Greetings my dear friends
Some of you will know, most will not. I chant mantra everyday and as much as I can. There are many reasons for this: I use it as a form of spiritual practise or meditation; a kind of place and time for quiet, getting grounded, being still for a bit; it is a form of prayer in that it can help open a space of silence in which I can hear life (or as you may choose to call it higher self/unconscious/spirit/God/whatever it’s called), where I can perhaps gain insights, receive guidance from that other source buried deep within myself; it makes me feel happy(ier); I enjoy the aesthetics of the experience as I use Japa beads (also called prayer beads or rosary beads) to chant on. Lots of reasons really and to sum it all up I could say the main reason I chant mantra is that I want to and it feels right. I actually try not to analyse it overly much.
I should mention the mantra I chant is the Hare Krishna mantra, or Maha Mantra. Why? Again many reasons: I like it; it has always resonated for me; I have a love of India (no surprise there) and this mantra is one of the most sacred for a huge number of people there; I have had contact on and off with Krishna devotees for most of my life (starting at 17 when in exchange for food I helped with renovations in their Amsterdam temple way back in 1971 when I spent a couple of months sleeping in Vondel Park).
Enough background already! What I wanted to talk about here is how lately I’ve been trying to chant more often. The problem I’ve been facing is that because I am so tired all the time, pretty much every time I sit to chant, I fall asleep before I even complete a round (108 repetitions of the mantra). So what? I hear you asking. Quite right too. However, as anyone who’s studied meditation of any kind will tell you, you’re not supposed to fall asleep; sleep is not the same as meditation.
It’s not the same because when asleep you aren’t awake. Well, that was profound wasn’t it? haha. What I meant to say is this: in a meditative state one is still awake and available to feel relaxation, to receive guidance or insight, to feel peace, and to experience whatever else one is meant to. Being asleep means you are ‘unconscious’, and therefore not in the same receptive state.
This had been worrying me for a while now, as I continued falling asleep while chanting. But then, a couple of days ago, I was walking back from the nearest cafe (a not so great fast food chain restaurant, but when coffee is concerned beggars can’t be choosers) when I passed a Christian church. On its signboard there is a quote from Matthew’s Gospel in the Christian Bible:
Now, as I was just describing, for me the chanting of the mantra is a way to be still, to be open to what I choose to call Life, or the life force that is everything that is. So, again as I pointed out, some may call this God. Here in this quote it is Jesus speaking, or to be more accurate, it is the Christ speaking. Christ means ‘anointed one’ implying the possession of some special or sacred knowledge. This is important: many people are privy to special knowledge of all kinds, that most of us aren’t.
In India it is said by many that to chant the names of Krishna summons Christ; the two names or words are interchangeable. So, here we have a quote from Christ telling us ‘Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest’. For me this immediately struck a chord. Right away I got it, or as we used to say like the Martians, I grokked it: I understood it at a deep level, a place in which I could see, yes this is talking to me.
You see, I chant the names of Krishna/Christ, which I understand to stand for the Life Force, for what some call the Universe, but I was falling asleep. The other fact about me I mention above is that I am always very very tired (most of you know all about that), so what happens? I ‘come unto’ Krishna/Christ through chanting the names, and I fall asleep: I am ‘given rest’.
Now there is no need to fight sleep, or just chant when I feel energetic enough to ensure I stay awake; no need to worry about ‘missing something’ if I fall asleep. In fact, rather than missing something, I am truly gaining a great deal: I get to rest!
Pretty straightforward and easy really, don’t you think? I can say it’s a nice relief for me anyway. I will carry on chanting because I like it and it’s a part of my life. And if I fall asleep? Well, I will just have to take that rest being offered won’t I?
I wish you all love and blessings from us to you
hare kṛṣṇa hare kṛṣṇa
kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa hare hare
hare rāma hare rāma
rāma rāma hare hare