There aren’t any, right? The Name is identical with Kṛṣṇa, what possible limits could be there? And yet my Saturday marathon experience tells me otherwise. How so?
I wanted to chant a gazillion number of rounds on Saturday and I thought the Holy Name would help me to get through but it didn’t. I don’t mean I blame the Name for not finishing the gazillion (though that kind of help would have been nice), I mean that I didn’t feel the Name cooperated with me at all.
It’s not the number of completed rounds that I was really after, I just wanted to spend the entire day with the Name, in Name’s company. Just sit and listen and be together. It usually works, but not this time. Of course there are days when my mind is too disturbed to listen and my heart isn’t in the right place but these distractions are usually temporary, like clouds in the sky. I would have accepted having one, two, maybe three bad hours, but this time it even felt differently, it was as if my mind was disturbed on purpose and not by myself.
I tried very hard to shut it off and find my place but it was impossible. Even when I ignored what was going on there and listened only to the sound it didn’t go away. I would even say that my heart was in the right place, I knew what I wanted and I tried very hard not to give in to mind’s temptations, but some other forces were at play, too. Did they limit the Name? I think so.
Actually, I think it’s not some external powers interference but the limits of the Name Itself. It just couldn’t do what I wanted it to do or what I expected it to do.
Btw, I decided to use a neuter pronoun “it” for the Holy Name because that’s how I naturally see it. If the day comes when Name’s personal form is revealed to me the I will address it accordingly. It would be weird for me to talk about the Name as “He” at this point, it might be technically correct but it doesn’t feel right and it doesn’t reflect the reality as I see it, and I’m talking about MY experiences here, so I’m just being honest.
So I was wondering why the Name appeared so cold and distant and not comforting at all. Usually It reciprocates with however we want to relate to It – in practice it’s really up to us how to feel about the Name – that’s how reliable Its reciprocation is. This time it didn’t work.
And then it hit me – the Name is fully contingent, fully dependent of the guru’s mercy. It’s the guru who limits Its power. The guru is the boss and the Name has to comply. As far as we are concerned, the Name has no separate existence.
Of course it does exist – I heard It, It was there, but It won’t reveal itself without guru’s permission, which is as good as being non-existent because it’s the relationship with the Name that matters, not Its existence per se.
Basically, what I’m saying is that if the guru tells you to dig you can’t chant your way out of digging. You have to do what guru says, there’s no alternative.
In my case the required minimum number of rounds per day is sixteen. We can certainly chant more than that but we have to follow guru’s other orders, too, we can’t neglect them. Of course we don’t have specific todo lists posted for us each morning and all other tasks are general, not daily requirements, but still.
I mean guru tells us to read books – in general, though sometimes some disciples get an order to read minimum two hours every day. I don’t think it applies to me, though. Or maybe it does, I’ll get to that later. Guru tells us to preach or to distribute books but it’s also a general advice, it doesn’t mean that if we have other engagements on one particular day the it means we fail to follow. I guess if one has a deity to worship then he can’t skip on that service but I don’t have a deity, no deity in His right mind would ever entrust Himself into my service, that’s just how it is.
So, if all these orders are general and it wouldn’t be an offense to skip on them on one occasion in favor of something else, particularly chanting, why didn’t it work? Well, for one thing, reading everyday IS a standing order, I might not remember a specific occasion it was given but I know it’s expected. However, there are days when I don’t read and nothing happens, so that must not be it.
I believe the offense was of a different kind – we have a standing order not to imitate Haridāsa Ṭhākura and I tried to. I didn’t mean to, I just wanted to chant whole day – what’s wrong with that? The assumption that it is possible for me to do so in a proper service attitude, I guess.
All the other things I do everyday might not be as spiritually pure as chanting but when they are assigned to me by my karma and under Kṛṣṇa’s supervision it means they are meant to be done as service. There’s a whole Bhagavad Gīta to explain how everything must be done as a service to the Lord, no need to go into specifics.
What I did instead is ignore these naturally coming, and actually pre-arranged opportunities and decided to do my thing in my own way instead. AFAIK, neither Śrīla Prabhupāda nor my guru, nor any spiritual master in ISKCON wanted their disciples to chant non-stop, they’d rather have us working on purifying our material desires first, and I neglected this duty. Well, I didn’t have any particular material desires on that day, nothing that required immediate attention, but the point still stands – it is our duty to utilize material facilities provided by our bodies according to our nature to purify our consciousness. Attending to bodily needs does not have to be the source of bondage but we should turn it into a source of liberation.
Another argument could be made that since everything that happens to us happens with permission of the Lord, then how could my attempt to chant was any different? Wasn’t it arranged by the Lord for my purification, too? And if it did, how could it be seen as a transgression?
The answer is this very post – if I didn’t screw up my Saturday marathon I wouldn’t have realized the power of the guru and that the Name cannot be expected to act independently of him.
Of course Kṛṣṇa can do whatever He wants but in our relationship with Him He acts through our guru and only through our guru, and we wouldn’t want it any other way, considering that our goal is to be a servant of the servant of the servant. If Kṛṣṇa reached us directly, over and around our guru’s head, it wouldn’t be the relationship we want to have with Him or meant to have with Him, so He doesn’t.
Just think of all those manjaris in Vṛndāvana, if they had a bit of spare time, would they want to go and have a look at Kṛṣṇa on their own or would they have considered it as a betrayal of their commitment to facilitate relationships between Kṛṣṇa and Rādhā? They don’t want Kṛṣṇa for themselves, they want Him for Rādha. This is true not only for manjaris, too, very few people get to relate to Kṛṣṇa directly and on their own there, everyone else does so in the context of being subordinate to other devotees.
One more thing to clarify – by guru I don’t mean only the physical initiating spiritual master but the guru principle in all its aspects.