Some suggestions on how to stay inspired.
Somehow, it happens that our motivation in Krishna consciousness may falter. Usually that faltering comes in the form of lacking the desire to do some practical service, associate with devotees, or develop our spiritual practices, such as improving the quality or quantity of our chanting or of our reading of Srila Prabhupada’s books. Whenever this happens to me or a friend, I realize the urgency and fragility of devotional service and the importance of remaining inspired. How can we proactively and practically manage our own level of motivation in our devotional lives? How can we inspire ourselves and others in moments when our inspiration is lacking? This article humbly attempts to provide practical insights into how to maintain one’s enthusiasm and motivation in Krishna consciousness.
Chant in the Morning
“There never seems to be enough time in the day.”
Quite honestly, besides the Hare Krishna mantra this is my other daily mantra.
Some years ago a devotee whose advice I value told me to “just try” to chant sixteen rounds on my beads every day, and specifically in the morning before leaving home. If I were able to do so, he said, Krishna would clear a path for me: My day would be increasingly efficient, and I would find extra time in the evenings for other devotional activities. I’ve since also discovered that feeling stressed or overwhelmed about daily tasks occupies much more time than we realize. Chanting in the morning helps clear the mind and thus makes us far more focused and productive throughout the day. The same devotee also told me that the material world is one of exploitation and deceit, and chanting in the morning places a protective shield around us that prevents others from hurting us.
Considering the copious amount of time we make for so many people and activities in a given day, why not make some time for the most important person, Lord Krishna, at the onset of our day—to talk to Him, associate with Him, and tell Him we care about Him? Whether for ten minutes or two hours, beginning the day by associating intimately with Krishna is incredibly sublime. Chanting our rounds is the basis for a spiritual day. Committing to a certain amount of chanting each day will help maintain and increase our motivation in Krishna consciousness. If we can try to chant in the morning, we stand an even better chance. While it may sound overly simplistic, chanting is the answer to everything. There’s a reason Srila Prabhupada coined the phrase “Chant and be happy.” And as far as possible, finish those rounds in the morning.
Remember that Krishna Is a Person
Perhaps this too sounds overly simplistic.
When we want to express affection for a friend or family member, we try to cultivate and nourish our relationship by expressing love and service through multiple acts of kindness, affection, and love. At every moment of every day Krishna is expressing His kindness, affection, and love for us. He is the friend who longs for us to associate with Him. He is with us always, willing us to Him. But to love Him is to exercise our free will. He can’t force us to love Him, because it takes the nectar and sweetness out of the relationship.
If you’ve ever put more effort into a relationship than you’ve received, then you know that this is a painful position. When you feel unmotivated, try to think about how much Krishna has blessed you with, and how little He asks for in return. Remember that He is your friend, longing for a loving reciprocal relationship with you. If we just pay some attention to Him daily through chanting and other services, we will feel His reciprocation. One of the best ways to keep the desire to know Krishna better is to serve and associate with His devotees. They provide much inspiration by being naturally happy, devoted, and loving. Srila Prabhupada has provided us with a home within which to take advantage of their association.
Scrub a Floor
Yes. Scrub a floor.
Srila Prabhupada said that cleaning the temple floor will clean the heart. When we feel unenthusiastic in our Krishna consciousness, rendering menial service, particularly in the association of devotees, can have a profound effect.
Before the Rathayatra festival in Jagannatha Puri, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and His associates would clean every nook and corner of the Gundicha temple, where Jagannatha, Baladeva, and Subhadra spend a week as part of the festival. With meticulous attention to detail, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and His associates cleaned the temple with deep love and determination.
In the Chaitanya-charitamrita Srila Prabhupada explains how the cleansing of the Gundicha temple is a metaphor for the cleansing of our own hearts:
To give us practical instructions, Lord Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu cleansed the temple twice. His second cleansing was more thorough. The idea was to throw away all the stumbling blocks on the path of devotional service….
By His practical activity, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu informed us how to cleanse our hearts…. The Lord was very pleased with those who could cleanse the temple by taking out undesirable things accumulated within. This is called anartha-nivritti, cleansing the heart of all unwanted things. Thus the cleansing of the Gundicha-mandira was conducted by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu to let us know how the heart should be cleansed and soothed to receive Lord Sri Krishna and enable Him to sit within the heart without disturbance.
—Sri Chaitanya Caritamrita, Madhya-lila 12.135, Purport
Menial service has a profound effect. Whether the service is washing dishes, cutting vegetables, or scrubbing the temple floor, it will transform our hearts and minds and thus make us more receptive to the mercy always available to us. And there’s an added benefit: Menial service in the association of devotees strengthens relationships with those devotees in real, perceptible ways that leave us feeling loved. Our inspiration to reciprocate with them and other devotees will keep us protected, motivated, and grounded in our Krishna consciousness.
Share—Any Way, Any How
Sharing what you know about Krishna consciousness is a truly transcendental experience. Share prasada, distribute books, or share whatever you know, no matter how little you think it might be. The knowledge you share will strengthen for you, and you will help others discover their own relationship with Krishna. When that happens you will feel Srila Prabhupada’s and Krishna’s reciprocation immediately. What better way to stay motivated? To share Krishna consciousness, on a small or larger scale, is both inspiring and humbling. Give it a try, and you’ll see your enthusiasm and motivation in Krishna consciousness multiply.
Keep a Journal
Writing can be an extremely effective and powerful tool for reflecting on our realizations and motivation. Many devotees enjoy regularly writing letters to Srila Prabhupada or Krishna. It is a sweet, simple activity that will bolster your relationship with Krishna. Writing honestly and sharing their thoughts on paper is a therapeutic motivational exercise for many devotees.
Maintain an Attitude of Gratitude
A moment’s reflection on what Srila Prabhupada has given us will ensure that we carry out our devotional service with proper gratitude and motivation. Gratitude is a powerful instrument: It breeds sincerity and a concentrated effort to progress in our spiritual life.
These are some small but practical methods we can apply in maintaining and increasing our motivation in Krishna consciousness. To feel unmotivated at times is natural. But if we can use those times as opportunities to grow and go deeper in our spiritual life, we will emerge stronger and even more inspired to engage in devotional service. “Just try.” We only have everything to gain.