“The process of devotional service-beginning with chanting and hearing-is called sadhana-bhakti. This includes the regulative principles that are intended to awaken one to devotional service.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 19.117 Purport)
“I certainly love Krishna consciousness, but I’m worried that I’m not progressing. When I chant the holy names, my mind keeps drifting elsewhere. I have trouble holding on to the sound within my mind. If I tell myself to focus while chanting, again that reminder is preventing me from hearing, which is what I’m told is most beneficial for me.
“One who is not disturbed in spite of the threefold miseries, who is not elated when there is happiness, and who is free from attachment, fear and anger, is called a sage of steady mind.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.56)
“Also, throughout the day sometimes I get angry. In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna says that one who is neither attached to work nor repulsed by it is situated in knowledge. Someone who is equally disposed in mind, who doesn’t get too high or too low, is dear to Him. And since Krishna is all-attractive, being dear to Him is the best gift one could ask for.
“If you are dear to Him, He will always be with you. And what does that mean exactly? Krishna will be with you when you are really lonely. After you read that novel that leaves you feeling alone and sad that the association of the characters is gone until you read the same book again, Krishna will be there. When you have left the safe confines of your home to travel abroad for work or pleasure, Krishna will be there. When you are in distress and don’t know what the immediate future will bring, Krishna will be there.
“Even while falling asleep, Krishna will be there for you if you are dear to Him. If He likes you, He will take residence in your consciousness. One can think of His beautiful smile, which enchants even Cupid; hence one of Krishna’s names is Madana-mohana. One can think of the flute held in His hands, which calls to attention the cows of Vrindavana when they have gone astray. The same flute invites the sweet damsels of Vrajabhumi to rendezvous in the forest in the middle of the night to enjoy singing and dancing with Krishna. That flute makes a sound that is non-different from Krishna.
“The holy names, which are of principal focus in bhakti-yoga, are meant to bring Krishna’s association. Chanting the holy names with utmost humility, keeping oneself more tolerant than the tree, is supposed to keep one dear to Krishna. But I’m having trouble staying humble. I’m having trouble remaining tolerant when others criticize me. I especially don’t like hearing anything bad about my friends or family. If I were really Krishna conscious, none of these things would affect me, because Krishna would be with me and take away my impurities. What am I to do? I can’t stop thinking about how my progress isn’t what it should be.
“I do notice some interesting behavior in others who excel in their particular fields. The batter in a baseball game seems to do the exact same thing every time they come up to bat. They dig a small area next to the plate with one foot. They open up and close the straps on their batting gloves. They wiggle the bat a certain number of times, and then they finally get into their stance when the pitch arrives. They follow the exact same routine before every pitch.
“I’ve heard that this is done to enhance performance. If you follow routines like that, you’re less likely to think of the pressure of the moment. The time spent in practice sharpens your skills. Yet the tools are just tools; they don’t mean anything unless an intelligent force properly employs them. On the biggest stage, even sometimes the best players, who have the sharpest tools to use, don’t succeed. This is all due to the mind, and so the routine helps to control the mind, eliminating negative thoughts.
“In my bhakti-yoga practice, maybe I will employ the same technique. I should make my chanting of the holy names, ‘Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,’ a routine that I try to complete at the same time every day. Maybe I can maintain the same setting too. This way I won’t be as distracted with other things. And then the rest of the day I can do other things relating to bhakti. I can read a book by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. I can ponder life’s most difficult questions and think of how to answer them by relying on shastra, which is the ultimate authority. God is one after all. I wouldn’t follow this discipline if I thought it to be mere sentiment. The scientific basis for Krishna consciousness makes it valid to me. Reincarnation, the difference between matter and spirit, the need for universal brotherhood, the love that everyone wants to offer, and the unimaginable level of affection that God holds for His sons and daughters all make sense to me.
“And whoever, at the time of death, quits his body, remembering Me alone, at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 8.5)
“I should gauge my progress, checking to see whether my service to the guru is bearing fruit, whether I’m eating less instead of more, and whether I’m becoming more enthusiastic in my practice. But more importantly, regardless of the external conditions, I will continue on, because I know that if I give up I will be disconnected from Krishna in consciousness, which takes away the benefit of being dear to Him. If I keep up the routine, trying to block out even the distraction of trying to be perfect, perhaps only then will I come close to achieving perfection, which in my case will be thinking of Krishna at the time of death.”
Batter steps up to the plate,
Hopes to keep mind in steady state.
Odd behavior from them seen,
Each has intricate pre-pitch routine.
Not to think too much is what they try,
Rather on their sharpened skills to rely.
In bhakti gauging progress certainly good,
From study assessment of effort understood.
But chanting and hearing should stop in no way.
Concentrated or not, with Krishna I must stay.