The bad and ugly of Japa

I’ve begun to read Chapter 6 of Bhagavad-gita to get a sense of how I should chant.
I try to sit down alone, close my eyes and chant without moving for a little time.
Keeping my back and head as straight as possible. It becomes apparant that I’m
restless. Not in the – I need to do these ten things. No, I become restless because I think
that this Japa is well… a bit boring. Nothing happens during it and my mind wanders a bit and it’s easy. Then I direct my mind back to listening to the mantra. My mind tries to wander, but I keep it there.

That’s when I feel the pressure. It’s uncomfortable. My mind is uncomfortable with the direction I’m keeping it in. The longer I restrain the mind, the more pressure it feels. The pressure grows to pain. It becomes painful for the mind to listen to the chanting.

All I’m doing is sitting still and chant – and it’s painful for my mind. Huh – go figure. It grows even more painful. I feel every itch on my nose, hair, back, ear, that one hair that keeps itching on the neck. I’m trying to be devotional and increase bhakti – but instead I feel the body even more pronounced than before. We are supposed to learn that our consciousness is the soul, but here I’m chanting and meditating on the body. There isn’t any spiritual bliss in sight.

I feel hungry. But I have dedicated to chant a specific number of rounds before I do anything, so the hunger just have to be there. The mind just wants to get up and feed the body, and I feel the pressure of the mind gets even more painful. It’s so painful.

I crawl myself through those last couple of rounds, and with a clear relief when I’m finished.

That was just one hour…

Oh dear… what have I gotten myself into?

3 thoughts on “The bad and ugly of Japa

  1. I remember many years ago sitting on a tram, passing by a graveyard. I was thinking of donating blood. It gave me a sense of meaningfulness to think that my blood would go into another person’s body. It made me feel careful about eating and drinking healthy, to keep my blood healthy for that person. It made me feel connected. In the winters here it’s nice to take shelter in the temple where we keep a fire going. But I usually need to chant japa out loud in order to focus. Some devotees want to do their japa silently, so when we are together in the temple, we all do it silently. I sometimes have such a hard time to focus that one silent round takes 30 minutes. One evening when chanting loudly by myself, I thought about the point that loud chanting should help you become able to do silent chanting. So I tried to see my loud self as donating blood to my silent self by paying good attention to the loud chanting. The next morning I had one of my best silent sessions ever.

    • I’ve read something similar to this, that todays chanting lays the groundwork for next day. It’s strange that you have this very nice experience and I had the complete opposite reaction. I wonder what I did wrong, because I tried to set my intention before beginning. May be I was trying too hard, trying to do better than my level of advancement actually is. I don’t know.

  2. I thought about your post “the power of intention” when I came upon this in C. G. Jung’s “The Red Book”. The chapter is called “Experiences in the desert” and he talks about meeting with his own soul. You could call it the power of NO intention:

    “After a hard struggle I have come a piece of the way nearer to you. How hard this struggle was! I had fallen into an undergrowth of doubt, confusion, and scorn. I recognise that I must be alone with my soul. I come with empty hands to you, my soul. What do you want to hear? But my soul spoke to me and said, “If you come to a friend, do you come to take?” I knew that this should not be so, but it seems to me that I am poor and empty. I would like to sit down near you and at least feel the breath of your animating presence. My way is hot sand. All day long, sandy, dusty paths. My patience is sometimes weak, and once I despaired of myself, as you know.
    My soul answered and said, “You speak to me as if you were a child complaining to its mother. I am not your mother.” I do not want to complain, but let me say to you that mine is a long and dusty road. You are to me like a shady tree in the wilderness. I would like to enjoy your shade. But my soul answered, “You are pleasure-seeking. Where is your patience? Your time has not yet run its course. Have you forgotten why you went into the desert?”
    My faith is weak, my face is blind from all that shimmering blaze of the desert sun. The heat lies on me like lead. Thirst torments me, I dare not think how unendingly long my way is, and above all, I see nothing in front of me. But the soul answered, “You speak as if you have still learned nothing. Can you not wait? Should everything fall into your lap ripe and finished? You are full, yes, you teem with intentions and desirousness!-Do you still not know that the way to truth stands open only to those without intentions?”
    I know that everything you say, Oh my soul, is also my thought. But I hardly live according to it. The soul said, “How; tell me, do you then believe that your thoughts should help you?” I would always like to refer to the fact that I am a human being, just a human being who is weak and sometimes does not do his best. But the soul said, “Is this what you think it means to be human?” You are hard, my soul, but you are right. How little we still commit ourselves to living. We should grow like a tree that likewise does not know its law. We tie ourselves up with intentions, not mindful of the fact that intention is the limitation, yes, the exclusion of life. We believe that we can illuminate the darkness with an intention, and in that way aim past the light.78How can we presume to want to know in advance, from where the light will come to us?
    Let me bring only one complaint before you: I suffer from scorn, my own scorn. But my soul said to me, “Do you think little of yourself?” I do not believe so. My soul answered, “Then listen, do you think little of me? Do you still not know that you are not writing a book to feed your vanity, but that you are speaking with me? How can you suffer from scorn if you address me with those words that I give you? Do you know, then, who I am? Have you grasped me, defined me, and made me into a dead formula? Have you measured the depths of my chasms, and explored all the ways down which I am yet going to lead you? Scorn cannot challenge you if you are not vain to the marrow of your bones.” Your truth is hard. I want to lay down my vanity before you, since it blinds me. See, that is why I also believed my hands were empty when I came to you today. I did not consider that it is you who fills empty hands if only they want to stretch out, yet they do not want to. I did not know that I am
    your vessel, empty without you but brimming over with you.
    [2] This was my twenty-fifth night in the desert. This is how long it took my soul to awaken from a shadowy being to her own life, until she could approach me as a free-standing being separate from me. And I received hard but salutary words from her. I needed that talcing in hand, since I could not overcome the scorn within me.
    The spirit o f this time considers itself extremely clever, like every such
    spirit of the time. But wisdom is simpleminded, not just simple. Because of his, the clever person mocks wisdom, since mockery is his weapon. He uses the pointed,poisonous weapon,because he is struck by naive wisdom. If he were not struck, he would not need the weapon. Only in the desert do we become aware of our terrible simplemindedness, but we are afraid of admitting it. {(That is why we are scornful. But mockery / does not attain simpleminded~ ness. The mockery falls on the mocker, and in the desert where no one hears and answers, he suffocates from his own scorn.
    The cleverer you are, the more foolish your simplemindedness. The totally clever are total fools in their simplemindedness. W e cannot save ourselves from the cleverness of the spirit of this time through increasing our cleverness,
    but through accepting what our cleverness hates most, namely simpleminded~ ness. Yet we also do not want to be artificial fools because we have fallen into simplemindedness, rather we will be clever fools. That leads to the supreme meaning. Cleverness couples itself with intention. Simplemindedness knows no intention. Cleverness conquers the world, but simplemindedness, the soul. So take on the vow of poverty of spirit in order to partake of the soul. 
    Against this the scorn of my cleverness rose Up. Many will laugh at my foolishness. But no one will laugh more than I laughed at myself.
    So I overcame scorn. But when I had overcome it, I was near to my soul, and she could speak to me, and I was soon to see the desert becoming green.”

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