The Festival of the Holy Name this year was amazing! Srila Romapada Swami Maharaja's lectures appear to become more applicable and sweet with each passing year. This year, I was able to grasp so many teachings and apply them in my chanting.
On the first day, Maharaja shared three of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura's moods to practice while chanting, and one of them really resonated with my heart. He told us to picture our Deities (or any Deity we are attracted to) while chanting and look at Their ornaments, garlands, dresses, beautiful lotus feet, etc. I immediately applied this the next morning while chanting my japa and found a huge difference in the quality just by making this one change! Of course, my chanting was not 100% focused or pure in any way, but I noticed that my overall mood and attentiveness while chanting had increased greatly by applying this one practice. All of Maharaja's classes were so wonderful (as usual) and they touched my heart more than ever before. He gave us many teachings to apply in our lives, including moods to chant with, how to chant more attentively, and the fact that we should all assess our chanting everyday.
All of Maharaja's lectures were in preparation for 32-round the day we all came together and just chanted and chanted and chanted without speaking anything else. He gave a short class in the morning and one point that really stuck with me was that when we come to a dry point in chanting, we should continue chanting because it will increase our Krishna-trsna (thirst for Krishna). By being in the association of senior Vaishnavas and all of the loving devotees, in the presence of Kishore-Kishori, I was able to focus my mind a little more. While chanting this day, the determined devotees around me carried me through the dry points in chanting and also shared that determination with me. One of the valuable instructions that Maharaja shared during the course of the weekend was to chant one mantra at a time. Generally, I tend to try to rush through my chanting and do not pay attention to the sound vibrations. On this day, I tried applying the "one mantra at a time" rule and found that rather than thinking about what all I have to do in the day, I was paying attention to the holy name. Most of the time, I think that chanting is one of the 100 things I have to do after I wake up and I don't cherish the time that I am with Krishna; it's more of an act out of duty or obligation rather than having a taste to chant. Chanting in the association of such wonderful devotees and by applying a few points from Maharaja's classes, I was able to taste tiny samples of attentive chanting.
Besides hearing from Maharaja and chanting (japa and kirtan), The Festival of the Holy Name gives all of us a chance to form deeper loving relationships with our spiritual family. Maharaja arranges so many retreats for all of us to participate in, deepen our appreciation for Krishna consciousness, and develop loving relationships with the devotees. Through services, I was able to strengthen my relationships with numerous devotees and gain a stronger appreciation for who they are and how sincerely they are living their life in service to Maharaja, Srila Prabhupada, and Krishna. This "network of loving relationships" that Maharaja has so lovingly developed is expanding and becoming deeper and sweeter each day. I would like to thank Srila Romapada Swami Maharaja and all of the devotees who did so much service to put this Festival of the Holy Name together. I am sure that this has benefitted everyone who attended and I know we all can't wait till next year!