Is it possible to keep on chanting while your external consciousness is being somewhere else? Apparently it is, though I don’t know where where to begin a philosophical speculation on HOW it is possible.
Two stories come to mind. One is about Srila Prabhupada, an Indian gentleman came for a darshan while Srila Prabhupada was busy discussing construction of a Bombay temple. The man was left wondering why he was told he was in the presence of a greatest sadhu of our time while all Srila Prabhupada did was talk about cost of cement and other materials. Why wasn’t he chanting like all his disciples preach all the time?
To answer his question Srila Prabhupada invited him to sit right behind him, put his ear to Prabhupada’s back, and listen. Amazingly, while Prabhupada was discussing rupies and cement this gentleman was able to clearly hear the sound of the Hare Krishna mahamantra coming out from Srila Prabhupada’s heart. Chanting never stopped.
Another story is very similar and it’s about some sadhu from Vrindavana. Quite possibly he was one of Srila Prabhupada’s godbrothers but the the name was omitted from the story. So once this devotee had a heart attack and was taken to a hospital. Externally he was completely unconscious but when doctors listen to his breath with their stethoscopes they could clearly hear the sound of Hare Krishna mantra being chanted somewhere within the body.
I don’t know how much truth is in either of these stories. These are not very reliable accounts and I don’t know what exactly was heard in either of these cases and whether it was a sound and where it was coming from. Hearts do not produce sounds, and if there was chanting going on inside the heart I don’t know how it was possible to register it with physical instruments. But let’s say it’s possible.
The other day I was very busy and by the time I remembered that I still had three more rounds to chant I was already told not to stay late and go to bed at the proper time. I had no choice but to comply but later, when everyone was asleep, I sneaked out and continued chanting, in the complete darkness and despite being very very tired and sleepy. I had trouble completing the second round, my mouth didn’t want to move anymore, so I had to shake my sleepiness off, and that’s when I realized that I was actually still in bed and my chanting was only a dream.Oh no, I thought. So much struggle and all for nothing. Is it, though?
Apparently it is possible to chant in a dream, even to count the beads and rounds. How’s that different from a real chanting? Only that there’s no actual sound and hearing the sound is extremely important. On the other hand traditional japa is also done mentally, it might not be as beneficial as our japa but it’s still a legitimate practice.
Of course these rounds cannot be counted towards our daily quota but that doesn’t matter because our goal is to chant 24/7.
If Krishna or a spiritual master appears in a dream it’s usually a very good sign that should be taken seriously. Why not do the same for chanting? Now I’m looking forward to the day when chanting while I’m sleeping or doing something else would become an everyday reality and not just a weird occurrence caused probably by guilt and mental stress.
I wonder if it’s really possible to separate chanting from external consciousness so that to other people I would appear as a normally functioning individual while me myself as a spirit soul would be doing something else – chanting.
On the downside there’s not a lot of evidence that it is possible, just a couple of anecdotes, a hearsay. But wouldn’t it be great?