How to go through dry phases in our chanting?
Time: 11 minutes
Transcribed by: Sudeep Naik
Question: How to go through dry phases in our chanting?
With the association of devotees who loves to chant and are very committed, we can improve our chanting. If our mind is against taking such association, we should still try to come to temple or take some association and that will stimulate us. If internal is not working we have to get external support and when external is not available we have to get internal support. We can read or hear a class about the glories of holy name and that can give us a boost. We can remember the time when we took initiation (e.g. we can keep photo of our initiation) and remember that we took vows.
There are dry phases which we just have to tolerate, that is why Krishna says in the Gita, it tastes poison in the beginning but nectar in the end. Sometime that poison may be too much at particular times, we need to find some way to persevere through it. Generally, we tend to evaluate our chanting in a very one-dimensional way. We may think, “I am trying to chant but I am not feeling any connection with Krishna, I am not able to focus on Krishna, what is the use of this chanting, just wasting my time.” However, it is not necessarily like that. Yes, it is best if we could connect with Krishna but even when we are getting distracted then we can see that this is also an opportunity to understand ourselves better. We sometimes think, “My mind is wandering, I am getting so bored, I am getting so frustrated.” We usually get carried away by such emotions. Instead we can think, “I am trying to chant but I am not able to chant because my mind is wandering. This is an opportunity to see that my mind is different from me.” Sometime devotee asks how to realize if we are different from our mind? One of the best way to realize it by doing something different from what our mind wants us to do. When we try, we will find that our mind will not allow us to do it.
If we see chanting not just only as means to connect with Krishna but also as a means to understand ourselves and to understand our mind, then even when we are distracted we are growing in self-understanding. We can think, “My whole japa was distracted.” However, after the japa we can think “What was I distracted to?” Then our distractions will reveal to us our mind’s primary attachments. It could be worry about money, anger with a person, fear about something etc. Then we can use our intelligence to address those concerns.
If the mind is getting distracted in the process of chanting, we have to look at (i) what distracts the mind from Krishna, (ii) what attracts the mind to Krishna and (iii) what distances us from the mind.
During the process of chanting, when I get distracted I just get disheartened. Instead of getting disheartened, I should analyze, what distracted me and then I address it. For example, a distraction could be a worry about finances. In such situation we use our intelligence. We can write down what we have done to address our financial issues. Next day when we are about to start our chanting, just glance through what we wrote and when mind starts to go there we can remember that we have already addressed it. Like this we will grow in self-discipline even if we are not focusing on Krishna. We can use chanting as an aid for introspection or self-understanding.
Now comes, what attracts us to Krishna. There could be some picture or pastime which we may like. We can keep that pastime picture in front of us and call out to the Lord in the picture, like in Gajendra’s pastime. We can think, this is the same Lord who came when Gajendra called out, let me also call out to the same Lord. Like this we try to create connection.
There is a point of concentration and there is a circle of concentration. Point of concentration is the sound of holy name. Sometimes it is very difficult to focus on that point, but we can create a circle of concentration. It means all those things related to Krishna I am attracted to. It may be a picture of Vrindavan, a print out of Hare Krishna mahamantra, some verse glorifying the holy name etc. Like this we can create an emotional connection with Krishna even in the dry phase.
Lastly, let us look at things that distances us away from the mind. When we get distracted, that time our lips are chanting, our mind is wandering, and our soul is thinking what to do. We can try to distance ourselves from the mind. For example, after every four rounds we take a pause, take a deep breath, and then reorient ourselves, “I am supposed to be chanting, what am I doing?” Or after every few rounds we can decide that we will recite one verse about holy name or read some quote about holy name. Such distancing from our mind can bring us back to our purpose.
Earlier we talked about three levels physical, mental, and spiritual. We want to go to the spiritual reality and focus on Krishna but at the mental level the mind goes everywhere. What we can do is, periodically get the mind from mental to the physical level. Make it take a break and recite some verse. Or take a deep breath. Or if you are sitting, stand up and walk. When we walk we try to look where are we going and such change of attention forces us to become a more aware and not just get caught in the mind. Creating periodic breaks help us to distance ourselves away from the mind. Even then if our mind wanders we will become aware of it and get impetus to bring it back. Most importantly we have to know that Krishna is an understanding god. Even if our mind is wandering and we do not feel like chanting, Krishna knows that. When we do not feel like chanting, Krishna is not going to demand absolute concentration. Krishna does not just see our feelings, He also see our feeling about our feelings.
That means when we just do not feel like chanting then we can have the attitude, “Krishna I want to chant but I am not just feeling like chanting. Please help me.” Our feeling is that we do not have taste for chanting. However, our feeling about our feeling is, “Krishna I do not want to feel like this, please help me to feel devotional.” Or our feeling can be “I do not feel like chanting, when will my chanting get over, I have other things to do, chanting is just a big burden, why I have to do this.” The second one is non-devotional. The non-devotional feeling just came within us, but we do not have to make it a non-devotional attitude. If we understand that even if we have non-devotional feeling, if we try to be prayerful, sometimes that prayerfulness, that dependence may lead to more spiritual advancement than attentive chanting in which we do not feel any need for Krishna. It is not just attention, along with attention attitude is also important.
Sometimes we come in the association of the devotees and we chant sitting erect, clear pronunciation, not because we want to please Krishna but because we want to show everyone else that what a good chanter we are. So there may be clear pronunciation, erect posture, even attention in one sense but attitude is not devotional. We do not have to equate good chanting simply with externals. The most important thing is attitude. Actually, the times when our mind wanders too much, they are the times we can feel the need for Krishna and dependence on Krishna. When that happens then even through there are phases of inattention, we can still make spiritual advancement because we are connected with Krishna in realizing our need for him.
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