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The Power of a Smile

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Prabhupada and devotees smile

When I am at work or "out and about" shopping or going somewhere, I often reflect about what I am giving out--the energy I have within myself, and what, as a result, I am sharing with others--consciously or unconsciously. This is a kind of frequent "reality check" I try to remember to do, because I am very aware that my mental state will affect others--and my health as well. In addition, my spiritual development and my well-wishing to people will positively effect them--or my materialist, negative outlook will also influence those I encounter.

I mentioned in an old blog about near death experiences, and how whatever we give to others we will be on the receiving end in our life review at death. Even though many of us have heard of the "life review" since Vedic and Buddhist scriptures speak about it--and in modern times many have read someone's near-death account--many people don't apply it in everyday life. The fact that we will have to experience personally whatever love, hate, kindness, violence, etc. that we give to others brings us new and practical meaning to the age old idea that we should "do unto others what you would have them do to you", or just "don't cause harm".

Although I can't always share deep spiritual insights with people--or any living thing--I can do my best to be courteous, considerate, kind, and find something to appreciate about someone. Ideally I want to be conscious of my state of mind--am I happy, sad, down or up, etc. I know that I have a choice of my mental state. A famous American president--Abraham Lincoln--made many insightful statements, one of them we can reflect on for this blog: "People are about as happy as they make up their minds to be." I realize that this sounds simple, yet if we practice, it can be!
Giriraja M. and Karnam
Especially as aspiring devotees of Krishna, we have much to celebrate in discovering the wonder and excellence of the Bhakti path and all-attractive Krishna and Radha. In addition, with spiritual progress we will come to the spiritual platform which puts our body, mind, and relationships with others in perspective. Even theoretical understanding that we are not the body but eternal souls who are part of God, is very helpful in not being so affected by worldly sorrow or reverses. As a popular saying teaches us: "Pain is inevitable, suffering optional." Pain happens naturally, but our attachment to the body and certain material outcomes brings about our suffering, which is more of a mental preoccupation.
Karnam smile at the wood pile
So let us be positive, present in the moment, thoughtful, grateful for our many blessings, and in a spiritual frame of mind, and let us put that into our interactions with people we meet--and do that with a smile. I am amazed at how a simple thing like a smile is a universal way of being helpful. Most people smile back, and some are quite surprised, though happy to be on the receiving end of this gesture. It is like a simple blessing, and gift to someone, saying "I am happy to see you." And wearing a smile or frown, makes us feel that way as well.

Although we may think the worldly saying to "put on a happy face" is just material sentiment, and not practical for those who should be "serious" about their spiritual life, there is actually merit in this practice. Although there is a time for grieving, sorrow, or lamenting our fallen condition, our general state of mind can be joyful and happy. After-all, this is our nature as souls: sat, chit, ananda, or eternal, full of knowledge, and full of bliss. Yes, we are not there yet, but if we apply Krishna conscious principles to our life, and try to live in the mode or quality of goodness (sattva-guna) as described in the Bhagavad-gita, the result is that we will become happy. Rupa Goswami--one of our great teachers and disciples of Shri Chaitanya--has recommended that we accept all happiness that comes in relationship to our spiritual practice. This means we should become happy!
A good laugh
From another perspective we can also practice being happy--and sharing that with others with our sincere smile and encouragement. Although we may not feel that now--as I mentioned it is our real nature as souls. No one likes being around a depressed or overly sad person, so being happy as a devotee of Krishna is part of our duty to Krishna, others and ourself. And if you are happy and positive, you will generally have friends, and will be picked for a job over another sour or sad person, even if more qualified.

We often come to Krishna in a very sad, or depressed state from our bitter experience being in the material world--a negative impetus for bhakti--yet it is expected that by being conscious of the fully ecstatic, wonderful Krishna, we will also become like him and those who are serving him.

Begin where you are. Real spiritual compassion includes what might be thought of as material compassion for the body. The sixth chapter of the Gita teaches us that an advanced yogi or devotee feels sorry to see the suffering of others due to his or her own experience. If you can teach knowledge of the soul and God, which is the ultimate remedy for the soul's material, ignorant plight of suffering, do it! But if you can only give someone a smile, encouragement, and a prayer, do that! If you can do both, all the better!

So chant the holy name of Krishna, and practice the art of being happy--even though you may be saddened by something at times--at your own misfortune or shortcomings, at others suffering, or some temporary reverse. Study what real happiness is, and as you do put on a happy face as your gift to yourself, others, devotees of Krishna, people in general and the Lord of your heart. Practice giving to others. Live for a bigger cause then just yourself. Your happiness will be a by-product of this--of being Krishna conscious and doing your best to help others in whatever way you can. Smile, you are on "Krishna's karmic candid camera". Remember that what you give out to others and to life you will receive in kind.

Lord Chaitanya's associates chant in sankirtana

Combined comments from old site

Sat, 11/07/2009 - 14:44 — PMC
its difficult but...

prabhu ji Radhey Radhey, its difficult but... its possible. but one should allways try for it & should try till the time you don't achive it.


Sun, 11/01/2009 - 20:44 — PerpetualDawn
But let it be real.

While I agree it is important to positively motivate oneself in this material arena I find that it is indeed a bit of an art in doing so.
There is nothing more annoying to me than a fake smile.

There wasn't much smiling on the battlefield in the Gita so I consider it incredibly important to not smile inanely.

Surrendering to Krishna puts a smile of joy on the devotee's face for far more of the time than may seem naturally possible.And it happens all by itself.

Hare Krishna.


*Reply*

Sun, 11/01/2009 - 21:33 — Karnamrita.das
Naturally

Of course when one writes to make a point, it is not always possible to cover all the bases, and thus your comment is important, and very welcome. It is an art as you say, and it has taken me many years to find my natural happiness. I had to a lot of personal and spiritual work to "recover" from the misery I was in when I moved into the Temple. On any topic there are many perspectives. Prabhupada preferred his stoic pictures to his smiling ones as a contrast to the many yogis popular at the time. He was often grave, yet very joyful, and his smile charmed us!

We can do without sappy smiles, or insincere demonstrations. However, attitude is practically everything, so my real point is to practice the art of happiness based on the natural joy of practicing spiritual life. I am saying here, that though one may not be happy now, it is possible. Sometimes devotees are way to stiff, and artificially rigid, so we need balance here. Although Arjuna was not all smiles--but was fiercely fighting--though hopefully our interactions with people are not on a battlefield. Arjuna was happy to serve Krishna in his love and friendship with him through his military service.

There is also some truth in the old personal growth adage to "fake it till you make it"--in the mood of "trying on" happiness, and seeing the difference between how we feel by smiling or frowning. Or as I mentioned--we can practice finding something to genuinely smile about and look for what we can appreciate in others. Our physiology can create our mood. To decide to choose to be happy in a given circumstance, or in life is what I hope the readers will consider. Our soul is happy by constitution, and KC is the process of uncovering that. Finding our calling in life, being a balanced human being, and helping others also brings us happiness.

Personally, I genuinely love people, so I am very interested in them, and want to be some sort of light or help in their life. My years of hands on healing and counseling have greatly helped me to do this. We have to cultivate a sincere service attitude and realize the importance of kindness in our ordinary dealings. At this time in my life I am happy more than not, and, as I shared, I do sincerely smile at others when I interact with them, be they shoppers or the cashier. I look for ways to help people, and am glad to find a way to do this according to my nature. And when I smile, extend kindness to, and pray for others, it increases my happiness. And we can all do this to some extent. Practice makes perfect.

Here are some verses which come to mind: "One who is not envious but is a kind friend to all living entities, who does not think himself a proprietor and is free from false ego, who is equal in both happiness and distress, who is tolerant, always satisfied, self-controlled, and engaged in devotional service with determination, his mind and intelligence fixed on Me—such a devotee of Mine is very dear to Me. He by whom no one is put into difficulty and who is not disturbed by anyone, who is equipoised in happiness and distress, fear and anxiety, is very dear to Me." Bg 12.12-14

and

"Austerity of speech consists in speaking words that are truthful, pleasing, beneficial, and not agitating to others, and also in regularly reciting Vedic literature." Bg 17.15

Your friend in Krishna,

Karnamrita


*Reply*

Mon, 11/02/2009 - 11:42 — Karnamrita.das
Mind States

PD's comment has had me thinking about happiness all morning. It is a fascinating subject. We can identify happiness, saddness, anger, resentment etc as "mind states"--not really who we are, but states of mind we invite by certain ways of thinking and perceiving.

Real happiness and existence is eternal. Happiness from the senses is illusory and keeps one in forgetfulness of their true identity. At the same time, everyone hankers for happiness and fulfillment. The whole material world you could say, is existing on the promise of and search for happiness--which rarely comes the way we want, and in any case never lasts.

The closer we come to spiritual consciousness the more happy we become, and on the road to spiritual realization, the mode or quality of goodness is very helpful. In the mode of ignorance (tama guna) we have almost no freedom--which is why some devotees struggle more than others--but the more in goodness we are, the more choice we have. Materially speaking, in the mode of goodness, one has knowledge, which brings one peace, fulfillment, and happiness. And if we are mainly in the mode of goodness while we are pursuing our spiritual perfection, then we are on the progressive path of lasting happiness.

So if we want to be happy, we need to live a balance life style in the mood of goodness (regulated, vegetarian, knowledge of the soul, peacefulness etc) and to become purified by spiritual activities (sadhana). Then we will realize our true happiness in service to Krishna and his most dear ones--Radha, her associates and those who represent her, like our guru, and the Vaishnavas.

Your friend in Krishna,

Karnamrita


*Reply*

Wed, 11/04/2009 - 10:15 — Priya07
So nice to read

Hare Krishna..

It was so nice to read this what you shared..there was pleasant smile on my face naturally. Thanks for sharing. I feel faking a smile is not wrong if your intentions are right.
And its not easy to maintain a fake smile ultimately either it will become natural or will be lost.
Love is the source behind our smiles...

Pls correct me wherever required,
Hare Krishna..