Monday Morning Greetings 2017 #45 – Perils on the Path of Contemplation

November 6th, 2017

Beware! The false ego is lurking in the background of our consciousness waiting for the slightest inattention to steal even our best qualities to make us proud. I constantly remind myself of this, otherwise my efforts in spiritual practice will be spoiled. I am especially concerned this month. For over twenty years I have come to Govardhana during Kārttika to build up my spiritual strength by taking a vow to increase my chanting. I chant and chant. I pray not to ruin it as my vanity swells:
“My meditation is going deeper and deeper. Am I better than others?”
Suddenly I remember the gentle admonishment of an elderly Vaiṣṇava to my friend when he told that sādhu about his Kārttika vows: “You are not better than everyone or anyone!”
“I am getting taste for the holy name. Should I be proud?”
“What’s there to be proud of? You have been practicing for 47 years. It is about time you have some taste for the holy name.”
“I have been steady for the whole month. Am I becoming a great devotee?”
“What you are doing is a pittance compared to great devotees. And their mind doesn’t wander to do silly things. And let’s see how long it lasts.”
I battle the voice of egotism, the insidious part of me that will shamelessly use anything to promote my delusions of grandeur, even the little good I occasionally do. I remind myself, it just takes a little inattention and all my efforts will be ruined. I fight the voice of pride with the weapons of regret, mercy, and compassion – the sober voices of truth that arise by the grace of the holy name.
I regret my life as an enjoyer and controller. The things that I have done and that I have said embarrass me. I lament the people I have hurt. By the mercy of the holy name these thoughts spontaneously arise whenever I need to be humble. They remind me who I really am.
I consider the mercy I am receiving, for mercy requires an object of mercy and makes one reflect on one’s lack of qualification. By the grace of the holy name whenever thoughts of grandeur make me feel independent and proud I contemplate the undeserved kindness I have received on the path of bhakti.
I feel compassion. If I gain any small taste for the holy name I feel sorry for those lacking this gift, not proud that I have anything. By the grace of the holy name a drop of empathy awakens and I think of others instead of my inflated self.
Why I am writing this? Won’t sharing my bhajana make me proud? What can I do? My process of writing Monday Morning Greetings is to write about the first realization that comes to mind after I complete an article for posting. And this week it happens to be this realization. If I don’t post it, there will be nothing this week for my readers, but have I not also given away the personal benefit of my Kārttika-vrata? A story comes to mind:
I was taking lunch in Govardhana with a fairly renowned sādhu when a younger practitioner came over and announced to him, “I am chanting 64 rounds!” The sādhu smiled and replied, “Thank you. Now you have given the benefit of your chanting to me. When you announce your vow to someone you become proud and they become humble and the results is that the fruit of your effort goes to them.”
Oh, the perils on the path of contemplation!

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