It occasionally happens that I don’t finish my rounds in the morning and so when it’s time for me to sit down and type up these posts I have unfinished japa. What should I do first?
At first I thought it was an easy question – japa, of course, but why? If we are busy we can finish our rounds before going to sleep, no big deal if there are only two or three left, so there’s no reason for me to “misuse” the window I have for writing this blog. I mean I can chant any time anywhere but typing ties me up to a computer and requires concentration. I can’t just stop mid sentence and then resume five minutes later, mind doesn’t work that way, it’s not a japa bag you can just pick up and start counting.
So far I’ve always finished my rounds first, though, and the main reason I tell myself is that while chanting I pray that my mind gets properly engaged when I sit down to write later. I need this help, I can’t do it on my own. I mean I can but then it’d be just garbage. Astute observers will note that most of it comes out as garbage anyway but I want to reduce the noise.
Writer’s block is a real thing and I can’t allow myself get stuck, I sort of made a promise to post something every day. There’s also average length to my posts and if it isn’t reached I feel like I’m slacking. Hmm, mathematically speaking I can’t reach an average everyday but you get my drift.
So I need help and therefore I pray, or at least I chant hoping that the Holy Name purifies my mind, and also puts in a clever thought or two while I am at it. So far it worked and I keep my fingers crossed but then I realized that there’s another consideration here, too – I should live to chant, not chant to live!
I should not use the Holy Name to serve my other interests, no matter whether they are legitimate or not. Holy Name is not means, it’s and end. I should rather arrange my life so that it leads to perfect chanting than to chant so that it leads to perfect life.
I’m not sure it’s possible for me at this stage but at least I’ve become aware of the goal. We all start with praying to the Holy Name to get something out of it. Some chant for material benefits, some chant for purification, some chant to spiritual benefits, but everybody wants something.
Everybody says things like “Kṛṣṇa, please do this thing for me so that I can become a better servant.” Sometimes we really mean it, often we are not entirely sincere, sometimes we simply negotiate the terms of our surrender, but we all do it, that’s where every conditioned living entity starts, we can be sure that Kṛṣṇa is not surprised.
In all these situations we look at the Holy Name as means, as I said, we chant to get something else we don’t have yet. Japa becomes our currency, the more we chant the more we expect to get in return. What happens to ahaitukī, causeless service? Well, we don’t forget about it, we want chanting to give it to us, give us bhakti. There’s hardly anything wrong with this approach but it can’t be called mature, it’s still not causeless.
Can we engage in causeless service if we are not purified enough yet? I think not, pure devotion starts after liberation, until then we must be motivated by desires of our false ego.
Chanting, however, is special. The Holy Name is absolutely pure even when it comes off our imperfect tongues. When we chant we are already perfectly engaged, the only problem is our minds not appreciating the situation. Yes, we want something besides chanting itself but that doesn’t mean chanting lacks in anything.
If we learn to do it right the need to ask for anything else will disappear by itself. We will be perfectly situated and fully satisfied, as long as our chanting is uninterrupted, apratihatā from the same verse (SB 1.2.6).
Why should we pray for something to effectively interrupt our chanting? Why do we ask Kṛṣṇa to engage us in doing something else if chanting is all He ever wants from us? One reason is guru’s orders but I’m talking about situations where we make these kind of decisions ourselves. Our gurus can’t babysit us forever, we need to learn to serve the guru independently – when to chant, what to preach, when to offer prasādam etc.
The reality is that we ARE going to do other things beside chanting and so there’s nothing wrong with begging Kṛṣṇa not to leave us out of His sight while we are attending these other needs. The trick is not to turn it into trade and stop asking Kṛṣṇa to provide things in exchange for service.
What about asking to provide service in exchange for chanting? There’s nothing wrong with asking to be engaged in service, of course, but then we should be honest that it’s the service we really want and not a phone that can be used in service, among other fascinating things.
Hypocrisy doesn’t fly with the Lord and it shouldn’t be acceptable to ourselves either. Who are we going to fool? It’s not like we share our prayers with anybody else, we are lying only to ourselves and should be smart enough not to believe our own BS.
With that in mind, I should probably admit that when I chant before typing I want my blog to look better, whatever it means to me. I don’t particularly care about how it would look to Kṛṣṇa or how useful it could be to Him, only that it looks better in my estimate. This has to stop.
I should rather write things that help me to chant, not the other way around, that’s what I mean by putting the cart before the horse. Whatever I do with my life when I’m not chanting is not important and should take lower priority. Holy Name must always come first.
Ideally, I should finish these posts being fully energized and eager to pick up my japa bag and chant like crazy, that would be perfection.
Or, put it another way, we should try to make our chanting directly pleasing to Kṛṣṇa instead of adding unnecessary steps like in “chant -> get money -> buy a new computer -> build a new website -> make it popular -> use it for preaching -> please Kṛṣṇa”.
Once again, it’s hard to find anything wrong with this kind of chain when this is really what we want and there’s no “install games” branch hidden somewhere there, but I sense a need to reconsider our fundamental understanding of how we should relate to Kṛṣṇa to make it really work. I’m not going to start a new topic now, though.