Bhikshu Gita 4 – The mind distracts us from bhakti in the name of bhakti (Srimad Bhagavatam 11.23.45)
Talk at ISKCON, Bahrain
Transcription of Lecture
dānaṁ sva-dharmo niyamo yamaś ca
śrutaṁ ca karmāṇi ca sad-vratāni
paro hi yogo manasaḥ samādhiḥ
So, here the ultimate purpose of various religious practices is described. The standard practices are – dānaṁ sva-dharmo niyamo yamaś ca – giving charity, doing one’s own prescribed duty, following the do’s, following the don’t, all these –
śrutaṁ ca karmāṇi ca sad-vratāni
We hear sacred chants, karmani- we do good karmas, sad-vratani- we follow vratas. Recently the kartik month got over. Sometimes we follow vratas like that. Ekadasi vrata is there.
sarve mano-nigraha-lakṣaṇāntāḥ – The purpose of all this is manaha nigraha, is to control the mind, and
paro hi yogo manasaḥ samādhiḥ – That the ultimate purpose of even yoga is to get the mind fixed in Samadhi.
So, if we consider our existence, it has three layers – there is the body, the mind and the soul. In a sense the soul is always pure. The soul is a part of God, and the soul is always pure. What is impure is primarily the mind. The body is simply made of material elements, and when we start practicing bhakti there are certain changes that we do at the physical level, the way we dress, the way we maybe wear tilak, wear kanthi mala etc. All these are changes which we may do at the physical level. They are important, and that the same time the essential change – That has to happen at the mental level.
The soul is anyway unchanging. The soul is eternal, and the body is anyway temporary. So, we are sooner or later going to lose this body, but liberation means losing the mind. When we become free from our attachment to our mind – That is when we become liberated. So, when the soul goes from one body to another body, at that time along with the soul the mind also goes. In fact when at the time of death the Yama dutas come and take the soul of those who are sinful – The yamapasha (the shackles) which the Yamadutas have – The Yamadutas are themselves subtle beings and their shackles are also subtle, but even if they are subtle, they are still material and they cannot drag the soul.
In fact one of the characteristics of the soul – In the Bhagavad-gita ( 2.25) it is described:
avyakto ’yam acintyo ’yam
avikāryo ’yam ucyate
tasmād evaṁ viditvainaṁ
So, Krishna is describing how in various ways it is not materially affected. So, it is also said that it is achalo, sanatanaha. It is immovable. Now we may see that if the soul is immovable, then what does it mean? I moved, you came from your home to the temple. What does it meant?
Actually the Bhagavat Gita also talks about the soul moving.
ūrdhvaṁ gacchanti sattva-sthā
madhye tiṣṭhanti rājasāḥ
adho gacchanti tāmasāḥ
In Gita (14.18), it is said that those who live purely, they will get alleviated. Those who are in satwa guna, they will go up, those who live in Tamo guna they will go down. So, basically it talks about the movement of the soul. What it means is – The soul is immovable means, the soul cannot be moved by anything material. The soul is moved by only it’s free will. So, when the soul desires to do something, according to its desires, according to the higher powers of karma – But along with its desire the soul moves.
So, when the Yamaduta’s come, at that time the yamapasha actually can’t move the soul. It catches the mind and it drags the mind, and the soul is so attached to the mind that the soul goes with it. It’s like suppose say there is some very exciting cricket match going on – Maybe India-Pakistan cricket match on T.V, and the person watching the T.V. – He is so caught watching the T.V that some thieves come to the house, and the thieves come and pick the T.V. This person instead of stopping the thieves, just keeps following the thieves and keeps watching the movie, keeps watching the match. So, like that the Yamadutas they come and – The mind is like a T.V. They catch the mind, and the soul so attached to the mind that the soul goes with it. So, this mind is the cause of our illusion. The mind is the cause of our bondage.
So, now – Paro hi yogo manasa samahitaha
The purpose and perfection of any religious practice is to control the mind. So, when we distance ourselves from the mind ‘Ok, this mind is different from me. Ok, what is this mind saying?’ I evaluate it, then we act wisely. It is not that everything that the mind says is always bad.
So, here the mind is not always bad. It can give good ideas also, but they need to be evaluated. Just like somebody comes and gives us some suggestions. Why don’t you do this? So, we have to evaluate. Now suppose nowadays – The social media is so much prevalent. Somebody may send us some message on Whats App with a link on it. It’s not that as soon as we see the link we click it, and we immediately read whatever is there on it. No, when the link comes the first thing we do is – ‘Who has sent this?’ and then we think about the sender and then we think, ‘What kind of messages does this person send?’ If that person is always sending a lot of messages like this it is almost like spamming. Then we will neglect that message, but if we know that the sender is a thoughtful person and when he sends something it must be important. Then we evaluate and then we decide whether to spend my time in clicking on this link or not. So, whenever we get a message we would immediately go along and read the link. We evaluate based on the sender. So, same way we need to look at the mind before we look with the mind.
When the mind says, ‘Why don’t you do this?’ No need to do immediately. Look at the mind. ‘Ok, what is the mind saying?’ Look at the mind before you look with the mind. Another example to illustrate this point is, suppose the mother is driving a car and there is a child next to her. The child says, ‘Mummy look at this, mummy look at that, Mummy you see this, mummy let’s go there.’ Now if the mother starts looking everywhere the child is pointing, not only will she not go anywhere, she will meet with an accident. So, the mother knows that my child is a little hyper- excitable. So, the mother will not listen to everything and everything that the child says. Now you can’t put a gag on the child. Children are excitable, but the mother has to be discerning. So, when the child says, ‘Mummy look at that.’ What the mother does is, first she looks at the child. If the child is just being frivolous there is something serious over there. So, looks at the child_ even mothers they can understand their children very nicely. So, even from the tone of their voice the mother can make out if this something serious or is it something frivolous, and based on that she will decide whether to look in that direction or not.
So, our mind – The Bhagavad-gita repeatedly uses the word Cancala. So, cancala is often used for children. Cancalam hi manaha Krishna. in this verse Arjuna says, ‘My mind is very restless, it is like a child.’ So, we have to become like a mother. We mean’s – our intelligence and ourselves. We have to become like a mother and look at the mind before you look with the mind. So, it is interesting the contrast – That the soul is achala and the mind is cancala. The soul doesn’t move and the mind moves too much, and this canchala mana makes the achala atma wander around in material existence, and the same mind which is meant to be controlled by our religious practices – Sometimes this mind takes control of our religious practices also. That means, how does the mind take control of our religious practices? The mind makes us do our religious practices not to rise to the spiritual level, but to simply pretend to the world that I am spiritual, I am so great.
Sometimes on some festival days, some janmasthami days, sometimes some big politicians or some very V.I.P kind of people they often come to the temple, and for them _ some of them maybe sincere devotees also, and they are so busy that only on that day they come to the temple, but for some of them it is basically a photo op. They want to show to the media also, ‘Oh, I am also a religious person.’ So, they are coming to the temple not so much to take darshan as to give darshan. (laughter) So, this is — Krishna talks about the ungodly people in the 16th chapter, and there he says,
yakṣye dāsyāmi modiṣya
I will do yajna, I will do charity and in this way I will show the world how great I am. So, this is actually very gross. When somebody is doing religious activities just for the sake of show, then it is not very difficult to perceive because they do religious activities only when the world is looking, but other times, personally or privately they are not doing anything at all. So, what has happened? They are doing some religious activities but their religious activities are also driven by their mind. The mind wants to show the world how good I am, and one way we show the world how good I am is by earning so much money, by doing this, by doing that, by getting possessions, but one way I can show the world how great I am is by showing how religious I am. So, the religious activities which are meant to control the mind – Those same religious activities instead of controlling the mind becomes controlled by the mind, and for those who are regular practisioners of bhakti – This can happen in a different way. We regularly chant, we regularly do deity worship. If you are sadhakas doing regular practice of bhakti, then certainly to do regular practice requires certain amount of control of mind. Otherwise you will not be able to do it, but the mind can take control in the sense that while doing those activities we become very judgemental. For example, if I fast on ekadashi, and then while fasting on ekadashi then I go to the kitchen and see who all is eating what? … ‘Ah! Sense gratifier! Glutton!’ and we are simply condemning others. ‘How attached you are.’ Then actually our body may be fasting but our ego is feasting, and when this happens even or strict practice of our religious activities – That will not really purify us much, because purification is of various levels.
Yes, there can be purification of desire. Say, there can be lust, there can be greed. Now we may be free from that. We may not be indulging in gross sensual activities, but while controlling ourselves from these impurities our very religious activity can increase another impurity, and that impurity is pride. So, I am becoming free from one impurity by my religious practice, but I am becoming proud. I am basically getting another impurity. This does not of course means that we should not fast if we can fast. It does not mean that we should not do religious activities strictly, but we have to keep introspecting and refining our purpose. So, we are doing this not just to show the world how great a devotee I am. We are doing this to connect with Krishna more and more.
So, sometime I may sit and chant very clearly without sleeping even once. Very attentively I am chanting, but you know my eyes are looking around to see who all are sleeping. (laughter) I am not really focussing on Krishna although I am pronouncing well and my eyes are open, but my mind is not at Krishna, but my mind is looking at everyone else.
Now this unfortunately makes us judgemental, and when we become judgemental we often become controlled by the mind, because the mind wants to feel superior. Now I am better than everyone else, and then this is of course a function of the ego, but in terms of practical implementation – In terms of philosophical analysis we can understand this is the mind, this is the intelligence, this is the ego, but in terms of practical experience we can generically say that there is a force within us which makes us do wrong things, and there is something within us which makes us do good things. So, the force within us which makes us do wrong things, we can generically we can call it as the mind. And so the mind can misdirect us even in our religious practices, and then we may practice strictly but while practicing strictly externally, our eyes or our mind is not actually going towards Krishna. Our mind is going towards the world and just looking down at the world.
So, our spirituality is meant to help us look upto Krishna, not look down at the world. Look down means, look down contemptuously – ‘These are all foreign people. These are like this. These are like that.’ So, when that happens then we become hard hearted. As I said we become judgemental, we become hard-hearted, sometimes we become insensitive, and then we miss out on the rasa, on the taste, on the joy that comes by practicing bhakti. The joy of practicing bhakti is absorption in Krishna, but when our mind takes control of our religious activities then externally – That’s why talked about physical, mental and spiritual. Physically I am doing religious activities, but mentally my focus in not on Krishna, my focus is on everyone else, and then this not only doesn’t let us become spiritually advanced, it doesn’t allow us to experience higher taste, but it also doesn’t – It actually impedes our relationships with others. With other devotees and even others who are not devotees, because we are always judging them from our standards. ‘This is not right.’ – There are of course something’s which are right and something’s which are not right, at the same time different people are at different levels, and our goal while interacting with people should be simply to help them rise one step up from where they are. We may at this level, they maybe at this level. If we just condemn them because they are not at this level – Where they are, even if the take one step forward that is good for them.
na buddhi-bhedaṁ janayed
vidvān yuktaḥ samācaran (B.G -3.26)
He says, ‘Don’t disturb the minds of people’, and Krishna is talking about who? He is talking about people who are attached. Those who are attached don’t disturb their minds, and what should you do?
Josheyet sarva karmani – Engage them at whatever level they are. Help them to take one step up. So, this attitude when we have – Different people are basically different. Even different devotees are different.’ So, I may be very strict about one thing but then I may be quite lose in another thing, and others may be strict in something else which I don’t know but I see that they are lose in this thing. So, if we become judgemental then we unnecessarily strain our relationships with others.
I will give an example of how our judgmentality can actually mislead us. It’s from my own life – Once is some festival there was a feast after the festival. So, I came to the Radha Gopinath temple in Mumbai. I came to the kitchen for Prasad and because I was talking with people after the program so I was a little late. When I came there I found that the sweet was over. So, I was feeling a little bad since I didn’t get any sweet, and then I sat down for Prasad, and then I saw a senior devotee who was sitting there and I could see from his plate that he had his sweet and his sweet was over, and then he started asking everyone for a sweet. Any server was passing by he would ask for a sweet from him. It was not just once or twice he was asking. Whoever was passing by he as asking for a sweet. I thought, ‘He already had one …19.26… of sweet.’ Normally we say, …19.28-32- Why is he asking for another? And it was not just once or twice he was asking. Whoever was passing by he as asking for sweets. I was becoming very offensive, ‘What is this? How can he be so attached? Have some sense of decency, some sense of shame.’
And finally one of the servers he actually brought his own plate and he was ready to offer sweet from his own plate to him. And I thought that it was too much, and just as he was ready to offer his sweet from his plate to him, he said, ‘No, I don’t want it. He didn’t get it. Give it to me.’ And he pointed to me. So, he was so anxiously asking for sweet from me. Now at that time I realized if that last thing had not happened – If this devote had not brought his own plate with the sweet, then I would have gone on thinking that this devotee is so shamelessly attached.
So now, we see people’s actions, but we can’t see people’s intentions. So, based on our own pre-conceptions we extrapolate from their actions to their intentions. So, I may have a standard of myself, ‘Oh, those who eat sweet are attached.’ It is not necessary. Sweet is just one small thing, attachment can be so many other more ways, but I have my own conceptions that those who eat too much sweet are attached, and then if I see somebody asking for sweets, from their actions I extrapolate to their intentions, and that way we judge and we misjudge also because ultimately we can’t know what is going on in anyone’s hearts, we can’t know people’s intentions. So, it is better to give others the benefit of doubt.
Generally we are very generous in giving ourselves the benefit of doubt. That means that how do we give benefit of doubt to ourselves? If we oversleep, then we say, ‘I was tired.’, and if somebody else oversleeps then we say, ‘They are lazy.’ So, similarly if I eat a lot – ‘I was hungry.’ If somebody eats a lot – ‘They are gluttons.’ So, what happens is that based on our own conceptions of other people or ourselves we go from actions to intentions, and this is the way the mind misleads us. So, it is better – If something is very important then we can better go and clarify – ‘Ok, this is what you did. I just couldn’t understand what was the reason for doing this.’ You can clarify. It is better to talk with people instead of talking about people. That means that if I see someone doing something, I don’t understand it, and then instead – I can just go and talk with them humbly, politely and gently ask them, but instead of that, instead of talking with people we talk about people – ‘No, he did that. No, she did that.’ and this is actually very damaging to our bhakti. This is called as prajalpa. In English we can call it as gossip.
So, there might be a problem also and we need to talk if there is a problem, but gossip means we talk about negative things to people who can’t do anything to solve those negative things. So, we just talk about negative things and we spread negativity all around. If there is something negative- We see something wrong somewhere, we can talk with either that devotee or that’s devotee’s authority, some other senior devotee. There is no need to spread negativity. This is simply the mind’s trick to distract us from bhakti in the name of bhakti — ‘I want to have things going on very nicely, I want to maintain pure standards, and that why I am talking about this.’ It’s good to talk but there has to be proper circles, there has to be proper channels. Not that you have to talk with everyone about everything.
So, otherwise if you just have this attitude in bhakti – Who is doing what – Then we become very judgmental. Now a good metaphor for understanding how to become purposeful in bhakti is to consider a temple like a hospital. We are all here to be cured and we all have different diseases. So, our purpose is not to know who has got what disease, our purpose is to find out how I can cure myself. So, if we are clear about this, ‘I have come here to fix mind on Krishna. Krishna is kalpataru, Krishna’s movement is also kalpataru.’ Kalpataru means desire tree. It will give us whatever we want. So, if we come to Krishna’s movement for power, for prestige, for honour, we will get that also. If you just stay around for a few years, you will become a senior devotee, and once you become a senior devotee whichever other organization you go to – You enter room and people will bow down before you. It is very titillating for the ego. So, if you come for prestige you will get a lot of prestige. If we come to Krishna’s movement for controversy we will get a lot of controversy also. If you come to Krishna’s movement for criticism we will find many people to criticize. If we come to Krishna’s movement for Krishna we will find Krishna also. But it depends on us what I have come here for? So, if I keep my focus clear – ‘I have come here to practice Krishna bhakti, I have come here to learn how to love Krishna.’ Abundant facility is there for that, but sometimes the mind can distract us from bhakti in the name of bhakti, and that is why here it is said that the Laksanantaha – Sarve mano nigraha laksanantaha. All religious practices— Their purpose is to control the mind, and controlling the mind means – The purpose of controlling the mind is to fix it on Krishna. So, how much am I fixing the mind on Krishna? That is what we should be seeing and if we do this – The more – While doing our religious practices we focus on connecting with Krishna, focus on focussing on Krishna. Then Bhakti will become joyful. Then our religious practices, they will actually give us solace, the will give us joy, they will uplift us. Uplift us not just in terms of I feeling that I am higher than others. Actually uplift us in terms of really lifting us above this world, giving us higher spiritual experiences, and thus we will be joyful even in our practices here in this world. What to speak of the next.
So, when we are practicing bhakti, sometimes after chanting I start thinking that, ‘I chanted so many rounds. How much did I think of Krishna? I didn’t think of Krishna much.’ Sometimes when we come to temple we take darshan – We may remember whom all we met, but we may not remember what dress Krishna was wearing. Of course it is good to have association of devotees and if we have some nice spiritual exchanges with devotees – It is natural that devotees are moving, living and talking. So, we remember them more, but sometimes we may get distracted and forget that our purpose is Krishna. So, when we have this purpose, even while doing our religious activities – it is not necessary that this will be purpose.
I will conclude with one last point. That if our religious activities – They make us proud of our being religious, then that is one of the strongest ways in which we put off other people.
In general, the greatest cause of atheism is theists. Religious people are the greatest cause of ir-religiosity. Why is that? When religious people don’t behave properly then what happens? People think, ‘Is this what your religion do to you. It makes you so judgmental, makes you so this, so that?’ Then we just get recoiled from that. I don’t have to do anything with this.
Just last month I was in America. So, in America there are certain states which are very religious. They are called the Bible Belt. Now in this Bible belt some of the Christian Evangelical’s – They are very aggressive. Many Christians are very nice people, but some of them are very aggressive, and as a reaction to this aggressive religiosity there is aggressive atheism that has also come.
So, I saw one car – Sometimes people put on their bumpers various kinds of titillating slogans. So, one person had put a slogan on his car bumper, ‘O God, please save me from your preachers.’ (laughter) Now God saves us through us through his preachers. That’s how it is, but if the preachers come up as judgemental, domicile …29.36…, domineering, then people feel, ‘God is good but his preachers are not good. I don’t want to do anything with them.’
I have written a couple of books about some Hindi movies which were criticising religion. There was OMG and PK. So, I answered logically and rationally the questions which those movies raised, but in both these movies they were not portraying God as bad. They were portraying basically the religious people as bad, and to some extent it is true.
Now there are many times when people become very self-righteous, and that put’s off a lot of people. The problem with these movies is that they generalize. They take some examples of some religious people who do wrong things, and then they say this is how all religious are. That generalization is wrong, but when we are dealing with say non-devotees, people who are not devotees,those who are not practicing bhakti. Then it is important that we not judge them by them by our standards. Rather we try to make sense to the them according to standards. That means that – When I say by our standards and their standards what do I mean by that? That when we are practicing bhakti – So, for example somebody might be eating meat, and we think, ‘Oh! This people eat meat. They are so fallen.’ Yes, meat eating is bad, but if that is what they have been brought up with – They had no knowledge. That’s what the culture that they were born and brought with. Then our judging them by our standards – It’s unfair to them, because they had never known anything else.
So, when I say by our standards – Everybody has glasses. Not necessarily physical glasses, but we have our own way in which we look at the world, and say imagine two people are talking. Say one person is talking in Persian and the other person is talking in Spanish. Now both of them can keep talking and talking. Neither will make any sense to anything. So, now with respect to physical language we can easily understand that – If two people are talking in two languages, we just can’t make sense but actually just as we have our physical language, we have our mental languages also. The way we judge others that is also based on our language, and others are also looking at us. So, we think that this is so bad, but they think that it doesn’t make any sense.
So, actually if I have to go and communicate with someone, then to some extent I have to understand their language, I have to communicate in their language. So, when we present bhakti, we have to present it in such a way that it makes sense to them. When it makes sense to them – Sense to them means we have to present it in their language. When it makes sense to them, then they will become attracted – Otherwise I may say – If I go to a place where nobody knows English, and I give a one hour talk in English – Some people may be very cultured. They may sit for one hour also. (laughter) I may say, ‘I spoke for one hour.’ And then after that – Then I say, ‘This people are so insincere. I spoke for one hour but there is no change of heart.’ Actually it was their sincerity that they sat for one hour in spite of not understanding anything. It was their courtesy. So, like that sometimes when we are interacting with non-devotees, we just download a full terabyte of lecture on them. ‘You shouldn’t do this. You shouldn’t do this. This is like this. This is like that’, and they may hear us but nothing is making sense to them.
So, we have to find out what aspect of bhakti can make sense to them and Srila Prabhupada was expert in this. When Srila Prabhupada was in America, at that time a lot of people – His early followers—Many of them were hippies who were into drugs. So, at that time one hippie came to him, ‘Prabhupada, what is the happiness in the spiritual world like?’ Now Prabhupada could have quoted Brahma Samhita, ‘Cintamani prakarasadma sukalpa vriksha.’ He could have said, ‘Oh there are thousands of desire trees. There are surabhi cows which give unlimited milk. None of this would have made sense to him. So, what did Prabhupada say. Prabhupada said, ‘Happiness of Vaikuntha is like an ocean of LSD.’ LSD is a narcotic drug. Now you may say, ‘In which Purana does it say that the happiness of vaikuntha is like a ocean of LSD.’ It is aparadh to compare spiritual happiness with the happiness of the pleasure of drug, but here the point is not just to get it right. The point is to get it across. The point is not just to get it right. The point is to get it across. So, for a person who is into drugs, their definition of happiness is in terms of the pleasure that they get through drugs. So, Prabhupada is doing? He is speaking their language, and by speaking their language he is able to attract them. So, same way when we study, when we try to share Krishna bhakti with others who are not yet practicing Krishna bhakti, we have to understand their language first, and then try to present bhakti in their language, but when our mind takes control of our bhakti practices, then what happens? We just speak in our language and we pat ourselves on the back, ‘Very good class you gave.’ And then if people don’t follow – ‘They are so insincere.’ No, we have to take the effort to understand their language and speak in their language, and when it comes to close family members – Sometimes in a family – One family member may become a devotee, other family member may not become a devotee. So, the husband becomes a devotee, but the wife is not so interested in practicing bhakti – The wife becomes a devotee but the husband doesn’t become a devotee. So, at that time if we become judgmental, our bhakti can actually create a barrier in the relationship. We don’t have to do that.
Now naturally if we are practicing something, we would also like others also to practice it, and specially our loved ones—We want them to practice it. At the same time we have to know that they are individual souls and we are individual souls, and they have a relationship with Krishna and I have a relationship with Krishna. So, it is their relationship with Krishna – is ultimately between them and Krishna, and all that I can do is to become a bridge for them to come for Krishna. I can become a bridge for them to come to Krishna, but if by my bhakti I become judgemental, there will naturally be differences. If once we become devotees we will have a certain set of interest. They will have a certain set of interest, and then there will be differences. Then we will have to come to a mutually agreeable settlement. ‘Ok, this is what we will do together. This is what you can do. This is what I will do.’ So, it may be very explicitly drawn or it may be implicitly understood, but we come to some settlement and then we practice bhakti, and we will become – our goal is that we cannot make anyone into a devotee.
First of all, if you want to make anyone into a devotee, let’s make our own mind into a devotee first. We don’t have the power to do that. We may preach and others may become devotees, but actually it is their sincerity and Krishna’s mercy by which they are becoming devotees. We may be a channel for that, but we can’t change anyone actually. Prabhupada in his Markine Bhagavat Dharma also as I quoted the other day, in his song which he has composed while he was coming from – while he came to America—He said that, ‘Krishna alankrita karibaro khyamata tomar.’ Krishna! How will – Ki bhave bujhale tara bujhe sei rasa – How will they be able to understand the sweetness of Krishna Bhakti? They can’t understand, but you can ornament my words. You can make my words understandable to them. tomara icchaya saba hoy maya-basa tomara icchaya nasa mayar parasa, by your desire, by your will everyone has come under illusion, by your will they will come out of illusion. Simply make me an instrument alone. ‘nachao, nachao prabhu, nachao se mate, kasther putlir jata nachao se mate’, My dear Lord make me dance, make me dance as a puppet in your hands. So, like that when we are interacting with people – Now if there are non-devotees who are out there with whom we have no relationship, there is no need for us to go and develop relationship with them. Now naturally when we have a limited time, we will develop more relationship with devotees, but with those whom we already have relationship with– Our bhakti shouldn’t become a barrier between us and them, especially close relationships –
Actually the best – When I started practicing bhakti, I wanted my parents also to take up. So, I asked Jayaadvaita Maharaj at that time. He at that time had come, and I asked, ‘Maharaj! How should I preach to my parents?’ So, Maharaj answered, ‘By letting anyone except you preach to them.’ (laughter) ‘They will see you as a small child.’ They cannot learn from you, and actually that is what happened. The more I tried to preach to them, the more my parents became a little bit more suspicious of what I was doing, but when I just connected them with senior devotees they became transformed.
So, what we need to do is – ‘Krishna is working in everyone’s lives. We simply have to get out of the way.’ So, what happens – sometimes our judgemenality towards others – that comes in our way. So, we just have to get out of the way. We connect them with Krishna, and to some extent we can try to understand their language.
So, ok what is that will make sense to them, what is that will appeal to them? And try to present those aspects of bhakti which will make sense to them, and let their choice be something between them and Krishna. We can offer them the facility, but don’t make that as the centre of the relationship. It is not that just because our relatives become devotees – that means that I am a great devotee, I made my whole family into devotees. Or just because my family members don’t become – that doesn’t mean I am a bad devotee. Neither does it mean that they are bad people. It is just that they are at different level in their spiritual evolution and they will grow eventually. So, what we focus on is that, how can I – At the minimum I don’t become a obstacle in their way to Krishna by my judgemental attitude, by my looking down or condemning what they are doing — We definitely need to make it clear. ‘Ok, you are doing this, now I won’t be doing these things.’ And that’s fine enough, but we don’t have impose our standards on them. Let them take it at their pace, and what we do is – Avoid judgmentality and try to find out how bhakti can be presented in their language, and we will find – Bhakti can be spoken in actually many many different languages.
There is a cultural aspect of bhakti, there is the scientific aspect of bhakti, there is the socio-cultural – social aspect of bhakti, there is the humanitarian aspect of bhakti. Whichever aspect of bhakti makes sense to them, we present that aspect of bhakti to them, and help them to move them from where they are to one step up, and this way while interacting with others our focus is not on thinking that I am higher and they are lower and I am raising them higher. Rather relatively speaking, ‘Ok, I maybe at a higher spiritual level than them, but from the point of view of many lifetimes if we see — Who knows they may become more serious devotees and they may go ahead of us also. So, we see that they are with Krishna and I am with Krishna. What I have to do is, I connect myself with Krishna and I help them to connect with Krishna, and with this attitude – non-judgmental, gentle – if we do we will find that at the very least they will become appreciative of bhakti. They should feel that this bhakti – Even if it – All of it doesn’t make sense to me, this bhakti is made my relative, my family member a better person. They see that change – ‘Ok, my son has become a devotee. He has become a better son, my wife has become a devotee, she has become a better wife, my husband has become a devotee, he has become more understanding, more gentle.’ If they see these changes – The first day I talked about – The world doesn’t care about our sadhana, the world doesn’t care about our siddhantha. It cares about our sadachar. Sadachar means how gentle, how considerate, how kind, how sensitive we are. So, if these things happen by our bhakti, then that will attract, and that attraction will be transformational attraction.
So, there is Christian Saint, Saint Franscis. He said that, ‘You should preach all day, and speak a few words whenever required.’ So, preach all day that means – All day preaching is not giving a lecture 24 hours a day. It is through our actions. And speak a few whenever necessary – This is actually very much required in our closed relationships where we are just going to some place and giving a talk—We have to preach. It is important to speak also, but when we are just going and giving a talk once a week or once a month or once a year – Just by our talk we can impress people, but when we are living with someone it is not just a talk that will impress them, it is the walk that will impress them. How much are we walking the talk – And so if we will find that we are really focussing on connecting ourselves with Krishna, fixing our mind on Krishna then that will naturally lead to our behaving better. That will naturally lead to our walking, and that is the most effective way in which we can help others, elevate others and transform others.
So, I will summarize:
I spoke today about how the purpose of all religious activities is to control the mind and ultimately to fix it on Krishna.
Sometimes some people, when they are controlled by their mind they will do religious activities but those religious activities are also controlled and directed by the mind. So, they come to a temple once a year not to take darshan, but to give darshan, and that same principle can happen even in a serious religious practisioner’s life – when they practice seriously, but they practice seriously so that they can feel better than everyone else.
So, I may be fasting, but if I am looking at everyone who is eating what then my ego is feasting. If my religious practices make me judgmental, ‘He is like that. She is like that.’, then in the name of bhakti, the mind is distracting us from bhakti. Yes, there are right and wrong standards, and they need to be implemented but there is proper forum in which to do it, and gossip or prajalpa means that, we talk about problems with people who really have nothing to do with either causing that problem or solving that problem. So, instead of talking with people we talk about people, and when we see people’s actions – I gave the example of that devotee who was asking for sweet – So, we see that actions – And then we extrapolate based on our conceptions about their intentions, and often our extrapolation may be disastrously wrong.
So, we are finite beings. So, rather than ascribing negative intensions to others and seeing some questionable actions, it is good that we give them the benefit of doubt, and we focus on Krishna. Even when we are doing our bhakti activities – when we come to a moment of bhakti also we can get prestige over here, we can get power over here, we can controversy over here, we can get Krishna over here. So, we have to be clear, ‘I have come here for Krishna.’
Yes, different people have different issues with them – It is like a hospital. I have not come here to find out who has got what disease. I have come here to cure myself and that way the cure happens when I fix my mind on Krishna, and while interacting with others one is becoming judgemental about devotees – with non-devotees if we become – If we judge them by our standards then we put people off.
The biggest cause of ir-religiosity is religious people.
I said – The bumper said, ‘O God, save me from your preachers.’ So, we have to understand that people speak different languages, and non-devotees – Their minds are different, their world views are different. So, they are speaking a different language, and if we just give them a big lecture in our language nothing will make sense to them.
So, Prabhupada expertly spoke the language of the hippies when he said that, ‘Happiness of the spiritual world is like an ocean of LCD.’ So, similarly we need to – If you want to share bhakti with someone, we have to understand their language and present bhakti in their language. When it comes to our close relatives, we don’t have to make whether they practice bhakti or not as a test of our bhakti. They are souls and all that we can do is, we can get out of their way and let Krishna act in their lives.
If we become judgmental, and say, ‘This is wrong, this is wrong.’ Then they get put off. But rather within bhakti whatever makes sense, we try to connect with that, and gradually Krishna will arrange, because Krishna cares for them as much they care for us. Krishna cares for everyone, and in their spiritual evolution Krishna will guide them onwards. We shouldn’t become obstacles by being judgmental, rather we become pathways by trying to present bhakti in their language, and in this way we rise ourselves our selves towards Krishna – We raise ourselves towards Krishna by focussing on Krishna, and that focus on Krishna will make us better human beings, better family members, better professionals, better relatives, and seeing this positive change, by our seeing our walk people will change much more than by hearing our talk, and the central part of walking is focussing on Krishna in whatever we are doing.
So, how to focus on Krishna practically. Within the process of bhakti – That I will be discussing in tomorrows class.
Question and Answers:
Question 1: What is more powerful, the mind or the soul?
CCP: The soul is the source of energy. The soul is the source of consciousness. Without the soul the mind cannot function. So, in that sense the soul is more powerful. To understand this relationship between the soul and the mind we can compare it with the computer system. In a computer there is hardware, software and user.
So, the soul is like the user. The body is like the hardware, and the mind is like the software. Now the computer will not operate unless somebody is there to turn it on, or activate the power. So, computers functionality happens because of the user. So, like that the soul is the source of energy and activity. At the same time the computer also has certain default programs, certain default settings and those default settings happen often without our awareness, and sometimes against our intensions.
So, for example if I am regularly visiting a website, say TimesofIndia.com, and now what happens is the computer, even it is google or a browser it gets – it autostores that, I mean autocompletes that – As soon as I am typing T sometimes it will immediately give Times Of India. Now actually I may want to go to some other site, I want to know some other part of the world – What is the time there. So, I may want to go to some other site ‘Time and Date. Com’ or whatever, but as soon as I type T it automatically autocompletes that. Then what I have to do is I have to correct that autocomplete and correct that thing.
So, if I am not alert – Even without my awareness I may just go there. Sometimes in a computer some pop-up windows come, and normally you have to say- Yes to go on that window, but some programs are very sophisticated. What they do is that, actually we have to say NO to not go, otherwise if we don’t do anything the default settings maybe after 10 seconds, 15 seconds automatically will go there. So, the mind has many default setting like that. So, now if the computer user is not alert then the computer will go and do things which the user doesn’t want to do, and those are based on the setting in the software of the computer.
So, like that although the soul is more powerful in the sense that the soul is the source of energy, but if the soul is not alert, then the mind can propose and make the soul do things which the soul doesn’t really want to do. So, it is the awareness, the alertness which enables the soul to control the mind, but if the soul is not aware, not alert then the mind will control the soul, and that’s why the mind is considered to be extremely powerful.
So, at present we can say that the mind is very powerful, but the mind’s power depends on how much we let it take power. The more we let it take power, the more it will be difficult to control it. So, I will conclude with an example. Let’s say, you all know the Chariot-Body analogy. The body is like a chariot, the horses are the senses, the reign is the mind. Now when a horse is going along the road but the horse sees something – Maybe a fruit on the side of the road. The horse starts running in that direction. Now initially when the horse just starts moving his head in that direction and sees that – If the charioteer is alert, he will just pull the head, pull the reins and the horse immediately comes back in the right direction, but if the charioteer is not alert and the horse starts running and the more the horse gets momentum, the more difficult it will be for the charioteer to keep the horse under control. So, like that the more we let the mind get distracted, the more it gains momentum, and the more it gains momentum then controlling it becomes more and more difficult. So, in principle the soul is more powerful than the mind, but in practice the mind can at any moment take power from the soul and then it will control the soul, and that’s why we need to be always alert in keeping ourselves purposefully engaged. Then the mind cannot take control and mislead us.
Question 2: When we come to advanced levels of bhakti, is it that the spikes vanish? The spikes of desire completely vanish? And without those spikes do we move towards Krishna?
Yunjann evam sadatmanam
Yogi-vigata – kalmasah
Sukhena brahma samspasam
Atyantam sukham asnute
Prasanta manasam hy enam
Yoginam sukham uttamam
Upaiti santa rajas am
The sixth chapter of the Bhagavati Gita talks a lot about controlling the min, and Bhagavat Gita (6.27, 6.28) says that by steady practice of yoga—In our case it is bhakti yoga. By steady practice of bhakti yoga what will happen? Prasant manasam hy yenam – the mind will become peaceful, and at that time – ‘Yoginam sukham uttamam.’ The yogi experiences the uttama sukha, the highest happiness. Upaiti santa rajas am – the rajo guna, the passion within the mind which makes us restless, that itself will go away.
Sometimes to gain peace of mind we may go to a peaceful place, we may go to a hill station. That also helps in getting peace, but actually the problem is not just having a agitating externals, the problem is the agitating internals. So, the force which agitates the mind, that force itself goes down and then,
Santa rajas am – We become peaceful, brahma bhuta kalmasham – Akalmasham, we will become free from impurities and we realize our spiritual nature – brha bhutam. This happens by steady practice of bhakti. So, definitely we can come to a stage where there are no spikes and where we can actually without the mind distracting us we can use the mind to focus whole-heartedly on Krishna. That is the stage when the mind becomes our friend and it helps us in going towards Krishna.
Question: So, some people advocate forceful preaching, some people advocate gentle preaching.
CCP: We can say that there are different people who have different natures and rather than talking about gentle preaching or forceful preaching we have to look at effective preaching. What is it that has effect? What is the effect? The effect is going to attract people towards Krishna. Now there may be some people who are attracted by forceful presentations, and there will be some devotees who feel inspired to present forcefully, and if that is how they feel inspired that is Ok. Prabhupada did present at times like that, but Prabhupada was also at other times very accommodating. At one time he went to a akahara, place where people do body building, and he could have said, ‘You are wasting your time. You are not the body. You are the soul. Why are you wasting your time in so much bodily exercises.’
But Prabhupada said, ‘Yes, what you are doing is good. We are training people to become brahmanas and you are becoming ksatriyas. Both are needed in society.’ And then he says – In the akahara there was a picture of – There was an image, a deity of Hanuman. So, he says, ‘You are doing this push ups or sit ups. Just see your ideal is Hanuman. Hanuman is always chanting the names of Ram. So, while doing your push ups you should say ‘Hare Ram Hare Ram Ram Ram Hare Hare.’ So, Prabhpada what was he doing? He didn’t tell, ‘You are wasting your time on bodily conception.’ He said, ‘By doing bodily exercises try to spiritualize it.’
So, both approaches are valid, and the important thing is what has an effect, what is effective? So, quite often if one is very pure, one is very advanced, one is very elderly – Prabhupada was very elderly also. So, he could speak certain things which if you and I speak it may have a counter-productive effect. So, rather than just talking about how we speak we should look at what is the effect on others on what we speak.
If others are becoming attracted to Krishna that is wonderful. So, to some extent I would say that sensitive preaching is like you are doing surgery. Before doing surgery we give anaesthesia to the person with our gentle words, with our kind conduct we help them to feel comfortable, feel safe and then surgery. Cutting preaching is like surgery without giving anaesthesia. Now sometimes, that may be necessary.
If there is say – There is a war going on and at that time there are hundreds of soldiers who are wounded, and they all need surgery – At that time the doctor may not have the time to give anaesthesia to everyone and then do surgery. Then he may just do surgery without anaesthesia, but generally that is emergency procedure. Now it really needs an expert surgeon. To do surgery without anaesthesia – Now another problem, the big problem is that at least there in that situation, even if the surgeon is doing surgery without anaesthesia, at least the patient knows, ‘Ok, I am sick and the surgeon is doing good to me.’ But in our case most people don’t even know that they are sick. Say if somebody comes to a hospital, and before anyone – Somebody starts doing surgery to them – ‘Aye, what is this?’ So, like that if somebody is coming new to the program and you start speaking strongly to them. It’s like they don’t even know they are …1.02.23… we are not even hired as surgeons, and we start doing surgery. So, our intension maybe compassionate also, but we have to see our adhikar, our level and we have to preach in a way that actually helps people come closer to Krishna.
Question: Narasimhadev did operation without aneshesia.
CCP: Yes, but then he could liberate the person.
Question: If some people, they don’t even realize that they are spiritually sick. They think that everything is nice. So, how can we attract them toward bhakti?
Yes, in life we all go through different phases, and sometimes in our life we may be in a comfortable situation. So, actually preaching means to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comforted. Preaching means to comfort the afflicted. Now say, somebody has lost a loved one, a close family member and then they are very grave-struck. At that time we should tell them, ‘Actually Krishna is always there with you, and Krishna will take care of you.’ You have to comfort them. If they are already in distress and if we tell them, ‘Everything is temporary. You lost one relative, all other relatives also you will lose.’ So, they are actually hurt and we are hurting them more. That is not preaching, that is anti-preaching. So, preaching means to comfort the afflicted.
If somebody is in distress we have to assure them about Krishna’s love, Krishna’s guidance. In the Bhagawatam third canto, Kardamba Muni says that one who travels around the world assuring people of fearlessness in bhakti, that person becomes very dear to the Lord. Yes, we all have fear in this world, but when we connect with Krishna there is fearlessness. So, one aspect of preaching is that we comfort the afflicted, another aspect is that preaching involves afflicting the comforted. Afflicted the comforted means – Srila Prabhupada would say that when he went to America, ‘You have so much prosperity there now, there is so much wealth but how long is this going to last?’ Prabhupada would give the example of John F. Kennedy. He was young, powerful, handsome, influential – He had the most powerful post in the world at that time, and he had a landslide victory in his re-election, and then when he was just going to his give his first re-election address he was shot. Everything was over. So, I was just in Alachua. Alachua is in America. I was there a couple of months ago. There I met Ambarish Prabhu- Alfred Ford. So, he was telling – he is one of the descendent of Henry Ford. Henry Ford was a very fabulously wealthy person and his descendents were also very wealthy.
So, Ambarish Prabhu told me – When he met Prabhupada for the first time – Devotees introduced me, ‘He is the great grandson of Henry Ford – And normally he was used to people being very impressed by his wealth – And Prabhupada was prepared – ‘So, you are the great grandson of Henry Ford. Where is he now?’ (laughter) So, he said, ‘When I heard Prabhupada asking that, I knew that Prabhupada is real a saint.’ When Prabhupada was saying, ‘Where is he now?’ means—Ok, he earned so much wealth but he has not taken his wealth with him. He has gone somewhere else and the wealth is still here. So, he felt that Prabhupada has not come to take anything from him – Prabhupada wants to give me something that is eternal.
So, it is actually – in some situations we have to afflict the comforted. So, for example if some people are complacent in their lives, then we may have to point out, ‘Yes things may be fine now, but how long are they going to be fine?’ So, sometimes highlighting how our comfortable situation is not going to last – It can go anytime, that may be the way by which we have to jolt people out their complacency and get them to Krishna, and sometimes if that doesn’t work then what we need to do is just end the interaction on a cordial note. Some people are just not ready right now. So, what we can do is, just have a pleasant interaction with them and that will stay with them that, ‘Yes, I met a nice person. He was talking about something eternal, something spiritual.’ And later on when they face some problems in their life.
Life in this world is like a school of hard knocks. Everybody gets knocks sometime or the others. So, when they get knocked at that time what they way we dealt with them, that will knock in their head. ‘Oh, maybe I can explore the spiritual stuff.’ So, what we should do is, in our interaction with them we would like them to come right into their home which Srila Prabhupada has built for everyone. We open the door and we show them the way, we invite them inside, but if they are not ready to come inside just leave the door open for them, and at their time they will come. Just be pleasant, be nice with them. Let them feel, ‘I met a nice person. I don’t agree with what he says. I don’t agree with what she says. But nice person.’ If we can end the interaction in a positive note, that itself is a ajnyata sukriti for them, because they are appreciating a devotee – He is a nice person. The eventually at their time, they will walk through the door which we have kept open for them.
Question: What is the difference between being religious and being spiritual ?
CCP: There is a whole group – Especially in America and other parts of the world – They call themselves the SBNR group. SBNR means spiritual but not religious. They say that I am spiritual but I am not religious, and they have reason for that feeling. Because they feel religion makes you close minded, makes you bigoted, it creates division, it creates intolerance. So, I don’t want to b religious, but I want to be spiritual. So, that feeling is understandable. At the same time we have to understand, actually what is the meaning of spiritual, and what is the meaning of religious?
So, generally when people use the word religious, they refer to a person who just sticks to one path and are close minded about other paths. That is their idea of being religious, and the idea of spiritual is – ‘I am open to new experiences. I am open to exploring life’s higher side, I am wisdom.’ That is their idea of spiritual. So, this openness to spirituality is good. At the same time spiritual is also a state of consciousness. Often the world spiritual is used in a very hazy sense. That means people say that, ‘Anything that makes me feel good that is spiritual.’ It maybe, but it may not be necessarily be spiritual also. It is actually – Spirituality is not just about feeling good, because there is a body, there is mind and there is a soul. The good feelings may come temporarily because of some titillation of the mind.
I may take a pain killer and may feel good. So, is the pain killer spiritual? No, not really. So, spirituality is a state of consciousness. So, essentially we at our core are souls and to realize our spiritual identity and to perceive the higher spiritual dimension of life – That is being spiritual.
So, currently we are at the material level of consciousness, and there is a spiritual level of consciousness, there is a path, and that path has to be followed by which one will come to the spiritual level. So, that path is religion. If somebody is saying that I will be spiritual but not religious, that means that they are saying, I want the destination but I don’t want to do the journey. It is difficult to do that.
So, another way of understanding this is, like in science there are two aspects – There is theory and there is experiment. So, the theory gives us propositions – ok Newton saw the fruit falling. Why is it? Maybe it came from the theory of gravity. They experiment. Not just fruit. Does stone fall? Does any other object fall? Does it fall in various parts of the world? So, the experiment helps us to verify the theory. So, spirituality is like a higher dimensional science, and just as in science there is theory and experiment. So, like that in spirituality there is philosophy and religion.
So, philosophy is like the theory of science, and religion in like the experiment of science. So, by our philosophy we get propositions. For example, there is proposition – ‘Ok, we are not just our bodies. Actually at our core we are spiritual beings.’ This is a philosophical proposition that the Bhagavat Gita gives us. Now at the level of theory we can’t know that the theory is right or not in science. We have to do the experiment. The experiment is religion.
So, the Bhagavat Gita tells us, ‘Ok we are souls, and the soul is a part of God.’ And then how do I really know whether that is right or wrong. I can use my logic and intelligence to analyse but then the religion gives us the process by which we can experience what is told by spirituality – With the philosophy.
So, for example, if I am a part of God then by connecting with God I will experience some higher happiness. So when we chant Hare Krishna, when we practice bhakti, do we experience bliss? Do we experience joy? If we do experience that, then that is like the experiment which is confirming the theory. So, religion gives us the process by which we become spiritual and just as somebody is at the bottom of a mountain and they want to go to the top of mountain – They have to follow some path from here to the top, and there will be many different paths. So, some religions are very narrow minded where they say, ‘My way is the only way. If you are not going to follow my way you are going you will go to hell.’ And there are some religions which are even more extreme. They say, ‘Not only are you going to go to hell, we will help you get there fast.’
So, this is the idea that actually you have to go to the top of the mountain but they say this is the only way, and quite often those who are telling this is the only way, they are themselves not even climbing up the mountain. They are just going in the bottom of the mountain and beating others who are going on the other paths. So, neither they are going up, nor they are letting others go up in their own way. So, this is narrow mindedness and in the bhakti path we acknowledge that there are different paths to go up the mountain.
Srila Prabhupada was so inclusive that he said that Jesus is also the son of God. He said that he is a saktyavesh avatar. Now so, Prabhupada would say that, Jesus he had so much love for God that he was ready to lay down his life for the service of God. So, he said, ‘Jesus is our guru.’
Now Prabhupada, when only once he came to the middle-east – He came into Iran once, and there he was talking with some devotees. At that time in the background namaz prayers started, and Prabhupada actually stopped talking and closed his eyes and folded his hands and in prayerful disposition he just heard out the full prayer, and then after that when Prabhupada when opened his eyes, his eyes were shining. He said, ‘Wasn’t that beautiful?’
So the devotees – Generally when we take up a path we think that everyone should come to this path.
One devotee asked, ‘Prabhupada, wouldn’t it be better if they had chanted Hare Krishna instead of Allah O Akbar?’ So, Prabhupada looked almost hurt. Prabhupada said, ‘Why are you making me sectarian? They are worshipping God in their way. We are worshipping God in our way.’
So, this – In some religions may be narrow mindedness, and by seeing such narrow mindedness people feel that I want to be spiritual, I don’t want to be religious, but bhakti path acknowledges that there are many different religions by which people can rise to the spiritual level, but it is not that just by being religious we become spiritual.
Religion has to be followed so that we become spiritual, and if somebody says, ‘I will be spiritual but I will not be religious, then they will really not be able to become spiritual because to rise to the spiritual level of consciousness we need a process and whichever process we are following to rise to that level, that is our religion.
So, we could say that religion is the process and spirituality is what we achieve by that process.
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