From time to time I have to reflect on my japa performance as I still live under the impression that japa is the foundation of all our Krishna consciousness. I believe it’s very important to keep an eye on its quality. I believe that without good japa none of what I do or think will have any spiritual power or value.
In the past couple of months I noticed some regular patterns in my chanting – it comes and goes in waves, about a week or ten days at length. There are clear crests and clear troughs. Sometimes I can’t seem to stop chanting and sometimes I can hardly squeeze sixteen rounds our of myself. Knowing about its cyclical nature, however, helps me to keep my cool and continue chanting unperturbed. I know that difficulties are only temporary and success is as fleeting as sunny weather in England.
Difficulties are not the problem, I think, problem is overestimating myself when japa gets better – you can’t chant properly if you think you are doing well, it goes against trinad api sunichena principle.
Over time I have become even more assured that chanting without any engagement from my mind is the best. On good days the mind “helps”, on bad days it puts up all kinds of obstacles, but since neither good nor bad has absolute value, and bad days lead to increase in performance while on good days my mind drags me down, the best chanting is when I don’t remember about my mind at all.
There are also clear material benefits to “better” chanting, when things become difficult I give up playing hard to get devotee and admit having ulterior motives. Things then magically turn for the better. I’m ashamed of abusing the Holy Name for these purposes but it happens.
Another appreciation of our method of japa I had these past couple of days is that it’s okay for us to chant loudly. By definition japa is supposed to be silent chanting but ever since Haridasa Thakura we have the permission to chant in full voice. His excuse was that everyone gets a chance to hear the Holy Names this way, not only the practitioner himself. My excuse is that it lets me pour my heart out when I feel like doing it.
On that note – I recently replayed some of old recordings of Sri Prahlad kirtans and I was struck by how honest he sounded. His voice isn’t particularly sweet or melodious or super energetic, but it’s brutally honest – here I am, Krishna, I have nothing else but your Name and I don’t really know what it is, only its sound, but if I stop singing it I will probably die.
On that note, today BBC has an article about spreading of gospel music in France – a very timely reminder about universal appeal of congregational chanting of Lord’s glories. Personally I’ve never listened to it but I know that they do it altogether and they let their emotions towards God to flow free.
I checked the lyrics of one song and, interestingly enough, they were arguing against perfect rhymes and beats and stressing that the only thing that matters in their singing is sincerity. Wise men, those Christians.