Watch out kirtaniyas! The attractive power of musical chanting may soon be rivaled by those hankering to understand the benefits of chanting on beads.
On July 4th, during the Krishna Festival of India on the National Mall in Washington, DC, congregational members of the local Hare Krishna temple set up a tent under a large canopy called "Mantra Meditation."
Calling people over who wandered by the two acres of displays and entertainment, the local Krishna teachers were surprised by the intensity of interest in mantra meditation.
“Almost 8 out of 10 who were approached expressed immediate interest in trying the meditation,” said organizer Sacikumar Dasa. “People from all walks of life and countries including Spain, South Africa, Chile, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Mexico, India and of course United States participated in the chanting.
"There were about ten to twelve of us of us in the booth all day and we were inviting people to learn to the ancient method of mantra meditation on beads. We would sit with people sometimes one on one and other times in groups of ten to fifteen, and chant for 10-15 minutes. People were concentrating with great intensity, and seemed very inquisitive to learn more."
In all, more than four hundred people joined the chanting tent on July 4 and chanted "one round" on the beads, or recited the Maha mantra 108 times in unison with their tutor.
Many left the experience wanting more. Over 125 people purchased a set of chanting beads so they could continue chanting at home.
“It’s our experience that once people sit down quietly and begin chanting, they have a very deep and personal experience, even if it’s the first time they chant," said Prema-tarangini, Sacikumar's wife and co-organizer. "Many said that they felt a deep sense of peace, calm, inner joy and increased ability to focus even amidst all the distraction out there. Many people were downtown on July 4 looking for something more meaningful to do, and for about 400 to 500 of them, they found it in the mantra."
The Sanskrit word mantra is a combination of two syllables, man and tra. Man means "mind," and tra means "deliverance." Mantras are meant to deliver one from the miseries and sufferings of material existence and those who experienced mantra meditation on July 4th vouched for the peace and respite they felt after chanting even just for 10 minutes.
"The response was so great," said Saci, "That for future festivals we plan to double the size of our tent and add more tutors. It was hard for us to keep up with the number of interested people."