Vanity thought #158. Chores.

This is a boring diary entry, just doing my chores.

By all accounts this was turning into an uneventful week.

I don’t know how I didn’t see it before but this week chanting 128 rounds sounds perfectly normal. Perhaps it’s Krishna’s magic, perhaps I am actually losing interest in certain things and that freed up time for extra rounds.

Today is the second day I did these two lakhs and I’m optimistic I can continue it as a new weekday standard. The whole process takes about twelve hours since the moment I wake up. When I look at it like that I regret about the other twelve hours I spend on god knows what. It genuinely bothers me and I deal with it the best way I know – by ignoring it.

In absence of any revelations I concentrate on improving the quality of my japa. There’s a truly gargantuan task in front of me – chant 200,000 Holy Names with utmost concentration, humility, and respect. I don’t think the Name will reveal itself to me if I keep thinking of pleasures or pains of the material world.

Put it simply – the truth is that the maha mantra is the only reality, it contains both Krishna and all His forms, qualities, energies, all His devotees and all His pastimes. It is all in there. If, however, I still believe that the reality is my body and all the things that surround it, I’m not going to see Krishna.

I simply cannot divide my attention, I can’t maintain interest in both.

Philosophically speaking this world is real, of course, but unless I see Krishna I can’t see the material energy as it is and try to take shelter in it, and that is total madness.

So if I keep half of my mind on chanting the mantra and the other half on scavenging the contents of my fridge – I’m doomed to fail. Keeping my mind off the fridge at all times seems like an impossible task but I believe I’m making progress.

Progress not in a sense of how long I can stay on the mantra but in how fast I can bring my mind back. Maybe I’m fooling myself but I feel like it is much easier to drop all other thoughts and concentrate on listening. Maybe I should look at my posts from a few weeks ago and see if there’s any factual evidence left there. I remember I’ve been having epic struggles with my mind, it was totally out of control, it’s much more docile now.

What helps me shut it down is realization that I’m not this body and anything related to this body is irrelevant. If some memories pop up in my brain – irrelevant, if the mind starts thinking of food for dinner – irrelevant, job, family, friend, hopes, dreams, successes and failures – it’s all irrelevant and must be dropped the second I realize they stole my attention.

Of course the body and all its multiple interests must be maintained in good working condition but not in my japa time. I can always think about things later, all I need is one good thought, not two hours of repetitive nonsense. Krishna can supply good thoughts in proper time if I need them, they have not right to distract me from japa.

And so I was puttering along, making awkward moves from one thought to another, not quite hitting the hole but not quitting hope either. Then I decided to enlist some help – I searched ISKCON Desire Tree for recordings of japa and downloaded myself a few hour long playlist that has become my afternoon companion. It’s in the afternoons that I have less power to control the mind, mornings I reserve strictly for my own struggle.

It so happened that all the recordings are by sannyasis and initiating gurus so all these devotees have decades of tireless, selfless service to the Lord and so must be very, very dear to Krishna. They’ve also tried their best for these tapes. One thing is immediately obvious – when they say “Krishna” they really mean it, they are indeed meditating on the sound of the names. I chant much, much faster, but, in my defense, I have more rounds to cover and that’s all I really do. I don’t need to give classes, meet disciples, fly to some other country and so on.

At first I worried about it a little but I discovered that difference in speed is not a problem. It’s just the first hour after lunch I’m slower no matter what or whose japa is playing in the background. There’s one recording where one round takes twelve minutes to finish but I found that all I need is to try and raise myself to the same level of concentration and then chanting twice as fast ceases to be a problem.

Each devotee’s mood and approach is slightly different but whoever it is, they all stop my mind from wondering when it doesn’t want to listen to my own chanting. When I take breaths it listens to their japa, for example.

It took me a couple of days to get used to it, at first I was totally bewildered, there was nothing fixed neither in my mind nor in my heart, but maybe that’s exactly the point – just listen to the sound of the names.

The last recording is by Srila Prabhupada, it’s the one with shennai in the background. The sound of the music makes Prabhupada’s chanting sound more natural – the way you would hear it in the crowd.

Two weeks ago it helped me with pronunciation of “Rama Rama Hare Hare”, when my own voice had been drowned by Prabhupada my mouth found a new way to produce the sounds. Today I noticed that it’s slipping up again, the distinction between two “Ramas” was barely noticeable.

While I was paying attention to that I also noticed that my speed increased. I was chanting softly and effortlessly but the clock started showing unbelievable times, instead of losing ten-twenty seconds on five minutes per round all afternoon I suddenly started gaining. A couple of rounds clocked at four minutes twenty seconds and four and a half minutes has become a norm.

That was totally unexpected, that was not something I was looking for, it as just a gift. This is the third time it happened. First I shaved about a minute to five and half, then another half a minute dropped, and now I’m on four twenty if I don’t waste any seconds on pausing or repeating the mantra?

I don’t know the meaning of this. New speed mean new worries if I’m not up to it, means new worries about clarity, new level of energy and concentration. Actually energy level was about the same, maybe even lower, but the flow has improved. Why? What for?

Are people expected to chant this fast? There’s no one to ask, but if it happened there must be a reason, I just don’t know it yet.

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