Monday Morning Greetings 2023 #2 – Entering the Life of Prayer

January 9th, 2023

Akincana Krishna das shared with me a meditation technique he had been using before he came to Krishna consciousness and how he decided to use it. He loved kirtan, but he had one frustration participating in it. He felt his kirtan lacked internal depth, so he turned to something that gave him some of his deepest spiritual experiences before he was a devotee and applied it to his devotional practice.[1] It worked. His focus on the holy name deepened, but he had one doubt. The person he learned that technique from seemed to ultimately have an impersonal goal. Was it alright to adopt a practice from such a divergent path? He sought my opinion. I listened very carefully as he explained what he was doing.


The practice Akincana Krishna das was using seemed simple and not controversial. It basically entailed just picking a spiritually inspirational verse or verses that could be practically applied in life and very slowly repeating the verse (or verses) again and again for thirty minutes, dwelling on its meaning until it brought him into a meditative state. He picked the Śikṣāṣṭakam for the practice, and the first thing in the morning every day he would repeat these devotional laden verses for thirty minutes, alternating the Sanskrit with the English translation. He described that doing this would “stain” his consciousness with spiritual impressions that stayed with him the whole day, especially injecting his japa and kirtan meditation with real feeling.


Hearing Akincana Krishna das describe what he was practicing brought to my memory something I read in the beginning of my Krishna consciousness in the Nectar of Devotion where Śrīla Prabhupāda described the mental culture of Krishna consciousness.[2] It was also akin to something I learned when taking a seminar by Bhurijana das on prayerful reading, which I have previously written about.[3] Coincidentally, it also ran parallel to a Catholic-inspired practice called Lectio Divina[4] described in Satsvarupa das Goswami’s recent journal. Lectio Divina is a practice of study that entails carefully reading a verse or section of a spiritual text and then mediating, praying and contemplating it in that order. I could see nothing that he was doing that is incongruous with the practice of Krishna consciousness. I decided to try it out myself.


I am always looking for ways to alter the consciousness to help me hear the holy name with more concentration. Altering the consciousness means leaving the plane of the chatter of the mind to become focused on the object of one’s meditation ideally up to a point where one is no longer cognizant of the external world, which is called trance or samādhi. It’s standard in meditational practice to first prepare oneself, especially one’s mind, for deeper devotional focus before even beginning to meditate. In this regard, many of us may remember Śrīla Prabhupāda’s strong direction to his disciples to “Sit properly!” on the tape of him chanting japa.


I decided to pick just the third verse of the Śikṣāṣṭakam and for thirty minutes very slowly repeat it over and over again, mostly in English but sometimes in Sanskrit:


“One should chant the holy name of the Lord in a humble state of mind, thinking oneself lower than the straw in the street, more tolerant than a tree, devoid of all sense of false prestige and ready to offer all respects to others. In such a state of mind one chant the holy name constantly.”


Here are my own realizations after adopting the practice, but first with a disclaimer: I am not recommending this process as “the process” because different people, according to their nature, may find different ways that effectively alter their consciousness and help them to focus. This is just my own realization experimenting with it.


As I mentioned above, it is common on the path of bhakti to prepare oneself in various ways to become more mindful before meditating on an object of one’s adoration. In deity worship, for example, before entering one’s worship there is bhūta-śuddhi, chanting certain prayers that reaffirm one’s spiritual identity in order to purify oneself of the bodily concept.[5] Similarly, I found that repeating the same prayers over and over again for a period of time before meditating on the holy name is a very effective practice to help one leave the chatter of the mind and enter the plane of meditational focus, the ground on which one can actually hear and relish the holy name.


Effectively chanting and hearing the holy name, which ultimately comes by the mercy of Krishna, also depends on how you live your life for the pleasure of Śrī Krishna. I found that by continually repeating the same inspirational verses or prayers for some time, one enters deeper and deeper into their meaning, which helps one to inject into their consciousness a spiritual vision that one carries throughout the day. Specifically, I found by meditating on this third verse from the Śikṣāṣṭakam, which outlines what it means to think and act as a humble devotee of God, I was better able throughout the day to see the world and my interactions with others through the lens of a humble servant of God.


Presently, I am at an Ayurvedic clinic for a pañcakarma detox. Last night I went for dinner at 6:30 PM, but I had an important call at 7:15 PM that I couldn’t reschedule. They are exceptionally respectful to me here because of my age and ashram (sannyāsa), and I wanted to be served quickly, but as others came to dinner before me, they were naturally attended to first. The server saw me sitting at the corner table, and a silly and fleeting thought entered my mind based on my upadhi (material status): “Why aren’t they serving me!” But immediately the third line of the Śikṣāṣṭakam, came into to mind: “devoid of all sense of false prestige.” I witnessed how powerfully that line from the Śikṣāṣṭakam checked my lower thoughts and grounded my consciousness spiritually. I sat and waited patiently.


I observed through this technique how in different interactions throughout the day the thoughts of “more tolerant than a tree” and “offer all respects to others” arose in my consciousness to keep me grounded in a humble state of mind, the only platform of consciousness where one can beg for God’s mercy and chant with devotion. It affirmed Akincana’s statement that meditating repeatedly on certain prayers “stains” one’s consciousness with devotional vision.


I am no longer chanting the third verse of the Śikṣāṣṭakam thirty minutes before I sit down to chant japa. However, I have certainly added the technique to my repertoire of ways to leave the boring and mindless world of chatter, where the holy name is at best an indistinct whisper, to enter a more meditative state, where the holy name clearly and joyfully appears within the mind. I like this practice, for it re-affirms a simple but very important message: One way or another we need to enter the world of prayer!



[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passage_Meditation

[2] https://vaniquotes.org/wiki/This_is_the_mental_culture_of_Krsna_consciousness

[3] https://wavesofdevotion.com/2017/11/27/the-talking-book/

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lectio_Divina

[5] It is recommended for bhūta-śuddhi, at least how I have been taught, to chant the following verse to purify oneself of bodily consciousness before beginning the worship of the deity: “I am not a brāhmaṇa, I am not a kṣatriya, I am not a vaiśya or a śūdra. Nor am I a brahmacārī, a householder, a vānaprastha or a sannyāsī. I identify myself only as the servant of the servant of the servant of the lotus feet of Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the maintainer of the gopīs. He is like an ocean of nectar, and He is the cause of universal transcendental bliss. He is always existing with brilliance. ” (Cc. Madhya-līlā 13:80)


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