The B.L.I.S.S. devotees are practising chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra on the beads. They chant minimum 16 x 108 beads daily as per instruction of their spiritual master Srila Prabhupada. The following is a compilation of quotes from Srila Prabhupada about the importance of chanting 16 rounds and what the devotees should be aware of when chanting.
16 ROUNDS ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY IN ORDER TO REMEMBER KRSNA ALWAYS
So far as your question about arranging time, our first business is to regularly complete our chanting 16 rounds each day.
Letter to: Kirtanananda — Los Angeles 2 December, 1968
My advise is always chant 16 rounds minimum and follow the four regulative principles. All of my disciples must agree on this point otherwise they are not my disciples. Let one live anywhere, but stick to the principles. Disagreements will continue in this material world. So one may live in a suitable place, but one must follow these five principles. My disciples must follow these principles living either in heaven or hell.
Letter to: Raja Laksmi — Mayapur 17 February, 1976
There are many regulative principles in the sastras and directions given by the spiritual master. These regulative principles should act as servants of the basic principle -- that is, one should always remember Krsna and never forget Him. This is possible when one chants the Hare Krsna mantra. Therefore one must strictly chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra twenty-four hours daily. One may have other duties to perform under the direction of the spiritual master, but he must first abide by the spiritual master's order to chant a certain number of rounds. In our Krsna consciousness movement, we have recommended that the neophyte chant at least sixteen rounds. This chanting of sixteen rounds is absolutely necessary if one wants to remember Krsna and not forget Him. Of all the regulative principles, the spiritual master's order to chant at least sixteen rounds is most essential.
One may sell books or enlist life members or render some other service, but these duties are not ordinary duties. These duties serve as an impetus for remembering Krsna. When one goes with a sankirtana party or sells books, he naturally remembers that he is going to sell Krsna's books. In this way, he is remembering Krsna. When one goes to enlist a life member, he talks about Krsna and thereby remembers Him. Smartavyah satatam visnur vismartavyo na jatucit. The conclusion is that one must act in such a way that he will always remember Krsna, and one must refrain from doing things that make him forget Krsna. These two principles form the basic background of Krsna consciousness.
If one cannot complete the fixed number of rounds he is assigned, he should be considered to be in a diseased condition of spiritual life. Srila Haridasa Thakura is called namacarya. Of course, we cannot imitate Haridasa Thakura, but everyone must chant a prescribed number of rounds. In our Krsna consciousness movement we have fixed sixteen rounds as the minimum so that the Westerners will not feel burdened. These sixteen rounds must be chanted, and chanted loudly, so that one can hear himself and others.
The first regulative principle is that one must chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra loudly enough so that he can hear himself, and one must vow to chant a fixed number of rounds.
Unless one has come to the platform of spontaneous love of God, he must follow the regulative principles. Thakura Haridasa was the living example of how to follow the regulative principles. Similarly, Raghunatha dasa Gosvami was also such a living example. In the Sad-gosvamy-astaka it is stated: sankhya-purvaka-nama-gana-natibhih kalavasanikrtau. The Gosvamis, especially Raghunatha dasa Gosvami, strictly followed all the regulative principles. The first regulative principle is that one must chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra loudly enough so that he can hear himself, and one must vow to chant a fixed number of rounds.
Yes, that is the right idea, to strengthen whatever devotees we have got in spiritual life, fix them beyond any doubts. Then our potency will increase and we may recruit dozens of new devotees easily. Main thing is to make sure everyone is chanting minimum sixteen rounds daily of Hare Krishna Mantra. Otherwise they will not be able to perform the other practices of brahminical life, such as early rising, cleanliness, etc.
Letter to: Jagadisa — Paris 22 July, 1972
Devotee: ...such devotees that they do service, they may be very big, they attract so many people, they are successful, kirtana and everything, but we know they are not chanting japa. What can we do in that situation? Are we...
Prabhupada: Situation, he is doing some service. He is doing some service.
Prabhupada: So because on account of that service, if he could not, that can be excused. But not that practice should be taken as permanent business. The regulation is that if you cannot finish your chanting that day, then next day you should forget sleeping and eating and must finish it.
Devotee: Some persons we encounter they don't even chant at all, and yet we are in association with them, and they are...
Prabhupada: No, if you miss on account of busy-ness, then next day you must finish it. You should not go to sleep. You should not... Yes, that day you should forget all other business. First of all compensate this.
Devotee: Some devotees have it as a chronic condition, though.
Prabhupada: Then he is animal.
Devotee: But still, he's doing lots of good devotional service.
Devotee 2: He may even be manager.
Prabhupada: Then they will get some chance later on. What is that devotee, if you do not follow the regulative principles? The business is that if one day you cannot, but finish. The next day you must finish. Now, for eating, he is very eager, and for sleeping, he is very eager, and for finishing chanting, he has no eagerness. Then he is animal. It is simply an excuse. Yesterday you had no time? You were very busy? All right. Today you forget your sleeping and eating. Finish it. That is wanted. [break] And only for chanting, you have no time. This is not allowed. This is not allowed. This is cheating, that "I am so busy."
Devotee: Most of these devotees in Hyderabad, they are chanting twenty-five rounds a day or more.
Prabhupada: That's all right. If you can chant more, that is good. [break]
Devotee: ...must associate with them, that is difficult.
Prabhupada: But you do your business. You don't follow them. That's all. You remain perfect. There are many imperfects, admitting, but you try to remain perfect so that they may see you, your behavior, and they may follow you. If everyone is sincere in his activity, then where is the question? The society means if I am defective, I am seeing that you are doing nicely, so I will be ashamed. That is also teaching. Actually that should be the practice. If I cannot finish my sixteen rounds due to some business, then next day I must finish it. If you say that "Next day also, I am busy," then you should forego your eating and sleeping and finish it. That is the way. You are so busy, but you do not forget your eating and sleeping. That is cheating. If you are so busy that you forget your eating and sleeping, then I can consider that you are very busy. But you do not forget this portion. "Whenever there is opportunity, I sleep and eat. And I have no time for chanting"—this is cheating. How long you can go on by cheating? You must finish it. Hare Krsna. Somebody, after initiation he promises, "Yes, I shall follow these rules and regulations. I shall chant sixteen rounds," before the fire, before the Deity, before the guru, and if he does not follow, then he is a cheater. What to speak of his becoming a Vaisnava, he is a cheater. He breaks all his promises. Therefore after seeing, observing a person is doing everything, then say second initiation, or then he should not be recommended for second initiation unless the president and the other authorities see that he is doing nicely, he is following. Otherwise he should not be recommended. If he is recommended, that is also another cheating. If you know that this person is not following the rules and regulation, then why should you recommend him? Then it is another cheating. Viddhi-bhakti must be followed; otherwise it becomes sahajiya.
Morning Walk -- April 20, 1974, Hyderabad
If you chant at least 16 rounds daily and read our books, no contamination can touch us.
Letter to: Gangamayi — Bombay 9 May, 1974
YOU CAN INCREASE BUT 16 ROUNDS MUST BE MAINTAINED
Aksayananda Swami: Of course we accept, ah, when you tell us to chant sixteen rounds, we accept that figure as being, in perfect faith, that you're the acarya, but ah, what if others we wanted to convince, is there any, any ah, sastr... Is there any Vedic verse we can refer to to corroborate that at least they must chant sixteen rounds. Or that many number of names?
Prabhupada: No. In the sastra it is not said like that...
Aksayananda Swami: I see.
Prabhupada: It is said, sankhy-purvakah...
Aksayananda Swami: Sankhy-purvakah.
Prabhupada: You must fix up.
Aksayananda Swami: Counting.
Prabhupada: You must fix up in numerical strength.
Aksayananda Swami: I see.
Prabhupada: Whatever you can.
Aksayananda Swami: Yes.
Prabhupada: But I have fixed up sixteen rounds, because you cannot do.
Aksayananda Swami: That's all we can do.
Prabhupada: (smiling, touch of irony) Yes. That also is difficult.
Aksayananda Swami: Yes. (laughing)
Prabhupada: Otherwise, Haridasa Thakura was chanting 300,000. So, That is not possible. You should not imitate, but whatever you fix up you must do.
Aksayananda Swami: Yes. Yes.
Prabhupada: That is wanted.
Aksayananda Swami: Yes. I was told in the beginning you asked the first disciples to chant 64 rounds?
Prabhupada: Yes. I asked them to chant 32?
Prabhupada: (grinning) Hm.
Aksayananda Swami: Is that correct?
Prabhupada: Sankhy-purvaka nama-gana-natibhih. Sankhya purva, or numerical strength must be there. And you should follow rigidly.
Aksayananda Swami: So if, if we are serious and sincere, it means that that sixteen will increase to, ah, to continuously chanting.
Prabhupada: You can do also now. It's not that because I've finished sixteen rounds...
Aksayananda Swami: No.
Prabhupada: You can increase. But that sixteen must be finished.
Aksayananda Swami: Yes. (pause) What I mean is, that's to bring us to the platform of chanting constantly. That at least we do that numerical number, finally we may be able to do, if we're fortunate to chant constantly day and night.
Morning Walk -- December 11, 1975, Vrndavana
Devotee (8): When chanting our sixteen rounds, we are not sure if these rounds are sincere...
Prabhupada: You should be sure.
Devotee (8): How can we be sure?
Prabhupada: There is beads.
Brahmananda: No, he's saying that when we chant our rounds, how can we be sure that when we chant the round that the round is a perfect, attentive round, sincere?
Prabhupada: Therefore it is sastra, "You must." There is no question of understanding.
Brahmananda: The quality of the chanting he's asking. How can we make the quality the best?
Prabhupada: Quality, you'll understand first of all come to the quality. Without having quality, how he'll understand the quality? You follow the instruction of your spiritual master, of the sastra. That is your duty. Quality, no quality -- it is not your position to understand. 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. Have you got such tendency that you will go on chanting and nothing to do? That is quality. Now you are forced to do. Where is the question of quality? That is given a chance so that one day you may come to the quality, not that you have come to the quality. Quality is different. Athasaktih. Asakti, attachment. Just like Rupa Gosvami says that "How shall I chant with one tongue, and how shall I hear, two ears? Had it been millions of tongue and trillions of ear, then I could enjoy it." This is quality. Quality is not so cheap. Maybe after many births. For the time being you go on following the rules and regulations. It is being done by force. Where is the quality? So you wanted to understand quality. This is the quality. You'll not be forced, but automatically you'll desire. That is quality. I am writing books. I am not being forced by anyone. Everyone can do that. Why one does not do it? Why I get up at night, one o'clock, and do this job? Because I cannot do without it. How one will do it artificially? This is quality. Therefore they like my purports. That quality is shown by Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Sunyayitam jagat sarvam govinda virahena me. "Oh, I do not see Govinda. The whole world is vacant." Sunyayitam jagat sarvam govinda virahena me. This is quality. Just like we have got practical example. One man's beloved has died, and he is seeing the whole universe vacant. Is it vacant? So that is quality of love. So there is no formula of quality. It is to be understood by himself. Just like if after eating something you feel refreshed and get strength, that is quality. You haven't got to take certificate: "Will you give me a certificate that I have eaten?" You'll understand whether eaten or not. That is quality. When you will feel so much ecstasy in chanting Hare Krsna, that is quality. Not artificially -- "Chant. Chant. Otherwise get out." This is not quality. This is in expectation that someday you may come to quality. That requires time. That requires sincerity. But quality is there. Sravanadi suddha citte karaye... It will be awakened. Not by force. Just like love between two persons, it cannot be forced. "You must love him. You must love her." Oh, that is no love. That is not love. When automatically you love one another, that is quality. Dora vede(?) prema. And therefore formerly, at least in the Indian society, at an early age they were married. There is no quality in that quality. But gradually, remaining together, the quality of love increases. Then the wife takes care of the husband, and the husband takes care. They become bound up, united in love. That is quality. In the beginning, what the child knows about love? No. But they are allowed to remain as husband and wife. They are thinking that "I have got my husband," "I have got my wife," and as the age increases, the dealings become intimate. Then they become affectionate. That is quality. Not in the beginning there is any quality. It is by the parents' arrangement. That's all.
Morning Walk -- November 2, 1975, Nairobi
HOW TO CHANT?
I am glad to hear that you are always keeping engaged in Krishna's service and chanting Hare Krishna. As you chant, try to hear each word very carefully and always complete your sixteen rounds. Regular and attentive chanting, along with following the four regulative principles will keep one pure. Simply by following these principles and chanting Hare Krishna one can make his life successful and perfect.
Letter to: Tosana — Calcutta 20 February, 1972
Visnujana: ...if you chant from the lips or if you chant just in your mind as you walk?
Prabhupada: Begin from the lips. Then you go to the mind.
Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.6.3-4 -- March 8, 1968, San Francisco
Considering your problem I will advise you to chant on your lips since you become tired chanting out loud. Also you can sit and hear your Godbrothers chanting. And you can also hear tapes. Do all of these and there should be no problem.
Letter to: Ajitananda — Calcutta 16 January, 1976
Devotee: Prabhupada, we have very strict standards. There is no second chance. We have a no smoking, no drinking, no drugs or anything. Just one offence, they are released for a lifetime—they can never return. So it’s a very strict standard. We are the only corporate structure in North America. We have a very intelligent lawyer to put it into corporate rules, because sometimes people say that it is taking away their freedom of choice. After working hours you can have it legally on your papers that they cannot drink while working, but we have it even while on off-hours. Our people work pretty hard.
One question I wanted to ask you—I talked to Guru dasa about it quite a bit—was as far as chanting rounds were concerned. Our people do work often sixteen, seventeen, eighteen hours a day, because we want to make this thing work. And sometimes we find that sixteen rounds, they don’t do any, because in the end, it is not possible; they just don’t have time, because of the work. Is there some kind of standard that we could set that would be…
Prabhupada: General regulation is, suppose today you could not complete sixteen rounds—say you have completed twelve rounds—so the next day you complete four rounds. That means twenty rounds. Next day regular sixteen rounds, plus yesterday’s. That is the rule. Anyway, something is better than nothing. [laughter] But the rule, regulation is, just like the Gosvamis, they, if they missed chanting rounds, they would not sleep, completely. That is vow, drdha-vrata. In Sanskrit it is called drdha-vrata. That makes very strong spiritual strength.
Devotee: Part of the problem from our point is that we hide our bead bags, because people think we’d be very ridiculous to be carrying a bead bag around.
Prabhupada: That is [indistinct]. Convince them. They can carry, what is called? Trans…, transistor.
Devotee: Transistor radio.
Prabhupada: Like a log. [laughter] And if you cannot carry it always… So it is very big social problem.
Devotee: So we have to be careful of our position, because some people they have told me that, “I would be walking down the street sometime, and we passed the devotees…”
Prabhupada: No. You can say that “I have got some defect in my hand. I have got some defect for chanting. Therefore I have covered it.”
(from Vedabase 142+ Transcripts )
Devotee: Is it all right to finish rounds in the temple when there's nothing to do?
Devotee : This afternoon.
Prabhupada: Not afternoon. You have to do it in the morning when there is nothing.
Room Conversation -- December 21, 1970, Surat
Chanting japa should be done early in the morning with full concentration preferably during the Brahma Muhurta time.
Letter to: Radhavallabha — Bombay 6 January, 1972