Shoulding, Profiling, Aspiring or Being?
In some cases we are completely blinded by our shortcomings and why we seem to be attracting the same old stuff into our lives, or why we don't have friends, or money, or don't have a taste for our spiritual practices. Even though in our estimation certain things shouldn't be happening to us (of all people), there are reasons for everything, and the primary reason for our life situation is to be found by looking in the mirror. You may think you had terrible parents, poor upbringing and social status, insufficient good looks, intelligence, education---you can fill in the blank---but your life is your creation (arranged by Krishna's material nature)--it is your karma, and the karma you created. The problem is YOU, not others!--but don't worry that is progress because by knowing a problem you can seek the solution. You are the pure soul and not your sad or even happy (?) story--arise O soul, armed with yoga stand and fight, with the help of the Light of Krishna's love you will be victorious!
Much of our scriptural reading and discussions are about the superlative attractive nature of God, especially his most intimate loving feature as Shri Krishna and Shri Radha, or Lord Chaitanya and Lord Nityananda, and our nature as souls to happily serve them. We study the pure nature of God and his godly devotees decorated with all good qualities.
In addition we have descriptions of the pitfalls of living in the material world (duhkhalayam asasvatam, temporary miserable place Bg 8.15), our conditioned nature to be a false enjoyers which causes us to suffer repeated birth, disease, old age and death on the never ending treadmill, going up to heaven, remaining on Earth, or descending into hellish worlds. And finally we have the solution to the problem by taking shelter of an advanced Vaishnava (Krishna devotee) and engaging in chanting the holy name and serving Krishna under his or her guidance so we can revive our eternal prema or love for God.
It is important to hear about the do's and don'ts, and what we are trying to attain. At the same time, as the well worn saying goes, "Don’t just "should" all over our self" or each other." "Should" is used here as in what we leave in the bathroom after answering the serious call of Nature after a huge feast. Even human waste has it uses of course, but not thrown at ourself or one another. I suppose this could be taken as a bit gross--sorry for that--and it is a rather warn expression, yet it is intended to make a point and give rise to questions by giving a graphic image. In general I think it is a helpful practice for our outreach to consider if the expressions and current of the day have any validity for explaining Krishna consciousness. So: Does this expression have any application for devotees of Krishna, and if so, what?
For me the question this expression can bring up for devotees is, "When is it appropriate to give “shoulds” to ourself or others?"--as in "you should do this". The obviously implication is that giving instructions or moral critiques to ourselves or others can done properly or importunely. This is more often used in relation to negative, critical self talk, though how much does this apply to our dealings with others?
The idea here is that in addition to knowing what we should be doing, having a blogger tell us what we should be doing, or telling others what they should be doing, we have to really, really understand who we are now in our conditioned body and mind, as in "Be Here Now", or “Act in times that are with thee.” Another expression comes to mind, “When you point the finger at a person, four point back to you.” Thinking of theory or moralizing at others is easy, yet knowing how or if it SHOULD be imparted isn't always.
I heard a story that illustrates this point told to me by a lady devotee. When she lived in the ashrama she once became very sick for months and couldn’t get up to do any service. For a month another brahmacarini was trying to instruct her that she wasn’t the body and SHOULD continue to serve no matter what. Finally after continually trying to enlighten her sick friend with the conclusive truth of the Gita, she became so frustrated that she threw the Gita at her unsubmissive “student”. This is of course an extreme example though it can gives us pause in our normal dealings.
We have to know our self, know the person we may want to give advice to, and our relationship to them. Although these are truths, the application is challenging. My wife has a business as a counselor because of this fact. Actually to be fair, often devotees know who they are and what to do, but they don't trust themselves--but that is another topic.
Not knowing our self, either materially or spiritual has disastrous consequences. In some cases we are completely blinded by our shortcomings and why we seem to be attracting the same old stuff into our lives, or why we have conflicted relationships, a lack of friends, or money, or don't have a taste for our spiritual practices. Even though in our estimation certain things SHOULDN'T be happening to us (of all people), there are reasons for everything, and the primary reason for our life situation is to be found by looking in the mirror.
You may think you had terrible parents (I used to), poor upbringing and social status, insufficient good looks, intelligence, education---you can fill in the blank---but your life is your creation (arranged by Krishna's material nature)--it is your karma, and the karma you created. The problem is ultimately YOU, not others. But don't worry that the effect of accepting that you are the source of all your problems will cause you to be a wet dishrag, allowing in your hopelessness people to get away with unkindness, abuse or disrespect you and others. (Followers of Lord Chaitanya are trying to practice humility and tolerance of course, yet our application depends on our realization—which means knowing our position.)
Upon looking at our problems in life or in relationships, where is our opportunity to improve? We can only change our self and our attitude. To know this in fact is progress because we have some control over our self. Recognition of a problem is the only way a solution will be looked for! We are the pure soul and not our sad or even happy story--arise O soul (!) armed with yoga stand and fight with the help of Krishna's loving kindness you will be victorious!
Even if a person feels wrongly accused or abused (the Gita teaches us that it is not easy to understand karma), and needs to seek legal action, at the end of the day they can only change themselves and personally determine their attitude. Blaming others either falsely or rightly won't solve how we feel or what we achieve in life. We can always pray for help, knowing that only by the mercy of Krishna will our life be a success, whether materially or ultimately spiritually.
Another reason it is hard to know our self materially is that certain propensities or attachments come out in later times. At the present moment someone might seem like God's gift to humanity, and others may tell them that, and then, wham, the unconscious desires surface, or their date with destiny comes knocking when they are least expecting it. Finding themselves in the dustbin of life, flat on their back, they wonder, "Why me?" And the answer comes back, "Why not you, Dude? You wanted to be in the material world, and maybe now you will get the point--it is tough love", and "Who do you think you are anyway?" Life doesn’t always seem fair to the undiscerning eye, yet justice is the general Universal rule. In unexpected reverses and suffering this isn't always easy to believe. Fortunately it is not justice alone that rules.
If only justice ruled, we would have no hope for deliverance from the material world, and life would only be random and meaningless. Beyond justice is mercy, and it is by mercy that Krishna gives us less suffering then we were destined or uses our suffering to help us turn to him. Justice is necessary for mercy to exist and have meaning.
After awhile of being a devotee we learn how to look good--the right things to wear, and do, and say. Although Prabhupada taught us that imitation of a good thing is a good thing, we don't want to JUST be imitating in order to impress others or look good. Of course there is no harm in looking good---we should look good, but more importantly we have to be good, and/or be in the process of becoming good (or better)---spiritually good. Putting in time or many years won’t give the desired result if a person doesn’t use the time wisely.
It is essential to be able to see where in the spiritual and material equation we are. Like in the mall there is a map with a little pointer that says, "YOU ARE HERE". Knowing who we are in this body and where we are spiritually is important for progress, and although we shouldn't---got to use that word sometimes---tell everyone, everything about our fallen condition, we need to have confidential devotee friends that are kind, compassion, believe in us, have spiritual standing and thus can actually help us. I have seen "good looking" (in profile) devotees disappear because they were afraid to admit they were having difficulties.
Having difficulties in our spiritual life is THE RULE, not THE EXCEPTION. Not that we are focused on having problems or difficulties, yet we shouldn't be surprised that we are, or that even a senior devotee may have them. We have to turn stumbling blocks into stepping stones! Prabhupada's example in encouraging "fallen" disciples is a great example of this. Failure is the pillar of success---actually for a sincere devotee, there is no failure if they keep trying. (to give another worn but good example: how often does the baby keep trying to walk---till it succeeds!) Difficulties are only feedback to change course, regroup, or get back to the essence, but it requires naked honesty with our self and our mentors, or gurus. The Lord helps those who helps themselves, and Krishna Consciousness is the process of helping ourselves by putting our self in the hands of Krishna and his devotee agents.