How can we chant in a way that it makes us forget the material world and run to Krsna? When you sit down to chant, there will be moments in which you notice that your mind wandered somewhere else – ‘Uuups, I was thinking about my shopping list, that I have to close this deal to get more money and that Suresh Patel said something bad about me – well, he can just wait – I will show it to him!’ You will notice, ‘Where was I? I am sitting here in saintly company, chanting, but what happened?’ What happened, my dear devotees, is that your mind went away because there was not enough taste and you went to material subjects. Understand this: you are where your mind is. A student may sit in a class, but if he is absent-minded and thinks of his next outing with his friends, the teacher will say, “Hey, hey, what was I just talking about?” “I don’t know.” You are where your mind is. Therefore, we chant a mantra, which also means vehicle, something that transports the mind to another place if we connect the mind with it.
For most of the time modern people are not present in what they are doing, they are “spaced-out”. When you chant, the first thing you need to do is to catch the mind whenever it wanders. ‘Oh, where was I? Where was I for so long my dear Krsna? I was absent from You. For so many long years I have forgotten You, my Lord, even in kirtana I am not with You. Oh, where is my mind going!’ So, when you chant you are very lucky if you notice, ‘Oh, my mind was absent, I must bring it back.’ Only then, you will really be sitting in the kirtana. If your mind is somewhere else, then it has transported you to another place. Therefore, focus, concentrate!
And in order to bind the mind to the chanting, you must give up illusory attachments to this world. If you are convinced, with genuine humility, that no one and nothing, not your money, not others, can save you, you can chant without interruption. You must go to Krsna, only He can save you. And for this you have to practice a little detachment. We know one of the offences against the Holy Name is to maintain material attachments. They will pull you in the opposite direction of where you want to go. You are an awakening soul, you want to go to Krsna. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura names four illusory attachments a chanter must give up: first of all a strong love for the material world, secondly, identifying with the material body, thirdly, attachments to anything other than Krsna and fourthly serving maya. Now I know you think, ‘Oh Maharaja, why are you saying all of this in the morning? You are destroying my whole day! I have so many attachments and you tell me I should give them up. I just started building a new house…’ I know that it is difficult. You have to sit down with your mind and address it, “My brother mind, I want to become a devotee. I want to break out of the chains of maya. Material life has only given me repeated birth, death and misery. So, dear mind, can we speak?” The mind will reply, “Not if you tell me to give up attachments.” You can answer, “No, I will tell you something you will like. See, I have to tell you something very serious. Everything that comes into being in this world also dies. Nothing is permanent. We also have to die one day. Please, see that the attachments in our heart that you cultivate are like intoxication. For a moment an intoxicated man is very happy, but then, when it wears off, he is ill, unhappy and destructive. Be practical, these things don’t bring satisfaction, they don’t bring eternal bliss and knowledge. Please understand this. And now please come into the kirtana with me. Only the kirtana, nothing else. Sit with me, I have something wonderful for you: the Holy Name. Just absorb yourself in the Holy Name, it will be very nice.”
Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura says, “O bird of my mind, you always fly everywhere. I have brought something very beautiful for you, the Holy Name and when we chant it, Krsna will help us. Bird of my mind, come, sit and eat this food of the Holy Name. And remember, the day will come when they will carry us to the funeral pyre and our son will put fire into our mouth and we will not be able to chant. Now you have a tongue, eat the fruit of the Holy Name, it is most ecstatic. Stay with me, mind.” And my dear devotees, just by this attitude, in western philosophy it is called the via positive, which means “the positive way”, you will be successful. If you only have the via negetiva, the way of the negation “No attachments, no sense enjoyment!” it will be very difficult. But sankirtana is such that even an unqualified person will benefit just by combining the mind with Krsna in His most merciful form: the Holy Name. You must only practice this one thing: don’t be absent minded when you chant, don’t run away from the Holy Name, don’t turn your back to Him. No, when you chant, have this motivation: I will now turn to Krsna in the form of His Holy Name. The deity (the Holy Name) is identical with Krsna. And you can expect miracles. So my request to you is, when you sit in the kirtana, please be present minded, tell your mind “For the next few hours, please stay with the kirtana.” And all of a sudden you will experience an inexplicable transformation.
From a lecture by Sacinandana Swami in Nairobi, Kenia, September 29th, 2018.