12.09: Are we mistaking the goal to be the fuel?
Some people doubt the benefit of daily mantra meditation: “What is the use of repeating the names of God mechanically and unfeelingly? Better to wait till we get that feeling and chant sincerely on those occasions.”
This doubt originates due to mistaking a two-way relationship to be one-way. Feeling can be a springboard for chanting, but chanting can also be a gateway to feeling. Let’s take a closer look at these two scenarios:
- Feeling as a springboard for chanting: This scenario applies primarily for two categories of people. For the advanced and realized devotees, the feeling of devotion is a constant inner reality that gushes out as spontaneous chanting. For those who are devotionally inclined but are not seekers, an intense devotional stimulus or an unsolvable problem may sometimes induce the feeling of devotion and impel them to chant.
- Chanting as a gateway to feeling: This applies primarily for the spiritual seekers who lie between the spiritually realized and the spiritually inclined. Unlike the spiritually inclined who are satisfied with occasional and short-lived feelings of devotion, seekers long for feelings that are sustained, substantial and transformational. They want to redirect their love from matter to Krishna in a real and tangible way. For bringing about this redirection, they apply the guideline of the Bhagavad-gita (12.9) that regular practice of remembering Krishna stimulates one’s attraction for him. Knowing that chanting the holy names of Krishna is an easy and efficacious way to remember him, they commit themselves to the practice of chanting every day, irrespective of the presence or absence of feeling.
Of course, they do experience devotional feelings periodically. But knowing that at the seeker’s level feelings can be fickle and fallible, they don’t make feelings the fuel for their devotional journey, for they don’t want their journey to be sporadic and erratic. They replace feeling with commitment as their fuel, and thereby ensure that their journey towards Krishna is steady, smooth and swift.