“Always chanting My glories, endeavoring with great determination, bowing down before Me, these great souls perpetually worship Me with devotion.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.14)
Person 1: “I just can’t fit anything else in my bag. I only have enough clothes to last me a few days. I needed some t-shirts and shorts for sleeping and working out too. I put in extra pairs of socks, and I also had to pack my tablet computer. There is simply not anymore room. I had to work hard just to get everything to fit as is. And now you’re telling me that I can fit a lot more in there? I don’t see it.”
Person 2: “Well, here’s your problem. None of your clothes are folded. Were you absent the day they taught surface area and volume in math class? These clothes are just threads combined together. They can be bent and shaped in any way. How do you think they can sell the same pair of pants to thousands of different people? Do you think all the purchasers are of the exact same size and weight? Sure, they make different sizes based on waist and length, but still all the people who purchase one size aren’t exactly the same physically. The threads take the shape of their container. When no one is wearing them, they can be folded. When you do that, you can fit a lot more into your suitcase. There! Now look at how much room you have to spare. You could probably fit double the amount of clothes using this packing method.”
Anytime you take on something new that is supposed to improve your life, the issue of juggling priorities comes into play. For the person taking up bhakti-yoga in earnest, the central practice is the chanting of the holy names. Though any authorized name will suffice due to the potency of the name itself, Shri Krishna Chaitanya has particularly blessed and endorsed a sequence of words known as the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
In reading this mantra through a text-to-speech program, we see that it takes a bit of time to speak. It does not fly out of the mouth like the reactions of “Yes” or “No.” The program to speak the words specifically takes the attention to enunciate the vowels. It does not quickly run through the words precisely so that the listener can hear everything clearly. It is recommended that one chant this mantra a minimum of sixteen rounds per day. This doesn’t mean saying the mantra sixteen times. That wouldn’t be too difficult. It’s sixteen rounds. A round is one hundred and eight recitations, conveniently counted off on a set of japa beads.
Doing some basic math, we see that to follow the recommendation you will have to chant the mantra around 1,700 times a day. Is there any word that you say that many times? You may say some word over and over again inadvertently, but never do you repeat it in succession that many times. You would go crazy. And yet doing the same with the maha-mantra has the opposite effect: it purifies you. If this wasn’t the case, so many devoted souls, both past and present, wouldn’t have accepted and maintained the vow to chant this mantra every day for so many times. In fact, there is no bribe large enough that will change their minds. They will give up everything else before abandoning their routine of chanting the holy names.
The name is considered non-different from the person it addresses. This is only the case with someone who is all-pervading and all-powerful. Not surprisingly, only one person possesses this feature: God. A name is limiting and it is also assigned by someone else. We can try to name ourselves, but originally we had the name given by our parents. This means that we had no say so in what people called us in our early years. With God, the name is assigned based on His qualities and pastimes. Since He is everything, one name never seems to suffice. There is no way that all His glories could accurately fit into a single form of address.
The name is a benefit to us. It helps us to understand Him to a slight degree. For instance, the name Girivaradhari says that God can lift a huge mountain and hold it up with His pinky finger for seven consecutive days. The name Purushottama means that God is the supreme purusha, or person. He is spirit like us, except He is the best spirit. The name Rama says that He has full enjoyment. He never fails to enjoy and His enjoyment never leaves Him. The name Krishna says that He is all-attractive. Since this is a very inclusive name, it is considered the best one to chant. The name Hare says that God has an energy which accompanies Him at all times. This energy is also a personality, one whose association is most cherished by God.
Chanting the maha-mantra is obviously very important, but how do we fit the routine into our schedule?
Depending on how fast or slow you chant, it can take upwards of two hours to fulfill the sixteen rounds requirement. If you’re a parent with young children, how will you find time for this? From the suitcase example, we see that it is possible to change the way things inside of a fixed space fit. You have an empty room in the house, and based on how you orient the furniture it can look either small or large. If there is junk cluttered all over the floor, the room won’t look so big. If everything is arranged neatly, the same room looks larger.
The same rearrangement can take place with one’s priorities. A first-time parent likely doesn’t know much about taking care of children. They previously did whatever they wanted during the day. Now they have to shift priorities in order to take care of a new child. The desire itself is what drives the change. In the same way, if the will to chant the holy names is there, the knowledge from the inside will come on how to honor that vow. That internal voice is known as the Supersoul, and it is non-different from Krishna. It exists within all of us, giving us another way to understand the Supreme Lord, whose names are so important to hear and chant on a daily basis.
All clothes in suitcase did cram,
Anything more to cause zipper jam.
But if in folding one takes charge,
Can fit many items small and large.
For chanting routine shift the same way,
So that daily many holy names to say.
Supersoul to give guidance on how,
To maintain daily japa bead vow.