Illuminations Newsletter 71
Last week I was asked, “What’s the most important practice for advancing in spiritual life?” Srila Prabhupada said chanting of Hare Krsna is most important. Some have suggested that devotee association is more important because, without it, most of us wouldn’t have the strength to chant Hare Krsna.
I agree. But I think there is a principle even more fundamental than this. I have addressed it to some degree in other newsletters, but it is so important that it deserves further discussion.
OUR VERY DESIRE TO ADVANCE IN SPIRITUAL LIFE IS THE CORE CONDITION UPON WHICH OUR ADVANCEMENT IS BUILT.
“All that is required of a person is devotion and sincere desire to serve the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Rupa Gosvami spoke about this: the only price to be paid for the favor of the Lord is the sincere desire to win His favor (laulyam ekam mulyam).” (SB 5.19.7 comm.)
When people take their spiritual life seriously, they begin the process of detachment from material activities, some of which they have been doing all their lives. They begin to break the bad habits they have had for years. It is as if each of them becomes a new person – a person who achieves levels of self-control and discipline that almost no one else in the world has. How are they able to do this? There is only one reason: somehow or other, they sincerely put Krsna consciousness above all else.
IT IS THIS TRANSCENDENT GREED THAT IS THE ONLY PATH TO KRISHNA CONSCIOUSNESS.
So yes, association with pure devotees and sadhus and chanting Hare Krishna are the most important practices. But the point is, if there wasn’t a strong enough urge to become Krishna conscious, nobody would practice. Good food is good, but it’s only good if you can digest it. Our aspiration to be Krishna conscious is the power of our “digestion”.
“By developing in oneself laulyam – a great thirst for meeting with the Lord and certain service to Him – a person pays with this for the right to enter the kingdom of God. By material means it is impossible to determine the price for entering His kingdom. The only fee for entering the kingdom of God is laulyam lalasamayi , craving and ardent desire for it.” (Nectar of Devotion, chapter 9).
Go back to when you first became seriously interested in Krsna consciousness. What were you thinking? How have your desires changed? Wasn’t it like you were inside some kind of shell that protected you from everything that threatened to eventually stop your progress?
If that is not the case today, it is time to connect more deeply with that sincerity and zeal that is the driving force that first brought you to Krishna. Don’t think you can’t control it. This kind of thinking is our enemy. We advise developing this kind of greed. That’s what Krsna consciousness is.
“Yes, Krsna consciousness is available. You can buy it in this Krsna consciousness movement. But what’s the price? This is a very good thing, but you have to pay the price. What is she? Tatra laulyam api mulyam ekalam : just your zeal. This is the price. You must pay this price. Then you immediately get Krsna. Krishna is not poor, and Krishna’s salesman – a devotee of Krishna – is also not poor. He can distribute Krishna for free. And he does it. You just have to buy Him with your zeal.” (“Journey Into Yourself”).
If there is no strong greed, we can conclude that the lower modes of nature have covered it. Our desire to be Krishna conscious can fall into a state of sleep. Have you ever been in a situation where your desire to be Krishna conscious has waned and all you have to do is wonder where it has gone? It is. You just need to strengthen it or, as this analogy suggests, wake it up.
So, what does it take to get this longing out of bed and become fully active and revitalized? All you need is you. And I think this is exactly what many of us are afraid to admit. We breathe easier when we think that our desire is weak because of ………. And we make a long list of reasons. What’s on your list? Here are some items that may be in it:
I live far from the temple
I have little good communication
I spend most of my time at work
I have a very sinful past
I am not very …………. (fill the gaps)
I am not the same now as I was when I first started practicing Krishna Consciousness.
I have to …………… (fill in the blanks)
I’m in poor health
I have a bad temper
I have a clumsy mind
I find it difficult to control my feelings
I have a weakness for the opposite sex
I watch too much TV
I’m addicted to pornography
I have hobbies that take up a lot of time
I don’t have enough time for spiritual practice
My spouse is not in Krishna consciousness
My husband and I don’t get along well.
Okay, I’ll stop there, otherwise, I’ll have to spend the next 25 pages describing good reasons why we’re not as eager to get Krishna as we should be.
What’s on your list? Take a piece of paper and start writing down all the reasons that prevent you from becoming more Krishna conscious, from aspiring and experiencing laulyam , longing to meet Krishna. And when you look at your list, ask yourself, “Is this really hindering my aspiration to be Krishna conscious?”
And to this there should be a resounding response: “Of course, it is not entirely true that this prevents me from being Krishna conscious.” If you really want Krishna, nothing on this list will stop you, just as nothing stopped you when you first decided that you wanted to become a devotee. You could have had an even longer list when you first came to Krishna. But there was no such list. Why? Because you were longing for Krishna. And this zeal burns such a list to the ground.
One of the most deceptive forms of mayais to use the philosophy of Krishna consciousness to keep us away from Krishna. This happens when we interpret the words of the scriptures or our gurus in our own way and thus create beliefs that prevent us from advancing in Krsna consciousness. It can happen (and often happens) that we think we are reading and understanding scriptures, but in reality, we are only reading our own mental script. For example, if we think that advancement depends on proper association, receiving blessings, mercy, etc., we often put our own desire to become Krishna conscious in a secondary role. Starting to believe in this paradigm, a person becomes more or less helpless and begins to think that he can not really control it. But the bottom line is that we can manage it.mayi . The question is not “can you?” the question is “will you?”.
Prabhupada touched on this point when one of his disciples begged him for mercy, and Prabhupada replied, “The mercy is already there.” So he indirectly pointed out that this devotee does not use what is already given and available, but thinks that advancement is something mystical; like rain of mercy which automatically makes one Krishna conscious. I have seen this subtle form of maya appear many times. Devotees think, “Once I go here, get married, get this service, etc., I will be more Krishna conscious.” While it makes sense, the idea that these situations will themselves bring about Krishna Consciousness is a common misconception and often so subtle that we are not always aware of how it affects us.
Also consistent with this thinking is the idea that when one advances in devotional service, one automatically develops the qualities needed to become more Krishna conscious. This is another way to deprive yourself of power. Instead of taking responsibility and developing spiritual qualities, a person will think that all he or she can do is practice sadhana, and everything else necessary to become a pure devotee will automatically appear. And when this does not happen, he does nothing more to work on himself. The reality is that bhakti is a power that enables us to manifest spiritual qualities in our daily lives and adhere to spiritual practices, not a power that lulls our will.