Making Sense in Bhakti
Posted October 30, 2007
A few years ago, I realized that there was some improper application of the process of bhakti within iskcon, with the result that I was becoming unhappy and depressed. The problem was that I was focusing on principles which had very little effect on my spiritual advancement and I was neglecting those principles which could nurture my bhakti.
Bhakti is surrender to Krishna , which is our internal consciousness, and therefore it requires maintaining inner equanimity in regard to raga (attachment) and dvesa (aversion). It should result in happiness and contentment. So, I took a new look at sastra and decided to accept only the principles which made sense to me. I realized that those principles that I could understand at my particular level of advancement were exactly what I should be focusing on, and that doing so was simple and natural, while trying to understand what I could not, was deviating me from the concepts which I could understand or make use of. Thus, I prioritized my knowledge into a few categories:
- Concepts which I can both realize and see as truth. (I need to develop resolute faith over these concepts.)
- Concepts which I can intellectually accept but don't see as truth. (I need to nurture these principles.)
- Concepts which I don't intellectually accept but accept on faith. (Neutral attitude towards them.)
- Concepts which deviate me from essence of bhakti. (These are useless topics. My mind needs to avoid or ignore them.)
I decided to focus on categories #1 and #2 and I found that doing so increased my faith in those concepts. Concepts in categories 1 and 2 are simple and don't need lot of arguments, for they make clear sense. Those concepts I found to be actually nourishing my bhakti, while focusing on categories #3 and #4, as I had been previously doing, was actually deviating me from it.
Concepts which I realize and see as truth (Summary)
- I want to be happy and peaceful.
- Happiness comes from within. Happiness does not come from the outside, so I don't need to focus on money, power, etc to be happy. I need to develop deeper faith that the external environment won't make me happy.
- Mind has raga (attachment) and dvesa (aversion). I need to be at peace i.e. situated in equanimity towards raga and dvesa. (samatvam yogam ucyate)
- Due to raga and dvesa, the mind is agitated and full of thoughts. I need to reduce my unnecessary thoughts, and focus my thoughts and mind upon Sri Rama.
- I need to focus my mind upon Rama to be happy. (BG 8.22 I am easy to obtain for he who remembers me all the time and whose mind is focused upon Me.)
- Remembering Ram all the time can be achieved by focused japa with meditation on Rama's form and name, and remembering Him all the time while engaging in my duties.
- I should serve everyone, as Rama resides in everyone's heart. That is pleasing to Rama. That service starts with serving my family.
- Bhakti should make my life happy and not dull and depressed. If bhakti makes my life dull and depressed, then it is not bhakti and I need to change the way I am applying it.
- I don't need to imitate advancement out of false ego. If I give up external comfortable situations without developing inner spiritual bliss, then it will be detrimental to bhakti.
- I see goodness in everyone. I should appreciate other spiritual paths, ignoring their differences with my beliefs. Criticizing other people's principles and faiths does not help my bhakti. So, I should avoid doing so.
Concepts which I intellectually accept but don't see them as truth (few examples)
- I am not this body. Even though I intellectually understand that I am not the body, I don't realize it.
- Rama is present in everyone's heart. SB states that it is duty of all humans to see Krishna in everyone. Even though I intellectually understand, I don't see it.
- Rama is within me.
- Rama is my best friend and always helping me, guiding me etc. Rama loves me and I am very dear to Him.
- Rama loves everyone. Due to false ego, I want to be superior to others. But Rama loves everyone which is shown by the fact that He is in everyone's heart. Out of His love, the most powerful Supreme accompanies us all the time and serves us by giving us guidance, help, energy and everything. His acts are all full of love towards everyone! I should love everyone and not be envious of them.
Concepts which I don't intellectually accept but accept them on faith. (a few examples)
- Rama cannot be material. He is beyond matter. When I focus on His form and I imagine his face, hands etc., I cannot imagine anything other than matter. So, how can I understand the form of Rama?
- I accept descriptions of the Bhagavatam on faith, but I still don't understand them as I cannot comprehend anything beyond this material domain.
Concepts which deviate me from essence of bhakti
- The concept of diksha guru : There are so many arguments in Iskcon regarding guru... "Diksha guru will take away karma." "Without advanced diksha guru one cannot progress in bhakti." People keep on discussing and arguing about these concepts. I keep my understanding of guru simple - guru is one who brings me from darkness to light. My real guru is Rama Himself who resides in my heart (see #2 category). Rama sends me external teachers i.e. siksha gurus. My careful study of sastra has led me to discover that sastra focuses on siksha guru, and the real guru is Krishna Himself (krsnam vande jagad-guru). This is a simple concept.
- The origin of the jiva : Again, a useless topic to discuss. From the material perspective, time and space both have no origin and no end. I cannot comprehend this infinity, so how can I understand the soul, which also has no origin or no end? It is due to false ego only that the mind, which is completely in the material domain, thinks that he can understand the non-material.
- "My daddy is better than your daddy" I have heard many lectures in Iskcon where devotees claimed their guru to be better than other gurus. This is amazing given the fact that the sastras written by Vyasa-deva don't focus on comparing devotees. Sometimes if occasionally comparisons are done, they are done only to glorify a certain devotee and never to attribute inferiority to another. Sastra never compares two devotees to another's detriment. Unfortunately, in Iskcon comparison is quite prevalent, beginning with comparing Srila Prabhupada to other devotees.
- The focus on rituals more than essence: The essence of bhakti is to remember Krishna and focus the mind upon Krishna. All others rules are dependent on this principle. When we lose sight of this rule and consider the other subsidiary rules more important, then we deviate from bhakti. For example, the goal of 16 rounds is to remember Krishna , and Krishna should be remembered all the time. The purpose of 16 rounds is fulfilled if we remember Rama.
- The criticism of people of other beliefs, even if they are contrary to my beliefs. Criticizing other people's principles and faiths does not help my bhakti. So, I should avoid doing so.
- There are so many useless topics which I heard in Iskcon which don't increase my bhakti, and hearing them is a waste of time.