Monday Morning Greetings 2018 #46 – Contemplations on the Holy Name

November 12th, 2018

Monday Morning Greetings began, at least the idea to regularly write and share my realizations, about twenty years ago during my yearly holy name retreat in Govardhana during Kārttika. At that time, the inspiration came to write and share the realizations I was getting about entering the holy name. I have the inspiration this week to return to the roots of Monday Morning Greetings by again sharing my contemplations on the holy name.


Like a wave

The holy name is like a wave and our mind is like a surfer. Just as a surfer struggles to stay on a great wave, we may similarly struggle to ride or focus on the holy name. And just as a surfer gets great joy if he rides the wave through to completion, we also get great joy if we ride the wave of even one mantra by hearing each syllable attentively, without falling into the ocean of inattentive thoughts.


Is the mantra chanting you?

Sacinandana Swami once related to me that while he was staying in Varṣāṇā on a japa retreat, a sādhu spontaneously appeared and asked him: “Are you chanting the mantra, or is the mantra chanting you?” I forgot the exact point that Sacinananda Maharaja was making by relating this example, but recently during my present japa retreat I began to again ponder the sādhu’s words. In that regard, I posed a question to myself: If the holy name is Krishna, does that mean that we produce or manifest Krishna by our own voiced effort and how can that be?

Krishna, who is merciful, manifests in the holy name for whomever chants His name sincerely. So yes, in that sense we are chanting the mantra. Real chanting, however, begins when we hear and observe the holy name flowing spontaneously from our heart through our lips by the mercy of the holy name. In this way, the mantra, descending from the spiritual world, is chanting us. Wanting to have more of that feeling while chanting, I became more inspired during this Kārttika to put more concentration into hearing the name than chanting the name. Of course, by hearing carefully, one automatically chants attentively.


Boredom and bhakti

When we meditate on the holy name, we should just repeat the same syllables and not indulge the mind in other thoughts. How boring! But that’s how we feel if we are conditioned to rely on only our thoughts to keep us enlivened in the recitation of the name, because all frivolous thoughts are negated except the holy name in the practice of japa. If, however, we rely on our feelings to absorb us in devotion, such as humility and gratitude, then one will never be bored, for devotion is the one state of mind that remains ever fresh and dynamic. Chant attentively, but with a heart.


It’s taste, not time.

I once visited the home of a student who had given up chanting completely. I asked her to begin again by just chanting for fifteen minutes a day, two or three rounds. Her New York-esque affirmative answer was both humorous, honest, and revealing: “Yeah, half a sit-com.”[1] In other words, usually the time we waste on frivolous media could be used to increase our chanting of the holy name, so our lack of commitment to the holy name is usually more about taste than time. Give a set time and place for chanting. Concentrate. Taste will gradually come. There can be no greater mercy than having a taste for the things that are best for us.


Time flies when you are having a good time.

We vow to chant a prescribed number or rounds. Without commitment we descend to the mental platform where we do things only out of our like and dislike, not whether the activity is actually good for us or not. To succeed in any endeavor, we thus need some discipline. A word of caution, however. If you put your faith too much in the rule to chant, that the benefit you get from chanting is only when you complete your obligation, your mind will be concentrated more on finishing your rounds than worshipping the holy name. Chanting then becomes boring, because thoughts of the future bring on the oppression of time. Time exists in the future, time exists in the past, but time doesn’t exist now. Be careful to concentrate on the holy name, merge into the eternal now and free yourself from the oppression of relative time. Time flies when you are having a good time.


Chanting is real love

There are three desires that manifest in pure love: the desire to be with someone, the desire to have a relationship with them, and, most importantly, the desire to serve them. God appears in the holy name, so by chanting the holy name we can be with Krishna, develop a relationship with Krishna, and serve Krishna. All we need to do is remember the sacredness and dynamisms of chanting God’s name, that He has actually appears before us. How wonderful!


As I finish writing, I am sitting in my room at Govardhana on the morning of the Śrīla Prabhupāda’s disappearance day. I am facing the sacred mountain, which is less than a hundred yards away, thinking of the gifts Śrīla Prabhupāda has given us, especially the holy name.


[1] Sit-com means a half hour situation comedy on television.

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