This is a newsletter by Mahatma Prabhu, Srila Prabhupada's disciple on our state of Japa. Plese read it, it will help you to improve your chanting." Nish , nish, ram, ram, nish, nish, ram, ram." Prabhupada once imitated how we sometimeschant without focus, without concentration, without proper pronunciation – how we chantwhen we don't feel like chanting. You know the mood behind this chanting; "I have tochant but I'd rather be doing something else." And in our minds we are thinking, "I can'twait to get these rounds out of the way." We all do this. And it can get pretty bad.I know devotees who chant rounds while watching football games on TV.Prabhupada explained that this type of chanting is more or less useless because it will notproduce the desired result, love of Krsna. To even call this chanting is a stretch. It is closerto a ritual. But Prabhupada acknowledged the value in the ritual by saying that althoughthis kind of chanting is not very productive, at least those who are chanting this way arekeeping their vow to chant.I call this kind of japa, "courtesy japa." "Courtesy japa" means that since you have taken a vow -either to your spiritual master or yourself - to chant a certain number of rounds daily, you keepthat vow while chanting the kind of japa I described above.Here are a few other examples (methods) of what I call "courtesy japa:"Chanting while talking to someone (you talk, and when they reply you chant).Chanting while reading (which could really work if you have two heads, one toread and one to chant).Chanting while listening to a CD or the radio (this is especially challenging whilelistening to the news or listening to rock and roll music).Chanting while shopping.Chanting while window shopping (this often happens on early morning japa walks).Chanting while you are dosing off (sometimes known as dive bomb japa).Chanting while site seeing or looking around at a million things (sometimes knownas radar japa).Chanting while watching movies (Krsna Conscious movies are included in"courtesy japa").Chanting a little, talking a little, chanting a little, talking a little (sometimes known asjibber japa).Chanting while …………………… (fill in your favorites).Note, these are all excellent ways to ruin your japa and thus put your Krsna conscioustransmission in park. You can make incredible advancement during japa. Good japa is likeflying down the highway in fourth gear. Good japa produces inspiration, realization, detachment,increased desire to serve, attraction to study scripture, and an ability to see maya's workings moreclearly. And there are so many more gifts japa delivers. Yet we deprive ourselves of these giftswhen we chant "courtesy japa."THE NEW MANTRA IS "DOWN WITH 'COURTESY JAPA'.""Courtesy japa" is like shooting a gun with blank bullets. When the trigger is pulled it just soundslike a bullet is being fired. Obviously you can't win a battle firing blanks. Similarly,"courtesy japa" sounds like the Hare Krsna maha mantra but it is just an empty sound, a shadowof the real thing. Certainly you can't win the battle with maya firing blank mantras.The problem is - and this is something we have to accept philosophically as well as practically –if you keep practicing the wrong way, you'll continue to get wrong results. What's more is thatbad chanting tends to produce more bad chanting. Let me say that in another way because thisis really important. The more you practice the wrong way of doing something, the more itgets engrained/programmed within you and the harder it usually becomes to fix it.THUS IT DOESN'T NECESSARILY FOLLOW THAT THE LONGER YOU CHANT THEMORE ADVANCED YOU WILL BECOME.Do you have a severe case of courtesy japaitis programmed into you? If so, ask yourself how youare going to kick the habit. This is an important question to answer because good japa is one ofthe pillars of spiritual life.It's all about fighting apathy in our japa. As Lord Caitanya said, playing the part of aconditioned soul, "I am so unfortunate that I have no attraction for chanting Your HolyNames." So we have two choices during japa. One is to go with the flow and just letthe mind wander. The other is to go against the flow and make a valiant effort to focuson the holy name and chant in a prayerful, devotional mood. That's not so easy. It takeseffort. It goes against everything "courtesy japa" stands for. And this is not much funfor lazy japa chanters like me. After all, concentrating is hard work.Japa can be a creative time. Often when I chant I get all kinds of ideas. Also the many thingsI have to do in the day - and even creative ways of doing them - keep popping up in my mind(or should I say keep pooping in my mind). Don't dwell on these. If they come up, either neglectthem (those good ideas will most likely come up later) or stop chanting and write them downso you don't have to think about them while you chant.How will you break the habit of "courtesy japa?" Krsna is in your heart and He will help you asmuch as you want to be helped. Krsna says from Me come knowledge, remembrance andforgetfulness. So He will show you how to become a master of japa or a master of"courtesy japa." It all depends on what you want. If you want to improve, He willshow you when to chant (hint – early in the morning), where to chant (hint – where you arenot distracted), how to chant (hint – in front of devotional pictures, tulasi, Deities, etc,not in front of a television or a non Krsna conscious magazine).So here's the exercise. Write on top of a piece of paper, How To Improve My Japa?Below that write the subtitle, Putting an end to"courtesy japa." Then make your list.