As an empathic child, I cried at least once a day from the beginning of life to the middle of my teenage years. Not only was I sensitive to energies and events around me, but I experienced a deep ache in my heart and soul. There was an emptiness and longing I could not explain. I cried, "I want to go home!" even from within my own room in the home which I lived. I did not belong here in this world. I came from somewhere else. I could feel it, but I could not understand it.
Layered upon that underlying longing for home were the day-to-day difficulties encountered in life in this world. Yes, even a small child can experience and sense them. Though I played carefree, bubbling and giggling with imagination and laughter, I also suffered through uncommon hardships and trying circumstances.
Life at any age is fraught with danger at every step, the inevitability of death, temporality, potential for interpersonal conflict, fears, feelings, growing pains, etc. Having endured my fair share early, I was seeking relief and was receptive to a spiritual cure for the angst that ailed me to the core.
Thus, when I was 16 and received a book titled Chant and Be Happy, I dove in. It contained discussions between A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, George Harrison, John Lennon and Yoko Ono about the power of mantra meditation. Inspired by its wisdom, I began chanting the maha-mantra, which the Vedas identify as the most potent transcendental sound for reawakening the soul and restoring it to love of God.
A couple of months into this practice I noticed that - for the first time in my life that I could remember - I had not cried in weeks. The ache and angst in my soul was becoming soothed with satisfaction. Thirty-six years later, I am still chanting this maha-mantra daily and it is the source of my inner strength, peace, and personal growth. I long ago learned from experience that if I want to hear God guiding me in my daily life it will serve me well to listen carefully to the sound of His names every day, which I do by meditating on this mantra:
Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare
Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare
I highly recommend this for anyone who desires to hear their heart and God in it. These names for God in the Sanskrit language clear away all that covers the soul and call prayerfully to reinstate it - the real self - in loving service to the supreme lovable person. Krishna means He is all-attractive, and Rama means He is full of pleasure. Hare evokes His Divine pleasure-giving energy, the feminine feature of Divinity.
How to Practice Maha-Mantra Meditation
The most important part of maha-mantra meditation is hearing. The focus is simply on the sound. From wherever and whatever the mind wanders to, the practice is to bring attention back to the sound. Taking care to pronounce the words clearly and sincerely helps to harness that focus.
There are two forms of mantra meditation, one of which is called japa. This is the practice of reciting the maha-mantra for your own hearing. It is usually done on a garland of prayer beads known as mala in Sanskrit. The first bead is held between the thumb and middle finger of the right hand while the maha-mantra is chanted once: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Then the fingers move to the next bead while repeating the mantra again. Like this a full round is chanted on the string of 108 beads. Chanting a consistent number of rounds daily is most effective for receiving the full benefit of the practice.
The other form of maha-mantra meditation is musical. It is sung together with others in call and response, often accompanied by instruments. This congregational chanting of God’s names is renowned in the Vedas as the primary means of spiritual realization in this age.
Listening with Your Heart - Deepening the Practice
When you chant the maha-mantra or any holy name of God, He enters your hearing and heart in the form of sound. The holy name of God is the sound body of God, not different from Him in any way. He shows up in your heart with His complete presence and personality in the fully spiritual embodiment of His name. Therefore, meditating on the maha-mantra or other holy names of God is more than a practice; it is the fulfilling of a relationship. By opening your heart to listen, you're opening your heart to receive the supreme spiritual person. The reciprocal exchange of your heart given through the chanting, and His heart received through hearing, is like a dance back and forth between the two of you, taking place within you.