Monday Morning Greetings 2019 #22 – How to Feel Bad About Yourself

June 3rd, 2019

A friend once joked: “You’re so optimistic that you could be falling out of the Empire State Building and on the fiftieth floor say, ‘so far so good’.” I’m a hopeless optimist. We laughed, but it is no joke. A dose of pessimism, even pain in the heart, is essential for bhakti. I feel that more and more. Comes with age? Could I be advancing in spiritual life? Who knows? But my wall of unhinged optimism is cracking, and it’s sometimes heavy.


The pain of purification


One friend described being in a holy place like putting a mirror to your false ego. Devotion is like that. It cleans the heart and helps you see yourself, warts and all. When the mind is cluttered with desires it is often hard to notice our faults, like not noticing something out of place in a cluttered room. For a minute I see myself. How many lifetimes have I been parading as Pauṇḍraka?[1] Can I bear the truth of self-realization?


The pain of understanding God


To really believe in an Absolute Truth sets a standard for our life. How demanding it is to conform one’s living to something higher than one’s whims and attachments. I am reading that standard of truth. It is called the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. I am informed page after page, “You are not up to the mark. Change!” Can I bear the truth of self-realization?


The pain of realization


I not only understand a truth; I see a truth — a realization. That realization is so clear. I kick myself. How did I miss it? I look back. How foolish to have lived in ignorance of such a simple truth. I should have known. And such realizations keep coming again and again. I am pained to have lived in foolishness, and it follows that I must be living in folly now. Can I bear the truth of self-realization?


The pain of regret


Bhakti begins with regretting a life lived egocentrically separate from God. That regret is called tapa, or remorse. It is the first step in spiritual commitment. Tapa also means heat. Remorse is heat because admission of fault painfully burns the lurking sense of ego that engines material life. No, I am not wrong! It is not my fault! It wasn’t a mistake! Am I man enough to resist such rationalization? Admit it; regret it. Let that acknowledgment burn our charade. Can I bear the truth of self-realization?


The pain of opening the heart


The essence of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is to chant the name of our beloved Lord without attachment or inhibition. Such simple-hearted sincerity is painful because the proud fears vulnerability and humility. Chanting means to open that heart fully and beg for the mercy of the holy name. Why the resistance? Can I bear the pain of self-realization?


The joy of pain


Crushing thoughts awaken humility, which is the foundation of devotional yearning and thus the greatest joy. That pain, however, has nothing to do with one’s psychology. It is the soul aching for connection to God and realizing our failure. It is the birth of devotion and joy, but can I bear the price of self-realization?




[1] A foolish king described in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam who paraded around in the dress of Krishna and declared himself God but was later killed by Krishna.

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