Indifference of chanting

I stopped chanting again. I think it happened a week before christmas. I was sick, extraordinary load of work at work and I just had nothing left to go on. Now I have been contemplating why it’s so hard to get back on the horse. It’s not like I’m not chanting, but I had set that I would at least chant four rounds a day steadily. Now it’s Christmas vacation, and there is no shortage of time.

like-japaIt’s indifference. Indifference to japa – which is why I’m looking for inspirational sources on japa. I need to get that inspiration again. I understand that chanting be gets more chanting. It’s logical for anybody who has a little taste in chanting. And I do – I like chanting. So why do I like chanting, but are still failing at it?

The indifference has a source in my need for relaxation, taking care of myself. That need trumps my need for chanting. Then there’s laziness. My indifference is in reality laziness. There is room for me taking care of myself AND chanting. Those two are not opposites, they are a part of the same equation.

Laziness, huh? Laziness of mind. The intelligence has to parent the mind to avoid laziness. I’m not a lazy person, but I do need a lot of rest. That I have a lazy mind surprise me, but at the same time it rings true. I can see how little I demand of my mind, how little boundaries it has received.

But laziness of mind is just one step – if I dig further the true culprit is selfishness. Self-absorption. I have more than enough with myself that I leave no room for this service to someone besides myself. I’m so self-centered in my life that when some  obstacle shows its face I’m too busy with myself.

Self-centredness and selfishness breeds indifference.

Controlling the senses

I’m currently reading the Spiritual Warrior series: Spiritual Warrior II: Transforming Lust into Love and Surrender: The Key to Eternal Life. These books are great, they bridge the gap between this high philosophy which explains the spiritual means and ends, but not the itty-gritty details on how to achieve and deal with everyday life which means sex (celibate men have a lot to say on that subject), love, relationships, the ego, dealing with challenges, leadership. Pretty much a lot of the subjects that I’m interested in and qualities/experience that I have to use every day within my job, friends and family. It so great to read and recognize what is written with my own experiences. More importantly, there’s usually some aspects I haven’t thought of that enlightens me further. Secondly, they are easy to read.

Then I enter the chapter about controlling the senses. Now, this is interesting for me because I have little sense control. Or a weak mind as he called it – and well, I agree on that label. The material body consist of the senses, the mind, the intelligence and the ego. The senses give the mind orders (I want that chocolate!) and the intelligence backs up the mind and adds morality to it (chocolate may be a disturbance to your spiritual progress). Since I’m a very practical person I always look for two things: a solution and an explanation (in that order). So here’s the explanation:

When the intelligence is connected with transcendental knowledge, it has sufficient power to harness the wild mind

What is transcendental knowledge? Because when I want chocolate this is how the process goes:
Senses: I want chocolate.
Mind: Sure.
Intelligence: This is not good for you and really, your body doesn’t need it.
Mind: I couldn’t care less.

I guess the answer the intelligence is giving isn’t transcendental enough, but really? I don’t get it. How do I connect the intelligence with the transcendental knowledge in harnessing the senses?

When you are reading these books, don’t ‘read’…. serve!

Sometimes strange things happens. Since Syamananda made me aware that reading books can be considered seva, I have been contemplating it, but not understanding how reading is seva. I love reading, I read a lot, but it has felt more like the authors are serving me by giving me this wonderful literature to absorb. Even though Syamanada gave me such a great explanation, I just couldn’t get it.

Then this came up:

dont read, serveSo there was yet another clue that there is more to reading than what I understand and practice. So I asked Gaudiya Vedanta Publications about this statement as well, and this is the answer:

Srila Gurudeva has mentioned:

“We should treat all the books of the Gosvāmīs as our śikṣā-gurus. We should offer praṇāma to the books, and then read them. If we do this, we will realize that all siddhānta is coming automatically in our heart. This is the process of reading ‒ not reading, but serving ‒ the books.”

“When you are reading these books, don’t ‘read.’ Serve. Offer praṇāma, place the book on your forehead and heart, and pray, “O Prabhu, you are personally Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī. Please be merciful to me.” This is the process of reading.”

“When you are reading the dialogue between Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu and Rāya Rāmānanda on the bank of the Godāvarī, you can think, “I am on the bank of Godāvarī. Rāya Rāmānanda and Mahāprabhu are sitting here. I am also peacefully sitting with them, and hearing all their topics. O Mahāprabhu, O Rāya Rāmānanda Prabhu, please be merciful to me. Please sprinkle your mercy upon me so that I can understand this high-class siddhānta.” Without praying in this way, you will have doubts and you will not be able to realize anything.”

“When reading the books of Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Mahārāja, you should think, “He is instructing me.” If you are reading a book of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī, think that Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī is speaking to you; and if you are reading Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, think that Śrīla Śukadeva Gosvāmī and Śrīla Vyāsadeva are speaking to you. And, always pray to Lord Krsna and Śrī Gurudeva to sprinkle their mercy upon you.”

 

So I’m told very specifically to do certain actions while reading and this I can do. By working on doing this correctly every day I might end up doing some seva. This excites me. It seems like there is some hidden depths to reading I can uncover. This is so exciting!

But of course, I had to ask a follow-up question:
“Can serving the books give progress in spiritual life or do you need the physical association of a pure devotee to achieve progress?”

Answer:

Srila Gurudeva:
“If you want to read anything, don’t read on your own. Your mind is not controlled, and it is not pure. You should therefore go to any realized person and serve that tattva-vetta purusa (a self-realized soul, who is a knower of all truths). And then hear from him.

tad viddhi pranipatena
pariprasnena sevaya
upadeksyanti te jnanam
jnaninas tattva-darsinah
[“Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth.”
(Bhagavad-gita 4.34)]

You should go to a person who has realized all spiritual truths. Serve him, and after that you may ask a question. With folded hands you may ask him, “If I am qualified to hear, then please explain such and such.” Then he will speak, and then there will be no doubt. On the other hand, if you will read by yourself so many doubts will come. If you will read Mahabharata, you may say, “Oh, Krsna has left His body and died.” If you will read Ramayana, you may think that Rama died, Laksmana died and all the monkeys died. This doubt may come; and if it comes, you will be ruined. Your bhakti will disappear.”

Srila Svami Prabhupada:

“So if you read different scriptures, you will be bewildered…But there is adjustment. If you go to the authorized person, he can adjust. But you cannot see. You see, you’ll see contradiction.”

“So Caitanya Mahaprabhu says the medium is sastra, and direction is the guru. Sastra also we cannot understand any book, what to speak of the scripture. Sometimes we find contradiction in the scripture. That is not contradiction; that is my poor fund of knowledge. I cannot understand; therefore assistance of guru, a spiritual master, is required.”

It seems like a bit of a contradiction that one can serve the books, but only have progress by association with a guru. So again I asked and got the answer:

It seems that definition of ‘progression’ is the point of contention here.

“Yes, in the general, reading Vaisnava literatures can bring progression in spiritual life, in that it can stimulate the desire to associate with sadhus and follow the path they have delineated. From there, perfection can be achieved, not by the reading itself.”

Well, I hope I’m getting massive amounts of sukriti going for me.

Deity home altar

When Gurudeva appeared in murti form, I was given a jolt.

Yesterday he appeared in my home.

gurudeva_murti_cloth

Do you see the little box with cloth in it? I didn’t know what it was until this morning when I saw this poster.

abhisheka_clothHow fortunate am I? I couldn’t be there during his maha abhisheka. Now I somehow was allowed to enter anyway. This really matter to me, it touches me.

radhakrishna_deities

I have the most beautiful altar.

altar

Progress, Goddamnit!

BellOf those that seeks Krishna there are four kinds:

catur-vidhā bhajante māḿ
janāḥ sukṛtino ‘rjuna
ārto jijñāsur arthārthī
jñānī ca bharatarṣabha

“O best among the Bhāratas, four kinds of pious men begin to render devotional service unto Me — the distressed, the desirer of wealth, the inquisitive, and he who is searching for knowledge of the Absolute.” Bhagavad-gita 7.16
Of these I among among the distressed, and there have been and are a lot of distress in my life. But now I see something is happening in me. All this distress is crystallizing something in me. I’m suddenly scouring amazon for biographies and I really liked reading The Journey Home by Radanath Swami. I have only been reading devotional books for about two weeks now, and that has never happened before.

It’s a long time since I chanted this much. The latest book I’m reading is Surrender: The Key to Eternal Life and I’m understanding now that to make any progress I have to check myself. How much devotional practice did I do yesterday? Can I see any progress? I have to treat my devotional life like a checkpoint list. I may not be able to progress without any real sadhu-sanga, but there is no way I will let something like that stop me.

Because here’s the thing: my life is meaningless without spirituality in it. It’s the only thing which makes the drudgery and utter futility of my life worth it. I now get up about 5 am every morning for my spiritual practice. I go to work and go through the motions every day, but I feel dead most of the time. I don’t live, I don’t know what it means to have a meaningful life, waking up happy and feeling good. My intelligence and heart is screaming at me: It’s not supposed to be like this. The only time my heart goes still is when I spend time at my spiritual practice. It’s the time when I feel something besides disheartening emotions and sadness. So what is it I feel then? Am I really so out of touch with positive emotions that I can’t name what spirituality do to me?

But keeping tabs on my spiritual life is something I can do. Srila Gour Govinda Maharaja had 27 vows he observed daily in his grhastha life. I will have to make up my own list and borrow some from him:

  1. How many hours did you sleep?
  2. At what time did you get out of bed?
  3. How many malas of japa did you chant today?
  4. How long did you spend in nama, nama-smarana, kirtana today?
  5. How many pranayamas (meditations) did you do today?
  6. For how long did you perform asana today?
  7. For how long did you perform one asana?
  8. Were you regular in your meditation today?
  9. How many Gita slokas did you read today or learn by heart?
  10. How long did you spend in the company of sadhis today (sat-sanga)?
  11. For how long did you observe mauna (silence) today?
  12. How long did you spend in disinterested selfless service today?
  13. How much did you give in charity today?
  14. How many mantras did you write today?
  15. How long did you practice in physical exercise today?
  16. How many lies did you tell today, and what did you do to atone for this?
  17. How many times did you get angry today, and for how long and what was your atonement?
  18. How many hours did you spend in useless company today?
  19. How many times did you fail in brahmacarya (celibacy) today?
  20. How long did you spend today in the study of religious books?
  21. How many times did you fall prey to evil habits, and with self-punishment?
  22. How long did you concentrate on your ista-deva, nirguna meditation-spiritual and saguna meditation-material?
  23. What virtues are you developing?
  24. What evil qualities are you trying to eradicate?
  25. What indriya (sense) is troubling you the most?
  26. How many days did you observe in fasting and vigilance?
  27. At what time did you go to bed?

And one can read Gour Govindas excellent biography online, free of charge 😀