Sunshine on a Cloudy Day.
Vaisesika Das: The Temptations, a wildly popular Motown singing group, released their biggest hit song in 1965.
The following lyric from that long-forgotten song came to me as I was considering a very important and encouraging principle of bhakti yoga:
“I’ve got sunshine on a cloudy day.”
One might wonder how there can be sunshine on a cloudy day. (Moreover, one might justifiably ask how this lyric relates to the practice of bhakti!)
I found out.
In San Francisco, the summer months tend to be cloudy because inland heat sucks the cold air off the ocean that surrounds the city. When the cold air meets the warmer inland air, there is condensation, which creates clouds and low hanging fog that block out the direct rays of the sun.
One day last summer as I was busy outdoors in the garden, I neglected to cover my head and arms from sunburn, thinking that I was insulated from the sun by the thick mist overhead and coolness of the day.
The day after however, I was surprised to find that my face, arms and head were burned.
Reading up on sunburn, I found that ultraviolet rays of the sun handily penetrate even the thickest cloud cover. And even though invisible to the human eye, these rays have a powerful effect.
The rays of the holy names are similarly potent.
As beginning bhakti yogis chant the maha-mantra:
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna
Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama
Rama Rama Hare Hare,
they often strain to see the good effects. In fact, due to disturbances in the mind, practitioners sometimes do not at first get a taste when chanting and then wonder if they are getting any benefit at all.
The scriptures and advanced bhakti yogis say, “Continue chanting! You are getting great benefit!”
The rays of the holy name not only penetrate even the thickest layers of ignorance, which are compared to clouds and mist, they eventually burn ignorance away completely.
Five hundred years ago, the great Acarya (teacher) of the holy names, Haridas Thakura called this kind of chanting, namabhasa . That is, our chanting has great benefit even before it’s perfect because we profit greatly from even the indirect or invisible rays of the holy names.
In San Francisco, the summer sun eventually burns off the fog, revealing the beautiful blue sky and brilliant sunshine above.
Those who continue to chant with faith, even when they don’t feel the direct effects of their chanting, will soon see the full glory of the sun of the holy names and will come to chant with taste.
“When people properly glorify the Supreme Personality of Godhead or simply hear about His power, the Lord personally enters their hearts and cleanses away every trace of misfortune, just as sun removes the darkness or as a powerful wind drives away the clouds.” (SB 12.12.48)