Being our "Authentic Illusory Self"--for now, while we cultivate our spiritual self.

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Here is a story from the Jewish scripture, the Talmud:

"When Akiba was on his deathbed, he
bemoaned to his rabbi that he felt he was
a failure. His rabbi moved closer and asked
why, and Akiba confessed that he had not
lived a life like Moses. The poor man began
to cry, admitting that he feared God's
judgment. At this, his rabbi leaned into his
ear and whispered gently, "God will not judge
Akiba for not being Moses. God will judge Akiba
for not being Akiba."

Some may laugh at the logic here since after all we are not the body, yet there is truth to be gleaned from this narration. We have to engage in devotional service or Krishna conscious activities and thoughts ( or whatever our spiritual practice is) with the help of our material body and mind. To make the best use of our various bodies--gross and subtle--it is important to understand them--what do we have a natural affinity for, or what are our strengths and weaknesses. Our conditioned nature can be a weight bringing us down, or a springboard for our spiritual life. The Varnashrama system (ancient Vedic method of organizing society) is meant to help people understand themselves physically so they can find a satisfying occupation and ashram (married or celibate) and ideally lead a life which compliments them in the context of spiritual cultivation.

In today's world which for the most part doesn't take into account the spiritual dimension, most of the help and knowledge available is about being materially balanced. That is important for anyone, yet not enough from the spiritual perspective. Of course even the word "spiritual" today is often translated as being materially harmonious--living an authentic life in consideration of one's psycho-physical nature. Therefore we must be very clear what spiritual is. This requires thinking and eventually acting toward our self as the eternal animating principle of the body. We are consciousness, who are part of the Supreme Consciousness, or God. We have a material body and mind, but we are not eternally related with them. We don't "have a soul", we are the soul.
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With the shallow knowledge of what is spiritual and this widespread propaganda, I like to call being fully in harmony physically and mentally, our "authentic illusory self". This balance is very important, but for spiritual people, only if it supports their spiritual life. My wife is a therapist, and I have been benefited my many therapeutic processes in my life, yet for a devotee these technologies are not ends in themselves. They are not meant only to help us play the worldly game better, but to help us be peaceful so we can make the "best use of a bad bargain"--our embodiment, and be focused on the realization of our spiritual self, and our loving relationship with the Supreme, or Krishna. My guru Shrila Prabhupada taught me that "utility is the principle".

Whatever can help us in our pursuit of spiritual perfection can be accepted, and whatever will be an impediment can be given up. This is called real renunciation (in Sanskrit, yukta-vairagya) on the path of bhakti or devotional yoga. Krishna is everywhere and within everything, and it is the endeavor of devotees of Krishna to extract him or reveal him in different environments. Something that apparently has no relationship to God may be used in his service and may help us in our pursuit of transcendence. What works to assist us in our life as we strive to be Krishna conscious--works. The "proof of the pudding is in the tasting"--only you can say what the result is.

Not everyone has the same needs or taste. One persons food is another poison. Therefore we have to become thoughtful, prayerful devotees seeing that different devotees will have varying understandings of what is Krishna consciousness, or what will work to support it. I write a lot about this, to expand the readers conceptions. Don't take things superficially. There are many levels of understanding.
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Black and white thinking is only the beginning, not the end. Even in popular culture it is said that one sign of intelligence is the ability to entertain contradictory ideas at the same time. We can apply this to Krishna consciousness as well, though knowing that the contradictory perceptions or understandings of different great souls or verses only appears contradictory to worldly reason, and all contradictions are resolved in Krishna. Krishna is all sided--he is both Light AND Darkness and everything in-between. Although he is all pervading, and everywhere he still is moving on Earth apparently like a human being. He is moving Brahman, and the source of Brahman.

In his Vrindavana lila (divine activities) 5,000 years ago, when his Mother Yashoda looked in his mouth to see if he had eaten clay, she saw the whole universe and herself looking in Krishna's mouth. Although material reasoning tells us that forms are limited, it is revealed in many of Krishna's activities that his form is unlimited and inconceivable.

To conclude, Krishna consciousness, or the practice of pure bhakti, is not about going against our natural propensities but is about regulating and channeling them into Krishna centered activities and thoughts. In pursuit of our cherished spiritual ideals there are things to be done, and things to be avoided. Be yourself in the body, yet know who you are eternally, and act to uncover your dormant love for Krishna. Be a balanced human being and develop spiritual reasoning, though don't be complacent in your spiritual practices. Strive for excellence, and stretch yourself, yet be real, not artificial.
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Though Prabhupada taught us that imitation of a good thing is a good thing, we shouldn't just imitate the external behavior without knowing the purpose. We must understand how a certain practice or example relates to us in our stage of life. Be inspired by the lives of great souls and follow the spirit of their example in your own way. Don't just look good, but also be good--or endeavoring to be!

Of course we are on the path of being transcendentally mad with love of Krishna as exemplified by Shri Chaitanya and his associates, though for most of us it is a gradual awakening. Madness is just madness without Prema or love of Krishna, and being materially balanced without using it to foster spiritual growth is just a more sophisticated type of ignorance. Whether we are mad or materially balanced, the important concern is remembering and loving Krishna. That is what determines if our life is valuable and successful.

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Combined comments from old site

Thu, 02/05/2009 - 08:36 — PerpetualDawn
Authentic Illusionary Self..

Loving faith in the Godhead both stems from and purifies the "YOU" that Krishna attracts and that Krishna loves.


*Reply*

Thu, 02/05/2009 - 09:27 — Karnamrita.das
Atma

The Sanskrit word "atma" means body, mind or soul in different contexts. To the extent that the real self or soul is uncovered we become attracted to Krishna. While in the fire of purification most people need to be balanced human beings. That means basically being highly influenced by the mode of goodness, which is favorable for spiritual understanding. Of course goodness in itself is not spiritual, so we need to engage in the service of Krishna and those people that are dear to him, namely his devotees.

The expression "authentic illusory self" is a pun on the idea of just being one's "authentic self" which is so praised in the New Age and Personal Growth worlds. It is good to be one's material authentic self, but not enough for spiritual realization. And some advanced devotees could be apparently dyfunctional or have some major material shortcomings though being pure souls. All those this is possible, yet in general we need to be aware of our "anarthas" or faulty ways of thinking and acting to retire them. The bottom line for dealing with our less then ideal qualities is to determine if they are impeding our practice of bhakti and our relationships with devotees. In my experience they often do, and they can make even a basic--though most profound--thing like chanting Hare Krishna, more difficult.

Your friend in Krishna,

Karnamrita