Vanity thought #136. Dharana.

As I said, it means holding on.

In my case I’m trying to maintain my new regiment of chanting lots of rounds. It’s not a novelty for me anymore, there’s no excitement, no rush, no curiosity to see what happens. I know what happens already – nothing major, but there are changes and not all of them for the better.

Bad news first – somewhere on the third hour I had to admit that I’d rather be doing something else. There are plenty of interesting things out there waiting for me to finish, I only caught a glimpse while scanning newsfeeds but that was enough.

Perhaps I went in too fast, perhaps I should cut on my rounds and check out those juicy news first. One should not pretend to be more advanced than he is and one should not imitate practices that are above his own level. Very reasonable argument, and to add salt to the injury – if I still insist on chanting I would be doing it to feed my pride.

While I was thinking like this the rush has gone. Still, to make a compromise, I allowed myself to go online during the lunch break. Then I went on chanting and during the break, among other things, bought Bhakti Tirtha’s Swami first book The Beggar I: Meditations and Prayers on the Supreme Lord . I’ve read only the first few chapters so far but they’ve already helped a lot. There’s nothing like prayers of real vaishnavas to shake off one’s ignorance.

Thankfully, the “japa is boring” feeling has disappeared for now but I’m afraid it will come back, just like any other material distraction. One day I will have to give up, there’s no way I’m going to chant so many rounds for the rest of my life. I will make the best of the opportunity I have now, feelings and boredom would have to wait.

Now the good news – I observed some progress, that’s part of the reason I called today’s blog “dharana”. Yet again I experienced a period of unusual absorption in chanting, last time it lasted for about three rounds, today it extended to eight or even ten, depending on where I agreed that it was totally gone.

During these first rounds I was completely unplugged from the rest of the world. I kept my eyes shut, I didn’t moved an inch, and the sound of the Holy Names seemed to be reaching the depths of my very heart. My mind was conspicuously absent, the sound of the maha mantra was the only experience I registered.

I was trying to hold on to it and it lasted a lot longer than before but eventually it disappeared. I managed to observe how it happened and it might help me in the future. First, the memory was back online. I started to remember what I said about this stage yesterday, then the mind started analyzing the reality of what is happening. Then I remembered “pratyahara” stage – ignoring the sense objects, but, in my case, I started noticing things that I was supposed to ignore instead. The whirring of the fan was first, then I opened my eyes – lots of new information to ignore, took careful notice of it all.

Then I felt the urge to get up and stretch my legs, and so I did, and it went downhill from then on.

I have to say, though, that it was quite a long seesaw battle. Open my eyes, lose concentration, close my eyes again, concentration comes back. Walk around a bit, lose concentration, sit down, close my eyes, concentration comes back.

That’s why I’m not sure when exactly I realized that this morning spell has gone completely and couldn’t be revived. I started really losing it on the eighth round and by the tenth I had only a vague memory of how it felt.

Never mind the loss – it’s still very inspiring. I count on Krishna when He said that results of one’s devotional service are never lost, so I figure that even if I can’t repeat the same success tomorrow, eventually the day will come when I get to experience it again, and probably for a bit longer. At the end of the day I’ve added another brick to the tower of devotion that is supposed to reach Krishna.

Please don’t think that when I say “I added” I mean I actually did it. It was entirely Krishna’s mercy, from the start to the end, I was just trying to hold on to it for as long as I could, and I was praying for the power to hold on for even longer.

Another important point is that even this display of Krishna’s mercy is not the goal of our practice. Yesterday I was talking about yogis finally reaching their goal on the stage of “samadhi”, and it was a similar experience of going through the stages for us, but there’s a gulf of difference.

Yogis, you see, are trying to achieve perfection of their practice. They do all the hard work, and their motivation is only theirs. They want success, Krishna, the Supersoul in everyone’s heart, grants it.

Our practice is completely different. We don’t want anything from Krishna, we don’t want yogic perfection, we don’t want to enjoy our success. We simply do whatever is pleasing Him. If He wants us to chant we sit and chant but if He wants us to go and cook instead we happily get up and go, without a shred of discontent that we might miss the chance of getting the taste of the Holy Names.

We know that among various kinds of service chanting of the Holy Names is the most sublime, absolutely perfect way to reach Krishna, but we also know that our own desire to see Krishna is inferior to serving Krishna’s devotees.

Keeping that in mind I contemplated my next steps. Finally I decided to continue chanting, however imperfect. If Krishna withdrew His mercy it doesn’t mean I should stop, not at all. In my life I’ve offered plenty of service to the Lord, probably 99% of it was rejected out of hand. I don’t know how to please Him or His representatives or other devotees.

My constitutional position, however, is to keep on trying no matter what. Krishna can show me His mercy or He can break my fragile heart, He is still my eternal Lord and Master.

So I kept on chanting, and I was rewarded yet again. Comparing to my previous efforts I had far less distractions from the mind and it was far easier to bring the mind back to listening the mantra. Then I started worrying that I won’t have time to proofread my yesterday’s entry and no time to type up today’s but by Krishna’s grace it’s happening, He somehow squeezed the time. I completed the eighty rounds, just as I planned, and I have some leftovers, too!

Oh, and I noticed that my speed doesn’t drop anymore, never. It could be the achievement of my mouth and tongue but it could be my minds failure to distract me. Today my mind was just not as strong and powerful as before and couldn’t affect the rhythm.

So here it is – empirical observation of the effect of chanting the Holy Names, in a space of just a couple of days and magnified by chanting as much as possible.

It works.

Hare Krishna!

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