Last week I was asked, “What’s the most important practice for advancing in spiritual life?” Srila Prabhupada said chanting of Hare Krishna 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 Krishna.
I agree. But I think there is a principle even more fundamental than this.
OUR VERY DESIRE TO ADVANCE IN SPIRITUAL LIFE IS THE CORE CONDITION UPON WHICH OUR ADVANCEMENT IS BUILT.
“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 disengaging 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 Krishna consciousness above all other things.
IT IS THIS TRANSCENDENTAL GREED THAT IS OUR LIFELINE TO Krishna CONSCIOUSNESS.
So yes, association of the pure devotees and sadhus and chanting Hare Krishna are the most important practices. But the point is that if a sufficient level of intensity to become Krishna 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 Krishna 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 Krishna 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 sincerity, that driving force that first brought you to Krishna, 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 Krishna consciousness is all about.
Yes, Krishna consciousness is available. You can purchase it from this Krishna 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 Krishna, immediately. Krishna is not poor, and the Krishna -seller—the Krishna devotee—he’s also not poor. He can distribute Krishna 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 Krishna conscious can go into a state of slumber. Have you ever been in a situation when your desire to be Krishna 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.
I 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 blank)
I am not the same now as when I first started practicing Krishna consciousness
I have to …………….. (fill in the blank)
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 Krishna 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 one needs to be to get Krishna.
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 Krishna conscious, from being eager and having laulyam for Krishna. And when you look at your list, ask this question; Is it absolutely true that this is preventing me from being eager to be Krishna conscious?
And the resounding answer must be, “Of course it is not absolutely true that this is preventing me from being Krishna conscious.” If you really want Krishna, 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 an even longer list when you were first coming to Krishna. But you didn’t. Why? Because you were eager for Krishna. And that eagerness burns that list to pieces.
One of the most deceptive forms of maya is to use Krishna conscious philosophy to keep us away from Krishna. This happens when we understand the words of scripture or of our gurus in a way unknown to us, and actually create beliefs that keep us down in Krishna consciousness. What can happen (and often does happen) is we think we are reading and understanding scripture, but we are 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 Krishna 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 into 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, already available, and thinking that advancement is something mystical; like a rain of mercy that automatically makes one Krishna 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 Krishna conscious. And although there is validity in that, the thinking that those situations in and of themselves will make me Krishna 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 Krishna 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.