The meditation business is flourishing. Soon, it appears, every suburban town will have its regular classes in yoga meditation for health and freedom from neurosis, and every college campus will have its yogi in residence. But despite the popularity of meditation, as put forward by various yogis and meditation societies, few people know the true meaning of meditation.
According to the Vedic scriptures, which are the original source of knowledge of yoga, most forms of meditation are virtually impossible to perform in the modern world, and therefore one should learn to meditate by the simple method of chanting and hearing the Hare Krishna maha-mantra.
One may find the Vedic directions for true meditation in the Sixth Chapter of Bhagavad-gita, which explains that the goal of meditation is to absorb the mind in Krishna consciousness and enable one to see the transcendental four-armed form of Vishnu within his heart. This system of meditation entails many difficult austerities. One must sit in a rigid posture in a sacred and secluded place, completely control the body’s urges for sensual gratification and utterly renounce sex. The scriptures say that such meditation was indeed possible in Satya-yuga (the Age of Truth), an age long past when men lived for 100,000 years. The celebrated Valmiki Muni, author of the epic Ramayana, meditated for 60,000 years to achieve perfection.
But in the modern age, Kali-yuga (the Age of Quarrel), such meditation is practically impossible, because there is no guarantee that one will live for even sixty years. The so-called meditation now practiced in our modern cities may provide a lucrative business for the shrewd few who teach it, but in achieving the real goal of yogic meditation, it has no practical value.
Despite the great difficulties of meditation in this age, however, the scriptures describe Kali-yuga’s one great benefit:
kaler dosa-nidhe rajann
asti hy eko mahan gunah
kirtanad eva krishnasya
mukta-sangah param vrajetjet
This age of Kali is an ocean of faults, but it offers one great advantage: in this age, one can attain liberation simply by chanting the holy name of God. (Srimad-Bhagavatam 12.3.51)
How to Make Your Own Meditation Beads
Therefore, those who are sentimentally meditating, but do not know the true meaning of meditation, should stop wasting their valuable time and chant the holy names of God as found in the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. One may chant either loudly so that others may also join in the hearing and chanting, or softly on beads for personal meditation. For personal chanting, one may purchase beads in any hobby store.
Tie a knot about six inches from the end of a long string, and then string 108 beads, tying a knot after each one. Then pull the two ends of the string through one large head bead (a total of 109 beads), tie a tight knot right next to the head bead, and cut off the excess string.
How to Chant on Beads
To meditate using the beads, hold them in your right hand. Hold the first bead with your thumb and middle finger and chant the complete maha-mantra: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Then go to the next bead, holding it with the thumb and middle finger, and again chant the entire maha-mantra. Go on to the next bead and the next, continuing in this way until you have chanted on all 108 beads and have come again to the head bead. Do not chant on the head bead; turn back and chant on the beads in the opposite direction, one after another, until you have come back to where you began. Completion of 108 beads of mantra repetition is called one “round.”
Although there are no hard and fast rules for chanting, if possible, one should try to chant 16 rounds daily and also give up the four habits of materialistic life: 1) eating meat, fish and eggs, 2) taking intoxicants, such as liquor, coffee, tea and cigarettes, 3) indulging in illicit sex (sex outside of marriage or with contraceptives) and 4) gambling. To gain the greatest benefit from chanting, one should also read a portion of Bhagavad-gita As It Is every day.
What is the Maha-mantra?
In Sanskrit language, maha means great, mana means mind and tra means deliverance. The maha-mantra, therefore, is the “great chanting for deliverance of the mind.” Especially in our complex modern society many unwanted thoughts and anxieties cloud the mind. But the chanting of the holy names of God, or the maha-mantra, cleanses the mind of all unwanted thoughts and simultaneously fixes it upon Krishna or God.
This fixing of the mind upon God is the basic principle of all meditation, and therefore vibration of the transcendental sound of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra is a simple, authorised and effective method of transcendental meditation. Although the Vedic scriptures recommend many different ways of meditation, such as hatha-yoga, raja-yoga and jñana-yoga, they also conclusively state:
harer nama harer nama
harer namaiva kevalam
kalau nasty eva nasty eva
nasty eva gatir anyatha
In this age of Kali there is no other way, no other way, no other way to achieve liberation than to chant the holy name, chant the holy name, chant the holy name of God. (Brihan-naradiya Purana)
What are the Effects of Chanting the Maha-mantra?
There are three stages of elevation in the chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra. In the first stage, the chanting polishes the mirror of the mind. Like a mirror, the mind has reflective power. It is meant to form clear pictures from the sensations that strike it. But because contact with matter has covered our minds with material contamination, just as dust might cover a mirror, our reflections are no longer clear. The transcendental sound of the holy name of God cleanses the dust from the mirror of the mind, and this automatically brings one to the second stage in chanting.
In the second stage, the chanting frees one from the symptoms of material existence, namely, hankering and lamentation. In material life, one hankers for what he does not have–“I want a car, I want a wife, I want money”–and he laments for what he has lost. Regularly chanting Hare Krishna frees one from such anxieties and elevates one to the liberated stage described as follows in Bhagavad-gita:
na shochati na kankshati
samah sarveshu bhuteshu
mad-bhaktim labhate paramram
One who is transcendentally situated at once realizes the Supreme Spirit. He neither laments nor desires to have anything. Being equally disposed to every living entity, he attains the highest devotional perfection. (Bhagavad-gita 18.54)
In the third stage of chanting, one attains an all-blissful life (anandamayo ‘bhyasat). When situated on this platform, one is never disturbed by anything. Bhagavad-gita describes this as follows:
In the stage of perfection called samadhi, or trance, one’s mind is completely restrained from material mental activities by practice of yoga. This is characterized by one’s ability to see the self by the pure mind and to relish and rejoice in the self. In that joyous state one is situated in boundless transcendental happiness and enjoys himself through transcendental senses. Established thus, one never departs from the truth, and upon gaining this, he thinks there is no greater gain. Being situated in such a position, one is never shaken, even in the midst of the greatest difficulty. This indeed is actual freedom from all miseries arising from material contact. (Bhagavad-gita 6.20-23)
The Absolute Nature of the Holy Name
God is absolute, and therefore anything directly connected with Him, such as His holy name, form, pastimes, paraphernalia and entourage, is identical with Him. In the material world of duality, things are different from their names. For example, a thirsty man’s calling out, “Water! Water!” will not satisfy his thirst, because the name water and the substance water are completely different. But in the absolute world, there are no such differences. There a thing and its name are one. Therefore, simply by vibrating the holy name of God, one associates with God directly.
In the material world we experience this in a crude way when we associate with someone thousands of miles away by radio waves. This same principle works in the spiritual world, but it works perfectly, bringing one beyond the limits of time and space.
Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, an incarnation of Krishna, recommended that one chant the maha-mantra twenty-four hours a day and thus make one’s life perfect. He said:
One can chant the holy name of God in a humble state of mind, thinking himself lower than the straw in the street. One should be more tolerant than a tree, devoid of all sense of false prestige and always ready to offer all respects to others. In such a humble state of mind, one can chant the holy name of the Lord constantly. (Shikshastaka, Verse 3)
The Results of Chanting the Maha-mantra
Chanting Hare Krishna gradually detaches one from material concepts and brings one to samadhi (trance), in which one realizes the Supersoul (Paramatma) through his transcendental mind and intelligence, without misidentifying himself with the Supreme. This is the goal of yoga. A living being is called jivatma (the atomic self), and Krishna is called Paramatma (the Supreme Self). In perfect Krishna consciousness, one realizes the eternal relationship between the atomic soul and the Supreme Soul, Krishna.
In this age, therefore, the best method of practicing yoga is to chant and hear the holy names of God, as found in the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. This is the beginning of bhakti-yoga, or Krishna consciousness. There are no hard and fast rules for chanting. One can chant at any time, in any place, while at the same time continuing to work in his present occupation. One need not give up his job or family, because the chanting automatically purifies one’s life, adjusting unwanted and unnecessary difficulties. The authorised scriptures of the world’s civilized nations give various names for God, but the Vedic scriptures especially recommend the chanting of Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. We therefore humbly request you to chant this maha-mantra and be happy. Hare Krishna.