Imagine diving into a cool pond on a scorching day; a one word description for this experience would be ‘refreshing’. That’s attentive chanting; if we can struggle joyfully to listen to the Holy Names of Krishna, and offer prayers to the Lord, practising Krishna yoga becomes a refreshing experience.
How can we transform our chanting into a refreshing activity? Often chanters struggle with their endlessly wandering mind and are unable to either listen to the Holy Names or develop a prayerful mood. They are also confused about how to quell the mind and discover the taste for Holy Names. Chanters often ask this question; during the japa session, what’s more important: to listen to the Holy Names or develop a prayerful mood. Senior Bhakti Yoga practitioners have shared their realizations on this subject.
If we try to be prayerful at our present immature stage of spiritual life, the mind certainly wanders and one feels helpless. However if we internally desire to develop a prayerful heart and exclusively focus on listening to the transcendental Names while chanting, this eventually leads to a soft, prayerful heart. As the mind wanders, we could try hard pulling it back to listen. The struggle to just ‘listen’ is an exercise to regulate the mind. Eventually the Holy Names quell the restless mind and we are able to enter the sacred space of personal prayer. On the other hand without cultivating a sincere desire, if we only try hard externally to develop a prayerful mood, it can be exasperating. That’s because the mind is by default unwilling to reform and more importantly prayer is a gift of God. When the Lord is pleased by the sincere desire and efforts of a chanter to struggle to listen to the Holy Names which are non- different from the Lord, the Lord mercifully agrees to bless the chanter with the ability to pray. Therefore this sincere desire to pray and serious struggle to listen to the Holy Names has rich rewards; we attract the Lord to shower us with the gift of prayer.
Although at the present stage our attempt to offer prayers is faulty, and is a distracted performance, the Lord nevertheless is pleased with us. Just as the broken words of a child learning to speak, brings pleasure to the parents, similarly our failing but consistent attempts to offer meaningful prayers charms the Lord’s heart. This purifies us of our own impurities and in turn helps us listen attentively to the Holy Names. Our inability to pray isn’t a disqualification from spiritual life. On the contrary our imperfections offer us a great chance to desire to improve by listening attentively and praying meaningfully. Radhanath Swami reveals the importance of this desire to develop a prayerful mood:
“Everything is based on our desire. Our whole life is built up on the foundation of our desires; if we desire God, we will get God. What if we have no such desire? Even that’s not a problem. We should desire the desire to desire. And if we can’t do that, then desire the desire to desire the desire. And if you can’t do that, then desire the desire to desire the desire to desire the desire. But we all have the power to desire and no one can take that away from us. It’s only a question of what we desire.”
This positive desire to love God and chant attentively makes Krishna yoga a refreshing experience; a chanter then wouldn’t want to trade this gift of Holy Names with anything that this world can offer.