Even after forty years of practice, I have often found chanting quality japa difficult because of my wild and uncontrolled mind. Yet over the years
I have noticed that certain principles-in this book I have referred to them as keys - have been effective in helping me increase the quality of my
chanting regardless of the level of my chanting at any given moment. In presenting these principles here in this small book, I pray that Krsna’s
holy name as well as the servants of His holy names, will be pleased.
How this Book Came to Be Written
Years ago, as I was chanting japa and walking around Vrndavana, I began to consider how to improve my chanting. What would it take for me to
become a more enthusiastic chanter? I realized that I needed to become more aware of the potency of chanting Krsna’s names. I also took a
serious look at the many obstacles I would have to overcome to be able to chant, steadily, in a way that would push me toward spiritual
advancement. I still find myself repeating today the thought I had those years ago: I must chant Krsna’s holy names attentively. But whenever I
attempted to be more attentive, I was forced to realize my incapacity. Humbled, I continued to chant and began to pray for the mercy of Krsna’s
I am a teacher by nature and learn best what I teach, so I decided to also try to help others improve their chanting. In the mood of both
seeking to learn and to teach others I began to study Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s sacred and powerful words, the Siksastaka.
What I found there amazed me. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu had already completed the research and arranged the curriculum: the
Siksastaka was already organized according to the principles I had somehow come to consider. Studying further I discovered that in his
Harinama-cintamani, and especially in his Bhajana Rahasya, Srila Bhakti-vinoda Thakura had also described the necessary details and practical
clues to assist me and others to better their chanting.
I have mined nine jewels from these sources and fashioned them into the keys I now present at japa retreats. This book is an expansion
on those ideas.
I have extracted all nine keys from the first four verses of the Siksastaka. These keys can help a chanter unlock the treasures of
Krsna’s holy names. Which key each person will find most useful will depend on the quality of japa he or she is chanting at the moment. In my
own chanting I have noticed that the key I most need to emphasize at the beginning of a chanting session may differ from the key I find most
relevant after I have been chanting for some time. In other words, the immediate quality of one’s chanting will dictate which key should be
Levels of Chanting
In his Bhajana Rahasya Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura broadly describes the stages of Krsna conscious advancement, paralleling those listed by Srila
Rupa Gosvami inn the Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu:
Verse One: ceto-darpana-marjanam - sraddha, faith
Verse two: namnam akari bahudha nija-sarva-saktih-the acceptance and performance of Krsna conscious practies, which cause unwanted desires
and habits to be removed from the heart (anartha-nivrtti).
Verse three: trnad api sunicena taror api sahisnuna - nistha, fixedness in devotion to Krsna.
Verse Four: na dhanam na janam na sundarim - ruci, taste in chanting Krsna’s holy names.
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu offers these verses both as descriptions and prescriptions. That is, by chanting Krsna’s holy names while
following the guidelines indicated in each verse, especially as Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura has expanded on them in Bhajana Rahasya, our love for
Krsna will develop progressively through stages - from sraddha to ruci and upward to asakti (attachment), bhava, and prema-bhakti (stages
described in the Siksastaka’s final verses).
The Qualities of One Stage…
But it is not that as we pass, for example, through the initial stage, sraddha (faith), to bhajana-kriya (devotional practice under the guru’s
guidance) and anartha-nivrtti and onward that we are done with faith. Rather, the quality of advancement mentioned in one stage is included and
intensified in the next. For example, bhajana-kriya and anartha-nivrtti naturally deepen faith, sraddha, because as we clear anarthas we feel the
heart being cleansed by the holy name. similarly, nistha brings an even deeper faith (and a cleaner heart) than the previous stages. As the heart
increases. This longing and taste define ruci. But at ruci it is natural to experience a further loosening of our unwanted tendencies (anarthanivrtti)
and an ever-increasing faith (sraddha) in Krsna’s names.
The glorious qualities that characterize each stage continue to increase as we progress. It is clear that the residents of Vrndavana,
Krsna’s dearmost devotees, who stand supreme at the highest level of prema, have unequaled faith (sraddha), purity of heart (bhajana-kriya and
anartha-nivrtti), fixedness in their devotion (nistha), taste (ruci), attachment (asakti), and love (prema) - and they express their prema both toward
Krsna Himself and in the act of singing about Him, which includes chanting His holy names. Indeed, the Vraja gopis fully exhibit the qualities of
all the stages in the madness of the prema they experience in their ecstatic distress as they search for Krsna when He disappears from among
them during the rasa dance. At that time, at the pinnacle of their ecstasy, they too take shelter of Krsna’s holy name:
Singing loudly of Krsna, they searched for Him throughout the Vrndavana forest like a band of madwomen. They even asked the trees
about Him, who as the Supersoul is present inside and outside of all created things, just like the sky. (Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.30.4)
All the gopis, including Radharani, began to proceed further into the forest until they could no longer see the moonlight. When they
saw that it was getting gradually darker, they stopped. Their minds and intelligence became absorbed in thoughts of Krsna; they all imitated the
activities of Krsna and His speeches. Due to their hearts and souls being completely given to Krsna, they began to chant His glories, completely
forgetting their family interests. In this way, all the gopis assembled together on the bank of the Yamuna, and expecting that Krsna must return to
them, they simply engaged in the chanting of the glories of Sri Krsna-Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/Hare Rama, Hare Rama,
Rama Rama, Hare Hare. (Krsna book, pp. 234-35, 2006 edition).
When Srimati Radharani first saw Krsna, She suddenly became conscious of all transcendental happiness, and the functions of Her
different limbs were stunned. When Lalita, Her constant companion, whispered into Her ear the holy name of Krsna, Radharani immediately
opened Her eyes wide. This is an instance of alertness caused by hearing the sound of Krsna’s name. (The Nectar of Devotion, p.259)
In the [same] Krsna-karnamrta there is another statement about the chanting of Radharani. It is said by one of the associates of
Radharani: “O Lord Govinda, the girl who is the daughter of King Vrsabhanu is now shedding tears, and She is anxiously chanting Your holy
name-Krsna! Krsna!” (The Nectar of Devotion, p. 138).
[T]he ladies of Vraja, who were so attached to Krsna, felt extremely agitated by their imminent separation from Him. They forgot all
shame and loudly cried our, “O Govinda! O Damodara! O Madhava!” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.29.31).
While describing the autumn rasa dance, Parasara Muni says in the Visnu Purana (5.13.52, 56): Krsnah sarac-candramasam
kaumudi-kumudakaram jagau gopi-ganas tv ekam krsna-nama punah punah, “Krsna sang about the autumn moon and its light upon the lotus ponds,
while the gopis simply sang Krsna’s name over and over again.” Rasa-geyam jagau krsno yavat tarayata-dhvanih sadhu krsneti krsneti tavat ta
dvi-gunam jaguh: “While Krsna sang a rasa-dance song in a resonant voice, the gopis congratulated Him and redoubled their chanting of ‘Krsna!
Krsna!” (Brhad-bhagavatamrta, 2.7.136, commentary).
AT all stages of advancement, from the highest to the lowest, most beginning stage, devotees chant Krsna’s holy names and sing about
His qualities and pastimes. “O King, constant chanting of the holy name of the Lord after the ways of the great authorities is the doubtless and
fearless way of success for all, including those who are from all material desires, those who are desirous of all material enjoyment, and also
those who are self-satisfied by dint of transcendental knowledge.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.1.11)
Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura comments on this verse and offers chanters further encouragement: “It is understood that in this
scripture bhakti is described. Among the angas of bhakti, which is defined as the chief one, standing out like an emperor exerting power
everywhere? This verse answers that question. Among the angas of bhakti, hearing, chanting, and remembering are the three chiefs…among
these, three, chanting is the chief. In chanting, however, there is chanting of the Lord’s name, chanting of His qualities, and chanting of His
pastimes. Among these anukirtana (chanting of His name according to one’s own bhakti) is best. Anukirtana also means continuous chanting.
This is not only my conclusion; this has been concluded (nirnitam) by the previous acaryas. Therefore there is no need for further inquiry or
Chant Hare Krsna and Be Happy
Confidently following this conclusion, srila Prabhupada asserts: “This is the advantage of chanting Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare
Hare/Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. One may be put in any condition, but God gives him the prerogative to chant Hare Krsna.
In any condition of life, if one goes on chanting he will never be unhappy.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.15.49, purport).
He also told many of his disciples at the time of their initiation, “Now chant Hare Krsna and be happy.” To Aditi Dasi in 1970: “Chant
Hare Krishna Mantra always and be happy.” And to Hladini Dasi, also in 1970: “So please chant Hare Krishna and be happy. That is my
“All glories, all glories to the all-blissful holy name of Sri Krsna, which causes the devotee to give up all conventional religious
duties, meditation, and worship. When somehow or other uttered even once by a living entity, the holy name awards him liberation. The holy
name of Krsna is the highest nectar. It is my very life and my only treasure.” (Brhad-Bhagavatamrta 1.1.9)
I would like to thank those who have devotedly offered their skills in the fire of producing this book. Thank you, Kaisori Dasi, for help
with conceptualizing, editing, and production; Suman Sankar, Hare Krishna Dasa, and Taj Avital for layout and design; Yaron Shagal for cover
design and photo layout; Linda Hodgkinson for proofreading; and Braja Bihari Dasa for working with the printer. My thanks also to the VIHE for
both hosting japa retreats and allowing me to participate in them along with my companion and friend His Holiness Sacinandana Swami.
By the grace of the holy name and His servants, if this small book and its nine keys helps to improve even one reader’s chanting, and
that chanter becomes happy by the grace of Krsna’s names, I will consider my effort in writing this book a success.
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