sādhanā

Q/A: does śāstra prescribe 16 rounds of the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahāmantra?

Question: I have been told to chant 16 rounds of the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahāmantra or 16×108 mahāmantras everyday. Is it mentioned in the śāstra that this should be done?

Answer: I am not aware of any prescription in the śāstra to chant 16 rounds everyday.

Question: Where does this prescription come from?

Answer: Ask those who gave you the instruction.

Question: Is there any prescription on the number of rounds in the śāstra?

Answer: A mantra should be chanted ten times everyday at a minimum. Beyond that, one can chant as one likes.

Question: I am not able to focus when chanting so many rounds. It causes me a lot of stress, and I am not able to get things done during the day. Plus I also have so many services I am supposed to do in the day including murti-puja.

Answer: The quantity is not important. The quality is paramount. If you are not focused when chanting, you are committing aparādha toward the name. How can the name be pleased?

Question: What about Haridās Thakur who chanted throughout the day?

Answer: He is an associate of Śrī Caitanya. Show me where Śrī Rūpa Goswami has prescribed 16 rounds. In fact, people who are forced to chant two hours every day come to see chanting as a burden . They hate the chanting – but do it anyway out of a sense of duty. Such sentiments do not please the name. It is natural for a person who is working to earn a living, and who has responsibilities like bringing up children, to not have two hours in a day to devote to one activity, in addition to deity worship, study, hearing Hari kathā and so on. The 16 rounds, to my knowledge, is a completely arbitrary number not supported by scriptures.

Question: Yes, I also feel guilty for neglecting my family.

Answer: Such ill-considered instructions have a deep negative impact on individuals and families, and particularly children. It is critical to give your time and attention to your family. Obviously you cannot do so if you also hold down a job, and plus are supposed to devote 2 hours a day to chanting. It gets too stressful!

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7 replies »

  1. While “16 rounds” is clearly a modern innovation, how best should we consider Mahaprabhu’s unambiguous statement extolling a lakh of daily japa? Was that an exaggeration meant simply to illustrate the difference between the transitory wealth of money vs. the eternal wealth of harinama? Or was it an actual goal to be sought? I find it interesting that Mahaprabhu made the statement to householders wanting to feed him, not to renunciants who might actually have enough time in their days to chant so many rounds.

    Obviously, if Mahaprabhu meant that statement literally, it is the rarest of householder devotees who will be able to reach that standard, and even a renunciate who has some other time-consuming duties or elements of sadhana may find that standard challenging. It even seems unlikely that Ramananda Raya would have had time to chant a full lakh of harinama while carrying out his duties for King Prataparudra. Yet we know his place among Mahaprabhu’s closest associates. So it is tempting to consider Mahaprabhu’s statement about becoming a lakh-pati as something other than the rigid command that so many Gaudiya Vaishnavas understand it to be.

    Furthermore, we hear occasional reports of renunciants whose whole day involves chanting as many as three lakhs of harinama, which likely works out to something like 10 rounds an hour, which would require quite a bit of focus and absorption in chanting — likely manasic to keep up such a pace. One would surely need to have some measure of taste for chanting to keep that up. Which brings us back to the dilemma. Some very understandably emphasize that quality of japa is more important than quantity of japa. But doesn’t it seem that quality of japa is the gateway to quantity of japa? As one gains a taste for japa, one will surely make it the subject of our focused attention, not just some duty that we think we’ve fulfilled by mumbling mantras while driving or while watching television.

    Your post suggests that for a beginner, achieving just ten high-quality, meditative, focused repetitions of the maha-mantra may be a sufficient practice at first. Is that correct? Or do your teachers recommend something else?

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    • Our emphasis is on avoiding offenses. That is more important than the actual ‘doing’. Sri Babaji gives customized instructions to his disciples on how much to chant.

      There is no bar on chanting as much as one wants when one has the taste. The point is that chanting 2 hours a day should not be a vidhi for everyone- for all the reasons described in the article.

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  2. In his Bhakti Sandarbha (anuccheda 153), Sri Jiva Gosvamipada quotes a śloka from Trailokya-Sammohana-tantra which may be used as a pramana for chanting a mantra at least ten times:

    “O Goddess, now hear from me the process for reciting this pure mantra. By uttering this mantra ten times one is freed from calamities. By uttering it a thousand times one is freed from great sins, and by uttering it ten thousand times the most grievous type of sin, known as mahāpātaka, is destroyed.”

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    • Excellent. Thank you for this. That is about the 18 syllable mantra. Right before that passage it says

      “ Repetition of Bhagavān’s name is recommended for those who commit offenses, as indicated in the instructions about the name given in the Nāmāparādha-bhañjana-stotra found in the Padma Purāṇa:

      “Only the Name cleanses the sins of those who commit offenses against the Name. They should ceaselessly chant the Name because only that will bring about the result.”

      We see that Mahaprabhu taught that one should chant a specific number of names every day by counting them. I am not sure chanting the Mahamantra ten times a day is going to cause Krishna prem to appear in anyones heart

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  3. Even for the Brahmagayatri mantra, which is to be recited by upanita dvijas, the minimum amount(kanishtha) is 10 japas, 100 is madhyama(middling) and 1000 is Uttama(superior). This is mentioned in the Haribhakti Vilāsa as well. So yeah any mantra has to be chanted 10 times minimum. Since Harināma(16 words/32 syllables) is tārakabrahma mantrātmaka, Maharaj ji has said that it should be atleast chanted 10 times without Namaparadhas. One should chant more at least one mala daily as per other traditional acharyas and even more if one can. Krishna Prema is not a sAdhya(result) and Harināma is not a sādhana(cause of the result) in the ordinary senses of the term.

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