Monday Morning Greetings 2024 #18 – Dog Bites Monk: Part Two

April 29th, 2024

After that dog attacked me, I remained quite calm, almost as an observer. I guess different people react in different ways—some shaken up, some perhaps angry or even hysterical. I was a bit proud of how much I could extract myself from the drama, but after my friend cleaned my wound and I went back to my room, I was surprised by how much the dog’s antagonism towards me had entered my body. In other words, although I wasn’t traumatized, in the sense that I could observe what happened and not react to it emotionally, I could still see that trauma of aggression within me and feel it somewhat physically. Thinking back on that observation affirmed an important realization: Our words and actions can carry our emotions to others—a realization that is also applicable to the path of devotion where our words and work serve as a vehicle to carry our devotion to God for His pleasure, which is the essence of devotional practice.


This phenomenon is clearly expressed in Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī’s principal definition of pure devotion where he explains that the primary characteristic of pure devotion is that the endeavors of one’s mind, body, and words flow towards Krishna carrying our intention to please Him.[1]


This same principle is also indicated in the Yoga-sūtras in terms of japa meditation, where Patañjali writes that one should dwell on the meaning of the mantra, which is full surrender to Īśvara (God), and carry that mood of devotion to God through the mantra to invoke His mercy.[2]


And certainly, this applies to kirtan. What is kirtan? “Kirtan is when the bhava (devotion) in the heart is expressed through the discipline of music.”[3]


Our practical service must also carry our devotion to Krishna. I heard this nicely explained by a local sādhu in Vrindavan in a charming way: “The term for servant in Sanskrit is sevāk. If you take away sevā (the mood of service) from sevāk (the person doing the act of service) you are left only with vak. Vak or bak represents Bakāsura, the duck demon in krishnalīlā who represents duplicity.”[4]


As I was chanting this morning, this realization of the mantra carrying my devotion to Krishna came to my mind, impelling me to listen carefully to the sincerity of my chanting so that I truly meant what I was saying—a call to Śrī Krishna begging for a heart of service and the mercy of the holy name.


So, this ends my two-part series of “Dog Bites Monk” (and enlightens him).


[1] “One should render transcendental loving service to the Supreme Lord Kṛṣṇa favorably and without desire for material profit or gain through fruitive activities or philosophical speculation. That is called pure devotional service.” (Brs.1.1.11)

[2] Vyasa, the main commentator on the Yoga Sutras, describes how the mantra expressing surrender invokes His mercy: “Devotion to God, according to Vyāsa, involves a particular type of devotion, bhakti-viśeṣa; simply by the yogī’s longing, God bestows his grace upon the yogī. When this happens, the fruits of samādhi become quickly available.” (Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali, commentary 1.23, Professor Edwin Bryant)

[3] Sat Hari Singh Khalsa, “Kirtan: The Sacred Music of the Sikhs,” Journal of Vaishnava Studies, Volume 17, No. 2 (Spring 2009), 169–184.

[4] I can’t remember where I heard it.

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