What your phone can teach you about your mind 4 – Let bhakti change your memory
[Talk at ISKCON, Seattle, USA]
Hare Krishna… So thank you for coming today evening and today I will be speaking on the last part of our series on what your phone can teach you about your mind. I will quickly take a recap of what we have taken till now.
In the first session I talked about how our… just as the phone has a default settings, our mind has default settings, and as a default setting need to be changed by a conscious effort, it just can’t be automatically changed. They won’t change on their own. So, like that our default settings need some conscious efforts for changing, and then in second session I talked about how change is being attempted in today’s world… that is largely at the physical level… at the material physical level. It’s like changing the hardware and hoping the software will improve, it doesn’t work. Yesterday’s session I talked about when we have to make a change, we can have external support. So, just as there can be a program that can be energy drainer, so having too many choices, that can drain our energy… So, by simplifying our decision’s with respect to not so important things, we can focus our mental energy on important things, and today we will be discussing the last part.
So, if we want to change ourselves, recondition ourselves more positively, how can we go about and do that? So, I will talk about it in three parts. First is that… So, the journey to transcendence begins with acceptance. Now we have to accept for what we are. Now there are different devices which have different features, and if constantly craving for someone else’s device… Ok, every device has his strengths, his weaknesses, but if I have got a particular device… Now all of us has a particular mind. Now with respect to our phone… if we don’t like a phone, we can change the phone, but our mind we cannot change it in the sense that we cannot replace it. So, we have to make the best of the inner device that we have. So, what that means… if I want to change myself, first of all I have to understand what I am. Change begins with first of all acceptance. Just like if I am going on a journey, and I have lost the way. I have gone somewhere else now. Now, I can come back to my destination, but first I have to accept that I lost the way or I have gone off-track. If I just keep beating myself, “Why am I here, why am I here?” Why you are here it doesn’t matter, now go to where you need to go. So, like that we all have to begin by accepting, “Ok, this is the kind of mind that I have, this is the kind of body that I have. These are things, these are my interest, these are my talents, these are my weaknesses, these are my blind spots, we have to accept ourselves for what we are. Only when we do that, then we can find out what is changing.
If often.. if we just live in self-denial, thinking that, “Ok, no I can either be just…” don’t really acknowledge who we are, simply we are craving, “May be I should be like that, maybe I should be like that. Why am I not like that? No, that doesn’t work. We begin with who we are. The device we have is the device that we have. We can’t replace it, we can’t substitute it. So, how do we accept that? One thing we understand is that ultimately whatever happens, it happens under Krishna’s supreme control, and that means that the way we are right now… one way of looking at it is that it is by our own past karma, but it is not just… what we are is not just a hotchpotch of past karmic reactions. They are all formed in a particular way, so that that is the best for our spiritual evolution. So, the position that we are at, that is actually… it has some strengths, it has some weaknesses. Everybody is like that, but whatever we are… we can make that as a launching pad for our spiritual evolution. That’s why we understand that we don’t have to become anyone else. If God had wanted us to be someone else, He would have made someone else. So, He has made you, He has made me, and that is for a purpose. Every one of us can make our own distinctive contribution. We everyone can pursue our destiny simply by becoming the best that we can be, and the best that we can be is not a Xerox copy of someone who we should think that we should be. We are all distinctive. Most of the time we compare ourselves with others and we just feel bad, “Oh you know I am not like this, I am not like that.”
Especially in today’s world where there is so much advertisement and glamorization, often we are pitted against the best in everything. So, we always see the best looking models, the best shaped people, the smartest people, the most fluent speaking people, that’s the kind of people that we see in the media and then we start thinking that, “I am good for nothing.” But we don’t… they are who they are. We don’t have to become their Xerox copies, we are all originals in the sense that they are all made by God the way we are. We just have become the best …6.36… So, if I have a particular device. It has a set of features. If we are constantly craving, “Why don’t I have that person’s device, why don’t I have that persons device” We can use the device that we have. So, we have to accept ourselves. Now, this acceptance is not something again… we can accept something because we can’t change it out of resentment, “Ok, this is the way I am”, but we can accept ourselves not with resentment but with… with faith, with positivity, that actually the way I am is the best for my spiritual growth; the way I am may not be the best for someone else. The way someone else is, is not the best for me, but the way I am is the best for my spiritual growth. If I understand that, then I can begin.
So, yes I started by talking about how we all have default conditionings… default settings… conditionings, and many of these settings, many of these conditionings are what sabotage us. They may make us do things which we regret later, but whatever combination we are… imperfect as we are, now we are still in the perfect hands of Krishna, and if we just let Him work in our life then He can bring perfection even out of imperfection.
So, bhakti yoga is the process by which Krishna brings perfection out of imperfection. Now, sometimes people ask, why we keep chanting Hare Krishna again and again and again. What is going to happen by this? You keep doing the same activity again and again. How does it make any difference. How does it change oneself? So, actually bhakti yoga reconditions us. It changes us in three ways – there is repetition, there is purification and there is revelation.
So, now we discussed about this. Just like in the first session I talked about, if we have been repeatedly visiting a particular website on my phone. Say, If I have been repeatedly visiting India News. As soon as I type I, my browser will immediately complete it as India News. Now, that is what, it has become habituated to it because I have done it repeatedly, but if I decide that Ok, I don’t want to spend so much time in the new, in just mundane news. Instead I take some other site, say I go to I… Iskcon news. Now, again and again and again if I just click just Iskcon News, then what happens? Over a period of time, when I type I automatically Iskcon News will come first. So, just as in a computer also when a choice is made repeatedly, the probability of that choice coming forward by autocomplete increases. Whichever choice we have done recently, that is more likely to come. Sometimes we may feel that we have so many negative conditionings. We may have so many bad habits, and they keep troubling us. In the process of bhakti, when we keep repeatedly doing the same thing again and again and again, that actually…. the sheer power of repetition creates a new pattern in our brain.
Remember I talked about how if… what if water falls on this floor and the floor is inclined this way, the water will naturally flow this way, but if we keep making the water flow in the other direction again and again and again, that repeatedly flow of water will create a groom (10.24) in itself, and in that way the water will start flowing in that direction. So, that way just repetition. This works even at a mechanical level. It works at a mechanical level means that even in ordinary life if people doing something again and again, they get habituated by it. Many people may get habituated… they come home, as soon as they come home, they turn on the T.V. Now, whether there is anything entertaining on the T.V or not, that doesn’t matter, that’s a habit.
So, that is just… there were in the past in a place where there was no T.V, or they didn’t have T.V in their home, but now they got it, now it has become a habit. See the good thing about habits is that they are Content-Neutral. Contant neutral means what… that just repetition creates a habit. If the content is bad, it will be a bad habit, if the content is good it will be a good habit. So, both ways. The habits are content neutral. Whatever it is, if we do repeatedly that will become a habit. So, by the sheer power of repetition we become habituated to doing something. So, what we do we tend to do… that defines the law of inertia, and that applies to our mind also. Now, repetition is not the only thing that happens in bhakti yoga. Bhakti yoga has many more dimensions to it…
Purification… purification means… just try to understand the mind in another way. First I will take the example of a ball. Then I will take the example of a computer memory. Sometimes in the wall people come and write graffiti over there. Now, it looks nasty, it looks dirty, looks unkempt. Now the graffiti is to be removed, there are two ways to do it. Some people may come and scrub it off, and others may come…and someone may repaint the whole thing. So, we scrub off what has been applied over there, or we can apply paint again which covers off what has been scrubbed over there. So, if you consider the mind, the mind is like a wall on which impressions are being …12.35… Every single thing that we do, that forms an impression on the mind. Now those impressions are what pushes us. Because the impressions are repeatedly there, it pushes us a particular direction.
Now when we practice bhakti, whatever is impressed on the mind, that cannot be erased. What has impressed has impressed, but what we can do is, those impressions that are we can push them to the background. So, when we are practicing bhakti what we are doing is… past impressions are there, but we a creating new impressions on it. It’s like we are repainting the wall. So, there are materialistic impressions on the mind, but in the practice of bhakti, we can take the darshan of the deities, we can participate in kirtans, we hear Krishna’s message, we chant His holy name. All these activities are like repainting the mind or putting fresh impressions, but actually it is much more than that. This again you could say is some kind of repetition, but Bhakti does something more because Bhakti connects with the soul. The soul is naturally pure. Naturally pure. So, just a knife is rusted. Now rust is something which isn’t applied on the knife. It is accumulated on the knife, but when we rub it against some substance the rust comes off, and when the rust comes off then the natural sharpness of the knife becomes available again. So, like that the soul is originally pure, and when we connect with Krishna who is all pure, then the purity of the soul becomes manifested in him. So, it is not that… Prabhupada would often say that Krishna consciousness is not an external imposition on the mind. It is a natural state of the soul. So, by contact with Krishna, what happens is that one level we are applying some external impressions, but those external impressions what they do is, whatever was there before that cleanses it off, and then what is naturally there gets manifested. In the case of wall, the wall doesn’t have a natural colour, the bricks have some color but that is far gone, but the soul has its natural purity, and the natural purity becomes manifested. Then our conditions get cleansed off.
So, the repetition that we do in bhakti… the repeated chanting of the holy names, then actually we are repeatedly coming in contact with Krishna. So, every day we are chanting, we are like brushing a rusty knife to remove the rust on it. So, at one level it may seem like… you are taking the knife and rubbing against it. What is it doing? But on another level as we keep practicing mantra meditation we will see that our mind will become calmer, it will become clearer, it will become more focussed. Like a sharp mind can cut, our mind will be able to cut through situations. Sometimes our mind get so complicated, Should I do this, should I do that, what about this, what about that, we spend so much time thinking because we are not able to penetrate through, but if the mind is sharp we can penetrate through. So, that way what happens by the practice of bhakti is, there is not only repetition which re-conditions us but purification is which un-conditions us, which removes the condition and brings out the natural state of the soul.
So, going on the computer memory example, normally when data is stored in our phone, now if we are going to sell our phone, at that time it is said that, do a factory reset of our phone, completely cleanse all the data, we may have some bank details or something like that which is confidential data, others might be able to tap it. Now, when we do a factory reset or we do complete clean of the phone essentially what happens… the memory spaces are still there, and normally when we delete the files actually the data is still there in the normal delete. When somebody is expert then they can actually retrieve the data. If we accidentally deleted something, through some expert software program or expert software people they can get the data back for us, but sometimes some people are malicious and when the phone falls in their hands they can also get out the data which has been deleted. So, essentially in a memory often when something is deleted, it is actually not deleted, it is still there deep in the background and some expert person can retrieve it. So, like that initially when we start practicing bhakti we may feel that, oh…initially sometimes when the change happens, the change is dramatic. It is external and dramatic. Many of the habits which you may struggle with we may able to give them up. This really works. It’s a very powerful process, very powerful process. I was in Salt Lake City and for one of programs, the Catholic Pastor had come, and he had read one of my books in Amazon, and then he came for this program, and then he said that, he is actually a Catholic Preacher for 25 years and somehow he felt that… his consciousness told him that actually taking wine is not good, eating meat is not good, but somehow he was not able to give it up, but he heard about Bhagavat Gita, he heard about Bhakti Yoga, he started chanting Hare Krishna, and he said, I don’t know what happened, but what I was trying to give up for the last 10-15 years I was able to give up within two weeks, and no temptation at all. So, he told me, I am at cross roads right now, I am actually teaching the Bible but I am seeing the potency of Bhagavat Gita working in my life. So, I told him, don’t see this as competitive, see it as cooperative. The same God whom you are trying to glorify through the Bible, and you try to do that sincerely, that same God has guided you to a process where you can get purified faster. It is not that… it is not that we are trying to pull people from one religious tradition to another religious tradition. Our goal is to elevate people’s consciousness and if people find that a particular process elevates them faster then nobody should stop them in the name of sectarianism. So, ultimately the purpose is to elevate one’s consciousness. Srila Prabhupada would say that, by understanding the Bhagavata Gita a Christian can be a better Christian. The principles of God consciousness are universal. The point which I am making here is that actually, the contact with Krishna that comes through the direct process of bhakti, it is a very empowering contact, it can bring about dramatic purifications, and can see that in the initial stage of our life, but then after we keep practicing bhakti for a few years, maybe five years, maybe ten years, then sometimes we may fee, my old conditionings are coming back, what is happening, I thought that I was free from this temptation but it is coming back. Actually it is not coming back, it’s just like… we thought that some datas were deleted from my computer but the data is still there, and some expert will come they can retrieve the data. So, like that when we say that I have become free from this it is not exactly free, it’s that those conditionings have gone deep into the background but they are there. As long as the bhakti impressions are strong and are in the fore front those conditions don’t manifest, but when the bhakti impressions are receded, when we become less intense in the practice of bhakti and we expose ourselves to some past stimuli, then the past impressions start coming up. Even if they come up, actually there is a difference.
Narada Muni says that… in the Bhagavatam first canto that actually for a devotee who has tasted Krishna self-centred worldly enjoyments, they can’t give any pleasure. A devotee may pursue them again and again, but rasagraho janah….If the person has tasted the rasa of Krishna and then such a person cannot taste the pleasures of worldly pleasures although such a person may try. So, what is happening the option is there for us and if we are not alert we will take that option, but we will not get any pleasure. So, the higher taste is …21.24… The higher taste doesn’t eradicate the option for the lower taste. The higher taste decreases the appeal of the lower taste. The option is always there for us. The option will never go away, but the appeal will decrease, and if we are alert, if we think, actually why am I chasing after this? The pleasure here is so insignificant, I don’t have to chase after this. That way we can resist it. So… but we have to be alert, but gradually as the purifications happens more and more, the lower taste becomes less and less appealing and eventually the lower taste completely disappears. -22.10
Harivilas Prabhu was commenting the other day that, Dhruva Maharaj felt that the kingdom was like a broken piece of glass. There what had happened that the higher taste had not only curved the lower taste, but the lower taste had disappeared completely. Now, what is happening here, the purification means that the original qualities of the soul becomes re-manifest.
So, now there is not only that the bhakti yoga reconditions us not only through repetition, not only through purification, but also through revelation. Revelation means that actually Krishna… when we start practicing bhakti Krishna reveals His beuty, Krishna reveals His sweetness. When Krishna reveals His beauty, Krishna reveals His sweetness, the taste that we get is so sublime. In the Bhagavat Gita Krishna says, in 10.9 that
kathayantaś ca māṁ nityaṁ
tuṣyanti ca ramanti ca
Here Krishna says that those who are devoted to me they constantly discuss about me, an they enlighten each other about me. This is 10.9, this is part of the catursloki Bhagavat Gita. Now the previous verse describe this people. Krishna is talking about this in 10.9, and then He says,
ahaṁ sarvasya prabhavo
mattaḥ sarvaṁ pravartate
iti matvā bhajante māṁ
So, He says, those who whole heartedly worship Me, they are Budha. Now Budha is a cognate of Buddha, that means that enlightened. So, Krishna is saying that this people are already enlightened, and yet in next verse He says, they enlighten each other about Me. So, what does it mean? Actually if they are already enlightened, why do they need to enlighten each other? The point is that Krisna’s glories are unlimited, and because they are unlimited we can unlimitedly relish them. The enlightened devotees become increasing enlightened by hearing about Krishna about each other. So, one devotee is appreciating Krishna from this perspective, another devotee appreciates Krishna from another perspective, another devotee appreciates Krishna from another perspective, and in that way they all move towards enlightenment, more and more enlightenment. So, that’s how Krishna’s glories are eternally attractive, and as Krishna becomes pleased with our service then the to the devotee Krishna reveals His beauty. When Krishna’s beauty is revealed then nothing in the world can attract us because Krishna is so attractive.
In the Gopi geeta, the gopi’s sing about Krishna’s smile and say,
Nija jana smaya dvamsa na smita, They say, Nija jana smaya, if your devotees become proud, the pride that is there in the devotees heart dvamsa na smita, your smile destroys their smile. Now, what does that mean? That actually through pride we all try to get some pleasure, “I am so good in this, I am so good in that.” Now, we may all be proud of something and get some pleasure from that pride, but when we try to get some pleasure from our own glories there are two problems, one is that we don’t have too many glories. So, the amount that we can take pride from… we can take pleasure from is very limited. Second is, whatever glories we have… they are unstable, “I have some glories but tomorrow somebody somebody might get more glories.” So, when we base our pleasures only on our own conceptions or our own greatness, then we get very less pleasure and lot of insecurity, but Krishna smiles at a devotee, and Krishna reveals His beauty devotee feels, ‘there is so much pleasure in relishing Krihsna’s sweetness, there is so much joy in immersing myself in Krishna’s beauty, why do I need this pride, why do I need this greed, why do I need this lust, I don’t need this things. So, in this way the devotees anarthas are destroyed by Krishna’s smile. So, when we are practicing Bhakti, it is not simply mechanical, we are selected a new site and the new site becomes a default setting. No, when by the process of bhakti when Krishna reveals Himself He conquers the heart. That is the process of mercy. The process of mercy is so powerful that it can bring about a kind of transformation that the mechanical effort may take a very very long time to bring.
So that’s how in the process of bhakti yoga the repetition works through simply repetition, the change happens through repletion, purification and revelation, all three.
Now, when we are practicing bhakti we always have to keep our priorities clear. The way to put, as they say, the first things first. Now, if you have to focus on the war of devotion, not the battle against temptation, what that means is that, we while practicing bhakti we have certain principles to follow, “I should not do this, I should not do this.”, and the principle is to follow, “I should do this, I should do this.” Sometimes, we become too prohibition centre, too renunciation centred, “I should not do this, I should not do this.”, and we think that my spiritual advancement depends on how much I am giving this up, how much I am giving that up. That is one parameter of our spiritual advancement, but that is one aspect. Ultimately, the essence of bhakti is attraction towards Krishna, and when there is attraction to Krishna, the detachment from other things will automatically manifest, but when we become too centred, whether I am able to give this up or not… then we become, we are actually… we may be giving up greed, we may be giving up lust, we may be giving up other conditionings, but then we get the conditioning of pride. When our focus is not Krishna, when our focus is winning the battle against temptation, the focus is on renunciation, then we become, ‘see I am more renounced than others.’, and if I am not… if I have not succeeded in renunciation then I feel disheartened. So, how do we become proud, suppose we are fasting on ekadasi, fasting nirjala on ekadasi, and then we go to the kitchen and see who is eating what (laughter)… so attached, hopeless, no sense control. So, our body may be fasting, but ego is feasting (laughter), and when our ego is feasting what is happening we are creating a new conditioning, we are creating the conditioning of pride. So, at one level if we shift our focus from the war for devotion to the battle against temptation, then if we succeed we create a conditioning of pride, because what has happened, our focus was on how much I am able to give that up, and then if my standard is how much I am able to give it up then I will evaluate everyone else from that perspective, who is not able to give this up? So, then we succumb to pride. So, we don’t want to give up one material conditioning and take up another material conditioning. We want to become free from all material conditionings. – 30.02
Sometimes when people have bad habits, they say, sometimes people say, “To give up drinking you take up some other habit.”, sometimes they take up the habit of smoking. That is another bad habit. May not be as bad, may not be more bad, whatever it is, but substitution of one bad habit with another bad habit is no solution, is no cure to addiction. So, similarly we may give up greed, but then we get pride. Then we are not really becoming free from conditioning. So, if our bhakti becomes too temptation-centred, in terms of giving up temptation, then this is the danger that we face, that you become proud and judgemental towards who we are trying to… who we are superior to. Now, detachment is very valuable in bhakti, but the purpose of detachment is to help is in a fixed up to look up to Krishna, without getting caught by the pleasures of the world, but when.. since Krishna is not our centre, detachment is our centre, then we become detached but instead of looking up at Krishna at the world, we look down… oh, he is like this, she is like this, they are like that. So, we don’t become Krishna conscious, and we don’t grow towards Krishna. So, we have to know that our battle is that we don’t have to fight… we have to fight the battle against temptation but there is bigger war. That bigger war for devotion is more important, this leads to another metaphor. Here there is a difference between the phone and the mind. Now sometimes if you are charging a phone and sometimes if there is problem in the electric power generation, then spikes come up. Spikes means electric voltage suddenly goes up, and many times if the power board is not very regulated then we have spike guards. The spike guards ensure that the electric current doesn’t become so high that the device doesn’t get damaged.
So, when the spikes shoot up and there is not spike guard, then the device may get damaged. So, we need spike guards, but the point is that just the spikes can suddenly come up in the flow of electricity. Like that in our life also sometimes desires shoot up. We experience spike of desire. When the spike come, at that time we may be practicing a life of principles very nicely and suddenly we feel like irresistible desires overcoming us, and sometimes people who seem to be living a life of principles and integrity, suddenly they fall for something terrible. Now, what happens is that when this kind of spike of desires comes, it is almost irresistible but the spike itself doesn’t last for long. The spike itself is temporary. So, now unfortunately what happens to us is when the spike of the desires comes we are unable to resist, we fall for it, and after that we keep beating ourselves up, why did I do that?, in that process what happens, if one spike had come here in between what … it is not that whichever desire it is, the desires don’t torment us intolerably and constantly. The desires take a back ground noise, and sometimes they become very strong whichever desire it is. So, when they are very strong we may not be able to resist them, but after that in the intermediate period it is very much possible to resist it, to focus on Krishna, to become absorbed in Krishna but if we are too temptation centred or renunciation centred, then even after the desire has come and gone what happens…why did I do that? Why? And again in this case we are not Krishna Conscious, we are simply self conscious. Actually we are mind conscious.
So, now during the spikes something may happen, but if in between the spikes you are practicing bhakti we are getting purified by that. We keep practicing bhakti consistently in between the spikes, gradually that practice of bhatki will purify us, and when we get purified eventually when the spikes comes we will able to resist it also, but if because of those spikes we become discouraged, and think, why did I do that ? May be I am no good, I am hopeless, I am just fallen. See the mind is so tricky, first it makes us fall down, and then it says, “Now you have fallen down, now fall down completely.” (laughter)… No, I have fallen down, that is fine, but I don’t have to fall down completely. I can get up, but the mind makes us think, ‘Now you have fallen down, Now fall down completely’, No, I fallen down that is fine, but I don’t have to fall down completely, I can get up but the mind makes us think, because I have fallen down I should fall, it’s not like that.
Another example to illustrate this. Actually if you have faith, the fruit of faith is hope, what does it mean? Suppose, there is a boxing match going on, and say there are two boxers, and whenever there is a fight going on, quite often there is always the tendency to discourage to other person, to intimidate the other person. So, we see that in the Ramaya, the Mahabharata, when the demon is fighting the demon threatens , I am going to destroy you, you are going to Yama’s abode. Your corpse is going to leave this battlefield. They all threaten. So, that language of intimidation is meant to actually dishearten, to decrease the fighting spirit. Sometime if there is an intense competition with so two cricket playing countries. Then before the match starts, before the actual battle starts in the match, there is a battle of allegations, ‘Oh we are going to do this, we are going to target this person, we are going to get this person out for zero, we have got a strategy.’ Both of them basically start playing mind games, they want to discourage the other team. This is the standard strategy. Now, when there is a confrontation between two people, it is understood that actually it is not just a confrontation of skills, it’s not just a confrontation of strengths, it’s also a confrontation of minds. So, if we can dishearten the other person, the half the battle is won already. Let’s say, if two boxers are fighting, and one person hits the other person and this person falls down. When this person has fallen down… now if the boxer is to get up, the boxer looks at the other boxer, ‘do you think that I can defeat you?’ ‘Never, I am going to crash you.’
Now, if this boxer wants to get up and fight, the boxer should not be consulting the other boxer. (laughter) The boxer should be consulting his coach. The coach says, C’mon get up, you can do it, you try this, you do this, you can do it, you have fought well before.’ So the couch will encourage. If you turn to the opposite boxer, the opposite boxer discourage only. (laughter). So, what happens for us, when we are trying to be purified, we are like fighting a boxing match with our mind. So, the mind knocks us down, and then we ask the mind, ‘do you think I can do this?”, ‘Never.’ , ‘do you think I can change for the better?’, ‘Never, you are doomed to be like this?’
So, if we have to improve we have to take counselling not from the mind. The mind at least at present is not our counsel, it is actually our nemesis, it’s presently as Bhagavata Gita says, mind often is our energy right now. So, we need to take counselling from Krishna. Now, quite often whatever we are doing, our mind is constantly speaking. Suppose if you wake up early in the morning… we put a alarm and we wake up with that alarm. The alarm rings and the alarm is telling us wake up, and the mind is telling us, go to sleep. Say, for example we are going to speak the first time in the public. Actually when you go first time in the public, there is a voice inside which says, ‘You are going to forget everything, you are going to make a fool of yourself, people are going to laugh at you.’ So, there is this voice inside which keeps sabotaging us. So, now if we have to succeed in our life in anything, either material or spiritual, we have to recognize that this voice is not our friend. This voice is our enemy. There is a battle going on, and this voice is simply the voice of the enemy trying to intimidate us. If we hear this voice, we will be discouraged. So, in the process of bhakti that is why it is so vitally important to hear about Krishna and hear Krishna. We hear about Krishna when we study sastras, when we come and hear classes… when we hear Krishna and we chant His holy names… when we do both, Why? Because the mind is constantly next to us, and the mind is constantly speaking. So, anyway we are going to hear from the mind. If we don’t hear from Krishna, then what will happen, ‘the mind’s constant speaking is going to dishearten us, it is going to erode our spirits.
Yesterday I talked about anxiety, how anxiety is something which sucks our energy. A very interesting survey… So, it is found that actually the people worry the most during the time when they are expecting to enjoy the most. That after their work is done, home work is done, they think that, now I will relax, now I will have leisure time, and in the leisure time what happens? The mind starts working…. Sometimes in the school we have fill in the blanks. So, as soon as the mind finds any blank in our schedule it fills it up, and it fills it up with worry, and the mind is so cunning that it will not only fill in the blanks, after that it will overwrite the sentence also. That means that once we get worried.. ok 15 minutes I will just relax, I think that 15 minutes I will just relax, but the 15 minutes I am getting so much anxiety, ‘what if this happens, what if that happens’, and after that whatever we are planning to do we just don’t have no energy left for that. We become panicky, we don’t do it.
So, often worry is the interest we pay on loans e haven’t yet taken. Most of things we worry about, are problems which don’t materialize, most of them may not happen also. Why do we just keep worrying about it? So here, the point which I am making is, the mind is what is causing that worry, and this if we hear that mind, if we take counsel from the mind we will become disheartened, we will become disheartened and we will lose hope. So, we need to hear from Krishna through guru, sadhu and sastras, and we need to hear Krishna through His holy names. When we do that, that actually saves us from the mind, and to the extent we don’t do this hearing, to that extent the mind keeps speaking more and more. So, the conditioning of the mind is such that it keeps popping up again and again, and it pop’s up whenever we give it any free time. Just like says, if we have a particular app which has become the default app… as long as I am working on my phone… I am calling, I am reading, I am doing something constructive, I am doing my work, but as soon as the phone becomes silent… maybe suddenly some advertisement pops up, some promo pops up, or say we can have a screen saver on our computer. If we are not doing any work, then the screen saver comes. So, right now for us, the screen saver which we have for our mind, that is the negative screen saver. So, what happens is… many, many people have some inspirational quotes whenever they want to have screen savers, but our default screen saver our mind is something which will kill our determination. As soon as we don’t do anything, the mind start saying, ‘you are a fool, you are a failure, you are doomed, you are going to fall, you are going to make a mess of yourselves.’ So, in this way our mind sabotages us and when we learn this point that we can’t take counselling from the mind.
Now, it is possible that some of the things that the mind is telling is true also. Yes, we have limitations, we have omitted mistakes, we have bad habits, but these don’t define us. Actually our greatest hope comes from Krishna. Now, whatever happens, Krishna always loves us, and no matter how fallen we are, no matter how conditioned we are, Krishna’s love for us doesn’t depend on who we are, Krishnas’ love for us is not based on who we are, it is based on who He is. He is eternally our Lord, He is eternally our master,
pitāham asya jagato
mātā dhātā pitāmahaḥ
He is our father, He is our mother, He is our maintainer, and He always loves us. Now, of course our experience of Krishna’s love is based on who we are. Krishna’s love for us is not based on who we are, but our experience of His love is based on who we are. That means, the sun always gives light to everyone, but if my eyes are closed I cannot see the sunlight. So, Krishna always loves us, but we are too attached to material things then what happens is that we see everything from the perspective of the material things. ‘If Krishna gives me this, then He loves me, if Krishna doesn’t give me this then He doesn’t love me.’ There may be many other signs of Krishna’s love but we just don’t see them, and that’s why if we just keep this in mind that Krishna’s love is always there and our faith, our hope is based on Krishna’s love.
In the Visnu Sahasranam, Visnu is glorified with many different names and one of the names is
Animesa nimisa Swagri vacaspati udaradi
Animesa is one who never blinks His eyes, Nimisa is one who blinks His eyes. Actually Baladeva Vidyabhusan and his commentary explain’s the significance of this two name. At one level they seem contradictory. How can someone never blink His eye and the same person blinks the eye? So, he describes that Nimisa… Krishna blinks His eyes, that means that if a devotee is trying to serve Krishna and by serving Him if a devotee commits some mistake, Krishna blinks His eyes and overlooks. On the other hand if a devotee tries to serve Krishna then Krishna unfailingly, unblinkingly takes note of that service. So, Krishna is not a fault finding God. Krishna’s purpose is not to catch us when we do wrong. Some people are just fault-finding, “Oh, I just caught you now.” Krishna’s purpose is not to catch us when we do wrong, His purpose is to catch us when we fall. Just like parents, when they are helping the child to walk. Now if the child starts falling the parents don’t laugh at the child, ‘Aae you fell down.’ The parents are there to catch the child, to help the child rise again. So, like that Krishna’s purpose is to help us, and while we are trying to purify ourselves, while we are trying to change our conditionings at that time we may have slips, we may have falls but we don’t have to lose heart anytime, because Krishna is there to help us, and Krishna is omnipotent. Why He is omnipotent? That which seems impossible to change, that can also be changed.
Krishna says that mind which is our enemy can also be our friend, and in the pure stage,
praśānta-manasaṁ hy enaṁ
yoginaṁ sukham uttamam
Krishna says that when the mind is purified, it becomes naturally situated in spiritual level, and that stage –
brahma-bhūtaḥ prasannātmā, at that state we become naturally joyful. So, that state may seem far away for us just now, but if we keep practicing bhakti, by Krishna’s grace all the struggles that we are going through, external or internal, Krishna is there to take us through them all. We have good days and we have bad days, but Krishna is there all days with us. The only question is whether we are with Him.
If we stay with Him, if we stay Krishna conscious, then He will see us through even the toughest of days that will come in our life. We will conclude with one thought, “Now whatever Karma may get us to, Krishna will get us through.” You know we all had done some Karma because of which we had problems externally, some conditionings internally… yes Karma will get us to various kinds of problems… but whatever karma may get us to, Krishna will get us through. We just need to stick to Krishna, and if we stick to Krishna’s lotus feet even huge obstacles that may seem unscalable, by His grace we will be able to scale that, and as our conditioning get removed, as our natural inclination towards purity, towards spirituality becomes manifest, then we can become joyful even in this life, because we become manifestations of Krishna’s potency to purify us, Krishna’s potency to transform people. So, bhakti offers us a very positive vision of life. So, bhakti helps us to become the best that we can be. What we are is God’s gift to us. What we become is our gift to God. Wherever we are right now is Krishna’s arrangement. We accept that. ‘Ok, this is the kind of mind that I have, this is the kind of body that I have, this is the device that I have, this is God’s gift to me.” We don’t resent it, we don’t accept it, we accept it, we make use of it, and by Krishna’s grace whatever we are doing, and whatever abilities that we have, whatever talents that we have, whatever interest that we have, we start practicing bhakti whole heartedly, what we become… that is our gift to God. So Krishna helps us to bring out the best within us. Whatever it is that is our destiny, Krishna helps us to reach to the destiny. Whatever we are meant to become, by Krishna’s grace we will become the fullest potential that we have, and that is Krishna’s mercy.
I started by speaking today about how the process of bhakti yoga purifies us. So, purification first begins with acceptance.
The mind that we have is the only mind that we have, we can change it, we can’t replace it with some other mind. We may be able to replace the phone, but we will not be able to replace the mind. So, we accept it, then we can note, this are my strengths, this are my weaknesses, and we can begin the journey to transform ourselves.
And how does Bhakti Yoga transforms ourselves? By three ways
By purification and repetition. Repetition means that just by doing a thing repeatedly we tend to do it. That s the law of inertia, and that is how also computer also works. If you keep searching a site again and again that comes in the top as autocomplete. Like that if you keep doing again and again that becomes the inclination of the mind. When water keeps repeatedly in one direction a groove is formed in that direction, and bhakti yoga also purifies through … transforms thorough purification.
Our own mind, if you compare to a wall with graffiti written on it, you can scrub out what is there or we can overwrite it.
Bhakti is so wonderful that by that overwriting we are bringing out what was originally there. So, just like by applying some substance to a rusted knife, rubbing it against a particular substance the rust comes out, and the original sharpness of the knife comes out. Similarly the original sharpness of the mind… the clarity of the mind, the sharpness to penetrate through complex situations and see things properly that becomes manifested through the purification that comes by coming in contact with Krishna who is all pure and then revelation.
Now, if something is very attractive, then we naturally we become attracted to it, and Krishna is supremely attractive. If we keep practicing bhakti consistently we please Him. When He gives us His mercy, when He reveals His beauty then you become completely captivated by Him. That mercy can bring about a transformation in an astonishing way which we cannot even conceive of right now, and so Krishna’s glories can enlighten and delight even the enlightened.
Then I talked about, while we are practicing bhakti if we focus too much on battling against temptation instead of cultivating devotion, then if we succeed in …53.57…. temptation we become proud. So, we may give up one conditioning but we take up another undesirable conditioning. So, we may be fasting from food but our ego may be feasting.
So, on the other hand if we don’t succeed in the battle against temptation, then we become disheartened but we don’t need to be disheartened because sometimes the spike of desires may come and they may overwhelm us, but there are times when the desires are not on that spike, and what do we do at that time is far more important than what happens during the spikes. So, if we are in between the spike of desires and we are practicing bhakti consistently, then we will become purified and as we become purified, as we become spiritually strengthened, next time the spike comes we will be in better position to resist it. That’s our focus should be on the war for devotion, not the battle against temptation.
We need to know that the mind is like the internal sabotager, it is like the enemy. In any war the enemy always tries to intimidate, break the spirit of the opponent so that they can defeat more easily. So, the mind tries to break our spirit by negative internal talk. So, it knocks us down and then… if the boxer was fallen down then the boxer should not consult the opponent if I can win, they should consult the coach. So like that after the mind makes us fall down if you again listen to the mind only, can I do this? ‘No, you can never, you can never do that.’ We need to turn towards Krishna. Because the mind is always there and we are by default hearing the mind, so it’s vital for us to hear about Krishna and hear Krishna. Hear about Krishna through guru, sadhu and sastra, and hear Krishna through the holy name, and when we leave ourselves with ideal time, as the time when the mind fills up the blank then it overwrites the sentence. So, if you want to avoid worry, if you want to avoid negativity we fill our life with Krishna. Even if there are some lapses, even if there are some faults again we rise and we fill ourselves with…we connect ourselves with Krishna whole-heartedly, and ultimately our faith, our hope comes from faith in Krishna, that Krishna’s love for us is not based on who we are, it is based on who He is. He always loves us because He is our all loving father, and He is there to help us, His purpose is not to catch us when we fall, His purpose is to…His purpose is not to catch us when we do wrong, it is to catch us when we fall.
So, with this focus on Krishna’s love we can always be enlivened. Krishna notes… when we make some mistake Krishna just overlooks it, He just blinks His eyes…nimise… but, if we try to serve Him, Krishna unblinkingly notes and rewards that.
In the process of bhakti as our mind becomes purified, then our best side comes out. Instead of resenting who we are, if we understand that what I understand is God’s gift to me, that I don’t have to be someone else. If God had wanted me to be someone else, he would have made someone else. God wants me to be me, the best me. So, let me accept who I am and improve myself. What I become is my gift to Krishna. With this mood of devotional service to Krishna we bring out the best, and by Krishna’s grace we can not only become purified internally, not only can we attain purification internally and attain satisfaction internally but we can also make tangible contribution externally by using our talents and abilities. As our mind becomes our friend, instead of our enemy then we can contribute constructively even in this world, what to speak of the next where we will attain by Krishna’s mercy.
Thank you very much. Hare Krishna.
Question and Answer session:
Question: What does the names of Krishna, Nimesh and animesh mean?
Chaitanya Charan Prabhu: Nimisha refers to one who blinks his eyes. Animesha refers to one who never blinks his eyes. So, how are these two contradictory attributes to be reconciled? The explanation is that just like, when Putana came to kill Krishna. At that time Krishna closed His eyes. Krishna overlooked her nepharious intension, and Krishna focussed on her maternal slight desire that was there. “Ok she also gave me milk.” Although the milk was filled with poison Krishna overlooked the poison factor, He focussed on the milk side, and in that way He closed His eyes to her fault and He noted her small service attitude. Like that Krishna… when a devotee commits a mistake, Krishna closed His eyes and overlooks the mistake. That is nimisha, and animesha means, Krishna unblinkingly notes even the smallest service that a devotee is doing.
So, once when Krishna was there in Indraprasta with Arjuna. Krishna and Arjuna were talking, at that time Draupadi came over there and she had got some fruits for them. So at that he thought that… Krishna and Arjuna were talking something very intimately. So, she decided not to disturb them. She just kept their fruits there and started going away. So, Krishna picked up a knife, and He was cutting the fruits. As He was cutting a fruit, the knife slipped from His hand and His finger got cut. As His finger got cut, Draupadi saw that… she just kept running back. She looked … there was no clothe for a bandage. She just pulled her sari, ripped a small part from her sari and bandaged him. Draupadi was in anxiety, but Krishna was very pleased. Krishna was smiling at Draupadi. He told her, ‘O Panchali, I will never forget what you have done, and I will repay you.”, and when did He repay ? When she was being disrobed, at that time that small piece of sari that she had given to Krishna… Krishna gave her unlimited sari. So, Krishna unblinkingly notes…even the smallest service that a devotee has done and Krishna rewards that service. Thus He is both amimesha and nimisha.
Question: When the inner voice comes how do we know whether it is the mind’s voice, or it is the soul’s voice or whoever it is ?
Chaitanya Charan Prabhu: Yes, two things are there first of all, that we all know our weaknesses. So, if I have a tendency to waste time on social media, if I have a tendency to waste time doing some activity, that activity we know is not very good for us, and then if a voice says, “Just do that.”, we should know by default that this is the mind’s voice.
So, it’s not that the mind has….the mind tricks us in unlimitedly new ways. The mind can do that, but usually the mind doesn’t fairly, standard ways.. it keeps tricking us again and again. Maybe overeat, maybe oversleep, maybe waste your time too much in this, waste your time too much in that. So, if we know our weaknesses in advance and it is not very difficult. If we introspect we will know. This are my weaknesses, these are the tendencies, these are the areas where I indulge accessibly. Then, if we suddenly get a prompting for any of those things, it is safe to assume that that voice is coming from the mind. That is the first thing. The second thing is that ultimately Krishna wants to guide us. Krishna doesn’t want to confuse us.
So, when the right and the wrong options are clear, if at that time we chose the right option and avoid the wrong option, we are showing Krishna that we want to be guided, and then Krishna will guide us more. Then Krishna will help us understand, this is right and this is wrong, but if… when the right is clear, the wrong is clear and still we chose the wrong, then we are showing Krishna that we don’t want to be guided. So, that way the things will become more and more confusing. That’s why, when we know something is right, we try our best to do that. Now, by that we show Krishna what it is that I want to do, and Krishna will guide us more, and more important than obsessing too much over specific choices…
Now if we start practicing sadhana bhakti regularly. We chant, we study scriptures regularly, we come to the mode of goodness at least. We want to come to the mode of transcendence, but when we come to the mode of goodness it is said that,
sarva-dvāreṣu dehe ’smin
jñānaṁ yadā tadā vidyād
vivṛddhaṁ sattvam ity uta
That when we are in the mode of goodness, then all the doors to the body, sarva-dvāreṣu dehe ’smin, the doors of the body … prakāśa upajāyate that there is light in that. What does it mean? Is it that a person in goodness, the light comes out of their eyes or light comes out of their mouth, light comes out of their nose, ‘No, Krishna is using light metaphorically to refer to knowledge over here.’
If there is a door over there, and say the area of the door is dark. Then, I won’t know who is coming in, who is going out. Is it a friend, is it an enemy, but if there light over there, then I will know who is coming. So, like that when it said that doors of the body are illumed, that means we understand that with knowledge… ok, this kind of impressions I should take it. This kind of impressions I should not take it, this I should think about, this I should not think about. So, that discerning sense naturally comes through the mode of goodness.
So, if we start practicing bhakti sincerely, then it brings us substantially to the mode of goodness and then making sense of what is right and what is wrong, what is beneficial and what is harmful that becomes much easier, and in general the last point I will make is:
That when we are unsure of what to do, it’s best to not do anything immediately, just pause. So, if we have to make some… mind is saying do this… maybe I should do this, maybe I should do that. Something within us which is not the mind, something within us which is saying, do this… and I may not be sure whether I should do it or not. So, usually in the course of our life we live mostly in the mode of passion… because I have to do this, I have to do that, I have to run here, I have to run there, and something new comes up, then just pause it, and later on when we are in the mode of goodness, when we have done some prayers, when we have done some meditation, when we have heard some scriptures… our mind has become calmer. Then we can evaluate.
So, that way we will be able to understand which voice is whose voice, and whether we should act on it or we shouldn’t act on it.
So, first is by knowing what are mind’s default tendencies and avoiding them, saying No to them and second is by acting rightly when we know what is right, thirdly by practicing sadhana bhakti to come to the mode of goodness, and fourthly by postponing impulsive decisions till we are… impulsive promptings, till we are in the mode of goodness, so that we can evaluate, whether I should do it or not. That way we can gradually start not only understanding what is.. what is our internal territory but also acting wisely.
Question: So, when we say that we are not meant to be Xerox copies of other, what does it mean? Should we have some role models or is it that whatever is our personality that is acceptable ?
Chaitanya Charan Prabhu: There are two different things over here.
Role models are for inspiration. They are not for imitation. That means, say now Srila Prabhupada is a Maha-bhagavata. Sometimes some devotees, they started imitating Prabhupada, in the way like pronouncing words like him, trying to do everything like him. Only Prabhupada is Prabhupada, others cannot be Prabhupada. So, what we can focus on is, what is common between the spiritual master and the disciple is not the external actions. It is the inner motivation, it is the inner dedication.
So, when we have role models… from those role models we learn how to be inspired and committed in our service to Krishna, and how that inspiration and commitment translates in our life, that practically will vary because materially they and we are different, and spiritually also they and we are different. They are a soul, we are a soul, they have their individual relationship with Krishna, we have our individual relationship with Krishna. So, we can focus on the principle of inspiration… the principle of dedication, the principle of commitment to serve Krishna. How that commitment will apply in our life that will vary.
So, yesterday I was talking about something when we are trying to connect ourselves with Krishna, when we are trying to remember Krishna, there is Udipana… Udipana means spiritual stimulus. Something which naturally takes our thoughts towards Krishna. Just like we have material sense objects which takes our thoughts towards worldly pleasures. Similarly, there are spiritual sense objects which taks our thoughts towards Krishna. So for example, when we see the picture of deity, “Oh, this is Krishna”, our thoughts goes towards Krishna.
Now, all of us based on our particular situation… we will have certain spiritual sense objects that attract us the most. Somebody may like Kirtan very much, and in kirtan also somebody may like a particular dhun or a particular singer. So, now if somebody else may not be so musically interested. They may like the deities more, and they may like a particular darshan of the deities more… this is why they are individuals. So, for me personally I am a very verbal person. So, whenever I go in front of the deities I always have to recite some verses, speak some prayers. Then I connect with the deities.
So, once in a class I was telling that.. when we go in front of the deities we should memorize some verses and recite some verses. And then when I recite the verses, I feel, ‘the same Lord I am meditating on, He is right here… I feel more prayerfully connected.
So, I spoke that, and after two three days one devotee came to me and told me, ‘Since you have told, I have trying to memorize verse but when I go in front of deities to try to recollect those verse causes me so much tension, that whatever bhakti is there goes away.’
So, then what happened… so verses are a udipana for me, but the verses were not a udipana for him because he is a different person, for him just looking at the deities, looking at their decorations, looking at their parapherlenia, that may attract.
So, the point which I am making here is, that because all of us are individuals, we definitely need to take inspiration from others, but we mistake inspiration or imitation, then we will try to do the external that they are doing and we will not be able to do it. We will feel frustrated. That why I am not able to do it? Or even if you are able to do it, others will say, You are just putting up a show.
So, the important thing is that we have to bring out the best within us, and the process of bhakti will bring the best within us. So, when we see others committed to a process of bhakti we take that inspiration to become similarly committed, but when we become similarly committed the way in which we will implement that commitment will vary. So, that variation is vital because all of us are individuals. So, when we say that we have to accept ourselves for what we are, that doesn’t mean that we don’t change ourselves, but we focus on the process that will change us . We don’t focus on the external markers of change.
The external markers…somebody recites a lot of verses, but maybe I maynot be able to recite the verses. That devotee’s capacity to memorize so many verses, that is an external manifestation of the internal process of the devotee to commit oneself to serving Krishna. That devotee may have a lot of verbal intelligence, that devotee may have a lot of memory capacity, and that’s how they are able to remember verses, but what we can take inspiration is that the devotee committed oneself to serving Krishna. So, let me commit myself to serving Krishna and the way I commit myself is maybe I can do a lot of book distribution, maybe I can do a lot of deity decoration. So, what I can do specifically may vary.
So, when we take from others, what we take is the inspiration to commit ourselves to the process of change. If we try to imitate the marks of change, ‘ok, this is how this person will change.’ That will just not work. So, some devotees may be able to eat very less food, and they will be able to live very nicely. By eating very simple food they may be able to practice bhakti. Now, if we eat very less then we are constantly thinking of food, we are not thinking of Krishna but we are thinking of food. So, we should eat what is necessary for us. The principle we can take, ‘ok, I should become absorbed in Krishna, and I should not be so infatuated with food’, but what will be the regulation of food for us that may vary.
So, we definite need role models and from the role models we take the inspiration to commit ourselves to the process of change.
(Transcription by Sadananda Krishnaprema Prabhu)