Where you turn to when you fail in devotional service decides the result.
Anyone who comes to ISKCON temples is immediately exposed to the chanting of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra. And those who are convinced about the philosophy of Krishna consciousness soon take up the practice of chanting Hare Krishna a fixed number of times daily. If you have been practicing this mantra meditation for some time now, you must have realized how difficult it is to keep the mind fixed and focused on the holy name.
To improve the quality of our chanting, we need to make it the most important priority of our life. One reason many devotees are unable to make this change could be due to 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 do not 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. 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 is an excellent platform to experience the sweet taste of Krishna . It is 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 is only jnana, or theoretical knowledge, and rarely does it translate into vijnana, or practical realization.
Making chanting 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 will 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 have to turn to Krishna and beg Him to help us chant well. The more we endeavor sincerely, the more we’ll be exposed to our own poor chanting. At this point, we would be humbled. As Bhurijana Prabhu says in his book Japa, humiliation would come before humility.
Therefore let us make chanting 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 is our connection to Krishna . This sincerity will lead to humility, and it is humility that eventually gives us a higher taste in the process of bhakti-yoga.
An important point to note: it is 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 the ultimate success.
Vraja Bihari Dasa holds a postgraduate degree in International Finance and an MBA from Mumbai University. He serves as a resident monk at ISKCON Chowpatty in Mumbai and is an active teacher of bhakti-yoga. You can read his daily reflections on www.yogaformodernage.com