I felt a bead of sweat crawl down my forehead. A chilly winter breeze whisked across the porch where I sat, dropping that bead onto my thighs. My meditation was distracted, and now that bead of sweat occupied my mind. How can I sweat when my body is still, in a lotus posture? I only held a string of prayer beads, nothing too heavy; I chanted a mantra, Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare, only in a soft murmur; and my mind had been more or less floating along with the sound of that mantra, no anxiety burdening it. Yet, I sweated. I was mystified.
My eyes still shut, my mind flashed back to a printed text in the Bhagavad Gita: “From wherever the mind wanders due to its flickering and unsteady nature, one must certainly withdraw it and bring it back under the control of the self.” And my mind swerved back into the mantra the next moment. But my body continued to sweat—until I was sweating like a pig.
This happened to me every morning during mantra meditation. I preferred to neglect this phenomenon, but the other monks who also meditated on the porch began to question me: what’s wrong? I had no answer, and I couldn’t care less to look for one. After all, I was now habituated to the sweating, and it didn’t disturb my meditation anymore.
During these days the temple hall on the first floor, where we sit and meditate daily, underwent renovation, and so we monks sat out with Radhanath Swami on the porch instead, during meditation. I always sat especially close to Radhanath Swami, to bathe in the aura of bhakti about him.
One day, amidst the meditation I opened my eyes to find Radhanath Swami staring at me. Before I could close them shut, Radhanath Swami gestured me to come close. I edged closer, dripping with sweat. “I appreciate your enthusiasm in mantra meditation,” he said as he smiled tightly. My ego ballooned as I savored the cooling sensation on my skin, caused by the evaporating perspiration. I silently thanked the mysterious watery guest that visited me in the stillness of the morning.
“But it looks crazy,” Radhanath Swami’s smile changed into a frown. A heat wave gushed through my body–more perspiration. His next few statements I couldn’t fully register, my ego still recovering from a sudden blast. But I managed to catch the essence: even during our personal spiritual practices in bhakti yoga, we should be sensitive to our surroundings; a new person could be bewildered seeing someone strangely sweating during meditation and could be scared away from bhakti yoga. A bhakti yogi’s every activity should encourage others to tread the path of perfection, rather than discourage others or scare them away. Radhanath Swami closed with a gentle smile.
Radhanath Swami had enlightened me about a new dimension of responsibility of a bhakti yogi. Now I had to sit back and analyze what caused the perspiration. Soon I figured that perhaps I chanted the mantras too fast, and while focusing on every syllable that now came by quickly, I tended to hold my body tight. So I slowed down my chant the next day, kept my body deliberately relaxed–and the perspiration never reoccurred.