Constantly chanting

13177750_10208391170194310_732364206427738780_nI was introduced to Krishna consciousness when I was 17, and got into it immediately. I quickly understood one was supposed to chant all the time – literally. I was new – I was pumped with enthusiasm and I was blissfully unaware and ignorant of what spiritual life really was.

I tried to chant, but was not good at it. I tried to remember to always chant, but I was completely unable to do so. I didn’t understand that I had no qualification to chant much and I couldn’t understand why it didn’t happen. So in the end, I got upset with Krishna and told him in no uncertain terms that I should be chanting the maha mantra mentally, continuosly, without stop.

……….. and I was heard.

It’s such a long time ago, but I think in the beginning I was pleased. My mind was chanting the maha-mantra on it’s own. My mind was taken over by this process which kept on chanting. It took over all my capacity. Sure, I was able to do things, but the mantra was shouting in my head, not letting me go. The hours past, a day went by. I don’t know how long I lasted.

In the end I was exhausted. I wanted my mind back. The mantra was so loud in my mind, it didn’t let me think of other stuff, it left no room for other things than the mantra. I ended up praying to Krishna to please take the mantra away. I couldn’t take it anymore.

…. and the mantra let go of me. I sighed in relief. It was finally quiet in my mind again. Now I could fill the mind with whatever I wanted.

Years went past. I had similar experiences without me needing to ask for it. The mantra came into my mind and lodged itself there.

At some point I recognized that something new had happened – that the mantra had spawned off as it’s own process in my mind. I could be doing something, thinking on whatever – and suddenly realize that I was chanting. The chanting process was working on me even if I had completely forgotten it and been focusing on something else for a long time. Then a moment of recognition came when I realize that the mantra was still doing it’s work.

But I still had the same experience, the mantra at some point exhausted me and I had to ask it to please leave. At some point even though the mantra may have been soft, it felt like it was shouting in my mind and I just wanted some peace of mind.

More years went by, and I haven’t really paid much attention to this mantra process and it has been taking a back burner. Though, it have been as recently as this year that I still had to ask the mantra to leave me.

But I have also not been satisfied with my japa efforts. I have tried to get back in the saddle and do well for a small amount of time. Then I accepted that I’m not in a place where sitting down to do japa is what I need to do now.

So what was left?

I haven’t consistently chanted 16 rounds of japa for years and years. But then the thought struck me – if I just keep on chanting in my mind all day long – what is the need for sitting down to do japa?

I remembered all my failures at mentally chanting. Then I thought that it didn’t matter anymore.

So I began to chant mentally. This time I had to work on the mantra. It didn’t come to me and lodged itself in my mind. But the mantra was soft, a nice whisper in my mind and as I was going about my day, the mantra was with me. Sometimes I got so immersed into what I was doing that I forgot the mantra. Then I just began the process again.

Sometimes I was immersed in my activities, only to realize that the mantra process was still there without me even “hearing” it.

Then the moment came, where the mantra was so loud in my mind. It was shouting and it made me tired. But this time I had a plan on how to deal with it: I asked Gurudeva and Krishna to please soften the mantra in my mind. I didn’t want to loose it, just that it took a little less space.

…….. and I was heard.

This has been going on for a week now I think. I don’t count the days, because this is of no effort to me. Only once have I needed to ask the mantra to please soften.

It doesn’t feel intruding anymore – instead its soft, quiet, calm. It gives me space. It keeps with me, it leaves me. I just chant and get it back on track when I notice it. Hours turns into days.

And somehow my qualification to chant continously took twenty years. Anything worth doing requires a lot of time and troubleshooting to get qualified. It requires that we recognize our limitations and work within them. And when we see our limitations and start to think of how we can move around them – that’s when the breakthrough comes.

Falling in love

7024081929695_0When I first saw that lamp, I was sold. I fell in love with the lamp and knew that was the lamp I will have above my dining table. I don’t purchase things unless I fall in love with them and I revel in it. It’s important to me to surround myself with beauty and I treasure it every time I lay my eyes on it. I don’t care about the price, I’m in love.

So I set my goal on the prize, get determined, figure out the way to get it and wait… I perform the necessary steps until I get what I want.

I know all about settings goals, figure out the necessary steps and having the determination to achieve it. I have whatever grit and tolerance to do whatever that’s needed. When I first set my eyes on something and make that decision – then I don’t let anything get in my way. There may be many obstacles, but somehow I manage to deal with them.

I have decided that Krishna is a prize. I have figured out that he is a worthy goal to pursue. He is a thing of beauty, and I will purchase him. I don’t care about the price, but I know what the price is. I have to purchase Him with the maha-mantra. I have to bind Him to the mantra. The maha-mantra is mine, and I will bind Him to it. I don’t care what he wants, this is what I want.

I don’t know why I fall on love, why exactly that one thing makes me decide that this is a goal to strive for. I don’t know why I perceive something as a thing of beauty, just that I do. What I do know is that I will have to figure out a way to maintain this determination. I will forget my determination, and I will have to summon it back again and again. I don’t think I understand how high the price actually are – and that is a good thing. I will give in many times – but I will never give up.

 

The Goal of Japa

11022515_10152610131701433_1736104955035057550_oI recently watched the documentary The Dhamma Brothers. It’s about a high security prison in the US where they had a 10 day meditation program called Vipassana. The point is to meditate for 10 days in silence. No books, phones etc. to disturb the meditation. It sounds great and scary at the same time. I think such a program would be really hard and really rewarding at the same time. During the film one of the brothers told that once when the bell sounded for a break, he just wanted to continue meditating. He didn’t want a break.

We hear that Japa is Krishna. That means that Japa itself is the goal. So by chanting japa, we are associating with that goal, however badly we chant. So what should the goal of Japa be? We are already associating with the goal when we chant. We have not realized our goal yet, but achieving our siddha deha seems like a fairy tale and is simply a too lofty goal to pursue.

64 rounds of japa is encouraged everywhere. It’s in recent times with Srila Prabhupada that 16 rounds have become the minimum requirement. 64 rounds equals to 8 hours of meditation. 16 rounds equals getting chanting done so you can get around to doing everything else. With 64 rounds your primary duty is to chant, while everything else has to be done besides that.

I’m beginning to recognize that 64 rounds is necessary to get a transformation, a change in us. 16 rounds doesn’t even make a dent in me.

I first encountered this idea here:

Good Chanting Produces More Good Chanting
How do I know I have chanted good rounds? One of the best indicators for me is that when I finish my rounds I want to keep chanting because I am getting such a nice taste. If I am relieved to put my bead bag down after my last round, that’s an indicator that my chanting is not being done properly. Good chanting always produces a taste to chant more. Prabhupada said sixteen rounds is the minimum; that constant chanting is the goal.

 

Despite my different efforts at techniques, I think my real aim should just be to chant so much that in the end I don’t want to put the japa beads down. Just chant, chant, chant. Just the thought of that is uncomfortable and I see how quickly I reach for something else. How do I develop the adhikara to just chant?

Still, I think in the low position that I am that quantity is more important than quality. That quantity begets quality. They aren’t really in opposition either, quantity and quality goes hand in hand. If you are restless and doing all other things while doing japa, you will not get the inspiration to do more japa, but less. To be able to do more, there has to be some quality to it.

So the goal of each japa session should be to come to the place where you don’t want to stop chanting.

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.

 

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!

The best books on Japa

A friend of mine, Kantimati, invited Caru Chandrika Dasi to Norway for about a week and I attended for a couple of days. It was nice to talk to somebody who understands my values and perspectives. The good thing is that it’s so easy to make a lot of jokes when you have the same understanding. I laughed and goofed around a lot.

During my stay, Caru didi kind of made me and Kantimati to make a vow to do a certain amount of Japa each day. Let’s just say things were a bit crazy when I got home, but I have at least been able to catch up on all my rounds after a while.

During my search for good books on Japa, I found one gem that is truly a cintamani. The book Japa by Bhurijana Dasa. This is a book I’m already on reading for the second time and I will read it again and again. I cannot praise this book enough.

This is not a book with a lot of high-minded quotes that are supposed to be inspirational (though there is many of those there as well). This book is about how to practice chanting, using the Siksastaka for guidance. I can’t imagine me ever putting this book aside, instead it’s always on my bed table or on the table next to my computer. It’s always near.

I can also recommend Japa Walks, Japa Talks. Not because it’s such a great book, but because sometimes it comes upon questions and subjects I have never even thought about. Getting introduced to new ideas is always refreshing.

These are the best books I have found so far on my quest for Japa inspiration.

Aparadha and Anarthas

“Sin is related to body and mind, but an offence is very much related to the soul.” http://bhaktabandhav.com/?p=27819

As I’m trying to enter the maha-mantra more, I’m struck by the importance of offences versus sin. By just uttering the maha-mantra once I consider all my sin to be gone. I don’t care about sin, sins performed in previous lifes or this life. I don’t even care much about the sin I’m performing now, because I know it’s of little consequence as long as I’m sincere in my efforts to improve spiritually.

It might sound like I’m taking the process and vanquishing of sin easily, but it’s not. I have just realized how fleeting and temporary sin is. I have also realized how potent the maha-mantra is in regards to sin. I have been reading the story of Ajamila, and it have been real instructive on just how potent the maha-mantra is.

I’m more interested in the part where the maha-mantra removes material desires, as this is more my problem. Though even that I find is of little consequence. The only method to vanquish material desires is devotional service. So really, all I’m left with is to continue working on my devotional practices and everything will fructify in time. Which I really find spiritual life about, vanquishing obstacles and letting spiritual realizations mature over time.

I can speed up the process though. I know reading about the different stories that are instructive on removing different obstacles is a huge help (just like the story of Ajamila have been in understanding the maha-mantra). When I encounter a problem, I can look up in Srimad-Bhagavatam on the instructions to remove it. The recent action of mine that really sped up my process was when I decided to stop reading material books, and just read devotional books. A flood gate opened up then and I receive more input that I’m able to process – and I love it, of course 🙂 It’s so inspirational.

Offences though are the grave ones. Offences is about the attitude in which you chant and live. Offences is the block in developing humility and service attitude. Offences blocks the development of love, for the mercy to get through to us.

But again I find me asking the same question: Are they really that important? Aren’t offences fleeting, just as sin? If one just keeps on chanting, working, and being sincere: Will not all offences dissolve over time?

Let’s say I commit an offence. Hopefully over time I will realize that I have committed an offence and then I will repent and ask for forgiveness. I know many people have trouble with asking forgiveness because of pride, but I have asked forgiveness many times more than I have received it. If pride is my issue, then I can read Srimad-Bhagavatam and the corresponding stories on how to vanquish pride.

Or let’s take an offense I commit now:

10. To not have complete faith in the chanting of the holy names, and to maintain material attachments, even after hearing many instructions on the matter It is also an offense to be inattentive while chanting.

The solution: To keep chanting.

I just find material life and all it’s components to be really fleeting. Thereby, even sin and offences just seem very fleeting to me.

Maha-mantra ponderings

japa-malaThe greatest treasure in my spiritual life is when I start pondering a question and I usually get an answer even if it takes months (or years). My ponderings on the maha-mantra is one of those where I haven’t found the solution, but I’m still working on it. One of the qualities I have is a tendency to push until I understand the subject in question. Though I must say that understanding what it takes for me to put an effort into japa is the most interesting adventure so far.

Chanting japa steadily requires taste, it requires dedication, a loyalty to practice. But what continues to baffle me is why I find it difficult to do when I like chanting. I find chanting soothing, attractive, it balances me in a way nothing else does. Chanting in a noisy environment with disruptions seems easier than chanting when I’m alone.

I’m wondering if my lack of enthusiasm is the main problem? That I’m in the stage of ghana-tarala? But how do we progress from there. Again I’m meeting the wall where we are urged to keep in good association to progress. It’s almost like I’m breaking ground where I figure out how to progress in spiritual life without association.

I’m urged in all my readings (and by my faithful commentator Syamananda Prabhu) to chant attentively. In other words, I have to work on my practice. Which I do, I will and I will continue to work on it.

Then I though of this funny comment:

 But we’re also not totally uninterested in the maha-mantra. Like, when my brother starts to speak about cars, his passion, I just want to die. I’m not THAT uninterested in the maha-mantra.

This is a sign of progress. How have my dedication to chanting improved? The truth is that I haven’t chanted this much and at such steady instability in years.

For every attentive utterance its intrinsic motivation will be rubbed off on me. If I feel discouraged by the time it takes, I can zoom in and look how it converts one atom after another, one storage unit in my citta after another, each attentively uttered name.

I can also say I haven’t been this emerged into krishna consciousness before. Sure I had more enthusiasm before, but what I experience now is deeper and contains more understanding. I understand better now. Where I before just “wanted to achieve the goal”, I know understand that to achieve the goal I have to transform myself. Transformation takes a long time, and it’s a nice process to go through.

And that is the key – I have transformed. There is a difference in me if I zoom in and look at me now vs how I was a couple of years ago. But oh, what a small progress there is. But whatever progress I’ve had is very precious to me.

“nāmāparādha-yuktānāma namani eva haranty-gham – for those chanting with offences, the holy name Himself will gradually remove all obstacles” (Padma Purāṇa)

But what is the cause of this progress? I don’t know. I can’t really say it comes from me. It must have come from my Gurudeva and the maha-mantra somehow rubbing off on me. I have no other explanation.

Though waiting for the maha-mantra to rub off on me even more, so I somehow will chant steadily? Well, I prefer to keep pushing until I found the golden key.