Poem for May 03

Japa Report

I woke from a
nightmare with
a headache at 10:00 P.M.
I took pills, but
had trouble getting
more sleep.
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 began my japa at a moderate pace.
I practiced “just hear,” the method
where you attentively chant and hear
with no other meditation.
I am capable of doing this
and comfortable with it.
Although there are
higher stages of perfection in japa,
“just hear” is elevated in itself.
Anyone who understands that the Name
is non-different from Krishna Himself,
and who absorbs himself
in the transcendental sound vibration,
is achieving a rare state of japa.
I could not achieve
that rare state, but I tried.
I met my quota after four rounds
with minutes to spare. Then I
turned to writing in my Japa Report.

I continued the second set
at a moderate pace.
Although I chanted silently in the mind,
I heard the Names clearly,
with attention and concern
to pronounce the words properly.
But I was distracted by
planning what to write
in my next Japa Report.
I was committing aparadha:
inattention to the Name,
so my chanting was faulty.
But the maha-mantra is so merciful and powerful
that it vanquishes past sinful activities,
ushers one into liberation
and gradually leads one 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
when I am making mistakes.)
I met my quota after eight rounds
with minutes to spare.

With so much chanting at a moderate pace
I felt that I had fallen behind, so
I switched to a brisk pace on the third set.
In order to avoid mere mechanical chanting,
I cultivated thoughtfulness and
devotional feelings. For thoughtfulness
I adhered to “just hear.” This
enabled me to concentrate on
the mantras separately, without
mixing or missing them.
For feeling, I looked at Radha-Govinda
and imbibed Their sweetness.
I acknowledged that Radha-Krishna
were the heart of the Hare Krishna mantra,
composed exclusively of Their Names
and uttered as a prayer for engagement
in Their service.
So far, I felt no eyestrain or headache
and was grateful for that.

For the fourth set, I continued
to emphasize speed as a priority
over quality. Still, I held on to
the bead until the mantra was finished
before moving on to the next bead.
I called out to Krishna for His blessing,
because it is not possible for me
to do good japa on my own endeavor.
But my attention was external.
I couldn’t turn internal
for contemplation on the Name.
I could not enter the life of prayer.
I completed my sixteenth round
with minutes to spare on the overall quota.
Toward the very end,
I developed a head strain.

I considered it barely a decent session.
I was alert and awake the whole time.
I chanted the mantras attentively for all
the rounds. These were decent achievements.
But I could not enter an
internal, prayerful state. While writing
the end of the Japa Report,
I had to take headache medicine.
At least I followed the process
of doing a prescribed number of rounds
in obedience to the order
of the spiritual master,
a sacred vow.