Resounding Benefits of Chanting – Part 2
A Simple and Beautiful Practice
In the Ramayana, Tulsidasji has an entire section on the power of chanting the Lord’s name, Ram nam. The scriptures tell us that chanting, especially during the Kali Yuga, is the primary means for people to obtain salvation. Chanting God’s name (any name of God) purifies you from within and without. The unique thing is that it not only purifies the person who is chanting, but also anyone nearby who hears the chant. There is nothing that cannot be achieved by chanting, whether it’s worldly goals, fame, and fortune, or spiritual goals, all the way to liberation. Ramakrishna used to say that the best way to achieve faith is to chant the Lord’s name.
All his life Guruji chanted Sita Ram Sita Ram, to the extent that it became part of his breath. Sleeping, waking, eating, at all times his breath was one with Sita Ram. Not long after I met him, and before I had taken initiation, I was sitting in his room and he asked what I did for spiritual practices. At that time, I told him that all I knew was Ram nam, chanting the name of the Lord, and that was as much as I could do. He replied, “Your work is done,” implying that that in itself is sufficient to achieve everything. Another time, at a question and answer session in Santa Cruz, Guruji was telling us about chanting, and he quoted a couplet from the Ramayana as a way to convey his message. Basically that couplet says, “Keep the lamp of the Lord’s name forever on your tongue because by doing so you will find light within yourself and outside of yourself.”
Again and again I’ve noticed if I chant before I sit down for meditation, without question, my meditations are much deeper and much more satisfying. The same thing is true when I listen to Guruji’s chanting. Meditating with the mantrochar or with Ma chanting in the background has a much deeper quality than if I do it without the chanting. It’s so much easier to get my mind focused and quiet.
There have been saints throughout history for whom chanting was the main sadhana. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the saint with whom the Hare Krishna movement began, would constantly chant along with his disciples wherever they went. There are lots of stories of people’s minds and hearts being changed just from listening to them chanting. I can’t think of a single saint who has not emphasized the importance of chanting as a sadhana: Mirabhai, Tulsidasji, Surdasji, Guru Nanak, Hanumanji himself.
Lord Shiva is said to be chanting Lord Ram’s name constantly. The scriptures state that if one dies in Kashi (Benares), even an insect, that soul is liberated, because Lord Shiva chants Lord Ram’s name in the ear of whoever dies in Kashi.
Basically, the greatness and importance of chanting really cannot be expressed in words. The beauty of it is that it is such a simple practice. Age, health status, education, religious or ethnic background – none of that matters. Anyone can chant, and benefit from it.
Chanting can be done anywhere, anytime, by anybody, does not require any special tools and there are no restrictions on it. With certain other sadhanas, if you do them incorrectly there’s a danger of being harmed, but with chanting that’s not there. For Shri Ramakrishna’s wife Sarada Devi, chanting was her only sadhana; she used to call it Sahaj Yoga, which means the easy yoga. She recommended that you should just chant the Lord’s name with each breath.
I don’t think most of us realize how much of a privilege and blessing we receive when somebody like Guruji or Ma is chanting. We are listening to someone who is giving an eyewitness account, they aren’t telling us something they simply read or heard about. When Guruji or Ma is chanting, they are bringing the light and power of their inner experience into that chant. When Guruji is chanting about Hanumanji, he has seen Hanumanji, he has talked to Hanumanji so the power of his chanting is indescribable. When Ma is chanting about Guruji, she knows for a fact from every atom in her being that Guruji really is God in human form. For us it is more of an intellectual thing, because most of us haven’t experienced that truth. She’s experienced it. Their chanting really can grant us anything that our heart desires, from devotion and knowledge to liberation.
By Pankaj Khandelwal