Meditation was once referred to by Hazur Maharaj Charan Singh as “the panacea for all ills”. There are dozens of ways to meditate, so how do you know which practice is the best and which one will render the most benefits?
The answer is, there is no “best” meditation practice. The trick is to find the perfect technique that works for you. In this article, I will focus on mantra meditation, specifically the Mahã-mantra. It will be up to you to decide whether mantra meditation is for you.
A mantra is “a syllable, word, or verse with special spiritual potency chanted or meditated upon to invoke spiritual understanding and realization.”
The Mahã-mantra rings as follows: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Hare refers to the divine feminine, Krishna refers to the divine masculine, and Rama means an all-encompassing source of pleasure.
In Chant and be Happy: The Power of Mantra Meditation it is explained exactly how to chant. There are two kinds of chanting: japa and kirtan. Japa is when you chant alone on japa beads, whereas kirtan is when you chant in a group, usually with instruments. The beads should be held in your right hand and an individual bead should be rolled between your thumb and middle finger. While holding a bead, the mahã-mantra should be completed. Then you move onto the next bead, and the next, until you’ve chanted on all 108 japa beads. One round of chanting is now complete. Serious chanters chant for a minimum of 16 rounds per day, which is a total of 1728 mantras.
You can chant anywhere, at any time, but scriptures encourage us to chant before sunrise and after sunset. It is a conducive time to meditate because our concentration is better and it is generally quiet during these times.
The benefits of meditation vary according to how regularly you practice it. It is better to practice meditation every day for short periods of time, rather than infrequently for longer periods of time, according to Andrew Holecek, author of Preparing to Die.
Monks chant for a minimum of two and a half hours each day, and they wake up between 02:00 and 06:00 to chant. This lifestyle might not be compatible with a student, but that’s why you can chant (it doesn’t have to be out loud) on your way to class, in the jammie or whenever you have a spare moment.
I spoke to Hrsikesa Ramjith,19-year-old student at UCT majoring in BSc and computer science and physics. He still manages to incorporate time for meditation in his busy schedule, and explains that meditation has made him “a lot more relaxed.” Meditation has also helped him cope with stress during exams.
Vasanti Devi Dasi, a monk at the Hare Krishna temple, told me that meditation has made her more peaceful, because “the why’s of life have been answered.” She has also become more disciplined and more selfless. Vasanti says mantra meditation is an offering of love. By chanting, you become free of the desire to commit sins, and your sins become minimized or eradicated depending on how sincere your chanting is.
In an interview with Bill Faill, Śrila Prabhupãda said, “Real meditation means to achieve a state in which the mind is saturated with God consciousness.” Whatever motives you have for meditating – be it to become less anxious, to still the mind, or to grow spiritually; there is ultimately no “wrong” or “right.” Do whatever works for you at a certain time in your life.