At the time of initiation, even if the vows are taken sincerely, how deep is our sincerity? Even in the best scenario, when the disciple very sincerely from the heart says, “I am going to give my life to you”, how deep is that sincerity anyway? By the definition of Kunti Devi:
naivarhaty abhidhatum vai
(Srimad Bhagavatam 1.8.26)
Kunti Devi points out that unless one is materially exhausted, unless one has no more attachment to one’s position on earth and unless one is sarvopādhi-vinirmuktaḿ (Caitanya Caritamrta Madhya Lila 19.170) – free from all sense of designation, of deriving some prestige from birth, from learning, from wealth, from beauty and all these things; unless one is free from these things, how can one even have sincerity?
So here we are and many changes have to be made. The spiritual master has to invest more and more, plant more and more seeds in the heart of the disciple; make that disciple increase his commitment to Krsna otherwise, we just go on auto-pilot. The tendency to go on auto-pilot is very natural because everything becomes routine. In the beginning, it is brand new. It is so exciting and then, “You know, just finished chanting rounds from yesterday, actually. Oh God, it has started already again! Whew. Will it ever end… and what is the result of this chanting?” The result is more chanting and it will never end! It goes on eternally. If you think about it, is that what we really want? Do we really want to chant eternally? Whew! Sixteen rounds… Ping! Finished! Very convenient. But, we have to go in depth, to get out of this shallow state of consciousness where emotions are just happening on the mental plane.
Srila Bhaktsiddhanta Saraswati Thakur explains how we are hovering on the mental plane because when the spirit soul becomes embodied, that spirit soul goes into a dormant state and the natural functions of thinking, feeling and willing – which are actually the functions of the soul – get stolen by the mind. The mind takes over these functions of thinking, feeling and willing and all our experiences are on the mental platform. The mind likes one thing and the mind does not like the other. Sankalpa vikalpa – accepting and rejecting. The mind is always hovering on the mental plane; that is actually the case.
The soul, where real thinking, feeling and willing is meant to take place and where such feelings are deep and meaningful, is in a dormant state and then, śravaṇādi-śuddha-citte karaye udaya (Caitanya Caritamrta Madhya Lila 22.107), by hearing, chanting and devotional service to the holy name, the soul gradually awakens. That is the business of the spiritual master; to somehow or other awaken some eagerness in the disciple to take it a step further.
We can never be routinely engaged in devotional service. Pure devotional service is a very high level. It is not so easily attained. It takes a great effort. It is like we are wanting the highest and wanting it for free, if possible. So, the number of rounds is not the issue. The number is not the focus. It is not about the number. It is about the absorption. It is about the energy that we put into our activities. It is where we make Krsna a priority. This is there where we experience a breakthrough.