Poem for May 26

Japa Report

I awoke at 10:00 P.M.
and couldn’t get back to sleep.
Our alarm clocks went off at 1:00 A.M.,
and the cowbells followed.
Baladeva administered my wake-up rituals.
I entered the room
where the Deities are and bowed down.
I began my japa at a moderate pace,
taking darsana of the Deities,
especially Srila Prabhupada. I felt
the debt I owed to him and
wanted to chant as guru daksina.
I practiced “just hear,” the method
where you chant and hear
with no other meditation.
I am capable of doing this
and am 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 Krishna Himself, and who absorbs himself
in the transcendental sound vibration,
is achieving a rare state of japa.
I couldn’t 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 the second set
at a moderate pace. 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
what to write in my next Japa Report.
I was committing aparadha:
inattention to the Names.
So my japa 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 the actual goal –
attaining 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 make mistakes.)
I met my quota after eight rounds
with minutes to spare.

As I began my third set,
I felt the effect of my lack of sleep.
I wasn’t drowsy, but it was
a strain to keep alert and awake.
A pressure developed in my eyes.
Baladeva’s vocal chanting in the other room
was supportive and encouraging. I
tried to avoid mere mechanical chanting by
cultivating thoughtfulness and devotional feelings.
For thoughtfulness, I adhered to “just hear.”
This enabled me to keep the mantras separate
and not mix or miss 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 drank a cup of “Vitamin C Blast”
to keep alert.
I finished my twelfth round
with minutes to spare.

After three sets of four rounds
at a moderate pace, I switched to
brisk chanting on the fourth set.
I focused on the beads,
passing them quickly through
my fingers. I had not
been turning inward with
a prayerful attitude, but
I chanted without much distraction,
attentively, and I stripped down
to bare “just hear.”
I completed my sixteen rounds
with minutes to spare on the overall quota.

I considered it a decent session.
Despite my lack of sleep,
I struggled to keep alert and awake.
I chanted all my rounds with attention,
and relished the nectar of the holy names.
I follow the process
of doing a prescribed number of rounds
in obedience to the order of the spiritual master,
a sacred vow.