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LIVING SPIRITUAL PRACTICE AND OUR SPIRITUAL RESPONSIBILITY and IDEAL CHARACTER

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Author: 
Karnamrita Das

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LIVING SPIRITUAL PRACTICE AND OUR SPIRITUAL RESPONSIBILITY: Living spiritual practice means that we experience how Krishna consciousness works in our personal lives. It means knowing what we’re inspired by, and that we’re able to both determine and admit where we fall short—otherwise, how can we be helped? Then we have to believe, or pray to develop the faith, that we can change for the better—because we aren’t our past or poor opinion of ourselves—and are valuable and lovable as souls—spiritual positive self-esteem.

Knowing that we need help and encouragement, and being willing to ask—and pray—for it, is a big step in a successful and joyful life. As it is commonly said, “The Lord helps those who help themselves.” We need to gradually take 100 % responsibility for our lives and yet be open to Krishna’s guidance and see the results of our endeavors as feedback. We both endeavor and pray. We act as if everything depends on us, while knowing that everything depends on the Lord’s mercy.

Our spiritual responsibility is to act with, or pray to act with, faith, devotion, determination, and confidence without attachment to the results, which we know come from Krishna. Practice with prayer makes perfect. Whatever results come we see as, and offer to, Krishna—if we do so we obtain, in Krishna’s words, “unadulterated peace” [BG 5.12]. “In all activities just depend upon Me and work always under My protection. In such devotional service, be fully conscious of Me.” [BG 18.57]

We need devotee friends we can be honest and “real” with. First we need to be honest and real with ourselves—which gradually makes us attractive and confident—through introspection and personal growth work, and then we must be comfortable sharing our self with others, and also learn to be a confidential, generous friend. For me this is the basis of creating relationships based on love and trust.

We need to become “personalists” in practice with each other—not that we just talk about “personalist philosophy,” but don’t apply it in our lives. Charity begins at home, and home is where the heart is! Generally we end up following our heart, so we had better have our heart in the value of devotee relationships, and both pray and work to improve them.

Our work in spiritual practice is to cleanse our heart and make it a fit place for the Lord to reside, and we can add, for having meaningful and loving relationships with others. On a mountain top, or in our ivory towers, we may feel we are a saint, but in the company of others who may push our negative emotional buttons, we realize the spiritual work we have to do in developing the qualities of the soul, like love, kindness, tolerance, compassion, and being the best person we can. In life and in relationships we attract according to who we are, and what we keep within our hearts.

If you want a friend, be a friend. If you are looking for love, learn to be loving! If you are in need, become a giver! Be the change you want to see! You can only change yourself!

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IDEAL CHARACTER
When someone leaves Krishna—
the path of bhakti and Vaishnava sanga—
it always weighs on my heart and mind.
I feel very sad but it makes me reflect.
I think again about what keeps one
on the path, what obstacles obstruct,
and what I, or others, can do differently.

A strange observation I have is that
what exactly “Krishna consciousness” is
can be a very nebulous, intangible state—
even though that is our main subject matter.
We sometimes only look externally
at spiritual practice and ceremonies attended,
of chanting, clothes, and following the 4 regs.
(which are really only the beginning).
We can somehow miss how our character
should be transforming in all ways.
Being “conditioned” also means we can change
and that we must endeavor to improve ourselves.

Relationships are essential because they can
reveal our blind spots and shortcomings,
what we may not have thought about before,
giving us an opportunity to expand.
If we see two different subjective realities,
in love we may appreciate, even celebrate,
but in conflict, can be fought over
especially when one or both persons think
their view is absolutely right and accurate
and that they have the moral high ground.

The fact that we are a soul in human dress
and are “not the body” doesn’t excuse us
from being a better human being
than we were before taking up bhakti.
In addition to remembering Krishna
and increasing our love and devotion for him,
we can measure our spiritual progress by
how we have increased practicing meaningful
kindness, empathy, and thoughtfulness.
We still have to understand our conditioning
by intense and honest introspection,
determining how we are triggered
by our past hurt and pain, being often in
reaction, divorced from the current situation.

The other side of the equation is that
every devotee has to continually nourish
their devotional creeper by spiritual practice,
keeping positive spiritual association,
calling out to Krishna through his names,
understanding the superlative goal,
along with intensely praying to advance.
This brings about purification and humility
as we examine our dirty hearts
uprooting the cause of material existence.

We have to move from a black and white
understanding to one more nuanced.
By realizing our limitations and smallness
we’ll try to understand others first
while listening for their perspective,
accepting we are 100 % responsible
for our lives and the reactions we receive.
We will have nothing to prove
as we always act for Krishna.
With the grace of our Guru
and Gauranga, all things are possible.
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