Mahatma Das's Posts (37)

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Illuminations 44 – Life Support

The ramification of samskaras and the environment on our vows.

Analyze your daily activities in relation to vows you have taken by determining if the way you live supports or undermines your vow. For example, do you ever feel that the way you live, act or think makes it difficult to keep some of your vows? If so, these are red flags you need to heed.

Prabhupada describes a mahatma as one who will not allow himself to be in a situation that doesn’t support the realizations he needs to remain in Krsna consciousness.

Now, in the conditioned state, sometimes devotional service and the conditional service in relation to the body will parallel one another. But then again, sometimes these activities become opposed to one another. As far as possible, a devotee is very cautious so that he does not do anything that could disrupt his wholesome condition. He knows that perfection in his activities depends on his progressive realization of Krsna consciousness – Bhagavad Gita 9.30

Prabhupada tells us that to properly follow our vows we must live a lifestyle that gives us the realization and strength needed to continue following those vows. So to strengthen your ability to follow your vows, you must focus on all the activities you need to do (or avoid) and the environment you need to create, that will support your vows. And if we are not doing this it likely indicates that we are not taking our vows seriously enough (or that we don’t realize how much our environment affects us).

All your actions create samskaras, mental impressions or mental dispositions. Thus whatever you do, say, see, eat, etc. affects your consciousness. As you ponder this, you become more aware of the correlation between what you are doing and how you are thinking and feeling. You may have sometimes experienced a lack of interest or taste for chanting or sadhana. If so, it’s likely related to what you have been recently doing (or not doing) saying, eating, hearing, eating, etc.

How can you alter behavior that is difficult to change, such as habitual behavior? Samskaras are powerfully created by what we see. So when you see someone with qualities you would like to possess, or when you see someone acting in a way you would like to act, it creates mental impressions on you, and you begin to desire to be or act like that person. Even hearing about being or acting in a particular way is also powerful.

When an impression is made in your consciousness, it tends to produce an inclination to think in a certain way and thus act in a certain way. As those thoughts and actions are repeated (we tend to have the same thoughts daily), it makes a deeper impression, thus causing further repetition of that action. Of course, if the action is desirable, that is good. If it’s not desirable, it forms an unwanted addiction.

Consider the vows you wish to better follow or wish to make and then determine how your life would need to change in order to support those vows. Can you make those changes? Can you maintain those changes? Answering these questions will better help you determine how ready you are to follow those vows.

Buddhist vowsSo two questions bear considering – why make vows to begin with, and what about yourself prevents you from fully embracing the vows you have taken? In Buddhist philosophy for example, vows are taken to create merit that isn’t present without taking a vow to engage or refrain from a certain behavior. Not killing is the right thing to do, but taking a vow not to kill and enthusiastically holding that vow creates a karmic impetus that elevates the consciousness of the practitioner in a way that simply refraining from the behavior alone cannot accomplish. Similarly, in Twelve Step programs, the decision made in step three is to wholeheartedly engage in working steps four through twelve in order to have a spiritual awakening. As step twelve states, “Having had a spiritual awakening as THE RESULT of these steps, we tried to carry this message to (alcoholics) and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”

So to create positive karmic results, there has to be a tangible form of commitment that goes beyond mere sentiment. Step Four in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous says “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” Step Five continues “Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.” Finally Step Ten declares “Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.” So how does all of this apply to strengthening broken or degraded vows or taking new vows in Krsna Consciousness? By integrating the scriptural yet oftentimes ignored tradition of confession into our lives, we can become renewed and restored vow holders and vow keepers.

Let’s examine how this process can be put into practice for those of you who are having a tough time maintaining your vows. First, be honest with yourself about your condition. This is the hardest step for most people. The reason for this is usually guilt and shame. Guilt, if it takes on the quality of remorse, will be a motivating factor to be honest with your situation. However, taking on the quality of shame, guilt becomes both a hindrance and an excuse to continue in the mode of ignorance due to the pain of facing the reality of what you have let yourself become. Remember that everything that is done in the dark will eventually come to the light. Fear is another stumbling block for most people – fear of failing ourselves, failing our Guru, failing Krsna. The third and maybe most detrimental defect preventing honesty is false pride. Remember that pride comes before a fall and we must humble ourselves before Lord Krsna, who is the only true controller. Don’t allow ego to keep you from Krsna!

The next step is to seek out an experienced devotee to whom you can confess your shortcomings, one who can help you see the reality of your situation while at the same time offering compassion and assuring you of forgiveness and the chance for a return to the high road of keeping your vows and commitments. The things this devotee should be alert for is the presence of self-centered and self-seeking behavior on your part that you may not be clearly seeing, and should be firm and strict in their own commitments so that you may be helped rather than enabled. The important thing to remember is that when you fall down from a higher consciousness, it is the same pitfalls that have been experienced by others in your situation that are responsible, so by owning up to them and listening to the feedback of an experienced senior devotee, you are taking a major step toward being proactive in your own return to the value system you freely chose when you took your vows. Be humble, open, honest, and receptive, and allow Lord Krsna Caitanya’s infinite mercy to pour into your heart and elevate you back into a position of true bhakti. Recall that you took those vows so your inside values could match up with your external actions, and rejoice that there is a mercy from the Lord that is as vast as an ocean.

Srila Prabhupada said this about confession:

Because we have lived so many years without being Krsna conscious, we have lived only a sinful life, but Krsna assures us that as soon as one surrenders to Him He immediately squares all accounts and puts an end to all one’s sinful activities so that one may begin a new life. When we initiate disciples we therefore tell them, “Now the account is squared. Now don’t commit sinful activities any more.”

One should not think that because the holy name of Krsna can nullify sinful activities, one may commit a little sinful activity and chant Hare Krsna to nullify it. That is the greatest offense (nämno baläd yasya hi päpa-buddhiù). The members of some religious orders go to church and confess their sins, but then they again commit the same sinful activities. What then is the value of their confession? One may confess, “My Lord, out of my ignorance I committed this sin,” but one should not plan, “I shall commit sinful activities and then go to church and confess them, and then the sins will be nullified, and I can begin a new chapter of sinful life.” Similarly, one should not knowingly take advantage of the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra to nullify sinful activities so that one may then begin sinful acts again. We should be very careful. Before taking initiation, one promises to have no illicit sex, no intoxicants, no gambling, and no meat-eating, and this vow one should strictly follow. Then one will be clean. If one keeps oneself clean in this way and always engages in devotional service, his life will be a success, and there will be no scarcity of anything he wants.

– TQK 24: Cutting Off Ties of Affection


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Illuminations 45 – The Comfort Zone

Recently a friend of mine and Life Coach, Akrura Das,  visited Alachua and we recorded a number of talks on subjects such as responsibility, connecting with your dharma, possibility thinking, limiting beliefs, etc. I think you will find them very valuable, so I have decided that the upcoming newsletters will all be audio newsletters of these recordings.

Out of comfort zoneIn this audio newsletter we discuss the comfort zone, a place which is actually not really comfortable because it’s not where we want to remain. We show how what we want to become or achieve normally lies outside of our comfort zone, and the mentality required to push ourselves to do things which we have never done before.

If you or anyone you know is able to transcribe these audio recordings (twelve in total), let me know. Then we can make the transcriptions available as well.

May you always think of Krsna,

Mahatma das

The Audio Newsletter is here

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Illuminations 46 – Possibility Thinking

Possibility thinking means there is always more than one way of approaching a situation. Generally we have patterns of thinking which lock us into seeing situations in a narrow way or the same way over and over again. But there is always more than one way to deal with a situation. By being open to other ways of viewing the situation, we begin to see possibilities we didn’t know existed.

Think “what can I do to improve my service to Krishna in this situation?”

If we really believe in Krishna, we should be thinking that anything is possible by His mercy. For example, in any difficult situation we can think, “What else can be done?”, “How can I maximize the situation?” “How can I turn my obstacles into opportunities to serve Krishna?” There is always a silver lining at the end of the cloud.

What’s good about this? 

You can see how bad experiences in the past have helped you become stronger today. There were valuable lessons learned from those experiences. But at the time you didn’t know this. Those experiences are blessings in disguise to learn what we need to learn. So, even the bad, seen in another way, becomes a source of strength and knowledge.

Once, a king placed a boulder in the middle of a street and hid himself behind a bush. Most persons just went around the boulder. After some time, a peasant came and pushed the boulder aside. Below the boulder he found a purse with gold coins and a note from the king that said “This is a reward for the person who removes the boulder.”

In essence, there is gold at the end of a rainbow. Behind each obstacle, there is a lesson that Krishna wants us to learn.

Dealing with anarthas

An outside of the box way of viewing anarthas is to see them as things which are so valuable to us that if we give them up, we’ll be giving up that which we are dearly attached to. Krishna appreciates it when we offer him something that we’d rather not give up. So, attachments offer us great opportunities to serve Krishna.

Since everything in creation must be offered to Krishna, we can offer to Krishna our determination to drop the anartha or a bad thought and continue with faith in our spiritual practices. Having a different perspective on how to deal withanarthas has helped many devotees.

Tools for Possibility thinking 

Brainstorming or mind storming 

Some persons suggest taking a piece of paper and writing down 10 to 20 possibilities. This forces one to think differently from how one generally thinks. It is also highly beneficial to do this exercise with a coach or a mentor.

Is there a third alternative? 

Often times, two parties are caught up in “I have an idea” and “You have an idea”. But there could be a third alternative which encompasses or far exceeds both the ideas. Generally, people think like a funnel, a narrow pipe. It is said that if the mind has 60,000 ideas in a day, they may all have the same pattern. People have a habitual way of thinking. Most of our thoughts are the same day in and day out.

Win win thinking

When two parties come together, its best to come up with an option that is beneficial for both parties. It’s called synergy or creative co-operation. Such an approach is very beneficial because it helps one develop respect for the other person’s opinion, the other person’s needs, and the ability to understand the other person.

Obstacles to Possibility thinking

I can’t 

It is said that what you think to be true is often just your belief or attitude. When devotees use words like “I can’t”, “It can’t”, or “This can’t be done” they are limiting themselves. In fact the words “I can’t” can be redefined as “there is no possibility” of any other way of doing it or thinking about it. It’s important that we catch ourselves when we use those words. Instead, it’s a healthy habit to use words like “let’s look” and “let me consider”.

Bhakta Henry (Ford), the grandfather of Ambarisha prabhu would say “If you say ‘I can’t,’ you have 100% failed. You have determined your path to fail.”

Another alternative is to ask other devotees how they view a situation. They’ll often have a completely different perspective.

Neglecting the most obvious 

Often times, because of our fixed mind set, we tend to oversee the most obvious things we can do to solve a problem. We are surrounded by all kinds of solutions and possibilities. We just don’t see them.

Akrura narrates a true story of an African farmer who sold his land and embarked on a journey to find diamonds. When he was unable to find any diamonds, he drowned himself in the ocean. The new owner of the land one day found out that the acres of land that were sold to him were mines of diamonds.  We also have acres of diamonds as wonderful devotees around us and talents given by Krishna. All we have to do is to open our eyes and look around.


We are caught up in a routine and we don’t even know what’s beyond that. We don’t go beyond our routine to explore opportunities. We can become like machines who can only do a few things. Then we say, “This is just the way I am.”

Being satisfied as a mediocre 

Devotees often become complacent in their devotional practices. It’s a good exercise to think from time to time how we can be a better servant of Krishna. “How can I be a better spouse for the pleasure of Krishna?” “How can I be a better parent?” “How can I be a better disciple so I can serve Krishna better?”. When we ask such questions, the hidden opportunities for service start showing up.

The hidden blankets in the cold room of your life 

Akrura narrates the story of how he slept in a Slovakian temple on a cold night with a thin blanket. When he woke up next morning, he found a box next to his bed with a warm blanket. He obviously did not see the most obvious. What are you not seeing?

Krishna has given us intelligence, creativity and talents. We have to look and unveil our talents for His service.

If you would like coaching to help you explore new possibilities, please contact Akrura at []. 

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Illuminations 47 – Self – Forgiveness

In this audio issue (click here for the audio issue) of Illuminations, I talk with counselor Arcana Siddhi about self-forgiveness. Those of us on the spiritual path have high ideals, ideals which we often don’t meet. And especially for those who tend to be perfectionists, this can result in a lot of self hatred, guilt and shame. We fall short of our ideals, or worse, sometimes we fall flat on our faces and may not be able to forgive ourselves for it.

Or we have a self image of a good person, a good devotee, a good this or that, yet we inevitably confront the reality that we often act in ways totally incongruent with that self image, and again, we can’t forgive ourselves. This inability to forgive ourselves makes our lives difficult. And it makes it all that more difficult to forgive others.

I ask Arcana Siddhi how, considering the above realities, we can forgive ourselves. As a professional counselor she deals with this problem often and was able to shed great light and insight on the topic.

As many of you know. I have been teaching workshops on forgiveness for years. This site gives more details about the workshops. The blog is entirely dedicated to the topic of forgiveness and contains many ideas from my workshop. Feel free to share this site and blog with your friends and associates. As you will see, it is written for a broad audience, so those who might not be so spiritually inclined will get a lot from it.

Self forgivenessThe more I do the workshops, the more I see how needed and beneficial forgiveness is for ourselves, for relationships, for minimizing conflict at home and in the workplace, and for dealing with all the bigotry, hatred and prejudice in the world. Ours is a culture of “If I am wronged, I get back.” Most people’s accounts of all the injustices and hurts that were done to them is overflowing and they use these accounts to justify blame and anger. They build up these accounts and carefully save them. Anytime someone performs some horrible act, you can know for sure their victim account is overflowing.

Our culture loves retaliation. Movies are full of it. The hero is wronged and the whole movie is about him taking “justifiable” revenge. So our kids grow up thinking, “If someone hurts me, I must take revenge. Forgiveness is a sign of weakness.”

People guard their victimhood. It is a story upon which they can justify their failures. If they lose that story, how can they justify their blame and anger? Anger makes them feel powerful. Ask them to forgive and they fear they will lose their power. But all anger and blame does is hide their pain, pain they don’t want to face. Forgiveness is the only door out of the prison of this pain.

Because forgiveness is so much needed in our world, and because practicing forgiveness brings people to a higher level of God consciousness, my intention is to expand these workshops around the world by training a team of facilitators to deliver them.

If you know anyone who might be interested in organizing a workshop please direct them to the site. Or consider contacting someone at your school, office, community center, yoga studio, temple, etc. to discuss the benefit of having such a workshop.

May you always think of Krsna,

Mahatma Das

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Illuminations 48 – Overcoming I Can’t

In this recorded audio newsletter with my friend Akrura, we discuss how to coach a devotee who is trying to forgive. We focus much of the talk on dealing with the obstacle of thinking, “I just can’t forgive.”

We also discuss how you benefit the most when you let go of resentment. Why? Because devotees with deep issues of resentment usually find it more difficult to open their hearts to Krsna. Forgiveness requires compassion, and a compassionate heart is necessary for spiritual progress.

This conversation lays down many principles of forgiveness that you can practice immediately, and also encourages you to seek personal guidance of qualified devotees if you have more difficult or troublesome issues to deal with.

We also detail what forgiveness is not. For instance, forgiveness can exist even if you take legal action against a person. Or you may choose to distance yourself from that person even though you have fully forgiven him or her. Forgiveness doesn’t mean condoning a wrong action; it means releasing ill feelings.

Akrura is a transcendental coach and works as a coordinator for a counselor system for care and guidance for devotees. He received professional training for coaching from New Castle College. For the past eight years he worked with over 300 ISKCON devotees. He has helped devotees succeed in such areas as health, sadhana, relationships, service, and leadership

I am impressed with the work Akrura is doing and how he is so effective in helping devotees become more productive, successful and satisfied in their Krsna consciousness.

I have personally listened to this talk many times, each time gaining new benefit and insight from it. The link to the conversation is found at the end of the email.

Below I outline some of the main points of our conversation.

May you always think of Krsna,

Mahatma das


i-cantI can’t
“I can’t” is an obstacle that arises not only with forgiveness but in many areas of life. Embedded in “I can’t” are habitual excuses we make. A good beginning to explore why we feel we can’t do something is by asking ourselves the question, “Why do I think I can’t do it?” The answer to this question increases our awareness of the excuses we make, and how these excuses prevent us from achieving our desired results.

To break the pattern of making excuses, recognize that you are a spirit soul and by connecting properly with Krsna, anything is possible. Even if you feel that you cannot forgive someone immediately, at least dream of what things will be like when you forgive. And always remember that it’s possible to go beyond your modes of nature when Krsna helps you.

Imagine you are a world expert

It’s important to view your situation as a third person. Stand away from your issues and look at them more objectively. For instance, you can imagine yourself to be a world expert and think of a solution for a person who comes to you with your problem. This will help you change your perspective on the situation. Often times devotees have come up with amazing solutions to their problems. So you could ask yourself, “If I were a world expert on forgiveness, what would I tell someone who came to me with the exact problem I have right now.”

Cultivating a strong sadhana

When we regularly read Srila Prabhupada’s books we develop a greater ability to see that everything is a gift from Krsna. Nothing happens by accident and there are lasting lessons to learn even from bad experiences. There are gems embedded in misfortune. Krsna is in control of our lives and He is placing various situations in front of us so that we learn specific lessons. Plus, a devotee always feels that he deserves worse than what he is receiving. Srila Prabhupada often quoted the verse SB 10.14.8,

tate te ‘nukampam su-samiksamano

bhunjana eyatma-krtam vipakam

hrd-yag-vapurbhir vidadhan namas te

jiveta yo mukti-pade sa daya-bhak

A devotee thinks that he deserves worse but that Krsna has sent just a token reaction for his misdeeds.

Accepting higher guidance

When we approach a guide or a coach they will help us get beyond our comfort zone and think beyond our perceived capabilities. With this kind of help we will be able to move beyond our obstacles and forgive more easily.

Forgiveness is a choice

When we are hurt, we usually feel there is no choice but to be angry, resentful, etc. But we can always choose how we respond to any situation. No matter how difficult the situation, we can always respond in a better way. Forgiveness is a choice.

Akrura explains that,” Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space lies our freedom to respond and thus lies our happiness and growth.”

What are the costs?
What is the cost of not forgiving? Does it really benefit us to hold on to our resentment? We actually pay a very high price to hold onto resentment.

Ask empowering questions

We can always ask ourselves disempowering questions like, “Why me?” or we can ask ourselves empowering questions like, “Where is Krsna in this situation?” “What will please Krsna in this situation?” “What lessons are there for me?” Don’t think why you can’t do it; think how you can do it. Asking empowering questions is a powerful tool for moving forward.

Giving up the negatives

It’s common to have issues with authorities (temple leaders, spiritual leaders, bosses, parents, etc.). It’s also common to allow these issues to go unresolved. If you you have unresolved emotional and psychological problems, it can make it difficult to open your heart fully to Krsna. Plus, when we give up our resentment, it frees up energy that can be used in Krsna’s service.

Practice forgiveness

When a devotee approached Prabhupada and told him that he didn’t like to bow down, Prabhupada asked him to bow down anyway, explaining that if you do eventually you will feel like bowing down. If we do not feel like forgiving, we should still practice forgiving. Then we will begin to appreciate the benefits of forgiving – and possibly even begin to see the good in those who hurt us.

What Is Forgiveness

1) Forgiveness does not mean that we must have a relationship with the person who hurt us. We can maintain a distance if that’s what needed to maintain a healthy attitude towards that devotee.

2) We can learn that we are not going to allow ourselves to be exploited again.

3) It may be necessary to punish, but we still must maintain a forgiving heart.

4) When we forgive, we do not have to tell the other devotee or person who has offended us that we have forgiven. Often times the “offender” does not recognize that they have offended us.

5) Forgiveness means to take responsibility for how we feel.

The Audio Newsletter

The lecture is available at

Scroll down to Living a life of Total Forgiveness and it is the sixth lecture with Akrura

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This issue of the audio Illuminations newsletter is about connecting with your dharma and mission in Srila Prabhupada’s service. Connecting to your personal mission is one of the best ways to remain enthused and inspired in Krsna consciousness.

How do you know you have connected with your dharma and mission? You look forward to your service. You gain energy just by thinking about it. You are happy and satisfied because you are working according to your nature.

In the absence of activities that drive your enthusiasm, you are more prone to fall victim to maya. In this audio newsletter with Akrura, we discuss the importance of identifying your dharma and pursuing it.

Below I outline some of the principles  you will be hearing about.

May you always think of Krsna,

Your servant,

Mahatma das

The Audio Newsletter

The lecture is available here

Connecting with our dharma

What is my dharma?

In the context of this newsletter, I use the word dharma to refer to a service that inspires you; something exciting that brings out increased energy for serving Krsna.

Since every one of us has a specific psycho-physical nature, we are naturally attracted to certain activities. The problem is that some devotees have not discovered their dharma. So they will need to do some introspection or take guidance from senior devotees to discover where their greatest strength and inspiration lies.

Guilt Surrounding Your Dharma

Many devotees shy away from looking for an inspiring service they like because they think is selfish or personally motivated. After all, we are taught that devotional service must be devoid of any material desires. However, doing what comes naturally, or doing what inspires you, is not necessarily a selfish act.

It is reasonable to fear that we may be indulging in sense gratification in the name of service. Still, Krsna has given us gifts and talents to use in his service.  We can ask ourselves, “How can I use them favorably?”  You can see your devotional desires as gifts to heed rather than longings to suppress.

Srila Prabhupada encouraged devotees in their service even when their motivations were not 100% pure. He wanted devotees to be happily engaged in Krsna’s service. It’s better to be happily engaged in Krsna’s service doing something that enthuses you rather than being miserable or begrudgingly  doing something that goes entirely against your nature.

Story of My Own Search

When I was living at the Los Angeles temple, my sister invited me to spend a few days with her. I had the entire morning for myself and I discovered a natural pattern emerging in my routine. I would read for hours, chant my rounds and then compose music.

body machineMy psycho-physical nature was becoming more apparent to me. I love to study and chant, and I love to write songs. My body machine just naturally did this. Consider your body. What activities does your body machine naturally do (or what would it do provided there was no pressure to do anything in particular?). Don’t tell me I would just eat, sleep mate and defend. What I mean is that, if you could do anything at all, what would naturally be inclined to do? If you haven’t got a clue, start thinking about it. What did you like to do as a kid? What are you good at? What is easy for you to do? What gives you energy? What inspires you? Of, as is sometimes asked, “what would you do if knew you couldn’t fail?”

Protection from Maya

There was a time when I was happily engaged in teaching in Vrindavan six months a year. However, I did not have a good source of income when I returned to America so I decided to start a business. The problem is that business is against my nature. So, at the end of the day, I always felt drained.

In this condition I was a very good target for maya. Then an interesting thing happened. I attended a seminar and while watching the facilitators all I could think was, “I want to do this,” I started busying myself in the evenings studying, writing, and preparing content for my seminars. The result was renewed energy and enthusiasm. I was now too busy (and excited) for maya to distract me.

Do you waste time? Are you easily allured by maya? It may be because you are not adequately engaged in doing something that inspires you.

Having a Vision
Start dreaming about services you would love to dedicate to Krsna. For now, even just a vision or a dream about such services will help you stay more inspired.

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Illuminations 50 – The Mind

Constant effort

In this issue of the audio newsletter, we elaborate on how the mind can be a friend or enemy and suggest ways in which we can empower the mind to work for us rather than against us.

Below I outline some of the main points from the audio.

May you always think of Krsna,
Mahatma das.

The Audio Newsletter

The lecture is available here

The Mind 

Ignore the Mind
Our acaryas advise us to learn to ignore our mind. Why? Well, we shouldn’t ignore it when we are thinking of Krsna. But in our conditioned state, the mind really has a mind of its own. When we decided to become devotees, the mind didn’t agree. And it still is resisting surrender.  When the mind presents thoughts that are detrimental to our Krsna consciousness – or to our well being – we can jokingly tell our mind, “Thank you for sharing,” and decide to connect more deeply with our Krsna consciousness. Since the mind is often like a nagging roommate who continually distracts us from our highest good, knowing how to neglect it is a necessary Krsna conscious survival skill.

To effectively neglect the mind, we need to become more detached from it, something we are not well accustomed to do. Of course, the mind can be the best friend, but the problem is that we often take the mind for a friend when it is acting like an enemy. “Go ahead, do that, look at that, buy that.” And we often think, “OK, that sounds good,” without thinking, “Wait a minute. That’s not what I should be doing. My mind is tricking me.” And even when we know we are being tricked, still, because the mind is so strong, we may find it difficult to resist. To be Krsna conscious means to be prepared to fight with this the mind “by constant practice and detachment.” Constant practice means to never give up no matter how difficult controlling the mind may be.

Changing our beliefs

In my forgiveness seminar I explain that reluctance to forgive is often connected to a belief about forgiveness. For example, people often believe they cannot forgive until their offender apologizes. But if they change this belief to, “I can take responsibility to forgive even if my offender doesn’t apologize,” they immediately find they can start to let go.

So another way of dealing with the mind is to examine the beliefs that are behind your thoughts and actions. Changing a belief will change the thought associated with the belief. If you tend to have negative thoughts, it’s likely you hold a lot of negative beliefs (“nothing ever works outs well for me, things will never get better, I’ll never be advanced, my mind is impossible to control, etc.”). Ask yourself what beliefs might be causing your negative thoughts.

Instructing the mind

In the song Bhaja Hure Mana, Govinda das speaks to his mind by reasoning with it. In the same way, when we find our thinking detrimental to our progress, we can ask our mind questions as to why it is attached to things that are taking us away from Krsna. We can ask ourselves empowering questions, questions that will naturally redirect our thoughts towards Krishna consciousness. In this way, we can reason with our mind to give up self-destructive thoughts and accept real devotional qualities. And we can also tell our mind what we expect give it reasons to behave properly.

Dealing with emotions

How do we deal with emotions, particularly emotions that appear to not be Krishna conscious?

There is a tendency to neglect emotions that are unpleasant, much in the same way that we try to neglect negative thoughts. But emotions don’t always go away when we neglect them. They often remain hidden while acting out in subtle ways. According to Vedic psychology, allowing yourself to experience negative emotions – the ones you might naturally try to bury – activates your intelligence to deal with them. In other words, your emotions speak to you and by listening to them you can learn how to improve. For example, during a time when I was not paying as much attention to my sadhana as I normally do, I was feeling guilty about not following Prabhupada’s instructions as strictly as I should. Since this was causing me to feel pretty miserable I didn’t want to confront the painful feeling that I was letting Prabhupada down, so I buried it and pretended it didn’t exist. A devotee suggested I totally face that feeling because that feeling was telling me something. When I faced the feeling I immediately felt that the misery from not following was far greater than any perceived misery I was trying to avoid by making the effort to strictly follow. So the “negative” emotion was instructing and helping me come to a higher platform, but I was only able to get the instruction when I stopped trying to bury the feeling.

Desiring Krsna consciousness

We often bring problems into our lives through our minds. Sometimes we say, “I can never… (you can fill in the blanks”) and that is exactly what happens. The mind’s vibrations are real and thus have a real effect on our external existence (and even on our physical health). Of course, this also works in a positive way. Elevated devotees desire and expect more Krsna consciousness and more of guru and Krsna’s mercy, and thus they find more of this coming into their lives. This shows that Krsna reciprocates with a negative or positive mind set.

We may look at our lives and think “why has Krsna placed so many obstacles in my path?” when it may be that a negative mind set is attracting those problems.

Constant Effort

Constant effortThe mind tends to be habituated to a certain way of thinking. This means that of the tens of thousands of thoughts we have daily, the majority are the same. Our goal is to habituate our minds to Krishna conscious ways of thinking. This is quite possible, but we need to make a conscious effort to do so. Then our minds will naturally pull us toward Krishna rather than away from Him.

Krsna never said this is going to be easy, but He did say it is possible. How? It is possible by endeavoring by right means and by detachment. That means if we put our guard down, we’ll be in trouble. The more we practice, and the more we become detached from doing whatever the mind says, the more we take control of the situation and create new positive habits. Since you are above your mind, ultimately you are in control. You just have to exert that control.

Can we do it? Since Krishna has given you free will, you can choose to seek out those thoughts that inspire and uplift you, that connect you with your greatest spiritual ambitions. Do I hear you say, “Yeah, but that’s not always easy?” (Here we go again with those negative thoughts.) Always remember that difficult things become easy for one who has the mercy of guru and Krishna.

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In this audio newsletter I speak with Akrura Prabhu about faultfinding, specifically the subtle reasons that cause us to belittle others.

Srila Prabhupada said that if we chant our rounds and follow the regulative principles, we will go back to Godhead in this life time. However, he made a disclaimer by saying that we won’t get this result if we offend the devotees. Offending devotees can nullify the good we do in Krsna consciousness. It therefore is essential to understand why we become critical of other devotees so we can work to remove these subtle causes of criticism. The irony of criticism is that even if a person has done something wrong, the tendency for us to want to criticize demonstrates an impurity on our part. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur said that until we begin to look at our own faults, we will not stop looking at the faults of others.

This audio newsletter shows how faultfinding is related to a lack of humility. It also elaborates on the enormous benefits of being open to look at our own faults.

The following are the main points found in the audio discussion.

May you always think of Krsna,
Mahatma das.

The Audio Newsletter

You can hear the lecture here

Humility and Faultfinding

False ego and faultfinding
fault finding
Our false ego prevents us from looking at our own faults. It makes it difficult for us to acknowledge our faults and therefore, instead of being introspective, we see those faults in others. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur said, “Because I am myself honeycombed with faults, I see the faults of others”.

If you spot it, you have got it
In the realm of psychology it is said that if something about someone really bothers you, it’s usually because you have that fault. Of course, we usually don’t accept or acknowledge this. This is a powerful way to understand ourselves better.

Say “Thank you!”
One executive coach that works with very successful people teaches them to be open to feedback. He says that they when receiving feedback they must not use the words, “But”, “No”, and “However.” They should just say “Thank you!”

Devotee versus Demon
Advanced vaisnavas acknowledge their dark side, or faults, whereas demons tend to overlook or minimize their own faults.

Humility means reality, the reality of our own lacks and failings. Pride blinds us to this. The more a devotee advances, the more he feels unqualified to serve Krsna. He never becomes proud of his achievements.

How can I not see faults?
Intelligent persons usually recognize if “a preacher is proud” or “a temple is mismanaged” and so on.  How does a devotee see the bad? We always have the option to choose our attitude – we can either criticize or we can choose to improve the situation. If we find ourselves faultfinding, we should remember “if we spot it, we have got it.”

Suppression takes vital energy away from you.
Faultfinding can be somewhat innocent, like when you are simply disturbed by what someone does and make a comment about it. But it can also be the result of envy or jealousy, as when we are jealous of the success of another and want to bring that person down by belittling him. This can happen when we cannot tolerate the success of another person we dislike.

If I find a fault with you, and it helps me avoid dealing my own faults, then I get some perverted pleasure. But even though I don’t admit my faults, they still affect me. Often time we must put out tremendous energy to ignore them or to camouflage them from others.

Valuable gems
If someone is pointing out a fault in you, they are giving you a valuable jewel. If you do not accept feedback with a positive outlook, you are throwing away this gem. Someone who criticizes you is actually your friend and someone who praises you is your enemy.

It is the duty of a guru to make you aware of your faults.

Don’t abandon your vaisnava behavior
Even a devotee is wrongly accused; he accepts it as Krsna’s arrangement in his life. Also, when we are sympathetic to the accuser, it takes a lot of the negativity away from the situation. If we are humble, it touches the heart of the other person and their attitude will change.

Whatever difficulties we encounter, at least we should not abandon our vaisnava behavior and qualities.

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Illuminations 52 – What’s On Your List?


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 important that it warrants further discussion.


“One’s devotion and sincere desire to serve the Supreme Personality of Godhead are the only qualifications. Rupa Gosvami has also said that the price for achieving God’s favor is simply one’s sincere eagerness to have it (laulyam ekam mulyam).”(SB5.19.7 purport)

When people seriously take to spiritual life, they begin a process of extricating themselves from material activities, some of which they performed for their entire lives. And they start breaking bad habits they had for years. It’s like they become a new person, a person that achieves levels of self control and discipline that practically no one in the world follows. How are they able to do this? There is only one reason: somehow or other they sincerely want Krsna consciousness above all other things.


So yes, association of the pure devotees and sadhus and chanting Hare Krsna is the most important practice. But the point is that if a sufficient level of intensity to become Krsna conscious is not there, no one would do the practice. Good food is healthy, but it’s only healthy if you can digest it. Our eagerness to be Krsna conscious is our digestive power.

If one develops this laulyam, or excessive eagerness for meeting and serving the Lord in a particular way, that is the price to enter into the kingdom of God. Otherwise, there is no material calculation for the value of the ticket by which one can enter the kingdom of God. The only price for such entrance is this laulyam lalasamayi, or desire and great eagerness.”(Nectar of Devotion Chapter 9)

Go back to the time when you were first taking up Krsna consciousness seriously. What were you thinking? How were your desires changing? Wasn’t it almost like there was a bubble around you making it as if nothing could ultimately check your forward progress?

If it’s not like that today, it’s time to connect more deeply with that very sincerity, that driving force that first brought you to Krsna, that eagerness. Don’t think you have no control over this. That thinking is our enemy. We are advised to cultivate this kind of greed. This is what Krsna consciousness is all about.

Yes, Krsna consciousness is available. You can purchase it from this Krsna consciousness movement. But what is the price? It is such a nice thing, but you have to pay the price. What is that? Tatra laulyam api mulyam ekalam: Simply your eagerness. That is the price. You have to pay this price. Then you get Krsna, immediately. Krsna is not poor, and the Krsna -seller—the Krsna devotee—he’s also not poor. He can distribute Krsna free. And he’s doing that. You simply have to purchase Him by your eagerness. (Journey of Self Discovery)

If that greed is not there intensely, we can conclude the lower modes of nature have covered it. Our will to be Krsna conscious can go into a state of slumber. Have you ever been in a situation when your desire to be Krsna conscious has weakened and you are left wondering where it has gone? It is there. You just need to strengthen it, or as this analogy goes, wake it up.

So what will it take to get the will out of bed and become fully active and intense. It will take one thing -you. And I think that is the one thing too many of us are afraid to admit. We breath more easily when we think the will is weak because of……….. and we make a long list of things. What’s on your list? Here are some things that might be on your list.

listI don’t live near a temple

I don’t get a lot of good association

Most of my time is spent at work

I had a very sinful past

I am not very …………. (fill in the blanks)

I am not the same now as when I first started practicing Krsna consciousness

I have to …………….. (fill in the blanks)

My health is not good

I have a bad temper

I have a heavy mind

I have difficulty controlling my senses

I am weak around the opposite sex

I watch too much TV

I am addicted to pornography

I have hobbies that I love that take a lot of time

I don’t have enough time for my spiritual practices

My spouse isn’t Krsna conscious

My spouse and I don’t get along well

OK, I’ll stop here before I take up the next 25 pages with valid reasons for not being as eager as I need to be to get Krsna.

What’s on your list? Take out a piece of paper and start writing down all the reasons that are preventing you from being more Krsna conscious, from being eager, having laulyam for Krsna. And when you look at your list, ask this question; Is it absolutely true that this is preventing me from being eager to be Krsna conscious?

And the resounding answer must be, “Of course it is not absolutely true that this is preventing me from being Krsna conscious.” If you really want Krsna, nothing on that list would prevent you, just as nothing prevented you when you first decided you wanted to be a devotee. You could have had even a longer list when you were first coming to Krsna. But you didn’t. Why? Because you were eager for Krsna. And that eagerness burns that list to pieces.

One of the most deceptive forms of maya is to use Krsna conscious philosophy to keep us away from Krsna. This happens when we understand the words of scripture or of our gurus in a way that, unknown to us, is actually beliefs that keep us down in Krsna consciousness. What can happen (and often does happen) is we think we are reading and understanding scripture we really only reading our own mental script. For example, when we believe advancement is so dependent on the right association, getting blessings, receiving mercy, etc. we often allow our own will to be Krsna conscious to take a secondary position. When one buys into this paradigm, one becomes more or less helpless when he or she starts to fall thinking they have little control over this. The point is that we do have control over this. The idea that “I can’t” is one of maya’s most deadly weapons. It is not “can you,” it is “will you.”

Prabhupada addressed this when one of his disciples prayed to him for his mercy and Prabhupada replied, “My mercy is already there.” The implication is that this devotee was not taking advantage of what was already given, what was already available, and thinking that advancement is something mystical, like a rain of mercy that automatically makes on Krsna conscious. I have seen this subtle form of maya come up so many times. Devotees think once I go here, get married, get this service, etc. I will be more Krsna conscious. And although there is validity in this, the thinking that those situations in and of themselves will make me Krsna conscious is a common misunderstanding and is often so subtle that we don’t always realize how we are affected by it.

What also goes along with this thinking is the idea that as one advances in devotional service one will automatically develop the qualities and traits necessary for being more Krsna conscious. This is another way to disempower yourself. Instead of taking responsibility to cultivate spiritual qualities and practices, one will feel that all he or she can do is practice sadhana and everything else needed for becoming a pure devotee will automatically manifest. And when it doesn’t, nothing more is done to work on oneself. The reality is that bhakti is the force that empowers us to be able to manifest spiritual qualities in our daily lives and adhere to spiritual practices, not a force that puts our will to sleep.

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Spiritual Self-confidence

Below is a summary of the points covered in the discussion on Spiritual Self-confidence found in this the audio newsletter. It’s an important topic to and I think you will find the discussion not only edifying, but empowering as well.

May you always think of Krishna,

Mahatma Das

The Apparent Paradox: Self-confidence and Humility
How do we maintain self-confidence, yet feel ourselves a fool before our spiritual master? How can we be confident and simultaneously feel unqualified to serve Krishna? Aren’t self-confident people somewhat proud or arrogant?

We are ordinary people engaged in an extraordinary process, a process that will make us extraordinary. Thus, our confidence lies not in ourselves, but in the power of the process of bhakti.

With Krishna’s divine power and intelligence guiding us, we know we will succeed. In the Caitanya Caritamrita, a brahmana from Avantidesa confidently states, “I willcross over the ocean of nescience.” Why is he so confident? He believes he is assured of success because those who have already traveled the bhakti path have succeeded. His confidence is, “I am walking the same path, so I will also succeed.”

I can feel lowly, even useless, yet still be confident that Krishna can use me to do wonderful service. It’s even possible, by the grace of the guru, that a disciple can do more than his spiritual master, even though feeling totally unqualified to serve (actually, he does so much because of feeling unqualified to serve). Externally, Prabhupada achieved more than his guru. Yet, he always gave credit to his spiritual master.

It’s interesting to note that Prabhupada writes in the Bhagavatam that he is hopeful one of his disciples will become pure enough to take him back to Godhead.

We are not taught to be overly confident of our intelligence or other qualifications. Prabhupada writes that Krishna is the Supercause. We understand that it is because Krishna is so intelligent and qualified that we can do anything wonderful. Because we have this understanding, we are confident that we can achieve success that exceeds our level of qualification.

Ordinary Versus Extraordinary Self-confidence
Ordinary self-confidence is limited to how much you believe in yourself and your capabilities. So if you find any lacking in yourself, it’s easy to become discouraged. Therefore, it’s better to see what Krsna can do through you rather than what you can do yourself.

I am not a business person, but I have a small business to support myself. I always feel a bit helpless doing this, so often I pray, “Krsna, please help me because I am not so good at business.” I have confidence in Krishna’s guidance, that He can use me, an unqualified person, to do things beyond my ordinary abilities. I trust that Krishna will help me. And He does.

Willingness to Do It
When I was a new devotee I asked my father, an artist, to do a painting of Krishna. I sent him a poster of Krsna playing His flute standing by the Yamuna. When he saw the poster he didn’t think he could do the painting, as he was primarily a still life artist. I told him, “Go ahead and try. Krishna will help you.” He said, “Okay. I will see what I can do.” He did the painting and was surprised at how well it came out. After this, whenever I visited him the conversation would inevitably turn to the painting. “You told me Krishna would help me, and he did!”

He had almost become an atheist after my mother died a painful death. Yet he always remembered the painting and how Krsna helped him. He got this realization simply because he was willing to try to do something he thought he couldn’t do.

The Negative Creates the Positive
I once wrote Srila Prabhupada telling him I was very busy as the manager of the temple, and that I am not Krishna conscious when I am so busy. So I asked if it is better I do less service and think of Krsna more, or engage in more service and think of Krsna less?

Prabhupada said I can think of Krishna always if I depend more upon him. To make me realize my dependence, he told to think I have no qualification to do my service (I was temple president). A statement that “you have no qualification” could seem to destroy someone’s self-confidence. Yet, by helping me see my lack of qualification, Prabhupada empowered me. Here’s how.

The more I think I am not qualified, the more I depend on Krishna. The more I depend on Krishna, the more I become Krishna conscious. The more Krishna consciousness I am, the more I become empowered to serve. Thus, the so called negative (the so called lack of self-confidence), leads to the positive. This is the paradox of spiritual self-confidence.

Linking Up With Krishna
In the Bhagavad-gita Krishna says na hi kalyaëa-kåt kascid durgatià tata gacchati,one who does good is never overcome by evil. (BG 6.40) This means that one who is sincere will never be overcome by evil. Our sincerity to serve Krishna is the link that originally reconnected us to Him; and it is the link that will keep us connected. It is through this sincerity we tap into the vast intelligence and ability Krishna so generously gives His devotees to both come closer to and better serve Him.

Krishna May Withhold Results
Krsna will not empower us when he knows we can’t handle the results. One devotee asked Prabhupada, “Why doesn’t Krsna give the devotees the world?” Prabhupada replied, “What would you do with it? You would simply sleep.” To be awarded more success than we can handle is not a gift, it’s a curse.

If we become Krishna conscious too easily and too soon, it’s likely we won’t be able to properly deal with the results of success that follow an advanced devotee (honor, followers, wealth, etc.) Thus, this kind of “advancement” becomes an impediment.

Krishna Will Give It When You are Ready
Six years ago I prepared myself to be facilitate seminars to large audiences. I believed I was well trained, and as such, ready to facilitate seminars for crowds of thousands of people. But at this time only twenty or so people were coming to my seminars. I was getting upset and in my heart was asking Krsna (actually I was getting a little upset with Him) why He is not allowing me to be more successful. He answered loud and clear: “When you are more qualified I will send more people? Apparently I wasn’t ready to handle bigger results.

Confidence in Superior Instructions
Faith in guru
Faith is another aspect of self-confidence. The Krishna consciousness movement will spread throughout the world if we strictly follow the principles given to us. We don’t know exactly how it will happen, but nevertheless, the grace of Guru and Gauranga make it possible. So our faith in the success of our mission creates confidence in the success of our own service. (“They are already put to death, just be an instrument in the fight.”)

Acknowledge Your Success
It’s good to acknowledge your successes in a humble way, recognizing that you are successful because Krishna is on your team. As you celebrate Krishna’s successes in your life, you build the confidence that you can continue to achieve more and more success by Krsna’s mercy. Thus, you increase your spiritual self-confidence.

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Illuminations 54 – Responsibility


In this issue of Illuminations, we talk about responsibility. Responsibility means the ability to respond to a problem with a solution rather than with blaming. Prabhupada said that when we see something wrong in a temple, we should think that it is our responsibility that the problem exists and we should therefore do what we can to remedy the situation.

The Audio Newsletter

The lecture is available at the link below for download.

By taking more responsibility for our lives, we become more successful. Although taking full responsibility for everything we have done in the past, do in the present, and will do in the future might seem like a burden, it actually brings freedom and inner peace. How is this? By taking responsibility we no longer make others responsible for our happiness or success. Instead, we take responsibility for our own activities and results. We do not give reasons why we can’t do something, but instead we concentrate on what we can do.

In the past, disturbances in some places in ISKCON caused many devotees to leave the movement. Naturally, many of the devotees who remained were discouraged, and thus a lot of their energy was spent on thinking how bad things were. A more responsible attitude would have been to focus on what could be done to improve.  As one American president said, “Do what you can, with what you have, right where you are.”

Recognizing the harmful effects of blaming and complaining, a church came up with a “no-complaining” campaign that transformed their community. Complaining is like digging your own grave because with each complaint you convince yourself you cannot move forward. Complaints are all habits of self-sabotage and it is in our own interest to give them up. Taking responsibility is liberating, whereas complaining is binding.

No matter how much we feel we are victims, there is always another side to the story. A devotee once told me that her husband had taken money from their joint account, ran off with it, and left her with nothing. This woman was asked by a counselor to tell the same story again, but this time to tell it from the viewpoint that she was responsible for what happened. By telling the story from this perspective, she realized that she was foolish to have trusted her husband with a joint account because past experience showed that he was not trustworthy with their money. This shows that we often believe a problem is outside us when it is really within us.

One way to switch into the responsibility mode is to ask ourselves the right questions. Instead of asking “Why did they?” ask “How can I?”

Another question we can ask when confronted by a difficult situation is, “If I was a world expert on … (fill in the subject according to the problem – anger, self-control, management, communication) and was guiding someone who had the exact same problem I faced, what would I say to him or her?” The purpose of this question is to gain objectivity in our situation and to make us aware of the options we have in responding to a specific challenge.

To practice reacting to situations from a higher perspective ask yourself, “How would someone who is stronger, or more determined, or more intelligent, or more Krsna conscious react to this situation” Sometimes we think there is only one way to react to a situation, but not everyone reacts the same way to the same situation.

responsibilitySometimes taking responsibility can be overwhelming. Occasionally, things go wrong all at once and we may not necessarily have the capabilities or qualifications to deal well with the situation. We can take this as an opportunity offered by Krsna to learn how to persevere through these difficulties. We can think that Krsna is giving us an opportunity to become stronger.

Responsibility also means that when we have little control over a situation, we should act as we would want others to act.

Again, the bottom line is that we should not look at what can’t be done, but look at what steps we can take to move forward.

May you always think of Krsna,
Mahatma Das

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The Position of Guilt in Spiritual Life

We often fall short of our ideals. Thus, it is not uncommon for us to feel guilty from time to time when we fail to perfectly follow the practices of sadhana. However, guilt can play either a negative or positive role in Krishna consciousness depending on how we deal with it.Is it bad to feel guilty? Can we use guilt as an excuse for falling away from Krsna consciousness?  Is it right to forgive ourself, and if so, how do we do this? And isn’t it wrong to forgive ourself if we continue to make the same mistake? These are all important questions to answer and are addressed in the attached audio file.

The Audio Newsletter   

The lecture is available at the link below for download.

When our actions are out of alignment with our values, we feel guilt. When it’s too difficult for us to confront the guilt, we suppress it. We do this when we find it difficult to admit that something we are doing or thinking is out of alignment with what we know to be right. Vedic psychology tells us that the intelligence is activated to process our emotions (in this case guilt) when we fully confront / experience these emotions. Emotions carry information. But if we suppress our emotions, we also suppress the messages they carry. Guilt is telling us that we need to address what is out of alignment in our life. If we allow ourself to hear the message guilt brings, the guilt will motivate us to improve ourselves. However, if we don’t change and simply lament how bad we are, guilt will have a negative effect by keeping us in the mode of ignorance. Thus, we will feel so guilty that we won’t do anything to improve ourselves. Chanting with someremorse is recommended by Bhaktivinoda Thakura. We can think, “Krsna, I have sinned but please forgive me and please help me rectify myself. I am fallen but I want you. Please accept me and purify my heart.” This is healthy guilt and it moves us to improve ourself.  If we make a mistake and then feel guilty, and if this guilt impels us to improve ourselves, this guilt is very much wanted.We forgive ourself by accepting our conditioning (emotions) and simultaneously working to improve ourself.  We should be kind to ourself, not beating ourself up for making a mistake. At the same time, we should get back on our feet and rectify our mistake by insuring, as best we can, that the mistake will not be made over and over again. In some cases this might mean lowering our personal standards or goals to a level that is more achievable for us at the present time, and from this platform gradually working towards higher standards. We may fall down from time to time, but as long as we do not remain down, we are not failures. We are failures only if we stay down.It is important to realize that we often only learn by failing. So, if we cannot forgive ourselves when we fail, it will have negative repercussions on our advancement. After all, if you learn something valuable through failure, then you really haven’t failed.We will not always act in ideal ways, but the important thing is that our vision is set on Krsna conscious ideals and that we are determined to reach them despite the obstacles we face on the path.  Without a healthy level of self-forgiveness, we may lose our enthusiasm – or even give up our Krsna consciousness altogether.

enthusiasticThe order of Srila Prabhupada to us is to remain enthusiastic. If Lord Chaitanya and Lord Krishna are willing to excuse unintentional offenses and sins, then who are we not to forgive ourself, Mercy is given to those who deserve it the most, those who are most sinful. The fact that we are so imperfect totally qualifies us for Their mercy. Srila Prabhupada never rejected any disciple, no matter how fallen, as long as that disciple was willing to serve and continue to make the effort to advance in Krsna consciousness.

To remain enthusiastic in Krsna consciousness, we need to create the proper balance between self-forgiveness and rectification of our faults. Depending on how we process guilt, it will either be an impetus to advance in Krsna consciousness or a cause of keeping us down.

One may ask, “Should I remain self-forgiving even if I continually commit the same mistake?” If you continually commit the same mistake, and if the mistake is a serious one, it would not be correct or healthy to be continually self-forgiving. This could easily lead to blaming unfortunate situations or others for your mistakes, or for not taking your mistakes seriously. In this case, accepting full responsibility for your actions and rectifying your behavior is necessary means to forgiving yourself. As mentioned before, gradual steps to improvement may be necessary. At least you should be doing something to improve yourself.

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The Cause of the Problem

Below is a summary of this edition of the Illuminations newsletter. We discuss how, in the attempt to control our mind, we often are only deal with the effect, the thoughts, and not the cause of the thoughts. Thus the thoughts we try to control continually come into our minds. It requires looking more deeply into the nature of our consciousness.

May you always think of Krsna,

Mahatma das

The Audio Newsletter   

The lecture is available at the link below for download.

Where did that thought come from?
How can we control negative thoughts?  We must control them at their source. Thoughts are the effect of a deeper cause. The cause may be envy, jealousy, a desire to possess, control, or enjoy something or someone, a fear, something we wish to hide from others, pride, hatred, or beliefs that no longer serve us.

To change our thoughts, it’s essential to acknowledge that our thoughts, even the ones that are highly conditioned by past actions, have their roots in our own self-created soil. It may seem like they are coming from outside of us, but we must have the soil within us to nourish them. Otherwise, they will not take root. If, by chance, they do take root and you don’t nourish them, they will die.

I can’t conrol my mind
Devotees often say, “I am having trouble with my mind,” “My mind is difficult to control,” “My mind is giving me trouble.”   Why blame our problems on our mind?  Again, we must recognize that the cause of any trouble with the mind is self- created. Since thoughts are an effect, they reveal to us their cause. Change or root out the cause, and thoughts will change. This is Krishna consciousness.

We can’t control the mind unless we change the nature of our desire. Of course, we may be able to control the mind temporarily, just like we can temporarily control symptoms of disease. However, if we don’t eliminate the cause of the disease, the symptoms reappear.

Aligned with a higher purpose
The reason we have thoughts of envy, jealousy, pride, or hatred, is because we nurture these qualities. Why would we nurture them? We nurture them because we get something “desirable” from them. For example, if we hate someone, we may be thinking that the hatred allows us to get back at them for the wrongs they have done to us. In this case hatred serves a purpose for us. At the same time it harms us.  The irony is that we are the one creating those thoughts. Our envy creates the hatred, and then we suffer from it and regret having those thoughts.

When we have thoughts we don’t want or need, thoughts that don’t serve our higher spiritual aspirations, we are out of alignment. Our spiritual self wants one thing, but our mind often works against us and we end up with thoughts that make it difficult or impossible to properly achieve our spiritual goals.

The first step to dealing with this problem is to admit that we are allowing it to happen. Since we are the ones creating the problem, we can create the beliefs and desires that are in alignment with our highest needs, goals and aspirations. When we align our desire with our spiritual purposes, Krsna conscious thinking becomes natural and almost effortless.

Our thoughts affect others
Affecting thoughtsThoughts have physical waves and these waves affect others. If we think positively or negatively about a person, it affects them. We can see this with kids and pets. If we love and appreciate them, they feel it. If we are upset with someone, even if we don’t express the upset, they usually can feel it. If we expect or hope that someone will behave a certain way, either good or bad, our thoughts will affect them. This is why it is said a moment’s association with a sadhu can change one’s life. A sadhu’s Krsna conscious presence can deeply affect (and positively infect) our heart. This means that our Krishna consciousness, or lack of Krishna consciousness, will be experienced by others.

Elevating others begins at home
We should work to raise the consciousness of the world, not only by the way we behave, but also by raising our own consciousness.  When we go to a temple we feel elevated and blissful because of the Krishna consciousness of the other devotes in the temple. Imagine the effect that millions and millions of such devotees would have on the world. Prabhupada said that if  one percent of the world  would become Krishna conscious, then the whole world will change.

We are the only ones who can elevate the consciousness of the world. What we think today not only affects ourselves, but it also affects those in our world.

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The Golden Avatara in this age of Kali, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, asks us to do kirtana  in a humble state of mind with the tolerance and forgiveness of a tree. This instruction is not meant for the realized souls for they are already humble, tolerant, and forgiving. This instruction is for those who want to become realized souls.If we think forgiveness is not possible unless we are a saint, it’s worth considering whether this might be an excuse to hold onto resentment. We might think, “Since I am not pure I cannot completely forgive, so it’s natural to be resentful.” Since resentment can be a convenient way to blame someone or something for our personal problems, it’s a great scapegoat.It seems like resentment holds onto us and this is what makes it feel “natural.” But resentment is not holding onto us; we are holding onto to the resentment.Factually, we are keeping our resentment alive. If we stop feeding it, it will die.With spiritual advancement good qualities develop, but our advancement comes through the practice of good qualities before they fully manifest. In other words, the path to forgiveness is paved with the practice of forgiveness.

forgive without speaking ill about othersPracticing forgiveness means not speaking ill of people who have hurt us and not repeatedly telling others how badly we were hurt. Forgiveness offers the opportunity to practice saintly behavior by being kind to those who offend us. In the evolution of our spiritual progress we are meant to come to the point in which we do not wish ill to fall upon any one, even those who cause us pain.

Srila Prabhupada asked all his disciples, even those very new to Krsna consciousness, to cultivate the quality of forgiveness. If it wasn’t possible to practice forgiveness, even in the beginning stages of bhakti, he wouldn’t have asked us to do it. He knew that the practice of forgiveness would lead to genuine forgiveness. This is because it is normally easier to act our way into a new way of thinking and feeling than to think our way into a new way of acting. So if you ever ask yourself, “How can I forgive?” the answer is, “Just start practicing forgiveness.”
Also, forgiveness means to take responsibility for how we feel. So just because we feel resentful doesn’t give us the right to act, speak, and think in resentful ways.

Vedic literature is full of stories of forgiveness, compassion, tolerance and humility. Rather than see these as tales of exceptional souls whose behavior we cannot emulate, we can allow these stories to inspire us to practice the same qualities and attitudes as the great souls. With this inspiration in our heart we will attract the grace needed to genuinely become a forgiving person.

If we are having trouble forgiving, it’s likely we are keeping the fire of resentment burning and are unwilling to turn off the flame. The problem is that if we wait till we feel like forgiving, we could be waiting for lifetimes. Better to start the practice today. How? Start by turning off the flame under your pot of resentment.

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Determination and Conditioning

In remaining motivated there are different factors to consider. Let’s first look at creating an environment to support our goals. We discuss in our japa workshops about creating Sacred Space, an environment that supports good japa.   It’s a necessary ingredient for good japa.

The problem is that we are often our worst enemy. We often make it difficult for ourselves by being in environments that are not aligned with our desires. Sometimes we are the ones that create the very environment that work against us, yet we blame the environment for our problems.   Although creating Sacred Space is necessary – and we should force ourself to chant in a our Sacred Space – consistently chanting in a Sacred Space happens as an outgrowth of wanting to chant good japa.  Remember, our environment is a product of our own consciousness.

If we are want to chant good rounds but don’t create the proper space and time to chant well, we have a lifestyle that isn’t supporting this goal. If this is the case, it would be honest to say we are not really determined to chant good japa.  We may say, “No prabhu, I really do want to chant good rounds, but…” This likely means we are not willing to do what is necessary to chant really good japa.  It’s important to admit this so we know this is the real problem and deal with it.

Do You Want It or are You Committed to It?
Our activities need to be aligned with our goals. Yet often they are not. I want to lose weight but I don’t want to exercise. I want to be rich but I don’t want to work. I want to be learned but I don’t want to study.  And Iwant to chant good japa, but I don’t want to get up early, don’t want to give myself fully to my rounds, don’t want to …

Commitment and wanting are not the same. If we are committed, we do what’s required to get closer to our goal. If we just want something but are not committed, we won’t do enough to make it happen. When we are not committed, it’s likely we are making excuses why we can’t achieve our goal. Yet, in every excuse there is an unwillingness to do something needed to achieve our goal.

Is there anything you are unwilling to do to chant better japa? Whatever it is, these are the very excuses preventing you from chanting better japa.

Starving the Demon Within
Here’s another way of being motivated that I personally find effective. Krsna says to control the lower self by the higher self. One way I do this is toremind myself what my higher self wants and that I don’t want what my lower really thinks it wants.  When I find a conditioned response to a situation, I remind myself this is not what I want and this is not the way I want to respond: this is just my conditioned side acting up. I then reinforce to myself the way I prefer to respond. What this does is keep me in touch with my devotional side.

As Srila Prabhupada says, the devotee and demon are in the same body.  We want to nourish the devotee to health and starve the demon to death.

Focus on Where You Want to Go
focusConnecting with my Krsna conscious desires helps me to be focused on where I want to go rather than where I don’t want to go.  More important than where we are now, is where we are looking to go.  We progress by focusing on what we can do, not what we can’t do, on where we want to go, not why we don’t like where we are at.

Meditate on how wonderful it will be when we get a little closer to being where we want to be. Imagining how you will feel when you get there is motivating.  When I see a devotee with qualities and characteristics I would like to possess, I think how nice it would be to be like him or her.

The Sincerity That Brought Us to Krsna
When our actions are not aligned with our goals, we are allowing material nature to make decisions for us rather than deciding for ourselves. When we came to Krsna consciousness, we declared war on maya. We turned away from material life and didn’t allow material situations to influence our decision. We knew what we wanted and moved towards it.

This sincerity of purpose that brought us to Krsna is what will continue to keep us in Krsna consciousness. If we disconnect from this sincerity, we are weakening one of our most important life lines to Krsna.

Mental Impressions
There’s a problem with not overcoming our conditioning that we may not be fully aware of. When we allow our conditioning to motivate our actions, the conditioning is reinforced. When we act in Krsna consciousness, it reinforces our desire to serve Krsna. So the problem with any action that is out of alignment with our goals is that it reinforces the desire to perform those actions. To counteract this, we must act in alignment with our goals, even when we don’t feel like it. These actions will create the tendency to repeat themselves.

In Sanskrit these is known as samskaras, tendencies or mental impressions. We commonly refer to these as habits.

Start It Yesterday
If you wait to feel like acting before doing something that’s important, that’s not intelligent. You might end up waiting for a few thousands more lifetimes before you finally get around to doing it. You just need to act. When do you need to act? I hear you say, “Okay, I’ll do it tomorrow.” In America when asked when we want something done, if we are in a rush we say, “I want it done by yesterday.” So if you are hesitant in aligning your actions with your goals, I suggest you start on your new behavior yesterday.

The act itself will later produce the feeling to act that way again. If a person who says I am too tired to exercise waits till he feels like exercising, he may never do it. But if he just does it, he’ll feel better and eventually will love doing it. The point is that often you are not able to think yourself into a new way of acting but you can act your way into a new way of thinking.

Regarding japa, we want to build positive japa samskaras through regular good japa practices. Once we develop  positive japa habits, our japa will naturally be consistently good. It will just be the way you always chant japa.

Motivation is what gets you going. Habit is what keeps you going.

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How much sleep is enough? How much is too much. Some of us may need a little more sleep and some of us may need a little less. But when we are more Krsna consciousness, we all need less sleep. Atleast we want to sleep less.

This newsletter deals with these aspects in detail.

May you always think of Krsna,

Mahatma das

 Your Internal Alarm Clock

SP translatingSrila Prabhuapda did not like to sleep. He felt it was a waste of time. He once said I am praying to Krsna that I can live without eating and sleeping.

How did Prabhupada write his books while developing and running a worldwide movement? He awoke after a few hours of sleep and worked on his books all night. Bhaktivinoda Thakur did the same. He was able to write over 100 books while supporting a large family because he stayed up most of the night.

Successful people minimize their sleep in order to have more time. Yes, it’s their passion that keeps them so active, but passion is better than ignorance. Once Prabhupada found his servant and secretary sleeping for hours after lunch. He told them they are worse than the karmis, because the karmis are working, but you are sleeping. Clearly, Prabhupada did not want his disciples to sleep more than absolutely needed.

Prabhupada told Tamal Krsna Maharaja that learning to sleep less requires practice. Of course, it also helps to go to bed early, because every hour of sleep before midnight is twice as restful than after midnight.

Our body gets energy from our mind. When I am inspired in Krsna consciousness, I sleep less. A bored, frustrated , and depressed person will generally sleep a lot more than needed to avoid dealing with his miserable life. After all, there is not much to get up for.

We all have an internal alarm clock, so if we wish to sleep less we’ll need to reset our alarm.  How do you sleep less if you know you need a certain amount of sleep? Do you believe you need a certain amount of sleep because of your experience, or are you experiencing you need a certain amount of sleep because you believe you need that amount? If you don’t get the amount of sleep you believe you need, do you automatically tell yourself you are tired (or must be tired)?   It’s soooo early. Boy, am I tired.”

Of course, if you believe you need more sleep than you actually do, you probably don’t believe you are programmed to believe that.

Rising  when you would like to get up is best done by setting your internal alarm clock.  Of course, to program yourself to rise earlier, you need good reasons to be up that early. One of the best ways to give yourself these reasons is simply to start getting up earlier. Why? Because by doing this you experience the power of, and get a taste for, the early morning hours.

There are many devotees who are up every morning at 4, 365 days a year. How do they do this? They have internalized this time so deeply within themselves that every day they easily and naturally rise by 4 am.

Early morning is the best time for chanting and study. Prabhuapda wanted his disciples to be awake by 4 am. If you are not rising this early, there is probably nothing as transformational for your spiritual practice as to rise at this time. Your chanting and reading will be much more powerful and effective at this time. Plus, you will have more time to hear, chant, do puja, etc. before your day starts. This will make a huge difference in your life.

It’s all too easy to stay up late and rise just in time to eat and go to work without doing any spiritual practice before starting your day. This schedule undermines your spiritual life. The longer you do this, the more it becomes a habit. When you do this, you will struggle to find good time for quality chanting and reading.  Thus, the quality of your sadhana will usually only be a fraction as good as it would have been if practiced in the morning.

I notice that the less Krsna conscious I am, the more I tend to sleep. Eating, sleeping, mating and defending are grouped together. The more one advances in Krsna consciousness, the more these activities are reduced. That’s because these activities become less and less attractive as one advances.

So the mantra, “this is how much sleep I need,” if it is really more sleep than you do need, is tied to your level of spiritual advancement, your internal commitment to your spiritual practices, you inspiration in Krsna consciousness and a belief, conditioned by many factors, in how much sleep you need. But no matter how many hours you sleep, rise as early as possible.

Prabhupada often talks about being engaged in Krsna’s service from four in the morning to ten at night. What is significant about four to ten? These are the hours when we take care of the Deities. Krsna rises at 4:00 am and rests in the evening at around 9 pm (after putting Krsna to sleep, cleaning the pujari room, etc., the pujari will get to bed around 10 pm.

You should make it your goal to be awake by four in the morning because Prabhupada repeatedly told us we should rise by four. Impregnate this instruction in your mind with the mantra, “rise by four.” Here’s a story that might help you do this.

Tosana-Krsna took rest in another room, while Prabhupada went on writing all night, his pen scratching on the hollow wooden desk. Then, at four in the morning, Prabhupada rang the little bell Tosana-Krsna had left with him and called, “Tosana-krsna”

Tosana-Krsna came running. “Yes, Prabhupada?”

“It is four o’clock,” Prabhupada said. “You should get up.” Tosana-Krsna had run to the door without his glasses, so he hurried back to get them. He then ran back again to Prabhupada’s room and sat down before him. (Prabhupada-lila – Satsvarupa dasa Goswami)

If you just can’t rise by four, at least you should be awake during brahma muhurta, one and a half hours before sunrise.

One of the things that impressed me to maintain a schedule of early rising is the fact that many, many people are up at four or five in the morning meditating, doing yoga, exercising, running or walking. They are not necessarily up early just because it’s a good time to exercise. Many are up early because they are busy people. If they don’t rise early they won’t find the time to exercise. I find it a paradox to be sleeping while non devotees are already up and doing their own form of “sadhana.”

We are also supposed to be up that early. In a lecture Prabhupada simply says, …according to the Vedic system, everyone should rise early in the morning beforefour o’clock. (SB lecture 1.1.5-6)

Prabhupada explains, “We can observe that in demoniac societies the dark, late hours of night are considered most appropriate for recreational activity. When a demon hears that someone is rising at four o’clock in the morning to take advantage of the godly early-morning hours, he is astonished and bewildered.”

In Mayapura, where I am staying now, we see about three hundred pilgrims lining up at 4 am to get in the temple. Their culture is that when going on pilgrimage you attend mangala arotika.

“At four o’clock, attend the aratrika, mangala-aratrika. Mangala-aratrika means auspicious beginning of your day.” (Lecture on NOD, November 13, 1972)

How important is rising early. Giriraj Swami explains about his experience with Srila Prabhupada at the kumbha mela.

“The program was very rigorous, because it was bitterly cold at night and we were expected to get up at four o’clock in the morning and bathe and attend maìgala-arati. So a few staunch devotees like Tamala Krsna and Ha got up early-by three orthree-thirty-and walked all the way from our camp to the Ganges to take an early-morning bath. But those of us staying in the brahmacari tent were not so staunch, and generally when it was time to get up at four o’clock it was so cold out that we preferred to remain in our sleeping bags.

Srila Prabhupada also started to notice that some of us were coming late to mangala-arati and that some of us were not coming at all. Prabhupada became very upset about this, because he knew how important mangala-arati was for us. So one morning, although he was a little frail in health, he got up at four o ‘clockand came out in his gamcha sat down under the pump, and took that ice-cold bath early in the morning-just to encourage us to get up, bathe, and come to mangala-arati. That had a very profound effect on all of us, and we felt so ashamed that we just couldn’t sleep late any more.

When anyone asks me, “How can I make spiritual progress”? my answer is always, “Get up early.” I don’t only say this only because Srila Prabhupada stressed rising early. My personal experience is that even though I may be inclined to stay up late, one of the best things I can do for my spiritual life is to rise early.

What if we come alive at night and find it difficult to go to bed early. What if we naturally stay up late? This question not only relates to sleep, it relates to any practice in Krsna consciousness that seems to go against our nature.

We engage our nature in service. We don’t want to deny or repress our natural inclination and inspiration for service. But it’s different with sadhana. If we wish to make steady advancement in Krsna consciousness, a certain amount of sadhana is a must, whether or not we find it natural or easy.

Of course, there are choices in sadhana. I may like to read but am less inclined to puja. I may like to chant and do puja more than I like to read. That’s fine. But, there are five main activities to sadhana bhakti (chanting, hearing, associating, worshiping the Deity, and living in a holy place) that are most important. When done together they have a synergistic effect.

So when it comes to sadhana, the mantra must be, “We do it even if we don’t feel like it.”

If we are not rising early, how do we make the transition to become early risers? Inspiration is important. But inspiration doesn’t necessarily translate into continued action. Inspiration is often a fleeting enthusiasm. We might hear or read something that motivates us to improve our life, and for a few weeks we are inspired to continue our new way of thinking and acting. Unfortunately, it’s common to gradually lose the motivation to continue the practice.

When inspiration doesn’t last, it’s likely motivation was predominately another’s enthusiasm, understanding and realization, not our own. However, when it becomes something we really want to do, no one has to inspire us. We inspire ourself.

Sadhana means practice and sadhya means the goal of the practice. Sadhana is motivated by rules and regulations and sadhya is motivated by one’s own desire to engage in devotional practice. In sadhana one thinks, “I have to chant my rounds.” In the sadhya stage one thinks, “I want to chant my rounds. I get to chant my rounds.” In sadhana, sixteen rounds may be a struggle. On the sadhya platform, it’s difficult to stop at sixteen rounds.

By the repeated practice of sadhana, done properly, a natural desire to perform that activity gradually awakens. Yet, we still need motivation to keep us going in the sadhana stage. So how do we avoid going from initial inspiration to apathy?

Perhaps you are getting inspired to rise earlier by reading this article. Whether or not you make this desire your own will determine whether or not the inspiration translates into a regular practice.

Prabhupada explains in a lecture. Guru-mukha-padma-vakya cittete kariya aikya: “Make the orders of the spiritual master your life and soul.” And then, ara na kariha mane asa: “Do not think otherwise.” Simply accept what he says.

It doesn’t mean you initially need to develop an attraction for an activity to make it your own. Of course, in the long run the attraction must be there for you to maintain a regular practice. But, you can make it your own long before the natural attraction develops.

Why does a devotee do anything on a daily basis that’s not easy for him? It’s because the instruction to do it becomes, as Prabhupada said, “your life and soul.” The important question here is, “How do we make an instruction our life and soul?”

I doubt there is one answer for all of us. But I do know it’s an important question to ask ourselves.

Let’s look at possible answers to the question, “How do we make a spiritual practice ours?”

1. We may adopt a spiritual practice we don’t natural like doing knowing that eventually we will develop an attraction for that activity.

2. We strongly believe in the value of the practice, and wish to adopt values in our life that will inspire the practice

3. We understand (or bring ourselves to understand) the vital importance of the practice, causing us to make the activity a priority in our lives.

4. We envision the positive results of the practice and the negative consequences of living without it.

Of course, if we can follow Narottama dasa Thakura’s advice of “simply accept what he says,” we can alter our lifestyle immediately in accord with the instructions of our guru. Then, simply because Prabhupada said rise by four in the morning, we do it. This is the platform we should all aspire to reach. Whatever is my guru’s desire becomes my own desire.

From four in the morning until ten at night (from mangala-aratrika to Sayana-aratrika) there must be at least five or six brahmanas to take care of the Deity. Six aratrikas are performed in the temple and food is frequently offered to the Deity and the prasada distributed. This is the method of worshiping the Deity according to the rules and regulations set by predecessors. [C.c., Madhya 4.87, purport]

Everything is done in conformity to a regular standard. For example, all the temple members, without exception must rise by 4:00 A.M. and attend Mongal arotrik. Everyone living in the temple must agree to the standard by proper understanding of the philosophy of tapasya. We cannot expect our guests to follow all our principles, but whoever lives in the temple must follow. – January 12, 1974 to Mukunda däsa

Is rising early an instruction just for temple devotees? I believe it’s one of our most important practices, whether or not you live in a temple.

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The exercise in my last newsletter, Surrender to Surrender, is an exercise in honestly looking at your fears of surrender. We ask you to look at what you are holding onto and why. You ask yourself, “What am I afraid of giving up and why am I afraid of giving it up?” You ask, “Why do I think I won’t be happy if I give this or that up for Krsna?”

“Why?” is the important question to ask yourself.

The exercise is meant to help you realize the illusory nature of your concerns/fears about surrender, that most, if not all of these concerns are your own creations and have no basis in reality. This will enable you to see surrender as something sweet, as something to look forward to, as something easy and natural – and most importantly as something desirable.

By doing this you should see improved results in your chanting. As stated in the newsletter, these fears inhibit your willingness to call out fully to the name, to let the name control you and take you wherever it desires.

Here are two quotes from Srila Prabhupada to help you surrender. I have bolded several lines that I feel are important to emphasize.

Namah means surrender. Namah om namah, this is the way of chanting Vedic mantra. Om means addressing the Absolute, and namah means “I am surrendering.” Every Vedic mantra is begun om namah. Om means addressing. So this mantra is chanted with surrender, namah. Nothing can be done without surrender because our, this conditional life is rebellious life. We have rebelled against the supremacy of the Personality of Godhead… So without surrender, there is no question of making any spiritualprogress. Just like a person who has rebelled against the government– the first condition is to surrender; otherwise there is no questionof mercy from the government. Similarly anyone, the living entity, anyone of us who has rebelled against the supremacy of the Lord, the beginning of spiritual life is surrender.

There is no need of material qualifications for making progress on the path of spiritual perfection. In the material world, when one accepts some particular type of service, he is required to possess some particular type of  qualification also. Without that, one is unfit for such service. But in the devotional service of the Lord, the only qualification required is surrender. Surrendering oneself is in one’s own hand. If one likes, he can surrender unconditionally, without delay, and that begins his /her spiritual life”

Happy surrendering. It’s in your hand.

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As you may know, I often write about issues related to mind, emotions, and our conditioned nature, and address problems that are common to many devotees.  In this issue of Illuminations, I deal with one such problem: the opposing forces that exist within us.  We have Krsna conscious ideals, yet our conditioned nature often wants the opposite, resisting our deepest spiritual desires.

We need to find a middle ground – a place in which we acknowledge these competing natures and integrate them so we become balanced.  In this newsletter, I discuss how to do this.

The approach I use is largely psychological.  I have purposely chosen this approach in response to requests I receive to deal with issues that affect our spiritual lives from a psychological perspective.

This problem of duality within us is discussed in the Madhurya Kadambini by Visvanatha Chakravarti Thakura.  Of course, the solution to all problems is to advance in Krsna consciousness, because the problems we face are due to contact with the modes of nature.  The approach I take, however, is also important.  It will help us deal with our specific conditioning in a way that makes it easier for us to practice Krsna conscious from where we are at today.

May you always think of Krsna,

Mahatma das

Spiritual Schizophrenia

Without integrating our opposing natures, we can live like a “spiritual schizophrenic.”  For example, we appreciate the value of humility and thus desire to avoid faultfinding and become more aware of our faults.  We also make an effort to appreciate and humbly serve the devotees and avoid attracting attention to ourselves.  Yet, we also find within us a strong tendency to fault find, and the need for recognition and appreciation.  We may even become upset or dejected if we don’t get the acknowledgement or praise we believe we deserve.  This negative side often causes guilt because our actions are out of alignment with our values.

Don’t Deny Your Feelings

How do we deal with this?

The worst thing we can do is deny or suppress the contradictory feelings.  Don’t run away from or try to bury uncomfortable emotions.  Acknowledge the saint and the sinner within without resistance.  The more we connect with the uneasy feelings that accompany material tendencies, the more we will naturally integrate them through the intelligence of our emotions.

What does “intelligence of our emotions” mean?  As mentioned above, guilt sends us a message that we are out of alignment.  Thus, the process of integration, as I refer to here, is not a mental or intellectual exercise in which we analyze our feelings.  It is allowing us to feel …to experience two opposite emotions simultaneously.  In doing so, the integration (and balancing) of opposite forces begins to happen naturally.

saint-and-sinnerIntegration comes when the polar opposites of desiring to be a saint and desiring to be a sinner find a balance.  It is balancing the desire to be advanced beyond our realization with the desire to do (or fear of doing) something wrong, sinful, or degrading.  The result is we become a more unified and healthy person, someone who relates to, accepts and integrates both sides of himself.  We function happily and enthusiastically without being overly influenced by the extremes of attraction or repulsion.  Otherwise, our attractions and repulsions can push our life around.

 I Love You – I Hate You

Let’s look at a common example.  A man appreciates sexual control and detachment, yet is very attracted to women.  It is common that he will either resist acknowledging this attraction or resist experiencing how this makes him feel (which can manifest as false detachment, repulsion, or even infatuation with women).

In this case, integration is the center point between excessive desire to enjoy women and excessive desire to avoid them.  When a man integrates in this area, his interactions with women become healthy because there is less attraction and repulsion.  He will then make a better brahmacari or better grihastha.

When we are better able to integrate extremes, we will more easily accept where we are at without being overwhelmed by the “sinner within,” or frustrated by our inability to acquire immediate fulfillment of our higher spiritual aspirations

Polar Opposites are Pulling Me

It is important to find integration within our varna and asrama; otherwise, we may end up in love/hate relationships with people, spouses, services, or occupations.  For example, when not integrated, a married man who confronts constant difficulties in household life may lament that he should have remained single- or dreams of leaving his family responsibilities prematurely.

An older single man, in confronting his attraction to women, may regret not having married when he was younger (even though it is too late in his life to marry).

How does being out of balance affect work and service?  I may love doing something, but then I do it 16 hours a day and either end up hating the very thing I love or love doing it so much that I neglect other important aspects of my life.  Thus, what I love becomes the cause of disturbance.

Let us look at the dualities that relate to sadhana.  I relish chanting, but I also procrastinate on my rounds.  I like the early morning hours for sadhana, but I like to stay up late or I sleep more than I need.  I relish sadhana, but am a workaholic, and thus ruin my sadhana by allowing my work to be all-consuming.  I love to read and learn sastra, but also like to chill out or waste my study time in frivolous activities.

Integration is the Solution

Everything naturally aligns and flows without intense attraction or repulsion when integrated.  If polar opposites are too extreme, then we tend to oscillate between them rather than become a balanced combination of both.

Until we become more advanced, these contradictions will exist within us – at least to some degree.  Therefore, we need to face these dualities and deal with them well.  Doing so will begin to cure our “spiritual schizophrenia.”


Think of two opposing desires you have (it can also be a desire for something and a resistance to the very thing you desire.)

Think of what you desire and allow yourself to experience the feeling this desire produces.

Next, while feeling this desire, think of the exact opposite desire (or your resistance to what you want).

Allow yourself to experience both of these polar opposites simultaneously and to their fullest.

Feel the energy of these desires within you as opposite poles coming together and beginning to integrate.

Some other examples of this are:

I want to be a more surrendered soul, but I cherish my “freedom” and “independence.”

I want to be self-disciplined, but I love to be spontaneous (or strongly resist too much discipline).

I want to live a more simple life, but love to spend, collect, and expand.

I want to start important Krsna conscious projects, but don’t want to take responsibility of getting these projects going.

I have a strong desire to be peaceful, friendly, and kind, but I easily become angry, intolerant, and nasty.

I want to be more compassionate and thus do something to help others become Krsna conscious, but I resist doing the austerity required to do this.

I want to work together with a group and be a team player, but like being a loner, controller, or dictator (or all three).

Read more…


Srila Prabhupada, sastra and the acaryas have spoken about being totally dependent on guru and Krsna. Independence, we learn, is our disease. It is what brought us to the material world and what keeps us here. Is there such a thing, however, as too much dependence and not enough independence?

Continuing the theme of balance from the previous newsletter, we explore the balance between dependence and independence.

May you always think of Krsna,

Mahatma das

In the Gita, we find the word for balance, samah, translated as “equipoised.” The dictionary defines the word “equipoised” as a state in which various parts form a satisfying and harmonious whole and nothing is out of proportion or unduly emphasized at the expense of the rest. Arjuna is out of balance. He is the world’s finest warrior. He is being asked to protect religion and morality by going to battle. He refuses, choosing a life of renunciation and asceticism out of compassion for the opposing warriors, his kinsmen. Krsna speaks to put him back into balance.
Perform your duty equipoised, O Arjuna, abandoning all attachment to success or failure. Such equanimity is called yoga.(BG 2.48)

The Gita devotes much of its dialog to help Arjuna create balance in his life.

One who is equal to friends and enemies, who is equipoised in honor and dishonor, heat and cold, happiness and distress, fame and infamy… is very dear to Me. (BG 12.18)

Even after Arjuna overcame his resistance to the war, he was still hesitant to personally participate in the fight. Even though Krsna told Arjuna, “They are already put to death by my arrangement,” He still wanted Arjuna to fight. To let Arjuna off the hook would keep him out of balance.

Krsna wanted Arjuna to fight with balance and without attachment, to do it because it was the right thing to do. In fact, because Arjuna’s compassion and detachment were unsuitable for the situation, Krsna spoke the Gita to get Arjuna angry enough to bring the balance back into his ksatriya nature.

When Dependence and Independence Are Out of Balance
Now that we have established that balance is a fundamental theme in the Gita, and thus fundamental to a stable material and spiritual life, let’s look at the balance between being dependent on guru and Krsna and being independently strong.

Sastraexalts the position of total dependence. Bhaktivinoda Thakur and other acaryas have written many songs in which they clearly express their complete dependence on the mercy of guru and Krsna. In the Gita, independence is described as an asuricquality.

The demoniac person thinks: “I am the lord of everything. I am the enjoyer. I am perfect, powerful and happy. I am the richest man, surrounded by aristocratic relatives. There is none so powerful and happy as I am. I shall perform sacrifices, I shall give some charity, and thus I shall rejoice.” In this way, such persons are deluded by ignorance.(BG 16.14-15)

Can this attitude of dependence, however, be misunderstood and thus cause negative results? Can we be so dependent that we can’t function well in the absence of our guru or very advanced devotees? Or can we err on the side of independence to compensate for being too dependent, and thus develop what we believe to be a “healthier” attitude when it actually isn’t? Both are possible, and both are not uncommon.

Can’t Live without My Guru
I used to live in Los Angeles and Srila Prabhupada would visit there every year. I distinctly remember the temple population increasing when Prabhupada came (in the early days he would stay for months at a time), and decreasing shortly after he left. When Prabhupada came to LA, devotees we hadn’t seen since Prabhupada’s last arrival would show up, enthusiastically participate in devotional service, and then disappear into material life a week or so after Prabhupada left.

This phenomenon is even more apparent, and understandably so, when the guru leaves his body. Some devotees are unable to maintain their Krsna consciousness well – if at all – after the departure of their guru from this world.

I have lived through another phenomenon: the falling down of several gurus I was closely working with. A very telling thing takes place when this happens: some disciples fall apart and either become very weak, or leave Krsna consciousness altogether.

Some disciples, on the other hand, become stronger.

The Disciple Always Lives with the Guru 
This doesn’t mean a disciple should not be attached to his guru or advanced devotees, not want their personal association, not want to personally serve them, or not be dependent on their instructions.The problem lies in becoming so dependent on another’s mercy that one’s needs for personal association or guidance become unhealthy and disempowering.

Yes, Prabhupada did acknowledge the value of personal association.  We all benefitted tremendously from it and would go out of our way to get it. Prabhupada was generous with his association. When a senior devotee had a problem or became weak, Prabhupada would often invite the devotee to travel with him for a short time to regain his strength or suggest he spend time with a fixed-up devotee. Also, Prabhupada constantly travelled to give disciples his association. Therefore, it’s not that Prabhupada minimized the value of personal association. At the same time, (we’re talking about balance) he did say that vani (the words of the spiritual master) is more important than personal association, and that the disciple lives with the guru by following his instructions.

I had personal experience of this. When Prabhupada arrived in San Francisco for the 1970 Ratha-yatra festival, I, along with a temple room packed with shaven-headed brahmacaries, greeted him. He was so pleased to see us that he stopped at the temple room entrance for a few moments, relishing this wonderful site. He stood gazing over us with a smile that revealed the great pleasure he was feeling in seeing his movement expand. He then entered the temple, sat on his vyasasana,and began to chant Sri Guruvastakam, prayers to his spiritual master. I had never seen Prabhupada chant these prayers on his arrival to any temple, and I am not aware he ever did this again when arriving at a temple.

Why did he do this? It was a bit of a mystery. This mystery was later solved when the temple leaders revealed that Prabhupada told them how he was so pleased to see such a large number of effulgent devotees that he called for his guru maharaja to come and see. This reminds us that Prabhupada said he never felt alone in his early days in New York; he always felt he was with his guru.

While on sankirtana, those who distribute Prabhupada’s books feel a special closeness with him, a closeness his disciples would sometimes not even feel while sitting at his feet. Of course, all of Prabhupada’s disciples relished sitting at his feet and hearing from him, but when a devotee with important service would forgo the opportunity to be with Prabhupada to undertake this service, Prabhupada appreciated it.

Our Co-Pilot
What is healthy dependence and what is unhealthy (dysfunctional) dependence? Prabhupada used to say that every one of us must fly our own plane. We learn from our guru how to fly (dependence), and then fly our plane via his instructions (independence). As we follow his instructions, we feel even closer to him, as if he is sitting beside us. In other words, he is always our co-pilot.

In addition, flight school training never ends. The guru is continually teaching us how to improve our flying skills.

When Relationships Become Dysfunctional 
The word “dysfunctional” is popularly used today with regard to relationships. When a person’s happiness, or their ability to function normally, is too dependent on another person, their relationship is considered dysfunctional. How would this apply to Krsna consciousness?

Prabhupada said we should feel like a fool before our spiritual master. This means we should not proudly sit in front of our guru thinking, “I also know many things about life. I even know some things he doesn’t know.” Rather, we should think, “I am such a fool that I wasted unlimited lives in useless material pursuits and have thus remained entangled in material life since time immemorial. By my so-called knowledge I became expert at causing myself suffering. My guru is the one who can, and is, helping me get out of this material entanglement. On my own, I could never do it.”

After telling us we should feel like a fool before our guru, Prabhupada said, “But you should not act like a fool.” In other words, the instructions are there so we can stop being foolish.

No Strength of My Own
One devotee tells of his battles in his early days of Krsna consciousness. When he was opening a new center, his enthusiasm to continue came solely from the regular letters he received from Prabhupada. Each letter gave him enough energy to continue for another week. If he didn’t receive a letter within seven days, he would end up discouraged and depressed, sleeping for most of the day. As soon as he received the next letter, he would again become enlivened for about week. He found no strength within himself to continue without the constant encouragement and pushing he received in those letters.

No doubt we need encouragement and pushing, but Krsna consciousness doesn’t mean being so dependent on one’s guru or senior association that one cannot function well without constant inspiration, supervision and guidance.

When Srila Prabhupada left us, we all had difficulty. This is to be expected; but devotees who had the most association with Prabhupada often had the most difficulty living in his absence. His personal presence had become so essential to their spiritual lives that their Krsna consciousness could not thrive without it.

Always With my Spiritual Master
During the first years after Prabhupada’s departure, we struggled to realize how he was still present with us. Those that survived did so by realizing that hearing Prabhupada’s instructions and spreading his mission were how to remain most intimately connected with him. This realization still keeps Prabhupada’s disciples alive and well in Krsna consciousness today.

It has been my experience that the more responsibility I take up in Srila Prabhupada’s mission, the closer I feel to him, and the closer I feel with him. The more I try to be the devotee Prabhupada wanted me to be, the more I feel him guiding me. Association through separation is tangible, but it takes the proper consciousness to realize it.

We Are Already Blessed
The instructions of the guru are meant to make the disciple a pure devotee. A pure devotee imbibes the best of both worlds: being both self-sufficient and totally dependent. The dependence is on the instructions of the guru, while the independence is the strength and willpower to follow those instructions.

Prabhupada writes:

“Krishna Consciousness Movement is for training men to be independently thoughtful and competent in all types of departments of knowledge and action… There must be always individual striving and work and responsibility, competitive spirit, not that one shall dominate and distribute benefits to the others and they do nothing but beg from you and you provide. No. Never mind there may be botheration to register each center, take tax certificate each, and become separate corporations in each state. That will train men how to do these things, and they shall develop reliability and responsibility, that is the point.” (Letter: December 12, 1972)

The strength to follow the instructions is also the mercy of the guru, but the mercy is something that the disciple activates by his own willingness to inquire, serve and surrender. One devotee asked Prabhupada for his mercy so that he would be able to follow his instructions. Prabhupada replied, “My instructions are my mercy.” Devotees often ask for blessings from senior devotees. This is natural, and we need their blessings, but we should always remember that the real blessings are their words and service. The sadhus bless us with their instructions; we bless ourselves by following those instructions.

Don’t Be a Leaky Tire

Should we get the association of our guru(s) or advanced devotees whenever possible?


Should we always want to hear the instructions of our guru(s) and should our lives be dependent on those instructions?


The goal, however, is to become a living example of those instructions, to utilize those instructions to grow and to become stronger. In this way, we will attain the perfect balance of healthy dependence and personal initiative, fully utilizing the mercy that comes through following those instructions.

Otherwise, we can become a leaky tire that needs to be blown up constantly.

We need to:

·       Intelligently understand both the instructions given to us, as well as how they apply to our lives.
·       Know how to adjust two apparently contradictory instructions.
·       Know when an instruction may not be applicable in a certain situation.
·       Know that our guru lives in his instructions and we live with him by following those instructions.

Too Much Independence
How do we err on the side of being too independent? When disciples of Prabhupada disobeyed an instruction of his, considering it could be done in a better way, or if it was a compromise of Vaisnava principles, Prabhupada often called these disciples “over-intelligent.” When we use our intelligence in a way that is not aligned with guru, sadhu and sastra, we are being over-intelligent. This is certainly a misuse of independence. Reflecting upon my early days in Krsna consciousness, I realize I wasn’t “smart” enough to disobey Prabhupada’s instructions. As I became more “intelligent”, I found the tendency in myself to “intelligently” disobey.

We also misuse independence when we identify the abilities Krsna gives us as our own, and then become overconfident. One devotee relates that after becoming the number one book distributor in his zone, he became overly proud. Krsna then decided to humble him. As long as he remained proud, practically everyone he approached refused to take a book. Krsna clearly told him, “It’s not you who is distributing these books.”

We feel good thinking, “I did it.” Krsna feels good teaching us, “You didn’t do it.”

Arjuna Achieves Balance
dependence and independenceArjuna finally understood what Krsna wanted him to do. He told Krsna, “I am now firm and free from doubt and am prepared to act according to Your instructions.” (BG 19.73). It was only when he came to a balanced state that he could do this. He was no longer attached to not fighting or attached to fighting; he was attached to what Krsna wanted. When out of balance with his attachments and aversions, he couldn’t do what Krsna wanted. Once he had attained balance, resuming his role as a ksatriya, fighting valiantly became natural.

Similarly, with a balanced relationship with our guru and advanced devotees, we have the kind of dependence that results in a healthy independence.

Feel like a fool. Just don’t act like one.

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What is the relationship between effort and mercy? How much of our advancement depends upon our own efforts and how much depends upon the mercy we receive? In other words, can mercy actually be earned, and if so, how? And if it is earned, is it actually mercy?

In continuing our series on balance, I address these questions in the following newsletter (which is an edited transcription of a talk I gave a few years ago on the relationship between effort and mercy).

May you always think of Krsna.

Mahatma das

Who is in control?
How much control do we have over our spiritual advancement? It seems like we have a lot of control. After all, our choices affect our future. Yet Bhaktivinoda says, “Your mercy is everything to me.” This makes it sound like it is only through mercy that we advance. So how much of our progress depends upon the mercy of guru and Kṛṣṇa, and how much depends on our own effort?

Great devotees pray, “Kṛṣṇa, I don’t have any qualification to practice bhakti, what to speak about achieving it. I don’t even have the desire to practice bhakti.” Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur says, “My Lord, if you examine me, you will find that I have no good qualities. Therefore, please do not judge my qualifications. If you judge me, I have no hope.

We plead to the judge for his mercy, and if the judge is merciful he will reduce, or even dismiss, our sentence. Mercy means we are receiving something we don’t deserve. We might deserve to be in prison for our entire life, but if the judge shows mercy, he will reduce the sentence – or even let us go free. Mercy carries the connotation that we receive something we don’t deserve. We get what we haven’t earned.

This mood may cause us to conclude that if we have no qualifications whatever progress we make will be entirely dependent on the mercy of the Lord. We acknowledge that our past is so sinful that if Kṛṣṇa were to apply justice to our case, we would have no chance of entering the path of bhakti. This can make us believe that our own effort is of little or no value, and our progress is totally dependent on Kṛṣṇa’s mercy.

This is true. But it’s not the whole story.

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta perfectly solves this dilemma in the following statement:

“Unless we extend our best efforts earnestly, and qualify ourselves for the Lord’s mercy, it is next to impossible that we can be rescued from our fallen condition.” (From Thakura Upadeshu Upakdhyana markata-o-marjara nyaya).

I find the statement, “and qualify ourselves for the Lord’s mercy” enlightening. Qualify ourselves for mercy seems like a paradox. If I am qualified, it’s not mercy; if I am not qualified, it is. What’s going on here?

It’s true; we could not take up the path of bhakti in our present condition unless Krsna overlooked our disqualifications for practicing bhakti. However, there is more to this.

Ye yatha mam prapadyante.  Kṛṣṇa says Ireciprocate with the mood, devotion, attitude, and effort of my devotees.Krsna is saying He is responsive. If we give nothing, we get nothing. But if we give a little to Krsna, we get back much more than we gave. This is the meaning of mercy.

How much mercy do you need?
Krsna says in the Gita that I give intelligence to the sincere devotee so he can come back to Me.How much of this intelligence Krsna gives will depend on how much of it we need. If our needs to go back to Godhead are small, we’ll get a small amount of intelligence. If our needs are great, we will get a great amount of intelligence. This intelligence is Krsna’s mercy on us. The amount we get, or don’t get, is dictated by our desire.Anyone can get Krsna’s mercy, but devotees are the ones who show Krsna they want it. We don’t just sit down and wait for mercy. We pray for it and we act in a way to get it. We make the first move. Kṛṣṇa could have done everything in the battle of Kuruksetra, but he wanted Arjuna to do it..Once Arjuna stood up to fight, Krsna did the rest. This means is not bhakti to sit down and expect Krsna to do everything for us.

“Stand up and fight, O Subduer of the Enemy.”

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta tells us that we cannot get out of the material entanglement without Krsna’s mercy, yet we are told that the mahatmas constantly endeavor for perfection. Still confused? Is there a formula? Is it 10% effort and 90% mercy? The answer is found in the pastime of Damodara.

Two fingers short
damodar lilaOnce, mother Yasoda wanted to punish Kṛṣṇa for being naughty.So she decided to tie Him up so He couldn’t do more mischief. But the rope she was using was too short. So she went and brought more rope, but strangely it was still too short. She couldn’t figure out what the problem was. To make sure the rope would be long enough, she borrowed ropes from the neighbors. Cowherdsmen have lots of ropes, and she got enough rope to tie Him up many times over. Yet it was still two fingers short.So she was trying, trying, and trying to tie Krsna up, and He wouldn’t allow it. Finally, when she was totally exasperated, Kṛṣṇa agreed to be bound by her (love). In a commentary on this verse by Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, he says that thetwo fingers represent effort and mercy. So how much effort is enough? As much effort as Krsna decides we need to put forth. As Prabhupada says, “God is not cheap.” We do have to pay a price for mercy. But we pay little and get much.

isvarah sarva-bhutanam

“I am situated in the heart of everyone and directing their wanderings according to what they want. I give them remembrance, and from me comes knowledge and forgetfulness.”
Krsna givesus what we desire (whichworks well when we desireHim).However, if we don’t desire Him, a word of caution is in place. Be careful about what you desire. You might get it.

Krsna resides in the heart
According to Christian philosophy, Jesus is knocking at the door of our heart. We open the door and let him in. If you let him in, you will be free from your sinful activities and go back to heaven. But vaisnavas understand that Kṛṣṇa is already in the heart. So there is no outside door to open. But if He is already in our hearts, then why are we not automatically becoming purified?The story of Kṛṣṇa wanting to hide from Kamsa is interesting. Krsna says if I hide in his heart, he won’t find Me because he won’t be able to see Me there. So Kṛṣṇa can hide in our hearts for lifetimes, and since we don’t know He is there, or we don’t turn to Him, we don’t get purified.

In the spiritual world Krsna does not exist in our hearts. He only exists in our hearts in the material world. Why? To guide us back to Him – or to guide us away from Him.

Isvarah sarva-bhutanam
hṛd-deśe ‘rjuna tiṣṭhati
bhramayan sarva-bhūtāni
yantrārūḍhāni māyayā

The Supreme Lord is situated in everyone’s heart, O Arjuna ,and is directing the wanderings of all living entities, which are seated, as on a machine, made of the material energy.

sarvasya cāhaḿ hṛdi sanniviṣṭo
matta smṛtir jñānam apohanaḿ ca

“I am seated in everyone’s heart, and from me comes remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness.”

This is dangerous. If Krsna helps us forget Him, watch out! We are going to have a hell of a time (literally).

Daksha loses his head
In the Srimad Bhagavatam, there is a story about Prajapati Daksha. He did a yajna in which all the demigods assembled to honor him. When Daksha came to the yajna arena, Lord Shiva and Lord Brahma did not get up to show respects to him. All the other demigods, all the other personalities present there, stood up. Brahma did not stand up to offer respect to him because Brahma was his senior, the father of Daksha. Lord Shiva, however,he was his son-in-law and  Daksha expected that Lord Shiva would stand up to offer him worship (at the time Lord Shiva was deep in meditation) and thus Daksha exploded in anger. He became so upset that he blasphemed Lord Shiva and told him that he will not get any share of the yajna.The whole scene then became a mess. Fighting ensued, and Daksha physically lost his head. He was eventually brought back to life and his head was replaced with a goat’s head (he could still function with human intelligence). He obviously realized he made a huge mistake and thus apologized to Lord Shiva, even though he had been harboring strong resentment towards Lord Shiva ever since Lord Shiva married his daughter.

In his next life he again took birth as a prajapati (progenitor). He gave birth to many sons whom he intended to become prajapatis to populate the universe. Narada muni preached to his sons the KISS philosophy (“Keep It Simple Sadhu”), and convinced them not to marry. The sons followed this advice, and like any materialistic father, Prajapati Daksha was upset.

However, he tolerated this “transgression.”

But the same scenario repeated itself with more of Daksha’s sons. This time Daksa couldn’t contain himself, and he cursed Narada that he would not be able to stay in one place for more than three days.

The acaryas say that because Daksha did not fully forgive Lord Shiva in his past life, he carried the remaining vestiges of resentment into his next life. Thus, this resentment again resurfaced and he offended Narada.

This shows that our desires and aspirations from one life carry over to the next life. Kṛṣṇa causes us to remember desires of the past and continue in that same consciousness in the present life. Why does He do this? Wouldn’t it be better for us to start with a clean slate and thus develop a better consciousness? He does this because we want it. Again, we must be careful what we desire.

Krsna gives intelligence
teṣāḿ satata-yuktānāḿ
bhajatam prīti-pūrvakam
dadami buddhi-yogaḿ
taḿyena māmupayanti te

“To those who are constantly devoted and worship me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to me.”

When we want to be Kṛṣṇa conscious, what does Kṛṣṇa do? Kṛṣṇa says, dadāmi buddhi-yogaḿ taḿ- I give intelligence. Kṛṣṇa can also give us intelligence to give the most “scientifically” astute argument to prove that He does not exist. We could write phenomenally intellectual treatises proving that there is no God. We might even get a noble prize for being the most intelligently foolish person in the universe. But “buddhi-yogaḿ” is a different kind of intelligence – the intelligence to connect with Kṛṣṇa.

Once there was a devotee called Arjuna Acharya. He was very poor. He and his wife had only one piece of cloth that they would wear alternatively whenever they would go out in public, so they could not even go out together. They did not have any food in their house. They used to go out and beg. Sometimes they could not get anything at all. Once, Arjuna Acharya was reading a verse from Bhagavad Gita.
ananyāś cintayanto māḿ
ye janāḥ paryupāsate
teṣāḿ nityābhiyuktānāḿ
yoga-kṣemaḿ vahāmy aham

“But those who worship me with exclusive devotion, meditating on my transcendental form – to them I carry what they lack and preserve what they have.”

This means if we give ourself to Kṛṣṇa, we don’t have to worry how we will live. Kṛṣṇa will take care of us. He will personally deliver what we lack.

While reading this verse Arjuna Acharya thought that Kṛṣṇa is not personally coming to my help. He thought that Kṛṣṇa helps through his material energy, but He doesn’t personally do it. So he took a red pen and crossed out the lines that say He personally preserves what his devotee has and carries what he lacks.

He then went out for begging. The entire day he could not get anything. While he was out begging, an incredibly beautiful boy and his brother showed up at Arjuna Acharya’s house. They were carrying a stick on their shoulders that the held two large baskets filled with grains and vegetables. The boys knocked on the door.

“Mataji, your husband asked us to bring these groceries to you.”

Looking at the small boys carrying all those heavy groceries she said, “How cruel of my husband to ask you to carry all that weight. You are so young.”

She then noticed three red lines on the chest of the boy. Worrying about Him she asked, “Can I help you? Are you in pain?”

“Your husband did this to me.” the boy replied.

She felt so bad for Him that she invited him in and started cooking for him. While she was cooking, the boy left, knowing that Arjuna Acharya was coming back. He did not want Arjuna Acharya to see Him.

When Arjuna Acharya came back, he saw his wife cooking. He asked her, “Where did you get all this food?”

She said “I got it from the poor boys you sent”. “How could you be so cruel and ask them to carry such a heavy load?”

“I never sent any boys. What are you talking about?” Arjuna Acharya said, now confused by what was happening.

“One boy said you asked them to bring the food. He was the one who had three little red marks on his chest. He said you made those marks there.”

Arjuna Acharya realized that the boys were none other than Kṛṣṇa and Balaram. He went into ecstasy and said, “O Gopinath!”

He said to his wife, “Do you realize you just got darshan of the Supreme Lord! How fortunate you are!”

Sincerity is our decision
Now let us go back to the topic of what we control and look at it from another perspective. Sometimes we may question how much control we have over our own efforts? Once Srila Prabhupada was asked “How do we become sincere?”Prabhupada said, “By being sincere.”

So, we actually have control over the degree of sincerity we manifest in our service. We cannot hold somebody else responsible for our lack of sincerity. Sincerity is our decision, our choice to be sincere. Be sincere and Krsna will give His mercy.
pārtha naiveha nāmutra
vināśas tasyavidyate
na hi kalyāṇa-kṛt kaścid
durgatim tāta gacchati

“Son of Prtha, a transcendentalist engaged in auspicious activities does not meet with destruction either in this world or in the spiritual world; one who does good, my friend, is never overcome by evil.”

Here, ‘doing good’ is dependent on our sincerity. It is our sincerity that brings us to Krsna consciousness, and it is our sincerity that keeps  us in Krsna consciousness. Though to be sincere or not to be sincere is our personal choice, the results we get in Kṛṣṇa Consciousness are not in our hands.

You cannot force Krsna
There was a devotee who rejected Srila Prabhupada and took shelter of another guru. This devotee wrote a letter to Srila Prabupada to give justification for leaving Kṛṣṇa Consciousness. He said that the real teaching is that we should chant constantly to get prema, and he told Prabhupada without chanting 64 rounds you cannot get prema. Prabhupada replied to his disciples, “You cannot force Kṛṣṇa to give prema, even if you are chanting one hundred rounds a day.”

We have a choice to be sincere, but we cannot force Kṛṣṇa to produce any specific results. We are dependent on His mercy for the results.

A temple in Japan
In 1972, Prabhupada was in Japan, and he wanted to open a temple there. At the time there were about 30 temples in the world, and Prabhupada wanted to open108 temples before he left this world. So opening new temples was important to him. Prabhupada said, “Whoever opens a temple in Japan, Lord Caitanya will personally come and take back to Godhead.”It is not so easy to go back to Godhead. There are many stages that one must cross in order to attain pure love of God and to realize one’s eternal relationship with Krsna. Prabhupada also showed us what is required to go back to Godhead when he said, “If we have even a little pinch of material desire we will have to take another birth.” So how is it that Prabhupada is saying that Lord Caitanya will take a devotee back to Godhead when the devotee is not fully qualified?

Opening a new temple in Japan was important to Prabhupada, yet he didn’t want to force anyone to take on this challenge. So he made an amazing offer (which, of course, only he could make). If anyone made the sacrifice to sincerely dedicate themselves to this project, he would be so indebted that he would personally petition Mahaprabhu to take them back to Godhead. This is how mercy works.

No mercy for the sannyasi
Once, a sannyasi wanted to do the parikrama of Mother Ganga. He went to ask for the permission from his guru, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur. Although he did not get the permission, he decided to do the parikrama anyway. When he returned and informed Srila Bhaktisiddhanta that he had done the parikrama, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta was not pleased and took away his sannyasa. The point is that you cannot get results by doing something that is so called Kṛṣṇa Conscious if it is not pleasing to the one whose mercy you require.

The japa tree house
In Mayapur there was once a devotee who had attended the Gaura Purnima festival and wanted to chant 64 rounds a day. To do that he felt it best to not associate with other devotees as he would be distracted from his japa. So he built a tree house ona secluded section of the property and lived and chanted his rounds there. This came to Prabhupada’s attention several times and he finally said something along the lines of as soon as you say “I want,” it is maya. So what would he get by chanting 64 rounds a day? According to Prabhupada he would get maya.
Our efforts and Kṛṣṇa’s mercy both work together. If we are engaged in Kṛṣṇa Consciousness wholeheartedly, following the orders of guru and Krsna, then Kṛṣṇa will carry what we lack. By mercy we can do things we normally would not be able to do, and achieve what we normally would be unable to achieve. Devotional service is a partnership.

Act like everything depends on you, and pray like everything depends on God.

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