Monday Morning Greetings 2023 #46 – Devotion and the Dumbphone

November 13th, 2023

I pass a man who is walking around Govardhan, smartphone to his ear, chatting away. Unfortunately, I have seen this more and more. A thought comes to mind:


“If he completes the whole Govardhan parikrama while talking on the phone, how much spiritual advancement benefit does he get? Afterall, he would have completed a powerful practice of devotional service.”


In other words, how much benefit do we get by completing our parikrama, or any devotional activity, without any devotional focus while doing so? Very little, for sure, in comparison to absorbing ourselves in the prescribed activity, which is the whole purpose of a devotional activity. This is outlined clearly in the Padma Purāṇa, where it describes that always thinking of Krishna without forgetting Him is the most basic of all regulative principles, and by following that injunction all other rules and regulations automatically fall into line.


This most basic of basic of all regulative principles offers a word of caution to devotional practitioners: As vaidhī (rule based) bhakti is driven by our faith in śāstra and the promise it gives of spiritual benefit by adhering to a prescribed devotional practice, one can easily lose sight of this most basic of all regulative principle and thus fall under the misconception that the advantage of a prescribed devotional activity comes only from completing it, rather than the opportunity it affords to remember Śrī Krishna.


I am not being dismissive of the practice of following our devotional commitments strictly. It is important to, one way or another, complete one’s devotional prescription, for before the level of spontaneous devotional service, unless we are ruled by the prescriptions of śāstra, we will be prone to instinctively follow our whims and not remember Krishna at all. And even those on the highest platform of devotion, whose bhakti was solely inspired by their love of Krishna, are still in general, inspired to regulate their devotional practices to deepen their focus and meditation on Krishna.[1]


A thought just came while chanting after my morning writing session. It wasn’t directly related to the subject at hand, but I immediately understood its relevance to today’s discussion. I have made a vow for this month of Kārttika to complete a certain number of names of Krishna while chanting japa.[2] Yesterday I fell short of the daily quota I set to reach my goal by the end of the month, and therefore would have to make up that chanting some other day. I began to feel a little pressure, but then I thought of today’s discussion. What’s really the difference between chanting 3,000,000 names and 2,975,000 for the month?[3] So what if I fall short of my goal by a dozen or so rounds as long as I continue to remain concentrated? I was surprised by my answer. It’s a substantial difference. When Śrī Guru and Śrī Krishna see the effort we make for their pleasure to meet our vows, they are pleased with our tapasya and that certainly attracts their mercy, but, by all means, don’t walk around Govardhan chatting on a smartphone, or finish your rounds with dumbphone in hand, as the benefit from your practice will surely be minimal!




[1] I offer my respectful obeisances unto the Six Gosvāmīs, namely Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī, Śrī Sanātana Gosvāmī, Śrī Raghunātha Bhaṭṭa Gosvāmī, Śrī Raghunātha Dāsa Gosvāmī, Śrī Jiva Gosvāmī, and Śrī Gopāla Bhaṭṭa Gosvāmī, who were engaged in chanting the holy names of the Lord and bowing down in a scheduled measurement. [emphasis mine] In this way they utilized their valuable lives, and in executing these devotional activities they conquered overeating and sleeping and were always meek and humble, enchanted by remembering the transcendental qualities of the Lord.

[2] There are sixteen names of God in each Hare Krishna mahā-mantra and thus one round of 108 mantras is 1,728 names of God. Sixteen rounds thus equal 27,648 and sixty-four rounds equal 110,592 names.

[3] This is a hypothetical example. I am not revealing my vow.


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