. This namabhasa stage is far beyond knowledge and fruitive work. And if one’s sraddha is furthermore rooted in rati or attraction and is offenseless as well, then gradually it will lead to the pure name.

“If the chaya-namabhasa chanter is not contaminated by atheistic concepts, then he has a good chance. His position is that he is ignorant about the potency of the holy name, but it is the inherent nature of the holy name to impregnate that knowledge into the chanter’s heart. For example, the sun may not be visible when the sky is cloudy, but once the clouds are dispersed, the sun shines through in full glory. The chanter gains great benefit from taking shelter of a bona fide spiritual master, and in a short time is able to attain the pure name and krsna-prema.




  • To learn and apply techniques and attitudes in your daily japa that enable you to become more absorbed in your chanting.
  • To gain a greater taste for chanting so that japa becomes what you want to do rather than what you have to do.
  • To have deeper and more profound experiences with the holy name on a consistent basis.
  • To gain a greater appreciation for the holy name and its central importance in the practice of bhakti.
  • To experience that “there is nothing but the holy name in all the fourteen worlds.”
  • To organize your life and priorities in a way that supports good japa.
  • To create a mindset (and thus a habit) of consistently improving your japa throughout your life.



Treat the Holy Names as Radha and Krsna

  • It is materially inconceivable that God and His name are identical.
  • We can realize this truth by relating to (and treating) the holy names as Radha and Krsna.
  • All kinds of poor or offensive chanting stem from not properly relating to and honoring the holy names as Radha and Krsna.
  • Prabhupada wouldn’t walk over Krsna’s names because he saw the name as non different and respected the name this way.

Quality, Not Quantity, is the  Goal


  • The goal of japa is not to finish our quota of rounds. The goal is to chant quality rounds .
  • By chanting quality rounds we will automatically finish our quota (and want to chant more rounds).

The Symptom of Good Japa is Taste


  • The symptom of good japa is that we like to chant.
  • The symptom of poor japa is lack of taste and a struggle to complete our rounds.
  • Lack of taste is reinforced by the mood of, “I have to do chant” rather than in proper mood of  “I want to chant, I get to chant, I love to chant.”
  • I have to chant sends a message to Krsna in the form of Nama Prabhu that we don’t like spending time with Him.

When you Chant, Chant


  • The most foundational principle for good japa (the paribhasa sutra of japa) is to turn off your life when you chant – and do nothing else but chant.
  • Chanting is worship of Radha and Krsna; therefore we must be fully present to Their world when we chant.
  • The more we are able to be present with our japa, the better our chanting will be.
  • Inattentive chanting results from not honoring japa as a sacred relationship that deserves our full attention and participation and thus not making the sankalpa before chanting to be fully present with the holy name.
  • Without making this sankalpa, we fight a losing battle with the mind, and often end up doing “Courtesy Japa.”
  • By making this sankalpa, the mind quiets down.

Inattention – Where is your attention going?

  • Inattentive chanting is the source of all offences.
  • All offences are ways of being distracted from Krsna.
  • Distraction is a result of our eternal conditioning to compete with and envy Krsna.


The Name is More Merciful Than Krsna


  • We chant in appreciation of Krsna’s kindness, love and mercy for us, and how the holy name personifies this affection.
  • As our father Krsna cannot but love us. He loves us so much that He makes it possible for us to attain the highest perfection of love for Him by chanting His name.


Chanting is Not Just a Process, It’s a Relationship.


  • We are repairing a broken relationship with Krsna
  • When we chant, we are crying to Krsna, begging, “Please accept me, please accept me.”
  • This kind of chanting makes us aware that we once turned away from Krsna, and that we still have the tendency to turn away from Krsna.
  • We chant with remorse for having broken this relationship and with a prayerful desire to reestablish this relationship.


Chanting is Service


  • Don’t just think who is Krsna for me, think who am I for Krsna.
    Chanting is done to please Krsna.
  • Sometimes we may not feel the pleasure we desire from the Name, but we remain sastisfied knowing that chanting is pleasing to Krsna and that we can please Him by our heartfelt and sincere chanting.
  • Chanting is the highest service


Feeling Krsna’s Presence


  • To be present means to “experience what we are experiencing.”
  • Experience takes place in the present moment.
  • Our mind takes us out of the present moment.
  • To be fully present to the holy name, we allow ourselves to be open to feel Krsna’s presence in the vibration of the mantra (vibrating within us and outside of us).
  • Be a receiver, not an achiever. Be a non achiever.


Chanting is Heart Deep, Not Lip Deep

  • The essence of prayer is feeling.
  • What is not expressed by the heart does not communicate.
  • The maha mantra is not an invocation with a seed in the mantra. It is a prayer and thus it is expressed from the heart.
  • Feeling is the antidote to mechanical chanting.


You Must Be Out of Your Mind to Chant Hare Krsna.


  • Mechanical chanting means we are in our mind, not in our heart.
  • When we go to our heart, we get out of our mind.
  • When we dwell in our mind (our thoughts of ourselves and our lives) the heart closes.
  • Prabhupada didn’t advise that we battle with our minds when we chant. Rather he said, “Chant and hear.”
  • “You chant with your tongue and hear with your ears. There is no question of mind” (Srila Prabhupada)
  • As we advance in our chanting, Krsna’s form, qualities and pastimes come to our mind (and vision), but not to the material mind, the mind that distracts us from proper chanting.


Sacred Space

  • Chant in your japa house, not in your house. Your house is the place where your life exists, the place where you are absorbed in thoughts of you (your work, your fears, your bodily pains, your to do list, etc.)
  • Your japa house is figuratively the place away from your house (your life). It is the place devoted entirely to japa, to going out of your world and into Krsna’s world.
  • It is the place where you can fully honor your sacred relationship with Him while chanting.
  • Sacred space is both a physical space (where you chant, what you look at when you chant, etc.) and an internal space (where you go internally when you chant).



  • Sastra says a crooked body creates a crooked mind.
  • Your physiology affects your psychology.
  • Prabhupada remarked during japa, “Sit properly.” If you sit straight, it helps you concentrate.
  • Your psychology also affects your physiology. If you are not sitting straight, it is often a sign that you are getting lazy about your chanting, or you are not trying as hard as you could – and should – to chant your rounds.


Aparadha, Nama bhasa, Sudha nama


  • Aparadha produces no spiritual benefit.
  • Namabhasa removes anarthas.
  • Suddha nama gives love of Krsna.
  • The bridge from anartha to suddha nama is namabhasa.
  • We enter the bridge through the door of effort, specifically the effort to avoid the ten offences. Nama aparadha is defined as chanting without making the effort to avoid the ten offences.


The Central Role of Japa in Bhakti

  • Sacinandana Swami quotes Prabhupada as saying that 90% of our advancement is dependent on chanting.
  • All other processes of bhakti are contained in chanting.
  • Chanting is the most important of the nine processes.
  • Chanting is the pole that supports the other processes of bhakti.
  • The goal is to always remember Krsna. The best way to do this is by chanting.
  • “Your beads are your connection to Krsna.” (Srila Prabhupada)
  • “Your beads are your ticket back to Godhead.” (Srila Prabhupada)
  • “This chanting is the essence of our philosophy.” (Srila Prabhupada)




  • What you appreciate, appreciates.


The holy name is my … because …
The Meaning of the Mantra


  • Bhaktivinoda Thakur advises us to meditate on the meaning of the mantra.
  • Every meaning is a prayer for coming closer to Radha and Krsna



Chant while meditating on different meanings of the mantra.


If I Surrender to Krsna, What if …?


  • Confront your fears of surrender.
  • Realize that such fears are holding your chanting back.
  • Discuss these fears and realize their illusory nature



If I surrender to Krsna, what if  …? (make your list of what if’s).


Aligning Your Life with the Holy Name

  • We must act outside of our 16 rounds for our 16 rounds.
  • Everything we do affects our heart.
  • Our relationship with others affects our chanting.
  • Resolve any bad relationships.



What, if anything, are you doing in your life, or in your consciousness, that is having a negative effect on your chanting?


Collecting the Gems


  • Note your realizations, the gems Krsna gave you at the workshop.
  • Note down practices you wish to incorporate into your japa.
  • Note down practices you wish to correct/avoid.
  • Note down obstacles you will face as you try to improve.
  • Note down how you will deal with these obstacles.


Reference: Collecting the Gems handout.


Going Home with the Right Attitude

  • We should be thinking “I will improve my japa gradually throughout my life,” rather than thinking, “The japa workshop was great, but I won’t be able to maintain such good japa at home.”
  • Focus on where you are going, where you want to go, not where you are at. It doesn’t matter where you have come from. It only matters where you are going.
  • Don’t become critical of others if you see they are not chanting well. (The tendency for this can increase after a japa workshop.)
  • Control the tendency to be critical by simply appreciating that others are trying to chant.
  • Remember, that although you have attended a japa workshop, you may not always apply the techniques, attitudes and practices for better chanting that you have learned.


Additionally, wherever possible, help those devotees who are willing to hear from you.


Japa Buddies


  • Partner up with another devotee and help one another commit to better japa practices by calling one another every evening and checking in.
  • Meet with other japa buddies regularly as a group to discuss what is working, what your challenges are, and how to improve.


Closing Words


Japa is synergistic. Hearing, praying, meditating on the meaning, being in a relationship with Krsna, etc. are not meant to be processes that make you mental about whether or not you are chanting properly, but are meant to nourish the proper mood or your chanting and thus further absorb you in chanting.


Remember chanting is not a mechanical process you are trying to perfect.


“There is nothing but the name to be had in the fourteen worlds.”  ~Bhaktivinoda Thakur