The religious path I follow revolves around chanting God’s names. The idea being that while the word “water” is different from the substance of water itself, in God’s case He is non-different from His names and that by chanting them you can have association with Him.
This is actually a fairly common thread in most religions, though not necessarily expressed in this way. While the names chanted vary from religion to religion the practice itself is widespread. How, when and why it is chanted manifests differently according to one’s belief. Fortunately it is a practice that costs nothing and is available everywhere.
“2) O my Lord, Your holy name alone can render all benediction to living beings, and thus You have hundreds and millions of names, like Krsna and Govinda. In these transcendental names You have invested all Your transcendental energies. There are not even hard and fast rules for chanting these names. …”
In my case, the religion I follow recommends chanting 16 rounds of names a day in the form of the Mahamantra
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna
Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama
Rama Rama Hare Hare
We have a strand of 108 beads, you chant one mantra on a bead then move onto the next bead, repeat. That is 1,728 mantras or or 27, 648 names, in case you don’t have your calculator handy. This takes more than an hour even if you chant pretty fast and stay in focus.
I confess that for large chunks of my life I have not strictly followed this. Whether it is because I felt too busy or alienated or whatever. I have never developed to the spontaneous level of chanting for the joy of chanting itself, and have mostly only done it out duty when I have. Though when I do chant regularly it has a very calming effect.
I am on a pretty good streak lately though and have been for a while but it is more a case of insomnia, not attraction. As my physical condition worsens, I find myself waking up in the middle of the night and unable to fall back to sleep. I practically always try that first, and when success eludes me, I grab my bead bag.
Proper custom is to get up early, take a bath, then sit properly while chanting. I cut the corner there though and simply stay in bed, under warm covers and go for it. At least I have the early part down. I am trying to see the insomnia as my guru reaching out to help me. By the time I get through the rounds I am able to sleep again.
Prior to beginning chanting, I say prayers of respect for my guru, Srila Prabhupada. They are brief and I try to picture him in my mind as I say them. That image usually flickers away at the speed of a an image in a music video and my mind races off to all the distractions it has to offer while I try to chant with attention.
Tonight it persisted and seemed as if it were trying to attract my attention. I drew a little pleasure from that. While spiritual life is non – empirical, it can also be experiential, which is to say it can be felt even if non-measurable. I took it as a little glimpse.
Then the concept of Madhuban, an eco village I am working on a team with in designing and hope to help manifest before I leave this body floated through my mind. I am at a crucial decision making process in my medical care and at times have doubts if I can find the strength to endure what I am going to have to endure to stay in this meat sack I am trapped in now.
I took this as meaning Srila Prabhupada was asking that I stay and work on it. Of course, I also thought maybe this was my mind’s trick of rationalizing staying in this body and was simply fear of death cloaking itself in a warm costume.
But then, laying there in the pitch dark and with my eyes closed, I started seeing on one side, say 20%, of one eye a strobe-like light about 10 flickers per second. This went on for about 30 seconds, an experience I have never had before. It was like an affirmation that Srila Prabhupada really was there and trying to communicate.
The sensation could be described as imagine you fell asleep in your car. You faintly hear someone trying to wake you but only dimly. Then they tap on the glass window and that penetrates. The light was like that rap on the glass from Srila Prabhupada. Or at least that is the way I feel about it now as I sit here writing this.