Monday Morning Greetings 2019 #11 – Chant and Be Happy: How Does It Work?

March 18th, 2019

Chant and be happy. It seems so simple. But is it? Do we find chanting automatically pleasurable, or do we find it sometimes a chore? How does bhakti work and how can I make it work for me? In other words, how can I chant and be happy?


Before discussing how chanting makes us happy, we first must understand what happiness is. Most people would agree that the essence of happiness is love, which is the energy that flows between two people in a relationship. A simple analogy will help us understand this concept further.


When a calf is born she immediately gravitates to her mother’s teats for milk, and the mother responds by intensely and affectionately licking her calf. They innately feel an intense bond, or energy, between them called love. In a similar way, as we have a natural relationship with God, being part of Him, that intense bond or energy between us, called bhakti, will awaken when we focus our attention on God. Now we can proceed to discuss how chanting works to invoke devotion and happiness in a similar way.


According to the yogic tradition, mantra, or specifically names of God, is non-different from God. Therefore, when we focus our attention on God’s holy name, we naturally feel the sublime energy of love between the soul and God. That’s how chanting works. Now, when doesn’t chanting work?


We may not necessarily experience the holy name when chanting, and thus receive the full benefit of its presence, if we are not attentive, for perception depends not just on the senses, but also on the mind. How many times when listening to a class or chanting the holy name are we not hearing the message, or mantra, because our mind is elsewhere? Chanting is therefore “not happy” when the mind is not properly focused on the holy name and thus doesn’t fully perceive Him.


Our ability to experience something also depends on our attitude. For example, if we envy someone, we see them as less than they are, or when lacking a loving attitude towards someone, the person directly before our eyes is not fully revealed to us. In order to fully experience Krishna in the holy name, and thus “chant and be happy”, we must, along with chanting His name, develop the proper relationship with Krishna. We do this by hearing the glories of Krishna and worshiping His form. Regularly reading the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and visiting the Lord’s temple are thus essential to making the holy name work.


Finally, to fully understand something and experience its potency our focus has to be not just concentrated, but concentrated without any interruption over a period of time. That effort is called practice. In other words, to experience the holy name we must practice chanting the holy name. I thought of an analogy to illustrate this point:


To set alight a piece of paper by focusing the sun on it through a magnifying glass requires that the sun must be concentrated on the paper for some time. Similarly, to melt the heart and enflame our natural feelings of devotion we need to practice, or concentrate, for some time, beginning with having a time and place for chanting unfettered by any distraction.


In that regard, serious meditators thus usually have an āsana, or a seat, for practice. Having an āsana for chanting indicates a place that, once sat upon, is exclusively for the worship of Krishna, which, in this case, is for the chanting of His holy name. When we do that, we sit near (upa) to Krishna not just by a physical distance, but by our consciousness. Our practice then truly becomes upāsana or worship, sitting (āsana) near (upa) the Lord.


That’s how it works. Chant and be happy!





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