Answer to Young Aspiring Devotees, August 12
Posted August 29, 2005
Hare Krishna Yasodaji.
What a nice name you have.
I was pleasantly surprised by the letter you sent to Chakra and by the honest way you expressed yourself.
My initiated name given by our beloved Srila Prabhupada is Havi das. I was initiated in New Dwaraka in 1973. I am 53 years old and I have two daughter. One is 18 and the other is 24 years old. When I read your letter I felt motivated to respond to you, just as I would lovingly do at any moment to my daughters.
Krishna consciousness is the greatest fortune. It is our reference for life and our highest goal. We are blessed because we have access to so much beauty in the form of wonderful information about Krishna, his devotees, transcendence and the true nature of this world.
Even so, we find ourselves in a situation where, despite the knowledge and understanding we have at our disposal, our attraction for this world becomes evident when we participate in activities that could contradict our convictions.
Understanding and accepting, at least in theory, that we are not this body, and we have an eternal relationship with the Supreme Person in the spiritual world, where every step is a dance and every word is a song, and finding ourselves faced with the daily reality of this world, must create conflicts in us. And it is good that it does
My experience in this area is that we have to develop a healthy mentality regarding our limitations i.e. what is realistic for us at a specific time in our life.
We are people aspiring for transcendence. Every soul, but specially those who have been touched by Krishna Consciousness, are in a way aliens in this world and it is only natural that this reality generates conflict. But as a conflict, it is the most interesting of all conflicts. We have to face all types of problems, but this one is the most important one to resolve. And it will be resolved if we are sincere because our sincerity will help us make the right decisions.
If we are sufficiently honest, we'll admit that the basic problem is that most of us like this world and what it has to offer. I think of life at 19 and I think of the beach, music, humor between friends, romance, the sexual impulse, the club, the movies, school, etc. How do we reconcile this with mangala artrik, japa and the constant remembrance of Krishna?
This problem, Yasoda, isn't only yours or that of 19 year olds. You can ask devotees all over the world and you'll see that all, or almost all of us have been trying to resolve this same problem.
What do we do? We have to be selective with our company. Be careful not to expose yourself too much to situations that will alienate you from your own conscience, from doing what you know is right.
If you decide you want to study and become a professional, do it with drive. Be the best student or and the best professional possible as an offering to Krishna. And in your personal life, make decisions based on your spiritual integrity. Determine how many rounds you are going to chant daily, from what time to what time you will read Prabhupada's books, when you will go to the temple, etc. That is a decision that doesn't have to be imposed by anyone. This is your conviction and should be your own decision.
Once you have made that decision, try to maintain those vows in a firm and constant way and if you have maintained them successfully for some time, set yourself new vows. Increase the number of rounds, offer all your food, speak to your friends about Krsna, do service at the temple, etc. Krsna assures us that He is the best of friends, the well wisher and the observer of our efforts. As such He will make sure that things work in your favor. All your questions will be answered.
First of all and as I said before, we have to develop a healthy mentality and not let this conflict lead you to unnecessary depression. Accept that your likes and inclinations are the natural consequences of your karma. You were born in a certain body at a certain time in history in a certain geographic place and in a certain social context and you can't easily escape those influences. In fact, we don't want to escape. We want to transcend those influences, and that takes time and effort.
You were born and are growing up in a consumer society, vain and superficial, in a scheme where business men use fortunes to make you one more number in their bank accounts and for this they use creative publicity. They use radio, tv, magazines, etc. to try and sell you a trend, a product, a false necessity. This is our social reality and the pressure is strong.
For example, Coca Cola and Budweiser buy time on the MTV awards. Avril Lavigne will receive one or two, System of a Down will surely win one, Daddy Puff and the Yo-Yo Family are nominated and Aerosmith will receive a special plaque acknowledging their 30 years of labor in rock culture in the US.
You, the devotees, and sensible people can see the painted eyes and miserable state in Avril's songs, you can also detect the dementia in the hysterical screams of System of a Down, you can seen the absurdity in showing off huge golden chains while rhyming and walking onstage holding their giant pants that qualify them as cool, while their pants are falling off their butts. You can understand that sex, the buzz and Aerosmith's rock and roll, as good as it may seem, have only contributed to decadence and false ego.
MTV, reality shows, gel and spiky looking hair, Abercrombie and Fitch, lip gloss and six pack abs, are inventions that are generated in the creative offices of those who have a lot of money and who at the same time lack scruples to victimize the greatest amounts of people possible so that they can attain their economic objectives conspiring against your health, integrity and civilized values. If we don't have this vision, we are going to victimized just like everyone else.
I don't mean to say that everything in our western culture is bad. It's obviously impossible to avoid being influenced by the culture we live in, but we can be selective. Certain forms of art, sculpture, music, architecture, literature, etc. I personally find uplifting. Even if they are not part of Vaishnava culture, we know that there are treasures everywhere that may help us in some way with on our path of self realization.
For example, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, the writings of certain buddhist monks relating to forgiveness and compassion, psychoanalysis, the music of Handel, the works of Hippocrates about health, just to name a few, even though they are not direct Vedic references can be helpful in ones attempt to become a better person. IN this way we can become a better father or mother, sister, wife, friend, etc.
The choice, Yasoda, is yours. Your choices are influenced by the quality of your association, the places that you go, the tv shows you watch, the books you read, etc. You are the one who decides what you expose your senses to. Be selective.
If you find yourself amidst contradictions, consider it a great fortune because it offers you an opportunity to grow. Deal with these dilemmas with the help of your intelligence and good association. Don't let anyone invade your heart with feelings of guilt and avoid arguing with someone who clearly doesn't understand your mind.
Your plans for living close to New Dwaraka are great. That is a very organized and successful community. I'm sure that from that decision you will have a better perspective, more light and you will be happier.
Curiously my wife was born and raised in Venezuela in a Catholic family and she has taken very seriously her relationship with Christ. She is a vegetarian, and that was required for us to marry. I assume a respectful position towards the convictions of my wife and I feel that I find myself in a successful situation in my marriage. We have our altar and just like we have the figure of Srila Prabhupada, Nsrinhadev and Pancha Tattva, there are also the figures of Mother Mary and Jesus Christ. My wife doesn't give obeisances like I do. She chants Hare Krishna. She has her japa beads and sings in the family kirtans and in our visits to the temple. My wife even traveled with me to India. She looks nice in her sari.
It's all about sharing in a friendly way, without impositions or prejudgments. I have actually learned a lot about humility, simplicity and integrity from my wife and I am indebted to her in many ways. This debt makes me sit with her and to read Bhagavatam or talk about Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's pastimes. This works. The only thing that is necessary is a loving attitude in a cordial environment.
You are a lucky person. You were born in a devotee's house, you like Krishna Consciousness and you want to resolve the dilemma of the contradictions in your life. Welcome to the club.
All glories to Srila Prabhupada