Spiritual Lamentation and Aspiration: When, O When will that day be mine?
I read today about the spiritual lamentation of Krishna’s dear devotees, the cowherd girls or gopis who felt their misfortune at being apart from Krishna. This brought to mind the lives of other great devotees who act as teachers or gurus who lament their "fallen condition" and forgetfulness of Krishna, while also aspiring for spiritual perfection. Lord Chaitanya's own prayers also express this. We can follow their example by also lamenting our fallen condition—which means knowing what we don’t want in our lives, as well as praying for spiritual progress and the service of Radha Krishna(where we want to go).
For this very short discussion I will begin by stressing the lamentation of our less than ideal character and habits. If such lamentation is an impetus for service—the positive aspect of our lives—we can embrace it as long as we don’t become depressed or lethargic. (see Bhagavad-gita As It Is chapter 3 vs 30)
We tend to give power to what we focus on. Therefore, while lamenting our apparent material shortcomings, we want our absorption to remain on the sweetness of Krishna, as well as service to him and his devotees, thinking of this devotional consciousness as our ultimate nature. Depression, if not moved beyond, is in the mode of ignorance, giving rise to an uninspired stage where we are unable to engage in devotional service. In general depression or feeling “out of sorts” is meant to bring to our attention to the fact that we need to make changes in our life.
In other severe cases we may be predisposed to depression or be chemically out of balance. Whatever the case we need to look at our inner condition and make adjustments or seek out expert guidance. For many people their depression is part of an existential crisis that is meant to push them to spiritual practices that connect them to what they are missing in their life--God or for us, his manifestation as irresistible Krishna! In principle spiritual life is good for everyone, since we are all by nature souls who are in a foreign plane which is the cause of our suffering. However, a person suffering from jaundice tastes sugar as bitter, so in the beginning we may experience the medicine of spiritual life as bitter. In time as we begin to be "cured" of material identification we will begin to proportionally taste the nectar for which our soul hankers.
I share with you here my personal lamentations and spiritual aspirations. I am not a pure devotee so you may notice some mixed motivations here, though you might relate to some of what I say. Perhaps it could be food for thought as you may question why I want to obtain these states of consciousness and spiritual achievements and also give up certain habits or tendencies. It is very important to think about what we read or hear in a class. As I have said before, we have to begin where we are. We can learn from anyone if we are open to receive it and try to look for the nectar or lesson. With this attitude we can gain benefit or insight from whatever situation we find ourselves in or from any person we encounter:
When will I obtain intense eagerness to serve Krishna?
When will the world appear vacant without the son of Nanda Maharaja (Krishna)?
When will I have no interest in sense gratification?
When will the conceptions of “I” and “mine” leave me forever?
When will I take ever-increasing pleasure in hearing the Lord’s gloriously beautiful loving pastimes and describing them to others?
When will I have true humility as expressed by Lord Chaitanya in his Shikshastakam verse 3 by realizing the Lord’s greatness and my insignificance in comparison?
When will I sincerely and fully lament my unfortunate position as a sense enjoyer of the material world?
When will the imagination of my mind have Krishna and his pure devotees as the basis and center, instead of my envisioning myself in glorified circumstances—even as a devotee preacher?
When will I no longer see anything as meant for my enjoyment or personal benefit?
When will I come to the spiritual platform (brahma-bhuta) and see all beings as souls and not discriminate on the basis of what is pleasing or repulsive to my senses?
When will I see beautiful women as no different then old, unattractive women or men or anyone?
When will I truly be able to minister to all beings without holding back, being empowered with compassion, mercy, kindness, understanding, love, insight, knowledge and healing power?
When will my only happiness be the pleasure of the Lord and his devotees?
When will I be active in their service and be inspired and inspire others in ever-fresh ways to serve in new capacities?
When will I once and for all time loose my indifference and laziness and be excited to lovingly serve in total self-forgetfulness.
When will Lord Nityananda destroy my material ego and awaken my spiritual “serving ego”?
We can all benefit by reading the prayers of great devotees like Shrila Narottama das Thakur or Shrila Bhaktivinode Thakur. They express the essence of the mentality of pure devotees. Though we may find some of them hard to relate to--being beyond our capacity or imagination--we can at least pray to enter into their mood. They are not suffering from low self-esteem being "down on themselves", but they have spiritual high self-esteem from realizing their relationship with Krishna and tasting his overwhelming, immense, and intense sweetness. Spiritual lamentation and humility gives rise to intensified service and bliss.
In their ecstasy they lament their condition being apart from Krishna, and because they are playing the part of conditioned soul engaging in bhakti, they actually feel fallen. They are true acharyas teaching us by their example. At the same time they take pleasure in hearing, chanting and remembering the unlimitedly sweet pastime of Radha and Krishna, Lord Chaitanya and his associates and all pure devotees.
Many people including devotees suffer from having too low an opinion of themselves. It is easier for them to list their faults then their virtues. Our low self esteem is different from the humility of pure devotees. At our stage we need to be able to assess where we are on the devotional map and see both our good and bad qualities. As we sincerely lament where we fall short we can also celebrate our great good fortune in coming to Krishna and his service. Gratitude is an essential quality to cultivate as it is helpful in our awakening of true Vaishnava humility.
While material hankering and lamentation are to be transcended (as discussed in Bhagavad-gita) through our devotional practices--spiritual lamentation, aspirations and feeling separation from Krishna are a sign of our advancement. Actually lamenting our fallen condition is only part of an advanced devotees feelings. They accompany humility, as well as eagerness and anxiety for devotional perfection.
Here is one famous song by Thakur Bhaktivinode as an example of what I am speaking about:
Kabe Ha’be Bolo
Please tell me, When will that day be mine -- when my offenses will end and the power of divine grace will infuse my heart with a taste for the pure holy name?
Thinking myself lower than a blade of grass, bringing forbearance into my heart, respecting all, and freed of false pride -- when will I taste the essence of the liquid nectar of the holy name?
Neither wealth nor followers, nor beautiful women described in worldly poetry -- none of these bodily pleasures do I covet. O Lord Gaurahari, please give me causeless devotion to Your lotus feet, birth after birth!
When, as I chant the divine name of Sri Krsna, will my body thrill with ecstasy and my words choke up, when will pallor and trembling occur, and when will my eyes pour forth endless streams of tears?
When will I run about on the Ganges bank in Navadvipa, guilelessly calling out "Gaura-Nityananda!" dancing and singing like a madman, giving up all mundane considerations?
When will Lord Nityananda show me mercy and release me from the illusion of materialism? When will He give me the shade of His lotus feet and let me enter the marketplace of the holy name?
I shall buy or steal the mellows of the holy name of Hari, and after becoming intoxicated with those mellows I shall become stunned. By touching the lotus feet of the great souls who relish those mellows, I shall constantly drown in the sweet nectar of the name.
When will compassion for all fallen souls awaken within this Bhaktivinoda, and when will he thus forget his own happiness and with a meek heart set out to propagate by humble entreaty the sacred order of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu?