The following is the second in a series of 3 articles titled Alignment, about aligning the body, mind, and heart so that one can better chant the Hare Krishna maha-mantra.
This article is adapted from the teachings of His Holiness Sachinanadana Swami, a disciple of Srila Prabhupada, adapted for our Chant Now friends and students. For more of the teachings of Sachinanadana Swami, check out his website: https://www.sacinandanaswami.com/
ALIGNING THE MIND
Our modern civilisation has been remarkably successful in strengthening the influence of what we like to call “inner enemies.” These enemies, which make the mind untamed, are the exploitative desires to enjoy as much as we can lay our hands on. Dr Cornell West, the American philosopher and scholar, shared with Radhanath Swami in an interview at Princeton University on April 19, 2011:
“We live the age of weapons of mass distraction.”
The mind regularly cheats us with misguided perceptions of reality. We become lost in inessential things that we believe to be a priority or necessity, and endlessly flit between what we want and don’t want, forever changing our direction without reason or warning. We have become sick with the speed of our mind and spoiled by a hectic and frantic inner environment.
Cursed by the illusory energy we fluctuate between past happenings remembered as happy or sad, and future fantasies projected to give happiness or distress. The mind is a specialist in stewing on what he said, what she did, what he really meant by doing that, what we did and didn’t do moments ago, days ago, weeks ago, and years ago… It is equally proficient at anticipating what will he do next? What will I do next as a result? What if her plan works out? Or, what if it doesn’t work out? What about my plan?
Thus, we are either in the past or in the future; but right now, we are not here… Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Thakura, a great teacher of the Bhakti yoga tradition and preceptor of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra, captures this sentiment in his poem Sāragrahi Vaiṣṇava:
Forget the past that sleeps
and the future dream at all
but act in times that are with thee
and progress thee shall call.
To achieve this ideal, it is critical we train our minds in deep concentration or mindfulness. Be in the now because in reality, real true life happens in the present moment. We only have the present time to live. We only have some influence over the moment right now. Why should we be ruled by things of the past or the unknown future? We have a chance to be with divinity, Krishna – right now! Practice being in the present with each Name you chant! Bhakti only happens in the present.
If we are not aligned in this way, we will go through life but not notice the lessons placed before us. We will see but not recognise. We will be disheveled and all over the place. Have you ever tried to have a conversation with someone who is constantly receiving phone calls? It’s not possible to enter into any deep topics because his mind is dispersed. Our source, Krishna, also cannot communicate with us if our mind is all over the material, external world. He can’t enter our hearts if we have given it to other things… Be with the chanting by bringing your mind to it.
Wherever the mind wanders due to its restless nature, bring it back. There is a famous archery contest described in the Mahabharata, the great epic of ancient India, the same wisdom text which contains the original book of yoga, the Bhagavad-gita, where Droṇācārya, the great teacher of the two great families, the Pandavas and Kauravas, called all his students to demonstrate their skills. He requested them to shoot an arrow into the eye of a wooden bird placed elusively at the top of a tree. He first asked Duryodhana to try his luck, then Yudhisthira, and after him, all the other young princes. But before permitting them to release their arrows, he asked each of them to describe what they saw after they had taken aim. Each hopeful archer described how they could see the tree, leaves, the bird, other students, their teacher, and so on. Dronacarya was not pleased and forbade all of them from attempting to hit the mark. Finally, he called for Arjuna, the protagonist of this history, and asked him what he saw.
Arjuna readied himself to shoot, just as others did, and replied: ‘I see only the eye of the bird.”
‘What about the tree, your brothers, all of us?’ probed the teacher.
I see only the eye of the bird,’ replied Arjuna.
Dronācārya commanded, ‘Fire!’
What was the point of the test? Dronācārya wanted to teach the importance of focus. When you are focused on your goal and your mind is deeply fixed on that goal, the rest of the body aligns itself. The same holds true for chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra. Our goal is to be utterly present when we chant. Because most of us identify so deeply with the content of the mind, in some ways, chanting means to lose the mind in order to find it. Lose the material mind, and find your Krishna conscious mind. This means to consciously switch off distracting thoughts and replace them with the spiritual sound of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra.
To do that, we have to practice the essence of mental focus: return the mind to the chanting whenever it drifts away. Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gită (6.26):
yato yato niścalati
manas cañcalam asthiram
tatas tato niyamyaitad
atmany eva vasaṁ nayet
From wherever the mind wanders due to its flickering and unsteady nature, one must certainly withdraw itand bring it back under the control of the self.
To align the mind means to:
1) Relinquish thoughts of the past and future, and focus on being utterly present
2) Keep bringing your attention back to hearing the Holy Names. Don’t despair if the mind still wanders; just learn to catch it and bring it back. It is something one needs to practice… relentlessly.
Srila Prabhupada reiterated the solution with encouraging words:
What is controlling of the mind? You have to chant and hear. That’s all. You have to chant with your tongue and hear the sound. That’s all. What is the question of the mind?”
Stay tuned for the final part of this 3 series article.