Monday Morning Greetings 2023 #34 – Pain on the Path of Perfection and Other Thoughts on Chanting

August 21st, 2023

It rains every few days—mostly in the night—just enough to keep the weather pleasant and temperate. Govardhan has become so verdant you practically can’t even see the hill behind its foliage. Although there are plenty of pilgrims packing the path, it is not a loud-blaring-festival time of year and barely a soul comes to my door. I’m here alone. It keeps my stay sacred—an ideal time to chant the holy name!


Chanting—the lens or mirror of the mind is cleansed, and what do you see? You see and feel the real you, the devotee of Krishna. A mirror is also held up to the false ego. Sure, that enables you to distinguish it from the soul, but you also see that false-self parading around as if those temporary material designations of body, birth, and position are you. How embarrassing! More painful is looking back and realizing how much folly was done in the name of illusion—the mistakes made, and the harm caused. Should I continue to go deeper and obliterate the rest of my extraneous attachments and ultimately come to point of seeing my envy of God? Chanting—the lens or mirror of the mind is cleansed, and what do you see? The agony and ecstasy.


But there is no duality on the path of bhakti, because both the joys and struggles in devotional practice are born from devotion. If we can lament and feel the pain of separation from Śrī Krishna, like a child crying for his mother, as Śrīla Prabhupāda instructed, isn’t that pain of separation our highest devotion and thus joy at the same time?


Some Other Thoughts on Chanting


The holy name is a person, and people only reveal themselves in love. The first principle of love is to give attention to another. If our taste for chanting is waning, it’s because we haven’t given the holy name enough attention and He hasn’t revealed His presence and love, which is the taste of chanting. If we keep anyone a stranger by neglecting them, why would they reveal themselves, and how will we ever taste what that person may have to offer us in a relationship?


A sādhu visited and gave some advice: “If we keep the body absolutely still while chanting, even while sitting in a chair, and concentrate on pronouncing every syllable very carefully, in four round intervals at a time,[1] then with a little effort we will become absorbed in the name, and God will reveal Himself quickly, even to a neophyte. The principle is that, when sitting, the mind’s focus naturally flows to where the body is moving, and when we keep the body totally still the focus will more easily gravitate to where directed—in the case of chanting, the tongue and the ears. Sure, the mind may still wander, but without the body grabbing the consciousness, the focus on chanting will intensify.” The sādhu’s experience mirrored my own, which was reaffirming, but the real glory of Vrindavan is that at any moment a sādhu may walk in the door.


The Yoga Sutras say that when chanting a mantra we must dwell on its meaning. Makes sense. How can you be attentive to chanting a mantra if you remain oblivious to its meaning?


It is still very early morning here in Govardhan. I am laying back on my recliner chair, shirtless under a fan, enjoying the pleasant night breezes coming through my open door and window. My computer rests on my lap. I just finished this week’s Greetings, and now I will begin my chanting—and like all relationships, it’s a work in progress.



[1] I asked the sādhu why four rounds at a time. He said that that was usually the amount he experienced that most people could muster up the determination to focus. He said the break may be just for a moment to stretch, change position, or sip water, and then refocus the mind on chanting. It is not a hard and fast rule.


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