Baladeva’s alarm clock went off at 1:00 A.M.,
and our cowbells followed.
He administered my wake-up rituals.
I went into the room
where the Deities are and bowed down.
I applied my precautionary measures
and began japa. I kept my eyes open
and glanced at the arca-vigrahas.
I proceeded at a moderate pace.
I practiced “just hear.” This is the method
where you just chant and hear
with careful attention. There are
higher stages of perfection in japa,
but “just hear” is elevated in itself.
Anyone who realizes that the Name
is non-different from Krishna Himself,
and who absorbs himself in
the transcendental sound vibration,
is achieving a rare stage of japa.
I met my quota after four rounds
with minutes to spare. Then
I turned to writing in my Japa Report.
Although I began the second set
chanting silently in the mind,
I heard the mantras clearly,
attentively, and with concern
to pronounce the words properly.
But I was distracted by planning
what to write in the next Japa Report.
I was committing aparadha:
inattention to the Name.
So my japa was faulty.
But the maha-mantra is so merciful and powerful
that it vanquishes sinful reactions,
ushers in liberation
and brings one gradually to love of God,
even when chanted with imperfections
as I was doing.
(I like to repeat
the lines about the power
of the maha-mantra. I use them
as affirmations. They
give me confidence
that I am making progress,
even though I am making mistakes.
Such is the Absolute nature of the Names.)
I met my quota after eight rounds
with a few minutes to spare.
For the third set I
emphasized speed over quality,
because I had fallen behind.
I felt some
patches of drowsiness,
but I kept up external attention
to the mantras.
My chanting became
mechanical, with little entry
into the state of prayer.
I didn’t cultivate thoughtfulness
by adhering to “just hear.” And
I didn’t meditate on devotional feelings
by imbibing in the sweetness
of Radha-Govinda. I mainly
strove to meet my quota.
But when I finished twelve rounds
I had no minutes to spare.
I began the fourth set
going even faster.
But I did not rush recklessly.
I held on to the bead until
each mantra was finished
before going on to the next bead.
I did not mix or miss.
I became so far behind
that I stopped chanting the set
before finishing the usual four rounds.
I chanted one round
and promised to do the rest
later in the day.
I did not consider it a good session.
I did not even complete all of my rounds.
On the third and the fourth sets,
I sped up too much and was mechanical.
I did not have any physical pain
for the entire session.
At least I follow the process
of doing a prescribed number of rounds
in obedience to the order
of the spiritual master,
a sacred vow.