Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has shared four golden rules that can take our chanting to a superlative level; humility, tolerance, not desiring any personal honour and offering all respect to others. For some, possessing these qualities may appear not only impractical but also an unhealthy practise; one may suppose it to inflict miseries of self-abnegation. On closer inspection however we’d realize these qualities to be empowering. Besides chanting, even at all levels of our ordinary affairs in this world, humility and tolerance are needed to sustain any meaningful relationship. As Radhanath Swami says, “Humility is the foundation by which love manifests.”
We often hear and speak of the need to tolerate others, especially the non devotee materialists who discourage us from practising spiritual life. Facing rejection by others for being a Hare Krishna yogi maybe painful and you may sigh, “The world is unkind to the Hare Krishna yogis. I’ve to simply tolerate the world” Well your tolerance doesn’t end there. We’ve to tolerate not just the world without but also a huge world within.
Good chanting offers a remarkable benefit; it exposes us to the non devotee within. We come face to face with our own impurities, known as anarthas. The nineteenth century Vaishnava scholar and pioneer of the bhakti movement in Eastern India, Srila Bhaktivinod Thakur, has brilliantly classified the impurities of our heart into four categories- weaknesses of the heart, offenses, hankering for the transient, and ignorance of truth. Each of these four have been further elaborated by him to reveal to us a huge task on hand – the task of cleaning up our own hearts even as we declare to the people of the world that their lives are a mess- Physician heals thyself!!
Attentive chanting reveals to the chanter that he’s not advanced in his spiritual practises. When you begin cleaning your room, you may discover dirt that was hidden for years. The process of cleansing is painful, but it’s worth the effort and time; one feels refreshed and lightened by doing away with the muck. Similarly chanting churns up old memories and past impressions, some of which may have been unpalatable and bitter. However if we continue the cleansing process by diligent and conscious chanting of the Holy Names, we’ll soon feel refreshed and lightened by the process. However the cleansing of the heart is a much bigger challenge compared to the cleaning of a room. The room may have been dirty for a few decades, but the pollution of the heart dates back to millions of lifetimes; the filth of impressions stored in the subtle body is a daunting challenge for the chanter to confront.
A Bhakti Yogi patiently chants the Holy Names and tolerates the uprising of negativities in the consciousness. Many prefer to either ignore the surfacing of the anarthas or abandon the chanting process itself. The former leads to the denial of our fragile position and an ostrich type complacency in spiritual life. The latter is resorted to by the chickenhearted, preferring to call quits in the middle of a real war- the clash of the divine and bad within.
A sincere chanter would gracefully accept the dirty weakness of his heart that the Holy Names mercifully reveal; he’s humbled and tolerates the realization of not being advanced. Renewing his commitment to chanting, he marches on, confident in the mercy of his spiritual master and Krishna.
A personal incident helped me understand this principle better
To be continued…