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To Japa, with Wonder

A friend recently shared with me a spiritual tradition which teaches that prayer is a combination of concentration and wonderment. I was immediately intrigued. With further discussion we could see a parallel with our focus on attentiveness in japa, our mantra meditation practice.

At first concentration and wonderment seem like a contradiction - in concentration we squint the eyes, furrow the brows and try to squeeze everything else out. In wonderment we open the eyes wide and even spread open our arms. We can see the two being reconciled in the behavior of children who can be fully absorbed in something out of wonder.

Wonderment is one of the great joys of life. That feeling of being overwhelmed with joy by seeing or experiencing something wonderful, something that moves us beyond our normal level of feeling. Sanjaya, the narrator of the Bhagavad-gita says it well at the end of the book - “O King, as I remember the wonderful form of Lord Krishna, I am struck with wonder more and more, and I rejoice again and again.” Bg 18.77

Often wonder will come upon us unexpectedly - I met an owl as I drove out of the temple the other morning. We looked at each other for a short time and I was struck with wonder. Sometimes we plan something special for a dear friend or family member - a surprise that creates wonder. Or we can reflect on our own lives and feel wonder at all that has happened to us.

We can also consciously add a sense of wonder to our japa meditation and prayer. As we listen attentively to the holy name, as we quietly chant that mantra of earnest request for service, we can surround and infuse our meditation with wonder. Here are some of my wonderment reflections from my japa today:

Krishna’s name is non different from Krishna - imagine that! When we say the name Krishna, Krishna himself is personally present. Take a moment and say it now. Not only is Krishna personally present, but we are personally present with Him.

This small mantra touches and reveals our deepest selves, our original spiritual selves. Like a shaft of light, it breaks through all the ‘stuff’ of this world and warms our often cold, lonely, fearful, and forgotten soul. It is the wonder of a warm hand reaching out in love.

The chanting of this mantra reminds us that we belong to a vast and wonder-filled universe, and that we are all part and parcel of Krishna, the source of all life. As I am part of that, and loved and nourished by Krishna, so too is everyone else. I am not the best, or the only, or the strongest, or the favored. I am one in a million and more, each one individual, each one valuable, each one precious. Oh, the wonder of that is enough to send the stars spinning with joy.

Our daily japa meditation can move from a chore to a joy, from awful to awesome, by adding a good dose of wonderment. Reflect on placing the jewel of the holy name in a setting of wonderment in the context of your life and spiritual practice. Each of us will do it in a different way. Just be open to great things happening which could include increased feelings of gratitude, being more present with our japa meditation, and feeling nurtured in our relationship with Krishna.

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