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Planets and stars

Q. Dear Prabhu, Dandavats. I never thought on this point but when we see in the sky we see so many stars. Are they different planets or higher planets or something else?

A. According to the Bhagavatam, whatever stars and other heavenly bodies we can see with or without any aid are all within this universe. The sun and the moon are the only source of light within this universe. There are unlimited number of universes in this material creation and our particular universe is one of the smallest.

Selecting your mantra

Q. What is the difference between chanting Hare Krishna & mantras of the other bonafide sampradayas?

A. If a mantra has been invented or pieced together from other mantras, it simply won’t have any effect. If it is sold for someone’s personal gain, or received by someone who is materially motivated, it won’t work either. There may be effects like relaxation or stress reduction, but there will not be the transcendental effect of liberation from material bondage. In other words, there won’t be a permanent spiritual effect but at best a temporary effect on the material body or mind.

In the Brihad-Naradiya Purana we find a very specific injunction about selecting the best mahamantra : In this age of Kali there is no other means, no other means, no other means for self-realization than chanting the holy name, chanting the holy name, chanting the holy name of Krishna .

The Hare Krishna mahamantra is specifically mentioned in the Kali-santarana Upanishad . Besides the Hare Krishna mahamantra , there are many other bona fide mantras used by devotees of Krishna . But the Vedic scriptures declare that simply by chanting the Hare Krishna mahamantra one receives the benefits of all other mantras. Therefore, chanting Hare Krishna is the most important spiritual activity.

Chanting with concentration

Q. While chanting my mind gets diverted a lot. Please tell how to concentrate on chanting?

A. The uncontrolled mind always distracts the intelligence away from the lotus feet of Sri Krishna. The main principle of chanting is to listen attentively to the sound of the mahamantra . The mahamantra is chanted by the tongue and immediately caught by the ear. If any distracting thoughts come into your mind, just focus your full attention on the sound of the Hare Krishna mahamantra, and the thoughts will leave. Just try to hear the mahamantra, and the purifying effect will take place. Somehow, just have faith in Krishna’s Holy Name and all success will follow

Regulate your japa

Q. I am new to chanting and I want to know what it means to chant 16 rounds everyday? How many mahamantras should I chant everyday?

A. You can begin with one round a day and gradually increase. Initiated devotees in the Hare Krishna movement chant sixteen rounds every day. This takes about two hours. Once you chant a certain number of rounds daily, never go below this number. It is far better to chant two rounds every day than eight rounds one day and none the next. Regulation is important in making spiritual progress.

Chanting means a prayer

Q. It is said that when one chants he should do so helplessly to derive complete benefit from it. What exactly is meant by chanting helplessly?

A. The chanting of the holy name is not, a mechanical process depending merely upon contemplative prowess. It is a devotional art, a form of prayer, and thus one must chant with reverence and devotion. The Hare Krishna mahamantra is a prayer for protection and deliverance, a prayer to the Lord for His divine presence and for the opportunity to serve Him. Chanting is compared to the helpless cry of a child for its mother. My dear Lord Krishna , please rescue me from the ocean of material suffering and again engage me in Your service.

Going back to Godhead

Q. It is said that we have fallen down to this material world as we rebelled against God. But, it is also mentioned that with proper chanting and service, one can go back to Godhead where there is no birth, death, old age, disease. My question is, “Is there no chance to fall down, again”? If one goes to heavenly planets, one will fall down once his account becomes empty? Please clarify of falling down from heavenly planets and Goloka Vrindavan? Haribol.

One goes to the heavenly planets on the strength of one’s pious credits, which are used up during the stay in the heavenly planets. So when the pious credits are exhausted one falls down again into the Martya-loka.

On the other hand, by the practice of devotional service we can go to the spiritual world from where, Krishna Himself assures in the Bhagavad-Gita that there is no return to the material world.

Actions and reactions

Q. What is karma?

A. All the activities that we do constitute karma.

The Bhagavad Gita defines three types of karmavikarma, karma and akarma.

Vikarma is those activities that the scriptures ask not to be done and karma is those activities that scriptures prescribe. In both cases we get the reaction to our sinful or pious activities for which we have to be born in this material world again and again to suffer or enjoy. So in the ultimate sense both activities are bad because they do not help in getting liberated from the cycle of birth and death.

Akarma is those activities that are done only with the purpose of pleasing Krishna or in other words devotional service to Krishna which does not entail any karmic reaction and so helps us attain an eternal life of service to Krishna in bliss.

Yoga, exercise

Q. I want to know about yoga effects in the body?  How is it useful from other body training means of exercise?

A. The ashtanga yoga system is designed in such a way that at the end, an aspirant can see and worship the Paramatma in the heart.  The aim is thus God realization and not to have a healthy and strong body so that we can have better sense gratification.  If done properly we do get the benefits of a good and healthy body and mind, good concentration and proper sense control which help in the final aim of God realization.

Regarding other forms of exercise, Srila Prabhupada recommended brisk walking.

Work stress, control over mind

Q. How to control mind from work stress?

A. The only way to do that long term is to work for Krishna’s pleasure and not for our own. We can learn to do all our activities in such a consciousness that we would like to please Krishna. We must learn to find the balance in our lives where we can carry out our material and our spiritual responsibilities. A dangerous tilt on any side can spoil both aspects of our life.