Monday Morning Greetings 2023 #44 – Monday Morning Musings: Chanting and Writing and Other Thoughts

October 30th, 2023

Are you OK?

Last Monday Morning Greetings I discussed that my life was at a crossroads. Some people inquired if I could share what that was. Nothing serious. As I explained in a previous post, I am in the unique situation—or perhaps it’s just the time of life—where I have no externally imposed responsibilities, and I can freely choose how I want to serve Krishna. As I was trying to figure it out, a friend visited and recommended that I just talk to God. I did. I will be working on a new book and will continue to develop more the sādhu side of my life—live simply and chant more.



Chanting and Writing

A scholar was burdened with a deep philosophical question. He decided to ask Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta, the great Vaiṣṇava scholar and saint, so he made an appointment to see him. When he arrived, however, Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta was busy, so the great saint asked him if he would mind polishing the deity paraphernalia while he waited. When he returned as scheduled, the saint told him that something extremely important came up and if he could please come the next day. Although he had to wait again, when he finished polishing the brass, Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta graciously welcomed his inquiry. To the saint’s surprise the scholar sat their silently, but soon revealed why: “I had this very deep question that had been bothering me for some time, but after finishing polishing the brass today the answer suddenly came!” In the same way, although I am taking time from my morning writing schedule to walk around Govardhan chanting the holy name, I am amazed that the concepts I have been struggling to properly conceptualize and express suddenly become clear. Some people ask how I come up with a fresh realization every week to write about an express that realization clearly. One answer: chanting! The mercy of the holy name is very much a part of my writing process.



The Pain of Prema

I have a small group that I meet once a week where I am lecturing on the second chapter of the Madhya-līlā where Śrī Caitanya’s ecstasies are described in terms the mood of Śrī Radha as a disappointed lover, which is arguably the most painful and consuming consciousness. As I am teaching this section, others and I were struggling to reconcile the sorrowful descriptions of Śrī Radha’s pain with its descriptions of simultaneously being the height of Her ecstasy. While walking and chanting an analogy came to mind to reconcile this: Sometimes a drama communicates a tragedy that the audience feels deeply but is simultaneously the cause of their enjoying that drama. In the same way, the apparent feelings of pain Śrī Radha experiences in the drama of krishna-līlā is simultaneously the cause of Her ecstasy, as it heightens Her love of Krishna, which is the highest form of ecstasy.



The Agony and the Ecstasy of Japa

I had a personal realization while chanting about the idea I was musing on yesterday in terms of reconciling the concepts of agony and ecstasy in devotional service. The japa was good today. I went deeper and hit the wall of surrender—that I couldn’t go much deeper until I sincerely prayed for unconditional devotion—to ask Śrī Krishna to do whatever it takes to attain His lotus feet. I clearly saw the anchors of attachment and felt the pain of giving them up, but simultaneously that endeavor was couched in a depth of devotion that was very sweet.



Two Stories, Same Story

I am also teaching the Bṛhad-bhāgavatāmṛta, which is a summary of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam as it’s a response to Mahārāja Parīkṣit’s mother’s request to quickly share its essence after he had just finished hearing the complete Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam on the last day of his life. Another quandary arose: How exactly is the Bṛhad-bhāgavatāmṛta a summary of the ŚrīmadBhāgavatam when it’s a completely different story? The answer again came while chanting: The goal of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is to understand the pastimes of Śrī Krishna in the Tenth Canto, especially His loving dealings with the gopīs as the highest manifestation of devotional service, and not something mundane or imaginary. One way the book accomplishes that is to present stories of pure devotional service in progressively greater and greater forms of intimacy. When we see the same concept but in different forms, it helps us understand that concept more deeply so that we can recognize it when applied in different circumstances. In this case, seeing the concept of pure devotional service in a variety of devotees with different relationships with Krishna gives us a depth of understanding to recognize such selfless devotion even in the more challenging form of the intense loving romantic exchanges of Śrī Radha and Śrī Krishna. In the Bṛhad-bhāgavatāmṛta, although the story is very much different, the search of Śrī Narada to find the topmost recipient of Krishna’s mercy basically follows the same progression of devotees as the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam does in terms of their level of intimacy with Krishna and with the same expressed purpose, to help us see the love of Krishna and the gopīs as the height of selfless devotion, which is finally revealed at the end of Śrī Narada’s search.


Pride and Parikrama

As I was walking today, for a second a thought of pernicious pride entered my mind for a second, thinking how great what I was doing was, walking every day around the hill, which is only a pleasant, brisk morning stroll that many people do, but I quickly caught myself and had an antidote for such thoughts. Beg for the mercy of the holy name. How can a beggar be proud?


So that’s my musings here in Govardhan this week. See you again next morning!




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