Chanting Hare Krishna is a petition to the Lord. ‘Petition’ refers to a formal request made to some authority. While chanting Hare Krishna, the devotee makes a request to the Supreme Lord to engage him in the Lord’s service. Since at the present moment we lack the spontaneous loving feelings towards God, we aspire to develop this stage by regulated chanting. Many practitioners chant sixteen rounds of Hare Krishna Mantra on the chanting beads which take around two hours. This regulated daily practise eventually fills the practitioner’s heart with devotional and loving feelings towards Krishna, the all attractive Lord.
Someone may argue that since the goal of chanting is to love God spontaneously, how can strict adherence to rules and regulations help develop this love? Do the rules by definition not make the process mechanistic, depriving the practise of the joys of spontaneity? Why not just chant with feeling and love, as and when we are inspired?
To understand this we need to reflect on our present spiritual condition. It may be natural for a young boy to run and play the whole day. But if he is diseased his ‘natural’ movements are painfully restricted. Even the basic activities which he earlier naturally performed now appear to be a burden. Similarly the soul in its natural condition renders loving service to God spontaneously. However the fact that we are presently trapped in this material body and especially the mind, our natural feelings for Krishna are distorted. This is the diseased condition of the soul. Therefore practitioners find it difficult to spontaneously remember God; instead it appears more natural to forget God and engage in activities that take us away from our connection to the divine. This is similar to the condition of a diseased person who naturally displays symptoms of pain and disease and may occasionally experience comfort or relief. Similarly at our present stage only rarely are we able to express loving sentiments to God.
A diseased person follows a regulated programme of medication and diet. This helps him get back his good health. Similarly a practitioner of Bhakti Yoga follows a regulated programme of chanting and a life style that is conducive to rediscover our loving propensities. Just as a diseased person’s enthusiasm to adhere to the schedule guarantees his good health, similarly a practitioner’s avid interest to follow the Bhakti programme guarantees a fast spiritual recovery.
Radhanath Swami offers an interesting explanation, “Obedience is the beginning of love. Therefore there must be rules and regulations so that we can monitor and orchestrate our lives in a way that we are doing what God wants. In a college there are rules and regulations. One cannot go to college tomorrow without wearing any clothes and say that the goal of coming to college is to study unconditionally. It is definitely the perfection to study unconditionally but to come to that stage one has to follow the discipline set by the college.”