Shoulding, Profiling, Aspiring or Being?

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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!

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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.
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Combined comments from old site

Wed, 12/03/2008 - 13:23 — Dhama Rupini
Fantastic blog

Hare Krsna Prabhu,
Thanks ever so much. So many of the points made in your blog I've been reflecting on lately. "The only thing/person that you've got the power to change is you!" You cannot change anyone just recently a colleague and myself were having a conversation about this. I read years ago a book by Iyanla Vanzant (non Kc for sure) but she made a point there when you don't like something about yourself FIX IT!!!!.
I really liked what you stated when events occur you should think WHY NOT YOU???that made me smile.
Someone who I was relatively close to but our paths drifted used to pound what seemed like a mantra..."you only get in life what you deserve." Definitely the law of karma applies, you cannot run from it but you can create positive change by chanting and engaging in the nine forms of devotional service.
Your blog truly made me reflect on past occurrences and readings from the past. Reflection is always great it offers self analysis and from that self inquiry process growth and transformation can occur if we are sincere and truly want to serve Krsna.
Haribol
Julia


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Wed, 12/03/2008 - 13:59 — Karnamrita.das
Purpose of writing

One purpose of writing is to put our thoughts down to clearify them, and in the case of this forum to stimulate the readers thinking. Self understanding and reflection seem to come in layers, like going deeper into the inner cabbage, layer upon layer. At times I didn't know there was more to uncover, yet at a certain time in my life I discovered hidden parts that needed to be looked at and let go--healed sometimes.

Shrila Prabhupada has given us many ways to think about what may happen to us. Here is one of my favorites from the pp to the Gita 2.56:

"One who is not disturbed in mind even amidst the threefold miseries or elated when there is happiness, and who is free from attachment, fear and anger, is called a sage of steady mind."

from the pp:

"But a sthita-dhir muni, as mentioned herein by the Lord, is different from an ordinary muni. The sthita-dhir muni is always in Krsna consciousness, for he has exhausted all his business of creative speculation. He is called prasanta-nihsesa-mano-rathantara (Stotra-ratna 43), or one who has surpassed the stage of mental speculations and has come to the conclusion that Lord Sri Krsna, or Vasudeva, is everything (vasudevah sarvam iti sa mahatma su-durlabhah). He is called a muni fixed in mind.

Such a fully Krsna conscious person is not at all disturbed by the onslaughts of the threefold miseries, for he accepts all miseries as the mercy of the Lord, thinking himself only worthy of more trouble due to his past misdeeds; and he sees that his miseries, by the grace of the Lord, are minimized to the lowest. Similarly, when he is happy he gives credit to the Lord, thinking himself unworthy of the happiness; he realizes that it is due only to the Lord's grace that he is in such a comfortable condition and able to render better service to the Lord."

And, for the service of the Lord, he is always daring and active and is not influenced by attachment or aversion. Attachment means accepting things for one's own sense gratification, and detachment is the absence of such sensual attachment. But one fixed in Krsna consciousness has neither attachment nor detachment because his life is dedicated in the service of the Lord. Consequently he is not at all angry even when his attempts are unsuccessful. Success or no success, a Krsna conscious person is always steady in his determination."

Thanks for sharing your reflections.

Your friend in Krishna,

Karnamrita


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Wed, 12/03/2008 - 21:32 — Namacarya das
attachment in activity?

"But one fixed in Krsna consciousness has neither attachment nor detachment because his life is dedicated in the service of the Lord."

I wander how to perform some activity without a desire for a good result (which could be called attachment). For example, when cooking for Sunday Feast, the desire is to please devotees with a nice, healthy and tasty prasadam (of course first to satisfy Krsna with the bhoga offering. Hmm, this is another point for thinking: whom to satisfy first, Krsna or devotees? This two things overlap, no?)


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Thu, 12/04/2008 - 12:00 — Karnamrita.das
Attachment for serving

Great question that is answered in the first few chapters of the Bhagavad gita. Jnanis or monists cultivate detachment from everything material---they think they can be free from reaction by not acting, but Krishna says that it is impossible to not act for the embodied. Devotee philosophers on the other hand, cultivate attachment for serving Krishna, which is activity without any material reaction, but which brings us to Krishna.

Yes we want to do something nice for Krishna, but the result is up to him...so in that way we can be detached from the result. We try our best to succeed, but we are not the controller---we can't force the result. The cashier may count millions of dollars but he knows that not one cent is for him. For a worker in a business, he does his or her duty, and profit or loss rest with the proprietor. Those are some of Prabhupada's examples.

Your friend in Krishna,

Karnamrita


Wed, 12/03/2008 - 10:51 — Go-Seva
My mother had a saying...

That I didn't realize at the time, but is the real truth:

"Everyone gets whatever they deserve."

Even though she had no idea about Krsna, she sure was close to the thinking required to understand the science of Krsna consciousness.

My brother and I don't speak anymore because we had a discussion one time about karma and life in general. I reminded him of the truism of my mother's statement, and his statement was, "What about babies who are born with a horrible disease, and die immediately or soon after after much suffering? And what about our own mother, who died too young after suffering from colon cancer? They don't deserve that!"

My reply was, "Yes, they did."

After 33 years of sense gratification in my former "karmi" life, I am sure that my day is coming, since "Every dog has his day." I know that I deserve to suffer for many lives to come. I just pray Krsna will have mercy on my wretched soul.


Wed, 12/03/2008 - 09:39 — dru
One more beautiful blog

Hare Krsna Prabhu,

seems whatever you say I accept or agree and is always beautiful and echoing in my heart. Please keep posting more such blogs for struggling, egoistic creatures like me.

Hari Bol

P.S- I see lately you are having some good time posting pictures in your blogs, keep it up.


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Thu, 12/04/2008 - 08:57 — Karnamrita.das
Every comment a jewel

Thanks Dru for stopping by. I do my best to listen to the comments and consider them feedback. Every devotee is a work in progress, so there is always room to improve---even pure devotees never feel they have "arrived". Compliments and appreciations are gifts that come from Krishna through his agents. They give the opportunity to the receiver to remember Krishna, and see it as his glory and kindness. At least one can practice.

Your friend in Krishna,

Karnamrita


Wed, 12/03/2008 - 08:35 — tekisui
The problem is YOU, not others ...

"The problem is YOU, not others!" - This is how I was raised - to always think that it is I who has the problem, that I am the bad one, and that all others are good and proper and never do anything wrong. If my bones break, it's not because the other person hit me too hard, but because my bones are too soft.

My point is that focusing on one's own karma is all good and fine, but there is the danger of absolving others of all responsibility for how they behave, there is the danger of falling into a kind of moral relativism that gives others the upper hand and leads one to think that others always have a better point than oneself - one is in effect afraid to take a stance on things, afraid to say "This is right and that is wrong" - ie. afraid to make moral judgments, and then also abstains from making them. And such abstaining from making moral judgments is a recipe for disaster.

One of the sources of suffering are other people. I think the really powerful thing is to recognize when others are treating one badly, seeing that as their failing, and acknowledging that. This doesn't necessarily mean one will go and tell them that. But I find it is crucial in making the decision whom to associate with and how. Because blaming everything on one's own karma, one can end up in horrible relationships.

Hare Krishna.


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Thu, 12/04/2008 - 07:34 — bhaktincarol
Hare Krsna. I kept thinking

Hare Krsna.

I kept thinking about what you wrote.
I agree that accusations and cruel words can be very painful and damaging. We should take all steps to protect children from harsh and cruel treatment, from any abuses from adults or others. Also I am aware that accusations, negative labels and other spoken words that hurt us as children (or even later in our lives) can take up residence in our minds, to become ideas we have to fight, just to keep functioning. It's almost as though one feels one can't exist intact if those words were proven to be true. Sometimes we don't know what to believe, especially when these words are delivered to us when we are young, and when they are delivered by those whom we respect --even love-- who are in a position of power and authority over us. It is very much a perpetration of violence against the individual. It is an attack that the child, at that time, is not equipped to deal with. I agree it is a very empowering action to recognize the violence, choose to recognize it as unhealthy, and take steps to "unlearn" the negative programming.


Wed, 12/03/2008 - 11:26 — Karnamrita.das
Natural to notice

I sort of expected to get a reaction from that statement, and I thought of softening it to explain more. In any case it is always good to go deeper into any topic.

It is natural to notice what especially attracts or irks us. Those things are like headlines so let me see if I can express myself better. As I have shared, the nature of writing is that we tend to emphasize one side to make our point, which in a broad sense here is that we have to take full responsibility for our life. That said, I wasn't trying to say that wrong doers or abusers shouldn't be punished, because after all it was the victim's karma--no! Or I don't mean to make people feel they are very bad---like the Christian original sin idea to make people feel guilty and have that as their motivation to serve God.

Karma is very complex though if understood properly can help us make sense of our life and the world. It is simplistic and not compassionate to say to a suffering person that they are suffering because it was just their karma, and JUST GET OVER IT! I was attempting to make the point that although there may be bad people in the world that we may have to deal with---the only thing we can really change is our self, our attitude, and increase our spirituality. That is the ultimate solution to all problems with our life or in dealing with others. We can try to set a good example and teach others, yet the real difficulty is that we have a material body in the first place and desires that keep us in the cycle of birth and death. In addition there are all these other people who are competing for the same things who may want to cause us harm or take our stuff.

As Prabhupada's guru Shrila Bhatisiddhanta used say, "The material world is not a fit place for a gentleman", and we could add, or a lady. We are advised to do our business here and get out, like in the bathroom. Krishna consciousness is meant to help us make the best use of a bad bargain (the physical body).

Believing in karma doesn't mean letting people walk all over you, or that you are an uncaring, inhumane, uncharitable fanatical bigot, who feels helpless in the hands of cruel fate--as I have heard. Although we are trying to understand that we are not the body and that our true happiness lies in spirit, not matter, advanced devotees or those aspiring to follow them are meant to be fully present and engaged with the world while they pursue Krishna consciousness---in the world, knowing we are not of it. Any philosophy or belief can be positively used, or we may be abused or restricted by it.

We have to be in balance. Some people by conditioning blame others for their problems, and always complain about their fate and don't take any responsibility, while others may take too much personal responsibility becoming unable to function (like a neurotic in the extreme).

In spite of there being bad people who perform atrocities or just average people who may wrong us and have to be dealt with appropriately, at the same time we have to be able to step back from life and be philosophical and thoughtful. The world changes as we change our consciousness, and then we see everything differently.

Your friend in Krishna,

Karnamrita


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Thu, 12/04/2008 - 08:10 — tekisui
New Age Bullying

"It is simplistic and not compassionate to say to a suffering person that they are suffering because it was just their karma, and JUST GET OVER IT!"

Absolutely.
There is even a term for people who do use teachings like those on karma to beat down on a suffering person - New Age Bully.
Such bullying can be directed to others, or to oneself.
I have found this article aptly analyzes this phenomenon.


Wed, 12/03/2008 - 21:40 — Namacarya das
letting people walk all over oneself

"Believing in karma doesn't mean letting people walk all over you."

Yes, important statement. But how to apply it if trying to follow trnad api sunicena...?
And honestly, I hear this many times (sadly) when devotees fight/have disagreement then one party/person says :" I am not letting you no more kicking me down all the time". This practically means he/she/they leave devotee community.

Sorry, if I'm getting out of the original topic.


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Thu, 12/04/2008 - 07:45 — tekisui
Limitations and saying No

I think ideally, it is possible to have a good relationship with anyone - under the condition that one puts in the necessary effort.

But the thing is that we only have a limited amount of time, energy, material resources, and spiritual attainment so we cannot realistically engage in a relationship with everyone and hope that it will work out fine and be truly satisfying for both parties.

I think many problems in relationships with others come because one or both parties were signing up for more than they were able to "deliver" or "pay for". There could be many reasons for this overestimation - overestimating one's patience, overestimating one's compassion, overestimating one's wisdom, overestimating one's magnanimity ... a simple ignorance of facts, a change of internal and external conditions ... Some of these factors we can control to some extent, some we can't. Some we are aware of, some we aren't.

But I think that often enough, one has a suspicious feeling already at the beginning of a relationship - but then does nothing about this feeling, ignores it. Or one rushes emotionally into a relationship head over shoulders, out of adoration or loneliness.

What some of us might really need to learn is how to say No and how to *not* feel guilty for saying No.

I imagine that for this, it is necessary to have at least a solid intellectual understanding that we humans have limitations and that relationships between humans are bound to be more or less unsatisfactory and that they cannot give us the ultimate happiness we desire.

P.S. There is even a by now cult book in Western psychology that addresses the topic: "When I say no, I feel guilty" by Manuel J. Smith.
I have to note here that on its own, it is not satisfactory, because it does not involve Krishna consciousness. However, many findings there can be helpful as they address the sort of conditioning that many of us here in the West have, and so the book offers a quick path into gaining insight into some of our typical problems.
When putting those insight into the context of Krishna consciousness, I think they can be helpful.

Hare Krishna.


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Thu, 12/04/2008 - 08:23 — Karnamrita.das
"Life is difficult"

This is a famous line from an old book many devotees read by Scott Peck called "The Road Less Traveled" which is one of those books which is not a K.C book but has many useful understandings about relationships we can all think about and use.
A simple statement with immense meaning for the time and all time. Krishna of course gives us many helpings of this idea much more developed, like the material world is temporary and miserable. That might be depressing if there was no higher taste available in spiritual practice or a a way to become joyful in spite of material circumstances.

Life is difficult as are material relationships---even with devotees to the extent that we and they have material impurities and motivations. That is hard when we realize the importance of devotee friendships and relationships. Still we have to endeavor and look for "our group" of devotees. There are all kinds of people who become devotees, and while we can respect anyone who comes to Krishna we most likely can't be close with them all. That is just a reality for conditioned souls, even those trying to be devotees. Certainly personality types get along, others not. Of course for service we can put that aside, yet we will still have our preferences.

And to find a person we can truly share our heart with, who believes in us and is "there for us", through thick and thin is very rare. As I think Emerson said, "If you want a friend, be a friend". Even so how many people can you be close with? Friendships take time and need to be nurtured. I know hundreds of devotees, but my very close friends are few. Of course I live in a somewhat isolated place, and my closest friends are elsewhere, but still, for me, I usually have one very close friend in addition to my wife who is my closest friend.

At this time in my life I feel the need to expand my friends, and the people I can truly help, which is one reason I write. I am a giver and healer by desire and training, yet I have my own needs which prevent me total selflessness, though that is my desire. It is a common problem amongst healers, counselors and the like to overextend. As you said it is important to know ones capacity or ability to digest so to speak and sometime say NO. NO is good. Our "NO" helps us say "YES" later. We have to know what we need to feel nurtured and get replenishment, which means to take time regroup and receive.

Your friend in Krishna,

Karnamrita


Thu, 12/04/2008 - 01:19 — Karnamrita.das
Stages and realization

This is an important topic and a large one. For now let me say this: Much depends on our stage of spiritual advancement, personality, and how much we have truly realized the meaning of the philosophy. No doubt for devotees being humble is of utmost importance if we are to make progress in chanting. We are advised to begin applying humility by aspiring to not have--- or at least diminish our enjoying spirit ---this was advised by Shrila Sarasvati Thahur (SP guru).

In my opinion this can be done through focused chanting and cooperative service. If devotees are really quarreling like you have described it is a sign of false ego and lack of the service spirit. We have to appreciated devotees even if we may not be materially compatible. Not easy!!, and we may not be able to work with everyone, yet the principle of devotional service---serving and doing kirtana together, and serving each other as devotees is the only way to get free from that male competitive spirit. Trinadapi is spiritual humility we can aspire for but not imitate. Everything comes in steps. Devotees have to study the philosophy---and see philosophically---and have association with mature broad minded devotees to help them. I have to run now, but we can talk more later.

Your friend in Krishna,

Karnamrita


Wed, 12/03/2008 - 10:39 — bhaktincarol
blaming the victim for bleeding on the rug

I don't have enough knowledge to respond thoroughly to this, but still I feel drawn to try to respond in a small way.

We experience reactions due to past actions and choices, including actions from past lives. Others are experiencing reactions also. Others don't always act in ways we find pleasant (as in miseries come from other people). Individuals can make mistakes, even be cruel. Some individuals might truly believe they are doing the 'right' thing, and still harm others. Some purposely abuse. As I understand, abusing others comes from the individual's desire for control, their desire to act as lord.

We have the choice --right now-- what we will do with the lives that have been given to us, with the time that has been given us. As we make choices, what happens to us will change. I was told we are servants. That is our true identity. So we serve. We get confused and serve individuals and purposes that are not good for us (in the long run, though, we are taught lessons that help us).

We can't get away from the fact that we serve. So we learn to direct our activities and choices toward a better goal.

bhaktin carol