It is well known that chanting the holy name in good company is easier than doing so alone. This holds true both for japa and kirtan. When we chant in a group of devotees, we co-create a devotional energy and atmosphere that we get to enter into together. It is therefore said that sankirtana (kirtana performed with others) can create such extraordinary delight in the chanter that he or she will find it easy to remain focused on the holy name and experience divine taste in chanting.
But alas, chanting together seems not to be possible for most of us who live outside of ashrams. Especially the early morning japa becomes difficult for us although we know that this is the best time. We often become overwhelmed by tiredness, and ultimately discouragement. There is, however, a practical solution: chanting can be done in connection with others by the help of modern technology. For example, Skype conferences with devotees who chant together.
I became aware of this as one devotee from the former Yugoslavia wrote me:
“Because I always saw a great difference in early chanting with other devotees, I got the idea to ask devotees to meet early in the morning via Skype and just chant. At first only one devotee responded positively. We did meet like this a few times and felt that we were making significant progress in chanting – a progress which soon began to affect the rest of our lives in a very spiritual and blissful way. So I thought: if it works for us, it can work for others, too. That is when I decided to create the ‘Japa-sanga’ where devotees could post the date and time when they wished to chant with someone. The first devotee who replies becomes their partner for that particular japa session.”
I think this is a valuable idea based on the principle of chanting together in the association of devotees. It makes everything much easier and more inspiring! Another devotee wrote me that when there is a japa-partner, he feels inspired, if not empowered to rise on time and organize his whole day in a more spiritual way. In this way, he makes sure his japa is not spread across the day without proper focus. Skype-japa might work for many of you as well. Obviously there are many variations of this simple idea. The most obvious being to invite your friends to your home and chant with them.
I have seen in different temples like Mayapur, that devotees sit in circles around Tulasi Devi to chant japa. And I have applied this format for chanting in my many japa retreats. It works wonders – and I encourage you all to try this if you have the opportunity to be together with serious chanters. But Skype-japa seems to work best when devotees chant in pairs – not groups. There are a few reasons:
– Skype works best if there are only two participants due to technical limitations
– One feels more responsible for meeting if there are only two devotees (a Skype group might not even notice that one person is missing)
– Chanting in pairs is more personal so the feeling of contributing to the other person’s spiritual life and thus serving a devotee is more easily achieved.
But while we experiment with ideas like this one, let us not lose the main idea, that is: chanting the holy name means to associate with Krishna. Let us not mistake the form for the content. In japa and kirtan we are concerned with the One relationship – our relationship with Krishna. Others, who are there may to some extent carry and inspire us and group petitions tend to be more effective than singular approaches. But, if chanting would be about connecting with each other only, we might as well chant the participant’s name. Why Krishna’s name? The idea is of course to connect with Krishna and that is why we chant His name.
Wishing you all the best and lots of spiritual strength,