Japa takes concentration. A moment of inattention and the mind jumps from the mantra to mundane thought. We even sometimes become lost in one of the deep groves of attachment (samskaras) embedded in our consciousness, sliding on the path of those impressions until good sense drags us back to the holy name. How easy it is to free fall in a chute of attachment created by our past deeds whether it’s the furrow of sex, the rut of money worries, the daydream of family, the channel of frivolous sports, the trough of friends, enemies, and politics or the fancy of anything but the holy name. He did this to me! we think, and we hopelessly glide into a fantasy of revenge. So many problems, so many dreams, endless trivial thoughts, a roller coaster of useless adventure “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”. And it plagues us!
The purpose of sadhana, the serious practice of Krishna bhakti, is to create within the inner recess of the mind the proper samskara (attachment) for devotion, especially for kirtan. It takes some discipline, but if we realize something of the purpose of life, and a little of the glory of the holy name, that effort is nothing compared to what we gain.
Japa is thus essential. We are dealing directly with the mind and changing the desire of the mind by practice and detachment. If we don’t devote some time daily to changing the nature of our merciless mind by serious practice (sadhana), then when will we purify the mind. Trust no future however pleasant.
A concession and recommendation: If we are musical by nature, if we already have a samskara for music, then we may follow our mental channel of melody and inject the holy name. We should do kirtan, as much as possible.
One way or another in this life, by devotional service in practice, we must create a deep impression for holy name, which is, in fact, condensed bliss, otherwise ours is a life wasted.
The column Greetings From Vrindavan is Dhanurdhara Swami’s journal regarding the joys and challenges of the devotional path. A book of his journal entries, spanning the years 2000-2003, has been published with the same title and is available here.