Karnamrita Das

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THE SEARCH FOR POWER AND DISCOVERING ITS REAL SOURCE: In addition to the ultimate life lesson that we are incompatible with matter and need to be in a spiritual environment to realize our true fulfillment and source of power, we also have to deal with our relative life issues. They need to be sorted out so we won’t be distracted and drained by them. From my perspective and experience, this work is favorable for bhakti, and is part of being a balanced human being with the ability to give our whole heart to bhakti. I realize that many of my recent blogs have a similar theme, the reason being that these topics are so important to understand. I see the great need for this inner work to be accomplished for all, and I am also engaged in it. I consider helping those involved in bhakti or interested in spiritual life part of my life's mission. I pray that you seriously think about what I write about here. So please bear with the repetition as I bring up new points each time.

Otherwise, our failure to uncover and work through our life lessons and unhealthy conditioning keeps us spiritually stuck. We see too many examples of this, I think because there has not been enough emphasis on exactly how to do this work. Such endeavors are really “anartha-nivritti,” since unhealthy, reactionary, unexamined habits, cause us to not hear our inner guidance or deal properly with others with the tendency for aparadha and offensive chanting--the root of all offenses is inattentive or distracted chanting. The great Gaudiya Vaishnava teacher or acharya, Shrila Visvanatha Chakravarti Thakur outlines stages of spiritual advancement as well as obstacles we must face in his book Madhuya Kadambini. There and throughout Prabhupada's writings the main recommendation for spiritual advancement is pure chanting of the holy name and having advanced Vaishnava association, or sadhu sanga. Whatever endeavors at self-improvement we make are to better facilitate these practices. Add to this our regular prayers for spiritual progress. We have to begin where we are, as in praying for the desire, to have the desire, to make progress on the road to Krishna prema, or pure love of God.

Many of our karmic issues are highlighted by our family of origin. It’s worthwhile to reflect on this, especially when we become aware of dysfunctional and troubling patterns in our life that bring us distress in relationships, complicate making our particular contribution, and in feeling satisfied with the direction of our lives. The excuse that sometimes comes up in therapy that “this is just the way I am,” is a very poor justification for bad judgment and unkind or aggressive behavior. While we all have particular personality types, certain learned survival behavior is not helpful for our progressive life, or in being kind, loving, and compassion persons, and realizing our full potential. Sometimes a major crisis or illness is required to help us examine our lives and how we are required to change--one of which I am currently in the midst of.

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We will ideally feel that the stakes in remaining the same are too high, and we must rise up or remain miserable. This is currently happening to me, and also happened many years ago, when at thirty I was compelled to understand my conditioned nature and my life work—I had no idea what a long road this would be!This is one example of how introspection has helped me uncover my life issues, and gradually be a better, more conscious person. The following may sound terribly inconsequential in the scheme of things, but to me, becoming aware of this life issue uncovered many more. I have known for a long time that I have issues with power and I began the process of self-examination and studying my past. I realized I needed to define myself and my life direction or I would continue to feel something missing from my life.

Thus, I thought deeply about my father for many years, and studying, as far as I could, both his and my mom’s upbringing as a way to better understand them, and thus myself. From this study, my observation is that my father had his own issues with power in relationship to women and his own sexuality. Although my issues with power are different, he was still a catalyst to highlight my issues around power, specifically my ability in self-assertion which I am still working on. Although we can’t be perfect, we can still become better. We can develop the ability to be less in reaction to our past patterns and instead to intelligently respond by developing new perceptions, attitudes, and habits.

Though certainly I came in to this lifetime with this issue, I deeply felt it from my sense of powerlessness in my childhood in dealing with my raging father and being unable to stop his violence toward my mother and me. As I have too many times shared, I had to emotionally withdraw in order to survive and not be more emotionally damaged. What I haven’t shared before is the perspective that I had to give away my personal power to be myself by learning to adapt to conditions rather than asserting myself in confrontation with my father and receiving some serious pain.
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This was demonstrated graphically when I had to testify in court who I wanted to live with, and out of fear and not standing up for myself, I said my father, which wasn’t true. I have blocked out the memory of this day and only know it happened because my father often expressed how proud he was that I had decided to live with him. Although it was really a forced decision and understandable, it still was for me, a life, or self-denying, event. I find that fascinating and quite telling in my life and a symbol for a very central life issue. Gradually by understanding this, along with prayer and building my self-esteem, I found that by accepting myself, my past, and my short-comings I could accept and relate to others. Instead of feeling like a victim, I felt I could change for the better. Positive change, or letting go of the old to make way for the new, is a lifelong process, but specifically here, rather than blaming my past, myself, or my parents, or any players in my life, I developed the confidence in myself that I could improve my relationships and my spiritual life.

Perhaps you also have pivotal times in your life that showed clearly some of your life issues and the source of many of your struggles. This would be a good topic for today’s reflection.
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I AM HEALED IN MY BODY, MIND, AND SOUL, AND I GIVE THANKS: Affirming and praying for my highest good now and into eternity is always uplifting to my spirits, and is my daily practice. Healing may or may not include healing of the body yet we can experience healing our attitude and our self-created impediments to our spiritual advancement. I pray for both, but if I had to choose, I would want the latter rather than the former.

Some devotees prefer the word “purification” to healing since Prabhupada used it in relationship to bhakti and the word healing more for healing of the body. For me, however, “healing” has a much gentler and empowering feel to it, although it is certainly purification. They are related words, though purification feels never ending, while healing feels empowering and moving forward. Semantics matter, as some words discourage, while others discourage according to the meaning we give them, though whatever words help one move forward in our life. For example the words we use to describe ourselves or our life can be a self-fulfilling prophesy. Making the mind our friend means changing the way we think, our angle of vision, and what we focus on.

Regardless, I understand that we are all on a healing journey as we endeavor to make spiritual progress which includes becoming conscious of our negative attitudes, self-talk, and conditioned habits to pray for their removal, as well as focusing on the person we endeavor and pray to become. This is the best part of our conditioned physical nature, or what my wife and I refer to as our “core self in goodness.” Some teachers consider that the soul, but it is more clearly, “our authentic illusory self,” or our highest potential in this life.
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All possibilities aren’t open to us though we do have both our highest and lowest potential according to our nature, karma, and personalities. Our true parameters or highest possibilities are certainly beyond our limiting or negative beliefs about ourselves. Never the less we all have a unique mission according to our nature and potential destiny. For example, Arjuna couldn’t give up his nature as a fighter to become a mendicant. He became successful by using his nature and confronting his life's tests and issues in Krishna's service. As he did, so should we.

Thus to me the healing or hero’s journey is about discovering and accepting our shortcomings while working to move beyond them; believing in our highest potential or calling; and developing the faith that by our sincere endeavor strengthened by positive expectancy and prayer we can obtain the grace to realize our highest goals and aspirations in this life and beyond. Those on a spiritual path see this in relationship to their highest goal of making true spiritual progress.

Personally, I want and pray that my goals and aspirations will be favorable for, and serve the cause of, bhakti in the world, and that I can help devotees and seekers realize their highest potential. That is my daily prayer and endeavor. Though I’m not sure exactly how this will take shape I am giving it my best shot with the faith the Krishna will reveal how to move forward. May Krishna’s will be done, through me, around me, and within me!
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