Yesterday I concluded with this little advice I adapted to chanting japa and I believe it deserves a bit more than PS at the bottom. The more I think of it, the more I realize how awesome that idea is. Not mine, but the general “don’t look twice” injunction.
We can’t stop stuff from getting into our faces. It’s easier to avoid it if one is locked up in a temple but these days even temple devotees are exposed to all kinds of contamination. Going out on saṇkīrtana isn’t safe either, relax only for a minute and you’ll start noticing all the awful things going on around you, and then it just snowballs.
That’s what happened to Ajāmila and countless others beside him. He saw a couple doing something inappropriate, another sage saw fish copulating, yet another heard ankle bells, it always ends badly. Mind senses something that looks like a promise of enjoyment, examines it closely, imagines how it would feel if it tried it itself. Kṛṣṇa, in the meantime, sees it as an offense against the Holy Name, keeping material attachments while chanting, and withdraws His mercy. Without His mercy we lose attraction to chanting and we lose concentration. Without attraction and focus our minds feel free to contemplate all kinds of sense enjoyment. The more we watch our mind work, now with eager anticipation, the more offenses we commit, the less mercy is left, and pretty soon we get completely lost in our thoughts and fantasies, nothing can save us.
Ajāmila got completely distracted until the very last moment of his life, we are usually luckier but only because Lord Caitanya’s unlimited patience. He doesn’t count offenses against the Holy Name and His support extends to even the worst offenders, He always ready to give us a chance. What’s even better, if we lose His trust, there’s always Lord Nityānanda, there’s always our guru and there are always other devotees.
If out lifestyle is completely centered around devotional service then performing it even automatically purifies us and sets us back on the right path. That’s why maintaining devotee association, no matter what happens, is extremely important for our spiritual survival.
There’s another principle at play here, however, not always visible but it’s nevertheless the only reality. Let me start from something closely related.
Today was Ekādaśī and it was also my second day of logging japa. Yesterday I had five interruptions and today, considering that it’s an hour more chanting, the number should have been higher but it wasn’t, it was only four. Why?
I belive it’s the power of Ekādaśī, chanting is almost always easier on Ekādaśīs for me. Mind is always more peaceful and I swear it feels like it’s actually enjoying chanting. It’s not attracted to any other Ekādaśī aspects, like reading or fasting, but it likes chanting. I have no explanation for this, considering that the mind is a dead material object, it must act under superior power, and it’s not me, it’s the guṇas of nature. They must have a special offer on Ekādaśī days, a special combination, as it would appear from śāstra.
There must be a reason to single out Ekādaśī among all the other days and connect it with Viṣṇu. In Kali Yuga the universe appears to be disconnected from the Lord but, perhaps, the fault is only on our side, we are not qualified for establishing those connections, which is usually done through Vedic mantras and rituals. Ekādaśī, however, is universal, just like change of seasons. Its effects probably felt better in previous ages but they still work. That’s what I think, anyway, I have no better explanation for magically improved chanting on Ekādaśīs.
What this means is that the quality of my chanting depends on external circumstances. Sometimes the guṇas are favorable to it and sometimes they force my mind to think about anything else but the Holy Names. I have no say in the matter – it all determined by currently predominating guṇa, external stimuli, and accumulated memory, minds reaction is purely physical and totally predictable. Not just on Ekādaśīs but every day and every moment of our lives.
The attempt to control one’s mind is, therefore, misguided. It’s okay to try it when we identify ourselves with our bodies but even on our side it’s intelligence that controls the mind and intelligence is just another material element, it’s not us, and it acts under its own masters. The only good thing that is going for it is that it remembers knowledge and instructions of our gurus. By Lord Caitanya’s grace our intelligence has been exposed to Kṛṣṇa consciousness, we didn’t teach it ourselves.
The only thing we can do, by our constitutional nature, is to sit there and observe (BG 18.61):
hṛd-deśe ‘rjuna tiṣṭhati
The Supreme Lord is situated in everyone’s heart, O Arjuna, and is directing the wanderings of all living entities, who are seated as on a machine, made of the material energy.
The Supreme Lord directs all wanderings of all living entities, which means He also directs the wanderings of our minds and it’s by His grace and order that our minds occasionally focus on listening to the Holy Name or to presentations of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. We can only sit and observe.
It’s with this principle in mind that I appreciate “don’t look twice” injunction more and more now. If all we can is to observe than we should avert our attention from things that we do not need to see to maintain our internal purity. If we don’t look Kṛṣṇa won’t show, it’s as simple as that. Sometime He might want to test us but that’s “sometimes”, and even then we should not look at the temptations. It’s bad enough to know that they are there, don’t look at them twice.
Same is true for controlling minds during chanting, as I said yesterday. Thoughts pop up and they offer interesting follow ups but we should not follow them, it’s not worth it, just ignore their offers. I also found that it helps to retrace distracting thoughts back to their origins – understanding how mind works helps catching it in the process, it becomes easier to recognize when it’s about to wander off in pursuit of interesting ideas.
Seeing the cause also makes ideas less fascinating, strips them of their magical attraction. This process works in the material world, too. Explaining jokes, for example, kills them most effectively, you can’t laugh at them anymore. Exposing background stories and reasoning also alway stakes away mystery and makes otherwise awesome individuals look mundane. TBF, it somehow doesn’t work on celebrities but there might be other forces at work there.
There’s also an expression that familiarity brings contempt. Usually we are warned about it in relation to our gurus and senior vaiṣṇavas but if we apply it to fascinating ideas that steal our minds then contempt is actually pretty useful.
Bottom line – watching the mind closely and stripping it of its magic is helpful to ignoring it, makes it easier not to look twice because you’d already know what you are going to see and you’d already know how it will all end, nothing interesting there.
Last thing – it all seems as technical as trying to control the mind in any other way. After all, we don’t have a choice whether to think twice about something or not, it happens under Supreme Lord’s direction. Perhaps I should have found better words to express it, if they even exist, but this expression of interest happens within our consciousness, comes from our soul, the Lord simply accommodates our desires. We might be forced by previous karma to experience attraction to this or that but eventually karma runs out or we earn new one that makes our minds ignore everything that is happening around us while we chant.
All we can do is appreciate how the Lord is helping us and guiding us on the way back home, even if He sometimes sends us on wild goose chases around the material world. It’s all for our ultimate good, our ultimate purification, we just have to be patient and appreciate His loving care.