Govardhana Vows By fate I

October 23rd, 2002

Govardhana

Vows

By fate I have been given an opportunity to concentrate on chanting and hearing without other responsibilities or distractions. In fact, most of the year, even while in America, I have few duties others than chanting, reading, and preaching. It’s a nice life. Still, I am hoping that the purification will qualify me to increase my contribution to Srila Prabhupada’s mission.

I am questioning how much I should write about my life here in Kartik. Since the purpose of making vows to intensify one’s spiritual practices is to advance one’s bhakti, or devotion, one should avoid advertising those vows if possible, since adoration and praise may come. Devotion can only arise from activities done in devotion, so creating a motive for one’s spiritual practices, such as prestige, can certainly ruin the spirit of one’s practices and the result as well. Vows should thus be performed solely for the pleasure of Krishna. And naturally, if we keep them to ourselves, it is much more likely that they can be done purely.

The world is set up by God to encourage sacrifice. Austerities are automatically rewarded by higher natural law. If we gain prestige by our austerities, then that may be all we are rewarded for our sacrifice, rather than the desired spiritual benefit.

Today at breakfast a devotee mentioned to another devotee that he was chanting 64 rounds. A visiting sadhu turned to me and said, “He is very compassionate, for if you tell someone your vow, they will get half the benefit and you will also only get half.”

I am reading an interesting book given to me as a gift last month about a Christian monk in the Fifth Century who outlined an arduous step-by-step process for attaining divine love. In this book, he describes the interesting phenomena of seemingly renounced spiritualists who, after renouncing the world to join the desert monks, gave up those virtues, revealing that their so-called spiritual qualities had actually been motivated by the adoration of the public. He
describes this as follows:

“We should investigate why those who have lived in the world and endured nightlong vigils, fasting, labors, and suffering, and then have withdrawn from their fellow men to monastic life, as of to a place of trail or an arena, no longer practice the fake and spurious asceticism. I have seen many different virtues planted by them in the world, watered by vanity as if by an underground cesspool, made to shoot up by love of show, manured by praise, and yet quickly withered when transplanted to desert soil, to where the world did not walk–that is, to where they were not manured with the foul-smelling water of vanity. The things that grow in water cannot bear fruit in dry and arid places.” (The Ladder of Divine Descent, p.82)

Of course, the purpose of his statement was not to encourage a renounced life, nor to imply that those who serve God actively are motivated, but to emphasize an important spiritual message relevant to all of us: Spiritual practices should be done for God’s pleasure.

Never seek (and even avoid) situations where your devotional service is praised.

Note: This doesn’t discount the fact that devotional service needs to be encouraged, especially at the beginning of one’s spiritual life. One time, in gurukula, a teacher complained to Srila Prabhupada that one boy was proud of excelling in Sanskrit. Srila Prabhupada responded, “He should be proud!”

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