Question: How should we chant the Holy Name of Krsna? What should be our mood and what should be our meditation?
krsna-nama cintamani akhila rasera khani nitya-mukta suddha-rasa-moy
namera balai jata saba la'ye iha hata tabe mora sukhera udoy
"The Holy Name of Lord Krsna is a cintamani jewel. It is a philosophers stone, a gold mine filled with the unlimited moods of loving exchange (rasa). It is the spring from which all nectar flows. It is eternally liberated. It is pure and sweet. When all impediments to the pure chanting of the Holy Name are taken away and destroyed, then my happiness will know its true awakening." (Saranagati, Sri Nama-Mahatmya, tx-8)
This verse is sung by, Bhaktivinoda Thakura. The Holy Name of Krsna is filled with the deepest mellows of devotional service. Therefore we must approach the Holy Name with great attention and respect. This of course presupposes having received the Holy Name from the lips of a pure devotee of Krsna. Chanting that is done independent of the shelter of the Lord's pure devotee will not have its full effect. So first we must take shelter of a bona fide spiritual master and then begin the chanting process.
The Holy Name is not an ordinary sound that is produced from this material plane. The Holy Name of Krsna comes directly from the spiritual world and manifests on the lips of the pure devotees.
golokera prema-dhana, hari-nama-sankirtana
"The chanting of the Holy Name of Krsna comes directly from the spiritual world."
Unless and until the impediments (anarthas) to the pure chanting of the Holy Name are removed we will not be able to experience the full potency of the Holy Name.
krsna-name bhakta kabhu jada-buddhi kore na
anartha na gele name rupa dekha deya na
"The genuine devotee never maintains materialistic conceptions about the Holy Name of Krsna. If the deviations that impede devotional service (anarthas) have not been expelled, then the chanting of the Holy Name will never reveal the beautiful form of the Lord." (Prakrta-rasa-sata-dusini, v.29)
Therefore we must take the Holy Name of Krsna in great earnestness and with the guidance of advanced devotees, then we will undergo purification and thus become eligible to taste the nectar of the Holy Name.
When we are on the path of the Holy Name many agents of Maya may come to test us or to distract us from our endeavor. These are most notably kanaka, kamini, and pratistha - the desire for wealth, sense pleasure, and popularity.
In "Vaisnava Ke" (Who is a Vaisnava?) Srila Bhaktisiddhanta has compared kanaka, kamini, and pratistha to a ferocious tigress who devours one's Krsna consciousness.
kanaka-kamini, pratistha-baghini", chaddiyache yare, sei ta' vaisnava
seianasakta", seisuddha bhakta", samsara tatha paya parabhava
"The desire for enjoying cheap fame and material distinction acts like a ferocious tigress who devours one's Krsna consciousness. Similarly dangerous are the desires for enjoyment of wealth and women. Someone who has transcended these materialistic desires through devotional service is indeed a real Vaisnava. Someone with such Krsna conscious characteristics is truly unattached to material life. He is actually a pure devotee of Lord Krsna! Thus the cycle of repeated birth and death is easily defeated by a pure devotee of the Lord!
Our first goal in Krsna consciousness is to become a pure devotee of Krsna. Without becoming a pure devotee of Krsna one cannot enter into the mysteries of chanting the Holy Name. Professional kirtana, frenzied dancing, and the mastery of knowledge (though popular in some societies) are not the symptoms of pure devotional service in love of God, nor do such things help us to progress in the right direction. One has to develop real detachment from wealth, sense pleasure, and the desire for popularity. To achieve that goal we should be aware of the enemies within and with great earnestness we should strive to drive them out and not give them any opportunity to flourish.
Sometimes we hear that we should 'dove-tail' our desires in the service of Krsna, but the problem with the 'dove-tailing' process is that the desires themselves become nourished by such a process and never actually go away. What is recommended is that the serious devotee should accept those things favorable to pure devotion and immediately give up the connection with anything detrimental to pure devotional service. The path of exclusive surrender to Krsna begins in that way.
anukulyasya sankalpah, pratikulya-vivarjjanam
raksisyatiti visvaso, goptrtve varanam tatha
atma-niksepa karpanye, sad-vidha sarnagathi
"Acceptance of those things favorable to devotional service, the rejection of unfavorable things, the conviction that Krsna will give me protection, the acceptance of Krsna as one's guardian or master, full self-surrender, and humility are the six types of surrender." (Hari-bhakti-vilasa 11.676 and Caitanya-caritamrta 2.22.97)
Service is all-important in the process of chanting the Holy Name, but service presupposes surrender. First surrender then serve. Without surrender, what we call service is actually self-deception. Service means that there must be a master and the servant is surrendered to the master - then the transaction is one of service. Service does not mean to fulfill ones desires and then offer the result to Krsna. Service means to directly fulfill the desires of Krsna under the direction of His bona-fide agent, the spiritual master.
When one is properly situated in the chanting process then meditation begins. Our foremost meditation should be on the sound vibration of the Holy Name. Then in due course the Holy Name will manifest as guna, rupa, and lila (qualities, form, and pastimes) of the Supreme Lord in the heart of the qualified devotee. An independent endeavor to meditate on the Lord's qualities, form, and pastimes is not actually required. All that is required is that we chant the Holy Name purely. Then from within the Holy Name everything will be revealed.
Self-realization is a descending process. When the heart of a devotee is purified, then Krsna takes His seat there and takes complete charge of His devotee. But if we have no faith in the Holy Name or if we want things cheaply without having the necessary qualifications then we will search here and there until we find a so-called guru who will guide us in perfecting an external show of devotion.
Those who have faith in the Holy Name never recommend any other process for perfection than purely chanting the Holy Name.
jada-sunya aprakrta nama chada bole na
"Other than the pure transcendental names of Krsna, which are completely free from all material contact, nothing else should be spoken." (Prakrta-rasa-sata-dusini, tx-45)
bhoge mana, jade sraddha cit prakasa kore na
name sraddha na hoile jada-buddhi chade na
"Those whose minds are absorbed in the spirit of enjoyment of matter, and who possess materialistic faith, can never experience the revelation of pure spiritual consciousness. Without absolute faith in the Lord's Holy Name, one's mundane mentality can never be cast off." (Prakrta-rasa-sata-dusini, tx-70)
Faith is all-important for success in spiritual life. When proper faith is at the foundation of our spiritual journey then such faith will guide us and take us to the proper agent of Krsna. When faith is at the foundation then having come in connection with Krsna's agent we will adhere to his instruction and follow his example as our life and soul. When faith is at our foundation then we will find that we have avoided both the cheaters and the cheating mentality that deceives the faithless. Let faith be our guide.