One of the common challenges to confront while chanting is to try and bring the wandering mind back to the Holy Names of Krishna. Many chanters express helplessness in dealing with the mind; they feel it’s virtually impossible to pull the mind back while chanting. However it’s possible for the mind to be attentive during the Hare Krishna yoga sessions, but the secret lies in following two simple but effective steps.
The first step is to equip our intelligence with enough tools to help pull the mind to the transcendental sound vibration. Before the chanting session begins, the intelligence has to be filled with spiritual substance. This can be done either by hearing the glories of Holy Names of Krishna from other sincere chanters, or by reading literature that extol the glories of Holy Names. This is the homework to be done either the previous day or in the morning, before we sit for our daily chanting session. The few minutes of endeavour to study and hear about the Holy Names has to be a conscious effort. We can also offer a prayer to Krishna for giving us the strength to tolerate the mind during the yoga session. As we fill our consciousness with prayers and the positive message of Hare Krishna yoga, it later becomes easier to pull the mind back when we chant.
Once the preparatory work of readying the consciousness is done, we could then begin the japa session. The previous ground work doesn’t guarantee the mind’s cooperation but it certainly provides us the ammunition and will to fight with the betraying mind. Now as we begin chanting, it’s time to immediately practise the second step of making the right choice in pulling the mind. To the extent we were sincere during the previous day or session’s prayers, study and hearing of the glories of the Holy Names, to that extent we will remember the importance of chanting attentively, even as the mind continues to wander. This remembrance immediately offers us a choice- the choice of either pulling the mind back or indulging the mind in its wayward behaviour. It’s at this point of time that we express our sincerity to God by pulling the mind back and focussing on the sound of the Holy Names of Krishna.
Radhanath Swami compares the mind to a small, restless child. Once he saw a friend arrange the best toys for his child, and although the child’s room was filled with all the attractive, safe toys, the child was found playing with a little razor blade. As Radhanath Swami wondered why the child chose a dangerous blade over the dozens of nice things in the room, the mother intervened and pulled the child out of this dangerous situation, and bought it back to safety. Radhanath Swami says this is the nature of the child, to land up in dangerous situations and the mother’s nature is to bring the child back to safety. “Similarly”, Radhanath Swami draws interesting parallels, “our intelligence is like the mother and the mind is like the child. Therefore the intelligence has to keep bringing the mind back from its dangerous, deviant ways.”
Let us carefully watch the mind, and enthusiastically pull it back to chanting.