Many chanters have expressed that the mind comes up with the best ideas and plans during our chanting session. Also on many occasions, it’s during the middle of the chanting that we feel sick, pain in the various bodily limbs, and general discomfort. Later as we complete the rounds, the mind has no ideas, and even the pain seems to disappear. Why does chanting produce such extreme reactions by the mind?
Seasoned chanters have shared their realizations on this subject matter. The best ideas offered by the mind and it’s call for action- to leave the chanting aside- during the middle of the Hare Krishna yoga session is nothing more than an expression of rebellion by the unruly mind. Chanting requires concentrated effort. Sitting for long hours, with physically not much exertion, as in the chanting of Hare Krishna, appears to be an effortless exercise. The mind being hyper active, and not focussed on the Holy Names, needs some engagement; hence it runs riot. Instead if we are focussed on the chanting, trying to hear the syllables of the Holy Names, the mind will eventually cooperate and all the ideas and the bodily pain disappear.
Radhanath Swami quotes the Bhagavad Gita to emphasize how Hare Krishna chanters must just tolerate the mind, and remain steady in the yoga practise. The difference between advanced practitioners and a newcomer is not that the former’s mind has been conquered; rather he is expert in ignoring the mind’s innumerable proposals and focuses on the task at hand- of hearing each syllable of the Holy Name of Krishna. Radhanath Swami says transcendental doesn’t mean the mind gives no wild ideas; it simply means we are focussed on a higher purpose than the mind’s reckless proposals. “Transcendental doesn’t mean you don’t feel pains and pleasures of this world. It simply means the mission of your life is not subjected to their dictations. The rivers may come into the ocean, but the depth, the substance of the ocean is not disturbed by these rivers gushing in. We’ve to also tolerate and not be disturbed by the countless callings of the mind.”
The mind’s rebellion can be compared to the protests of labourers who demand more wages or facilities. An employer on realizing that he’s been pampering his workers decides to withdraw all the perks. The employees keep quiet, and silently wait for the opportune moment. Then on the day of Diwali or Christmas, during the peak demand in market, the labourers go on strike, “give us our bonus or we’ll cause trouble.” Similarly the mind whom we have pampered all our life gets angry when we become Hare Krishna yogis. That’s because we cut off a lot of wasteful pleasures and distractions on the path of spiritual life. The mind appears to be quiet and cooperative but only till the moment when we need its cooperation the most. During the japa period, it screams, “give me attention; call up this person; Oh, the back is aching; here is a smart idea; get out…” The chanting period is the most important time of our life, and that’s when the mind protests the most.
Next time you sit to chant, watch out for the mind’s crazy ideas and remember you only have to hear the Holy Names and tolerate the mind.