It is also hard for me to relate when someone says something like: "That was an ecstatic kirtan," which indicates some other kirtan wasn’t ecstatic or that someone thinks they have to travel hundreds or thousands of miles to experience an "Ecstatic Kirtan." Ecstatic Kirtans are there for everyone all the time. Of course when we are presenting Krishna consciousness to the public it is important that the music accompaniment be really first class. Also, we should not force the above understanding on those who are not ready to take that leap. That is part of preaching strategy which is a whole other discussion that I will deal with in a future blog. Now as far as Japa is concerned, what I do is sit with my back straight (remember Prabhupada’s Japa recording in which he says; "Sit properly"). I put a pillow under my tucas (sorry I could not think of a better word for it and if you don’t understand this word ask someone who speaks Yiddish) to elevate it above the level of the legs. Usually the legs are on the floor.
Then I consciously relax every muscle in my body. I relax my mind and focus on the sound vibration of Krishna’s names. Also I am conscious of some specific request I am making of Radha and Krishna as mentioned above in the kirtan section. The request should be in the mood of emotionally begging Radha and Krishna. We should always have a Sankalpa (desire or purpose) when we chant. Then I just let the Holy Names flow. No forcing. No fighting with the mind. Just the relaxed chanting of Krishna’s names. With the proper desire and
understanding our mind will naturally be attracted and it will be like swimming in an ocean of nectar. Nothing else will matter and time and space will dissolve. Of course it goes without saying that you be strict about not using your japa period for any other activity.
For some devotees japa period is synonymous with social life time or management time. I do not interrupt my japa unless there is some emergency. One time there was a reporter visiting a Hare Krishna temple. He was attending the full morning program. Afterwards he was sitting with the devotees explaining his impressions and experience. He said that the first service of the day (Mangal Aroti) was very beautiful. Also he was very appreciative of Tulasi worship. Then he said that it was very nice that the devotees had a social break (Japa period)! We don’t want our Japa period to be a social break. We should take it as seriously as if we were leading kirtan and someone wanted to talk to us during kirtan. Certainly we would not stop the kirtan unless it was an emergency. But, somehow or other the devotees don’t take japa as seriously as they should.
Chanting and hearing should be as described in the Bhagavatam: tivrena bhakti-yogena yajeta purusam param (SB 2.3.10)-one should worship the Lord with great intensity.
Some further hints about how to increase the quality of Japa have come to mind. I have been practicing these for some time. Actually chanting nicely in the morning starts the night before. What we do right before taking rest at night affects our consciousness not only while we are resting but also for the next day particularly the morning time. The Vedas describe that there are two stages of sleep: unconscious and dreaming. Even those two stages can be broken up into different activities of the brain and the mind. For example while we are dreaming we are processing (what we received in the past), predicting (working through events we might have to go through in the future), and venting (throwing out unnecessary or unwanted data). These activities involve the subconscious mind which is connected with our subtle body.