When Krishna consciousness is supposed to be joyful, why does it seem so joyless?
Answer Summary: Because we often go through the external activities of Krishna consciousness without going through the internal activity of Krishna consciousness: becoming conscious of Krishna. We forget to remember him and we don’t remember to forget the anti-devotional indulgences that drag us away from the joy of Krishna consciousness.
Answer: Remembering Krishna is the essential joy of Krishna consciousness. The external activities of Krishna consciousness are no doubt important; they provide us a platform of familiarity, stability and clarity by which we can conveniently launch into the flight of remembering Krishna. However, if we come to the takeoff platform as a daily ritual but don’t takeoff, then the ritual will soon become boring and joyless. To relish the joy of Krishna consciousness, we need to remember Krishna regularly and properly.
For cultivating such remembrance of Krishna, we need to unravel the mystery of how and why we remember some things and forget some things. Gita wisdom indicates that the key lies not in the neural networks of our head, but the devotional networks of our heart.
The Bhagavad-gita (15.15) indicates that Krishna is present in our heart as the Supersoul, and he gives us remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. According to the desires that we choose, he grants whatever will facilitate us in playing out those desires.
Understanding this pivotal role of our desires is critical for dealing with the two problems that we often face as aspiring devotees. Those two problems are:
1. We forget to remember: To always remember Krishna is the basic principle of spiritual life. By such continuous remembrance, we cure our spiritual amnesia. When we become cured, we regain our real identity as souls and our real life of eternal love with Krishna.
Thankfully, remembering Krishna is not dry or difficult. The path of bhakti-yoga provides many spiritual stimuli such as Krishna’s holy names, his beautiful Deities and his captivating pastimes that make remembering him easy and enjoyable. Still we frequently fail to remember him because we forget that we have to remember him; we get caught up in the externals of spiritual life and think that that’s all we need to do. The resulting lack of a fulfilling devotional connection makes our spiritual life joyless.
2. We don’t remember to forget: Anti-devotional temptations that we have given up or are striving to give up keep popping up in our life either from our past memories or present circumstances. Indulging in such temptations aggravates our amnesia; it sedates us into a lowered state of awareness, wherein we believe that we are our bodies and that we can become happy through material enjoyment. If we seriously want to regain our spiritual health, we need to stop the indulgence. However, avoiding indulgence physically while entertaining temptation mentally is the formula for self-torture.
To access the joy of spiritual life, we need to ensure that we don’t forget to remember: we need to deliberately and diligently cultivate remembrance of Krishna. And we need to remember to forget; we need to neglect and reject anti-devotional temptations when they start proposing themselves in our mind.
When we thus take off in the flight of Krishna consciousness, spiritual life will never seem joyless but will reveal itself to be joyful – constantly and increasingly joyful.