Poem for May 15

Japa Report

I woke up at 12:45
with a headache and took medicine.
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 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 was mostly free of physical pain
and joyful doing japa
in the sanctity of my bhajana-kutir.
Baladeva’s vocal chanting from the
other room was another inspiration.
I met my quota after four rounds
with minutes to spare. Then I
turned to writing in my Japa Report.

I began my second set at a moderate pace.
Although I was chanting silently in the mind
I heard the Name 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 Name,
so my chanting was faulty.
But the maha-mantra is
so merciful and powerful that it
vanquishes past sinful reactions,
ushers in liberation
and gradually brings one to love of God,
even when chanted with imperfections
as I was doing.
I encountered periods of drowsiness.
I met my quota after eight rounds
with minutes to spare.

After two sets at a moderate pace,
I was behind by the clock.
I began the third set emphasizing
speed as a priority over quality.
But I did not rush recklessly.
I held on to the bead until the mantra
was finished before moving on to the next bead.
I tried to avoid mere mechanical chanting
by cultivating thoughtfulness and
devotional feeling. For thoughtfulness,
I adhered to “just hear.” This enabled me
to concentrate on each mantra
without mixing or missing them.
For feeling, I glanced briefly 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 to be engaged
in Their service.
I finished my twelfth round
with a few minutes to spare.

I began the fourth set at a brisk pace.
I am writing a review of
Visakha dasi’s memoir, and I
was distracted planning how to do it.
Also, my head pressure began
to return. I called out to Krishna
for His blessing, because it is
not possible for me to do good japa
on my own endeavor.
I couldn’t enter a prayerful state,
but I conscientiously enunciated
all the mantras.
I completed my sixteenth round
with minutes to spare.
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.

I considered it a decent session,
despite the mental distractions
and head pressure. (I had to
take more medicine at the end of
writing the Japa Report.)
The positive factor was that
I conscientiously practiced “just hear”
through all the four sets. That alone
made me rate the session “decent.”