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
and with a sustained darsana of Radha-Govinda.
I practiced “just hear,” the method
where you attentively chant and hear
with no other meditation.
There are higher stages of perfection in japa,
but “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 chanting.
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 began my second set
at a moderate pace.
So far I felt no eyestrain
or headache, but I was cautious.
Although I was chanting silently in the 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 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 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.)
I met my quota after eight rounds
with minutes to spare.
I began my third set at a moderate pace.
I tried to avoid mere mechanical chanting
by cultivating thoughtfulness and devotional feelings.
For thoughtfulness, I adhered to “just hear.”
This enabled me to concentrate
on keeping the mantras separate
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
to be engaged in Their service.
I finished the twelfth round
with minutes to spare.
After three sets at a moderate pace,
I was behind on the quota
by the clock.
I began the fourth set
emphasizing speed as a priority
over quality. I didn’t rush recklessly,
but held on to the bead until the mantra
was finished before moving
on to the next bead. I could
not enter an inward, prayerful
state. I called out to Krishna for
His blessings, because it is not possible
for me to do good japa on my own endeavor.
I completed my sixteenth round
with only a few minutes to spare
on the overall quota.
I considered it a decent session.
I felt no head pain the whole time.
I did not go inward with
a prayerful attitude, but
the mantras accurately
and with attention.
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.