At the house program we were exploring the topic of chanting with attentiveness on the level of the heart - a topic which is always relevant to one and all and cannot be emphasised enough.
Being a grihastha, it may not always be easy to develop a culture of sadhana within family life. We may have to struggle and even fight for our regulated spiritual practice. As we become firmly fixed in the ultimate goal of human life - developing pure love for Krishna and joining His eternal abode - we have to muster up resolute determination to move the maha-mantra into the centre of our life. Our japa has to become so dear to us that we are willing to adjust our entire lifestyle to facilitate it as much as possible.
The following is a guide to making those lifestyle changes:
* In the early morning we want to give all our attention to chanting japa. Whatever does not urgently require our attention at this auspicious time of the day can wait till a later time. All household duties, managerial issues or Internet activities, as far as possible, should be tended to later.
* In order to rise early in the morning, we have to take rest early at night. This is a very simple principle, yet not easy to practically apply. By taking this essential step, we will show our true colours and demonstrate what is most important to us. As a rule, we may pass the evening hours of our day in recreational leisure, chatting with friends over social networks,
browsing the Internet or watching things on the screen. By analysing our daily schedule and lifestyle habits, we may ask ourselves: What is the next step I can take to limit my late evening hours and move towards taking rest earlier?
If we desire to achieve deeper levels of chanting, the holy name has to become our most valuable treasure. We have to pay the price of kicking out all kinds of sense gratification during the evening hours and take rest early. Only with such action do we clearly confirm where our priorities are.
Taking rest early means we preferably go to sleep before 9 pm. Only then will we be fresh throughout the entire day and will not feel sleepy during our japa time in the early morning. There may be the occasional exception, which we consciously accept for the sake of preaching or serving the devotees. However, if such exceptions become the norm, they may affect our spiritual strength.
* In order to rise early, we should refrain from eating heavy meals at night. Once again, we have to practically demonstrate what is more important to us: attentive japa the next morning, or enjoying palatable foods in the evening. We have to demonstrate to Krishna our eagerness to achieve Him by our willingness to pay the price of letting go of some aspects of sense enjoyment in our daily life. Even from a medical point of view, taking heavy meals in the evenings is not recommended. It burdens the body and leads to acidity problems in the stomach. Furthermore, we will put on excess weight since the body does not burn up the energy during the night that the food provides. It is best if we can avoid heavy meals at night for the sake of good health and attentive japa. We may experiment for a month to see
the difference it produces.
* We remember Srila Prabhupada's formula of simple living, high thinking. As we keep our life simple and are satisfied with whatever comes of its own accord - merely by performing our duties, we will have the required peace of mind to concentrate on chanting in a prayerful mood. With an agitated mind, trying to solve so many issues in our life, it will be difficult to focus on Krishna. Our disturbed mind will take us for a ride around the universe.
* We keep our mobile phone and computer switched off during the early morning hours. Only after we have chanted a main portion of our rounds do we tend to other matters that may be urgent, and we allow ourselves to engage in communicating with other devotees. We also respect other devotees' practice of sadhana and will not disturb them in this sacred time of the early morning hours. Any discussions on issues or managerial tasks have to wait till later.
* Living in a vibrant community of Vaishnavas will greatly support our endeavours to chant deeply. Ideally, we should live within walking distance of an ISKCON temple so we can regularly attend at least some parts of the morning program. Regular attendance in the Srimad-Bhagavatam class and participating in the japa time at the temple, will benefit us immensely. The like-minded association of serious devotees will increase our strength and determination to continuously endeavour to reach deeper levels of chanting.
If such opportunities are not available, we may also go to Mayapur TV and other broadcasts to access classes through our computer. However, personal participation in the morning program should be given first preference.
* Srila Prabhupada regularly emphasised the importance of mangal-arati. If we live too far from a temple to attend the early morning functions, we can observe mangal-arati in our home. This will prepare our consciousness for prayerful chanting of the holy name and invite a regulated schedule into our daily life. I have observed in Bangladesh how mangal-arati is an absolute
must in most Vaishnavas' lives. I have observed in Bangladesh how mangal-arati is an absolute must in most Vaishnavas’ lives. They cannot imagine their day without it! It drives away the mode of ignorance and gives the incentive to rise early. If devotees are able to establish a culture of mangal-arati in their lives, it will most certainly support their efforts to rise early and establish good sadhana.
On the 7th of June I flew to the Gold Coast to visit New Govardhana...
Your servant, Devaki dd