Mantra recitation with the prayer beads

“Just as the rising sun instantly makes all the darkness of the world disappear, so the holy name of God, if recited even once without offense, can make all reactions to the sinful life of a living being disappear. All glory be to the holy name of the Lord, which is auspicious for the whole world.”

prayer beads
Mantra recitation
prayer beads

Our involvement in material matters begins with material sound. Every day we hear material sounds from the radio and TV, from friends and relatives, and according to the things we hear, we think, desire, feel and act materially. Thus we remain in the material sphere of existence and accept one material body after another and endure the sufferings of birth, death, old age and disease. Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada counters this: “In the spiritual world there is also sound. When we approach this sound, our spiritual life begins.”

Mantra2aThe living entity in material life is compared to a dreaming man who sees the moments of happiness and sorrow from his dream as actual reality. He dreams that he finds a treasure, but in reality he is not a penny richer. He dreams of being attacked by a tiger, but he is not actually in danger. When he is woken up by the sound of his alarm clock, he realizes his real situation. In the same way, one who chants the transcendental sound of Krishna’s name gradually wakes up from the dreamlike state of material life and realizes his actual spiritual position. There is also sound in the spiritual world. When we approach this spiritual sound, through mantra meditation, then our spiritual life begins.

Spiritual sound has special properties. When we hear the sound “water,” we are reminded of the taste and qualities of water, but because of the pertinent difference between material sound and its object, the sound “water” cannot quench our thirst.

The Hare Krishna mantra, however, is transcendental sound originating from the absolute spiritual platform and is therefore not different from Krishna. And because Krishna is all-powerful, His transcendental energies are manifested in the sound of His name. The sound vibration “Hare Krishna” has the power to purify the mind and consciousness. Because every living entity has an eternal relationship with Krishna, chanting His name is likened to the natural call of a child to its mother. Chanting is just like the unadulterated crying of a child for its mother. Mother Hara helps to attain the grace of the Supreme Father, Hari or Krishna, and the Lord reveals Himself to such a sincere devotee. Chanting is a spiritual call to the Lord and His inner energy, Hara, to protect the conditioned soul.

The 16 Sankrit words:

हरे कृष्ण हरे कृष्ण कृष्ण कृष्ण हरे हरे
हरे राम हरे राम राम राम हरे हरे

Hare Kṛṣṇa Hare Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa Hare Hare
Hare Rāma Hare Rāma Rāma Rāma Hare Hare

form a mantra or transcendental sound formula. This powerful mantra, known as Maha-Mantra, (the great chant of liberation) has been recommended by great spiritual authorities as the simplest and most effective means of attaining self-realization in the present age.

Mantra meditation purifies the mind in the same way that a medicine prescribed for a physical ailment gradually restores the body to its natural, healthy state. One who takes up this practice of mantra meditation gradually develops great mental control and attains a higher level of consciousness. In this pure state of spiritual consciousness, free from the intoxication of tensions, confusions, depressions and feelings of envy and hatred, one can attain a truly peaceful mind.

The word mantra is made up of the two syllables man and tra, which are derived from manas and trajate, meaning spirit and liberating. A mantra is therefore a (spiritual) sound vibration that liberates the (materially polluted) mind.

In order to see yourself in the mirror as you really are, it must be free of dust. A dusty mirror has no reflective properties. It is similar with our mind (spirit), which is said to be the mirror of the soul.

In order to perceive the soul through the mind (spirit), it must first be purified. The material impurities of the mind are removed by the mantra so that the true self can then be reflected in the mind.

Mantras are sound vibrations that connect us with a higher spiritual reality. Self-knowledge and God-realization is therefore the real goal of mantra recitation.

A mantra (spiritual sound vibration) has precisely this power, namely to free the mind from material dualities and to direct consciousness towards the presence of God in the heart. This is the direct meaning of the word mantra.

When chanting (singing, reciting) mantras (spiritual sound vibrations), the consciousness is purified so that one can recognize the true inner self.

The Hare Krishna mantra is the most powerful sound manifestation of God. It is described in the Vedas as the repository of all the transcendental qualities and energies of God. As one progresses in the techniques of mantra meditation and experiences the awakening of true love of God, all impurities of materially conditioned consciousness dissolve and the natural, original qualities of the soul, namely eternity, knowledge and bliss, manifest fully.

Japa Mala Bead Bagmantra meditation involves reciting the Hare Krishna mantra or reciting it silently to yourself. This is called japa. During the recitation, the prayer beads are placed in a cloth bag to keep them clean or to prevent them from falling on the floor. As the prayer beads are sacred, they should not touch the floor or be placed in an unclean place. To protect them, it is best to carry them in a prayer bag, a special cloth bag (bead bag), which can be purchased at any temple or center.

The prayer chain consists of 108 beads and a larger bead as the main bead. By starting (with the right hand) at the bead next to the main bead and turning the bead slightly back and forth between the thumb and middle finger, you say:

Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare,
Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare

Then switch to the second bead and chant the Maha-mantra again. Then onto the third and so on until you have chanted the Maha mantra 108 times and arrive at the large bead. You then move from one bead to the next until you have completed a round of 108 beads.

JapamalaIf further rounds are chanted, then it does not go over the large bead, but starts with the 108th bead and then one chants up to the 1st bead, the next round will start again at the 1st bead, the round after next at the 108th and so on.

You should chant the Holy Names clearly, distinctly and fluently in a calm voice. At the same time, one should concentrate on the sound of the Holy Name and not think of anything else. Devotees who are initiated in Bhakti Yoga chant at least 16 rounds per day.

The best time to chant is early in the morning, when the mind is still relatively calm. But late evening is also a good time. However, chanting the Holy Name should also be practiced regularly during the day, e.g. in the morning, at midday and in the evening. This purifies the consciousness and calms the restless mind.

Chanting with meditation beads

The only thing you need for this form of meditation is a string of wooden beads, which you can also make yourself. Take the first bead (no. 1) between the thumb and middle finger of your right hand and chant the complete Hare Krishna mantra once:

हरॆ कृष्ण हरॆ कृष्ण
कृष्ण कृष्ण हरॆ हर
हरॆ राम हरॆ राम
राम राम हरॆ हरॆ

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna
Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama
Rama Rama Hare Hare


Then take the next bead with the same two fingers, chant the complete mantra again and go from bead to bead in this way until you have chanted the mantra once on each of the 108 beads. When you reach the Krishna bead (the largest), you have chanted one round.

To start the next round, change direction on the chain without passing over the Krishna bead.

Japa Chanting

Chanting on a japa prayer chain helps us to perform a certain minimum of meditation on a regular basis. It also makes it easier to concentrate on the mantra because the sense of touch is also engaged in the process of meditation. You can chant Japa anywhere, and the volume can also vary. However, it is important that you pronounce each mantra fully and clearly so that you can hear the spiritual sound vibration clearly and consciously. You will find that it is often not easy to concentrate on the mantra, as thoughts have a tendency to switch on “on their own” and wander off.

However, mantra meditation is such a wonderful meditation that it also strengthens concentration and willpower. So just keep going and try again and again to focus your thoughts on the sound vibration and pronounce each mantra clearly. You can chant japa at any time of the day, but the Vedic scriptures indicate that the morning hours are most conducive for meditation. Experience has shown that it is very helpful to set aside the necessary time every day at the same hour and to make a certain minimum number of rounds. This regular chanting gives our meditation a solid foundation.

There are no hard and fast rules for chanting the Hare Krishna mantra.

There are two basic forms of chanting the Hare Krishna mantra: Japa and Kirtana. Japa refers to individual meditation, where you chant on a string of wooden beads, and kirtana refers to chanting together in a group. Both are recommended forms of mantra meditation, and they complement each other perfectly.

If this mantra is recited 108 times in the mind or aloud every morning after getting up, the mind is cleansed of all mental disturbances and spiritual enlightenment takes place.

In Padyavali, a collection of prayers of the great devotees, we find the following statement about the effect of chanting Hare Krishna:

“Just as the rising sun instantly makes all the darkness of the world disappear, so the holy name of God, if chanted even once without offense, can make all reactions to the sinful life of a living entity disappear. All glory be to the holy name of the Lord, which is auspicious for the whole world.”


The chanting of Hare Krishna
by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda

Chanting On Beads

Chanting is generally understood as praising, chanting, reciting or murmuring the Holy Names of the Supreme Personality of Godhead; in a higher sense, it means devotional service to oneself, turning towards the Supreme Personality of Godhead – living in the transcendental sound vibration.

He who remembers the Lord chants. He who always remembers the Supreme Lord in everything and everyone is always chanting. Thus chanting also means reading spiritual literature, listening to a spiritual discourse, preaching, working for the Supreme Lord, paying obeisances to Him, praying, etc.

When the Vaishnavas speak of “chanting”, this specifically means chanting the Holy Name on a prayer chain. This is a millennia-old form of meditation that has similarities with the Catholic rosary and is practiced regularly by monks and hermits for hours or even practically the whole day.

Japa Beadbag

Chanting on meditation beads is easy. The meditation bead necklace consists of 108 wooden beads of the same size plus a slightly larger bead that connects the beginning and end of the string. Such meditation bead necklaces can be bought, but you can also make them yourself (see illustration). Ideally, the spiritual master gives them to his disciple at the official initiation after he has used them himself. However, the chanting of the Holy Names is not dependent on an official initiation ceremony. The prayer beads are usually stored in special cloth bags (beadbag), which can also be purchased. As the prayer bead necklace is sacred, it should be kept in a clean place and not come into contact with the floor.

See also: Die transzendentale Schwingung