Be Present

Be Here Now

Doing one thing while thinking of something else is to not “be present.” It’s a symptom of the mode of passion and ignorance. As mentioned in the last installment, in order to focus on hearing the mantra well you want to at least be in the mode of goodness while chanting. In goodness, passions are quieted. Hankering and lamentation are subdued.

To be present during japa requires that you be absent from the things in your life that don’t support your japa. It’s common while chanting to think about what happened yesterday, what will happen later today, or what is bothering you, and thus not “be present” to your japa.

To really “be present” requires that you leave your ordinary world aside while doing japa. Think of chanting as entering Kṛṣṇa’s world, and putting your world on hold. I like to visualize leaving my house (my life) and going into my japa kutir (Kṛṣṇa’s world).

A big mistake commonly made is to focus on the number of rounds you have chanted and on how many rounds you have left. The goal is not to chant 16 rounds, the goal is to chant quality japa. Of course, I am not saying you don’t have to chant 16 rounds, but if you believe that you are successful simply by the fact that you completed your quota, not because you have chanted well, you have made your japa into a ritual. And bhakti is the antithesis of ritual.

When we are chanting the mantra “When is this going to be over” (underneath our japa), we are really saying, “Kṛṣṇa, I find it unpleasant being with You.” This is the real reason we are not present to our japa. The mind wants to think about everything under the sun other than the holy name. We have been competing with Kṛṣṇa for so long it can be difficult to sit with Him for a few hours and relish His association in His name.

Prabhupada said Kṛṣṇa is in His name. We should be meditating on this while chanting. We can’t intellectually understand this, but we at least must treat the holy names as Kṛṣṇa. It is just like Deity worship. We may not fully understand or appreciate how Kṛṣṇa is in the Deity, but we treat the Deity as Kṛṣṇa. By treating the Deity as Kṛṣṇa, we come to realize His presence in this form and we become more and more attached to the Deity. In the same way, if we treat the holy name as Kṛṣṇa, we come to realize more and more how He is present in His name. As we realize His presence in His name, we naturally become more present when chanting.

In other words, lack of presence while chanting reflects lack of realization of His presence in His name. But the only way to get this realization is to constantly remind ourselves that Krishna is kindly appearing to us in His names, and thus appreciate the wonderful opportunity we have to so easily get His association.

Write down the realizations you get this week by trying to be more present to your japa. Think about, how does this help you to get closer to the holy names?

Hare Kṛṣṇa,
Mahatma Das

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