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Sunday, May 14, 2006

pramāda japa

Recently I heard a humble Vaiṣṇava admitting to driving his car with one hand and doing japa with the other. Since ignorance IS an excuse, let no one take personal offense at this comment: This is a most gut-wrenching example of pramāda japa, or inattentive japa. Japa is worship and meditation, and neither of these can be or should be done while steering a car through the traffic. In this way it is simply impossible to give the holy name of the Lord the attention and the worship it deserves, adding to it that one touches one's sacred beads to the steering wheel and gear-shift. Though strictly and officially speaking pramāda japa is not an offense to the chanting of the holy name, it obviously is (The 10th offense, śrute nāma-māhātmye'pi prīto'yaṁ rahitaḥ, "to be bereft of love of the holy name, despite having heard its glory", fits the best).

Suppose Śrī Gurudeva is coming to visit us in our home and we continue to watch TV, perhaps telling him to take a seat, telling one's spouse to offer him a glass of milk and occasionally saying something to him and half-listening to him, but at the same time continuing to watch the TV - this would certainly be offensive. Some attention may have been given to Śrī Gurudeva, but it is shared with attention to material things. So it is too with combining japa with any other activity, what to speak of driving a car!!! Instead, japa must be done sitting down in a lotus position in a solitary place, keeping one's japa mālā to one's heart, either murmuring or mentally repeating the syllables of the holy name. Sanātan Gosvāmī writes in his commentary to Haribhakti Vilāsa that murmuring (upaṁśu) is actual japa, while loud japa equals kīrtan and mental japa equals meditation.

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