How can daily diary writing be used as a tool for spiritual growth?
Transcription By: Jyoti Shirsangi Mataji
Edited By: Shyam Venkateswaran P
Question: Can you please explain how we can use daily diary writing as a tool for our spiritual growth?
Answer: The most important aspect of devotional service is remembrance of Krishna, and diary writing enables us to examine the nature and quality of our remembrance, essentially. So, that’s how it is the direct veering on our spiritual advancement. Because when we write our diary, essentially we are remembering what we remember. That means diary writing is not so much a matter of writing what all events happen in our life. We can write that, but if we just write that, that will, over a period of time, become boring. Because, generally speaking, life is not very exciting. A few exciting things may happen here and there, but often life is just a monotonous humdrum, and sometimes it is irritating, exasperating. So, just a chronicle of daily events will not be engaging enough for us to feel that it is worth spending my time. So, we have to bring in the devotional insight on the events, and examine accordingly.
So, some devotees write their diary as a letter to their spiritual master, or as a letter to Krishna, or to their favoritedeities, may be Lord Caitanya, Nityananda Prabhu, whoever. Or some devotees may write it as a letter from their intelligence to their mind. That means, this is how, oh Mind you behave, but this is so foolish. So, basically through their diary writing, they are letting their intelligence preach to their mind.
Essentially, the way I do I, is that, I have six elements in my daily diary I write. One is some striking event that happened in that day, which is closest to a chronicle. Don’t write everything, but the striking event, and often a striking event is significantly different from what I thought would be the most important event of that day, what I had prepared for, or thought of as a most important. So, that itself is a revelation, how Krishna’s plans work different from ours, i.e. what was the most outstanding thing that happened, and what made me feel it to be outstanding. So, generally it’s never an event, it’s also some devotional insight into that event, always. Then some worthwhile things I was able to do for Krishna. Something which, if I go in front of the deities, if I take darsan, then I would like to say, “Krishna, on this day, I was able to do this service for you. Thank You. I hope that you are pleased with this service”.
Third is something I had to struggle to do, i.e. I tried, I struggled, I succeeded partially, I failed partially, and at that time, I can examine, okay, what made these things so difficult? Was it intrinsically so difficult? Or was it my own mindset that was not right? And what I can do to meet similar struggles and overcome them in the future?
The fourth is what I did wrong in that day, what mistake I committed. So we can offer an apology to Krishna, and seek forgiveness and strength to be able to do better. The struggle means, partial success and partial failure, but failure is basically what I did wrong. And actually once we start introspecting in this way, in writing, that also makes us aware when we are doing those things in future. “Awe! This is something which I am doing wrong,” because quite often, the mind makes us do wrong even before we realize that we are doing wrong. So, we might have the habit of justifying our delays by stretching the truth, and when we write something wrong like this in a journal, then we catch it- “Okay, this is what I am doing wrong,” and next time, when we start justifying our delays, we can learn to reform. We can either not make promises without due consideration, or not try to rationalize the delays, but then, you can write explanations, express regret for the delay caused, and then honestly work to meet the next deadline, whatsoever.
Then the fifth aspect is, some realizations I got. So the difference between the first and the fifth is that, the first is more of the event that happened that was unexpected, pleasant, distinctive, sometimes it may not be pleasant also, but distinctive. Whereas, the fifth is more of an inner insight, and this often is like a carry-with insight, something that I would like to cherish. The other things I am likely to forget, but this I try to often phrase as some sutra, like a brief phrase, and many of these later become my Gita daily articles, or rather similar articles. This may be based on my reading, hearing, contemplating, some insight I got.
The sixth one is some prayer that I offer, for some other devotee. So, this may depend on how I interacted with someone in particular, and I felt that I could serve this devotee by praying for this particular thing for this devotee, and although we pray in general for many devotees, but specifically focusing our attention on a particular devotee per day actually helps me a lot to take that relationship at a much deeper level. Because, when we pray for somebody, then we actually join their struggles, instead of judging their struggles. Judging their struggle means, this person is doing wrong, but joining their struggles, means that, we realize that they are also fighting their anarthas, and we ask Krishna to help them to fight their anarthas. So, we join their struggles rather than judge their struggles. And that way, I find my relationships, subsequent interactions with those devotees become much more meaningful and deep. Of course, it is not that I do all these six things every day; it is always a challenge to have that commitment in time. But, these six give me a clear direction of thought so that when I sit down to write a journal, I don’t just stare at the computer screen. I know what I have to write, and then I start writing.
Beyond that, there are other devotees, other questions also. For example, what gives me faith in Krishna Consciousness? What causes me doubt? We may make 10 points that give us faith, strength, and inspiration, and 10 points that cause doubt, indecision, and discouragement, and then address these. So once we write these down, that these are my strengths and weaknesses, and then maybe once a month, we may look back at these questions, and it’s surprising how the things that cause us doubt, today, many of them we feel is irrelevant, is not so important. On the other hand, something that gives us faith and strength, it is remarkable to see how easily we forget them. And although there are things which could give us strength, we often still fight on, struggle on, drag on in our spiritual life without strength, because we forget that there are these things which we can do, and which can give us strength. So writing those down, and contemplating on them, and refining and reinforcing them, this becomes like a mission statement, which enables us to make sure that the compass of our life is pointed in the right direction. So these are just a few pointers. Your diary will be like you, unique in the world.
So, how you can best develop your relationship with Krishna through your writing of diary will vary. But one thing is sure, that if you can write a diary regularly, you will find that your inner life will become much deeper and richer. When we want to pray to Krishna, if we have thought about our consciousness, our struggles, our inner life, and then it won’t just be a routine mechanical prayer, Krishna please have mercy on me, please bless me. But we will know specifically what are the things which we need to pray for to Krishna. And in general, specificity brings emotions; generality dries emotions. So, general prayers are often very difficult to be intense, but specific prayers become intense. We all know that there is death coming at any time, but just chant Hare Krishna attentively doesn’t work. But if I am caught in a bus, that is about totopple over from a mountain, then that specification provokes intense emotion and intense prayer. So, by looking at the specifics in our life through diary writing, we can actually find out those specifics that evoke devotional emotions within us, those specifics that matter to us, and when we take those specifics to Krishna, and then devotional emotions arise naturally.