Answer by HH Romapada Swami
Question:Say a devotee after getting initiated, is unable to do his 16 rounds of chanting on a day or few days, due to illness or anything of that sort, it is like breaking the vows, right? So how and what the devotee should do in such situation?
Answer: The power to execute or fulfill an instruction of the spiritual master is within the instruction itself, when we accept it with faith and submission. Srila Prabhupada enjoined that initiated devotees must chant minimum 16 rounds everyday without fail, and within this order is invested the empowerment to do it; he would not have asked us to do it if it were not possible!
By taking a solemn vow before the spiritual master and vaishnavas and Deities, we receive also the empowerment to able to keep that vow, under all circumstances, barring very rare, exceptional emergencies. A disciple should therefore be determined to keep their vow at all costs, with the conviction that the ability to fulfill is latent within that commitment - we simply have to be willing to do it.
This means making all necessary efforts to make it happen - such as giving one‚Äôs chanting the first priority in the day, dedicating a specific time early in the day for this most important activity before other duties demand our attention, arranging our life in such a way that this is made possible. It also means keeping good association, studying scriptures and so on to ensure that the fire of our determination to chant nicely is maintained healthy and strong. Thus, even when minor challenges arise in day-to-day life, such as mild illnesses or other exigencies, we would be able to withstand by virtue of devotional strength. In short, the commitment to chant 16 rounds involves ongoing effort and ensuring that we don‚Äôt create circumstances for ourselves where we cannot fulfill our commitments.
If after all sincere efforts on our part, due to some unavoidable situation or emergency, one is unable to complete the prescribed chanting on an occasional day, then one should feel genuinely repentant and make up for those rounds the very next day or at the earliest opportunity - this was the recommendation Srila Prabhupada gave.
The caution, however, is that this should not be made a common practice, a rationale ushering weakness within our internal resolve to fulfill vows. A tendency is commonly there in conditioned souls to relax one‚Äôs commitments and take solemn vows more lightly over a period of time; by genuinely regretting occasional lapses and taking the chanting very seriously, this tendency can be curbed and offenses of negligence can be avoided.