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.

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.



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?

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.”

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.

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.