Issues or Nama-bhajana, Or Both?

January 11, 2012 | Attitudes in Devotional Service, How to..., Japa

English; Salem, Tamil Nadu, India

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Question: There has been general discussions between devotee circles here that if you cannot finish your rounds then it is okay to carry over some to the next day. … Expand>

Question:

There has been general discussions between devotee circles here that if you cannot finish your rounds then it is okay to carry over some to the next day. As far as I am aware I believe that is not right and every devotee should finish their daily rounds each day. That is what I have been advising, but some challenge saying NO!, so and so said its okay to carry over to the next day. Please could you also advice on this matter.

Answer by HH Bhakti Vikāsa Swami:

I doubt it, but I could advise. I can’t advice on the matter because advice is not a verb, but I could advise.

Śrīla Prabhupāda writes, I believe in the Nectar of Devotion, that if one is not able to finish one’s rounds on one day, then he can chant them on the next day. That doesn’t mean that it’s OK, that it’s just like some kind of normal practice. Such an attitude will breed bad japa habits, in which devotees think: “Well, I’ll just leave a few for the next day.” Then the next day he thinks: “Well, I’ll just leave a few for the next day.” And in this way gets in the habit of not completing sixteen rounds. We take a vow. Remember, those who are initiated, chant sixteen rounds every day! There may be some circumstances in which one is unable to. Sickness. If one is very sick, he may not be able to chant his prescribed rounds.

Haridāsa Ṭhākura had taken a vow to chant three times sixty-four rounds every day. He became quite sick at one point. Caitanya Mahāprabhu came to see him. And Caitanya Mahāprabhu asked Haridāsa Ṭhākura: “What’s wrong? Are you feeling all right?” And Haridāsa said: “I have a disease. The disease is that I can’t finish my prescribed chanting.”

He didn’t think that the physical disease was as bad as… Of course, physical – well, that’s another question that’ll come up. Pure devotees of the Lord, they are daivīṁ prakṛtim āśritāḥ: they are under the protection of the divine energy of the Lord, which is, anyway I’ll discuss that little later.

So this should be taken very seriously – chanting sixteen rounds daily. Shortly after I joined the temple I saw one of my brahmacārī godbrothers, Kṛpamoya Prabhu, who is still a well-known figure in ISKCON UK. He was a brahmacārī. He was not with other travelling saṅkīrtana brahmcārīs and he was chanting many rounds. Seemed to be chanting all day.So I asked him: “Well, how is that that you are chanting all day and you are not with other brahmacārīs? Almost all the brahmacārīs are out on travelling saṅkīrtana.” I wasn’t because I’d just been in the temple for a few days. So he told me that he’d been sick with measles for several days. And now he had to make up his rounds.

So it’s not that we can take it very lightly that we divert our attention: “Oh, I didn’t chant. OK, I’ll do them the next day.” Rather, if at the normal time we are to take rest we haven’t chanted our prescribed number of rounds, then we should stay up late. That should be our attitude. Stay up and chant them. Don’t eat, don’t sleep, finish your rounds! That should be our priority. So if one’s sick… There may be some instances when devotees are extremely busy. They may, for instance, be at a festival. Either pūjārīs, or some preaching engagement festival where the services may be so intense that they may not be able to finish their prescribed number of rounds. Usually, what the experienced devotees do if they expect to be in such a situation, is that they rise very early and chant early and finish their rounds. Finish means finish the prescribed number of rounds. That’s an awkward phrase – to finish your rounds – as if finished, no intention of doing any more.

So the general point is clear – that we should not make a habit of skipping rounds. Under some unusual circumstances, if we do not finish sixteen rounds, then we can make them up on the next day. Or, if we have a big backlog, for instance due to some prolonged sickness, then we can, as we get more healthy, chant some extra rounds every day and make it up. But we shouldn’t make a habit of doing so. Then we’ll gradually start chanting less and less rounds every day. That means we are cultivating not having a taste for the holy name. If we deliberately, or if we take it so lightly that I don’t have to chant sixteen rounds every day, that means that we are deliberately cultivating a taste for not having a taste. Rather, we should try to chant extra rounds, rather than skipping rounds.

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