A marriage is an expression of two people coming together to share deep emotional bonding centered on service and love. A celibate monk is sociologically an unusual species; he has no female companion, and apparently no emotional shelter. He seems to be all alone in this world. However the good news is he does get married.
His companion is Krishna who appears in this world in various forms, like the deity, the Holy Names and Srimad Bhagavatam. To the extent a brahmachari (celibate monk) gets absorbed in studying, hearing and sharing the scriptures he feels emotional bonding with Krishna. Some chant the Holy Names prayerfully and find the connection. Others worship and pray to the deities in the temple with reverential love and many read to find their anchor.
A friend shared a nice realization.
“After I joined the monastery I would sometimes feel lonely; I’d cry remembering my home and friends; the pulling kept me confused. All that changed when I discovered the Ramayana. As I read slowly this great classic, Bharat’s love, Lord Rama’s determination, Lakshman’s surrender and Jatayu’s heroic sacrifice brought tears to my eyes; my need for an emotional churning of the heart was fulfilled through Lord Rama and Sita’s pastimes and the emotional dynamics reached its culmination when I read Hanuman’s devotion and heroism. Then soon I discovered Chaitanya Charitamrita where the Supreme Lord has very intensely emotional dealings with His devotees like GadhadharPandit, Sanatana Goswami and Haridas Thakur. As I read their interactions with Lord Chaitanaya my heart too melted and I felt emotionally nourished, and a deep connection to my purpose of serving in the renounced order.”
Reading scriptures in a mechanical or ritualistic sense would bring little benefit as compared to prayerful, slow and deliberate reading. Pausing as we read to reflect and relish helps the subject matter enter deep, inner recesses of our hearts.
And after reading, if you could put your thoughts and feelings on paper that’s the icing on the cake. When you write what you read, then what you read becomes yours. Writing helps us internalize our reading; it’s a slow expression to our thoughts and feelings that get churned as we read scriptures. 16th century English philosopher and scientist Francis Bacon said, “Reading makes a full man, and writing an exact man”
There are three steps one could follow to help read the scriptures effectively
Recall, Relish, and Resolve
Recall – Learnt
After you have read a page or heard a class, you could first recall the contents of the class. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t remembered much but whatever little you do remember is a great asset, and by trying to recall it, you have not only learnt something, but also added confidence to your abilities
Then you could spend some time contemplating what points you liked in the passage that you read or heard. This helps us churn our heart with good feelings. Don’t be surprised if you are tempted to read or hear again that you liked. Repeated reading of what you relish brings us closer to emotional fulfilment.
Resolve- Live by
To make our lives more meaningful and our reading more purposeful, you could also consider how it’s relevant to your life. If you keep up the habit of regular reading, you would also see hope and promise emerge each time you face a setback or reversal in your life. That also makes your choice muscles stronger and you could then easily initiate positive changes in life. 17th century writer Joseph Addison put it succinctly, “Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body”.
American writer Jamica Kincaid confessed, “one of the things reading does, it makes your loneliness manageable if you are essentially a lonely person”, and devotees of Krishna can vouch that if we read about Krishna, then loneliness transforms into a deep emotional bonding with the Lord. And further more if a monk shares with others what he reads,he’d blossom as a beautiful, spiritually radiant flower that brings fragrance and joy all around.