How Does Chanting Work?

By Krishna Das

They say that every repetition of every one of these Names (Divine Names) is a seed that we plant in our life stream. Sri Ramakrishna, who was a great Indian saint in the 1800’s, talked about how this practice of the repetition of the Name works. He said that every Name is a seed, and just like a little tiny seed can have a huge tree potentially in it, every seed, every repetition of the Name has the potentiality of openness and awareness and freedom.

Sri Ramakrishna said that these seeds that we plant get caught by the wind, and they get carried miles and miles, and they land on the roof of an old house in the middle of the jungle. [In Ramakrishna’s time, some of those roofs were made from clay tiles that were hardened in the sun, not in a kiln, so they were not that hard.] He says the seeds land on the roof, and they get stuck between the tiles of the roof, and over time and seasons and wind and rain and weather, those seeds begin to take root. Forget about time, it might be 20 years, we don’t know!

But those seeds begin to take root, and the roots will grow and grow and they destroy the roof of the house; they keep growing and they destroy the walls of the house.

Ramakrishna says, that house is our conventional sense of self, our ego. Our sense of a separate self. That house was created. It wasn’t there forever. Somebody created that house. It’s a temporary structure, just like this false sense of a separate self that we have, which is basically all we know most of our lives.

That’s the ego, that’s the sense of a separate self, which, just like that house, was created from stuff and will eventually fall apart. And when it eventually falls apart through the repetition of the Name, then that sense of self is no longer constricted between the walls of this house. The awareness of self becomes the whole universe and there’s no longer a wall separating the inside from the outside.

The walls of that house separated the inside and the outside, the “me” from the “you.” And the “me” from the tree and the “me” from the sky and the “me” from the whatever.

When those walls have been dissolved through the repetition of the Name, through the seeds that took root when the right time came, when the right causes and conditions arrived to allow them to take root.

It might not be right now. You can sing “Hare Krishna” ‘til your ass falls off and nothing might happen. But 10 years from now you might be pulling into the driveway and there’s nothing there except the whole universe where there was a little house. The whole universe is sitting there. This is something we can’t will to happen. It takes its own time.


Krishna Das is a Grammy-nominated chant artist and has sung with people all around the world for over 35 years. His music offers the practice of chanting mantras– mostly in the Indian tradition, with some Buddhist and Gospel infusions. By sharing his life experiences on the path in his book Chants of a Lifetime, and workshops with people around the world, participants have found a way to integrate spiritual practices in their lives in a better way with some peace of mind.

Krishna Das will be at the Garrison Institute February 7—10, along with Lama Surya Das, Nina Rao, and Jill Ganassi. Click here for more information and to register for the retreat.

Videos of a Krishna Das workshop at Garrison:

Click here to see photos from a Krishna Das retreat at the Garrison Institute.

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