Illuminations 18 – Don’t Look Back

In this issue we discuss one of the offences to the holy name: to maintain material attachments. Detachment follows bhakti. To maintain an attachment is to hold onto it while it is naturally being pulled away from us by the process of bhakti.

We’ll look at why and how this happens.

May you always think of Krsna,

Mahatma das


 Don’t Look Back

One of the offences to the holy name is to maintain material attachments even after understanding so many instructions on this matter. We normally understand this to mean not letting go of material attachments. But there is another aspect of material attachment. The chanting Hare Krsna will naturally awaken detachment if we don’t resist. Yet this new found detachment can be uncomfortable. In other words, the detachment that follows chanting can take us out of our comfort zones, take us to a level that we find difficult or uncomfortable to maintain. And this can cause us to again become attached to the very things we gave up. The Bhagavatam says it this way; “we are eating our own vomit.”

Why does this happen? I think many of us are, at some level, afraid of being too Krsna conscious. Why do I say that? Because many of us are not sure we’ll really be happy if we are fully Krsna conscious. We know intellectually we’ll be happy, but practically we may have doubts. Let’s do a little exercise that will help you look at this in your own life.

The Magic Pill

Magic PillLet’s say, for the sake of discussion, that I created a pill that would make you completely detached from all material things. Would you take it?

Let’s imagine that you are at the temple on Sunday and this pill is being offered to everyone. So during the evening everyone is talking about this magic pill. “Prabhu, are you going to take the pill?” Do you think you can handle all that detachment?

You begin to ask yourself questions like, “What will it be like if I become detached from my family? What will happen if I loose interest in material things? What if I have no interest in watching movies and TV any longer? What if I no longer want many of my possessions?” And then you wonder, “Can I handle this? “Would I really be happy?”

Of course, the goal is to become detached from maya and attached to Krsna, and intellectually we know it would be a great blessing to get detachment so quickly and easily. Yet if detachment is so wonderful, why do we still go after material things to find some happiness and satisfaction? So the big question is, “If you achieved a higher level of detachment, would you miss your sense gratification?

Think about it. If attachment to Krsna and detachment from everything not related to Krsna is so wonderful, why is it that so many of us have more time to watch TV and movies, talk on the phone, and read the paper than we have time to read sastra. If it is so wonderful, why do so many of us find it difficult to chant our rounds, or even chant any rounds at all? Is it that deep down we think that too much detachment won’t make us happy? If so, if you start to become detached as a result of devotional service, you might feel a little uncomfortable or uneasy and thus go back to some of the things you formerly renounced.

A Visit From the Visnudutas

Let’s look at it this way. Imagine the Visnudutas came to your home. You are alone and they come in and tell you that Krsna sent them to offer you a chance to go back to Godhead right now. They tell you that you if you want to go you have to decide now – and you will not be allowed to tell anyone, call anyone, or even write a letter to anyone.

Close your eyes and imagine this scenario. It only takes a minute. It will really help you and you will get a lot of realizations. The visnudutas are in front of you offering you the chance to go to the spiritual world immediately and you have only a moment to tell them yes or no.

I once spent the entire day contemplating how I would react if this happened to me. It was one of the most Krsna conscious days of my life.

Imagine this is really happening right now. Please stop reading on and just imagine this scenario and see what goes through your mind.

So what happened? Did you have such thoughts as: “How can I leave my wife (or husband, kids, mother or father, close friends, etc.)? Who will take care of them?” Or how about this one? “I haven’t finished doing …………..”

Or did you think, “But I was planning to ………….?”

Where Are You At?

Did you realize that you might be unprepared to go back to Godhead right now? Did the idea of going to the spiritual world almost seem unreal? Did it make you uncomfortable to think of leaving everything? Did you feel a sense that this world is your home and you don’t really want to leave it? Did you realize how little you think of dying?

Or did you think more along the lines of, “Wow, I can’t wait to go. Get me out of this horrible place. Where’s that Vaikuntha airplane? Krsna here I come!”

If you thought like this, then all glories to you.

If not, look at the reasons you hesitated and what they mean to your spiritual life. And consider this: If you are practicing devotional service and are afraid of the detachment it produces, isn’t that a major stumbling block for you? Isn’t that a major paradox in your bhakti?

It is said that when you want to achieve your goals, focus on them and don’t look back. How much more true this is about devotional service.