“If you simply chant Hare Krishna, you will be directly associating with the Supreme Lord. You will be directly associating.”
– Srila Prabhupada (lecture on Bhagavad Gita, New York, May 25, 1966)
One day I was chanting intensely in the temple hall – shaking my head vigorously and vibrating my body. It was more of a theatrical performance than chanting with feeling or devotion. Intermittently, my eyes caught a senior congregation leader who chanted quietly at a distance, and he seemed piqued at my japa meditation – I know in retrospect that it was more of a ‘performance.’
Initially I thought he is inspired by my focussed chanting, but soon realized he is disturbed. When our eyes met, he quickly withdrew his gaze. I continued my bodily gyrations and thought I was excellent in my meditation session. Later in the day, we met for a few minutes and he asked me humbly what I was doing during the morning japa session. I replied confidently that I was chanting; calling to the Lord for mercy. He probed if I was struggling a lot. I instantly concurred.
“Yes,” I said beaming, “Chanting is a struggle and I was struggling to remember Krishna and concentrate on listening.” I then gave some unsolicited words of wisdom on meditation and the glories of struggle, etc. He heard me quietly for some time, and then pulled a face. “You know, I want to share something personal with you,” he said softly. I thought he needs help, and I was eager to serve him.
He revealed, “I struggle a lot throughout the week – in office, at home, in various roles that I play. During those stressful moments, the only solace I have is the thought that soon, on a Sunday, I’ll go to temple to chant. And when I come here, I see you too are struggling. What’s the difference then between you and me?”
I was stunned and speechless. He added, “I struggle hoping I will find shelter when I chant Hare Krishna. And you have the Holy Names and you stay in the temple. Yet, you struggle so much. The difference between you and me is: while I struggle in the material world, hoping to get to chant Hare Krishna, you chant Hare Krishna, hoping to get something else.”
He quoted Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur who said in a letter to his disciple, “Do not be preoccupied with the end result of chanting. Rather, chant Krishna’s names constantly with patience and tolerance, forbearance. The Lord will certainly not sit silently and do nothing.”
That was a moment of epiphany for me. I realized there is a dimension of existence higher than struggle- and that is surrender.
Chanting is a time to surrender to the Lord’s will. I need to struggle to keep my mind fixed on the Holy Names, but at some point of time, I need to let go all the struggle, and surrender to Krishna.
“Draupadi was also first of all trying to save her cloth…and Dushasana was trying to make her naked. She was crying and praying to Krishna, “save my honour.” But she was also trying to save herself. When she thought that “It is impossible to save myself, my honour, in this way,” then she left the hands. She simply got up her arms and prayed, “Krishna, if you like, You can save.” So this is the position. So long we try to save ourselves, that is not very good. If you simply depend on Krishna……..Bhakti Vinod Thakur says, “I surrender unto You…whatever I have got – my house, my family, these children, everything I surrender unto You.”
– Srila Prabhupada lecture in Los Angeles, (April 16, 1973)