Is Chanting Different Mantras Considered To Be Tapasya

[Chaitanya sankirtana]“In this age of Kali, people who are endowed with sufficient intelligence will worship the Lord, who is accompanied by His associates, by performance of sankirtana-yajna.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 11.5.32)

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कृष्ण-वर्णं त्विषाकृष्णं
यज्ञैः सङ्कीर्तन-प्रायैर्
यजन्ति हि सु-मेधसः

kṛṣṇa-varṇaṁ tviṣākṛṣṇaṁ
yajñaiḥ saṅkīrtana-prāyair
yajanti hi su-medhasaḥ

Friend1: Let’s talk about tapasya.

Friend2: Austerity and penance.

Friend1: It is particularly important in the Vedic tradition.

Friend2: You could say that the emphasis begins from the very time of birth.

Friend1: Would that be considered cruelty to children, though?

Friend2: Not that you make them engage in austerity, but you automatically create conditions where sense attachment is not artificially inflated. The idea is that kids are not very smart. It makes sense, as they are so young. You could put them in an empty room with a few boxes and they would find a way to be happy.

Friend1: Instead of the practice of buying so many toys for them.

Friend2: Where they play with one for a few minutes and then forget about it.

Friend1: I’ve heard it said that the human life is meant for tapasya.

Friend2: Think about it. There is no analogous concept in the animal community. That is because tapasya has to be voluntarily imposed. Otherwise, it is something like torture from an aggressor.

Friend1: We are living with less on purpose. There is a higher goal to reach.

Friend2: And people already follow tapasya without acknowledging it as such. Restrictions on diet to improve health. Hours of dedicated practice on the guitar to learn how to play like the rock stars. Running for miles a day in order to compete in that marathon.

Friend1: That’s true. Here’s something I was pondering the other day. Would you consider chanting mantras to be a form of tapasya?

Friend2: What kinds of mantras?

Friend1: Let’s take ones dedicated to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vishnu. You could be chanting, “Om namo narayanaya.” Is that tapasya?

Friend2: Are you viewing it as such?

Friend1: What if someone does view that as austerity and penance?

Friend2: I would say that is not good. This is not some type of punishment, used to atone for sinful behavior. There are mantras for that, I’m sure. There are remedial measures. But Vishnu-mantras are not to be used for that purpose.

Friend1: Why not?

[Lord Vishnu]Friend2: It is considered an offense to the chanting of the holy name. The name of Vishnu, the personal God, is everything. It is not material in any way. It is not used for furthering any type of purpose for the present existence related to the body. Do you understand why?

Friend1: Hmm, maybe. You could probably better explain.

Friend2: Because Vishnu is synonymous with bhakti. Saying Vishnu’s name is for the purpose of devotion, which is actually akama, or desire-less. It is difficult for someone to understand this pure devotion without actually practicing. The theoretical explanation is not enough; it is something you have to see for yourself.

Friend1: Alright, but if chanting those mantras is not tapasya, then what is it?

Friend2: Yajna. It is a sacrifice, which is a kind of dedicated practice in worship. Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu propagates the sankirtana-yajna. This is the sacrifice of chanting the holy names.

Friend1: Distinguished from other kinds of sacrifice, where you sit in front of a fire, make offerings, and the like.

[Chaitanya sankirtana]Friend2: Exactly. Conduct a yajna every single day. Chant the holy names. You should know that bhakti as a devi, as a goddess, has two sons: jnana and vairagya. Knowledge and renunciation are automatically incorporated in devotion. You do not have to strive separately for them. Tapasya will take care of itself if you try to connect directly with the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

In Closing:

From sinful life to atone,
Repeating mantra of serious tone.

Practice of tapasya the name,
With Vishnu mantras the same?

Offense for such comparison to make,
Since holy name for bhakti’s sake.

A yajna but one easy to repeat,
Whether standing or in meditation’s seat.

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