Are you properly dealing with problems that negatively impact your bhakti?
I have often neglected to wholeheartedly deal with my personal problems and I can testify that they rarely go away on their own. But when I step back, look at how they affect me, and make a concerted effort to deal with them, I am amazed at how much easier it becomes to deal with those so called big problems.
The purpose of this newsletter is to get you to deal with issues that are negatively impacting your spiritual life. In doing so, we also look at what might be holding you back from fully confronting them.
May you always think of Krsna.
What’s Your Problem?
The problem, Prabhupada said, is that we all want to be God. Okay, we know that’s the problem, but specifically how does that manifest for you? What are the biggest obstacles on your path? What are the biggest things standing between you and Krsna?
If we are to make steady advancement, we need to confront and deal with our problems on a regular basis. Are you doing that? Unfortunately, too many of us don’t.
People get into trouble when they ignore their problems. For example, people get into financial trouble when they ignore their financial realities. They spend more than they earn, but either don’t want to admit it or don’t realize they are doing it. These “avoiders” don’t like to get into the details of their financial situation. And this usually causes them to go into debt.
A similar phenomena happens in relationships. A relationship is not going well, but one partner doesn’t want to admit it. “No, we get along well. Everything is fine.” Yet, the wife is unhappy and might even be thinking of divorce. She wants to directly deal with issues that are upsetting her but she can’t convince her husband to talk about them. He’s either oblivious to the problems or afraid to admit there are any. Often, he just thinks it’s a personal issue his wife needs to work on. Then one day he gets shocked into realizing how big the problem actually is when his wife tells him she is divorcing him.
Are you doing something similar with your spiritual problems?
How Krsna Conscious Would You Be?
To help motivate you to deal with the biggest obstacles you face in your spiritual life, I want you to imagine what your Krsna consciousness would be like if those problems were no longer obstacles for you – or if they didn’t exist at all? How much better off would you be? How much easier would it be to become Krsna conscious? How much more inspired would you be? How much happier would you be? And how much more Krsna conscious would you be?
If you are not facing your problems and doing something about them, it’s important to ask yourself why. Maybe you are afraid to face them. Maybe you simply don’t want to bother because it’s distasteful. Perhaps you think it’s going to be too difficult. Maybe you think you can’t overcome them. Or maybe you are not aware of them.
Whatever the reason, Canakya Pandit says don’t neglect to immediately deal with disease, fire and debt. This holds true with diseases of the heart.
There is another reason you might not be fully dealing with your problems: you think if you just chant Hare Krsna and continue with your devotional practices, the problems will go away. If you have been chanting and practicing sadhana for awhile and you still have problems that distract you from Krsna, it may be that your practice is not steady or the quality of your practice is not high.
You might ask, “Won’t I eventually overcome all my problems if I keep chanting and apply the process?” Yes and no. Yes, if you are careful to weed out your anarthas, practice sufficient levels of detachment, and have strong and steady sadhana. And no if you don’t. I’ve seen many devotees become weak while doing little or nothing to work on their problems. It’s all too common. This is why I am asking you to isolate your biggest obstacles and do something about them.
We all need to do more than just hope the problem will eventually go away. Of course, hope and prayer is part of the solution. But as I’ve often said, pray like it depends on God and act like it depends on you.
A Vicious Cycle
“But aren’t these anarthas there because of my conditioning? And can I really do something about them? Won’t they just gradually go away as I advance in Krsna consciousness?” Again, the answer is yes and no.
If you don’t do something about them, two things might happen: you might not be in Krsna consciousness in the future to do something about them, or they may have such a detrimental effect on your Krsna consciousness that your sadhana becomes weakened to such a degree that it’s not effective in uprooting your anarthas. Pulling the weeds out of your devotional garden is a part of sadhana that many of us neglect. And we are especially prone to neglect this when we are spiritually weak. It’s a vicious cycle that must be broken.
What Are You Pretending Not To Know?
As I mentioned, one reason we might not deal with a problem is that we are afraid to admit we have it. For example, there are plenty of people who steadily hold jobs and support their families, but at the same time drink a little too much alcohol every evening. Although such people are actually alcoholics, they either don’t realize it or can’t face admitting it. So look a little deeper for problems that are less apparent.
If you haven’t yet isolated your problems, please do that now. Take a good objective look at what you are up against – what is holding you back from being more Krsna conscious.
If you are hesitant to do this, know that it’s much more difficult to live with problems and obstacles than it is to deal with them. So if you fear facing your problems because you think it’s going to be difficult, or you think you might fail, you’ll be much better off in the future if you start seriously working on them now. Struggling year after year with obstacles that are holding you down is much more painful and difficult than doing the work to uproot them.
What’s Your Excuse?
Now that you have noted what you will seriously deal with, it’s time to look at your excuses for not taking full responsibility to deal with these problems. The following exercise will help you isolate your excuses. And it may also make you aware of problems you haven’t yet noted.
Isolate each of your problems and then write down the excuses you make for either not dealing with them at all or as well as you should. These can be excuses you make to someone else, or excuses you make to yourself. While doing this, look for possible excuses that are so subtle that you are not even aware you are making them.
Here are some examples of why people don’t deal with their problems. This will help you get started on your list.
It’s okay, everyone has this problem. I am just human.
This is just the way I am. I can’t change.
I never realized how much this problem affects me.
I never realized this was actually a problem.
I never cared enough to do anything about it.
I gave up on it years ago after it kept reoccurring.
I just figured it would eventually go away.
I didn’t know how to deal with it.
I just don’t think about it.
Can you see how each excuse energizes and strengthens the problem?
So write down each of your biggest problems, obstacles, anarthas or weeds in the heart, and under them write down the excuses you make for not fully taking responsibility to overcome them.
Or you can write it the following way, and this might help you see a few other problems you need to deal with.
When I … it’s because …
When I am … it’s because …
When I do … it’s because …
When I don’t … it’s because …
When I get … it’s because …
I am not making steady advancement because …
I don’t have enough … because …
I have not taken time to … because …
I have not paid enough attention to … because …
I have not put an end to my bad habit of …, because …
My failures are usually because of …
Excuses are Loosing Ideas
As long as you think you have a good excuse, you’ll have no reason to change. Read this list and admit that you need to take responsibility for these problems. Excuses are losing ideas. Your problems are your fault – and your success is your fault also.
Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it – George Bernard Shaw
Did you do the exercises? If not, maybe your ego is fighting back. Maybe your ego can’t handle admitting you are not as great as you to think you are. Maybe you are having trouble dealing with the fact that you are not as great as you want others to think you are. I’ve been there, and done all that. But consider this: you might be thinking this way because you like feeling spiritual more than you like being spiritual. I know for myself that it’s hard to admit I am not as Krsna conscious as I or others think I am.
The Excuse for the Excuse
So if you haven’t done the exercise, at least write down your excuse for not writing down your excuses.
I want to make it clear what these excuses really mean. So after each excuse, I would like you to either write “to go back to Godhead” or “to improve my relationship with Krsna” (or something similar that is appropriate for you). So, for example, if your excuse is, “I don’t want to take the trouble,” it will now read, “I don’t want to take the trouble to go back to Godhead” or “I don’t want to take the trouble to improve my relationship with Krsna.”
Now look at your excuses again (either from the exercise or at your excuses for not doing the exercise), and ask yourself this: “Am I going to let these dumb excuses get in the way of my relationship with Krsna?
You see, your problems are not the real problem. Your excuses are the real problem.