Adventures in Humility

News, Views, and Chews on spiritual issues.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Chanting 64 Rounds a Day

My dear friend Sri Advaita dasji has recently posted his views on chanting 64 rounds. I must say that I agree in principle that the Gaudiya sadhakas must chant or aspire to chant 64 rounds of Sri Harinama per day, but I also acknowledge the reasons why it may be difficult to do so. Some time back I came across an interesting article on VNN which was chock-full of quotes form Mahaprabhu and purvacharyas about the glories of 64 rounds. There is also a fantastic article about it on Vilasakunja which I think is more informative and enlightening.

So it is clear that this is Mahaprabhu's desire, but the world has changed a heck of a lot since then. Most people simply do not have the time to sit around all day and chant a lakh of japa in spite of how much they would like to. Of course there are the serious sadhakas who make an effort to do this and actually do it, but the facts don't change for your average sadhaka who has responsibilities of studying, employment and/or married life. Plenty of people have too much of a problem chanting 16 rounds so it is absolutely wild if it was suggested to do 64.

Don't get me wrong here, I would love to chant 64 rounds but I also sensibly recognise that I would have the time to commit myself to that at some point in the future. Personally, I'm the type of person who enjoys absorbing my mind in the glories and shimmering radiance of Sri Gaurasundara Mahaprabhu's Golden Lotus Feet and, as such, it takes me around 15 minutes to complete one round. :-/ When I hear some sadhakas talk about how "easy" it is to chant their rounds quickly (however many they chant) and describing how they do it, I am at a loss for words. Of course I can chant faster if I wanted to but I would knowingly be sacrificing quality for quantity, and so in that respect I agree with Advaita dasji's points on the same and possibly extending to the concept of offences.

Other offences would also creep into the arena. I find the point about "looking down your noses" aty people who chant lesser rounds to be extremely telling of practical experience. Too often I have seen this take place and the worst thing is that people may not even realise that they're doing it! That is the psychology of the egocentric complex, it is self-evident that one's own practice is "perfect". Other points could stand for the fact that your "perfect" practise is self-evident to others too and failing to recognise that it may not be so. Yet another point relates to fault-finding that may be carried out at an unconscious level: "Ha ha ha, I chant 64 rounds, where you at?!?! 16 rounds??? SO behind!!" People who read this may even think, "hey, I don't do that!" The sad fact is that, according to established psychological research, you do. Even if it is unconscious.

And so that's another offence. Anarthas have a tendency to become almost imperceptible as you progress along the path, hey? ;-) Maybe that's the trick of Mahaprabhu, to differentiate between the wheat and the chaff as it were.

A couple pf posts ago I described my recent trip to the temple. I mentioned how I don't usually take my mala to the temple since I am almost always called away to do seva so I never get the time to chant. Busy guy. But because it was Ratha-yatra day and I couldn't go, I found the opportunity to sit on a bench, enjoy the cool breeze and do some serious japa. Even if I do say so myself, I found my japa to be very fulfilling and I did feel rather peaceful. But as this particular bench was placed facing the area where prasad would be served as well as the fact that more people were arriving at the temple and passing by where my bench was, they invariably saw what I was doing. It's bad enough that you have to wear a tilak that some might find ostentatious but it's quite another when your hand is in a bead-bag fingering a mala.

What would people think? Who knows? Who cares? On one hand I may be oblivious to people's stares because I am simply doing my own sadhana and if they didn't understand what I was doing, tough luck, it's none of their business actually. On the other hand, my chanting of japa is drawing attention and this is why they're looking in the first place.

Two predominant streams of thought surface in my mind. One of them relates to how "embarrassed" I feel at their watching me chant. Maybe they may have a sense of admiration for people who chant, and for people who receive such admiration should be worthy of such admiration. Consequently, it would not do well to externally chant but have their mind on other things that are invariably mundane. It made me realise that, if people possibly admire the fact that I chant, it would be appropriate to be worthy of that by genuinely concentraing my mind on Gaurasundara.

The other stream of though relates to enjoying the attention, since the fact that I am chanting makes me look like some "big devotee"? It is about chanting to seek attention and secretly enjoying being watched chanting. I think that these sorts of problems are mentioned in Madhurya-kadambini but in any case it is still a practical problem to rid oneself of the desire to be "seen" chanting. This is related to Advaita dasji's concluding point about Sadhu Baba. Sadhu Baba [Nikunja Gopal Gosvami, Advaita's guru) stated the following:

japArthe zrI-zrI harinAmera mAlA laiyA pathe ghATe hATe bAjAre loka saMgharSe pAdukA pAye, galpa juDiyA tAmbUla carvaNa karite karite calA niSedha. tAhAte zrI zrI nAmera maryAdA-hAnI haya nAme rucito kasmin kAle-o Ase nA baraM ahaM abhimAna bRddhi pAya evaM zrI zrI nAmera caraNe mahA aparAdha ghaTe – “It is forbidden to take one’s japa-mala out on the road, to the market, to the bathingplaces, to public gatherings, wearing shoes, talking to others or chewing betelnuts – it will be disrespectful to Sri Harinama. In this way ruci for harinama will never come, rather there will be an increase of ego and it will create a big offence at the lotus-feet of Sri Harinama.”

Wow, what can I say? What does this say about the behaviour of a number of ISKCON devotees who chant out on the road, in the marketplace, public gatherings, talking to others and so on? Of course it would be supremely pretentious of me to stand up and judge their chanting as pretentious and attention-seeking when my own is at fault, but can you just imagine? Whether such "public" chanting is pretentious or not, who could ever know? Psychological understandings would support the idea that such public chanting is meant for seeking attention no matter how unconscious it is. This only deeply illustrates for me the various problems that sadhakas come across in their journey to Gaurasundara's Golden Lotus Feet; we can make all sorts of preparations on a gross level but so many things happen on a subtle and unconscious level that we may not even be aware about.

What can we do but fling ourselves at the feet of Yugal-Kishor and hope for Their mercy and Their guidance? Perhaps that is the answer, just doing the best you can and leaving the results to you-know-Who.


Post a Comment

<< Home