Meditation versus Japa

Radhanath Swami speaks in “A Journey Home” about meditating next to the Ganges and in the Himalayas. I can only fathom that he meditated for hours on end, and I wonder how he did it. Did he enter samadhi? What did he experience during his meditations? This was before he was introduced to Srila Prabhupada and Krishna consciousness where meditations equals japa. But there isn’t really any speak about the experiences that japa gives or should give. What levels there are in Japa? Should we loose track of time, and what happens during it? On what level does time disappear?

In “Autobiography of a Yogi”, Yogananda Swami is into Kriya yoga and speaks about meditating. He tells about his experiences a little bit, but again I don’t understand what he experiences when meditating for hours. He talks a lot about having special powers like levitation etc. When Gaudiya Vaishnavas speak about powers is just in a bi-sentence with the warning that this is just material powers and does nothing towards attaining our goal.

But isn’t these experiences that people have doing kriya yoga also a part of japa, or are we talking a different process where we don’t have the same experiences? Shouldn’t doing japa award us these same powers that other yoga practitioners experience?

I’ve been craving silence lately. Not outward silence, but inwardly. The mind is like this chatty friend that hasn’t understood to let things go. It keeps on talking about the same subjects for millions of times, and after listening to it for hours you get tired. It’s no use in getting irritated or angry at this friend, because it’s all he knows. It’s old patterns and he hasn’t learned the new ones yet, but after hours on end, I just want silence. I need a break from this chattyness because I get exhausted.

So I meditate a bit in silence and begin to wonder why silence and solitude isn’t mentioned anywhere in our process. Japa seems to be a bit on the opposite side considering I chant orally 98% of the time. There isn’t much information about what should happen during japa even. The only message we get is that it’s important to chant attentively and avoid committing offences, but that’s not really instructive.

How does meditation in silence for hours and japa coincide?

I’ve read pages on pages on the struggles of Japa, but not on what happens when you don’t struggle. Where’s the book “The Science of Japa”? I would like to skip the whole chapters on struggles and offences, and get right to the good stuff.

Lack of love

Gurudeva_onLove.jpgThe material disease is really a lack of love towards Krishna. We begin with a love for ourselves which extends to children, then spouses and family. Then comes friends and slowly it extends towards the society we are part of and the world as our consciousness  grows and veil of ignorance decreases.

But our inability to focus on our sadhana is really just a lack of love. When you truly love somebody, you go to all your length to please the other person. It doesn’t matter how tired you are and what you got going on – you go ahead and do what you have to do anyway.

This is something my son has taught me. When you have a kid, you truly will give up your life for your kid if that ever comes up. But – that is not really the way to measure love. Love isn’t even a feeling, it’s actions. Love is what you do, day in and day out. Love is to keep on taking care of your kid no matter how tired or sick you are, feed your kid, bathe etc. You put yourself on the side, because it’s so much more important to take care of your kid. That’s love.

But at the same time, if you don’t take care of yourself properly, you will not be able to properly take care of your kid either. If you go hungry, you get irritable and angry and that doesn’t serve the kid.

The more I do my sadhana, the more I see how little love there is in my heart. Love is all about giving without any expectations to receive something in return. Being allowed to give something is in itself the reward. The more I give, the more I see how little love there is in my heart.

More importantly, the more I receive, the more I see how little love there is in me. How little I have to give. It makes it easier to accept faults in others, for when you truly care about somebody else it’s easy to accept people for who they are. Seeing how little love there is in my heart, I hope that other people will accept me for who I am.

All of this is revealed, the more I chant. Whenever I contemplate how little love there is in me, I go ahead and do what needs to be done. For some strange reason, thinking this makes me want to do more.

The lack of love is the real disease and I want to mend my unloving ways.

Habit transformations

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I’ve been going through one of my down periods. What makes this down period a bit different is that I knew it when it started and I now understand how to begin breaking it. Down periods is just natural and part of being in the unsteady devotional process. There’s no use in fighting it, it’s better to accept it and use one’s abilities to figure out how to turn the tide.

I was having a strong period with chanting and the likes when I went to on a small hiking trip with a friend. It was a small mountain close to where I live, and it was just a four hour hike. It was a great hike, I loved it. Of course, my legs were unaccustomed to the beating, so they hurt a lot. For some unknown reason that was the beginning of my down period. One should think that a beautiful trip in nature would inspire Krishna consciousness, not hinder it.

So what hinders Krishna Consciousness?

If you engage in sense gratification, it’s like choking whatever little enthusiasm and determination you have with the weed of sense enjoyment.

Radhanath Swami

I don’t understand how a nice hike turned into a down period, but it doesn’t matter. Krishna consciousness is about kindling habits that are positive for spiritual advancement.

Every habit has three components: cue (or a trigger for an automatic behavior to start), a routine (the behavior itself) and a reward (which is how our brain learns to remember this pattern for the future.)

The Golden Rule of Habit Change

The cue was the hike and that my legs were painful for days afterwards (I suspect the real reason was my tiredness and pain). The routine was me not performing my daily sadhana and the reward I guess was not doing my sadhana. Let’s face it, it’s easier to not do sadhana and just instead do something else – exist unconsciously. Watching tv.

So how can I change this habit?

I can’t do much with a trigger of tiredness and pain, since that is something I experience often. I have to change the routine. The thing is, not doing something isn’t much of a routine. Not doing devotional service is the standard for me and comes natural for me and 99% of all human beings. The routine and reward is really the same.

If I want to change my trigger, I have to find something pleasurable within devotional service. I have to figure out my reward. So for me this is a no-brainer. I love to read.

So if I’m tired and in pain, I need to open up a devotional book. The best thing is to have a book I want to read available, so it’s easy to pick it up when I’m thinking “I should do my sadhana now”. So what is my reward?

Whenever I read a book, I relax. I transform into another world of wonders. Reading is very pleasurable to me. And usually, reading inspires me to chant.

So I have to make reading into a routine. Not only for when I’m tired, but whenever I’m thinking “I should do my sadhana” and not feeling it. The “not feeling it” is really the trigger.  That little thought and feeling that you so easily dismiss and go do something else.

 

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Who’s working who?

1655832_634549923247201_120203651_nWhat is the best time to chant?

You know the answer to this one, right? Everybody says it’s morning. Well, not me. For me it’s best in the evening. It always has been. In the morning, chanting is all effort for me. So I manage to do some rounds, and well, then the day hit you. I also have a kid, so the mornings are usually a bit busy. Most people when doing Gayatri doesn’t respond if somebody comes to talk to them etc. Me – I have learned that if I want to finish Gayatri, I just have to respond to whatever my kid says, then just keep on doing it. Mornings are instead perfect reading time.

In the morning/day I might start to think that chanting is hard, and then it becomes harder. So I have to let the thought go because it doesn’t help me in my chanting. I think about how my life is busy and there is so much to do, then I realize that I’m making up a story about my life that doesn’t like chanting, so I have to let the story go. The story isn’t beneficial for my chanting, so I have to let it go. I find myself thinking during the day; “how in the world will I ever to finish my prescribed number of rounds?” So I ask for the help of the Name to be able to finish my rounds this day.

Then evening comes and Simon has fallen asleep. I’m tired and usually crash next to the tv for mindless entertainment. Then it’s getting late and I’m tired and sleepy. I have so many rounds left, but I need to sleep. I need the sleep.

But I can at least do a couple of rounds. So I start doing it, and then I get a bit alert. Alert enough so that I’m not able to fall asleep. So I think I should just continue chanting, I wouldn’t be able to sleep anyway. The chanting runs smoothly. At some point I understand that it runs so smoothly, that I can’t stop. I can’t go check that text message or do anything else but chant if I want to finish my prescribed number of rounds. If I stop I might not get it back, this smoothness. Instead I have to get out of it’s way and let the Name work on me.

Miraculously, I manage to finish my rounds. I would never be able to finish this number of rounds. The Name finished them for me. I just had to get out of it’s way to let it work through me.

In my mind I have envisioned this dirty mirror of my heart. I have really wanted there to be a crack in some of the dirt, so that there would be a little light that shines through so that I would find more pleasure in doing japa. But maybe, maybe that not how it works?

Instead, maybe there is a spot of dirt that has become soft enough now, that the Name can work to make me finish my rounds. Maybe, a spot of dirt has become soft enough for me to understand that I have to get out of it’s way when it decides to help me. I have to get out of it’s way.

It’s not me working Japa, it’s the Name working on me.