Increasing Intensity

We arrived at 2.15am in Sri Vrindavana Dham. It was still, calm and quiet; a timeless place, unchanged in essence, ever-exuding spiritual potency. We bowed in the dust, walked to our room, and contemplated snoozing after a round-the-clock journey. At this early hour, however, Vrindavana wakes up – lights switch on, water taps start running, bells begin ringing, and sadhus set off on their daily rounds. Since we’ve come to capture the Vrindavana spirit, we decide to run with the local schedule. A quick bucket bath, and straight out to do what everyone does at dawn.

On a biting-cold marble floor, I sat, softly chanted, eyes closed, and tried to tune in and focus. Calm the mind and connect with the vibration. Forget the world, disconnect and be 100% present. Mantra by mantra, chipping away the impurities. At one point I opened my eyes, happy to see the same elderly faces I have seen for years; chanting, bowing, praying and worshipping. Some things never change. On closer observation, however, I did sense a difference. Their serious demeanor indicated a measured increase in intensity. They live as lone mendicants in this holy land, probably with a vow to never leave, determined to end their days in complete spiritual absorption, diligently preparing for their imminent journey to the next world. They have understood this is the business end of life – this is where it’s make or break. Seeing them lent me my first Vrindavana lesson – increase the intensity!

Truth be told, intensity doesn’t come easily. Most of us are not bad spiritual practitioners, but just casual ones. Luke-warm, let’s say. We’re strict on a few things, and loose on a lot more. We take a bit of this, add bit of that, ignore the rest, blend it together with half-hearted attention, and pray it’s the recipe for enlightenment. Doesn’t sound promising. Without intensity, how will we ever breakthrough in spiritual experience?

Yet we shy away from intensity. Maybe we’re afraid we can’t sustain it. Maybe we’re scared that we’ll miss out on something. Maybe we just don’t have the conviction to put that much of our heart into it. For some, intensity sounds like insanity. Today, however, I felt like intensity meant integrity. When our actions are integrated with our aspirations, we live a life of integrity. If we’ve registered the gravity of our purpose, the urgency of time and the reality of our situation, then intensity will naturally manifest in our actions. So here we are, trying to up the game, deepen the practices, and make a breakthrough to the next stage. While departing from London someone told me – “it’s been an intense month, you deserve a break!” Vrindavana seems to be inspiring me to leave one intensity behind, just so I can embrace a different intensity for the next month. I hope I’ll be able to tune in.