Concepts And Notions
In my last post about Vedic Culture, Tekisui brought up a very good point about the various misconceptions and preconceived notions that sometimes keep people from becoming serious about Krishna consciousness. She also posted a long list detailing some of the many misconceptions that can affect us. I found that really interesting, because nearly all of these things I have either thought or know someone else to think, as some point in time, to at least some degree.
I thought it could be helpful to address some of these misconceptions. This is the list she posted, I'm going down it one at a time, and trying to address each one. I only got about half way in this post.
"You have to "get it right" in this one lifetime or you're lost."
~ No one who performs any service to Krishna is ever "lost". We're all progressing, always, with every tiny thing we do, even every single thought we have about Krishna, serving Him, or His devotees. It's like a spiritual bank account. This account never can be subtracted from, only added to. If we don't become perfect in our spiritual life, we will take birth again, and again we take up from where we left off. Most of us would rather not take birth again, but it does not mean that the things we do are meaningless or have "less" meaning, if we don't "get it right" in this one lifetime.
"Religion is about feeling, not about strict formulation."
~ Feelings are important in Krishna consciousness for a few reasons. What you are feeling about something can show you the things you are inspired by in serving Krishna (thus you can do more of them) and can also show you the things you have weaknesses about (thus giving you the chance to address them and work on improving). We also understand that Krishna, as Supersoul, guides us all. We don't want to think this means that every emotion we experience is a message from Krishna telling us to act on that emotion. We also don't want to entirely dismiss emotions or strong feelings about certain things. There is always a reason. It's important to try to see what Krishna might be trying to tell us. On the other hand, strict formulation can't be entirely rejected either. The things that we stay strict in, the formulations that are followed, are there for a reason also. They are there to cultivate in us the qualities we need to have to make the most progress spiritually. Such as austerity, simplicity, cleanliness, tolerance. The strict formulations cultivate these qualities.
"The path is the goal. Complete fulfillment can never be attained."
~ This one makes me smile. The path is the goal, in a sense. In the sense that we will always be chanting the glories of the Lord, even in the spiritual world. We will always be serving Krishna and His devotees, eternally. However, at the same time, complete fulfillment can and is attained when we are not longer controlled by the modes of material nature (and our minds, senses, egos) and we are totally and completely engaged in the loving service of Krishna. Then we do attain complete fulfillment.
"Religion is about who you really are."
~ I'm breaking this next one apart, because Krishna consciousness is not actually a "religion" it actually is about who we really are. We really are eternal servants of Krishna, and Krishna consciousness is really about that eternal occupation of serving/loving Krishna. Sanatana Dharma.
"There is no need to get to know a religion thoroughly before taking it on. If one part of it fits you, then the whole does too, so you should take on the whole religion immediately after you discover that one part of it fits you. If you investigate, this is the sure sign that you are an undecided person, a hypocrite."
~ Well, this is interesting, because really, with the mercy of the chanting of the holy name, there is actually no need to get to know anything about Krishna consciousness before you can chant. If you chant, no matter what else you do or don't do, take on or don't take on, accept of don't, still the chanting of the maha mantra will benefit anyone and everyone. Sometimes people will say "oh, I don't chant, no, I still haven't decided if I accept all the aspects of the philosophy". Well, that's up to them of course, but really, if someone can even accept (or even accept that it's possible) that Lord Chaitanya gave us the holy name, that no matter who we are, or what condition of life we're in, if we simply chant Hare Krishna, we are going to be benefited. Eternally. That's all they need to know to take on the most important aspect, chanting Hare Krishna.
On the other hand, a lot of times people think they "should" understand everything and if they don't, and therefore haven't accepted it all, there really is something wrong with them. Or, maybe others tell them there is. This often prevents people from even investigating, or trying chanting, or finding out, because they have already rejected it since "some one thing doesn't make sense". Or they've been rejected as being "an undecided hypocrite". We really can't expect to understand or accept every single thing before we "take on" the practices of Krishna consciousness, it's a very complex and deep philosophy for one thing. For another thing, we have to spend a lot of time chanting to even become purified enough to "have eyes to see" anything much. At the same time, we don't want to accept anything totally blindly just because we think we "have to". Srila Prabhupad said "don't accept blindly". So no one needs to feel "wrong" to question, or investigate, or hold back from following things they don't yet understand.
"After you convert, all is well."
~ We don't "convert" exactly. Not in the conventional understanding of that term. Conversion from being engaged in our own service, pleasing our own senses, and therefore, actually, being under the control of the laws of nature, to being engaged 100% in the service of Krishna, and pleasing only Him, is a gradual process. Yet, once you have "converted" 100% (meaning you are purely situated in the service of only Krishna, a pure devotee) then certainly, all is truly well. Until that time, there will be many ups and downs, and things that won't "seem" well at all. Ultimately though, all really is well in the eternal sense, as long as you keep endeavoring on the path. But it won't "all be well" in the conventional sense of that term either. :)
"The only thing that really matters is what the various religions have in common."
~ I'm not sure I understand what this one means, so I'm only going on what it seems to mean to me. I think a lot of times people feel threatened by "other religions". If they find differences between them, they feel their faith weakened by those differences. So, they prefer to focus only on what there is "in common" because it gives them a stronger feeling that their path might be valid, since it's reinforced by other religions. That's just a stage of faith and realization. Later, as we become stronger, we can then look at the differences and see in what way they do matter, and even discuss them, without feeling weakened or threatened in our own faith. Truly, it does matter just as much what things we don't have in common, as it matters what we do.
"All paths lead to the same goal."
~ Ultimately, they do. Not in the immediate issue though. Krishna is the goal of everyone. However, there are thousands of ways to go on all kinds of winding paths, some which will take you backward rather than forward, so that you may take millions of lifetimes to get there. So, on this one, we try to recognize that we want to find the most direct route. We also often talk in terms of what paths we are on in this lifetime only, and where that will lead us when this lifetime is over. In that case, the paths would be leading to "different goals" for certain.
"If it feels good, then it is true/right."
~ This reminds me of the saying "if it feels good do it".... well, just because something "feels good" doesn't mean it's true, or right. Some humans feel very good when they murder another human. That is a very graphic example of how much we can rely on things that feel good being right. Similarly, since we see that we can't rely on our "feels good" to be right, we also can't rely on "feels good" for truth. The truth is that what "feels good" to us is about our minds, senses, false ego, and conditioning. It feels good to us to lord it over the material energy and play God, that's what we're doing here in the first place. It doesn't even actually "feel good" in any real sense though, it's only our being covered over by the material energy that we even think it feels good. So, how can we place any faith in only "what feels good" to us?
"Religion is all about love and understanding."
~ On the surface level of this statement, a lot of people think sentiment = love and understanding. Therefore, because they mistake sentiment for genuine love and understanding, they think it is "religious" to be helping people gratify their senses, pleasing their false ego, comforting their material needs, understanding their minds and the complexities of their various conditioning. This is sentiment, not real spiritual love and understanding. Real spiritual love and understanding goes beyond sentiment. If you love someone in a genuine spiritual sense, you may have do things that don't "seem" loving or understanding. If you understand someone is spirit, not their material coverings, then you may act toward them in ways that do not "seem" understanding to them. It's not that it will always "seem" unloving or lacking in understanding. However, since most people think in terms of their material welfare, rather than their spiritual welfare, it sometimes can seem that way.
"In order to count as a follower/member of a religion, you must have the approval of other followers/members. Otherwise, you are not a follower/member of said religion and should not attempt to do any practices on your own."
~ While it's nice to have the approval of other followers, it really isn't something you want to depend on. There are so many followers of Krishna consciousness. So many different ways to follow. Not everyone is going to have the same views on every single aspect, or the same degrees of realization about things. Approval from others can give us encouragement to continue and progress, but then, if we are too dependent on that approval, and it's removed for whatever reason, we do become discouraged. So, it's also important to understand that other followers/members are just other conditioned souls, on the path, attempting to become purified. If they approve or disapprove, it's not really about their personal view of you. The practices are outlined in the scriptures, and like I said earlier, anyone can chant, no matter what else they do or don't do. That's following Lord Chaitanya. And, that's "our religion". At the same time, we do have a system of guru, sadhu, shastra. Meaning we check to make sure all three things are in agreement when we are trying to decide about something we are doing, and how our practices are, and if we are actually "following". So, we see what the guru says, then we see if it is also stated in scripture, then we see if it is also what is being said by saintly persons, in this case, meaning some other devotee that we can practically see has the qualities of a devotee. That's the kind of approval from "others" that matters.
"A newcomer to a religion cannot understand it properly, and should listen and obey everyone who has been there before him."
~ We're all newcomers in a sense. We all come to this path from different levels of spiritual advancement. Some already understand things in a deeper way that others who have been endeavoring longer in this lifetime. That's due to previous lifetimes, and it's important to remember that it's not only length of time or practices in this lifetime that go into what someone does or doesn't understand. However, anyone who has any advancement at all on this path is going to at least "listen" to anyone else. They won't "obey" necessarily unless they find that what they have heard is correct. No one has to automatically obey anyone else. It has to come voluntarily. This is about love/devotion. It can't be created artificially by forced "obeying". Still, it's also good to keep in mind that a lot of the time, people who are new to this path often think they are very advanced because they have not yet even begun to see the depths of realization. For example, almost all of us thought we were extremely Krishna conscious in the beginning because we "thought about Krishna a lot". Well, later on you begin to realize the depth of things. So, it is always a good idea to keep in mind that like anything, being "new" to it, you don't want to just assume you understand everything. The more actually advanced you are, then the more you will already know that you have so much to learn. You will see the ability to learn from everyone, and take advantage of that.
Okay... enough for now. I will go through the rest of them in another post.
* Navasi's blog
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Tue, 10/28/2008 - 04:21 — tekisui
Hey, you're doing my homework! That ain't fair!
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Tue, 10/28/2008 - 04:26 — Navasi
"All's Fair In Love And Devotion"....
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Tue, 10/28/2008 - 12:14 — NityānandaChandra
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Tue, 10/28/2008 - 22:44 — Navasi
*For anyone who might not know what's funny here, I took that from a famous saying. I just revised it. It just occurred to me that some people might not be familiar with it, so here it is:
"ALL'S FAIR IN LOVE AND WAR -- "The rules of fair play do not apply in love and war. The proverb has been traced back to John Lyly's 'Euphues' (1578). First attested in the United States in 'Horse-Shoe Robinson' (1835). The proverb is found in varying forms. The proverb is frequently used to justify cheating." From "Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings" by Gregory Y. Titelman ( Random House, N.Y., 1996)."