I would like to offer my heartfelt gratitude for the ever-enlivening content of this precious publication, Back to Godhead. This magazine was the first piece of Prabhupada’s magnificent publications that I picked up as a child, and it hasn’t left my heart since. That childlike excitement still bursts out every time I see this blessing come through the post. All glories to the wonderful devotees who are so merciful to continue this project with such quality and detail.
To Enjoy or Not to Enjoy
Some people say we should enjoy this world, and Krishna says this world is maya. So should we enjoy this material world?
Via the Internet
Reply: The material energy is trying to convince us to try to enjoy here. But can one really enjoy in a prison? No, this is not a place of enjoyment. It is a place for purifying ourselves of our selfish desire to enjoy without God, Krishna. If we become purified, then we can experience the highest enjoyment, much higher than what the material energy promises.
We are entitled to a spiritual pleasure coming from the reservoir of all pleasure, Sri Krishna, whom we are part of. If we link to Him with love and devotion, through service, then we can experience pleasure eternally.
The practice of connecting to Krishna has been made easy and joyful by the Lord Himself for us inmates in Kali-yuga. It begins with glorifying, hearing, and chanting His holy names. So yes, we can enjoy even here in the material world – if we are in His transcendental company. Krishna is present in His names and in His service. Taking advantage of these moves us off the bodily platform of hankering and lamenting, anxiety, and all our material problems. The proof is shown in the lives of those who have taken up this reformatory process of bhakti. The results are amazing. In every country there are congregations of devotees joyfully engaged in Krishna’s service.
How and How Much to Chant
Is there any particular way in which we should chant the Hare Krishna mantra, or is there a rule that one needs to chant it a particular number of times?
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Reply: Lord Chaitanya, the most recent incarnation of Krishna, recommends the constant chanting of the glories of the Lord, especially by chanting the maha-mantra. He says that there is no hard and fast rule for chanting. He did, however, show the example of keeping track of a regular number of mantras chanted daily. Srila Prabhupada asked us to chant a minimum of 16 rounds of the maha-mantra on our mala of 108 beads. This is the standard for initiated devotees.
Prabhupada encouraged one who is beginning the process to set some amount, even just a few rounds a day, and do it every day. One can increase gradually up to sixteen, which takes a couple of hours or so. So just set yourself something that you can do.
The process of chanting is to hear the words of the mantra and try to take them to your heart. The website iskcondesiretree.com has classes and seminars on chanting japa, such as those of Burijana Dasa. You can of course sing the mantra at any time, and you can find many tunes on the same website.
You can join in the chanting at our temples. And if you’re not near a temple, you can take part online, as some temples have live webcams. If there is a temple near you, the devotees there can help you set up an altar in your home, and you can have a sacred place for chanting.
How can we overcome material desires?
Via the Internet
Reply: The recommended process in this age for controlling the mind and its hankering and lamenting is to chant the holy names of the Lord, Hare Krishna. The Hare Krishna maha-mantra puts us in direct contact with the Lord and helps to purify our consciousness from the dirty things we have been accumulating for lifetimes. By the power of transcendental sound, we can awaken the lost consciousness of our real relationship with God, a relationship of eternal love.
Krishna’s name and He Himself are the same. Our mind and senses need engagement in something spiritual. Chanting is the easiest and most joyful process, and it works for everyone. As we take up devotional service and keep busy in Krishna’s service, we change our material desires into the desire to satisfy Him. Our desires become spiritual, and we become satisfied internally.
By offering everything to Krishna, we think more about Him and less about ourselves, our problems, and our anxieties. Krishna takes over our life and sees to it that His devotee is happy. It is a reciprocal exchange, eternally fresh and sweet. This is bhakti, the art of loving devotion to the Lord of our heart, Sri Krishna.
Offering Food to the Lord
I work in a bank, and it is always tough to manage time for my spiritual practices. However, by Krishna’s mercy I do get some time to offer Him food, and then only do I take my food (as prasadam). But I lack proper knowledge of how and what to offer Him. Also, I want to know about the time – when I don’t feel like eating or I want to skip my meals, should I offer Him food even then?
Via the Internet
Reply: If you are not doing deity worship of a high standard, then you are not obligated to offer and eat at certain times. As long as you are not offering meat, fish, and egg preparations, then you are doing all right. Try not to offer grains cooked by nondevotees.
Present your food items on a special plate on a clean surface in front of pictures of Prabhupada and your guru and Lord Chaitanya and Lord Krishna if you can. Bow down and say the offering prayers to them. They can be found here: http://food.krishna.com/article/offering-food-krishna. Repeat each prayer three times. If that is not possible, then call the Lords to come and accept your offering to them. If you can, wait a little bit for them to accept the preparations, then clap your hands to let them know you are going to take the plate away. Bow down and thank them. Then clean the area. It is the sincerity that the Lord is accepting, so put your heart into it.