Dhanurdhara Swami October 4th, 2002
Vasant Falls, New York
Chanting the Holy Name
I have a friend who is an older Irish Catholic priest. We occasionally discuss spirituality. He laments that his congregation sees God as just an order supplier. He has recently invited me to come to his church to give a sermon on adoration, the devotional side of religion. Speaking with him concerned me that, unless we focus more on the holy name in our own Krishna conscious life, we will become just another religion rather than a mystical or internal process of self-realization. I realize that I also need to speak more about this to the devotees, that we are not just church-goers, but yogis–at least for a small part of the day.
Obviously this is too vast a subject to speak about properly in such a short time. The day after Vyasa-puja, I will hold a short seminar on the topic for some of my disciples. Next year, I plan to hold a small retreat dedicated to the holy name for all those interested. It is difficult to internally develop our Krishna consciousness in the midst of a culture surcharged with opposition to our values, especially while struggling with the problems of family, work, and social life. Perhaps some devotees residing in vibrant congregations like 2nd Avenue or Towaco can do this, but I think it is also necessary to make times of the year specifically for our internal development–times like our Mayapur/Vrindaban pilgrimage, our visits to Gita-nagari or New Vrindaban, or maybe small retreats dedicated to making observable spiritual advancement based on japa meditation and kirtan.
I’ll just say a few words on the holy name.
I am your harinam guru. Thus, the basis of our relationship is the holy name. Yes, we discuss other things. I guide you, befriend you, and serve you, but a disciple should see all his interactions with guru for the purpose of bringing one gradually to the platform of pure chanting. I will be leaving for Govardhan in three days for my yearly japa retreat. More and more I am dedicating my life to krishna-kirtan. I implore you to take our process seriously and invite you to approach me to discuss chanting the holy name.
Just two suggestions here; one on the method of chanting and one on the mood of chanting:
Understand the term samskara. Samskara means the impressions in our consciousness from past experiences. Because we generally have not grown up very religiously, most of our samskaras are for sense gratification, proper and sinful, subtle and gross. As soon as such impressions enter the consciousness, they push to be filled with the same stimuli that created them. Therefore if we chant in an atmosphere that is not protected from such stimuli, our mind will be inevitably drawn toward our past samskaras, and attentive chanting will become impossible. Create a place and time in your home, free from distraction and reserved exclusively for japa meditation. A small temple room is best.
A message to parents, especially mothers. It is your duty to create the proper samskaras in your children so that, in the future, they will be spontaneously drawn to spiritual life. How fortunate is that child who grows up in a loving and caring home where the parents, especially the mother, worships the Supreme Lord, the Vaishnavas, and the holy name with regularity and devotion?
Krishna is nondifferent from His name, but the degree to which He manifests depends on our attitude.
The proper mood of chanting is one of faith in and surrender. Faith comes from association with those attached to the holy name, which means hearing from them and serving them. I have spent time preparing this talk for the festival only because of the opportunity it avails to foster faith but, in fact, there are so many opportunities throughout the year for sadhu-sanga–especially if you make sadhu-sanga a priority. If you want a taste for the holy name, pray for sadhu-sanga.
Our mood in chanting should be sarangati. The mood of saranagati is the firm vow to accept that which is favorable and reject that which is unfavorable to the holy name. Our full faith must be that Krishna is my only protector and maintainer, our firm commitment must be to the ideal that our only duty is His desire, and we must develop a happy resignation to ourinsignificance before God.
Especially, we need to be humble. Humility comes from selfless service. Is there any dearth of opportunity to attract Krishna’s mercy by serving others? We don’t have to be learned, austere, cultured, or fine to advance in spiritual life–only humble enough to realize our need for refuge and intelligent enough to turn to the spiritual master and the Supreme Lord for shelter.
Another favorite story: I’ve always appreciated the intimate relationship that His Holiness Giriraja Swami had with Srila Prabhupada, who seemed to love Giriraja as a son. I asked Giriraja Swami his secret in becoming such an object of Prabhupada’s mercy. In his slow, deliberate, but sweet manner, he replied, “I am just a mercy case!” What a wonderful process of self realization, where shortcomings become assets simply by realizing them. This was nicely explained in a short text by His Holiness Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Swami:
“If we truly feel ourselves to be low and in want, then the supply of mercy will come from a higher plane. Everything moves according to Krishna’s sweet will. Our problem is to draw his attention. This will be possible only by increasing our negative tendency, by proving to Krishna, in a bona fide way, that I am the most needy.” (Subjective evolution.)
Message: Make a place and time in your life, free from distraction, for attentive chanting. Take guidance from the spiritual master and the Vaishnavas on how to make a practical plan to deepen your internal spiritual life.