A TRAIN COMPANION
(One more time about praying life)
Adjata Shatru das (Gaurendu das who has already left his body)
“I am convinced that the biggest problem of ISKCON and the reason of all the difficulties we are facing now is that in pursuit of external developments (huge temples, millions of distributed book, etc.) we forget about our main responsibility – to learn to love Krsna.”
In 1995 I saw Satsvarupa das Goswami Maharaja’s book – “Entrance into a praying life” for the first time. I remember that this book stunned me deeply. I have being tried to follow it for abound a year. But I was completely alone in my attempts. There were also different contradictory opinions about this book. Little by little my practice languished. But Krsna is very merciful to this fallen soul. Not so long ago I met a devotee in the train. He has already being practiced a deep prayer for a lot of years !
Now I can understand how much I have lost when I had put Satsvarupa Maharaja’s book on my book shelf. I also see how much ISKCON lost neglecting inner (and the main) component of it’s activity. But I can’t be silent about it any more. In the overwhelming majority we have transformed into “empty inside preachers” Satsvarupa Maharaja mentioned in his book about. Maybe others are not following this process but I should speak about it while it is not too late….
Only the insignificant amount of lucky ones could open their inside world and find there beautiful Lord. Their experience is invaluable for us. We shouldn't lose even the smallest particle of such an experience. Otherwise we will just die. The conversation with this devotee in the train revived me. I asked him: "We should write an article about it, shouldn't we?" He smiled confusely. "I am not a writer. I don't have any literary abilities!" "Would You like me to write about it? It is so important." He answered: "I don't want to look like a so-called great spiritual master. Let my mental speculations stay with me." One can understand him. Actually he tried to speak about it a lot of times with different devotees. But he met the only one assessment - "mental speculations".
This devotee hasn't read Satsvarupa Maharaja's book. But still he came to the same way. It is striking, isn't it? Likely the way is exactly like this. "Sri Harinama Chintamani" by Bhaktivinoda Thakur became his handbook.
At last my companion allowed me to tell about him. But he asked: "I don't want to become an overall laughingstock."
So, ok. I thought up a new name for him. Essence remains the same. Anyway I consider it my duty to tell about this unusual devotee in details. I am sure that his way can help a lot of people. I offer you, my dear readers, to separate speculations from non-speculations.
One winter morning we entered the train and immediately noticed a young man. By some signs he looked like a devotee. He sat alone with closed eyes. And it seemed that he was far away from here. We noticed Tulsi beads on his neck and approached him to say hello. The companion said that his spiritual name was Nitya Pantha das. He refused to have dinner with us. We tried but couldn’t draw him into our fun conversation.
It seemed that he was not here. Very soon we stopped paying attention on him. The companion interested me a lot as he differed sharply from my spiritual brothers. When everyone went to sleep I continued observing him.
It was midnight and he was still sitting at the same place in the same pose. His eyes were closed. He held “Nectar of Devotion” in his hands. Soon I fell asleep.
In the morning my curiosity grew and I set near him. Nitya Pantha das didn’t want to speak with me at the beginning. But when I started to pester him he opened his book and showed me. I read: “When one sets continuous relations with Krsna in one’s mind these relations are been called remembering.” We talked. He was very glad that I was interested in a praying life. He said: “It is a rear thing at this period of development of ISKCON”.
A STORY OF NITYA PANTHA DAS
From my early childhood it seemed to me that the whole world is made wrong. I jaded my parents with strange questions. I couldn’t explain what was made wrong. But I felt that everything had to be different.
When I went to school my feeling of meaninglessness escalated. Interests of my peers were so far away from me that I had no friends at all.
I studied well but with no interest to the subjects. It all seemed to me to be a one big stupidity. I couldn’t understand why others couldn’t see this.
My parents noticed that very often I was speaking with myself. They thought that I was making this because of loneliness. Indeed in one way it was so. Even so at the time of such conversations subconsciously I felt a presence of somebody. This ‘somebody’ was always near by and was very kind to me. While asking him questions I found a relief.
Became mature I started to consider my conversations a game of my imagination and soon forgot about them. But a feeling of meaninglessness didn’t leave. Childhood finished. I became a realist. I was getting slaps again and again from this lying cruel world, which I couldn’t understand. And I was distancing from it more and more. At least I decided firmly to go to the forest and live in remote taiga
I spent a lot of nights in a forest behind the city to prepare myself to an upcoming trip. In such moments I felt irresistible call of nature. It was very native to me to live in nature.
In spring 1990 when I was ready to leave Krsna found me. It was Bhagavad-Gita that answered all my questions. I was reading new and new books all nights and days long as a crazy man. I forgot about all my plans to move to the forest and forgot all my interests that were my life before in my loneliness. It happened naturally under the influence of a new knowledge. I was captured by the new flow of information about life after death, karma, construction of the universe. I enjoyed Sanskrit grammar and considered myself to be a great scholar. New knowledge, customs, clothes, food, language—all that increased my rapture. It has being continued for 3 years.
During this time I have tried everything I could. Gradually new attributes became natural to me. Interest started to peter out. Very soon all this bothered me and I fared into an eerie emptiness.
It was worse condition then when I wanted to move to the forest. I hoped to change my life before, to find some happiness. But now new knowledge destroyed last illusions connected with this world but gave so little in response. Theoretical information that there is somewhere a spiritual world filled with happiness and eternal joy didn’t satisfy me as I still was in this world. I discovered that Krsna was God’s name. But I had no idea how to approach to Him.
Somehow a flower ship with Krsna’s messengers didn’t come for me. Despite I sincerely burned all the bridges and renounced everything.
One day while preaching one woman told that invoking others into happiness I was far away to look as a happy man. I couldn’t retort anything.
I understood that I was making something wrong and approached many devotees. But I got only one formula-answer – “Chant 16 rounds, follow 4 regulative principles, do practical service and you will become happy!” I noticed that those who told me this didn’t believe themselves in what they said. Almost everyone felt this emptiness but tolerate it as ‘austerity is brahman’s wealth’.
Srila Prabhupada repeatedly warned us from such a situation: “One who tries to leave all the attachments eventually will get mad. One needs to be given something in response. Leaving something we have to get something much better instead. Violence and enforcement will lead to nowhere. Everything should come naturally.” (Teachings of Lord Kapila).
Now looking back I can say that the Society didn’t have knowledge how actually practice bhakti-yoga. The motto was – “Just follow and you will get one day”. So as many others I was waiting naively for such a result. However time was going and the result was not coming. I continued to chant maha-mantra on my beads but have lost all the interest to it long time ago. My condition was lamentable.
At this time I suddenly started to talk with somebody invisible from my early childhood. I shared my pain with him. And this saved me. But now I knew – it was Krsna. I can say about myself that I started to pray to avoid constant depressions and unbearable anguish. I asked God to give me something not to become mad because of emptiness inside me.
Despite there was nothing else in my prayers except of egoism, and their goal was to avoid boredom, Supreme Lord who is kindness Himself answered me!
His answer was that I suddenly felt Somebody I read so much about but didn’t take it seriously. Was all this true indeed?! This discovering shocked me. I felt myself on the knees of loving, tender caring mother, who was always ready to help me. It was special feeling....
What a power is concluded in a prayer!
Even if insignifican efforts are made with sincerity Lord can answer with an avalanche of His love.
From this moment my life becаme filled with sense. It happened that it is absolutely real to progress in God consciousness!
But soon this blissful feeling disappeared...
What! Won`t it be for ever? Krsna! Where did You disappear?
Allas!... Anguish covered me again. I remembered this joyful feeling of God's nearness. And started to pray again to get it back. It was not so easy as it was for the first time. In few days Krsna answered and then disappeared again.
God gave me an experience and consciousness of necessity to work hard. From this point my intuitive way of searching started.
"The Lord! Krsna! Please, accept me. Please enter my tormented mind and allow me to feel You! I want only one thing- to fill my life with You and only You!" But it is so hard. My mind tries to run away using every occasion and is dragging me into nowhere.
Participating in this fight I understood that I can't make anything by myself. I am absolutely dependent on Your mercy. If You have compassion to me I will roll on the earth and will suffuse in tears of love to You. But if You will turn away from me I will disappear in the darkness of illusion.
Krsna! I heard a lot of times that You were the supreme cheater. Using different tricks You ensnared me on this wonderful path filled with tension. I have no way back. Will I be able to combat my mind in such a tense fight?
I want to learn You more and more, a wonderful Lord living in my heart! I want to learn to love You. Please, forgive me for these confused phrases and endless requests. It is the only thing I am able to do.
You made me understand that it is the only one way. And now, please, help me!
First time I asked myself if I was making everything correct. May be I had just imagined this association with Lord myself and was bathing in a swamp of my mind. Sastras came to help me. Krsna said there:
“Always think about Me.”
“When doing something rely on Me. Act under My protection. And realize Me completely! ”
“Entrust yourself to Me, the only one. I will relieve you from all the sins. Don’t be afraid!”
“Everyone who is remembering me not wondering with his mind, can simply reach Me. Because he is always serving Me in this way! That is Why, Arjun, you should always think about Me in the form of Krsna.”
These words destroyed my doubts and gave me strength. Oh, Krsna, I am applying to You just carrying out Your instruction. You said:
“Focus Your mind on Me and brought all Your intelligence to Me! Un doubtedly in this way you will always stay in Me!”
When I am making my mind always to think about You, You become so thankful that are giving me a small miracle. Suddenly one of my desires becomes true or something astonishing is happening. And then I understand that it is You.
What a happiness to know that You hear me! You are the dearest person to me and the only one I have. Everything else will crash down as an ice-palace under spring sun rays. Only You and somebody whom You have sent for me will stay. Both of you – are the only one eternity that I have and therefore the only one reality.
Everything is gleaming and changing around me, is enticing me and disappears as a mirage. I am snatching up to your feet in despair. I can love you both and not be afraid to be done. You will never leave me.
Every time I would like to embrace you I can make it. And my hands will not catch the emptiness of illusion but will catch you as you always are in my heart!
In this way I was mentally speaking with God walking in the city. Machines were thundering around. People were bustling. But I tried to be inside, in my heart of hearts. Where Krsna is living!
Sometimes I noticed that people were turning back to look at me. Perhaps I was looking very strange. But the desire to be with Lord eclipsed everything. One day police stopped me and asked if I was a drug addict. I was said that I looked like an abnormal.
- I am just trying to think always about God!
- O, you must be a ‘hare krishnas’. Ok, you can go.
- But people around are insane. Why have you chosen me?
In due time I learnt to behave in a way that my inside emotions were not reflected on my face.
There are two principles of the spiritual life I heard hundreds of times:
1) Always remember Krsna.
2) Never forget Him.
All the instructions are brought to them. However my mistake was that I had never taken these principles literally and wasn’t following them. ‘Always’ means every moment, every second, at night and day, even sleeping. If I am not following these two principles all other efforts turn into waste of time. I have completely made sure in that looking through the example of my own life.
One dank October morning in 1993 I was sitting in my house and chanting my rounds. Rain was knocking outside droningly. I felt sleepy. I remember that I was reading my 10th round when suddenly something unusual happened. In my head, in upper part of the forehead, a feeling of indescribable bliss suddenly appeared. It seemed that I was plunged into a wonderful light. In a moment my mind became pure and clear. Some unusual sweetness filled all my mouth and was increasing while chanting. I was surprised very much as I had never had such an experience before. The Holy Name answered me for the first time. For several more rounds I was drinking this nectar avidly. Then everything disappeared.
I was inspired very much by the first success of a prayer. With a great enthusiasm I had continued it for next several months. I plunged into absolutely another reality, filled with God. Something, inconceivably beautiful seemed to be quite near. My curiosity was urging me ahead.
However the sweetest moments when Krsna answered me didn’t yield cheaply. These states were not depending on me in the sense that I was not able to call them any time I wanted.
It happened that sometimes I had suffered for several days without any result trying to feel Lord. When I was absolutely losing a hope and my mind couldn’t bear tension and filled with trash, Lord suddenly answered me.
Gradually I started to realize what a hard work is waiting for me. My mind became disappointed in seemed easiness and it suddenly rebelled. A disgust both to a prayer and to chanting appeared. I stopped to put the efforts and soon Lord left my consciousness.
I faced a choice – with all the patience and humility to stand on this way or to return to a silent senseless life. From one side I had the most valuable experience of sweetness which prayers and chanting gave. From another side I was afraid of difficulties. I made my choice and a fight started.
That time I haven’t had a completely necessary book “Sri Harinama Chintamani” yet. I even couldn’t ask anybody. I made everything intuitively, relying on my own practical experience.
A guess appeared in my mind that I had to increase chanting. I got up at 1 a.m. or even at midnight and took my beads. At first it was difficult, I fell asleep holding my beads. Every time my mind brought me new and new surprises: aversion, joy, anxiety, drowse. Distinctly I started to feel the difference of me from my mind.
Mind was an alien, mechanical construction that just prevented me.
Despite this I was persistently and patiently continuing my work of chanting the Holy Names independently from changing conditions of my mind. Sometimes I fell on the floor in despair and implored Lord for His mercy.
Sometimes I had to take a book and to read for ten minutes to calm down my raging mind.
This has continued for the whole winter and spring. The whole day long I was constantly praying and was thinking only about chanting. I was almost not noticing the all world around. I was seeking for a loneliness and prayer only. The rest stopped to interest me. Gradually a bliss of the Holy Names returned. When it became warm enough outdoors I started to go out and disappeared for several days. I felt a call again, that with inconceivable power called for me, a call of the forest. I had no doubt that such life was very acquainted to me.
Sometimes I went to the forest for several days and took Bhagavad-Gita and my beads only. My mind got used to chanting absolutely. It even started to feel the necessity of it. Only hunger made me to return back, where my worrying parents were meeting me with laments.
And in autumn Krsna send me this wonderful book - ”Sri Harinama Chintamani”.
I listened to my companion with bated breath very attentively. I became all ears avidly listening to every word. What he was speaking was very important to me. While listening to him I had found a lot of answers on my questions. And especially I found an answer on the main question: “Why do I feel myself to be so empty?” Finally he stopped and looked at me.
Everything you are speaking about is very interesting, - I said, - I read about smaranam and vandanam for a lot of times but only after your story I began to understand how does it look like on a practical level.
No, it is not exactly smaranam. Smaranam means in its classical way – remembering ashta-kaliya-lila eight particular Krsna’s pastimes. It is not exactly what I was doing. The highest goal for me was just to feel that Krsna is alongside.
- Anyway I am far away from all this. I tried to pray for a lot of times under the guidance of Satsvaruma das Goswami’s book. But I have never heard about the results you are speaking about. Probably I was making something wrong.
- Yes. – The companion smiled. – You are speaking “a lot of times” and I am speaking about CONSTANT prayer.
Constant prayer, - I mused. – But it is very difficult. Nevertheless listening to you I remembered that I have heard similar instructions hundred times. Prabhupada gave them as well as Satsvarupa Maharaja. But somehow I turned a deaf ear about them. Even now it is very difficult for me to understand what I can start from.
It is easy to start, - Nitya Pantha said. – Methods are simple. You are using bhakti-yoga principles which are well known. The goal is to reach the consciousness when you are feeling the presence of the Lord and His love to you. This feeling makes chanting of the Holy Names very attentive as it becomes personal. But let`s start from the beginning. Now I will describe you how to make everything in detail.
When you are going somewhere don’t allow your eyes to wander everywhere. You should concentrate your attention in the area of your heart. Exactly there your dearest Friend is living in. Try to feel Him. Just understand that He is here, alongside. And He is attentively looking at you…. Try again and again. Achieve bright feeling of His presence. It is not auto-suggestion. Auto-suggestion is used when one tries to convince himself in something that doesn’t exist. And you are dealing with reality.
If this feeling is not coming try to remember everything you heard and read about Him. Remember about His pastimes, try to understand how beautiful Your friend that lives in your heart is! What kind of entity is He? He is like 100 000 loving mothers! What can I add...? Prabhupada said this.
All troubles appear because you don’t realize Him. You are like a blind baby who has lost his mother sitting on her knees.
After all, there is a Friend beside you always ready to help. Nevertheless you are going down in the ocean of your problems. It is called illusion!
Lord says: “Tyatva mam shantim richchhati”. (Those who cognized me become blissful!) Penetrate into these words. What a wonderful truth is included in them!
If this practice also doesn’t arouse a bright feeling of Lord’s presence and gratitude to Him, try to speak with Him.
No matter in what condition your mind is in this moment, just start to speak aloud or mentally. Gradually your mind will dispose to what you are speaking.
Use acharyas and great saints’ prayers to learn to pray – the prayers of Bhaktivinoda Thakur, Srila Vishvanatha Cakravati Thakur and Haridas Thakur Nama acharya. Industriously learn these prayers, try to feel their mood.
What do you have to ask Lord for? Only to allow you to chant His name with sincerity! After all, all 8 methods of bhakti-yoga are just servants of the Holy Name.
While chanting concentrate not on elegancy of your pronunciation, but to Whom this prayer is directed to. Otherwise you will become an excellent poet but will never feel God. Not the style of pronounced words is important but ASPIRATION and your impulse towards an interlocutor, a feeling that He is really listening to you.
If this doesn`t help you, try to remember bright cases that happened with you. It is the simplest method as oneself is the most important thing for himself. If your mind is not accepting the Acts of the Lord as real ones or if it doesn't believe that Lord is listening to you while you are praying, just remember yourself. BUT in a connection with the Lord. Remember how Krsna was guiding you, how He was guarding you. Remember all the miracles that happened with you. And then one thought will appear in your mind: "Well, it was Krsna." It is very good for a start.
Nevertheless you should fasten your mind to God who is living in your heart. You should not move aside from Him at any circumstances. All the essence of practice is in this statement.
And one day a flow of reciprocal love will gush from your heart. It means that God seeing your eagerness answered you.
It is very difficult to describe this feeling. It is so bright and real that makes one's soul crazy of happiness. If not getting this feeling one can never imagine how much God is loving you!
He always loves you irrespective of your realizing this or not. And His answer is that He gives you a possibility to feel His love! Quasi some doors are opening. Quasi bright light is suddenly bursting into regular darkness of your consciousness.
And then shedding tears in the rays of His love you understand suddenly how wonderful your position is.
Yes, reality is wonderful. It is concluded in interminable love of the Supreme Entity. But usually we can't see reality because of illusion of our mind. We are living in the terrible world of our dreams. But all this is artificial.
Though such a wonderful real world where Krsna is living is so close!
So, God's answer is that suddenly He allows you to feel His love. A deep reciprocal gratitude feeling appears inside you. It is such a strong feeling that your words start to confuse in your head. You want to express this gust towards Him but this condition is higher of any mental sense.
You are rushing forward feeling that your mind stays somewhere far behind and call to the Name putting all your soul in "HARE! KRSNA!"
There are no words or formulas in this condition. It is a song of the Holy Name.
How wonderful this Person must be! That gopis were lying for several months not moving in the lakes of their tears in the fields in separation with Him!
How wonderful this Person must be that Nanda Maharaja fell in the corner of his house and forgot about food, sleep and about all his life in separation with Him!
How fallen I must be if this Person doesn’t arouse even my interest.
Woe is to this fool! Shouldn’t I not be able to have even a weak attachment to this Person?
The companion became silent and made a look that he was looking into a window. He turned away very fast but I could notice that his eyes filled with tears.
HOW PRAYING LIFE HELPS TO CHANT
I was silent. Realization of so foolishly lost time fettered me. I looked at my friends. They had breakfast and were jolly discussing something. I felt very badly.
- Inattentive chanting is my main defect, - I said at last. I know that it is awful but I can’t make anything with it. I try but mind is wondering anyway. And it has been lasting for many years. Please, could you explain to me in what way prayer helps and how I can increase my rounds in detail? What should happen before – increasing of rounds or reaching attentiveness at the expense of a prayer? What depends on what and what is whose consequence?
Nitya Pantha answered me: - Chanting is the summit of bhakti-yoga. It includes all other 8 methods and is a goal of them as well as the highest level of their implementation. Thereby chanting is the highest level of a prayer.
You can pray to a person. But woe unto one who doesn’t understand that the Holy Name is a person. Exactly this ‘not understanding’ strikes out all the efforts.
You are speaking about inattentiveness. What does it mean? It means that the Lord still stays an abstraction to you, which doesn’t exist in reality. That is why you are apprehending maha-mantra to be just a composition of 3 incomprehensible words. They don’t speak anything to your mind like a monotonous noise of ventilator. Your mind gets used to this noise and stop to pay attention on it.
In this case both rounds’ increasing and chanting of itself are absolutely useless. If you are near a Person and doesn’t pay any attention it is disdain. If you are chanting mechanically without realizing even if you are chanting all day long you will never reach Lord even for thousand years. As such an ignoring is a heavy insult of the Holy Name.
And now let appeal to this book and look what slighting chanting brings to. It is “Sri Harinama Chintamani” by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur. It doesn’t exist more exact guidance for chanting. A conversation between Lord Chaitanya himself and Haridas Thakur is quoted here. Srila Haridas Thakur is named as Nama-acarya by the Lord, it means that he gives original instructions and teaches by his own example.
Nitya Pantha opened a small book lying in front of him and started to read from different places explaining a meaning to me from time to time.
“Inattention and neglecting are synonyms.
A distraction while chanting creates certain kind of illusion under which person starts to make other serious offences of the Holy Name, which are very difficult to get rid of. This illusion rises an aspiration to wealth, sex, high state in the society, success and even to a deception.
When such aspirations cover the heart beginner is losing an interest to chanting.”
- How does it happen? – I asked.
- It is very easy to understand. Firstly person is hearing about wonderful fruit that chanting gives. Desiring to get them one starts to chant. But the result is not coming cheaply and enthusiasm is reducing gradually. The more one chants without any signs of a progress the weaker one’s faith into efficiency of chanting becomes. At last one becomes absolutely disappointed and returns to old habits to fill the emptiness. Neglecting is sowing seeds of anarthas. They sprout soon and increase one’s aspiration to material.
Despite all the persuasions and arguments of a great grace of the Holy Name one doesn’t believe them any more as his own experience shows that chanting is absolutely useless. Such a person is doomed.
That is why it is necessary to understand that the Holy Name is a Person. But to reach such a position is possible only by Krsna’s mercy. Haridas Thakur is speaking about it: “Without realizing that the Holy Name and Lord Krsna’s Personality are the same gist it is impossible to start a spiritual practice!”
“Jiva herself can’t neither avoid nor overcome the illusion of distraction. But it is easy to reach by Lord’s mercy. That is why it is important eagerly in a great humility to pray Lord for His mercy. It is the only one means of rescue for jiva.
Those who are trying to reach pure chanting relying on their own intelligence and experience of their mind will see that their attempts are vain.”
And father Haridas Thakur shows an example of praying mood.
“Oh Lord, I have completely mundane thoughts and intelligence that is why I am just pronouncing Your Names. I am too unfortunate to feel the effect of transcendental magic stone of the Holy Name. Oh Lord, I pray You to present Yourself mercifully as the Holy Name and to dance on my tongue. I prostrate myself at Your lotus feet with this prayer. If You want to live me in the material world depriving of the spiritual sky You are free to act as You wish. But be merciful let me taste the divine nectar of the Holy Name.
Oh Lord Chaitanya! You are an ocean of compassion. My heart is appealing to You in agitation. If my conscience doesn’t wake and I don’t start to pray You for the mercy it means that there is nobody more miserable then I am.”
Nitya Pantha continued:
- That is why a prayer for mercy is the only one opportunity to realize that the Name is a Person. A prayer communication with the Lord should continue constantly. Very soon you will reach a bright feeling of His Presence. And when you absolutely realistically feel the presence of your Own Lord could your chanting stay still inattentive? For example I am speaking with you/ You are real for me/ Exactly the same feeling appears as a result of a prayer.
If you are going anywhere or making anything just try to keep Krsna in your mind. For the first time your mind will stay in the darkness. Don’t be afraid of it. Just continue to glorify Lord and ask Him for the mercy. At the same time try to chant attentively with a deep concentration and a feeling of love. Slowly as far as you will train increase your rounds and all the rest of the time uninterruptedly pray to the Lord for His mercy.
ABOUT THE QUANTITY OF ROUNDS
- All the essence of bhakti-yoga is concluded in a gradual increase of sincere chanting. Till it becomes constant. Only in this case mind tears off from external objects and deeps completely in the Holy Name. It is a classical approach.
Lord Chaitanya says that until one is not chanting at least 64 rounds he can’t tear off his mind attached to external world. This minimal (recommended) quantity of rounds Lord called nirbandha it means “without a node” (Chaitanya Bhagavata, 23.650).
If one is not able to appeal to the Lord sincerely and constantly chanting His Names he will never achieve higher levels of bhakti such as asakti, bhava and prema. And it is the “only one right way of chanting” – Bhaktivinoda Thakur is declaring in the introduction of “Sri Harinama Chintamani”. It is the point of view of classical vaishnavism of our acharyas.
A soul is being in illusion in this world and is absolutely helpless. The only one thing that was left in your power – to apply efforts, quantity of these efforts and a prayer for mercy. Make what you can but try with all your strength and give all yourself. There is no other way to prove the Lord that you want to reach Him indeed.
The Lord is not a bellboy. He will not give Himself cheaply!
Continuing the practice enlightenments will appear between the darkness of illusion. At times you will feel the presence of the Lord in Your heart and then will deep in darkness again. Sweet senses will appear while chanting but they will be not for a long time. At first half of a round, then one, then two...
The rest of the time mind will continue to wander. But now it will be not an offence. As you are trying all-out to improve your chanting and pray the Lord for mercy. Inattentiveness is not an offence by itself. It is concluded in neglecting.
- In other words does the increase of chanting brings its quality?
- Haridas Thakur indicates two main points. The first one – mechanical chanting without putting efforts is absolutely useless at any quantity of rounds. And the second one – sincere chanting with attempts of concentration will call the Lord’s mercy which gives constant concentration. “Jiva herself can’t neither avoid nor overcome the illusion of distraction... ”
- Srila Prabhupada said that if we continue to chant 16 rounds and are following 4 principles we will return to God surely. What to do with this?
- Yes, Prabhupada said this. But He is the ocean of mercy! But we shouldn’t parasitize on a mercy. It is guru-bhoga – to use spiritual master’s words to excuse one’s laziness. Prabhupada didn’t say: “Chant 16 rounds anyhow.......” He always wanted us to be perfect devotees. It is not a secret to anybody that he wanted his disciples to read 64 rounds at first. Only their spiritual (and moral) weakness made him to reduce the standard. There is a huge amount of quotes where he asks his disciples to chant more to chant constantly........ But we don’t want to be guru-bhogas, to lie on a sofa and wait for mercy...
That is why we have lost our belief as for the long years we didn’t see any results of our sadhana. Gradually devotees are turned into gloomy people deprived of the purporse of life and are just silently waiting for a death to come. What to strive for? Anyway Prabhupada will come and take us! Why do we should strain our brain and learn a great since of nama-tattva?
Why do we need Bhaktivinoda Thalur, why do we need acharyas? Everything is guaranteed anyway. There is a need just to chant one’s 16 rounds stupidly, follow the principles and.....die as fast as possible. Exactly this is guru-bhoga. And the result of it will be our failure!
- How do enlightenments appear? What kind of feelings is it?
- You are waking up early in the morning and start to chant trying to make it attentively from the first round. You are trying to understand the meaning of each word. Hare – is Radha. Rama – is Those Who is enjoying loving pastimes. You are trying to understand that the Lord is presenting here and you are calling for Radha and Krsna.
Besides mind will stay in tama-guna for the first hour. It is a consequence of a sleep. Or mind will be arguing with somebody remembering yesterday. You can’t restrain it by yourself but you can continue. And just wait for the mercy and continue. Never put a goal to chant exact quantity of rounds. Long to wait for the mercy. May be it will come on the 5th round, may be on the 30th! When mercy comes you start suddenly to feel the taste. It starts from the mouth. Mouth muscles, tongue are filled with sweetness. Then the taste moves into a head. While practicing the taste becomes stronger and stronger. A “fire” ignites in mind. The taste moved into the whole body, from head to neck, then to shoulders. A desire to swing the head, to wriggle with the whole body appears. It is indescribable bliss. One can chant enormous quantity of rounds in such a condition. There is no word about tiredness. Contrariwise you can’t stop. The taste appears only if there is mercy. Without it you will just be terribly tired and will drain yourself.
But it is the lowest, muscles’ taste. Higher is a love emotion that appears in the heart....
Faith is a base of everything. A devotee should firmly believe that the Holy Name can make him happy to distraction! It is true! It is real! Even ‘muscles’ taste’ can exceed all material enjoyments with a vengeance. And this appears fast. Haridas Thakur says “fast”. I asked devotees. A lot of them felt this taste but just for a moment and didn’t pay attention to it. The art is to reach a constant taste. The taste takes you away completely. And now distraction is impossible. Even one week of correct chanting gives a lot! It is true.
Gradually with increasing of quantity of rounds the enlightenments will come more and more often. The Lord, being satisfied with you will enter your mind with a power of the Holy Names.
In time you will reach a constant feeling of God’s presence sometimes accompanied with a loving delight. A condition when you feel Krsna distinctly is named “Krsna Consciousness”. From this moment your chanting will become attentive (nishtha) and filled with bliss (ruchi). When it happens it is recommended to start to meditate on Krsna’s form.
There are 5 levels of chanting perfection.
The first level – abusive. It is called nama-aparadha. A person doesn’t have knowledge about the Holy Name and is not serious about his practice. Even he is chanting he can’t be called vaishnava. He is vaishnava-praiha, a resemblance of vaishnava. Such a person admits Krsna as a Lord but still keeps material motives about his service. He is too busy with himself to pay interest to the Holy Name. The Holy Name is an empty sound for him.
The second level – nama-abhasa or the Name revealed in insignificant degree. A person realizes his imperfection and starts to apply efforts. He is suffering of his failures and prays the Lord for His mercy. Such a person is looking for knowledge about the Holy Name with eagerness to improve his chanting. The Lord is answering his prayers and gradually reveals Himself in the Name.
The third level – when the person succeeds to chant the Holy Name pure for one time. From this moment he is considered as Vaishnava and “householders should bow down in front of him”. Despite he can’t constantly stay on this level the Holy Name being chanted one time purely burns all his sins completely.
The forth level – shuddha-nam - when the person is constantly chanting the Holy Name purely. His service is stable - nishtha. From this level he is considered as madhyama-adhikari. The person being on the first 3 levels is called kanishtha, it means that he hasn’t reached a level of nishtha yet. Madhyama-adhikari is developing a loving feeling to Krsna. He is friends with the devotees, helps innocent and avoids association with atheists. From the level of ruchi the person needs to meditate on the Lord’s form while chanting. He can make it imagining the Lord’s form in his mind or sitting in front of the murti in the temple. In time his chanting will automatically rouse Lord’s form in his mind. The Name will become indifferent from the Lord’s form. After this it is necessary to meditate on 64 qualities of the Lord guiding with scriptures. When the devotee realizes that the qualities are not different from the Name he should start to mediate on Krsna’s pastimes (ashta-kaliya-lila-smarana). Gradually the devotee chanting enters these pastimes with the help of his guru and he realizes his eternal role in them.
This is the fifth level of chanting. The person reaches the highest perfection and becomes uttama-adhikari. An ecstasy of love to the Lord is living in his heart. Just one look at such a devotee inspires others to chant the Holy Name.
HOW PREACHING IS COMBINED
WITH INCREASING OF CHANTING ROUNDS
(A discussion after meeting in the train while father communication)
- It seems to me that it will be hard to increase the quantity of rounds. At least for me. I am a preacher and it takes so much time!
A train companion smiled:
- What are you preaching about? The glories of the Holy Name, isn’t it? The spiritual master gave you the Holy Name. From this moment it should become your life and soul. Besides, you are speaking that you are chanting very badly. So what is the sense of your preaching? As you are not following what you are teaching others about!
- What should I do?
- You should find time. Haridas Thakur was chanting 300,000 Names a day and at the same time Lord Chaitanya calls him to be an outstanding preacher. And it is true! Who else can preach with such an improbable power as Haridas Thakur did? Exactly chanting gives power to preaching! Look what is said here!
“Chanting softens one’s heart and awakes compassion to all conditioned entities. A chanter is constantly applying efforts to their welfare. He can’t stand sufferings of conditioned souls and tries to help them by all means”.
Thereby successful chanting inspires a person to preach. But at the same any preaching is impossible without successful chanting. Sometimes people start to imagine themselves as great preachers and stop to give due attention to the Holy Name. What does it bring to? Gradually their preaching is dying.
Very often people are confusing spiritual progress with erudition because of ignorance. But Haridas Thakur says that the only one criteria to judge vaishnava’s purity is to look at the strength of his rati – an attachment to the Holy Name. So you have a reliable criteria. If other service is not increasing your taste to chant it means that you are making something wrong.
If you are empty inside eloquence and artistry will not help you to deceive people for a long time. Perhaps, you will be able to rouse their aversion to the material life which they live. It is not difficult. But you will not be able to show them the way back to Godhead because you are not going this way yourself. Thereby you will plunge them into the emptiness you are in by yourself. Very soon they will become disappointed and will leave. I saw it for lots of times. Such a preaching is a crime against God!
AN INCREASING OF CHANTING IS NECESSARY
Nitya Pantha said:
- A demand of constancy has a strict scientific substantiation and is connected with a mind’s nature.
A totality of conceptions about the reality that exists in mind is a cause of a next body one gets. Thereby a reason of slavery and liberation is concluded only in mind. The mind attached to Krsna brings soul to the Lord’s Kingdom. But it is not so easy to achieve mind to attach to Krsna’s Personality.
Mind pictures are being built by information that comes through 5 artificial senses. These senses are material and can’t perceive spiritual reality in any conditions. That is why a living entity observing mind gets a false conception about itself and lives in a false world. One can turn mind to the Lord only forcibly. It is necessary to influence one’s mind with the help of 9 methods of bhakti-yoga till the natural attraction to Krsna arises in a soul. This process is called sadhana.
Following sadhana a person has to spiritualize his mind so strong so at the time of death or even earlier mind could carry the soul in Lord’s kingdom.
The mind is organized in such a way that it is always striving for sense gratification and is absorbing everything from the environment. It is very difficult to restrain it. Krsna created our mind in such a way purposely to check up our sincerity. The most difficult battle for the mind’s purity is the price one should pay to acquire the Lord.
From one side a person tries to focus on God. From the other side illusion is penetrating mind from within and from outside to keep him in slavery. Every new influence that doesn’t carry information about Krsna (asat sanga) destroys your inside world and plunges you into illusion.
That is why the progress in spiritual practice is possible only if positive mind influence exceeds destructive illusion influence considerably.
To chant 2 hours a day is very good but it is only the beginner's level. As soon as you put your beads aside maya will enter your mind through the senses and will destroy everything you have reached!
You are speaking that you have been chanting 2 hours a day for many years already. And that you are still not able to hear the Holy Name. Haven`t such a sad experience learned you anything?
If the whole 24-hours a day mind is filled with asat-sanga 2 poor hours of efforts will bring you nowhere.
It is necessary to keep your mind on the Lord constantly not to allow asat-sanga to enter your mind. Try to chant attentively and as much as it is possible. The more you chant the easier it will be to concentrate on the Holy Name. Till the time when you will be able to chant constantly. All the other time keep your mind on the Lord with the help of sincere prayer and all the other methods of bhakti-yoga. The mind is concentrated on the Lord if one is remembering Him, listening about Him, speaks about Him or is praying to Him. Don't let your mind be free even for a second. If you stop thinking about Krsna even for a second illusion will fill your mind immediately. Don't try to find an excuse that you are a great preacher supposedly. Undoubtedly during preaching itself mind is protected reliably as you are speaking to people about Krsna. But as soon as you stop to speak and turn out of doors maya attacks your mind immediately.
If your hands are making something even for the Lord but your mind is somewhere no one knows where don't call this 'service' as maya is ruling over you!
Win hour after hour over maya till you will drive her out of your life completely. And there is no other way.
That is why Haridas Thakur asserts again and again that one needs to increase one's chanting to reach the perfection. It is stupid to argue with nama-acharya.
A CLASSICAL WAY OF BHAJAN
It is how he (Haridas Thakur) is describing a classical way of bhajan. Listen attentively:
“One should chant in a secluded place in a deep concentration without nama-apparadhas with a complete belief that the Holy Name is the Person of Krsna. He should avoid any offence carefully feeling a deep repentance if ever makes any of it after all. He should pray sincerely to the lotus feet of the Holy Name”. .... “A person should start from one hour of chanting (corresponds 8 rounds). Then should chant for two hours (16 rounds) then increase chanting for 4 hours (32 hours) and at last should chant no less then 3 lakhas of the Holy Names (3 times by 64 rounds). It will help him to break all the connections with matter.”
Slowly an inclination to the Holy Name will develop. Apathy and inattentiveness will gradually leave.”
“An offence of the Holy Name of the Lord are eliminated only by constant chanting. They never come back been destroyed by such a method. Constant chanting means that except minimum time for sleep and needed physical necessities one is chanting the whole day long. When offences are destroyed the pure Holy Name will blossom in one’s heart. The pure Holy Name gives bhava and then prema.”
It is a description of nama-bhajan. It is understood that we can’t chant 24 hours. It is doubtful whether Kali-yuga allows us to do this. But given instructions show us what we should strive for. At least we should devote some days like ecadashi and the Lord’s appearance days to the Holy Name completely.
One day the illusion of a cheap success will be destroyed and a person will see how difficult this way is indeed. At first he is frightened because the success seems to be impossible but gradually he starts to look at the situation soberly.
A person finds himself in front of a choice – to enter this path or to return back to material sense gratification. Otherwise a terrible emptiness is waiting for him. Though it is possible to get used to the emptiness but it is not life already.
I suppose that you are intelligent enough to enter the way ahead.
Then you will have to become very serious in your spiritual practice. As soon as you start to try to control your mind you will immediately understand how difficult it is. Especially at the beginning when you haven’t learnt to feel the Lord in your heart yet. You will see what prevents and what promotes this in your life. You must avoid unfavorable and strive for favorable.
You will become very scrupulous in your association. You will have to change lots of, lots of things.
All this is very difficult. But you should incline yourself immediately that it is the only one way.
Thus I tried to describe a path of one sincere devotee. Everyone has his own way. But there are basic moments which can’t be ignored....
What about me, I returned to a forgotten book of Satsvarupa das Goswami “Entrance in a praying life”.
* * *
Oh, Lord! Why have You been enduring me for such a long time? As I set Your Holy Name at naught. When will I realize at last that acting like this I’ve being saved by You am spitting at Your face instead of gratitude?
Krsna! How can I want to reach You? I am so stupid that I can’t even understand why I should pray for mercy. If You don’t have compassion to me I will throw this life away and will be lost in a fathomless ocean of illusion.