Principles And Objectives of Japa Courses

What can you expect from a Japa Workshop?
Participants commonly report that they:
  • Discover where their chanting is most deficient.
  • Gain new tools and techniques they can immediately employ to improve their japa.
  • Feel Krishna’s presence more fully in His Names.
  • Experience an increased and more spontaneous taste for chanting.
  • Develop deep and honest relationships with other participants.
  • Take their japa more seriously.
You will develop new insights and techniques in relation to chanting, a stronger commitment to offenseless chanting & an opportunity to learn how to expand the boundaries of your spiritual life so that you can have deeper and more rewarding spiritual realizations. You will alter bad japa habits and learn tools to improve your chanting that you can immediately apply and you will increase your attraction to chanting making your chanting more of an “l get to chant’ experience rather than “l have to chant’ chore.  
In short, you can really increase your Krishna Consciousness by redefining your relationship with the Holy Name!
Following are common Japa Workshop Principles:
Treat the Holy Names as Radha and Krsna
  • It is materially inconceivable that God and His name are identical.
  • We can realize this truth by relating to (and treating) the holy names as Radha and Krsna.
  • All kinds of poor or offensive chanting stem from not properly relating to and honoring the holy names as Radha and Krsna.
  • Prabhupada wouldn’t walk over Krsna’s names because he saw the name as non different and respected the name this way. 
Quality, Not Quantity, is the  Goal
  • The goal of japa is not to finish our quota of rounds. The goal is to chant quality rounds .
  • By chanting quality rounds we will automatically finish our quota (and want to chant more rounds).  
The Symptom of Good Japa is Taste
  • The symptom of good japa is that we like to chant.
  • The symptom of poor japa is lack of taste and a struggle to complete our rounds.
  • Lack of taste is reinforced by the mood of,  “I have to do chant” rather than in proper mood of  “I want to chant, I get to chant, I love to chant.”
  • I have to chant sends a message to Krsna in the form of Nama Prabhu that we don’t like spending time with Him. 
When you Chant, Chant
  • The most foundational principle for good japa (the paribhasa sutra of japa) is to turn off your life when you chant – and do nothing else but chant.
  • Chanting is worship of Radha and Krishna; therefore we must be fully present to Their world when we chant.
  • The more we are able to be present with our japa, the better our chanting will be.
  • Inattentive chanting results from not honoring japa as a sacred relationship that deserves our full attention and participation and thus not making the sankalpa before chanting to be fully present with the holy name.
  • Without making this sankalpa, we fight a losing battle with the mind, and often end up doing “Courtesy Japa.”
  • By making this sankalpa, the mind quiets down. 
Inattention – Where is your attention going?
  • Inattentive chanting is the source of all offences.
  • All offences are ways of being distracted from Krishna.
  • Distraction is a result of our eternal conditioning to compete with and envy Krishna. 
The Name is More Merciful Than Krishna
  • We chant in appreciation of Krishna’s kindness, love and mercy for us, and how the holy name personifies this affection.
  • As our father Krishna cannot but love us. He loves us so much that He makes it possible for us to attain the highest perfection of love for Him by chanting His name.  
Chanting is Not Just a Process, It’s a Relationship.
  • We are repairing a broken relationship with Krishna
  • When we chant, we are crying to Krishna, begging, “Please accept me, please accept me.”
  • This kind of chanting makes us aware that we once turned away from Krishna, and that we still have the tendency to turn away from Krishna.
  • We chant with remorse for having broken this relationship and with a prayerful desire to reestablish this relationship. 
Chanting is Service
  • Don’t just think who is Krishna for me, think who am I for Krishna.
  • Chanting is done to please Krishna.
  • Sometimes we may not feel the pleasure we desire from the Name, but we remain satisfied knowing that chanting is pleasing to Krishna and that we can please Him by our heartfelt and sincere chanting.
  • Chanting is the highest service.
Feeling Krishna’s Presence
  • To be present means to “experience what we are experiencing.” 
  • Experience takes place in the present moment.
  • Our mind takes us out of the present moment.
  • To be fully present to the holy name, we allow ourselves to be open to feel Krsna’s presence in the vibration of the mantra (vibrating within us and outside of us).
  • Be a receiver, not an achiever. Be a non achiever. 
Chanting is Heart Deep, Not Lip Deep
  • The essence of prayer is feeling.
  • What is not expressed by the heart does not communicate.
  • The maha mantra is not an invocation with a seed in the mantra. It is a prayer and thus it is expressed from the heart.
  • Feeling is the antidote to mechanical chanting. 
You Must Be Out of Your Mind to Chant Hare Krishna.
  • Mechanical chanting means we are in our mind, not in our heart.
  • When we go to our heart, we get out of our mind.
  • When we dwell in our mind (our thoughts of ourselves and our lives) the heart closes.
  • Prabhupada didn’t advise that we battle with our minds when we chant. Rather he said, “Chant and hear.”
  • “You chant with your tongue and hear with your ears. There is no question of mind” (Srila Prabhupada)
  • As we advance in our chanting, Krsna’s form, qualities and pastimes come to our mind (and vision), but not to the material mind, the mind that distracts us from proper chanting. 
Sacred Space
  • Chant in your japa house, not in your house. Your house is the place where your life exists, the place where you are absorbed in thoughts of you (your work, your fears, your bodily pains, your to do list, etc.)
  • Your japa house is figuratively the place away from your house (your life). It is the place devoted entirely to japa, to going out of your world and into Krsna’s world.
  • It is the place where you can fully honor your sacred relationship with Him while chanting.
  • Sacred space is both a physical space (where you chant, what you look at when you chant, etc.) and an internal space (where you go internally when you chant). 
  • Sastra says a crooked body creates a crooked mind.
  • Your physiology affects your psychology.
  • Prabhupada remarked during japa, “Sit properly.” If you sit straight, it helps you concentrate.
  • Your psychology also affects your physiology. If you are not sitting straight, it is often a sign that you are getting lazy about your chanting, or you are not trying as hard as you could – and should – to chant your rounds.
Aparadha, Nama bhasa, Sudha nama
  • Aparadha produces no spiritual benefit.
  • Namabhasa removes anarthas.
  • Suddha nama gives love of Krishna.
  • The bridge from anartha to suddha nama is namabhasa.
  • We enter the bridge through the door of effort, specifically the effort to avoid the ten offences. Nama aparadha is defined as chanting without making the effort to avoid the ten offences.
The Central Role of Japa in Bhakti
  • Sacinandana Swami quotes Prabhupada as saying that 90% of our advancement is dependent on chanting.
  • All other processes of bhakti are contained in chanting.
  • Chanting is the most important of the nine processes.
  • Chanting is the pole that supports the other processes of bhakti.
  • The goal is to always remember Krishna. The best way to do this is by chanting.
  • “Your beads are your connection to Krishna.”  (Srila Prabhupada)
  • “Your beads are your ticket back to Godhead.” (Srila Prabhupada)
  • “This chanting is the essence of our philosophy.” (Srila Prabhupada)
The Meaning of the Mantra
  • Bhaktivinoda Thakur advises us to meditate on the meaning of the mantra.
  • Every meaning is a prayer for coming closer to Radha and Krishna.
Aligning Your Life with the Holy Name
  • We must act outside of our 16 rounds for our 16 rounds.
  • Everything we do affects our heart.
  • Our relationship with others affects our chanting.
  • Resolve any bad relationships.
Collecting the Gems
  • Note your realizations, the gems Krishna gave you at the workshop.
  • Note down practices you wish to incorporate into your japa.
  • Note down practices you wish to correct/avoid.
  • Note down obstacles you will face as you try to improve.
  • Note down how you will deal with these obstacles.
Going Home with the Right Attitude
  • We should be thinking “I will improve my japa gradually throughout my life,” rather than thinking, “The japa workshop was great, but I won’t be able to maintain such good japa at home.”
  • Focus on where you are going, where you want to go, not where you are at. It doesn’t matter where you have come from. It only matters where you are going.
  • Don’t become critical of others if you see they are not chanting well. (The tendency for this can increase after a japa workshop.) 
  • Control the tendency to be critical by simply appreciating that others are trying to chant.
  • Remember, that although you have attended a japa workshop, you may not always apply the techniques, attitudes and practices for better chanting that you have learned. 
Additionally, wherever possible, help those devotees who are willing to hear from you.
Japa Buddies
  • Partner up with another devotee and help one another commit to better japa practices by calling one another every evening and checking in.
  • Meet with other japa buddies regularly as a group to discuss what is working, what your challenges are, and how to improve.
Closing Words
  • Japa is synergistic. Hearing, praying, meditating on the meaning, being in a relationship with Krishna, etc. are not meant to be processes that make you mental about whether or not you are chanting properly, but are meant to nourish the proper mood or your chanting and thus further absorb you in chanting.
  • Remember chanting is not a mechanical process you are trying to perfect.
  • “There is nothing but the name to be had in the fourteen worlds.”  Bhaktivinoda Thakur