Chanting Inattentively (Pramāda)

Chanting Inattentively


The Ninth Offence

Chapter 12 from Śrī Hari-nāma-cintāmaṇi & Nāma-bhajana
by Śrīla Saccidānanda Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura 


jaya jaya mahāprabhu jaya bhakta-gaṇa
yāṅhāra prasāde kari nāma-saṅkīrtana


Haridāsa spoke, “To Sanātana Gosvāmī in Purī and to Gopāla Bhaṭṭa when You travelled to South India, You taught the importance of performing one’s chanting without inattention. Inattention is counted as one of the aparādhas. Even if one successfully overcomes all the other offences in chanting, and one is chanting continuously, love of God may not come. One should know that the reason for this is that one is committing the offence known as pramāda, or inattention. This offence will block progress to prema.

Three Kinds of Inattention

Pramāda may mean madness, but here the meaning is inattention or carelessness. It is from this offence that all other offences spring. The wise men recognise three types of inattention: indifference or no attention, laziness, and distraction (attraction to other objects).

“By good fortune, after getting faith, a jīva will take up the name. By chanting regularly, counting on a Tulasī mālā carefully, he will develop attraction for the name. However, until that attraction has actually developed, one must be very careful about how one chants. Naturally, the common man, having attachment to material things, will be attracted to these things even while chanting. Though chanting japa daily, if his taste is elsewhere, he will show indifference to the name. His heart will not be absorbed in chanting the name but in some material object. How can that benefit him? He may chant 64 rounds counting strictly on his japa beads, but in his heart he has not received one drop of the taste of the name. This indifference or apathy towards the name is one type of inattention. In the heart of a materialist it is unavoidable.

The Process of Overcoming Apathy

“If indifference or lack of attraction for the name is present, one should take association of Vaiṣṇavas who are properly chanting in some place sheltered from the material influence. By chanting in that situation, his absorption in material things will be reduced; being inspired by the conduct of the Vaiṣṇavas, he will give up that fault. Gradually the heart will get attraction for the name and will be anxious for the nectar of the name. The advanced devotees have recommended that one live in a place where Kṛṣṇa had His pastimes, near Tulasī, in the company of Vaiṣṇavas and gradually increase the period of chanting. Quickly the taste for material objects will go. Another remedy is to carefully chant in a room by oneself with the door locked, or concentrate on the name by covering the eyes, ears and nose with a cloth or the like to prevent stimuli from the exterior. Carefully chanting in this way, an attraction or taste for the name will develop and indifference will be suppressed.

Overcoming Laziness

“If one chants with a sluggish mind, or after chanting a little, one has to stop before finishing his round, it is called laziness. From this, one’s taste for the name cannot develop. The remedy for this is to take association of Vaiṣṇavas who do not waste time in material activity, but constantly chant and remember the holy name, being absorbed only in the name. One should follow in their footsteps. When one sees how the true Vaiṣṇava or sādhu does not waste time in useless pursuits, he will develop a taste to do likewise. In his mind he will think, “very good.” By this, enthusiasm will come to the lazy mind and he will overcome the offence of laziness or inertia. One will become determined to increase his chanting everyday. By this eagerness in his rounds and by the mercy of the devotees, the offense of inertia will quickly go away.

Overcoming Distraction

“One should be careful to eliminate the third type of inattention—distraction. From distraction all types of inattention are born. This fault resides in attraction for women (or men, in the case of women) and wealth, attraction for material success or victory, desire for position, and the cheating propensity. If one has attraction in any of these categories, one will naturally be inattentive to the holy name. One should be careful to eliminate these fixations by following the proper Vaiṣṇava behaviour. On ekādaśīs and appearance days one should stop thinking of eating and all day and night chant in the association of devotees. In this way one will joyfully engage in devotional activities, listening to scriptures of the Lord in association with the Lord’s servants, in the Lord’s dhāma. Gradually the bhakti portion of one’s mind will increase and the mind will rejoice in hearing topics about Kṛṣṇa. The higher taste will come and the lower taste will go. Upon hearing songs about Kṛṣṇa from the mouths of the pure devotees, one’s mind and ears will taste the real nectar. In this way the desire for low material objects will disappear and the heart will be constantly fixed and attracted to singing the name. By avoiding the offence of distraction, one will be able to indulge in the nectar of name.

Good Advice for Chanters

“One should thus never be inattentive to complete one’s prescribed number of daily rounds. This should be noted day by day. When chanting these prescribed rounds, one should avoid the different types of inattentiveness. Giving up the desire to increase the number of rounds for show, one should attempt to first concentrate nicely on what one can manage. Therefore, the devotee starts by chanting with full concentration in a peaceful place for a short time. He will always be praying to the Lord that he will chant clear, attentive rounds with the mind fixed on Kṛṣṇa; for on one’s own one cannot accomplish anything. Kṛṣṇa‘s grace is necessary to cross the ocean of material existence. Being anxious in heart, one should beg for mercy, and because Kṛṣṇa is merciful, He will help. Whoever does not try for that mercy is very unfortunate.”

That person who has attained the ornament of the touchstone of the holy name still aspires for the two feet of Haridāsa Ṭhākura.


2 Responses to Chanting Inattentively (Pramāda)

  1. Goloka Vrndavana Das May 26, 2012 at 12:38 am #

    Bhagavad Arka Marichi Mala

    by HDG Sri Srimad Saccidananda Bhaktivinoda Acarya Thakur.


    Sadhana Bhakti Executed Exclusively by Taking Shelter of the Holy Name
    (aikantiki namasraya sadhana-bhakti)

    12.11.25 Suta Gosvami to Saunaka Rsi

    shri-krishna krishna-sakha vrishny-rishabhavani-dhrug-
    govinda gopa-vanita-vraja-bhritya-gita
    tirtha-shravah shravana-mangala pahi bhrityan

    shri-krishna—O Shri Krishna; krishna-sakha—O friend of Arjuna; vrishni—of the descendants of Vrishni; rishabha—O chief; avani—on the earth; dhruk—rebellious; rajanya-vamsha—of the dynasties of kings; dahana—O annihilator; anapavarga—without deterioration; virya—whose prowess; govinda—O proprietor of Goloka-dhama; gopa—of the cowherd men; vanita—and the cowherd women; vraja—by the multitude; bhritya—and by their servants; gita—sung; tirtha—pious, as the most holy place of pilgrimage; shravah—whose glories; shravana—just to hear about whom; mangala—auspicious; pahi—please protect; bhrityan—Your servants.

    O Krishna, O friend of Arjuna, O chief among the descendants of Vrsni, You are the destroyer of those political parties that are disturbing elements on this earth. Your prowess never deteriorates. You are the proprietor of the transcendental abode, and Your most sacred glories, which are sung by Vrndavana’s cowherd men and women and their servants, bestow all auspiciousness just by being heard. O Lord, please protect Your devotees.

    01.06.26 Narada Muni to Vyasadeva

    namany anantasya hata-trpah pathan
    guhyani bhadrani kritani ca smaran
    gam paryatams tushta-mana gata-sprihah
    kalam pratikshan vimado vimatsarah

    namani—the holy name, fame, etc.; anantasya—of the unlimited; hata-trapah—being freed from all formalities of the material world; pathan—by recitation, repeated reading, etc.; guhyani—mysterious; bhadrani—all benedictory; kritani—activities; ca—and; smaran—constantly remembering; gam—on the earth; paryatan—traveling all through; tushta-manah—fully satisfied; gata-sprihah—completely freed from all material desires; kalam—time; pratikshan—awaiting; vimadah—without being proud; vimatsarah—without being envious.

    Thus I began chanting the holy name and fame of the Lord by repeated recitation, ignoring all the formalities of the material world. Such chanting and remembering of the transcendental pastimes of the Lord are benedictory. So doing, I traveled all over the earth, fully satisfied, humble and unenvious.

    02.01.11 Sukadeva Gosvami to Maharaja Pariksit

    etan nirvidyamananam
    icchatam akuto-bhayam
    yoginam nripa nirnitam
    harer namanukirtanam

    etan—it is; nirvidyamananam—of those who are completely free from all material desires; icchatam—of those who are desirous of all sorts of material enjoyment; akutah-bhayam—free from all doubts and fear; yoginam—of all who are self-satisfied; nripa—O King; nirnitam—decided truth; hareh—of the Lord, Shri Krishna; nama—holy name; anu—after someone, always; kirtanam—chanting.

    O King, constant chanting of the holy name of the Lord after the ways of the great authorities is the doubtless and fearless way of success for all, including those who are free from all material desires, those who are desirous of all material enjoyment, and also those who are self-satisfied by dint of transcendental knowledge.

    02.03.24 Saunaka Rsi to Suta Gosvami

    tad ashma-saram hridayam batedam
    yad grihyamanair hari-nama-dheyaih
    na vikriyetatha yada vikaro
    netre jalam gatra-ruheshu harshah

    tat—that; ashma-saram—is steel-framed; hridayam—heart; bata idam—certainly that; yat—which; grihyamanaih—in spite of chanting; hari-nama—the holy name of the Lord; dheyaih—by concentracion of the mind; na—does not; vikriyeta—change; atha—thus; yada—when; vikarah—reaction; netre—in the eyes; jalam—tears; gatra-ruheshu—at the pores; harshah—aruptions of ectasy.

    Certainly that heart is steel-framed which, in spite of one’s chanting the holy name of the Lord with concentration, does not change when ecstasy takes place, tears fill the eyes and the hairs stand on end.

    06.11.24 Vrtrasura Praying to The Supreme Lord

    aham hare tava padaika-mula-
    dasanudaso bhavitasmi bhujah
    manah smaretasu-pater gunams te
    grinita vak karma karotu kayah

    aham—I; hare—O my Lord; tava—of Your Lordship; pada-ekamula—whose only shelter is the lotus feet; dasa-anudasah—the servant of Your servant; bhavitasmi—shall I become; bhuyah—again; manah—my mind; smareta—may remember; asu-pateh—of the Lord of my life; gunan—the attributes; te—of Your Lordship; grinita—may chant; vak—my words; karma—activities of service to You; karotu—may perform; kayah—my body.

    O my Lord, O Supreme Personality of Godhead, will I again be able to be a servant of Your eternal servants who find shelter only at Your lotus feet? O Lord of my life, may I again become their servant so that my mind may always think of Your transcendental attributes, my words always glorify those attributes, and my body always engage in the loving service of Your Lordship?

    06.11.26 Vrtrasura Praying to The Supreme Lord

    ajata-paksha iva mataram khagah
    stanyam yatha vatsatarah kshudh-artah
    priyam priyeva vyushitam vishanna
    mano ravindaksha didirikshate tvam

    ajata-pakshah—who have not yet grown wings; iva—like; mataram—the mother; khagah—small birds; stanyam—the milk from the udder; yatha—just as; vatsatarah—the young calves; kshudh-artah—distressed by hunger; priyam—the beloved or husband; priya—the wife or lover; iva—like; vyushitam—who is away from home; vishanna—morose; manah—my mind; aravinda-aksha—O lotus-eyed one; didrikshate—wants to see; tvam—You;

    O lotus-eyed Lord, as baby birds that have not yet developed their wings always look for their mother to return and feed them, as small calves tied with ropes awaitanxiously the time of milking, when they will be allowed to drink the milk of their mothers, or as a morose wife whose husband is away from home always longs for him to return and satisfy her in all respects, I always yearn for the pportunity to render direct service unto You.

    06.02.07 Vishnudutas to Yamadutas

    ayam hi krita-nirvesho
    janma-koty-amhasam api
    yad vyajahara vivasho
    nama svasty-ayanam hareh

    ayam—this person (Ajamila); hi—indeed; krita-nirveshah—has undergone all kinds of atonement; janma—of births; koti—of milions; amhasam—for the sinful activites; api—even; yat—because; vyajahara—he has chanted; vivashah—in a helpless condition; nama—the holy name; svasti-ayanam—the means of liberation; hareh—of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

    Ajamila has already atoned for all his sinful actions. Indeed, he has atoned not only for sins performed in one life but for those erformed in millions of lives, for in a helpless condition he chanted the holy name of Narayana. Even though he did not chant purely, he chanted without offense, and therefore he is now pure and eligible for liberation.

    06.02.09-10 Vishnudutas to Yamadutas

    stenah sura-po mitra-dhrug
    brahma-ha guru-talpa-gah
    ye ca patakino –pare
    sarvesham apy aghavatam
    idam eva sunishkritam
    nama-vyaharanam vishnor
    yatas tad-vishaya matih

    stenah—one who steals; sura-pah—a drunkard; mitra-dhruk—one who turns against a friend or relative; brahma-ha—one who kills a brahmana; guru-talpa-gah—one who indulges in sex with the wife of his teacher or guru; stri—women; raja—king; pitri—father; go—of cows; hanta—the killer; ye—those who; ca—also; patakinah—commited sinful activities; apare—many others; sarvesham—of all of them; api—although; agha-vatam—persons who have comitted many sins; idam—this; eva—certainly; su-nishkritam—perfect atonement; nama-vyaharanam—chanting of the holy name; vishnoh—of Lord Vishnu; yatah—because of which; tat-vishaya—on the person why chants the holy name; matih—His attention.

    The chanting of the holy name of Lord Vishnu is the best process of atonement for a thief of gold or other valuables, for a drunkard, for one who betrays a friend or relative, for one who kills a brahmana, or for one who indulges in sex with the wife of his guru or another superior. It is also the best method of atonement for one who murders women, the king or his father, for one who slaughers cows, and for all other sinful men. Simply by chanting the holy name of Lord Vishnu, such sinful persons may attract the attention of the Supreme Lord, who therefore considers, “Because this man has chanted My holy name, My duty is to give him protection.” (9-10)

    06.02.14-15 Vishnudutas to Yamadutas

    sanketyam parihasyam va
    stobham helanam eva va
    asheshagha-haram viduh

    sanketyam—as an assignation; parihasyam—jokingly; va—or; stobham—as musical entertainment; helanam—neglectfully; eva—certainly; va—or; vaikuntha—of the Lord; nama-grahanam—chanting the holy name; ashesha—unlimited; agha-haram—neutralizing the effect of sinful life; viduh—advanced transcedentalists know.

    One who chants the holy name of the Lord is immediately freed from the reactions of unlimited sins, even if he chants indirectly [to indicate something else], jokingly, for musical entertainment, or even neglectfully. This is accepted by all the learned scholars of the scriptures. (14)

    patitah skhalito bhagnah
    sandashtas tapta ahatah
    harir ity avashenatha
    puman narhati yatanah

    patitah—fallen down; skhalitah—slipped; bhagnah—having broken his bones; sandashtah—bitten; taptah—severely attacked by fever or similar painful conditions; ahatah—injured; harih—Lord Krishna; iti—thus; avashena—accidentally; aha—chants; puman—a person; na—not; arhati—deserves; yatanah—hellish conditions.

    If one chants the holy name of Hari and then dies because of an accidental misfortune, such as falling from the top of a house, slipping and suffering broken bones while traveling on the road, being bitten by a serpent, being afflicted with pain and high fever, or being injured by a weapon, one is immediately absolved from having to enter hellish life, even though he is sinful. (15)

    06.02.17 Vishnudutas to Yamadutas

    tais tany aghani puyante
    nadhamarjam tad-dhridayam
    tad apishanghri-sevaya

    taih—by those; tani—all those; aghani—sinful activities and their results; puyante—become vanquished; tapah—austerity; dana—charity; vrata-adibhih—by vows and other such activities; na—not; adharma-jam—produced from irreligious actions; tat—of that; hridayam—the heart; tat—that; api—also; isha-anghri—of the lotus feet of the Lord; sevaya—by service;

    Although one may neutralize the reactions of sinful life through austerity, charity, vows and other such methods, these pious activities cannot uproot the material desires in one’s heart. However, if one serves the lotus feet of the Personality of Godhead, he is immediately freed from all such contaminations.

    06.02.18-19 Vishnudutas to Yamadutas

    ajnanad athava jnanad
    uttamashloka-nama yat
    sankirtitam agham pumso
    dahed edho yathanalah

    ajnanat—out of ignorance; athava—or; jnanat—with knowledge; uttamashloka—of the Supreme Personality og Godhead; nama—the holy name; yat—that which; sankirtitam—chanted; agham—sin; pumsah—of a person; dahet—burns to ashes; edhah—dry grass; yatha—just as; analah—fire.

    As a fire burns dry grass to ashes, so the holy name of the Lord, whether chanted knowingly or unknowingly, burns to ashes, without fail, all the reactions of one’s sinful activities. (18) yathagadam viryatamamupayuktam yadrcchayaajanato ‘py atma-gunamkuryan mantro ‘py udahrtah

    yatha—just like; agadam—medicine; virya-tamam—very powerful; upayuktam—properly taken; yadrcchaya—somehow or other; ajanatah—by a person without knowledge; api—even; atma-gunam—its own potency; kuryat—manifests; mantrah—the Hare Krishna mantra; api—also; udahrtah—chanted.

    If a person unaware of the effective potency of a certain medicine takes that medicine or is forced to take it, it will act even without his knowledge because its potency does not depend on the patient’s understanding. Similarly, even though one does not know the value of chanting the holy name of the Lord, if one chants knowingly or unknowingly, the chanting will be very effective. (19)

    • Goloka Vrndavana Das May 26, 2012 at 12:54 am #

      In Srila Bhaktivinoda AcaryaThakura’s Jaiva Dharma Chapter 23, the intricacies of the process of chanting the maha-mantra are explained:

      The saintly babaji said, “The Supreme Personality of Godhead has tow kinds of names: 1. mukhya (primary) and 2. gauna (secondary). Names that show His relation to the material creation and the material modes of nature are all secondary names. ‘Shrishti-karta’ (the creator of the material world), ‘Jagat-pata’ (the maintainer of the material world), ‘Vishva-niyanta’ (the controller of the material world, ‘Vishva-palaka’ (the protector of the material world), and ‘Paramatma’ (the Supersoul present everywhere in the material world) are examples of some of these many secondary names. Some other names, although beyond the touch of the material modes of nature, are also counted among these secondary names. ‘Brahma’ (Brahman) is an example of these names. When they are chanted, these secondary names bring many different kinds of benefits, but they do not directly or quickly bring the highest spiritual benefit i.e. pure love of God. The names that describe the Lord as He is manifested in the spiritual world, which is beyond material time and space, and where time is manifested as an eternal present (nitya-vartamana) are names that are all spiritual and primary. ‘Narayana’, ‘Vasudeva’, ‘Janardana’, ‘Hrishikesha’, ‘Hari’, ‘Acyuta’, ‘Govinda’, ‘Gopala’, ‘Rama’, ‘Gauranga’, ‘Nitai’, etc. are examples of these primary names. All these primary names are identical with the form of the Supreme Lord Himself, and therefore they exist in the eternal present in the spiritual world. Attracted by devotional service, these holy names dance on the tongues of certain very fortunate souls in the material world. These names have no connection at all with the material world. When It descends to the material world, the holy name of the Lord, which has all the Lord’s powers, destroys the illusions of maya. The individual souls in the material world have the holy name of Lord Hari as their only friend. They have no other true friend.

      Vijaya-kumara: O master, the Hare Krishna maha-mantra is spiritual. I have faith in that truth. However, so that my faith may be free from doubts I need to understand how it is that the maha-mantra, which is a series of syllables, is spiritual. Please be merciful and explain.

      Babaji: The scriptures (Padma Purana) declare: “The maha-mantra is transcendentally blissful, It bestows all spiritual benedictions, for it is Krishna Himself, the reservoir of all pleasure. The Hare Krishna maha-mantra is complete, and it is the form of all transcendental mellows. It is not a material name under any condition, and it is no less powerful than Krishna Himself. Since the maha-mantra is not contaminated by the material qualities, there is no question of its being involved with maya. the maha-mantra is always liberated and spiritual. It is never conditioned by the laws of material nature. This is because the maha-mantra and Krishna Himself are identical.”

      Vijaya-kumara: How can a mantra, which is after all a series of syllables, be different from other sounds in this material world?

      Babaji: The Hare Krishna maha-mantra does not take its birth in the material world. Only when one is situated in his original spiritual body which is dormant in the individual soul, who is a tiny particle of spirit, is one eligible to pronounce the pure maha-mantra. The material senses of a soul imprisoned in Maya’s world have no power to pronounce the pure maha-mantra. However, by the mercy of the Lord’s hladini-shakti, such a soul can be situated in his original form. Then the Hare Krishna maha-mantra will appear before him. By the mercy of the pure chanting, the mantra enters the devotee’s thinking process, and then descends to the tongue if the tongue is purified by devotional service. On that tongue the maha-mantra dances. The maha-mantra is not a series of material syllables. It only seems to be material syllables when it dances on a tongue made of matter. That is the secret of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra.

      Vijaya-kumara: What is the path of chanting the maha-mantra?

      Babaji: Using tulasi beads, or, in the absence of beads, counting on your fingers, and carefully avoiding the ten offenses, you should always chant the maha-mantra. By chanting the maha-mantra purely one attains prema (pure love of God). The purpose of counting is to know whether or not the number of names chanted is gradually increasing. Tulasi is very dear to Lord Hari, therefore touching tulasi beads as one chants the maha-mantra brings a better result. When one chants one should meditate that the maha-mantra is not different from the transcendental form of Lord Krishna Himself.

      Vijaya-kumara: O master, there are nine processes of devotional service, and sixty four categories of devotional activities. If one constantly chants the maha-mantra, which is only one of the activities of devotional service, how will one find time to perform any other devotional activity?

      Babaji: What is the difficulty? The sixty four devotional activities are actually included within the nine devotional processes. One may worship the Deity of the Lord, or one may chant the maha-mantra in a solitary place. One can practice the nine processes of devotional service in any situation. In the presence of the Deity one can purely hear, chant, remember, and in other ways serve the Hare Krishna maha-mantra. All these activities may be counted together as devotion to the holy name. If one has no opportunity to see the deity, one may remember the Deity and in this way in the presence of the Deity one may practice the nine devotional activities beginning with hearing and chanting the maha-mantra. If in the past one has performed many pious deeds, then he will naturally yearn to chant the maha-mantra. By constantly chanting the maha-mantra one automatically performs all the activities of different limbs of devotional service. Of the nine processes of devotional service beginning with hearing and chanting, chanting the maha-mantra is the most powerful. If one can taste bliss by chanting the maha-mantra, that is enough. It is not that one must perform every devotional activity.

      Vijaya-kumara: What does ‘to always chant the maha-mantra’ mean?

      Babaji: Aside for the time when one sleeps and other basic bodily activities, one should chant the maha-mantra throughout the day and night. That is called constant chanting of the maha-mantra. One can chant the maha-mantra in any place, at any time, or in any situation. There are no restrictions.

      Vijaya-kumara: Please describe to us the pure Hare Krishna maha-mantra and all other things we should know.

      Babaji: When the maha-mantra appears in a person who has full faith and who practices unalloyed devotional service, that is said to be the ‘true holy name of Lord Krishna’. When the maha-mantra appears in any other situation the chanting is either ‘namabhasa’ (a glimpse of the holy name) or ‘namaparadha’ (the holy name chanted with offenses).

      Vijaya-kumara: O master, should we call the maha-mantra the goal (sadhya) or the means (sadhan) to attain the goal?

      Babaji: When a devotee practices sadhan-bhakti, his chanting of the maha-mantra may be said to be the means for attaining the goal (sadhan). However, when one practices bhava-bhakti or prema-bhakti, his chanting of the maha-mantra is said to be the goal (sadhya) itself. In this way the mantra appears according to the devotees’ stage of spiritual advancement.

      Vijaya-kumara: Is Lord Krishna really not different from the maha-mantra? Or is this not really true?

      Babaji: There is not the slightest difference. However, there is one secret difference: The maha-mantra is more merciful that Lord Krishna Himself. If one commits an offense to Him, Lord Krishna will not forgive. But if one commits an offense to Lord Krishna, or even the maha-mantra Itself, then the maha-mantra will be merciful and forgive. One should thus carefully understand the ten offenses in the chanting of the maha-mantra. Carefully avoiding these offenses, one should chant the maha-mantra. Why should one avoid them? A person who is not free from offenses cannot chant the ma ha-mantra purely.

Dedicated to the Life and Teachings of Srila Gour Govinda Swami