Vanity thought #88. Imitation.

By yet another suspicious coincidence I came to read a story of Haridasa Thakura from Sri Chaitanya Bhagavat. This narration immediately caught my attention and raised a few thoughts.

First, I must admit I know very little about Haridasa Thakur’s early life. From Chaitanya Bhagavat it would appear that he started chanting the Holy Name all on his own and didn’t meet Advaita Acharya until he was already firmly established as a pure devotee of the Lord. Perhaps he received the Hare Krishna mahamantra from Advaita Acharya first and then met up with him later again, I don’t know, but I like the idea of obtaining the mercy of chanting the pure Name on his own.

I like it not because it raises the prospect of advancing without the mercy of the spiritual master but because it would prove that one can become a pure devotee even if one doesn’t receive the mantra from a member of Pancha Tattva himself but rather from some humble and unanimous devotee whose name is not even registered in history. Perhaps Haridasa Thakur simply overheard someone’s chanting and that was enough. Later on he was very uncompromising in defense of loud chanting, arguing that it is a hundred times more beneficial than silent japa. What if Haridas Thakur himself received his mantra because of someone’s loud chanting? That would be a very nice touch indeed.

Then there’s a story of the a local Kazi, a Muslim judge, demanding that the King punished Haridas for abandoning Koran and taking to Hindu practices instead. Haridas was sentenced to beating in twenty two public squares until he dies. Under the protection of the Holy Name Haridas survived the punishment with a smile on his face and agreed to die only when his tormentors begged him to spare their own lives as the King would have certainly killed them for not killing Haridasa.

Out of his mercy for all living beings, including those who inflicted inhumane suffering on his own body, Haridasa Thakur acceded and entered samadhi that externally looked like death. I’ll skip on the details but Haridasa came back to life and everybody including the King himself accepted him as the greatest soul and begged for his blessings.

Once Haridasa gave his own perspective on what has happened to him – he said he was punished for tolerating offenses against the Lord and Vaishnava devotees. He said he heard the blasphemies but he didn’t take any actions and that’s why he deserved public beatings. What is interesting here is that with this personal example Haridasa Thakur taught the devotees the real meaning of “trinad api sunichena taror iva sahishnuna”. He taught that if one tolerates offenses against the Lord and His devotees than it’s a false humility and false tolerance. That should not be accepted.

Later on he also displayed how a devotee should behave in these situations. When some smarta brahmana criticized him for chanting loudly and criticized the potency of the Holy Name Haridasa Thakura just chanted louder and promptly left the place. He presented his arguments when the brahmana asked him the first question but when the brahmana didn’t accept Haridasa’s explanation he didn’t argue any further, just smiled and left.

Another story that caught my attention was when Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu told him to chant his rounds in a secluded place in Jagannatha Puri. Apparently Srila Prabhupada was very adamant that people should not imitate him, that spiritual master gives different instructions to different disciples. I don’t know what Srila Prabhupada meant exactly.

Surely he didn’t mean that one shouldn’t try to chant more, I think he meant that one shouldn’t try to increase his personal glory by doing that, that one shouldn’t expect the same respect and worship as Haridasa Thakura and so try to perform the same service. At least that’s what I keep telling myself when I contemplate chanting day and night. I also begrudgingly accept that I don’t live in a secluded place and that I would get this opportunity only by Krishna’s arrangement, if He so desires.

There are also times when I’m pretty happy I don’t need to chant 24/7 and so can indulge myself in mundane activities of sense and mind gratification.

So, two points where I should be very careful of imitating the great namacharya – that it is possible to undertake such service and achieve perfection without a direct order of the spiritual master, and that trying to arrange personal accommodations without a direct order is also driven by desire for fame and glory.

On the plus side there are explanations given by Haridasa Thakur to the King and the Kazi – one worships the Lord according to the inspiration given by the Lord Himself and so one must not become envious or inimical to other modes of worship even if they are different from prescriptions given according to the time and place or birth and culture.

I understand this as “chant as much as you want until specifically told by the guru to do something else first”, and “chant all you can after you’ve done your other duties.”

Vanity thought #87. Taking it easy.

One turn of Prabhupada’s phrase caught my attention recently. He said something along the line “sahajiyas are the so-called devotees who take their service lightly.” The exact quote escapes me at the moment.

People who take their service lightly. That’s a succinct way of putting it, and the application covers a lot wider base than what we are used to. It’s not only strange folks dressing up as Krishna or gopis, I don’t think I’ve ever seen them for real, it’s anyone taking their service “lightly”.  That’s just one step away from “taking it easy”, and, I believe, that’s how Prabhupada meant it, too. Not just showing little interest in your service, it’s taking the results lightly, ie you don’t have to work too hard, spiritual bliss is easy to come by, just chillax and kick back and enjoy the mellows.

I’m sure there’s more to it but this aspect looks familiar to me. Spiritual bliss is just around the corner, I can practically taste it already – how many times I fooled myself like that? Perhaps I should not only watch for the traces of impersonalism in my heart and mind but for traces of sahajiya attitudes, too. Those need to be weeded out, and they are pretty fat traces, too, I just never had such a strong name for them. Now I have – sahajiya, a so called devotee.

Today, incidentally, I did thirty two rounds, by Krishna’s mercy. I didn’t want to but He apparently had other plans. See, I think Krishna personally and lovingly overrode my desires and engaged me in His service – sahajiya! Anyway, the Internet suddenly went down and I had no choice but to I reach for my japa bag and start chanting. The reason was I thought that by the time I finish Internet would be back up.

I didn’t want to chant, my mind was prepared for lots of other things and had no interest in chanting whatsoever, I was simply not in the mood. For the first hour or so I carefully went through every detail of whatever it was I was going to think about if the Internet was up. Makes me wonder – does the mind follow its own rules of karma where it has to think through the fruits of his previous thoughts and plans?

Is it possible that the mind has to think through all the fascinating ideas it is presented with? After all it’s a material organ following material stimuli. If you give him a mouth watering problem to solve with potentially great pay off he would just race forward role playing all the different scenarios how that particular sense enjoyment can be achieved.

Some things don’t interest it that much so it can be easily diverted, other things are very addictive and it depends entirely on previous experiences and previously acquired tastes. Imagine, if you go to the gym in the morning you can’t stop yourself from getting very hungry by lunch, shouldn’t it work the same way with the mind – if you let it play on he X-Box, for example, you can’t stop it from replaying the same game over and over again, it’s just a karmic reaction.

Is the ability to stop your mind and divert it to Krishna is the same mercy that frees a devotee from his “papebhyo”? Somehow Krishna frees up our schedules and let us chant our rounds, read our books and visit our temples instead of toiling away at our jobs. Is it possible that Krishna does the same thing to our minds, too?

Of course one might argue that reading books and singing kirtans is nothing but a karmic reaction and so can be read from one’s astrological chart or the palm of one’s hand. That is an interesting argument. It would lead to all kids of puzzling conclusions and deep and penetrating thoughts about the nature of the free will and God’s actual interferences in devotees’ lives so let’s leave it for a moment.

One implication would be that it is impossible to change the course of one’s mind, as a part of material energy it is carried by the modes of material nature and so if one has to think through three hundred and sixty eight hours of alternative shots in Angry Birds than it can’t be stopped, it has to live through it just like one has to live through raising children or unavoidable sicknesses.

It is possible to refill the mind with Krishna conscious stimuli instead, feed it our books, our food, our Internet blogs and hope that it would chase after those, but all those things are so tightly integrated with the rest of the world that it is impossible to say where Krishna’s intervention starts and where it ends. I mean temples do not appear by magic, they need a lot or resources to come together, resources that should have been prepared over long periods of time without any visible connection to Krishna  – the land, the materials, country’s laws etc etc. Without those temples, or printing and publishing industries, or Internet itself, we’d have very little to keep our minds busy with.

It  seems the mind has a mind of its own, and that’s what I experienced today.

I tried to do some chanting but the mind seemed to follow his own destiny instead. No matter how much I tried I couldn’t stop it. It lasted for about an hour altogether, then he suddenly shut up. Maybe it was its karmic reactions reaching their ends but there were external factors to speed up the process, too.

Two things helped – trying to chant faster, as it requires more effort and concentration and less leeway for it to think of something else, and the second helpful thing was shouting at it at the top of my lungs. Not really, but there was a point where I was just trying to chant louder than it thinks. It was like “whatever you want to think about, I’m going to drown your pesky little voice anyway”.  Eventually it worked and I found some heart to put into the remaining rounds.

Suddenly I felt like this is what I really want to do with my life, suddenly I felt like I’m going to surrender myself to the Holy Names, suddenly some taste entered my tongue. Bam! Sahajiya again.

It seems like a curse – becoming proud of my achievements, but it is a very common thing that happens to everyone. I mean even gopis felt proud during the rasa dance and so Krishna disappeared. Even Srimati Radharani was left alone in the forest “because” of her “pride”. I’m not sure I can use this kind of language describing their feelings and relations with Krishna but this is the language Prabhupada used in Krishna Book so it must be okay.

There might have been more complicated explanations considering the differences  in spiritual levels of gopis – some were nitya siddhas, others were devotees who met the Lord after many many lifetimes of service as I mentioned yesterday. They might have different things happening to them.

Trying to imagine exactly how they felt is another kind of sahajiya. What is a principal difference between imitating the rasa dance itself and gopis feelings during it? We can’t empathize with their feelings without getting dangerously close to “taking them lightly”.

Urghh, it’s just everywhere. Nothing, absolutely nothing can be taken lightly in Krishna Consciousness, as Prabhupada said – it is simple but it is not easy.

Vanity thought #86. Gone for good.

So at one point last week I felt like I was given a wonderful opportunity to serve Krishna without any consideration for my own self. Chanting those multiple rounds really filled my heart with hope, for a moment. It felt like distributing books all those years ago, when I and devotees around me really felt Krishna’s presence supporting our sankirtana efforts

Now it’s all gone. Two-three days in a usual, routine grind is all that it takes. Just like the euphoria of the early years it became just a fleeting memory. With book distribution I can see that I couldn’t have done it forever, there were other kinds of service that were required of me then and they seemed equally important. One thing led to another and here I am, mourning another missed opportunity.

This time it was even clearer that I don’t have a chance to continue chanting so many rounds a day. In fact I don’t even know when I can have the next chance, not for another month at least. Even when I try to bring that moment back and drink the nectar, so to speak, I feel like a fish out of water, gasping for breath but getting nothing in my gills. How can people live in this vacuum? It’s not normal but it seems to be unavoidable.

Just to mock me, I guess, I had another brush with suspicious coincidences – as I was thinking what other possible outcomes I could have missed, I got to read the chapter about preparing for the rasa dance from Krishna book. Some gopis were not allowed to leave their homes and, fully absorbed in transcendental meditation on Krishna, they left their material bodies.

Wow!

Does it mean that the only way for me to escape is to die? They had their family obligations and morals and religious principles that were holding them back and were unavoidable, so they escaped by dying. I am no gopi but I don’t see an easy way out  of my circumstances either. Just the more of the usual doesn’t seem to cut it, I need a radical change.

Now, I don’t mind dying while fully absorbed in meditation on the Lord, I just wonder if I have it in me. Probably not, but if I manage to try a few more times, over and over, maybe I’ll grow a pair. It is kind of addictive activity, God knows what it will lead me to.

There’s not much in Krishna book on the fate of those gopis but in Srimad Bhagavatam there are explanations given by Vishvanatha Chakrvarti Thakura and others. Apparently “left their material bodies” is not as straightforward as it seems. They did not necessarily die, and their material bodies were nothing like mine, they went to Krishna in theirs, just like Dhruva Maharaja went to Vaikuntha in his “material” body.

Apparently what Shukadeva Gosvami meant was that their bodies stopped serving material purposes, and it becomes even more complicated when you consider that Shukadeva Gosvami couldn’t talk about these matters freely because not everybody in the audience appreciated it. And then you throw the concern that gopis’ material bodies have been enjoyed by their husbands before and so couldn’t have been offered to Krishna, and my mind goes completely off the track.

I don’t care which way I have to die, literally or figuratively speaking, the point is that full absorption in Krishna is possible and Yoga Maya has her own ways of accommodating it. Yes, Yoga Maya, it says so in the purport. Yoga Maya kept those gopis from meeting Krishna so that they could further purify their hearts and bodies and get ready for Him next time, and the Yoga Maya somehow arranged their “giving up their material bodies”, whatever that really means.

So I’m not really gone for good, I just have to get the next chance and really put my foot down this time, and then do it gain and again.

This way it should work.

If I can’t attract the Lord by the purity of my heart, I will get Him by numbers. It’s the least I could do, or rather the only thing I believe I am capable of.

Vanity thought #85. Surrender.

The rebellion didn’t last very long and I’m prepared to surrender. Not surrender to the Lord, surrender to my conditional existence and lack of devotion.

I can’t chant 24/7 and piss everybody off by doing that instead of performing my other duties. Maybe I could, theoretically, but it’s just not happening, I don’t have enough faith and I have too many attachments instead. I tried doing it last night but everybody was already sleeping and so no one noticed, and this morning I forgot about it and it was too late to start when I remembered.

The whole episode made me think of who is actually responsible for all of this. There’s me, the conditioned spirit soul, there’s Paramatma, Hari, there’s Lord’s external energy, maya, there’s Lord’s internal energy, yoga maya, there’s Krishna, there’s Lord Chaitanya, there is the guru parampara, there’s Rama, which probably refers to Balarama, the supplier of all Krishna’s parafernalia – too many cooks, I’d say.

Could it be that at some point they are all pointing fingers at each other, passing the blame and tossing the hot potato? Who exactly is supposed to fix things when I go rogue? What is this “I” anyway? Which part of my rants is enacted by maya, which part is advised by Paramatma and which part is merely sanctioned by Him? Is there a possibility that yogamaya pools her own wool over my eyes from time to time?

Ultimately the buck stops with Krishna but He has so many management layers for a reason and each of His agents here is perfectly capable of dealing with me on their own.

Besides, what’s with being a part of Krishna, qualitatively the same but quantitatively different? Does it mean I have my own powers I can exercise in some way, too? Say, if I want to sacrifice some of the resources provided by maya, or Ananta Shesha, in the service of the Lord, does it mean I’m exercising my own powers? I do have a spiritual body perfectly capable of serving Krishna and that body has all the relevant powers required for the service, is it possible that I can project some of them in this world, too? I sure don’t realize it but the powers are still there, even if dormant.

Say, if I get angry at Krishna, which everyone probably does every now and then, even Mother Yashoda and Srimati Radharani, would it be a legitimate spiritual feeling as long as it’s directed towards the Lord? I don’t imagine I am some sort of demoniac creature like Kamsa but anger towards the Lord is a common enough emotion even if there are no demons in Goloka Vrindavana.

Well, enough with the excuses, I better shape up and humbly accept that I can’t perform any supernatural devotional service right now.

So I surrender.

[insert “Quietly plotting my revenge in the meantime”]

Vanity thought #84. Rebellion.

So I don’t deserve the blessing of 24/7 chanting, how unfortunate. I was dead serious about it.

What I need to implement constant chanting is some tweaking to my body functions, and that can be avoided anyway by lowering daily round requirement, until my body settles in, and I also need an exit from where I am now.

Really, can I just tell everyone to get lost because I found better things do with my life?

Should I leave fixing this to the Lord? I wonder how that would work: “Sorry, folks, I’m  not going to explain why you should forget I ever existed, just accept this as the ultimate mercy you can’t comprehend. The Lord will reveal it Himself.”

If fixing it is easy for Him then I’m ready to go all the way, too.

I’m sensing hesitation on His part here, though, and that gives me leverage.

I’m going to abuse all my privileges here. I can’t have devotional service? Fine, then losing a few token resources here and there is not going to break Your bank either.

I will exploit whatever I can lay my hands on for my personal benefit and don’t You dare to stop me.

I don’t care for any of those things anyway,  but I’ll throw a tantrum all the same, just to spite You.

[insert “Beginning of a rant”]

Doesn’t matter, my Lord, You are my eternal master and I’m Your eternal servant and no expense on my behalf is going to change it. That’s the downside of “eternal”, get it?

I can go 24/7 even in this world, but  can You support it? I will need things, these and those, but nothing major, apart from love. I need love, without it I’m dead, without it I can’t go on, and the best part, it’s MY heart’s desire that YOU are bound to fulfill. You can’t give me love, it has always been mine. I have always been a part of you, I’m not something different, You can’t dismiss me and you can’t ignore me forever.

We are bound by eternal relationships, and I need a solid proof that what I’m doing now is better than forfeiting all my other, external obligations, and starting chanting Your Names without a pause. If that ever happens, YOU will be obliged to support it, and it is YOU who can’t wriggle your way out of it.

I might be a small and insignificant part of You forever drowning in the ocean of material existence, but being part of You comes with certain privileges, and I’m going to abuse them until I get your attention. I will blackmail You, and if You don’t like it You’d better do something about it, fast.

I am NOT going to put up with being separate from YOU. I AM your servant, if You want to dismiss me, tell me so, I will not abandon my hope of serving You just on a hunch.

We are in this together, if You don’t give me what I want now, prepare to face a battle with the part of You, and even if you “win”, prepare to accept Your loss.

You can’t start a fight with a part of You about that part’s privileges to love you unconditionally. This is a fight You can’t win, because even if You ignore me initially You can’t avoid me forever.

It’s either this or You tell me what’s going on and why I have to wait.

Best regards,

Your eternal servant you can’t ignore for long.

[insert “End of rant”]

Vanity thought #83. Special mercy.

Yesterday, while I was doing those endless rounds, I cheered myself for the last thirty-two by reading a story about Lord’s special mercy case.

Remember Digvijaya pundit and Lord Chaitanya? It was a world famous pundit who recited a hundred and eight beautiful verses about Ganges and Lord Chaitanya spotted a couple of mistakes. Sri Vrindavana Das Thakur explains this story in Chaitanya Bhagavat as Lord’s showing the pundit His mercy in a very gentle way.

The Lord didn’t want to humiliate the pundit in public and so He removed his pride in the most affectionate and painless way. First, the conversation happened in the evening when only Lord’s students were present, and then Lord Chaitanya didn’t conclude and celebrate His victory, He just told the pundit that they would continue tomorrow. The Lord left it to the pundit himself to figure out he was defeated, no one else kind of noticed.

Them Goddess Saraswati appeared before him and advised him to take shelter at the Lord’s lotus feet without disclosing His real identity to anyone. And that’s what happened the next day when the public debate was scheduled. The pundit prayed to the Lord and the Lord told him to become a devotee and always chant the Holy Names. The pundit then gave up his wealth and servants and elephants and went away without losing his dignity.

Very sweet and very caring story. It did enough for me and I resumed chanting hoping that the Lord would also destroy my false pride and keep my dignity intact in other aspects so that no one can blame Krishna for my faults. It worked.

This morning I read the ending of it. The paragraph right next after where I stopped described the mercy of granting devotional service a bit more. Specifically it cited the example of Sanatana Goswami who got the same kind of mercy and who gave up his kingly position and turned in a mendicant roaming wild forests of Vrindavan.

Is it a coincidence that I didn’t read it yesterday? If it is, it’s a really weird one.

You see, whole day I was busy thinking what would happen to me if I learned to chant the Holy Names all my waking hours non-stop. What kind of mercy could I hope for? Could the Lord change my life so that I could chant in peace? I told myself “No,that’s really asking for too much, the Lord wouldn’t interfere, it doesn’t mean He is withholding the mercy”. If I was reminded about Sanatana Goswami yesterday I would have seen that it is perfectly normal to expect the Lord to grant me the chance AND the strength to chant continuously and that I didn’t get it, I was passed, and my spirit would have been broken. The Lord spared me the heartbreak by making me stop reading just in time, or maybe it was only a coincidence.

Today I see that I’m definitely not ready for the life of a babaji, today the normal sixteen rounds felt longer than usual, forget chanting non-stop. On a good side, though, for the most of the day I clearly felt emptiness inside. I had to catch up on the news, read the newspapers, RSS feeds etc. etc. and I didn’t have a heart for it anymore, nor did I cared for the food or conversations with friends and family.

Whatever they say, but the loss of interest in general life after chanting Hare Krishna mahamantra is very real and it’s not the first time I experienced it either, it’s not just beginner’s luck or rush, there’s nothing new for me to get excited, no fascination with new music or smell of incense or taste of prasadam which could explain the effect on newcomers. I don’t even know exactly what I was missing, it was “neti neti” all around, and I wasn’t going to chant any extra today to fill the void either.

So there, back to drab and boring “normal” life, I’m sure I’ll get used to it, if the Lord wants me to continue with my life instead of turning me into a mad mendicant, so be it. I only hope that the He doesn’t forget me and my heart doesn’t forget Him and chanting His names.

That’s all mercy I really need.

Vanity thought #82. Three lakhs.

It’s over. I woke up nineteen hours ago and I chanted three lakhs of names, actually a bit more – one hundred ninety two rounds is more than three hundred thousand, but who’s counting?

At this moment I’d have exactly five hours of sleep left if I planned on doing it everyday. Well, I’m not doing it tomorrow so I can sit here and type and then sleep it off.

The  point, as I realized today, is that one should chant all his waking hours. As it happens, it translates into three lakhs of names, more or less. If I wanted to do it everyday, I’d settle for less, unless Krishna comes up with a little more mercy and makes my body survive on five hours of sleep. It is certainly possible when one is caught up in some big project, people sleep even less when they are truly dedicated. That’s not the case with me, chanting doesn’t excite me nearly enough, so without that extra mercy I’d have to chant maybe ten twenty rounds less.

This chanting from the moment you wake up till the moment you go to sleep again gives some real meaning to “kirtaniyah sadah harih”.  Today I’ve got a taste of what “sadah” means here. Unfortunately I had to skip all three previous lines.

“Trinad api sunichena” – no way, I’m the greatest namacharya of modern times. No matter how much I tried, the pride of “success” is impossible to wash off.

“Taror iva sahishnuna” – my whole body aches and I’m not going to tolerate it, I haven’t tolerated it all day, so “fail”.

“Amanina” – you’re kidding, right? I’m expecting demigods to shower me with flower petals, “fail” again.

“Manadena” – some dude got the wrong number and called me five times, I almost snapped at him, I was boiling. Big “fail”.

One thing I agree on, though – I couldn’t pull it through without some major favors from either Krishna or Mahamantra. They gave me strength, endurance and enough inspiration not to give up.  Last ten rounds or so it was a race against time – I wanted to finish the job not a minute later. I prayed to give me strength and concentration to keep the speed up, at the end of every round I was looking at the clock, calculating if I can make it.

 

Then, on the last two or three rounds I just gave up racing myself – I saw that Krishna is giving me all I need, my feet didn’t hurt me so much, my mouth was as fast as in the morning, my head clear – by His grace I didn’t need to worry about these things myself, so I just let it rip and listened to the sound of the Names, I even stopped checking time.

When I finished I stole the last glance at the clock, and the question was – did WE manage it? Not “I”, “we”. At that moment I clearly felt that it was a collective effort.

We did it, btw, to the second.

Param vijayate sri krishna sankirtanam!

Off to sleep now.

Vanity thought #81. Ninety-six.

In preparation for tomorrow’s big japa marathon I did ninety-six rounds today, thirty-two more that I originally planned. That’s a good news.

I started rather late and took the first sixteen rounds in stride, took a long break, had some snacks, then did another sweet sixteen. The Lord was on my side, my mind was crystal clear, my heart was as pure as I’ve ever seen it, Holy Names rolled of my tongue and I all in all had a perfect day.

After lunch I thought I could do another half of my planned sixty-four in one go, and I did, without breaking a sweat. It went so well that I didn’t want to stop and continued with another thirty-two without a pause. That’s when it all started turning sour.

Interestingly it was not the mind that first gave it, it was my legs. For some reason I couldn’t sit today at all, my body was very restless and after just a few minutes sitting down I felt an irresistible urge to stand up and stride up and down the room. No problem, but after six hours of walking my feet couldn’t take it anymore, they are not used to such prolonged stress. Suddenly everything else started unraveling, too.

I was forced to sit down and that somehow unfastened my mind, my restlessness went the other way – not down to my feet but up to my head. I would be lying if I said that after six hours of chanting I didn’t experience any mental fatigue at all, and so when my mind broke loose I didn’t have mental energy to keep it down.

Inevitably the speed dropped, and with slow speed concentration levels dropped, too, and, after hours of chanting, I started to feel drowsy.

That was a perfect storm – cannot walk, cannot sit, my mind racing like a young colt, my eyelids are drooping, and three more hours to go.

If I had a secret hope that my doing so many rounds I could afford some slack while chanting, it completely dissipated. I cannot count how many nama aparadh I was committing for these last couple of hours, and they all came down on me like a ton of bricks.

This was a perfect state for chanting three hundred thousand years or or even lifetimes without making any progress.

Yesterday I had a little preview of what was coming, and I thought “Okay, let my mind burn in the sacrificial fire”, and burned it did. It burned spectacularly, taking the whole house down with it. I thought I would burn my mind, I myself became a burnout instead.

If one wonders how a devotee can be overcome by impersonalism – that’s how. Try chanting a gazillion of rounds in the offensive state of mind and see how the Lord offers absolutely no reciprocation. It’s only you, your mind, and your soulless chanting. That proves rather convincingly that there’s no higher spiritual reality and there’s no God who can extend you His mercy, you are entirely on your own, and everything you feel or do is just an illusion. Dreadful state.

At that point another shameful realization occurred to me – I really want to finish my rounds and take a break. That’s unfortunate, the whole point of the marathon is to obtain the taste for chanting. Not love of God per se, that’s a far out dream, just a simple desire to chant. It’s like in the beginning when you go from three rounds to sixteen – it just doesn’t feel right to fall back to three again. This time around I hoped to not feel right when I’m not chanting at all. I wanted to develop a habit. Is that too much to ask?

First half of the day was very promising in that regard, I just couldn’t stop. Towards the end, however, I felt quite the opposite.

Luckily, by Lord’s mercy, I loudly protested, and, sensing that I have only a few rounds left, I went for it full speed, I had nothing to lose anymore, and that somewhat corrected the situation.  Now I’m looking forward to the big day tomorrow when I have to chant twice as much.

After today’s trial run I feel better prepared. I know my speed, even when it slows down I really have nothing to be afraid of. I can have ten-twenty minutes of rest every six hours and I can use them for chanting slower in a more comfortable position for my aging body, or I can spend them on taking breaks and listening to bhajans or reading books.

There’s nothing more uplifting and inspiring than submitting to the mercy of Srila Prabhupada and other devotees. I would be a fool to ignore it when it is so readily available and try to do it on my own. The whole marathon would be a failure if I don’t learn the value of devotee’s mercy.

Only a demon would try to win over Krishna by his personal efforts.

Hmm, I actually thought I could do it myself. What does it make me?

Vanity thought #80. Thirty-two.

It’s nothing, just seven rounds more than on Ekadashi, so there’s nothing to talk about, done in a flash.

Not really, though. I’m looking for signs how I could go up to sixty-four and more, and they are not good.

First the speed – it drops. It doesn’t matter if I do sixteen or even thirty-two with each round taking, say, just half a minute longer, but when I try the three lakh marathon, one hundred and ninety-two rounds, this half a minute would multiply into extra hour and a half. Doesn’t mean much on normal day but if I have only five hours left for sleep, shower, and food, then deducting even an hour means it becomes nearly impossible.

The only reason I haven’t given up on the idea yet is that I can sleep it off the next day.

So why did the speed drop? Mouth doesn’t seem to suffer from fatigue yet, but there’s a significant drop in concentration, and the reason for that is my wrong motivations. I can do a round very fast for the sake of setting a record. That is wrong and not only undesirable, but even impossible  attitude to keep in the long term. If I want to chant so many rounds just to set a record for myself and brag about it here, I’m doing it for the wrong reasons and I will ultimately run out of reasons to continue.

Next the mind – it went berserk. It was sprinting away faster than I could chant. The only reprieve it gave me was when I took a break and did something else, walked around, had lunch, that seemed to pacify it, but it was back with a vengeance once I started adding round tally again.

That, too, made me think twice about the whole idea – is it worth it? Am I biting more than I can chew? Can I literally go insane? Didn’t seem like a far fetched outcome today.

Last few rounds were especially tough, there was not a shred of attention left, not a shred of devotion, not a shred of praying, not a shred of energy to mount an assault on my runaway mind.

But then I thought – to hell with it. It will all be my sacrifice  – chanting three lakhs despite my mind, my lack of devotion, my lack of attention, my lack of proper spirit. I don’t see how I can overcome these obstacles and have a perfect day of chanting, but I don’t care, I want to sacrifice them in a sense of throwing them in a fire and letting them burn, which is not how one should perform vedic sacrifices for the pleasure of the Lord.

That’s another thing that I really doubt at this point – will it bring any pleasure to the Lord at all? If I can’t keep the proper mood, will the Lord be pleased? I don’t know. Maybe I should be skillful and play a game of give and take with my mind and body, I certainly should do that, but right now I have this opportunity to do a japa marathon and at least starting it feels like a done deal, so I’ll be skillful next time.

Tomorrow and the next day I’m taking the bull by the horns and I don’t want to think what will happen next. If I will be a mental wreck, I can survive that. If my whole body will be a wreck, I can survive that, too.

If I need a lesson that it’s “how”, not” how much” to chant that really matters, I will learn that lesson, too.

To be perfectly honest, I want to try and force the Holy Name to show me mercy. It might not work, it most certainly won’t work, but at least I will go down trying.

I’m already thinking when I could do it again, when I will have time to mount another effort.

Krishna, be warned, I’m going to test the softness of your heart. Or my heart, whatever melts down first.

Vanity thought #79. Motivations.

God knows how many times I caught myself feeling bored. And not bored in a sense “there’s nothing on TV” and I just flick channels, bored doing something supposedly Krishna conscious.

Bored as in “I don’t wanna do any extra rounds”, bored as in “I hope there’s some interesting fight with Christians on the Net”, bored as in “When will I finish reading that lecture on a blog?”, bored as in “I need to find some better bhajans to download”.

What’s wrong with me?

It came down to me praying to Krishna, while doing my japa, to give me something interesting to do when I finish. I know I can find some other stuff pretty easily but I want exciting Krishna conscious stuff instead and I pray for it.

So what’s going on?

I think being bored is an influence of tama guna, or maybe it’s actually rajas – the desire to do something really engaging. Come to think of it, this rush comes in even when I’m perfectly happy and satisfied so it must be rajas. The source is not really important, what’s important is that it gives me motivation to do something “for Krishna” and thus it can’t be all bad. Come to think of it’s actually pretty good, in a sense that doing something connected to Krishna is the only way to purify oneself in the process.

I don’t think everyone who does some big, big service, is absolutely free from any tinge of rajas or is starting off from absolutely pure state of heart. I’m no special in this regard, except I’m not doing anything big, but the principle should be the same.

I don’t have any special capacities, if I was a singer I could have recorded a devotional song and utilized my voice, if I was a writer I could have written a nice book or poem to motivate others or just to describe glories of devotees or Krishna Himself, if I was a businessmen I could have started some Krishna conscious enterprise serving devotees needs and donating proceeds to Krishna or to preaching programs, or opened a restaurant to attract people to prasadam. Whatever it was, I’m pretty sure the process would have given me a real rush.

As it is, I’m getting excited about downloading new books off the Internet instead, books that I probably won’t have the time or desire to read – what a waste of life!

So, should I be searching for more motivations? Should I really welcome the feeling of being bored as it’s the only impetus to doing something for me? Half the time I successfully banish this boredom from my mind. Should I declare a victory? Is it so bad feeling satisfied with just chanting instead?

I’ve found out that I can do my rounds faster than usual, what should I do about it? What’s the purpose of this speed chanting? Will I have more time to lounge on a sofa? Will I have more time to read? Or should I just chant more rounds instead?

At this point I have a rush of possibility to chant 64 rounds one day, and maybe even three lakhs, which is 192 rounds. What gives me the rush is calculations how it could be made possible.

This week, for example, I have a few days off and so doing 64 rounds shouldn’t be a problem, at my new speed it should take just a tad over six hours – not even a full working day. Even three lakhs doesn’t sound impossible anymore – mathematically I could do it in under 19 hours and so, as one off, it should be just one little chanting marathon. I’m not thinking of doing it everyday yet, though 19 hours a day should leave enough time for sleep, food, and showers. Tough schedule but not impossible.

The question is – what will I get from it? Would the result depend on my motivation? Would I get absolutely nothing if the only thing I want is imitating Haridasa Thakura?

Or can chanting three lakhs a day give me the Pure Name? As far as sacrifices go, this one is tough to beat technically, the grueling schedule leaves no time to enjoy my senses in any way.

The question is – will I really do it? It’s not a vrata by any means, I’m still a bit apprehensive about those, but when I really contemplate it and see a real possibility, I can’t back off easily either.

I will start with 64 rounds and see how it affects me. I’m not going to cancel my scheduled trip yet, I can still cancel in the last minute if I really want to go for 192 instead.

I can start with 32 rounds tomorrow, I guess, though it doesn’t sound as exciting now, when it’s getting real, as it was last week when it was only the stuff of my dreams.

God help me.