I remember how I asked my Guru Maharaja once, while having his association in Vrindavana: „How can I improve my chanting?“ His answer was very pragmatic: „You can go to chant in Srila Prabhupada`s room, that’s a very good practice“. I had expected a `deeper ` answer and was not so sure what I should think about this instruction. Ok, yes I can go to Srila Prabhupada`s room, there is a nice atmosphere, that’s true. But how will that help to improve my Japa, especially on a long term?
In any case, the next morning, right after Tulasi Puja I went to Srila Prabhupada`s Room, sat down just next to Srila Prabhupada`s bed and started to chant my Japa without experiencing much better chanting. But then, only few minutes later, my Guru entered the room and took his seat almost next to me, just on the other end of the bed and began his chanting. Immediately my own chanting became extremely attentive and focused. All of a sudden I chanted with a lot of concentration and feeling. It was a wonderful experience and I started to reflect more deeply on the Instruction `Chant in Srila Prabhupada`s Room`.
The presence of my Guru made me chant more attentive. So my chanting and my relationship to my Guru are closely connected. Guru is Mantra Datta, the person who has given this Maha Mantra to me. We cannot just chant a Mantra on our own expecting to achieve the highest perfection by our own endeavour. Mantra is always received from Guru in a humble state of mind. Bhaktivinoda Thakur sings: "I fall at the Lord's feet, having taken this mahā-mantra.“ 1 One should get Mantra or Nama, the Holy Name, from a person who has actually attained perfection in that Mantra. From such a person not only the Mantra is given, but also blessings and realizations in connection to this Mantra:
„The extent and profundity of the ceremony are dependent on the disciple`s sincerity to adhere to his or her vows, and on the Guru`s transparency in representing the tradition (sampradaya) in which the mantra is handed down. If both sincerity and transparency are present, something mystical - or better yet, transcendental - will happen. At the time of mantra diksa, the guru will impart both the mantras inconceivable potency along with his own experience in chanting it. This process can neither be seen nor intellectually explained“ 2
So this is one reason that made me chant more attentively. The strong connection I felt at this moment to my Guru. And of course, it is also quite natural that one will endeavour more if one is being observed by one’s teacher. But in some way Guru is always present with us. We are actually never alone. Why am I not always in that mood of `Oh, let’s chant carefully, my Guru is watching me!` He actually always observes me, always is with me, just as Paramatma is always with me. And in fact Guru is a manifestation of the Paramatma: „According to the deliberate opinion of all revealed scriptures, the spiritual master is non-different from Krishna. Lord Krishna in the form of the spiritual master delivers His devotees.“ 3 „Since one cannot visually experience the presence of the Supersoul, He appears before us as a liberated devotee. Such a spiritual master is none other than Krishna Himself.“ 4
Krishna guides us from within and gives us instructions from outside through our Guru. While reflecting on all this I started to realize the deeper meaning of what my Gurudeva actually said. At least this is how I understood it. „You can go to chant in Srila Prabhupada’s Room“ basically means to chant with the awareness of your Guru’s presence! Understanding that on my own, I am not able to chant the Lord’s Names. I require Guru’s mercy to do that. In other words I need to chant in the mood of humility and dependence on Guru’s mercy. So my Gurudeva’s answer was very pragmatic, yet also very deep and esoteric at the same time!
1- Bhaktivinoda Thakur Song `Jiva Jago` Vers 5
2 - Sacinandana Swami - The Gayatri Book, page 13-14
3 - Cc. Adi 1.45
4 - Cc. Adi 1.58