|The chanting of the Hare Krishna Mahamantra is the
only means to attain perfection
in this age of kali.
A fixed number of Rounds
Sri Caitanya introduced the congregational chanting of the Holy Name on a large scale as the process to attain spiritual perfection in this age.
In the Caitanya Bhagavata the following story is mentioned,
The brahmanas were inviting Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu for lunch, but the Lord refused and said I will only take my meals in the house of a "lakhpati". This title is generally reserved to indicate a wealthy man who has at least a hundred thousand rupees. The brahmanas had no access to that kind of money so they felt very disappointed. Then Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu continued and gave His definition of a "lakhpati". He said; "I consider anyone who chants a hundred thousand names daily to be a "lakhpati". From that day on all the brahmanas began to chant a hundred thousand names, the equivalent of sixty four rounds, a day and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was pleased with them and accepted prasadam in their homes.
In the Siksastakam, the eight prayers, which are the only written words left by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the Lord does not merely speak of one lakh of names a day as the desired quantity of chanting, but rather He speaks of kirtaniyah sada harih, to always chant the Holy Name of the Lord continuously. That is the real goal to strive for.
As the Founder Acharya of ISKCON Srila Prabhupada made some adjustments for
the western audience. For one thing he fixed the daily number of rounds on sixteen
as the minimum requirement to keep all one's option open to go back to Godhead.
Srila Prabhupada was in an extraordinary position, since he was bringing the
teachings of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu from East to West. On the one hand Srila
Prabhupada's message was based on authorized, traditional vedic scriptures such
as Bhagavad Gita and Srimad Bhagavatam, Additionally Srila Prabhupada represented
a tradition of Acaryas, spiritual masters who came in disciplic succession over
thousands of years. If we present traditional standards of scriptures and the
acaryas as the shore and the mercy of Mahaprabhu as the ocean. Then we can visualize
how the water of the ocean is washing on to the beach and how each wave leaves
a different line on the sand as it reaches it's farthest point on the shore.
Srila Prabhupada as the Founder Acharya determined where the demarcation line
between vedic tradition and the mercy of Mahaprabhu was to be drawn. When he
extended the reach of the waves of mercy even further then what Sri Caitanya
Mahaprabhu originally had done, then he was empowered to do so, on the strength
of his extraordinary bhakti and due to his special mission. As Srila Prabhupada
Therefore this Hiranyakasipu thought himself to be very intelligent and wanted to cheat Krsna and His servant, but he was cheated actually.
Therefore he said that tad-bhrtya-rsi-vakyam rtam vidhatum. Rsi-vakya. Even the devotee or the servant of Krsna says something, even it is wrong, Krsna upholds this. Kaunteya pratijanihi na me bhaktah pranasyati [Bg. 9.31]. So even it is wrongly done, still, Krsna fulfills because He thinks that "My servant has promised; it must be fulfilled." Therefore Prahlada Maharaja, in the previous verse he has said, tava bhrtya-parsva. So to serve the servant of Krsna is better than to serve directly Krsna, because if the servant of Krsna promises something, if the servant of Krsna says, "I'll take you to Krsnaloka," you must go there. (Srila Prabhupada Lecture SB 7.9.29, Mayapur, March 7,'76)
What is the position of a devotee who consistently fails to chant the prescribed sixteen rounds? This question was asked to Srila Prabhupada on a morning walk and he replied, "He is an animal."
When the quality comes there is no force. You will have a taste for chanting. You will desire at that time, "Why sixteen round? Why not sixteen thousand rounds?" That is quality. That is quality. It is by force. You'll not do it; therefore at least sixteen rounds. But when you come to the quality, you will feel yourself, "Why sixteen? Why not sixteen thousand?" That is quality, automatically. Just like Haridasa Thakura was doing. He was not forced to do. Even Caitanya Mahaprabhu, He requested, "Now you are old enough. You can reduce." So he refused, "No. Up to the end of my life I shall go on." That is quality. (Srila Prabhupada Morning Walk, November 2, 1975, Nairobi)
So we are simply blessed by Srila Prabhupada, that by chanting a minimum of sixteen rounds daily and following four regulative principles we become eligible candidates to purify ourselves to the process of bhakti yoga and to ultimately go back to Godhead at the end of this life."