By Lord’s grace I was able to complete three lakhs of Holy Names today, it’s the first time I squeezed them into an ordinary workday and I consider myself very fortunate. It’s a glorious opportunity, now that I know how to manage it I plan to chant three lakhs at least three times next week.
This opportunity comes with one big condition, however – I need to chant as fast as I can and pronunciation naturally suffer. While it’s dangerous to mispronounce the mantra it is still a blessing in disguise – I need to keep an ear out all the time, any drop in concentration and my mouth goes wayward.
I was a bit overexcited this morning when I realized that I got a real shot at three lakhs and so I started my rounds rather briskly, without giving myself any time to settle in first and increase the speed gradually. Usually it happens all on its own, I just have to sit back and watch but today I had no time for that and I was punished.
The first two hours were rather frantic, filled with worries and mangled words that sometime didn’t even resemble the mahamatra to my ear.
Eventually, when I saw that I was still on time, I was able to relax a bit, and then in the afternoon, as usual, the speed went up significantly again, giving me half an hour bonus when I finally finished.
I need to find the way to manage the speed better, I hope I’ll have plenty of opportunities but the real test is coming next Saturday when I have the whole day to myself. I won’t need to hurry anymore and the challenge would be to chant slowly.
Right now I can’t do it at all. I tried numerous times but I guess I run on an outdated gearbox.
Cars use gears to manage speed and keep the engine load at optimum levels. You can’t go very fast in the first gear and you can’t go very slow in the fourth, the engine revolutions would be unacceptable. Same thing happens with animals, actually with people to. Horses have gaits, they can’t walk at 40km/h and they can’t gallop at 4km/h. Horses naturally switch gaits appropriate to the needed speed.
People are somewhat strange animals. These days they are not choosing walking or running to preserve energy, they are interested in fitness, thus they invented jogging. One could probably walk faster but getting from A to B is not the point anymore. In the old days they wouldn’t run if they weren’t in a hurry, and they wouldn’t walk if they needed to bring the news of the victory when they were inventing marathon.
My point is that there’s something similar with chanting, too. There are bands of speed, for example slow, medium, and fast, and each band is matched with a band in concentration and energy.
If you start chanting slowly, carefully enunciating every sound, you can gradually increase your speed but only to a point. Eventually you’ll hit your internal engine’s redline, you’ll need to shift into a second gear that would give you speed at a very comfortable level of energy and concentration. What you lose is the ability to hear each and every letter in the mantra.
You can move freely up and down in this medium band but only to a degree, too. If you want to go really fast you’ll need to accept that some Names will be unclear, and if you want to go much, much slower you’ll need to shift to the much lower energy investment level, where you’ll be warned of the danger of falling asleep, or you will be itching for some action.
There are some overlapping areas where the same speed can be achieved in different bands of energy but I find them to be very small to be reliable.
So, next week I’ll try fiddling with my gears, try to find a comfort zone where I can clearly hear every word and still keep it under five minutes.
This is my personal band of medium speed – five minutes at the fastest. Once that barrier is broken I can start blurring “Hare Hare” everywhere, but I can go below four minutes in this higher gear easily without any noticeably degradation in quality.
What I want to achieve is to stretch medium zone, every Name is very clear, usually between five and six minutes per round, I want to stretch it down to four and a half.
While on a day fully dedicated to chanting I can afford to go at five minutes per round all day long, other considerations start to weigh in, too. It adds extra four hours of walking, for example. My legs are not what they used to be. Also, extra four hours of mind control is not easy at all.
Even if five minutes per round should be easy and clear, general tiredness and mind exhaustion take their tall, too. Chanting becomes too hard and bothersome. It’s okay to fight it through once or twice but facing this battle everyday is depressing.
I believe artificial difficulties like this should be avoided if possible.
In the long term I’m longing for the days when I can happily chant at five minutes per round or even slower all day long. Finishing too fast leaves too much time on my hands that I don’t really need. Idle hands is devil’s playground, as they say.
It’s okay for now, when I have other household duties, but in the long run I want all my time dedicated to chanting the Holy Names.
I can’t imagine myself being at Govardhan, for example, and finishing my three lakhs of names in the afternoon. What am I supposed to do next? Throw in another lakh for a good measure?
I’ve never heard of anyone chanting more than three lakhs a day, I believe I should slow down so that it takes up all my time. Right now it does, it takes all the time I can spare for japa, but this is an emergency situation, not the norm.
And the norm is???
I’m ashamed to admit, but I kind of dream about chanting Holy Names in Vrindavana, or Mayapur, or Jagannatha Puri. I indulge myself too much in fantasies like this, it’s unhealthy, I better stop now.