It never changes, does it? When I had a job I hated going there on Mondays and now when all I do is chant Hare Krishna all day long I hate starting it on Monday morning, too. Is there any real difference?
A while ago I speculated about chanting being the recommended sacrifice for Kali Yuga, here, here and here. If people used to offer horses to achieve all kinds of success before, can chanting Hare Krishna mantra bring the same results now? I still think the answer is “why not?”
From that perspective chanting my rounds is no different from any other job. I do it to get some benefits, just like I go (went) to work to get salary. Moreover, isn’t chanting Hare Krishna compared to watering the roots of a tree? Isn’t going to work is like pouring water on the branches instead?
Shouldn’t I get the same benefits and much more from chanting Hare Krishna?
The downside of this logic is that it induces me to put lots of conditions on chanting. I calculate how much I would chant and how much I expect to get in return.
I felt this attitude very clearly this morning and it made me very sad. Suddenly the pride of chanting ten hours a day was replaced by realization that I spent fourteen hours on myself and I don’t think it’s enough.
It’s not how much we give to Krishna that stops us, it’s how much we hold back, right?
Well, I physically felt the attachment to *my* fourteen hours today, I was very much against giving them up.
Actually it’s more than fourteen hours. I found the new cruising speed – one round in five minutes, twelve rounds in one hour, hundred rounds in eight hours and twenty minutes. That leaves fifteen hours and forty minutes for myself. I felt like I’m finally getting something out of this – more free time to goof off.
Just like with work, after a while you learn the ropes and find an easy way to accomplish the same tasks that leaves more time to yourself, same thing is happening with chanting.
Is there any difference again?
I thought chanting faster would be good. I didn’t try to achieve it, it just happened. Three months ago I noticed I could chant faster than six minutes, I timed myself, I could chant even faster if I sat down, concentrated and controlled my breathing. Same thing happened over this weekend, except the times are about one minute better.
Back then I thought of trying to chant three hundred thousand names in one day. Actually it’s one hundred and ninety two rounds according to our tradition. Eventually I pulled it off.
Those were the days. Speed really mattered. Now I’m thinking speed is good because it gives me more time for myself. What a rascal!
I think I will start chanting one hundred and eight rounds from tomorrow. Interestingly, a hundred and eight is a very special number in our tradition but it doesn’t fit with our sixteen round counters. Our counters go ninety six then hundred and twelve. Never mind, 108 is still good.
One advantage of speed is the demand for concentration. As soon as I lose it I start mispronouncing the names, chanting faster keeps me on my toes all the time. I suppose after a while my mouth will get used to it and I would need to increase speed again.
Today I came across another argument against any special status for chanting the Holy Names. A few weeks ago BBC aired a documentary on the power of super brands, I finally watched the first part, technology, today at lunch. This is from their preview:
The scenes I witnessed at the opening of the new Apple store in London’s Covent Garden were more like an evangelical prayer meeting than a chance to buy a phone or a laptop. The strangeness began a couple of hours before the doors opened to the public. Inside the store, glassy-eyed staff were whipped up into a frenzy of excitement, jumping up and down, clapping and shouting.
Today I saw it on TV myself, there’s no exaggeration here. The shop staff were really whipping themselves up before going out to greet the customers, and the customers were no better, too. There was this dude who traveled all the way from California to witness opening of an Apple store, there were guys from China and Russia, too, and there was a local guy who has been to his thirtieth store opening himself.
Apple fanboys were really made look like a pseudo-religious cult there, but that’s not what is really interesting, it’s the claim made in the documentary that MRI scans of the brains show that Apple fans have exactly the same physiological response to Apple products as real religious people have to images of their objects of worship.
It’s fine to joke about Apple cult but are we any different? That same MRI guy admitted that he is thinking about Apple and its products twenty four hours a day, just like we do about Krishna, and he gets the same effects, feels the same emotions.
Can we replace Krishna with Apple and feel no different? Hmm, I could even say that Apple is more real – you buy the stuff, you use it, you enjoy it. I chant the Holy Names I don’t feel anything, just the sense of unavoidable duty. Sure we have many things to enjoy about Krishna – prasadam, really nice deities, sweet kirtans, but don’t we create all these things ourselves for our own amusement? Yes, they are transcendental and absolute but very few of us can’t tell the difference between tasty and average prasadam or between good and bad singing.
Until we reach the certain stage, ruci, if I am not mistaken, we still see those transcendental things with material eyes and Apple has an advantage here – you worship it and it gives you real, tangible things and benefits that cannot be mistaken for anything else. We have to tell ourselves that Krishna’s mercy is present in this rice, we can’t tell the difference otherwise.
Having said that, there’s a loophole in that MRI argument. First I heard of these experiments about five years ago and it was obvious then – they asked people to try and remember their most profound religious experiences. That is just nonsense – you can’t reproduce these things at will. You might try to reproduce the feelings they elicited but that is just pretending and it is rejected in our tradition.
If you are fooling yourself that you are seeing Krishna face to face the feelings you produce have nothing to do with actual spiritual experiences, you are just being phony. So that’s what worshiping Apple feels like, too?
Monday is finally over, worrisome but just as expected. I’ve been there before, gloom and doubts come and go, the important thing I lived through without dropping a round, there’s just one or two more days before I start feeling good again.