“Don’t be so confidently pessimistic”

by August 23, 2016

Recently a devotee told me that he had been fighting against a particular conditioning for a long time and was repeatedly relapsing into it despite having made many resolutions to give it up. He had become so disheartened that he said, “Maybe I should just stop practicing bhakti. What is the use of all my practicing and preaching if I can’t overcome such a basic anartha? And I have tried and failed so many times that I am sure I will never be able to give this up.”

“I don’t think you have a right to be so confidently pessimistic,” I told him. “To claim that something will never happen is to claim that even Krishna doesn’t have the power to make it happen.”
“But Srila Prabhupada says that even Krishna can’t help us if we are not determined,” he said despairingly. “And I can no longer be determined because I have lost my confidence.”

I reassured him. “You haven’t lost your confidence – you have just misplaced it. Instead of placing your confidence in Krishna, you are placing it in your conditioning. And that is making you confidently pessimistic. Instead if you place it in Krishna, you can become confidently optimistic.”

“But what is the basis for optimism when I am not able to overcome such a basic conditioning?”

“Don’t judge the progress of your bhakti only by your success in overcoming a particular conditioning. Bhakti practice is meant to increase our attraction to Krishna. And every single bhakti activity we do, it increases that attraction, even if infinitesimally. And that attraction will eventually erase our attraction to worldly things. Some conditionings may be very deep-rooted and may take time to go away. No matter how long our conditionings last, they can’t stop our bhakti practice – they can only interrupt it.

“And for resuming it after the interruption, we can base our optimism on Krishna’s unfailing love for us. He doesn’t disqualify us from bhakti practice, no matter what happens, as he indicates in Gita (09.30-31). The essential message of those verses is that we don’t have the power to do anything that can make Krishna stop loving us. Nothing we do can make Krishna as the Supersoul leave our heart and abandon us. Krishna waits for us because he is confident that one day we will turn towards him.”

I concluded, “Krishna has maintained his confidence in us despite not having much result to show. Why then should we give up our confidence in him just because we don’t have a particular result to show? If he has maintained his confidence in us for so many lifetimes, why can’t we maintain our confidence in him for this one lifetime?”

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