How can an introvert practice bhakti when it is so social and public?
I can’t think when I am with too many people. And I find public harinam kirtan distracting. But when I try to be alone, devotees say that I will go into Maya. But I feel more disoriented when I am with many people and more focused on Krishna when I am alone. How can I practice bhakti?
Transcriber: Keshavgopal Das
Question: How can an introvert practice bhakti when it is so social and public?
Answer: If one is an introvert, then it is part of one’s psychophysical nature and one needs to practice bhakti accordingly. Practicing bhakti does not mean going against our basic bodily nature. For introverts, we can find out appropriate services suiting to introvert nature and use those in Krishna’s service. Writing, editing, shastra study, teaching etc., these services are those where introverts generally flourish.
In general, important is that one should not remain unengaged. Association of devotees help in protecting us to become a puppet of one’s mind. This is because in association of others somebody is watching. However, this does not mean that association is the only way to practice bhakti. This is one way which works for many people. Association is also safe for many people.
As introvert, we can choose those services which allow us to remain absorbed more and more.
With respect to kirtans, it is not necessary to do kirtans with hands raised, dancing, smiling looking at others. That is certainly one of way of doing kirtans, but introverts can also do kirtan by closing their eyes, fold their hands, even if introverts dance that can be done inconspicuously. Any seemingly public activity like kirtan can also be done in a way which increases one’s inner absorption.
As far as association is concerned, an introvert may want to find out other introverts and associate with them. In the association of introverts, there will not be a constant pressure to talk something. There will be time in between the talks. There will be time to process the contents of our own consciousness. For extroverts, they talk continuously. For them the focus of action is external, but for introverts the focus is internal. Introverts generally think deeply about their thoughts and then they will speak. I am not saying that either of this way is better or worse. It is just that these are different natures of people. Bhakti Vinod Thakura also says (based on Srila Rupa Goswami’s Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu) that we should have like-minded devotee association (sajatiyashye snigdhe sadhau sangah svato vare). So, introverts can choose to have association of introverts.
It may not be very easy to find people who are introverts but with some search within an association, one may be able to find out. Extroverts find it delighting to be engaged in group conversation, but introverts would like conversation with one or two people at a time. Such a trait is not a form of a weakness, but just that it is a one trait. Introverts need time to think between meeting with people. Often, introverts tend to be deep thinkers. If their introversion is carefully channelized in devotional services e.g. writing or editing, they may find it fulfilling. It is not necessary to be always with people, speak something, be in a large group. Also, other devotees should make it a necessity that somebody with introvert nature should not be engaging with large groups. Besides writing or editing, there could be other services also which one can do.
Often, some of the great insights in world history have come from introverts. Since they think deeply about concepts, they are able to give better explanation of existing things, give new concepts. In the devotee community, the introverts should protect themselves from Maya’s attack by keeping them properly engaged because they may be alone and if attacked by Maya, there will be no one to take care of them. They should have some other sympathetic devotee guide who understands their nature and keep a connection with them in case they are under Maya’s influence.
Introverts may need some facility in the understanding community of devotees. If may be difficult initially because in the early days of devotion everybody has to conform to a standard behaviour in order to be recognized as devotee. Although, there need to be conformity in many aspects in the initial days, but it is not that a kshatriya has to behave like a brahmana (or a brahmana as a kshatriya) in order to qualify as a devotee. Being spiritual does not mean that we have to conform to exactly in the same ways. For introverts, it may take some time for the devotee community to understand, so one will need devotees who understands introverts and associate more with such devotees. Also, introverts should not associate with those devotees who are constantly disagreeing and discouraging because such an attitude will dishearten, and one may unnecessarily give up bhakti.
To summarize, introverts need not reject association itself but reject association of those who discourage and disprove of their introvert nature. At the same time, introverts need to choose ways to practice bhakti which are in harmony with the nature. Bhakti is not restricted to only social and public activities, it is much more beyond that. If we chose something which is in line with our nature, we can always continue to practice bhakti.
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