Vanity thought #1180. Permission to chant

First, I think I need to clear something from yesterday’s post: I said that for residents of Vṛndāvana it was “my children”, then “myself”, then Kṛṣṇa. This seems offensive but I think it’s true – it’s a universal law, it affects everybody. It certainly doesn’t affect their spiritual position but it’s the kind of limitation that is placed on everybody in the material world.

They did love Kṛṣṇa more than themselves but their duties were towards their families and their children, and in that sense these things came first. They loved the year when Kṛṣṇa pretended to be their children but it would have been possible only if their ordinary relationships with their kids were, well, ordinary.

When we say that Kṛṣṇa’s devotees in Vṛndāvana love Him more than their own lives it probably doesn’t mean they don’t love their own lives at all, that they don’t have any self related interests whatsoever. They do, and they have to spend a lot of time attending to those, but all they really want is to serve Kṛṣṇa, of course.

Unfortunately, even when Kṛṣṇa was here it was possible only for a few short moments of their lives. Parents of the stolen cowherd boys were lucky, but even one full year out of one’s life is nothing. Kṛṣṇa left Vṛndāvana at a very young age and after that it was only pain of separation for everybody, and they still had to carry out their usual duties, look after their cows and families etc.

I hope that clears it up a bit. Now, about chanting.

Holy Name is absolute, there are no rules and regulations for chanting, we can invoke it at any time and in any condition, and, ideally, we should always, always chant, non-stop. As spirit souls we have no other obligations here, only to chant. As embodied living entities we, of course, have plenty of things to do but we can leave those to the material nature and Kṛṣṇa’s mercy, we do not have to put our hearts and souls into it. Let the chips fall wherever they may, not our concern.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work. There’s also this thing called guru’s mercy and it overwrites everything, even our obligation to chant. We need guru’s permission to succeed, otherwise chanting will not bring any fruit.

At a first glance that last sentence doesn’t sound right but consider this – even if we decide to go around our guru and chant anyway, the result of that chanting would be Kṛṣṇa giving us intelligence to submit ourselves to guru’s will again.

If we commit offenses against other devotees or even against our guru, and we do not have means to ask forgiveness, we are told to chant and hope that one day Kṛṣṇa will arrange everything. Chanting is always, always our last resort, our only shelter, but it will lead us to the exactly the same spot we were earlier so that we can rectify our mistakes and take shelter of our guru or the devotees again. Holy Name can’t replace that, only facilitate.

So we need guru’s mercy and guru’s permission to chant. Our orders are to chant sixteen rounds, for example, anything over that is subject to negotiation. We are told to chant sixteen rounds *minimum*, of course, but all extra should not come at the expense of our other service, our other engagements.

There was a devotee who came to Māyāpura once to chant a hundred thousand names a day. He discussed it with Śrīla Prabhupāda and got his “permission”. He built himself a hut so that other devotees wouldn’t disturb him, and he chanted there day and night.

Now, Prabhupāda’s permission didn’t equal to his blessing. He just let his disciple do whatever he wanted but he didn’t approve of it at all, especially after that devotee started complaining about other vaiṣṇavas being a disturbance to his sādhana. A lot was said there on the topic of imitation of Haridāsa Ṭhākura. It was also noted that we should come to the Holy Dhama to seek association of saintly persons, not seclusion, and that such premature chanting was actually a worship of one’s own mind, not Kṛṣṇa. All of the warnings came true and this devotee soon left, for good.

That bit about worshiping one’s mind is interesting – in situations like this we make promises in our minds to our false egos. We want to prove our own power as devotees, and we go along with our plans to make our minds happy. None of it has anything to do with Kṛṣṇa, we are just using pretense of serving Him for our selfish interests.

Another example was with one of Prabhupāda’s personal servants, no names just in case. So, he saw Prabhupāda being very excited about book distribution. It was in the days when saṅkīrtana was just discovered and everyone talked about it non-stop. Those were the days when we realized what Prabhupāda’s mission really was – to write and distribute books.

With this background in mind, this devotee approached Śrīla Prabhupāda and asked for a permission to join saṅkīrtana party, fully expecting Prabhupāda’s appoval. Instead Prabhupāda told him: “You can go, but without my blessings.” That reply stopped everyone in their tracks.

There are things that are good in Kṛṣṇa’s service and there are things that guru asks us to do. Guru’s orders overwrite everything. If we want to chant, we can, if we want to eat prasāda, we can, if we want to distribute books, we can, but eventually we all should realize that there’s a proper way to serve Kṛṣṇa and that it lies through the service to the guru. Everything before that is just a bit of a carefree childhood, we should grow out of it.

So, what I’m driving at is that we have guru’s orders to chant sixteen rounds a day and that’s what we should do no matter what. Beyond that there are other orders and so we have to attend to them first, and do any extra chanting in our “free” time. We cannot abandon our spiritual responsibilities and replace them with chanting, guru wouldn’t like that, and Kṛṣṇa wouldn’t like that either.

So, this is one way to answer the question hanging over from yesterday – Holy Name is supreme, but serving guru must come first. We should chant on guru’s orders, not on our own, and the key to pleasing Kṛṣṇa lies not in chanting but in guru’s mercy.

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