Monday Morning Greetings 2019 #45 – How to Feel Bad About Yourself and Other Kārttika Thoughts: Part 3

November 11th, 2019

My Kārttika thoughts continue from Govardhana, where I am blessed with the saṅga (association) of advanced Vaiṣṇavas:


During a casual conversation, a senior devotee shared this gem: The uncontrolled mind is like a bubble to keep the ego self in the center.


Another godbrother shared his realization on victim consciousness in relation to bhakti with an interesting analogy. He described a recent conversation with his wife of almost fifty years. Like many married people, he said, when something goes wrong, he tends to blame his spouse. He was upset with his wife for misplacing something he needed, only to be reminded by her where he had moved it the day before. Similarly, he continued, when something goes wrong in our life, we tend by natural psychology to play the victim and blame God, when actually everything that comes to us ultimately has its origin in our past deeds.


I loved his point. There is no victim consciousness in Krishna consciousness. We can’t just sit back and blame someone else. We also have to take responsibility and rectify ourselves. This subject deserves more than a few lines of discussion; it needs a whole piece. Expect a Monday Morning Greeting titled “Bhakti and Victim Consciousness.”


If you are satisfied internally, external changes will affect you less. That is one of the fruits of absorption in chanting the holy name. One of the most powerful statements about the power of one’s inner life to help one transcend the dualities of life is from the diaries of Etty Hillesum before her death at the Auschwitz concentration camp. “When you have an inner life,” she wrote, “it certainly doesn’t matter what side of the fence you sit on.”


It is better to watch the mind than to identity with it. If you identify with your mind, you are likely to act on false narratives, which can entangle you in various worldly tensions. Here in Govardhana, I see how much precious time in life is freed for devotional service by japa meditation and the consequent neglect of or disidentification with the mind.


Although chanting the holy name should not be done with the objective of gaining anything material, still I can see how much it positively affects my life. It creates efficiency in life by giving one a clear mind to access inner inspiration and make decisions. By focusing on japa meditation this month, for example, I found that the realizations needed to write Monday Morning Greetings came easier and that the time it took to write them was cut in half.


Kārttika is like an Olympic event—not that I am competing to win something, but like one’s performance in the Olympics, one’s effectiveness in japa meditation is based not just on the moment one begins the activity, but also on what one does beforehand to prepare oneself. That becomes especially apparent to me here, where I feel how much the quality of my life each day, supported by the sublime association and atmosphere of Bhaktivedanta Ashram, positively affects the quality of my meditation the next day. I may not always be able to live here, but the principle applies. The quality of one’s meditation is based on the way one lives, and those serious about going deeper into the holy name have to be vigilant about how and what they eat, and how and with whom they associate.


Sometimes when I’m chanting, deep regrets come to my mind. I can’t count how many regrettable things I have done in life. But I don’t stay in that mental space too long. I refocus my chanting, though I do let that mood linger as a foundation for taking shelter of the holy name. Tāpa (regret), looking back and lamenting one’s previous life based on ego, is the first saṁskāra in the process of initiation.[1] You can’t move forward in spiritual life without condemning your own foolishness. And it is a step you never leave; it remains part of your spiritual life as you advance.


“[I]n full Krishna consciousness, [the devotee] regrets his past experiences in material existence. This regret is very beneficial because it purifies the living entity of material, conditional life. He then prays to the Lord to engage in His service, and at that time, Krishna grants liberation from the clutches of māyā.” Bhāg. 4.29.29, purport


[1] Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, quoting the smṛti-śāstra, described the initiation process: “Tāpa, puṇḍra, nāma, mantra, and yāga—these five items comprise the pañca-saṁskāra. They are the cause of intense devotion.” Tāpa traditionally includes purification by repentance and a healthy aversion to material life.

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