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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Japa, sankirtan, chanting and the remembrance of Krishna leelas, bhava and raganuga bhakti

The following was written by a devotee of Jagadguru Shree Kripaluji Maharaj in Vrindavan, India in the mid 1970s.

Jagadguru Kripaluji Maharaj
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in Vridanavan, India. Chaitanya
Mahaprabhu recommended chanting (sankirtan

Mental repetition of the name with a counting device (especially on Japa-beads) is called Japa. Singing aloud the name, the virtues or the leelas of Radha-Krishna with emotional meditation, alone or along with other devotees, with or without any musical aid, is called sankirtan, the chanting. Nam means 'name', so chanting the Divine-name of Radha-Krishna is called Nam-sankirtan or Sankirtan.

Radha Krishna devotees from all over India celebrating the opening of Prem
Mandir, a monument to Divine Love established by Jagadguru
Shree Kripaluji Maharaj, in Vrindavan

The process of Japa is actually for such beginners who have understood the importance of divine-love-devotion (raganuga bhakti), but, due to their worldly attachments they do not feel any kinship with Krishna, and so they cannot remember Him affectionately. For such beginners, Japa can be helpful in disciplining their minds, but in that case, meditation on Radha-Krishna's form must be properly done with closed eyes and the devotee must try to create a feeling of kinship with Radha-Krishna otherwise the Japa will be as good as an unsigned cheque to be cashed.

Devotees of Jagadguru Kripaluji Maharaj learning about ragunaga bhakti
At Prem Mandir, Vrindavan, devotees of Jagaguru Shree Kripaluji Maharaj
learn about and experience prema bhakti and are guided on their path of raganuga bhakti

Shree Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and the other Rasik Saints found that the process of Japa was not very effective so they recommended chanting (sankirtan). There is a great facility in sankirtan that it can be adopted by every class of devotee, while Japa becomes a hindrance in the evolved stages of divine-love-devotion (raganuga bhakti).

In the Japa, one has to count the numbers by finger movements on the Japa beads. So in the preliminary stages also, the finger-touch system diverts the attention of the devotees from meditation, and at the stage of bhava the devotee never likes any such hindrances, he only wishes to engross his mind in the love of Krishna.

In the sankirtan, one has to sing. So it is easy to pay full attention to meditation and to engross oneself in divine-love feelings. The rhythm of the chant helps to develop emotional feelings, and the sound of the chanting protects the devotee from outer disturbances. So, this is the easiest and the natural way of devotion for a beginner as well as for an advanced devotee. That is why mechanical Japa has been rejected by the Saints and sankirtan has been praised.

Night vision of Jagadguru Kripaluji Maharaj's Prem Mandir in Vrindavan
Night vision of Jagadguru Kripalu Parishat Prem Mandir, a beautiful
monument to Divine Love in Vrindavan India. Prem Mandir was
inaugurated by Jagadguru Shree Kripaluji Maharaj in Feb 2012

But, in the sankirtan, one should not simply swing his head with the rhythm of the music and enjoy the song, he must do emotional meditation on the form or the leelas of Radha Krishna, otherwise sankirtan will not be considered as devotion, it will simply be a pleasurable pastime.

It is normally seen that many Krishna-worshippers mechanically repeat the 'name' and complete a definite number of rounds on their Japa-beads. Their minds wander into their desired place in the world and their attention remains fixed on completing the required number of rounds. When they do sankirtan, they bring the roof down with their loud shoutings and strong sounds of their musical instruments; and when they dance, they shake the ground with their violent stampings and create a scene by throwing their legs and arms, but their minds are only involved in the musical rhythms and bodily movements.

It is not bad. It is much better than a pure sensual living and it is also better than cultivating impersonalistic thoughts, but it is not true 'devotion'. Those who call it devotion (bhakti) or Chaitanya religion, do not know even the meaning of devotion (bhakti), and they do not understand what Chaitanya himself has said. Displaying their vanity by criticizing others, and dancing and chanting to attract people's attention is not following the Chaitanya religion, it is certainly a misrepresentation of the Chaitanya religion.

Nityanand and Haridas were the eternal associates of Krishna, who appeared on this earth to propagate the Chaitanya mission. Their chanting and dancing were ecstatic. In Mahaprabhu's sankirtan programme, his devotees were dancing only in ecstasies.

Depiction of the ecstatic chanting of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and his
disciples in the movie "Nimai of Nadia" (1959)

In an ecstatic dance, body consciousness remains fully merged in the ecstatic-consciousness of Krishna love. To imitate these Saintly actions, is a sure way of hypocritical development, instead of devotional improvement. That is why Chaitanya had strictly forbidden his devotees from entering into such melodramatic activities and instructed them to be humble, give respect to others, shed tears of love and increase longing for Krishna.

Thus, after a long discussion, we come to the conclusion that "divine-love-devotion" (raganuga bhakti) is an exclusive and selfless remembrance of Radha Krishna. It is accompanied by the feelings of affinity and a desire to increase the longing. Such a devotion purifies the devotee's heart and qualifies it to receive Krishna-Grace.

The practical and the best way of Krishna devotion (to increase the longing) is to remember the divine-relationship and to meditate on the form and the leelas of Radha Krishna affectionately. This meditation should be followed either by a continuous remembrance of the Name of Radha Krishna in the heart or chanting, whatever one prefers or whatever suits one's nature.

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