I remember some years ago misjudging another devotee and taking a managerial decision that wasn’t in his favour; I had also reprimanded him in public. At that point of time I was convinced I’d acted justly although I could perceive undercurrents of discontent in him. Life continued to be normal over the next few days.
A culture of common commitment to chanting and hearing is an integral part of the ashram where I reside, and all of us chant the Holy Names in a community spirit, bonding together in the early hours daily. One day while chanting my japa, feelings of guilt and regret flooded my conscience; I suddenly felt ashamed at mistreating this devotee. My initial response was to deny and ignore the voice; he deserved it after all.
Radhanath Swami candidly shares his thoughts, “Regret or remorse of the wrong we have done should be in a positive spirit of changing, turning towards God with humility.”
Over the next few days I couldn’t help recollecting many incidents of my haughty behaviour in the ashram over the past many years, and each time I denied it, I felt my chanting was a drag. I was simply pulling the beads while my mind convinced me I was right. The japa session left me tired as I was denying the dirt of pride that kept showing up in my heart time and again. The more I reasoned I was right, the more I was denying the dirt, and my heart became heavier. My chanting worsened and I lost taste. The dirt was obviously there and calling upon me to clean it. The more I denied, the more it accumulated.
One day after honest introspection and prayers I decided to surrender; I confessed to myself that I was indeed proud and unreasonable. That very moment, I felt a huge relief, as if a big burden had been eased off my shoulder. Radhanath Swami says, “Humility is all about being truthful and honest.”
Later when I apologized to the devotee, my chanting became better. I felt cleansed. It was a painful acceptance, but it humbled me; it dawned on me then that I am not advanced after all.
Radhanath Swami often quotes Chaitanya Mahaprabhu who said a person plagued with false pride stands tall, thinking himself above others, like a tree with no fruits. But a tree that is heavily laden with ripe fruits bows low to everyone. To really chant the Holy Names in a way that Krishna will be pleased to hear our chanting, and manifest in His Names, and help us experience a higher taste, we’ve to offer all respect to others, not expect any in return; be humble like a blade of grass and tolerant like a tree.
Even years after practising the chanting, one may feel a gush of negative thoughts streaming into the consciousness. Rather than feel hopeless and dejected, a chanter has to move on tolerating his crazy mind’s rebellion and plans to enjoy. Meanwhile as the Lord mercifully reveals to us those apparently small pieces of dirt in our consciousness (like my prideful behaviour in the ashram) we’ve a choice of either ignoring the dirt and allowing it to grow into a bigger stench over time or immediately accept it as a weakness, clean it up and tolerate the revelation of not being advanced in spiritual life. I remember a wise saying, “nobody trips over mountains. It’s the small pebble that causes you to stumble. Pass all the pebbles in your path and you’ll find you have crossed the mountain.