Perhaps one of our gifts to Krishna on His birthday this year could be a promise to get to know Him better. There are many ways to do this, reading being one of the easiest and most enjoyable, yet often days, maybe weeks go by without a piece of sacred literature touching our hands.
That’s truly a loss, for sacred reading soothes the wild mind, sharpens the intelligence, and nurtures our true self, the soul. Reading about Krishna also helps ‘all that is troublesome to the heart’ to be ‘almost completely destroyed’. It’s a door to another world, an invitation to a better place, and all in all a tonic for a healthy and whole self.
Regular reading is the key and I recently came across and excellent reading guide to make our experience with books one that we will want to return to again and again. And it’s in that returning that the promise of bhakti, our relationship with Krishna, is to be found. The author of this reading guide is Krishna Ksetra Swami.
Making a Sacred "Scrapbook"
Whether you read the Srimad Bhagavatam, the Bhagavad-gita or any other bhakti literature, apply the following method:
1. Procure a notebook for writing (or establish a file/subdirectory in your computer).
2. Make an 'entry' (at least one every week; at the end of one year, there should be at least 52 entries).
3. Entries can be whatever you want to remember, somehow or other related to what you read in the Bhāgavatam.
4. How to find inspiration for making entries? Listen to yourself for "ringing bells" (which will surely “ring” if you read attentively and thoughtfully). Different types of “bells”, with likely overlap among them, are:
(a) Connection bell - “This [verse/passage…] is like [or in contrast to], or reminds me of, another verse” [identify the verse, explain how related].
(b) Big picture bell - “This [verse/passage…] has an interesting/puzzling/important place in ‘the bigger picture’ of this [passage/chapter/canto/SB/śāstras].” How this verse/passage illuminates my understanding/appreciation/realization of Krishna/bhakti.
(c) Personal memory bell - "This rings a bell, about the time/occasion when/meeting such-and-such person …"
(d) Personal impact bell - "This [verse/passage/commentary] makes special sense to me, I can relate to this… / inspires me to improve, change… / gives me an idea what/how to do/say/explain [something]”.
(e) Movement to write bell - "I can use this idea as the seed for a blog / poem / letter / essay . . ."
(f) Challenge bell - "This [statement /verse /passage] bothers/unsettles me: let me articulate how it bothers/unsettles me, or makes me wonder, or makes me confused, or doubtful…"
(g) Action bell - "This makes me inspired to … create, elaborate, make my own commentary, stop doing something…"
(h) Research bell - "I want to find out more about this [concept/word/name/practice], from elsewhere in the SB, or from other sources/other persons."