Should we preach when we are not feeling devotionally?
Question: Should we preach when we are not internally feeling in a devotional mood?
You once mentioned ‘Our outer preaching should be a result of our inner reaching’. Sometimes we may feel down or low in our bhakti practices in the stage of taranga rangini. At that time, we can continue our other services, but while preaching, we may overcome this feeling or we may not. In such a situation, we feel guilty, because we are preaching to people what we ourselves are not feeling. What should we do in such a situation?
- Having a ‘holier than thou’ attitude while preaching becomes problematic
- When we are diligently practicing sadhana bhakti but at times not experiencing anything internally, but still are speaking externally that is not
- It is not necessary that we have to have reached Krishna to speak about Krishna, but rather we see it as a means to reach Krishna
Answer (Long): There is always a tension in the life of a sadhaka between what they are preaching and practicing. We have been given a very exalted philosophy which discusses very exalted levels of purity and spiritual ecstasy and we’ve been given a path to go there. However, we are not yet there and we are still a long way away.
Given that we are on the way, there are three possibilities:
- There is an inner connection with Krishna and an outer propagation about Krishna, i.e. there is an inner reaching with Krishna and outer preaching about Krishna. This is the best situation, where we are ourselves relishing and we attract other people to also come and relish. This is the stage of advanced devotees who are steady and have largely transcended the gross fluctuation which come as a result of the modes.
- For most of us we may have practised for many years, but still the minds ups and downs will come. During that time, we may be speaking externally but we may not be experiencing internally.
- The third stage or the problematic stage is where the outer preaching becomes a substitute for inner reaching. This means the devotee is not doing anything to purify himself and become more serious in trying to connect with Krishna. The devotee is simply satisfied in speaking about Krishna and delighting in the recognition that comes from speaking about Krishna. In that case, the external has substituted for the internal. One is thinking because people are liking my classes and are praising me, I must be a great devotee. No, we preach because we are connected with Krishna internally and are tasting the sweetness, the peace and the joy of Krishna bhakti, and therefore we want to share that. When our sense of self-worth comes from primarily having other people appreciate how good or great a devotee I am, then we are in dangerous terrain. If we are practising bhakti and experiencing the taste of Krishna bhakti, then we are in safe terrain.
Sometimes we can be in between. When we are not experiencing anything internally, but still are speaking externally that is not hypocritical. And that is because we are still continuing the process of sadhana bhakti by which we are trying to go towards Krishna. There will be times when we go through lean patches in our spiritual life, but if we are persevering in our bhakti with the sincere aspiration to come to a higher stage, then that is still within the purview of sincere devotional service. We need not feel guilty that I am speaking of things which I am not feeling, as long as we are not grossly violating or flagrantly rejecting in our practical life what we speak in the podium/ vyasasana. Sometimes our conditionings may be that we are not be able to practice it. But still we strive to practice it. As longs as we are striving to practice it, we will come to that level of practicing gradually.
We can see our preaching also as our sadhana. Rather than seeing our preaching as a siddha giving knowledge to ajnanis, we see it as fighting a war. There are certain weapons that I have found to work for me and I am sharing that. But, if I stop fighting the war with these weapons, even I can be wounded and injured. It is not that I am beyond the illusions and temptations that everyone else is under. So, if we put ourselves in a ‘holier than thou’ position when we are speaking, it will become problematic. If in our overall conduct we are humble, understanding, non-judgemental and not-self-righteous, then even if when we are speaking exalted things, that basic core of humility will come out. Even if we have struggles in our bhakti people will not condemn us for that because we have not positioned ourselves as superior to them. We just positioned ourselves as warriors fighting the same war and sharing the weapons which we have found to work for us and which can work for others also. But if I don’t fight with the weapons then I can also become wounded. That way we can maintain the mood of humility and then when we speak about Krishna that also purifies us.
It is not necessary that we have to have reached Krishna to speak about Krishna, but rather we see it as means to reach Krishna. Because, we talk about the means to reach Krishna, it becomes internalised within us also. Then, we are on the path of steady progress.
Also, while preaching, find out things that give us taste in Krishna bhakti and commit ourselves to practising sadhana bhakti in a diligent way and continue it on, irrespective of our moods. Then we are showing Krishna our seriousness and then He will help us gradually transcend the modes.