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Why do I do what I do?

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This is a good question for any of us to ask regularly. It means that there are layers of meaning in anything we or anyone does. We have to be introspective to understand our conditioning, and how it negatively impacts our life and our relationships. This is what I understand to be part of the process of "anartha nivritti" or retiring unwanted thinking patterns which manifest as unwanted actions, and sometimes offenses to devotees and Krishna.

Shrila Prabhupada compared chanting the Maha Mantra, or Hare Krishna mantra to boiling ghee. When we make ghee we boil butter on the stove and remove the "milk solids" so that we end up with a wonderful cooking medium ( which is also use in many others ways, like in a fire ceremony [agnihotra]). In a similar way when we chant, our anarthas or impurities come to the surface and have to be removed.

To remove these anarthas we have to be aware of them. History has taught us that this awareness is not easy even if an anartha is right in front of one's face. In addition, we may not know what to do with them if we do see them, or we deny them. Amazingly, yet within most of our experience, people are often attached to what is not good for them. Sometimes our whole identity can be tied to some of our anarthas, or we may give them another name, or rationalize them saying "that is just the way I am".

Another way to look at the above question is to say what is my real motivation in any activity?

Let us take some type of service, say offering an arotik at the Temple which is recommended. (Having served as a pujari [temple priest] for many years I am quite familiar with this one). In one sense---hopefully the main sense, we are doing it for purification, but what else is there? Do I want to look good or impress others, or maybe to counteract some improper action I have done (as atonement) etc? We have to think about it. This doesn't mean I can only engage in Krishna conscious activities if I am completely pure---they are meant for our purification and we have to start from where we are at---but we have to learn to see our motivations and pray to make advancement.

I do like the application of the Bible verse: "Ask and it will be given" to everything in our life. In other words, if you don't ask such questions of yourself and Krishna (what is my motivation?) than you won't get an answer. We won't find what we don't see or aren't unaware of. This goes back to the idea that we can't remove or pray to have removed what we are not conscious of, and may in fact be attached to and arguing for.

Of course sometimes Krishna may force us to be aware of something, like when we are in some sort of crisis. Yet it is better to not have to go to that extreme (though Krishna's 2X4 method is effective, i.e. a smack to our head). We have to do our part to pray that we are aware of our anarthas, and that we can become completely purified through chanting and engaging in the 9 processes of devotional service.