By Vraja Bihari Das
We are afraid to make chanting our number one priority in life because of the fear of failure.
Chanting Hare Krishna can be the most humbling experience, especially if we make it the most important goal of our life. Krishna is inaccessible to the conditioned souls; those who are not qualified won’t get access to Krishna’s intimate association. He reserves the right of not being exposed to the conditioned souls. Thus chanting can expose us to our own disqualifications; chanting can reveal to us that we are far away from Krishna.
This realization can be a painful experience. Hence to avoid this realization, we may prefer to believe that chanting is one of the many things to be done in devotional service. If we profess that chanting is the most important activity, immediately we are exposed to the painful reality of our own poor chanting. It seems hypocritical that on the one hand we declare chanting to be most sacred, but on the other hand, our actions are contrary to the reality we preach about. The more we glorify the Holy Names, the more we have to face the stark truth of our own inadequacies of chanting. And this revelation is painful because we want to feel a sense of self-worth and success in our spiritual lives. Hence we avoid discussing the importance of good chanting, because these discussions only confirm to us our abject failure in our vow of chanting.
The beauty of Krishna conscious process however lies in experiencing this failure. If we can truly feel that I am a failure in chanting, that feeling is a success. If we can feel lowly and inadequate, that’s an excellent platform to experience sweet taste of Krishna. It’s fifty percent success; the other fifty percent is experienced when we turn to Krishna for help. Therefore to feel a failure and then turn to Krishna in our career as a chanter of Hare Krishna is spiritual success.
This is important because we attract Krishna’s mercy only when we humbly surrender to Krishna. If we have a high estimation about ourselves, how can we humbly beg Krishna for mercy?
Many times we tell other devotees how fallen we are but these expressions could be more out of social etiquette rather than heart-felt conviction. At such times, humility, the most important element in the life of a chanter remains only a theoretical understanding; it’s only jnana, knowledge, and rarely does it translate to vijnana, realization.
Making chanting as our number one priority offers us a rare chance to convert this knowledge into realization. When we have a noble aspiration to chant well, we’ll try hard to achieve it. Certainly, we may fail initially but good chanting is not some yogic technique that we could acquire by some tips or acronyms to improve chanting. Most likely we may fall short of the standard.
At this point in time, we’ve to turn to Krishna; beg Him to help us chant well. The more we endeavour sincerely, the more we’ll be exposed to our own poor chanting. At this point, we’d be humbled; as Bhurijana Prabhu says in his book ‘Japa’, humiliation would come before humility.
Therefore let’s make chanting as our number one goal; never mind the failure for we shall fail forward! Without this pure ambition, our lives are hollow. Good chanting is the best ideal to strive for; it’s our connection to Krishna. This sincerity will lead to humility, and it’s humility that eventually gives us a higher taste in the process of Bhakti Yoga.
An important clarification: it’s important that our sense of failure must compel us to turn to Krishna, and only then we can experience the sweetness. Otherwise, a sense of failure by itself leads to despondency. If we can remember Krishna as we fail, that failure is a sweet experience.