“Just fix your mind upon Me, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and engage all your intelligence in Me. Thus you will live in Me always, without a doubt.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 12.8)
mayy eva mana ādhatsva
mayi buddhiṁ niveśaya
nivasiṣyasi mayy eva
ata ūrdhvaṁ na saṁśayaḥ
Friend1: Have you ever watched an episode of a sitcom with the alternate audio track, the one having the commentary from people involved with the show?
Friend2: Oh, like the bonus feature thing they include with the DVDs?
Friend2: I think I remember watching that way back. DVDs aren’t so popular anymore. The younger generation probably have never heard of these tracks.
Friend1: That’s true. Anyway, I was watching one recently, just out of boredom. They had the producer of the show doing the commentary, along with the star.
Friend2: Anything interesting?
Friend1: They brought up how on their show there was only one story in each episode. They weren’t flipping around between multiple stories.
Friend2: I never really thought of it that way, but yeah, a lot of shows do that.
Friend1: So this producer was kind of knocking the practice. He said that when you do multiple stories, it gives the impression that a lot more is going on than really is.
Friend2: Because the allotted time for the episode is the same. It’s still 22 or 44 minutes. The more stories you do, the less time you can devote to each.
Friend1: Therefore you get the impression that more is happening. The producer said it’s a trick of the film industry that he isn’t too keen on. He would rather hold the audience’s attention with just one story. Get all the characters involved, give different viewpoints, but really focus.
Friend2: I see.
Friend1: Anyway, it got me to thinking. In life a lot of things are that way. I thought about the difference in experience when watching something on television. If I have nothing going on, I can really focus. If I’m on the laptop at the same time, the show goes by a lot quicker.
Friend2: Oh yeah, for sure. The laptop is a distraction. If you’re doing multiple things at once, you can’t really focus on a single thing. This is advantageous if you are afraid of focusing. And there’s the added bonus that you think a lot is going on, that you’re being more productive than you really are.
Friend1: Right. So how does this translate to spiritual life? Is it good to multi-task?
Friend2: Well, the question isn’t so much about doing a lot of tasks or only a few. The idea is that every material activity is a kind of procrastination. It’s avoiding the tougher question of “Who am I?” It keeps the mind from contemplating the meaning of life, the true purpose to an existence.
Friend1: If you look at the typical cycle, it’s pretty easy to go from birth to death without ever contemplating. In childhood you’re busy learning. Then in adulthood you work hard to earn a living. Then in old age you’re trying to relax. There are responsibilities throughout. First, others take care of you, then you have your own children. Then you become grandparents and have to watch over two generations.
Friend2: And that’s just related to family life. You can fill up your day with so many responsibilities. This way you won’t have to think about the purpose to it all. It will seem like things are happening, meaningful things. Meanwhile there is death looming on the horizon. You know that everything will end eventually. But you try not to think about it; otherwise you’ll go crazy.
Friend1: So what is the solution?
Friend2: This is why dhyana is so important. It is an aspect of the eightfold system of mysticism known as ashtanga. Still, you don’t need to be living in a mountain cave, sitting on a deer rug, shut off from the outside world in order to practice dhyana. You simply need to concentrate on spiritual matters. In this age the most effective path towards enlightenment is the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Friend1: I’m assuming that chanting these names is a kind of meditation.
Friend2: Of course. At the very least, you should be meditating while chanting. If you’re doing other things while chanting, then you’re not getting the full effect. With multi-tasking it may seem like a lot’s going on, but you’re erasing the benefit. There is the routine of chanting this mantra for sixteen rounds every day on a set of japa beads. That is a string holding 108 beads together. The string is there to save you. It helps you to hold your attention, to allow you to meditate even while living in a busy city. It helps you to hear the holy name, whose potency is so great that it can give you the answers to the toughest questions, the ones you’ve been avoiding.
Friend1: Let me just say one more thing. I’ve noticed that when I concentrate on one activity fully, I get more enjoyment out of it.
Friend2: An example?
Friend1: If I spend the whole day watching football games while having the laptop open, it goes by real quick; that’s for sure. But I don’t feel very good at the end of the day. On the other hand, if I sit and watch one game, without even changing the channel, I get more out of the experience. If I spend the whole day reading a book, I feel even better. It’s like my knowledge has expanded. If there are distractions, where I read one chapter and then answer text messages and then go back, it’s definitely not as enjoyable.
Friend2: Those are good examples. The same definitely applies in bhakti-yoga. If you chant on your beads for an extended period of time, unbroken, then you really fall deep into meditation. Dhyana is your savior. It reacquaints you with your true position, that of servant of the Supreme Lord. The goal is to always think of God the person. Krishna promises that the person who thinks of Him all the time will eventually come to Him.
Guaranteed to Him eventually to come,
When mind fixed on Him with distractions none.
Promise by Shri Krishna Himself to make,
Valuable lesson on life’s journey to take.
From distractions a lot going on,
But not one thing to dwell upon.
From japa beads your consciousness to grow,
Rewarded when with full attention to go.