"To remember Krishna one should chant the mahamantra, Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, incessantly, following in the footsteps of Lord Chaitanya, being more tolerant than the tree, humbler than the grass and offering all respect to others without requiring respect in return. In such a way one will be able to depart from the body successfully remembering Krishna and so attain the supreme goal." (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 8.5 Purport)
Genuine spiritual life is about changing consciousness. An institution might help. Wearing a certain dress, acting a certain way, reading specific books, memorizing beautifully composed verses in the Sanskrit language - the sadhana, or regulative practice, is beneficial, but the objective is always superior to the means.
The consciousness should change from material to spiritual. Essentially, what is it that we think about? What is on the mind on a constant basis? What topic or topics have majority ownership as far as thoughts are concerned?
To this end it is seen that even in supposedly pure places there can be forgetfulness of the Divine. The entire objective gets nullified with some distraction or other.
1. The temple
This is the sanctuary in an otherwise hectic and chaotic world. While there is duality everywhere else, within the confines of the sacred establishment the objective is to see only the spiritual side to things. God is known to be the source of both material and spiritual worlds.
Seeing the spiritual component is essential for proper understanding of how everything works. The discoveries of modern science are not enough. Those are merely descriptions of principles and phenomena already existing. They don’t cover the origins, nor do they give the complete picture of the future.
Yet even within the temple it is possible to forget God, who is worshiped there in different personal forms. One of them is Krishna, whose name means “all-attractive.” The idea is that the deity, who is the physical representation in a most merciful form meant for accepting worship, is the chief resident in the dwelling. The people within the temple should focus on this proprietor, for knowing Him inside the temple helps to understand and recognize His presence outside and everywhere else.
If my mind is focused on concerns over health, family, friends, politics, or certain personal events, it is easy to forget Krishna. I might be looking straight at Him in the deity form and not have any remembrance of His sweet pastimes.
2. A sankirtana party
An easier way to remember is through sound. Chant the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. A person who chants regularly and discusses topics about the Lord, Krishna-katha, becomes like a travelling temple. They take the spiritual atmosphere with them wherever they go.
Chanting together, in a group, sometimes accompanied by musical instruments and a call-and-response type format, is known as sankirtana. The added benefit here is that people not participating get to connect with God. They might be one hundred percent forgetful, but if they hear the sacred sounds from a distance it can change their lives.
Someone smack dab in the middle of the sankirtana party, perhaps even the one leading the chanting, can be forgetful of Krishna. Again, consciousness is the indicator. It is possible to go through the motions, to chant externally but to be diverted toward some other topic on the inside.
3. A dhama
The true benefit of visiting a sacred place is meeting saintly people. They tend to congregate there, as it is easier to remember the Supreme Lord and His pastimes in places directly associated with Him. The entire world is His property, but there are certain places considered more significant due to a relationship with the personal form of God.
Yet even while living in a sacred place like Vrindavana it is possible to have forgetfulness. There can be people of ill-intent residing there, as well. The atmosphere is most conducive to spiritual life, but for some reason the mind goes elsewhere.
The idea is that success in spiritual life is up to the individual, not the circumstances. Changing consciousness is the key, as the person who thinks of Krishna at the time of death attains His nature. That is to say they travel to His realm, where there is no distinction between body and spirit.
Circumstances can make a significant impact, and this is one of the reasons spiritual teachers pass on guidelines and recommendations. Just as it is not easy to stick to a diet while sitting inside of a buffet restaurant throughout the day, living in inauspicious conditions likely won’t help in changing the consciousness for the better. Still, the power of the holy name and Krishna’s association is such that any person, in any condition of life, has the opportunity for liberation.
All dependent on mind,
Any liberation can find.
Even if visiting sacred place,
Distraction memory to erase.
Or feet in holy temple set,
Again a chance to forget.
On the individual, what they desire,
Future determined how to transpire.