5 Simple Practices to Help You Meditate on the Maha-mantra

There’s a Sanskrit word for the daily practices we undertake in order to advance in spiritual life - the word is sadhanaSadhana is what we do, on a daily basis, to facilitate the purification of our consciousness. It is the regulated part of spiritual life which calls for consistency and discipline. 

Yes, discipline. I realize that just a month ago I was urging you to rebel, and now I am calling for discipline. It may seem contradictory, but you’d be wise to note that nothing worthwhile is ever achieved without discipline. Discipline in spiritual life is driven by a desire to become better, and to have an authentic experience of ourselves, free from the limitations that tend to define us.

At the heart of sadhana in bhakti yoga, lies the practice of maha-mantra meditation. All other practices, rituals or routines inherent in sadhana are there to help facilitate good chanting. In essence, sadhana is simply a lifestyle geared towards spiritual advancement.

There are a number of ways in which you can tweak your lifestyle in order to supercharge your meditation practice. In this article I’m going to share with you my personal top 5 practices that have helped me. They are tried and tested, and powerful.

1 Become a Morning Person

Mornings were made for spiritual practice. Any serious spiritual practitioner will attest to this. The earlier, the better.  And by earlier I mean before sunrise, or no later than 4 am. Yes, I’ll give you a moment to digest that...

I sulk on the days when I only manage to drag myself out of bed at 6 or 7am, because I know that my chanting will suffer. And if my chanting suffers, my day will suffer.  My mind will be more agitated and my day less productive.

Early mornings have a profound effect on us for a number of reasons. 

In Vedic philosophy, the dynamic interactions of material energy are said to be ruled by three gunas, or modes of nature - they are tamas (ignorance), rajas (passion) and sattva (goodness). The interplay between these three energies are what determine the predominating mood of a particular time of day. 

“Material nature consists of three modes - goodness, passion and ignorance. When the eternal living entity comes in contact with nature, O mighty-armed Arjuna, he becomes conditioned by these modes.” - Krishna to Arjuna in Bhagavad-gita 14.5

Early mornings are bathed in sattva guna - goodness. And because the mind is so strongly influenced by the gunas, the predominance of sattva guna in the morning gives your mind the best possible chance to focus. 

During these early morning hours, our brainwaves are in the optimal state for deep focus and concentration. Not only is it a great time for meditation, but also for studying, writing and any creative work. Check out the link at the end of this article to watch a cool video on this topic.

The time just after you rise is where you’ll find the cleanest mental slate you’re going to get, and what you do during this time sets the tone for the rest of your day. In addition, our willpower is strongest in the mornings and decreases as the day goes on. So if you’re struggling to meditate on a daily basis, mornings are your solution.

Of course, in order to rise early, one must also go to bed early. Sattva guna cannot support your meditation if you keep falling asleep! If you’re accustomed to late nights, you’ll probably need to ease your way into a new routine over a few weeks. Try going to bed 30 min earlier than usual so that you can rise 30 min earlier, and continue like that until you reach your target wake-up time.

2 Write About It

Mantra meditation will lead to ‘ah-ha!’ moments, or simply to clarity, or maybe to frustration. In any case, try writing about your experience. If it’s hard, if it’s boring, if it’s magical, if it’s expected or unexpected. Writing has the somewhat magical quality of revealing our realizations to us. 

Much has been written about journaling and the benefits to our mental health. It is a powerful tool for self-reflection and building confidence. You’re writing for yourself, so there’s no need to hold back. 

Personally, after journaling for some time, I felt inspired to share my realizations with others. There is a strong tradition of writing in the line of bhakti yoga which I practice. I, like many others, am very much indebted to those great saints who had the good sense and compassion to put their spiritual realizations into the written form.

In her bestselling book about awakening creativity (The Artist’s Way), Julia Cameron encourages her readers to start a journaling exercise she calls ‘Morning Pages’. She suggests filling three pages, first thing in the morning, with your hand-written words. 

Whether you decide to write before or after, or before and after your mantra meditation, set a goal to write a certain number of pages each day. Even if you feel like you have nothing to write, fill the page. A good place to start is with gratitude:

“Gratitude turns whatever we have into enough. What’s more, gratitude is a practice. The more you practice being grateful for what you have, the more you’ll develop your capacity for appreciation. When you can appreciate all things, even so-called reversals in your life, seeing them as valuable lessons, you’ll be situated in unwavering spiritual satisfaction.” - Vaisesika Dasa, on the importance of keeping a gratitude journal.

When you’re forced to crystalize your feelings into words, they become easier to digest. When we see our struggles and victories on the page in front of us, we can more clearly evaluate our progress, make adjustments and become inspired to continue in our practice. And I promise, you will see progress!

3 Be Selfless

Another integral part of bhakti (devotion) is seva, or selfless service. Service without self-interest is perhaps the purest expression of love we can find in this world. And since the maha-mantra is all about love and devotion, undertaking some selfless service will help you to connect more deeply to the mantra as you chant it. 

Seva purifies and softens the heart. It is deeply satisfying and has some desirable side-effects, such as happiness and contentment. So do something for someone else, without being asked and without seeking recognition or compensation. But make sure that it’s something the other person actually wants or needs, and not simply what you think they need.

4 Go For a Walk

Because you know it’s great for you. 
Sitting in meditation is a lot easier if your body is well taken care of, and for most people, walking is the simplest and most effective way to do it. Those in the know recommend at least 20 min a day, and who am I to argue? It’s a good place to start.

Just as times of the day are under the influence of the gunas, so are places. Forests and rivers are full of sattva guna - goodness. If you can safely walk in a forest, on a beach or in the mountains, do that. Parks and leafy sidewalks are the next best thing... but walking in a mall doesn’t count! Unlike in malls, walking in nature has the benefit of being very grounding, and natural environments are full of prana - life force! Try going barefoot if you can, at least for a few steps. 

Another consideration is that mantra meditation is easily done while walking. Although sitting in one place to meditate is the most effective way to meditate in terms of focusing the mind, a walking meditation can also be very helpful, especially if you often find yourself wanting to fall asleep while meditating. 

It can be harder to focus on the mantra while doing a walking meditation, as your senses are more engaged with the world around you. But if it’s a question of falling asleep while sitting, or meditating while walking, choose the latter.

5 Eat Compassionately

This is a hot topic for many people, and it's heating up again in light of the current pandemic crisis. If it’s all the same to you, I’d like to avoid getting into a nitty gritty debate about it right here and now. But a diet based on non-violence and compassion to all living beings is so important in raising consciousness that it would be irresponsible of me not to mention it here. 

In my personal experience, the single biggest influence on my consciousness, other than chanting Hare Krishna, was switching to a lacto-vegetarian diet. The effect is profound. 

I have no doubt that many of our readers already identify themselves as vegan or vegetarian, but for those of you who don’t, I have one request: Just think about it. Do some research and entertain the notion. If you’re serious about wanting to meditate better, experiment with herbivorous nutrition.

To put it all in context...

At a time when everything is up in the air, my hope for you is that you can grow roots deep into your mantra meditation practice with the help of these five stabilizing adjustments to your lifestyle. 

The world today is looking drastically different than it did just a week ago, and no one really knows what it will look like a week from now. Amidst all of this uncertainty, there is peace of mind and fearlessness to be found in the chanting of the maha-mantra. In fact, now its time to shine. Things may seem out of control from our limited perspective, but the universe is dancing to a divinely choreographed tune. Chant the maha-mantra, and you will hear it. 

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


Be Inspired - This is Why All Billionaires Wake Up EXACTLY at 4:00 AM


Be a Rebel With a Cause – Chant Hare Krishna

I considered myself to be quite the rebel in my teens and early twenties, and I was proud of that label.

I thought I was so cool – smoking cigarettes behind the art building at the strict, all-girls school I attended in the dull, conservative city of Pretoria. [Never heard of Pretoria? Don’t worry about it]. It’s true that I had very little respect for authority, but more than anything else, I was deeply dissatisfied with what life was offering me.

The Oxford English dictionary defines rebellion as: “the action or process of resisting authority, control, or convention.”

Actually, rebellion is in all of us. We naturally resist authority, control and convention – that is the nature of our ego. None of us want to be another brick in the wall because, in fact, we are all utterly unique.

But we’re not who we think we are.

There is a Sanskrit word ahankara, which literally translates as “I am the doer.” It is used to describe the false ego - the false identity of being the physical body and the ultimate controller of our lives. And so, when others tell us what to do, we rebel, thinking that we alone know what’s best for us. Really?

Our false ego makes us proud, our pride interferes with our higher intelligence by preventing us from accepting good advice, and therefore we can’t access knowledge beyond ourselves because we have no faith in any authority.

Faith is the precursor of knowledge. If you don’t have faith, which is assisted by the culture of genuine respect, your ability to understand things is limited to your own frame of reference.” - Dhanurdhara Swami

The problem is, where do we point our rebellious faces once we’ve recognized that we should turn our backs on the uninspiring authorities and ill-considered conventions of modern society? Well, some of us are intelligent and humble enough to seek out inspiring mentors and higher truths... But not me.


Unfortunately, if you don’t know where to find a constructive alternative to what you’re rebelling against, the only clear way forward is to tear it all down. So I, like many others, not knowing any better and convinced of my superiority over all the sheep out there, embarked on a path that, looking back, I can only describe as hedonistic self-destruction.

It took me years to realize that my rebellion for individualism was just the same as everyone else’s. Sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll... What I considered to be rebellion was in fact just a jaded pattern of behavior that led to an overstimulation of the senses. It was nothing special, but nonetheless, it made me proud. My pride then stripped me of my intelligence and fuelled the dissatisfaction that I was trying to escape from in the first place.

To make a long story short, it all came crashing down and I had a proverbial wake-up call. Thankfully.

Naturally, the Bhagavad-gita has something to say about this:

What is night for all beings is the time of awakening for the self-controlled; and the time of awakening for all beings is night for the introspective sage. - BG 2.69

Is self-control and introspection the rebellion of the future?

Yes. And here’s why...

The ultimate rebellion is to turn your back on your false conception of yourself. It is to take the humble position and allow yourself to be guided by a worthy teacher. The alternative is simply ignorance. If we can’t understand our true nature as eternal spiritual beings, we can’t make sense of what we’re meant to do with this crazy world, and nothing will ever truly satisfy us. We’ll keep rebelling at every new situation that’s not quite right. There’s no peace in a life like that.

Rebel once more, but do it right this time.

One of the many gifts of Hare Krishna mantra meditation is that it allows us to see our existential condition more clearly. Many great personalities have composed songs and prayers to glorify this type of meditation because it is so uniquely powerful. Sometimes I recite a particularly potent prayer, called the Sri Siksastakam, before starting my daily meditation. The first line translates as follows:

Glory to the Sri Krishna Sankirtana, which cleanses the heart of all the dust accumulated for years and extinguishes the fire of conditional life.

Sri Krishna Sankirtana refers to the chanting of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra. The dust is our false conception of ourselves as material beings, and the fire of conditional life is the uneasiness we feel that impels us towards acts of rebellion and seeking.

These days, my day begins at 3:30 am. I rise, wash, dress and spend 2-3 hours meditating on the mantra that came crashing into my life 14 years ago with a rebellious message: swallow your pride and chant Hare Krishna. All it takes is a little bit of initial faith.

After careful consideration (nearly 8 years of it), I wholeheartedly embraced the practice of chanting Hare Krishna. My parents didn’t like it much (a sure sign of a truly worthy rebellion)... At least not initially... But now, almost 6 years later, they can’t deny the integrity and benefit of my personal transformation. And transformation is exactly what a solid rebellion should yield. All it took was a mantra, some meditation beads, a qualified teacher and a calculated leap of faith.

I don’t think I need to convince anyone that the world needs a lot of rebelling right now. But don’t put too much faith in the rebellion of the modern world, which is focussed on material issues and generally just encourages satisfaction of the senses. If you’re gonna do it, do it right, and uncover your true spiritual individuality along the way.

Bhakti Tirtha Swami says it best:

“We must resist the temptation to be ‘normal,’ because those who are now considered normal accept the values and practices of an insane world.”[1]

Rebel, dear ones... but don’t leave your intelligence behind, and take the maha-mantra with you.

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

[1] Spiritual Warrior III: Solace for the Heart in Difficult Times, Chapter 8 – How To Strengthen Ourselves -  by HH Bhakti Tirtha Swami

Who is actually meditating?

It may seem like a strange question, with an obvious answer (I am!). But in order to understand how mantra meditation can be effective at controlling the mind, we need to make a distinction between the mind of the meditator and the meditator him-/herself. It is a subtle distinction, but a very important one, because it is the conscious self who actively meditates, by focusing the mind.

At first, it may be hard to recognize that our minds are different from ourselves because we are so accustomed to entertaining the whims of our minds. The distinction became clearer to me when I contemplated my personal struggle with my mind’s illness. When I was 16, I experienced what psychologists call a major depressive episode. For the next five years, I struggled to make sense of what was happening to me and how to change it. I felt like my mind had been hijacked and, significantly, I experienced an overwhelming sense of not being myself.

At the time, I had no knowledge about the nature of the mind, and that it was actually different from me. Since then I have learned a lot, and it has helped me to make sense of my experience with depression. The door to profound healing opened when I no longer identified myself with my mind and its disorder.

It’s interesting to notice that when we speak of the mind we say, “my mind.” We inherently understand that although our mind belongs to us, it is also somewhat separate from us. For someone who has suffered from a multitude of ‘mind dysfunctions’, this comes as a great relief. If I am not my mind, it means that I have the ability to consciously influence my mind.

Knowledge of the mind, body, and conscious self (often referred to as the spirit or soul) is thoroughly and clearly described in the classic Indian text, Bhagavad-gita. The Bhagavad-gita deals with spiritual science and it reveals a lot about the nature of our bodies, our minds, and our own conscious selves. About the mind, it says:

“For him who has conquered the mind, the mind is the best of friends; but for one who has failed to do so, his mind will remain the greatest enemy.” - Bhagavad-gita 6.6

This verse implies that the mind is naturally subservient to the individual to whom it belongs, just as a child is naturally subservient to its parent. But when the mind is constantly bombarded with distractions via the senses, it becomes like a spoiled child who refuses to follow the instructions of the parent. Meditation, which lies at the heart of any yogic practice, helps the practitioner to bring the restless mind under their control. Consider the following verse:

From wherever the mind wanders due to its flickering and unsteady nature, one must certainly withdraw it and bring it back under the control of the self.” Bhagavad-gita 6.26

Here the mind is described as “flickering and unsteady.” It actually needs direction from the higher intelligence of the individual in order for it to function efficiently. One aspect of the effectiveness of mantra meditation lies in its innate ability to bring about awareness of the present moment in the mind of the practitioner. The technique is to simply hear each syllable of the mantra as you chant it. And when the mind wanders (as it most certainly will), to bring your attention always back to the sound.

The modern-day saint, AC Bhaktivedanta Swami, highlights the simplicity of this technique:  “What is controlling the mind? You have to chant and hear. That’s all. You have to chant with your tongue and hear the sound. That’s all. What is the question of mind? ”

The mind will always suffer from discontent, just like the body will always suffer from colds and flu. Instead of giving the audience to my mind’s temper tantrums, I now simply try to observe them from a distance, and then gently redirect my mind to the sound of this powerful mantra I have at my disposal.

Further reading

If the ideas in this blog stimulated your appetite, you can keep chewing on this topic with the following article on Huffpost.com:

The Bhagavad Gita: You Are Not Your Mind

How Lifestyle Affects Consciousness

Chanting Is A Journey To Higher Consciousness

Chanting is a journey towards realizing your spiritual nature and achieving higher consciousness. Part of this journey is to start looking at the way we live and how it affects us. This is part of the science of yoga which leads to cleansing the heart and experiencing the joy of living in spiritual harmony with the divine, nature, and others.

In bhakti-yoga, not only do we set aside time for spiritual practices like Mantra Meditation, but we try to live the rest of our day cultivating good character and giving up habits that degrade our consciousness. One of the most important ways your lifestyle can support higher consciousness is the practice of ahimsa or nonviolence.

The Journey Within

love of all living animals

Radhanath Swami writes beautifully about this in his book 'The Journey Within', a contemporary treatise on bhakti-yoga.

“The first regulative principle[in Sanskrit – yama], ahimsa, is nonviolence, to cause no harm to any living being through our actions, words, and, as far as humanly possible, our thoughts. This will protect us from accruing negative karma, which only further covers the self. The biblical equivalent to ahimsa is, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Logically, the Bible’s positive injunction embraces it’s opposite: “Do not do unto others as you would not want done unto you.”

The practice of ahimsa involves being respectful, patient, and forgiving—nonviolent. The Bhagavad-gita teaches that a Yogi sees the Divine in the heart of all beings and therefore wishes all beings well. We advance in yoga to the degree that we consider the suffering of others as our own suffering and the happiness of others as our own happiness. In this spirit, compassion is the basis of ahimsa.

Ahimsa is the primary reason that bhakti-Yogis choose to be vegetarian: their aim is to minimize the suffering they cause other creatures. Animals feel pain just as humans do. Animals express emotions and may love their offspring, and those close to them, not so differently, from the way we do.

Sadhu Vaswani, a well-known Yogi from the early twentieth century, says,

“All killing is a denial of love, for to kill, or eat what another has killed, is to rejoice in cruelty. And cruelty hardens our hearts and blinds our vision and we see not that they whom we kill are our brothers and sisters in the One Brotherhood of Life. “

The more we expand our spirit of compassion to honor the sanctity of life, the more deeply we connect with our own spiritual nature.”

I’m hoping that your interest in spirituality has already led you to commit to a meatless diet. But if not, please consider trying it for a week while you engage in Mantra Meditation. This will help open your heart to the healing and consciousness-raising power of the maha-mantra.

Food is a big part of bhakti and includes a practice that actually spiritualizes your eating. But the beginning is to refrain from unnecessary violence to animals, simply for satisfying your taste. Again, I’m hoping you have already come to this conclusion, but if you haven’t please consider this part of your lifestyle thoughtfully.