Poem for May 11

Japa Report

Baladeva’s alarm clock went off at 1:00 A.M,.
and our cowbells followed.
He administered my wake-up rituals,
and we joked a lot.
I walked 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 this,
and feel comfortable with it.
There are higher stages of perfection
in japa, but “just hear” is elevated in
itself. Anyone who understands that
the Name is nondifferent from
Krishna Himself, and who absorbs himself
in the transcendental sound vibration,
is achieving a rare state of japa.
I could not attain 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.

Unfortunately I lost track of time
and “spaced out.” I chanted 100 extra
mantras before finishing the set.
Because of chanting so many extra
mantras, I began the second set
at a brisk pace in order to catch up.
Baladeva was doing nice, vocal chanting
in the other room, and I wanted
to do like that, but I was afraid I would
bring on eyestrain or headache. So far
I had no sign of head pain.
Although I was chanting silently in my mind
I heard the Names clearly, with attention
and concern to pronounce the words properly.
But I was distracted by planning ahead
what to write in my next Japa Report.
I was committing aparadha:
inattention to the Names,
so my chanting was faulty.
But the mercy and the power of
the maha-mantra is so great that it
vanquishes past sinful reactions,
ushers in liberation
and brings one gradually to love of God,
even when chanted with imperfections
as I was doing.
I met my quota after eight rounds
with minutes to spare.

I began the third set emphasizing speed
as a priority over quality.
I called out to Krishna for His blessings
because it is not possible for me
to do good japa on my own endeavor.
I chanted attentively,
but without a deep, inner mood.
I finished my twelfth round
with minutes to spare.

I began the fourth set maintaining
speed as a priority over quality.
I tried to avoid mere mechanical chanting
by cultivating thoughtfulness and
devotional feelings. For thoughtfulness
I adhered to “just hear.” This enabled
me to separate the mantras
without mixing or missing them.
For feeling, I glanced at Radha-Govinda
and imbibed Their sweetness.
I acknowledged that Radha-Krishna
are the heart of the Hare Krishna mantra,
composed exclusively of Their Names
and uttered as a prayer for
engagement in Their service.
I enunciated with attention,
but I did not go inward or
enter the life of prayer.
I completed sixteen rounds
with minutes to spare on the overall quota.

I considered it a decent session.
I was alert and wide awake the whole time.
I was clear of eyestrain or headache.
The last two sets were at a brisk pace
and too external for a quality of prayer.
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.