Shikshashtakam 7 Text 3 Tolerance means to call off our war with reality
Workshop at Krishna Institute, Alachua, USA
Transcription of Lecture
So, let’s start with tolerance. So, Prabhupada famously talks about tolerance in the Krishna book. “One’s greatness is estimated by one’s ability to tolerate provoking situations.” Now I will try to unpack the statement in a few ways.
So, one practical way it means is – tolerance means to call out our war with reality. Our war with reality means that, there is a particular situation that has come in our life, and that situation itself is unavoidable, and then if I am going to resent the situation, I am going to seethe about the situation, I am going to wave my feasts at the heaven, whatever. None of that is going to change the reality of the situation that is there right now.
Say for example, I have to go from here to Gainesville, and somehow I have to go for a program. I take a wrong turn and instead of Gainesville I end up 20 miles away. Now the reality is that I am at a wrong place. If I just get angry with the reality, I can’t do anything to rectify the reality. At least I have to accept, “I am at the wrong place right now.” Afterwards I can make the necessary changes to come to the right place, but whatever is the reality right now, if I keep resenting it, then I waste a lot of my energy in that. So for example if we have to – we are in a particular situation or a particular relationship where the other person is say disagreeable or irritable or whatever. The reality is I am in that situation right now. Now I can do things to improve it, I can do things to change things, but first is – this is the reality that I am in right now and once we call off our war with reality that helps us to focus our energies.
So, one related point is, when we are in a war with reality that means we are resenting the reality. Why is this person acting like this? Why did this happen like this? When we are resenting reality, quite often resentment of reality hurts more than reality. So, for example say, we were to go for a yatra somewhere, and we were looking forward to it, and then just before the yatra say I get a flue and I fall sick. Now my whole plan for going to the yatra has to be abandoned. Now if I consider the flue itself, yes there is trouble because of that but it is basically some weakness is there and I have to lie down the bed. The flue itself doesn’t cause so much pain. Some weakness is there and I have to rest, but then the mind keeps saying, “Why did this happen, why couldn’t I go? Oh all my friends have gone, everybody is enjoying and I am lying over here. So, all that mental beating oneself up – that hurts much more than the flue. So, this is how the resentment of reality often hurts more than reality.
Another example is, if there is porter and the porter is being hired and he is lifting up say 20 Kg weight and then he will be paid to lift up 20 Kg, but if the porter puts up 10 more Kg’s, or 20 more kg’s, then they are not going to be paid for 40 kg, they are going to be paid for 20 kg only. Why lift up 40 kg?
So, what happens when we resent a problem – The problem is like a 20 kg, and our resentment is like 20 kg more. So, it becomes a double burden and then we hurt ourselves more. So, tolerance means – it’s a provoking situation out there. One person is behaving in one way, or something has gone wrong, or even I have done something wrong. It’s a provoking situation, but if I get provoked I may make the situation worse. So, once I accept, “This is what has happened. Now let me see how to deal with it.”
Tolerance is not passivity. It is not that anybody can do anything to me and I am like a wet clothe rag which anybody tramples. That is not tolerance. Tolerance is not passivity, but it is the ability to keep small things small and focus on big things.
So for example now, in the Bhagavad-gita there is the famous verse about tolerance, that is Gita ( 2.14)
Matras sparsas tu kauntey
Sitoshna sukha dukhaya
Tams tithiksaswa bharata
“Oh Arjuna tolerate it. Tolerate the pleasure and pains which come just as summer and winter comes, we tolerate it, like that tolerate this.”
Now at the same time, the same Bhagavad- gita (11.33) also tells Arjuna, “Arise and fight! Tasmat tvam uttistha yaso labhasva,
jitvā śatrūn bhuṅkṣva rājyaṁ samṛddham
mayaivaite nihatāḥ pūrvam eva
nimitta-mātraṁ bhava savya-sācin
So, Krishna is saying, “Arise and fight.”, and we look at the whole context of the Mahabharat. He is fighting because the Kauravas have done atrocities to you, the Kauravas have dishonoured you your wife, the Kauravas have stolen your kingdom, the Kauravas are adharmic rulers, and you have to take action agaist them. So, when it comes to dealing with the Kaurvas Krishna is not telling Arjuna, tams titikshaswa bharata, just tolerate whatever they have done. So, that means that tolerance is not passivity, that anything and everything that is happening we are simply meant to passively accept it all. No, in this case Krishna is telling Arjuna – “That’s a very big adharma that is done, and as Ksatriya you have to counter it.” Then what is it that he is told to tolerate? Yes, while fighting in the cause of dharma if you have to fight against your relatives, you have to fight against your teachers, you have to fight against your grandsire, that is distressing, but that is what your duty requires – tolerate it. So, as compared to the cause of dharma this is a small thing. So, tolerance means – it is not passivity, it is not that everything that anyone is doing, I simply have to accept it, but there are in a relative context – there are things which are small and there are things which are big, and if we don’t have this well-developed tolerance muscle, then we let small things provoke us in a very big way, and when small things provoke us, then our energy goes too much into that.
Suppose we come to a meeting and then we are there for some purpose, and then somebody snubs us. This snub may happen within 15 seconds, but then the next six hours we are thinking of revenge fantasies. “Next time in public I will snub them.” So, what is happening? The event has happened. Ok, now it may not be even a snub. He might just have been busy and not have noticed us, or even if it is a snub there is no need for me to seethe over it for hours and hours. It is a small thing. Maybe I can clarify it, maybe I have to do something about it, but all that is – if I have come for an important meeting where there are many things to be discussed and finalized and I am burning behind because of that one snub. Then the small thing has prevented me from focussing on the big thing.
So, tolerance helps us to keep small things small, so that we can focus on big things. If we let everything that happens matter we don’t let what matters happen. If everything that matters, everything that happens, if we take it all very seriously; every small, small thing if we start taking very seriously then our mental energy gets consumed by all those small, small things, and then when the really important things that are there we can’t do them. So, tolerance in that sense is when it is not passivity at all. It is the capacity to focus – to have a sense of perspective – what is more important and what is less important and to keep small things small.
If we see Srila Prabhupada, he tolerated so much when he came to the West. The devotees over here, the young hippies over here they did not know how to properly deal with a sanyasi, how to respect a sanyasi, but Prabhupada tolerated it all. Now if we see Sumati Morarjee –she was Srila Prabhupada’s patron who came him a ticket to come across to America on the Jaladuta. Initially when Prabhupada insisted that, “Give me passage on the Jaladuta.”, she told Prabhupada, “Prabhupada if you want to speak Bhagavad you can come to my house. Everyday I will hear Bhagavatam from you.” So, Prabhupada was not interested in that kind of simply ritual recitation of the Bhagavatam. He wanted people to transform their lives by hearing the Bhagavatam.
So, for Prabhupada tolerance didn’t mean, “Ok, everybody is just living materialistically. They don’t care for Krishna. So, I will tolerate it.” It was not like that. He wanted to make a change. He wanted to go around and find people who would be seriously interested in him. So, certainly nobody can call Prabhupada as passive. He was very very active even at a very advanced stage, but while he was being active at that time there were many irritants that came up, and he tolerated them. So, we keep small things small so that we can focus on big things, and that capacity is developed by tolerance.
Taror api sahisnuna – especially when we are chanting – quite often the mind starts thinking about – basically the mind – when we chant it just searches for excuses to not think about Krishna. Just searches, and then – “15 years ago that person took $5 from me, he did not return to me.” The 15 years I didn’t remember that, but when I was chanting I remember that, and then I started, “Why? I have to get this $5 back.” Well, it is just such a small thing the mind brings up and then it makes them big. So, this tolerance enables us to keep things small. “Ok, everything in this world is not going to go according to my plan.” So, usually what happens with respect to tolerance – we sometimes try to plan our life very systematically – “Morning I will do this, afternoon I will do this, evening I will do this, night I will do this.” And then when we try to micro plan our life, then we find that life comes in the way. That means somebody comes and calls and this goes wrong and that goes wrong, and then quite often when we find that the plans don’t work we just go to the other extreme. We say, “I won’t plan only.”
So, to some extent our profession, our job – there is some amount of structure that comes in our life but apart from that, especially in our sadhana either we go to one extreme where we want to plan everything in a very micro way or otherwise we say, “Ok, for everyday I will read for one hour.” But then we find it not possible. Then we say, “Ok, whenever I will get time I will read.” And whenever I get time means, practically I never get time, it becomes like that. So, tolerance what it means? Tolerance here doesn’t mean that, “Ok, if I don’t get time what can I do? I will not read only.” No. In general the plans may not work but planning works. What is the difference? Plans means specific. “OK, I will do this, I will do this, I will do this, I will do this.” But planning means basically an overall sense of direction, that this is the way that I want to move forward in my life. So, if I decide that, Ok every day I want to read one hour Bhagavatam, but then so many things keep coming. So one hour I may not be able to read every day, but in a week I can read seven hours or in a month I can read a particular amount of time, 30 hours or whatever. So sometimes we may be able to read more and sometimes we may be able to read less, sometime we may not be able to read at all. That’s all fine. Just like if you are travelling in a particular direction. If there is a lot of traffic we will go slowly. If the traffic is less we will move fast. So, like that in our spiritual life when we are going towards Krishna, sometimes the traffic of our other activities of our life, they become high, and then at that time we just have to slow down. Just because we slow down it doesn’t meant that we have to stop.
So the way if we don’t have tolerance – it can work out in both ways. That if I don’t have time for my spiritual life, then I get frustrated. “Oh there is so many things to do. I don’t have time for my spiritual life, and then the same mind which makes us half-hearted, “Oh I have to do this also, I have to do this also.” It makes us half-hearted and dis-enthused about whatever material responsibilities that we have to do. Once we give into that mind’s tendency to resent – “My job has so much work to do. I have so many family responsibilities, this and that. Once we start letting the mind go off-track, then the same mind which distracted us from our material responsibilities by making us think about Krishna, making us think, “I can’t do this, I can’t read, I can’t go to the temple, I can’t do that.” That same mind what it does? Once the mind – we let it become uncontrolled – when we are actually doing devotional activities it makes us think of material things. When we are chanting, “You have this work to do, you have that work to do, when will you do that?” So, that way the mind either allows us to do material things properly nor spiritual things properly. So tolerance means, “Ok, right now I am in a situation where my worldly responsibilities are more. Fine, I will accept it and I will do all those responsibilities, and then eventually – if at that time I am – at one level we should always long for doing more and more for Krishna, but that longing is positive whereas resentment is negative, and longing – the focus is on Krishna. “Oh! When can I go to the temple? When can I study Bhagavatam? When can I do some seva?” Whereas in resentment the focus is on – Why do I have to do this? Why is this taking so much time? Why? Why? Why?
So, when we are resenting we are not Krishna conscious. When we are longing we are Krishna conscious. So, longing to have the time to serve Krishna more, that is wonderful, but resenting is actually quite unfavourable to bhakti, and you see Srila Prabhupada himself exhibited so much patience.
In 1922 Prabhupada received the instruction to preach, and actually he was able to focus full time on preaching only in 1958 roughly. So, it took him 36 years. So, he was trying to do whatever he could during those years also but he was doing his material responsibilities, then he was doing whatever he could, and then eventually he had the opportunity to focus entirely on Krishna. So, this resentment in one sense the opposite of tolerance. So, normally we may think of tolerance – the opposite of it is aggressive behaviour, but that is a different concept of tolerance. Maybe we are talking about tolerance here means, that – “O.k, I accept reality and this what it is, and rather than resenting reality I accept it and then I try to move forward. Ok, I will do this. Now this is what I have to do more. This is fine. I will accept it and move forward, then eventually when things change I will do more of my devotional activities.”
So, in one sense when we usually use the word tolerating, there is the negative connotation that, “I don’t really like this, but I have to tolerate this.” So, that’s where we use the word tolerance which is – yes, there may be something in our life which is not so likeable also, but the principle is that in every situation we can actually continue serving Krishna. How is that? At the very least if I have to – if I am in a situation which I don’t like, then if I can still push myself to do as well as I can do in that situation – through that I am developing and ethos of discipline, I am developing an ethos of self-control, and that will help me later in my spiritual life also.
I do some outreach to some college students. So, many times when students – when exams come, suddenly they would develop some love for Ramayana, Mahabharat lilamrit – “Oh our studies, they are all mundane. Ultimately we have to become a devotee. Why should I study?” You know that love for Ramayana and Mahabharata doesn’t come throughout the semester. It comes just before the exams, when the preparatory leave is there because the mind simply wants an escape way, and that love is also not for philosophical books, it is for some pastimes. So, what is happening? It is not really attraction to Krishna. It can be, but it is basically the mind wanting a easy way out, the mind wanting a short-cut to avoid the difficult things, and Krishna says, “This kind of renunciation is actually in the mode of passion.”
In Gita (18.5-8) he talks about renunciation in three modes. So, he says,
duḥkham ity eva yat karma
sa kṛtvā rājasaṁ tyāgaṁ
naiva tyāga-phalaṁ labhet
So he says, duḥkham ity eva yat karma in this work there is so much misery, kāya-kleśa-bhayāt tyajet – in this my body, my mind, they suffer so much inconvenience. Therefore I will not do this. This is in rajo guna and he says, naiva tyāga-phalaṁ labhet- this will not lead to the phala. Phala is the fruit. The fruit of renunciation is spiritual advancement, spiritual realization. That will not come by that. So, sometimes in our life we do have to go through situations which are unpalatable, but if we see them not just as – “No, why am I put in this situation?” – but “Ok, this is unpalatable situation but by applying myself in this, I can learn mind control, I can learn self-discipline.” And that mind-control and self-discipline can help me in my practice of bhakti later also. So, that way if we see, even the materially distasteful situation that we go through – we can see them as opportunities for spiritual growth, and that way we can move onwards in our lives.
So, I will summarize. Then we can have some questions and answers:
I talked about tolerance. As Prabhupada says, it means one should be able to endure provoking situations without exploding. So, how do we do that? That is – he says – I explained that – call off our war with reality, and I gave some examples, say if I have gone on a wrong road somewhere, then I have to accept that I am at a wrong place and then I can start thinking, how can I come to the right place? Otherwise if I am just resenting reality, then the resentment of reality hurts more than reality. That resentment becomes like a porter increasing their weight that they are carrying. That we have the problem that we have the weight, and the resentment is a further weight on the problem. Or it’s like, If I have flue there is the inconvenience of the flue but if I am resenting, “Oh, my plans are upset.” That hurts me more. And then we discussed about how tolerance is not just about passivity. Anybody and everybody can do anything and I just have to endure it.
Krishna tells Arjuna, “Fight against the Kauravas.” So, he is not telling tolerance over there, but tolerance means we keep small things small. Yes, while fighting you may have to fight against your relatives for the cause of dharma which is very big, you have to tolerate that. So, keep small things small so that we can focus on big things, and we discussed how Srila Prabhupada tolerated when he had his purpose of sharing Krishna’s mercy, and for that purpose whatever inconveniences he got he tolerated that, and he went on preaching. And if we let everything that happens matter, then we don’t let what matters happen. We discussed that in our life. Sometimes plans don’t work because unexpected, untoward things happen then we don’t have to become frustrated and give up planning itself. Planning will give up some direction, and if I have that direction, sometimes we move faster; like when the traffic is less we move faster, sometimes we move slower. So, we will keep moving forward, and even in our material life if we get some distasteful situations, if we start resenting them then the mind will develop habit of basically being absent minded.
So, when we are doing material responsibilities it makes us think about spiritual things, and when we are doing spiritual things it will make us think of material things, and then we will become unproductive in both, but if we see even the material distasteful situations as opportunities for developing my self-control, for developing self-mastery, then that can help us even in our spiritual life.
So, any questions or comments?
Q: Sometimes we have a tendency to not chant more than 16 rounds. So, is that desirable?
CCP: See, there are two different aspects over here. One is the process of chanting, and the second is the purpose of absorbing ourselves in Krishna.
Chanting is the primary means for absorbing ourselves in Krishna. At the same time that is not the only means. So, in this there has to be some amount of individuality. I have to find out how I can absorb myself in Krishna the best and some devotees my studying the sastra as a very good way to absorb ourselves in Krishna. Some devotees will find the deity worship as a way to absorb ourselves in Krishna. Some devotees may find preaching as a way to absorb themselves in Krishna, and some devotees may find chanting as a way to absorb themselves in Krishna.
So, the important thing is that there is austerity in bhakti, but it is not that austerity becomes the only thing in bhakti. So, if we make it that, “Oh, all serious devotees should chant 64 rounds.” But then not everybody will find that so absorbing, or we may just be counting, and sometime what happens if we decide that, “Oh, I will chant 64 rounds.” And then afterwards we find, “We are not getting any taste in this.” Then we chant and chant, and internally actually we are resenting, “Why do I have to chant so much?” then that is not Tesam satata yuktanam, bhajatam priti purvakam, that is not joyfully done bhakti.
So, if we feel inspired to chant more, then definitely we should chant more, but it is not that chanting more is the only way to absorb ourselves in Krishna, nor is that chanting is the only sign of seriousness. So, chanting more is one way in which we can absorb ourselves in Krishna, but at the same time there are different ways, and as far as our tendency to not chant anything more after 16 rounds – yes, there is the tendency because at our stage we don’t get so much taste in chanting. So, that’s why quite often we feel as if, what is the next thing I can do? I feel that the next thing is more important. That is why along with chanting it is good to hear the glories of the holy name regularly. That gives us some inspiration for absorbing ourselves in chanting.
Now in one of my books there was a whole article about, “I find chanting boring. What should I do?” Three or four metaphors I gave, and one of the metaphors was, suppose somebody goes for weightlifting, and they have made it a ritual that every day for one minute I am going for weight training, but then after that what happens? Ok lifting this weight is very difficult, and after that I have to go here, I have to go to this meeting, I have to go to this party. So, while they are doing the weight lifting they are thinking, when will I just finish it and go out? And after sometime they think – they are so eager to do the next thing that they go through the motions, they have the dumbbells but they don’t put any weight in the dumbbells only. So, all that is happening is – the hands are moving up and down. Now if I just keep moving the hands up and down, that is also exercise but that is not really exercise. Then I will not really get any benefit from that. Then I think, “Why am I just spending one hour everyday up and down?”
So, when the whole thing begins by – first is, I am eager to the next after the weight lifting, second is – I try to do it as short cut as possible, and then I stop lifting the weight only. When I stop lifting the weight then I don’t get any benefit from the weight lifting. Then I think, why am I doing it at all? So, like that when we are chanting, we are meant to remember Krishna, and if we don’t remember Krishna and we are just uttering the holy names – that is like moving the hands up and down without putting any weight on the dumbbell. So, then it doesn’t serve much purpose. Certainly any kind of chanting is good, but when we are not actually connecting with Krishna then we start feeling, why am I wasting my time like this? And then we might just top chanting or just rush through the chanting. So, what has to be done is, if we hear the glories of the holy name, then we are able to absorb ourselves. Why is this important? It’s not that I had to come one hour for weight lifting. There is a purpose why I am chanting, why I am doing this exercise.
Similarly if we remind ourselves of the glories of the holy name, then when our consciousness contacts with Krishna while chanting – sukhena brahma sampsparsam atyantam sukham asnute – that when the contact comes, then we feel strengthened, then we feel purified, we feel a higher satisfaction, and then we feel inspired to chant. It may not be possible to do this for all 16 rounds, but at least some rounds we need to make a determination, “I am going to be attentive.” And at least that contact will give us conviction, “Ok, I don’t have the capacity to concentrate attentively on all 16 rounds, but this process has power, and this process gives me strength, and it is worth it.” Just like in weight lifting I have to exert to get the benefit of strengthened the muscles. Similarly in chanting we have to exert to put in concentration, then we get the benefit of purification. So, to the extent we do that, to that extent we absorb ourselves in chanting and feel the fruit of chanting in terms of purification and spiritual strength, to that extent we will become eager to chant more. So, without this experience if we make it a mandate that I should chant more, often we might just be counting the beads but we may not be absorbing ourselves. So, we have to see individually.
Yesterday I talked about Udipana – what is the spiritual stimulus that takes us towards Krishna? So, if chanting is the spiritual stimulus that takes us towards Krishna, that is wonderful. If something else is there, we have to find out whatever it is and do that.
Q: amanitvam and adambhitvam – don’t have the qualities but make a pretext of having them. Where does it come from?
CCP: I think it comes from Chakrabortypad’s or – maybe not Charbortypad’s commentary. Either it is here or it is in the 16th chapter, dambho, darpo, abhimanas cha, krodha parushyam eva cha. So, there he differentiates between dambhao, darpa and abhiman.
16.4 – either it is here or it is there – I remember anyway the difference between dambha and mana. So, dambha is basically. It’s basically I make a show to get honour even if I don’t have those qualities.
So, mana I think it is either here or it is there.
Any other questions?
Q: When the provoking situations come how can we tolerate it or is it helpful to analyse the situation?
CCP : Yes, both are true. First is that, all of us, if we observe ourselves we will know that we all have certain triggers, certain things which cause us to explode. Once we know those things we can prepare in advance. Like if say, suppose in America we don’t have that issue. In India often the roads have potholes. So, if I am going on a road in a vehicle and I know that there is a pothole over here, then in advance itself I know I have to go on the side. So, I prepare to go by the side. So, like that in our life’s journey also we can know that there are certain situations where I get provoked. So, when we know that this is the situation where I tend to get provoked we try to plan in advance – what can I do to avoid that? Like I just go around the way, so like that if too many people make too many demands for me, then I just snap, “What should I do?” Then I know, this is the time of the weekend, this is the time of the month or this is the time when too many people are going to come. So, I plan in advance. Maybe I will have to say no to some people, but I will have a planned answer, how I can politely but firmly say, No. Otherwise we say Yes, Yes, Yes to 6-7 people and then when the 8th person comes, all the resentment of the previous Yes, it comes as one violent No. So, if we know that what our triggers are, then we can plan in advance – how I can best deal with this? And overall it is not that maya attacks us in very new ways all the time. The situations themselves may be new, but overall the circumstances if you see, the patterns are similar.
So once we know our triggers, then we can put in some thought, “How can I deal with this?” and for that we have to plan in advance. That’s the first thing. Second is that we can try to develop something like our own pause button. That means when I feel an impulse to snap at someone, or I feel an impulse to do something suddenly and I make a pause. I don’t say that “I won’t do this”, but “not now.”
I correspond a lot of people by emails, and I can play around with words well, but this also works negatively. If I want to cut someone I can cut very ruthlessly. So, I find that actually I don’t really want to speak like that, but in the heat of the moment it comes out. So, I decided is that, if I am going to write any strong email to someone, then I made a policy that, I will write that email but for 24 hours I will not send the email. So, now what happens? If I don’t write the email, all that resentment is there within me. So, it will be all inside me, but once I have written it down to a large extent things calm down, things cool down. But after 24 hours when I come back and look at this – the mental pressure has gone down quite a bit, I look, “Ok, this is a sensible point. No this is too harsh. I really don’t know the situation, I am making a pre-mature judgement here.” So, we can evaluate it at that time. So, that pause button is – that just 24 hours don’t do anything about it. Don’t do anything in terms of – don’t express it. Express but don’t communicate to that person. So, I found that this is a very practical way, because if we don’t express at all then that becomes like a pressure cooker in the heart. It will explode afterwards. So, there is some expression that is required, but that expression doesn’t have to be a communication. So, I get it out of myself but it doesn’t have to reach the other person by that form, and in that I find journaling also very helpful.
Now basically journaling means the same thing. If I am upset about something, if I am angry about something, then just get it out. So, getting it out is good for me, but getting it to them is not good for them. So, I get it somewhere in the middle, and then after that when we evaluate it again then we find – as I said again, we can evaluate it calmly.
So, actually I am writing a book on the “Yoga of journaling.” So, the subtitle I gave is – “Training our intelligence to become the counsellor of our mind.” What that means is that, first time when I am angry with someone, I am provoked by something I just vent myself out. That time it is my mind speaking, “No, he is like this, she is like that, they are like that.” So much resentment is there, and it is there.
When we have certain feelings we cannot wish them away. These feelings are real things within us. So, we express them, and then at that time it is largely it is the mind speaking. So, the mind needs some vent, give it some vent by writing down. After 24 hours or something I come back and see it again. At that time I calm down. Now it is my intelligence reading it out, “Ok I wrote this, I wrote this, I wrote this.” And then we make whatever changes are required, and then I communicate to others.
So, this journaling or writing is expressing but not communicating. That is one way in which I found a pause button helpful for myself. But all of us can have different pause buttons. Some of us may find that when we get very angry we just hear some very nice kirtan or ourselves sing something or in some cases we may chant extra, and just pick up some beads and start chanting. That can also act as a pause button, but again the point of it is not just the specific activity. It should cause the pause. Rather than just chanting and chanting and I am making plans how I am going to get back at that person. We have to have something which can just draw us out of that situation, and what that will be, that will vary from person to person. So if we find that and we do that, that pause button in the provoking situation also, we can avoid getting provoked. So, it’s not that we can – when the feeling of anger is there, when the feeling of frustration is there, we can’t just repress it. If we repress it, it will express itself later. We have to – we can’t repress it, we have to process it.
There is repression, there is expression, and there is processing. So, what happens is – if I repress it, it comes up and explodes afterwards. If I express it at that time itself, then also it is trouble because it is not properly filtered at that time. So, if I can process it, then I can actually – that is a medium between expressing as well as repressing. So, after processing when I repress, then actually it is – in reasonable way, in a intelligible way, in a way that it gives vent to what I am feeling, at the same time it doesn’t come off as too aggressive or too insulting or demeaning for the other person, and then we can take things forward.
So, we can find out what is the pause button for us. That is the second thing, and third thing is – as you rightly said, after a particular situation happens, then we look back and learn. “I did this and maybe I should have done it this time.” So, in this also there are two things. There is learning from the past, and there is lamenting about the past, and two are very different.
The difference is primarily is in which mode I am situated. When I am in tamo guna, when I think about the past i simply lament. “Oh why did he speak like that? Why did I speak like that? I am always so uncontrolled. I just keep doing the same mistake.” And I am just beating myself up, I am not doing anything constructive by that. So, if I am in tamo guna, at that time thinking about what has gone wrong doesn’t help in anyway. That only makes the wrong aggravated.
So, even when we have to look back, it has to be when we are in satwa guna, when we have done sadhana, studied some sastra, we are in a peaceful frame of mind. Then – in satwa guna we look back, “This happened, then this happened. Probably I could have done it this way.” Then we can learn from the past and use it for our future. So, that means the other way of looking at the difference between learning from the past, and lamenting about the past is – when we are lamenting the mind is forcibly taking our thoughts to the past, whereas when we are learning we are consciously taking our mind – consciously I am in control of my mind, and I am telling my mind, “Ok, let me think about this situation. Ok this has happened, this is how I reacted, this is how I could have reacted.” And we are in control, but when we are lamenting the mind is in control but it is taking us here, it is taking us there, and essentially we don’t learn much from it. So, that way by knowing what are our triggers and planning in advance to deal with them when they come, by having our own pause button which enables us to process our emotions, neither repress them nor express them, or express them and …41.19… , and by learning from the past we can actually become more tolerant in provoking situations.
Q: When we say that chanting is the Yuga dharma, is that mean that chanting is the recommended process or chanting is the best process or is chanting the only process.
CCP: Yes, chanting is definitely essential, but the whole point is that we have to develop a relationship with Krishna. So, chanting is the primary way in which we can develop that relationship. At the same time it is a relationship, at that’s why there are 9 limbs of bhakt. If it was only chanting, then Rupa Goswami didn’t have to write a book of Bhakti-ramrita sindhu where he talks about 64 items of devotional service, because if you just chant Hare Krishna everything will happen.
Now Prabhupada, he gives so much philosophy in his book. He could have said, “Just chant.” He has given us philosophy, he has given us so much sastric commentary. So, there are two extremes. One is that, I make chanting only everything and neglect everything else.
If I can truly become absorbed in chanting, that’s wonderful but for most of us it is difficult to become constantly absorbed fully in chanting. So, there is no need to reduce the whole process of bhakti only to chanting, because the process of bhakti is a process of developing a relationship with Krishna, and chanting is important within that and because it is Yuga dharma we definitely need to chant, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that, that is the only thing that we need to do.
If we can, from chanting everything will come, but for most of us it is difficult to chant constantly. So, there are other processes also involved in bhakti. So, when it is said that this is Yuga dharma, that means is a vital process, but that doesn’t mean that it is the only process. By only process it means that – if anybody wants to develop bhakti they have to chant, but along with the chanting there are other ways also in which we can connect with Krishna. Not only does Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu talks about 64 items of bhakti. It also talks about 5 potent forms of devotional service within that. So, that way we see the process of spiritual advancement as a process of developing a relationship with Krishna and while giving chanting the central, primary importance we also observe to see what are the ways in which I can develop relationship with Krishna in a sustainable way.
Q: In our professional life as well as devotional life, if we try to be humble, then either people take us for a ride or if we have to say, No, then people will turn against us. So, how do we deal with this?
CCP: See, first of all, as I said we may have some stereotypes of what humility means, and they may not be the right understanding of humility. So, does humility mean that we have to say yes to everyone? Basically it is impossible for us. We are finite human beings. We cannot say Yes to everyone. The easiest way to make yourself miserable is to try to please everyone. We just can’t. We are limited people. In some cases we do have to say No, whether it is devotional life or it is professional life. So, humility is not so much – whether I say Yes or No, it is more a mode of how I say Yes or No.
It’ like when when Krishna went as shanty duta to Duryodhana – and Krishna actually was very humble in that situation. He is god himself but he is going as the emissary ,and then he was so accommodating he just gave five villages to the pandavas. Now there are ways of saying No, and Duryodhana was so insolent – what was his reply? He said, “I will not give enough land to even pass the tip of a needle through. This is not just No. This is arrogant No. We could say it is the most arrogant of saying No. So, we can say No to a request without saying No to the person, but here the way it is said is – it is – not only I am saying No to this particular thing, but I am just rejecting the person itself.
So, humility means that sometimes we may have to say No to some people, but we learn the way to do it in a respectful, sensitive way. We explain our situation a little bit, and if some people don’t understand, then what can we do. We just have to know that we cannot please anyone. So, that’s with respect to saying No. Simple as that, we have to say No, and if we displease someone by that, that is Ok. That is just a part of being human. Our condition is that we are limited beings, and we cannot please everyone.
Now in a professional setting also, if we have this stereotype of humility again there – anybody says anything I will just accept it, then that is not exactly right. As I said, humility means to not let our ego interfere with our purpose. So, I will give two examples of professional setting, of how humility might be helpful. Now if somebody is say a boss in a company, and there is some subordinate who has come up, and the subordinate has come up with a very good suggestion, and in the meeting the subordinate gives the suggestion, and the boss thinks, “I own this company, I have been in this business for 20 years, and this upstart is just 6 months here, and he has the audacity to give a suggestion to me. I will just …48:40… that person.
Well, if the suggestion had been good, I could have benefitted from it. So, if we say – in a professional setting also humility means openness to suggestions by others, then that is an advantage, and in Team playing the team leader says, “You listen to others.” Listening to others itself is one way humility. Listen doesn’t mean we have to accept and do everything that they are saying. It’s just being open to hear – so that way even in a professional setting humility can be appreciated. Another thing is that, say if you work in a team or suppose there is a cricket match or there is any team sports, and there is one star player – and the star player plays the most important role in winning, but then when the credits are offered, when the man of the match or whatever award is given the team player may say, “I am such a great player.” Or that star player may say, “No, actually it is a team effort.” And you know even in sports if somebody acknowledges that it is a team effort, everybody appreciates that.
So it is not that humility is an anathema in worldly life. It is not something which is always frowned upon. We may have certain stereotypes which may not be applicable. So, if we think that humility means not being exertive, then that’s not the point. Humility means that basically I am not absorbed in myself. So I have certain things to do, and while doing those things if – whether I am honoured or dishonoured, I don’t bother about it, I focus on doing those things.
So, then the second part – to not let our ego to interfere with our purpose – We consider that way, then humility can be practical even in professional life.
Q: Should we chant purely and simply for pleasing Krishna, for developing our love for Krishna and from that all qualities will come automatically come like humility and tolerance, or should we also make some efforts for developing this qualities separately?
CCP: Essentially bhakti, at least the way I understand it is, the most important – from the practical perspective of principle is – anukulyase sankalpa, pratikulyasya varjanam. I accept what is favourable, and I put aside what is unfavourable, and interestingly if you see – this two are called as limbs of surrender. So, among the sada vidha Saranagati, if there are six things –
anukulyasya sankalpah pratikulyasya varjanam
raksisyatiti visvaso goptrtve varanam tatha
atma-niksepa-karpanye sad-vidha saranagatih – so, it is say – protection, that Krishna will protect, that confidence that Krishna will protect, that I am dependent on Krishna. Like this there are six elements. Significant is that, among this six the next four are emotions, whereas these first two are actions. You could say emotions or dispositions. “Yes Krishna will protect me. Krishna is my maintainer. I am nothing without Krishna. Atma nikshepa.” All these are dispositions – they cannot come automatically, they will take time to develop. So, it’s significant that along with these dispositions in surrender – the definition of surrender also includes practical actions – anukulesya sankalpa pratikulyesya varjanam. Accepting that which is favourable, and putting aside that which is unfavourable. This is very – in one sense, if we have the concept of surrender like Draupadi raising her hand and surrendering. This is quite opposite to that. This is quite resourceful. This is quite active.
Ok, is this favourable? I will accept it. Is it unfavourable? I will avoid it. So, surrender in that sense is not just passive dependence. Here surrender is active choosing. I understand, “Ok, this is favourable. This is not favourable.” I actively chose things. So, this aspect of surrender is also very important, and Bhaktivinod Thakur elaborates on this also. He is not just talking about some preliminary stage. He is talking about some surrender which is a very advanced stage.
So, now in our practical bhakti, we have to see how things work. The aspiration is for pure devotion, but at the same time we have to connect with Krishna. So, that means that – I think yesterday I meantioned that – we cannot become pure devotees without becoming devotees. What that means is that – Ok, I will give a couple of examples for this. Say, if there is some big problem in my material life, and some huge problem is burning me, and I think that, “Oh, I want to practice pure devotional service. So, I will not pray to Krishna anything about this.” – and whatever happens Krishna knows everything, Krishna will take care of everything, and I will pray only to increase my chanting, increasing my hearing, and I will not even mention to Krishna about my material problem.
Now I may think that I am aspiring for pure devotion, but that particular problem is actually occupying a huge place in my consciousness. It is a big burden in my heart, and basically bhakti is a connection of heart to heart. We want to connect our heart with Krishna. So, something which is anyway having a big place in my heart – if I decide that I will not talk about this to Krishna, I will not pray about this to Krishna, then what is going to happen is – a large part of my heart will stay disconnected from Krishna.
In our present conditioned stage, material things do affect our consciousness. If I get some big disease, if I have a major financial problem, if I have a big relationship upheaval, these things consume our consciousness. So if my conception of pure devotion is that, “I will not talk anything about my material life with Krishna, I will only focus on bhakti.” Then a large part of that which is there in our heart will stay away from Krishna. So, if you focus on the point that I have to develop a relationship with Krishna – so, if there is something which is burning my heart then I offer that in prayer to Krishna, and then in this case the surrender can be that, “Krishna, this is what I feel is the solution to the problem, but whatever is the solution, whatever is your will, let thy will be done. Please give me the strength to serve you.” So, just speaking it out, praying to Krishna about it – that can quite often unburden the heart and then we can connect better with Krishna.
So, what I am saying over here is – that pure devotion is our aspiration, but sometimes in trying to stick to the ideal of pure devotion, even devotion doesn’t remain in our heart. Because what happens is, the material things do take a lot of consciousness of mind, and if I think, “I am not going to think about anything material with Krishna, then practically I think there is nothing to connect with Krishna for me.” So, the problem is – it can be a problem if I am only asking Krishna for material this problem or that problem, “Krishna please solve this.”, and I am not doing any sadhana, not praying for the increase of my bhakti at all, I am only going for material things, but for us in our life we don’t have to – once we have dedicated our life to Krishna we don’t have to make a rigid separation between the material and the spiritual, because even the material affects the spiritual. So, even the material can be used in the service of the spiritual. So, we definitely need some time for directly spiritual activities, but even the material activities can be spiritualized. So, that way – this is – it is slightly different from the answer, but I am giving this as an example to illustrate that sometimes talking to Krishna, praying to Krishna about material things with a surrender eventually – whatever is your will I will accept it, but this is what I feel. That surrender mood can come at the end but we can express our concern to Krishna, and that way we authentically connect with Krishna. Otherwise it is just ethereal. I am thinking of pure devotion, but then my whole consciousness is consumed with just practical problems and I don’t know how to deal with them.
So, similarly rather than seeing any efforts to develop humility or tolerance as something separate from bhakti, we can see them also as activities which are anukul to bhakti, and we accept them. So, that way if we do it, it is quite helpful. Now for some of us, we may find that just by chanting – it happens that – ok, all wonderful qualities blossom, but in many cases it doesn’t happen. Sometimes unfortunately what happens is, our chanting and our practice of bhakti – it makes us more judgemental instead of more understanding. “I follow my standards. I follow strictly, and actually if I a really going spiritual I should become more emphatic towards others, but I become more judgemental towards others. “This person is like that, this person is like that.” So, what is happening is – because of our past conditionings we are not able to chant purely, we are not able to practice bhakti purely. So, then we are chanting but we are more becoming judgemental towards. We are not really becoming compassionate towards others. So, then because of our conditionings we may not be able to access popular bhakti right now. So, at that time doing those things which are anukul for the practice of our bhakti –that is fine.
Srila Prabhupada would say that – one time I don’t remember who – one of the Prabhupada’s servant said – one day after they came back from the program, he heard Prabhupada hearing his own lecture, and then he asked Prabhupada, “Prabhupada, you are hearing your own lecture.” Prabhupada said, “Yes, I was checking what I spoke, I also learn and I improve.” So, now we may say, “Prabhupada is a pure devotee. Krishna is speaking through him. Why does Prabhupada have to improve?” No, but Prabhupada is also saying from his perspective, what can I do?
So, one of my friends who had done his Phd. in Bhaktisiddhantha Saraswati Thakur – so, he showed me a book – now that was Bhaktisiddhantha Saraswati Thakur’s English vocabulary book. Like say students learn for G.R.E or S.A.T – they learn English words. So, Bhaktisiddhantha Saraswati Thakur, he wanted to preach in English. So, he was learning English words. He was writing down words and their meanings. So, even an acharya may have to do what is required for gaining the skills for serving Krishna.
So, for Prabhupada also – his father had him trained for learning mridanga. So, now what happens is – when it comes to say relatively grosser skills like this. Say learning English or learning mridanga, we understand that it is not just by pure devotion this will come. Sometimes somebody may be singing with great devotion; they may be playing all the mridanga steps wrong. It is not necessary that their pure devotion will automatically manifest as the right mridanga beat. So, when it comes to things which are little more physical we understand that pure devotion won’t automatically develop by this. I have to put in some efforts to do this, and we don’t say – “Why are you doing this?”
Mridanga learning, that is an activity which is anukul to bhakti. So, we can put in the time to learn mridanga. So, when it comes to qualities things become a little bit hazy. There is the body, there is the mind and there is the soul. So, when something has to be done for the body we understand it that this is what is required, and I will have to do it, but when it comes to the mind – does everything at the level of the mind automatically is developed by the practice of bhakti. Tolerance or humility or whatever qualities that we are talking about which are subtler. They can be of the soul, they can be of the mind. I won’t go into that right now, but is it that they will develop automatically? They may or they may not if our practice is not pure, but we have to see what is anukul to bhakti.
So, in some cases if we learn some principles about how to practice tolerance or how to practice forgiveness, how to practice patience, and those can help us in our practice of bhakti. Then we see that as anukul to bhakti, and we do that. So, this sort of things they are not substitutes for bhakti if I start thinking, “All that I have to do to improve my relationship is, I just learn this tips for learning how to develop tolerance or I learn this tips for learning public speaking or whatever, for influential speaking.” That is not going to work, but while we are in a devotee community and we have to work with others if certain things can help us in minimizing the conflict or maximizing our productivity, then we can see it as anukul to bhakti and we can use that in our practice of bhakti.
Q: Prahalad Maharaj asks, “Please O Lord appear in my heart and rip apart my material desires.” How do we understand this prayer? Why is he asking that the material desires be removed?
CCP: Material desires are obstacles on the path of bhakti. So, he is asking for them to be removed so that he can serve Krishna better. As I said that if the desires are there in our heart – now if you want to see Prahlad Maharaj as a pure devotee here, he has no desires, then we see that as – he is setting an example for us, but even if he is setting an example what we see is that, there are desires within our heart and we want to get rid of them. So, that is something which is – because it is anukul to bhakti, so it is also a limb of bhakti.
So, when we say that, “Oh Lord. Please free me from lust or please free me from greed, please free me from anger.” If we are asking it so that, I can portray to the world how self-controlled I am, how pure I am, then that is not favourable, but if we are thinking that, “Ok, when I am going to serve Krishna, the lust, the anger, the greed – they interrupt me in my service, they obstruct my service. Therefore I want to be free from this so that I can serve you better.” So, then that is very much favourable.
So, that means we are identifying the obstacles – “This is the obstacle for my practice of bhakti.”, and I am praying to Krishna to remove that. Even in astrology that principle is there that – at one level it said, “Just depend on Krishna, just pray to Krishna.” and Krishna takes care of things, but if we can’t do that, there are too many problems in our life, and then some astrologer tells us, “Ok you have this graha issue or that graha issue.” Then rather than going to a mundane astrologer who will tell us to do some worship of the devatas, some devotee astrologer may tell us to worship some specific manifestations of the Lord for dealing with specific issues. That is also within the limb of bhakti.
We see from Gita (12.8-12), Krishna gives various levels. “Always think of me. If you can’t think of me then strive to think of me. If you can’t do that, then just work for me. If you can’t work for me give in charity for me.” Like that he gives various levels.
So, the highest level we could say is, “Krishna, I just want to sing your glories, I just want to absorb myself in you, but this are obstacles for me in doing that. So please remove these obstacles.” That is also a prayer within the realm of advanced devotion.
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