I can make it ! So can you !

1507808_576170842458331_248120126_nI’m so excited! I have been wondering how much japa is enough, if 16 rounds is kindergarten level or not. A 100 000 names or 64 rounds have always been mentioned everywhere as the gold standard, and 16 rounds makes 25% of “completeness” which isn’t so bad. Though, I have chanted 16 rounds before and I know it’s not enough – at least not for me to progress (yes, I have a lot of cleansing to do).

Then I came across this:

If one chants 16 rounds of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra, he will complete the chanting of 35 million maha-mantras in around 55.5 years. If he doubles his chanting i.e. 32 rounds daily, then he will take around 28 years. And if he can chant the ideal prescribed quota of chanting i.e. 64 rounds daily, he will take around 15 years to complete the great sacrifice of chanting the maha-mantra 35,000,000 times. If one chants 64 rounds of the maha-mantra for 15 years while strictly following the principles of bhakti-yoga in the association of pure devotees, then one is sure to see the Supreme Personality of Godhead face to face in this very life and ultimately achieve the highest abode of the Lord called Goloka Vrindavana. – See more at: http://harekrishnajapa.com/why-not-just-chant-krishna/#sthash.fC1l1Rgl.dpuf

 

This is the first time I have seen something this specific, so I hope it’s authentic. If it actually is authentic, it means it has to come true. Krishna has no choice.

As a person who works within IT, my mind is pretty logically made up. There’s nothing like specifics to make me motivated. I like dealing with numbers to know what I have to work with, which makes this path frustrating because there is nothing logical about feelings. You can’t exactly blurt out “I’m feeling 3% devotional today!”. Really, if there was a flat screen on the wall stating how far away I was from the goal and what I had to do to get there – I would be motivated like nothing else! That flat screen could have listed a todo list with what I had to do each day to achieve siddha-deha – I would be on it. Even better – I would have loved to have a ticker where it stated how much time until I received my siddha-deha. If I one day wasn’t up to standard, and that ticker went up I would be even more motivated to get that number down!

I can work with 15, 28 and even 55 years. No problem, I’m dedicated to this path, however unsteady it is.

Sure, I don’t know when I will die but there is a chance I have 55 years.  I sure need to mature a lot devotionally, but I have a lot of time. Say I retire when I’m 62. Before getting that old, I will have matured my japa to most likely 32 rounds (which gives me 28 years). When I retire I see myself moving to a place with a temple and devotees nearby (hopefully maha-bhagavats), and I will be mature enough then to chant 64 rounds a day. That gives me 15 years or may be even less if I have been able to increase my rounds.

Then I just need to convince Krishna that flat-screens with progress details is a GREAT idea!

Otherness

GurudevaWhen you receive Harinama (the maha mantra), you also receive a spiritual name. The spiritual name usually have several meanings which you dwell upon as the years go by. I received Harinama the first time I met Gurudeva, and he gave me the name Haridasi (devi dasi). Hari is one of the names of God. The speciality of Hari is that he steals, like butter from the Gopis. Dasi means servant, or in this case servant of the servant. My name really touched me because it was a way of Gurudeva to tell me that he knew my heart.

I once heard of a devotee in Vrindavin that the first time she saw Gurudeva, it was like she had met her best friend. So how come I felt fear of Gurudeva after I had met him, received Harinama and he knew my heart? It didn’t make any sense that I would fear him, but there it was. I was a bit scared of him.

I contemplated this for months and one day on a long walk, the answer struck me. I was afraid of Gurudeva, because I knew he could take away my material attachments, and I didn’t want him to.

The Personality of Godhead said: If I especially favor someone, I gradually deprive him of his wealth. Then the relatives and friends of such a poverty-stricken man abandon him. In this way he suffers one distress after another.

Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.88.8

My fear of Greed is just the same. I’m afraid of what I have to give up and what will be taken from me. I’m afraid it means giving up my independence. My independence which lets me take care of myself, tend to my needs.

I’m afraid of becoming even more isolated. My thinking and way of being is already so different from everybody else, so much so that there’s a huge part of me I never share with those close to me. They wouldn’t relate, they wouldn’t even know what it is because it’s not part of their personality or knowledge. I’m afraid that distance would get even bigger, and I’m the only one that knows of it and understand why. Greed seems to be just one more thing that will take something from me.

I don’t want to be so different from everybody else. I want to be normal.

Driven by….. guilt

hare-krishna-returns-embed-2This path is all-consuming. At least, that’s what it evolves towards. So whatever I do as a conditioned being, it’s never enough. Never good enough. At least that’s what my mind thinks.

Then greed came up as a requisite to progress again. Greed just keeps on popping up to be able to work myself forward. Ever since I understood what is required of me, I’ve become a bit…. resistant. I mean, if we are talking developing greed, then things are getting serious. That’s scary. Greed is scary to me.

I truly believe in God. I truly believe this world and I belong to him and that I owe him everything. So a lot of my devotional activities are driven by guilt. I feel I don’t do enough, don’t try enough and I feel that almost always when I do something material, which is most of the time. I understand that it’s ridiculous, just imagine this conversation:

Me: Dear God, I’m doing all of this for you – out of guilt.
God: Thank you my dear, but I have to respectfully decline. This is not the service I want from you.

I feel guilty, but that is counter-productive if I’m to develop greed. Actually, I think it runs a bit averse to greed. When your greedy, you go after what you want with all your might, and you get what you want as long as you endure enough failures and learn on the way.

Guilt on the other hand contains a bit of resistance, “I want to do it, but deep down not really. I only do it because I have to, but I will smile and say I like it because goddamnit, that’s what I have to do”.

This is no good.

The Seed of Greed is called Determination

serviceIn visaya-sangara we lack strong determination and the senses still pulls excessively, but there is a conscious unfoldment where one keeps on picking oneself up after slumps.

The next stage of unsteady devotional service is niyamaksama, where the devotee vows to increase his devtional activities. He resolves to chant sixty-four rounds daily; offer one hundred prostrated obeisances to the Deities and the Vaishnavas; serve the senior devotees; avoid talking about mundane topics; shun the company of materialistic minded people, and so on. Daily he makes these vows, but at the last moment he is unable to honor them. The difference between visaya-sangara and niyamaksama is that in the former the devotee is helpless to give up his material sense pleasures, and in the latter he is unable to increase and improve his devotional activities.

Bhakti triology 18-19

There is a component that’s required to be able to make vows to increase ones devotional activities to the point required in niyamaksama. That’s greed. It’s practically impossible to make such vows without determination. That determination will blossom into greed.

What greed is, is perfectly described in Hidden Path of Devotion:

If I desire a rasagulla, but I think “I have no money in my pocket to purchase it, so I cannot have it,” that means I have no real greed for it. A person with greed considers, “Somehow or other, by hook or by crook…”
… Such a person does not think about his qualification or disqualification. He does not consider wether or not he is able to have this bhakti. He simply thinks, “I must have it!” This is real greed.

During the last years before Gurudevas disappearance, he published books that contained such really high harikatha like venu-gita. I began reading this book, but at some point I gave up and realized I was not qualified to read it. I didn’t understand the sentiments it contained and I tried to understand why a glance from Srimati Radhika would have such effect on Krishna, I just gave up. I had no greed.

On the other hand, I don’t care wether or not I’m qualified for bhakti, or this spiritual process. I will keep at it anyway. If my Gurudeva came to me and told me to stop doing all this spiritual nonsense, I would still do it. This material life which knows every trick to stall me, still hasn’t been able to put me off this path. If I  considered my qualification, I wouldn’t even be writing this blog.

So how to achieve greed?

Greed does not rely on reasoning. If reasoning is required, there is no greed.
The next consideration is this: Once on develops greed, how does one achieve his desired result? It comes by the association of rasika raganuga Vaisnavas. In that association one reads books like Ujjvala-nilamani, Bhakti-rasamrta-sindu, Vraja-riti-cintamani, Krishna-karnamrta, Radha-rasa-sudha-nidhi, Srila Jayadeva Gosvami’s Gita-govinda, the books of Sri Kai-karnapura and all our Gosvamis, and especially Raga-vartma-candrika. One will read all of these books and resolve: “How can I somehow easily achieve that mood; by hook or by crook?”

The Hidden Path of Devotion

I have been reading biographies of Saints, because I wanted to understand how they managed to get where they got (and because their lives is interesting). Well, I guess the list of books are revealed to me now.

Furthermore, there is a whole different level between reading venu-gita and reading venu-gita with a purpose.

Recognize spiritual progress from past lifes

reincarnation

On taking such a birth, he revives the divine consciousness of his previous life, and he again tries to make further progress in order to achieve complete success, O son of Kuru.

Bhagavad-gita 6.43

Since birth I have believed in God. I have never questioned Gods existence and I have never doubted. Sure, I have thought of the reasons why I believe in God, but it stops at that. It’s been ingrained in me since I was born, and I don’t think it’s because of my parents influence.

It’s almost strange how solid my belief is. It’s not like I agree on every part of the philosophy or how things are intepreted/behaviour at times, take the view on women for example. But despite some controversial issues, my faith never wavers.

I think this rock solid belief is from my past life.

When I was 17, I went to a lecture about reincarnation and I was immediately attracted. I immediately knew I had found my religion. At that time I had no idea what it was about, but still, this was it. I had a few years where I took a break from the organization that introduced Krishna consciousness to me (when they started talking about me marrying another devotee I ran in the opposite direction as fast as I could). During the break that lasted years, I still believed in Krishna. I had changed from believing in God, to believe in Krishna.

This is the second item I believe I have inherited from a past life. The immediate attraction and that I recognized that “this was it”.

And when the yogī engages himself with sincere endeavor in making further progress, being washed of all contaminations, then ultimately, achieving perfection after many, many births of practice, he attains the supreme goal.

Bhagavad-gita 6.45

In this life I have met and received diksa from an uttama-bhagavata. No matter how many lifetimes I have left, my success is guaranteed and most likely I only have a few lifetimes left because I somehow managed to meet an uttama-bhagavata.

That is huge progress just in this lifetime alone.

Inner fulfillment of grace

10447878_10152414454726433_1187730088982746386_n

I feel wonderful. I’ve never been this happy and content in my life, I feel so wonderful it’s fantastic. There’s nothing bothering me, nothing. Everything is a-okey!

So from a spiritual viewpoint, how do you classify feeling great?
I’m really great, very great, very very great?

My path now is on working on even more subtle level than before. When things aren’t okey in the external environment, then whatever internal work is being performed becomes visible in the externals. But now everything is great both internally and externally, so whatever progress I have will most likely be more internally. If it is visible externally, only the most observant will notice it, those who really know me well.

I’m seeing the contours of two persons in me. The external me is doing whatever she needs to do, experiencing what happens etc. Then there’s the internal me who is observing things that happen as if the external me is an actor in a theatre. The internal me at the core is content, happy and relaxed whatever happens to the external me. The external me gets worked up and sometimes loose sight of the internal me and feel unhappy. So then I have to sit down and meditate until the internal me shows herself again.

Externally this is visible in the shape of that there is a slight reduction of the need for sense gratification. There is a lessening, my need for different and specific sense gratification is less prominent. That in itself feels like relief. It’s like small pebbles is being taken away from me, and for each pebble the load gets easier to carry and I feel relief for the easier load, for the slightest load however insignificant.

At the same time I’m amazed. How is it possible that there is so much happening to me internally and it seems to be going fast? Even timewise I think it’s fast. I know I’m only scratching the surface of spiritual progress, but I notice every change and it’s so rich in flavor. I’m even surprised that somehow the words to describing this becomes available to me.

I’m only scratching the surface. How wonderful is that?

Trust the process

10175999_10152640855119667_8227195595408581059_nI wanted progress and I got it. I proved that it is possible to progress spiritually on your own – at least for a little while.

If I look back on my last few years, how have I progressed?
Well, I’m in a mentally very healthy state now, with an emphasis on the word healthy. I’m exactly where I should be, really. I’ve learned that if I want to progress spiritually, I have to clear away old baggage in form of relationships that aren’t healthy, childhood wounds that needs to be healed, creating a healthy space for myself. I have learned tolerance and grit by breaking, except I’m not broken when I break. When I break, I’m at the end of learning a lesson.

All of these have been great lessons I’m happy I have overcome, but the thing is; these are in themselves not spiritual lessons. They are lessons on overcoming unfavorable material karma. The spiritual lesson is that clearing this baggage makes me more available to progress spiritually because there is less junk on my path. Clearing this junk makes it easier and faster to progress spiritually.

So where do I go from here?

I used to have so many questions about this philosophy, but I’m all out of questions. I used to devour books, and now I haven’t opened one in a long time. Progressing spiritually is a bit like being blind and deaf. I have no idea what spiritual insights I need to develop, because I have never done it before. I’m blind to what I have never experienced. I’m walking a path I have never walked before and I don’t even know the path. I know the path behind me, but not the path in front of me.

My focus has shifted from reading to (not) practicing. I need to practice. I need a siksa guru to put that discipline in me – or at least get me moving. I get why one needs to have close interations with a Guru to progress spiritually. I’m bad at kicking my own hide, I’m a terrible boss of me.

I just have to trust that Krishna will make me walk the path of bhakti and will reveal everything to me in the right time. I have to trust that He will reveal the process and put the right people in front of me. I have to trust the process.

Rule 2 of Japa: There are no rules

JapaAlone With The HOLY NAME by Sacinandana Swami. September, 2014

So my child, you want to know
what it is like when you are alone
all day long with the Holy Name?
It is like the rising of a second sun
on the horizon of the heart
on a stormy day.
After some time all the clouds are gone.

Chanting just is. My idea of setting an intention before chanting was a good idea, but in setting up an intention I inadvertently was setting up an expectation of a reward for “good behaviour”, as in expecting a reward for chanting. In reality there is no hard and fast rules for chanting. Why? Because bhakti self-manifest. Bhakti generates bhakti.

nāmnāmakāribahudhānijasarva-śaktis
tatrārpitā niyamitaḥsmaraṇenakālaḥ
etādṛśītavakṛpābhagavan mamāpi
durdaivamīdṛśam ihājani nānurāgaḥ

“‘My Lord, O Supreme Personality of Godhead, in Your holy name there is all good fortune for the living entity, and therefore You have many names, such as “Kṛṣṇa” and “Govinda,” by which You expand Yourself. You have invested all Your potencies in those names, and there are no hard and fast rules for remembering them. My dear Lord, although You bestow such mercy upon the fallen, conditioned souls by liberally teaching Your holy names, I am so unfortunate that I commit offenses while chanting the holy name, and therefore I do not achieve attachment for chanting.’

CC Antya 20.16

I have been thinking that chanting is hard. It is hard, but even that is a notion I have to let go of. I found Syamananda Prabhus comment to be a good depiction of how chanting is. Chanting is a conversation with the soul and an uncomfortable one at that.

Do you know what rule 1 of Japa is?
Just chant. Do it.

I have decided to let the struggle of Japa behind me for the time being and instead just chant.

 

 

20 years of krishna consciousness

Krishna bull

In Vrindavan 2002, before I met my Gurudeva. This bull used to pull large parikrama parties, and he had the most gentle eyes. His appearance was so huge and frightning, but his eyes was something completely different, so kind.

It’s 20 years since I first went to a lecture about reincarnation by Caitanya Mission (official name is Science of Identity ). It’s soon twenty years since I got a hold of Srimad Bhagavad-gita and couldn’t put it down. It’s twenty years since I immediately knew I had finally found my religion.

I had been searching for many years before I found Krishna Consciousness as a 17 year old. My best friend had also been searching and had been trying on Buddhism and krishna consciousness before she stopped searching when she found Catholisism. Now she is more in the camp of “She is open, but doesn’t know if God exist”. I didn’t try on anything until I found Krishna Consciousness, but I have always believed in God.

Last summer I met a devotee friend of mine who was in Stavanger for just one evening. I was starving for any association, so I was asking him about how to endure when you have no association.

He told me of something that stuck with me. He told me of devotees who had been chanting for twenty years got to a place where they “found peace” (in lack for a better word and not remembering his phrasing). They got to a place where they kind of “knew” that everything would be okey. I would love to know exactly what is meant by that statement.

I haven’t chanted for twenty years, but I think I know what is meant by it. Because I think I’m experiencing something close to it. Sometimes you have experiences that removes all doubt you have. There really is no room for doubt, you just know from the core of your being. I know that I’m being taken care of spiritually. I have nothing to worry about – in this life or the next. Despite all my sins, mistakes and lackings – I’m still being taken care of.

I know that I just have to keep on going like I’m going. Slowly building my life into a temple for my Gurudeva and my beautiful deities. One of the signs of advanced devotees is that they are able to chant 24/7 mentally. I hope I’m being prepared for that more and more. It’s so comforting waking up in the morning, getting in the shower and suddenly realize that my mind is chanting the maha-mantra or singing Guruvastakam. It’s like there is two separate processes in my mind, one that chants and the other that takes care of my material business. For the most part the material process is the one active and suddenly I notice that the spiritual process is in the background, doing its duty and I’m mostly unconscious about it.

My real spiritual life started the first time I met my Gurudeva. Or – actually, it begun the first time I met a couple of his Sannyasis. I had been going to an ISCKON temple in Melbourne, Australia for a year before I moved back to Norway. I was thirsting for deeper knowledge, but I didn’t get it. When I came back to Norway I contacted the Caitanya Mission people again, but they never moved past the “You are not this body” message. They had really made an art form of stating the same thing in a thousand different ways. I was really thirsting for a Guru, one evening I sat down and prayed sincerely: “If the Guru of Caitanya mission is the right one, then I want to be his disciple. But only if he is a pure devotee. Dear Krishna, please lead me to a pure devotee. I really want and need a pure devotee”.

A couple of months later some other devotees invited me to a feast with two sannyasis. The first time I sat during their lecture I understood nothing. They were using so many words I had never heard before and I just sat there not understanding a thing. I was so blissful and happy. Finally, I had found somebody who seemed to penetrate the deep philosophy I knew was there but I had been unable to find and penetrate. Finally I had found somebody who could take me even deeper and further. I went to every lecture I could, sitting there for hours listening to something I didn’t understand a word of.

I purchased some books of (my now) Gurudeva, and a new world opened up to me. I met Gurudeva some months later in 2003 for the first time in Germany. He was very early to the venue and there was only a few devotees there. So he was sitting on his dais and I was sitting only a few metres away. For some reason tears was flowing from my eyes. So many tears and I didn’t understand a thing. I wasn’t feeling anything special, I had no idea where these tears were coming from, but they were pouring out of me. Gurudeva noticed this at some point and he started to really scrutinize me. I was embarrassed about this so I was really trying to hide my tears. He understood my embarrassment and looked very pointedly not at me afterwards.

That was the beginning of my spiritual life. My real spiritual life begun in 2003 when I received Harinama. In 2005 I received diksa.

May I never live without Krishna Consciousness again.

 

 

 

Knowledge without feeling is dry

10275980_10152667806424667_6787899080275202182_n“Although many of us may think of ourselves as thinking creatures that feel, biologically we are feeling creatures that think”
Jill Bolte Taylor, My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey

I never understood the meaning of “dry” knowledge. Knowledge have never been dry to me, on the contrary it has been like a well of inspiration. I thrive on knowledge, it’s what keep things interesting.

“Having developed faith in topics about me and being disgusted with all karmas, a devotee knows that all enjoyments are filled with misery. But he is unable to give them up. Still, with affection for me, with faith and determination, he will continue worshipping me, while at the same time partaking of those enjoyments which give rise to suffering and yet condemning them.” (Srimad Bhagavatam 11.20.27-28)
When, oh when will that day be mine? When my offenses ceasing, taste for the name increasing, when in my heart will your mercy shine, when, oh when will that day be mine? (Kabe habe bolo, Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura)

For the first time I felt something when I read these two verses, especially the first verse of “Kabe habe bolo”. If I read the next verse; nothing, no feeling. No understanding.

But especially the first verse of “Kabe habe bolo” is crying out to me. The feelings are so clear, and suddenly available to me. Suddenly I understand why the feeling “dry” is used, knowledge without feeling is dry. There is a level of realization missing that gives a deeper understanding and meaning to it. Knowledge without the heart is dry.