Every day, we spend time chanting japa of the Hare Krishna Maha Mantra. But why don’t we feel anything from our japa—no experiences, no emotions and no revelations? What to speak of tears, trembling and darshana of Krishna?
We may not be seeing Krishna when chanting. But in a good japa session, a sadhaka will at least feel mentally refreshed from his communion with Radha and Krishna’s merciful Holy Names. His heart will replenish with sentiments of devotion, and he will feel increased enthusiasm to humbly serve Sri Guru, Vaisnavas and Bhagavan Sri Krishna.
The question above about “unproductive japa” has many answers, but definitely a big cause of “japa failure” is a lack of concentration and absorption. Everyone knows that concentration finishes a big task quickly, and a lack of it makes a small task drag on for eternity!
- Limited Time: Maximum Results
Most devotees are married and have very little time for Krishnabhajana. There is just no time for scriptural reading, studying or sadhu sanga. At best, we can find two hours in a day to chant “our sixteen rounds”. The sum total of our dailyKrishna bhajanahas to be compressed into two hours. So this limited time spentwithSri Harinama Prabhu should produce the maximum results. This article will show how to improve our concentration and absorption in Harinama japa, and thereby gain positive results and wonderful, divine experiences.
- Concentration & Absorption
The word concentration means the action or power of focusing all one’s attention; or dealing with one particular thing above all others. Synonyms for concentration: focus, center, fix, pointed.
In other words, while chanting japa we should focus our complete attention only on Radha and Krishna. All our thoughts and feelings should be centered, fixed on and offered to Radha-Krishna sitting with us in Their Holy Names. During our two concentrated japa hours, all other things should be disregarded.
The word absorption comes from the word absorb which means to soak up [as in liquid] or to take in and understand fully. Absorption is defined as a state of being so attentive to one thing that one is totally oblivious to anything else. For example, your son becomes so absorbed in Internet, that he doesn’t hear you loudly and repeatedly calling him for prasadam. Synonyms include being engrossed or engulfed in something, or being swallowed by it!
So our sincere efforts to concentrate during japa should culminate in japa absorption. We should soak up the sweet nectar of nama, take Him into our hearts, and become so attentive to Harinama Prabhu that we, at least for those two “precious japa hours”, forget everyone and everything else!
III. The Bhajana Caves
Caves or enclosed dark spaces have three characteristics in common i.e. solitude, silence and darkness—all very helpful for concentration and absorption in mantra and meditation. Our previous acharyas, knowing the value and absolute necessity of concentration and absorption in bhajana, chanted japa in underground rooms, generally a cave (guha, gupha).
In Vrindavana, the oldest bhajana cave is that of Srimati Paurnamasi visible in Nandagrama. As for Gaudiyas, Professor O.B.L Kapoor said that Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu Himself spent some time in a cave in Assam after visiting Sri Rupa and Sanatana in Ramakeli. That cave called “Chaitanya Gupha” is still visible today. (Philosophy and Religion of Sri Chaitanya)
Since that time, many Gaudiya Vaisnava acharyas, mahajanas and devotees have gone underground for private worship. Here is a list of famous devotees who chanted japa and meditated in caves, along with the place and its visibility today.
Namacharya Haridasa Thakura, Phulia West Bengal. Visible;
Rupa Goswamipada, Govindaji Mandira, Vrindavana. Visible;
Sanatana Goswami, Gokul Mahavana, Vrindavana, Visible?
Sri Jiva Goswamipada Vrindavana Nanda Ghata. Visible;
Bhugarbha Goswami Seva Kunja near Radha Damodara Mandira. Visible?
Shyamananda Prabhu, Radha-Shyamasundara Mandir Vrindavana. Visible;
Narayana Bhatta Goswami, Unchagoan. Visible;
Raghava Goswami, Govardhana Punchari. Visible.
- Characteristics of a Cave
As mentioned, caves have three things necessary for success in bhajana i.e. Darkness, Silence and Solitude. Mental and sensual distraction during japa prevent us from experiencing success in our practice. To facilitate concentration, we should try to create the tranquil atmosphere of a cave in our homes. We will explain exactly how to do that in part two.
Jai Jai Sri Radhe!