It All Starts With Giving Attention
By Sacinandana Swami
The degree to which you are able to turn to Krsna while chanting reveals the depth of your relationship with Him and how healthy you are spiritually. If you are unhealthy, you simply cannot turn to Krsna. Your mind will dislike the idea of chanting. It will be very rebellious and everything but Krsna will appear in your mind at that time. Every relationship starts with giving attention, and your relationship with Krsna is no exception. Therefore, you must learn how to chant with attention. It is said in the scriptures that inattention to Krsna is the root cause of all other offences and problems. Thus, inattention to Krsna embodies our main problem in this material existence. We need to fix that – it is most important.
Srila Haridasa Thakura speaks about this: “Even if one successfully overcomes all the other offences in chanting and even if one chants continuously, it may be that one’s love of Krsna does not come about.”(Harinama Cintamani) In other words, it is possible that someone is chanting 120 rounds every day without offences but not have a drop of love of Krsna because they have not cured the root problem – having turned away from Krsna. Unfortunately, this inattention or this turning away from Krsna and trying to enjoy separately is such a deep-rooted problem that Haridasa Thakura says, “Simply by one’s own endeavor the conditioned soul is not able to give up inattention in chanting. No-one can give up distractedness on one’s own strength. Such victory over the material mind can only come about by Your [Krsna’s] merciful blessings.” (Harinama Cintamani)
Therefore, when you feel, “I want to become Krsna conscious! I want to be attentive to Krsna! I want to turn to Him, but everything in my life seems to work against this desire. I’m trying, but maya’s influence is so strong I seem to not be able to shake her off” you must seek the help from Krsna. When you try to concentrate on your japa but all you experience is your body and mind screaming, or when you try to chant in kirtana and your mind fixes on complains such as “This is too loud” or “That person doesn’t sing in tune”, you should understand and recognize your fallen condition. Lord Caitanya gives us the example of how one should pray in this situation: “Oh my Lord I am your eternal servant. But somehow I have fallen into this dangerous ocean of birth and death. Kindly pick me up and like a little particle of dust fix me at Your lotus feet.
I belong only to you, just like the pollen of the lotus flower belongs to the lotus flower but the storm of my own desires has blown me away into the ocean of material death, and now I’m suffering.” (Adapted from Sri Caitanya-caritamrta Antya-lila, 20.32)
The moment you turn to Krsna like this, everything can change. The moment you do this during your japa, it can be the most ecstatic experience – that you won’t want to interrupt. That is because, as Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura teaches us, the moment we turn to Krsna He says, “Yes! Yes!” and He who sits in all our hearts destroys all fears and personally throws out all contaminations of lust, anger, greed, etc.
Krsna is aware of your every thought. When you turn away from Him He is sad. But He does not give up on you, He walks behind you. The moment you turn to Krsna, He runs before you. And then, for every Hare Krsna that you chant while turning to Krsna, Krsna says, “Here I am.” So the moment you turn to Krsna, He helps you by destroying your obstacles. And it all starts by giving attention to the Holy Name. That is the field where you have to practice. The Holy Name is Krsna’s most merciful form. You have to make it work.
It is an essential need to feel the spiritual connection with Krsna. Without this connection our life is a life of shadows; as if we only eat shadow meals. We cannot be nourished by such kind of eating. If we want to live a real spiritual life we have to see to it that there is spiritual substance, which is based on the understanding that “I’m a soul, a part of Krsna”. When we apply this understanding to our spiritual practice, for instance – in kirtana where we do the familiar activity of chanting with others, we introduce a new element and experience a change. I think all of us know the difference. During such a kirtana the atmosphere in the room is different and the devotees are much more absorbed. However, this is only one aspect – doing your spiritual practices from the right perspective. You also need to learn to take care of the physical, emotional and social aspects of your life from a spiritual viewpoint. Then, a totally new dimension of life will reveal itself to you. If you don’t take a spiritual perspective while fulfilling your worldly duties, your life will not become transformed; it will remain a shadow life. On April 1st, 1966 in New York, Srila Prabhupada spoke about this: “Simple theoretical knowledge that ‘I am consciousness; I am not this body,’ anything, simple theoretical knowledge, cannot help us. Just like a person who studied medical science or law or any technical science. He gets all theoretical knowledge. But if he does not practice, then that knowledge will gradually subside. You see? Similarly, that ‘I am not this body, but I am that pure consciousness,’ that is already analyzed in various ways. But now, we are in practical life.” In other words, after you have received spiritual knowledge, you have to apply it. The challenge each morning is: “Today, how will I engage in the physical, emotional and social aspects of my life from the spiritual perspective and not get lost in them?”
In order to meet this challenge you need every day to connect to yourself as a spiritual soul and come back to the point that: “I’m a part of Krsna and the reason I’m here in this world is to realize this wonderful relationship.” This is the beginning state of Krsna consciousness; the middle state and also the end state of Krsna consciousness. So, every day you need to do something that spiritually nourishes and energizes you. Have you done such practices today? When you ask yourself this question, you have to look at the quality of your sadhana. Was it just the mechanical, dutiful execution of religious practices? Or have you actually been able to contact Krsna and become nourished by that? This question has to be asked every day.
Your spiritual practice must do for you what roots do for a tree – they anchor it firmly in the soil so that when a storm comes the tree doesn’t fall over. In the same way, a devotee must find a practice that makes him or her immovable and nicely centered despite the ‘storms of life’. The best way to do this is to remember throughout the day: “I am simply the servant of the Vaisnavas and Krsna”. Then you are anchored. Here is an exercise that you can do in the evening in order to align your mind in preparation for the next day. When you go to bed, meditate in three steps: 1) “I’m an eternal soul”
2) Think of Krsna and turn to Him with a prayer 3) “When I live my normal life tomorrow, I want to do it in a way that I remain connected to myself and with Krsna. The world in which I’m active is simply an opportunity for me to act on this spiritual platform. This is its reason for existence.”