In the Gaudiya way of bhakti, you offer everything to Krsna, the good, the bad – your life. You share everything with someone you are close to, the barriers are low, close friends are intimate. In bhakti this is called mamata, a strong sense of ownership, or relation to the Lord, that “He is mine and I’m His”. This type of love can be attained by two types of devotional service, as it is stated by Narada Muni in Sri Brhad-bhagavatamrta: “One develops that love by practicing the devotional service whose main ways are meditation on and singing about the many Vraja pastimes of the Lord.” (3.5.218) A devotee who wants to reach Vrndavana focuses on these two aspects of bhakti: meditating on and singing about Vraja-lila.
How does the aspect of meditation relate to our spiritual practices as Srila Prabhupada has established them? All devotional practices are servants of two core practices: always thinking of Krsna and never forgetting Him. Over time, these two form what is called dhyana. Dhyana is a stage of remembering or meditating on Krsna, which sets in when you start to practice thinking of Him. Many of you do that already: you go to Srimad Bhagavatam class and others – they are all about Krsna. That is also why Srila Prabhupada said we should read in his books daily because then you will carry some remembrance of Krsna in your heart, and you will sing fully in kirtana. Then your kirtanas are not empty; instead, you relate your kirtana to and you sing for Krsna. After all ‘Hare Krsna’ is His name. You should think of the person whose name you are chanting. The moment you address a person by their name, your full attention should be there. You don’t want to be disrespectful. So, you want to connect to Krsna during kirtana and for that, you need to first have thought of Krsna – at least a little. You need to know something about Krsna.
So, remembering or meditating and chanting about the Lord and His pastimes is what you need to do in order to develop the type of strong love that will give you Krsna’s mercy. And Narada Muni continues: “That service becomes brilliant by sankirtana of the Lord’s most beloved Holy Names.” (3.5.218) Chanting becomes very powerful by nama-sankirtana. Because, as Srila Jiva Goswami explains, if you only practice japa (chanting alone on beads), if you are not pure, you won’t be successful. But if you chant in sankirtana (together with others) your heart will be purified so that you can really chant. If you sit together with other devotees and chant the name of Krsna again and again, you easily realize the full glories of Krsna and His pleasure potency, Srimati Radharani.
To give an analogy: when a candle is surrounded by mirrors, the candlelight becomes amplified and brighter. It can be a small candle, but with the help of the mirrors, its luminescence grows to that of a spotlight. In the same way, when you bring your voice into the kirtana and there are many other voices around you, then your small voice, and more importantly, your small devotion behind your voice becomes amplified. In summary: first, you practice thinking of Krsna and remembering Him, up to the extent of meditating about Him and chanting His name. This practice then becomes imbued with power and begins to shine if you do nama-sankirtana.
From a lecture by Sacinandana Swami at Govardhana Hill,