The Hare Krishna yoga can be performed in two ways; an individual exercise of soft chanting or the group effort of loud singing of Hare Krishna in different melodious meters. The former is called japa and is usually performed by the practitioner by chanting on his or her beads. The latter type is called kirtana and is performed as a group activity with the accompaniment of various musical instruments. Both the approaches to Hare Krishna meditation purifies the spiritualist and helps him or her connect to God more intimately.
The chanting of God’s Holy Names bestows immense benefit to the chanter. The foundational principle of this spiritual exercise is the fact that the divine Names of God have spiritual potency because they are non-different from God. The sounds ‘Krishna’, ‘Rama’ and ‘Hare’, which constitute the mantra that we chant, are not like ordinary sounds that we produce during the course of our daily activities. One could chant ‘Peter’ the whole day but this chanting and calling of Mr. Peter is useless if he isn’t aware of our desire to meet him. However when we chant ‘Krishna’, we are immediately connecting to God and He hears our plea. In the present day and age, the Lord descends by appearing in the form of His Holy Names. Vibrating these names purifies the soul and fills our heart with limitless bliss. On the contrary material sounds produce neither lasting happiness nor benefit for the soul. For example try chanting ‘water’ for two hours. It won’t quench our thirst because the word ‘water’ and the substance ‘water’ are different. However when we chant Krishna’s Holy Names the soul feels joy emanating from the transcendental realm.
Since the sound of the mantra is divine it easily penetrates the thick layer of our material consciousness. The sound becomes even more potent when we hear some advanced devotee or serious practitioner chant the mantra. The rationale behind this is that the Holy Names of Krishna are not material; rather they descend from the spiritual realm. How can we, with materially infected senses access the divine Names of God through our materially contaminated senses? When the pure devotees of the Lord however vibrate the Holy Names, they actually access the spiritual world and the pure name vibrates on their tongues. They import the pure holy name due to their own unlimited purity of heart. In the association of such souls, we too get purified as we are able to access the real Holy Names. Our association of a person infected with tuberculosis exposes us to the risk of getting the same disease due to the air that transmits the germs. Likewise when we associate with a person infected with love for God, and we hear from him, the ether carries the ‘germs’ of his rich spiritual emotions for Krishna and enters the heart of even an unwilling hearer. Slowly, the germs of the spiritual sound do their job, and a person gets ‘infected’ with spiritual consciousness.