Question: Should I chant a certain amount of rounds on my japa beads, because formerly I was told to do so?
Answer: One should chant any mantra a minimum of ten times. That is the minimum, and more than that you can chant as much as you like. But it should be chanted with single-minded attention. Not that one is chanting and one’s mind is going somewhere else. One should chant with a peaceful and concentrated mind, and one should concentrate on the mantra- the sound and the words.
If one decides to fix a target of perhaps 16 rounds, 17 rounds, or even one lakh (100,000) of mantras, then one would automatically start doing it fast, and it goes like a train. One is just trying to finish it off, and that is meaningless. But every mantra should be chanted with proper concentration for a minimum of ten times.
Question: This means ten rounds?
Answer: No, ten mantras. Don’t laugh, you cannot chant even one properly as prescribed! I want to see you chant it properly even if just once. Show me how to chant it even once, because you are thinking that ten is too little and feeling dissatisfied. Show me that you can chant it properly once.
Question: This means when we realize that we are becoming inattentive, then we should stop chanting?
Answer: Yes, you have to chant properly. Why chant inattentively? Chanting should not be done as if getting rid of a burden.
Question: Should one chant the name to give mercy to trees or animals?
Answer: The Name is non-different from Bhagavān. If one commits an offense to His Name, then one will fall down, because the Name is His best friend. One of the offenses is to make a faithless or disinterested person hear the Name. That is not very pleasing to Bhagavān. It is not a very respectful thing to do, and one should not misuse the Name like that. For example, people broadcast kīrtana with loudspeakers so that others may hear it. But there may be people who do not like the kīrtana, and this becomes an offense to the Holy Name on the part of the people who are performing the kīrtana.
Furthermore, how many people who heard kīrtana have changed their lives? So much kīrtana is going on all around, so many loudspeakers, but how many people have changed their lives?
Question: So one should be more concerned that one is chanting offenselessly?
Answer: Yes, and you should chant for your own sake.
Question: Are the trees benefiting if one is chanting?
Answer: That is not your concern. Think about your own benefit and do not bother about the trees. The story of Mahāprabhu chanting with the animals is there to illustrate the power of the Holy Name. It is not to be imitated. It is not a prescription for people who can hardly chant with proper attention and have no attachment to chanting. How can you benefit others when you have not realized it yourself?