This has nothing to do with dreams we watch when we sleep, it’s my dream desire that got fulfilled and left me confounded and exhausted. I still can’t make sense out of it and speak about the experience with any clarity or certainty, so all interpretations are still on the table.
Last week I found out that I had Friday and Saturday all to myself and I thought it would be a good idea to dedicate these two days to chanting, especially Saturday. I haven’t done this in a long time, a few previous opportunities were lost to various circumstances, so I wasn’t sure it would finally happen, I was waiting and watching for any disturbance in the force, so to speak, but nothing happened and so Friday came.
I thought I’d prepare myself gradually and chant sixty four rounds first. My biggest worry was that my wrist would get tired of holding the beads and the skin on the tip of my middle finger might get bruised from counting the beads and rolling them between fingers as I chant, so I thought sixty four would be a good start.
I still had a few engagements on Fridays so I had to chant when I had free time, of which I had plenty. I finished the first sixteen in the morning as usual but the rest had to wait until the afternoon, minus some six rounds I squeezed at lunchtime. When I was finally free I took up the japa bag and did the other forty two rounds straight without a break.
It was tough but doable, I quite enjoyed the experience, it was just me and the Holy Name and my mind was cooperative. My wrist sore a little but I sensed no physical obstacles to the big Saturday whatsoever. Just one more day alone with the mantra, I thought. I was waiting for this a long time and it all looked good.
Then Saturday came and I started briskly. I was surprised at the slight increase in my speed and I took it as a sign that someone has done the calculations and decided that I had to chant faster to complete my task – I wanted to do the full three lakhs, or a hundred ninety two rounds, or three sets of sixty four, or twelve sets of sixteen.
At my normal speed it would have taken me just over nineteen hours, leaving less than five for toilets breaks, showers, and sleep. With the increased speed it would have shortened the time to eighteen with six hours for rest – a very manageable number. Give an hour for toilet breaks and showers and there would be five hours left to sleep. Less than I need but I didn’t mind sleeping late on Sunday morning.
The first sixteen rounds were counted as the required duty and they went fine, no worse than usual. Chanting was brisk, either my subconscious or the Supersoul were obviously pushing me, and everything seemed to be in order.
Then came trouble.
I don’t know what happened but my mind went completely berserk, I could hardly remember what I was doing, that I was chanting in the company of the Holy Name. The sick bastard seemingly went through every memory I have ever had, not missing anything, and I completely lost my composure. Externally I was fully on track but my consciousness just wouldn’t concentrate on chanting.
I thought that getting through this mind-storm was necessary and eventually it would quieten down but peace seemed to be elusive. The day was long, of course, a few hours of confusion wouldn’t matter if I finally found my place at the feet of the Holy Name, but it dragged on and on and on. And then I got tired.
I certainly couldn’t walk whole day like but sitting made me sleepy. I had this intolerable phantasmagoria in my head and at the same time I think I actually dozed off for a moment or two, still chanting and counting at the same speed but external consciousness being switched of. It was a state of torture while being caught in between being asleep and being awake.
So, at the end of the first sixty four rounds I decided to take a nap. It went well, I slept for maybe half an hour, woke up by myself, and continued chanting. Time wise I was still on schedule, everything was fine, except it wasn’t. Peace was still elusive, escapades of my mind stressed me out and I was thinking about finding a way to ignore it and listen to the Holy Name despite the cacophony of thoughts and memories in my head. I wasn’t very successful, but it’s certainly an idea to be explored further.
Towards the end of the second set of sixty four I was very tired again. I tried to perk myself up, walk up and down to get the blood going, but nothing worked. At least the mind got tired – if I was tired of listening to it imagine how exhausting it must have been inventing all those things. Aww, poor little thing, all this trouble for nothing, as I simply kept chanting and chanting.
Eventually I realized that I needed a second nap or I couldn’t go on. I took it, maybe for fifteen-twenty minutes, chanted some more, and got tired again. I knew I was going to be tired and I thought I had enough energy to continue overall, but I underestimated my strength. About an hour later I had to take another nap, with japa beads still in my hand, safely placed on a clean surface, I made myself comfortable, closed by eyes, and let it go.
It felt so good and when I remembered myself again I thought I needed some more sleep, it was so sweet and so I caved in. When I finally woke up three hours were gone. I kept chanting and doing math in my head – “how many rounds left, how many hours, am I still on track?” Then I realized that I could possibly finish three lakhs in twenty four hours but it would mean my next day would be totally screwed as I would have to sleep at least until lunch. I wasn’t even feeling fully refreshed and so wasn’t sure another nap would not be necessary.
That’s when I realized I had to give up. I chanted a couple more rounds but once determination was gone and decision had been made I saw no point. I went to bed and slept for seven hours straight. The end.
I didn’t complete the three lakhs but still did a “respectable” hundred and forty rounds, almost three quarters of the goal, but, most importantly, whole day long I didn’t do anything but chant, all my waking time was dedicated to chanting, minus toilet and showers. I didn’t eat anything, only drank water, and this might have compounded my problems, but by now my body is trained to live without food, it knows where all the nutrients are stored and I didn’t feel any hunger at all. Perhaps an injection of calories would have given me needed boosts of energy but I was defeated by sleep, not by hunger.
Should have thought of that – big chanting marathon like this requires a fully rested body but my wasn’t. I collected a lot of sleep debt over the week and it so happened that I had to pay it on this day. Next time I should account for that, too.
There’s a bigger problem, though – the mind. Something happened to it and something happened to me, it was like chanting beyond sixteen rounds was unwelcome. Higher powers, fate and the Supersoul, did not object extra chanting like they did before but they did not cooperate either. All throughout the day I felt a disconnect, I wasn’t myself.
Maybe it was stress of having to complete the self-imposed vrata that did me in. If I chanted because I wanted to it would have been okay but I chanted to prove something to myself. Maybe it’s all the planning and calculating and worrying that did me in. I chanted sixty four rounds the previous day without any worries at all, I knew I had time, I didn’t have to hurry, it was perfect.
The best explanation I have, however, is that I should simply go with the flow and make the best of what Kṛṣṇa and my karma have arranged for me already. By their grace I have enough time to read and listen and otherwise engage myself in service, trying to improve on that is foolish. I have plenty of material desires that cannot be addressed by chanting alone yet, they need other outlets, and I shouldn’t deny them when Kṛṣṇa arranges for their fulfillment.
This realization makes me feel that every moment of our lives is truly special in that it has been arranged by the Lord to bring us closer to Him. As I said, it’s foolish to try and improve on that, we should instead learn to see Kṛṣṇa’s hand behind everything that happens even when things do not comply with strict requirements of sādhana.
I must say that chanting since that Saturday has been very sweet and illuminating, nothing to complain about whatsoever, and all other daily engagements in service were sweet, too. I see things with new eyes and with newly found respect, and I like it. Lesson has apparently been learned.