Overcoming Skepticism and the False Ego
Darshan with Ahaituki Bhakti devi dasi
Port of Helsinki Ship Terminal (10 April 2006)
So the question is, how does one overcome skepticism? Prabhupada noted in Los Angeles as he spoke to his disciples, “Krishna lifted Govardhana Hill – and you are thinking, ‘maybe.’” So Prabhupada could see that in the hearts of his disciples – even those who had decided to give their whole lives to serve Krishna – there was some lingering skepticism. So, how does one then become free from that lingering skepticism?
Of course, that skepticism accompanies the desire for sense gratification. As long as we have an inclination towards sense gratification – even a slight inclination – skepticism is natural because skepticism justifies our engaging in sense gratification. In other words, if you’re totally convinced, then there’s no thought of sense gratification. When you’re harboring the desire for sense gratification, you have to rationalize it by maintaining the appropriate degree of skepticism according to your level of sense-gratificatory desire. So if one can become completely free from the desire for sense gratification, skepticism will also naturally be gone. The stage of bhakti at which the desire for sense gratification goes away is known as anartha-nivrtti. So actually skepticism will go away, and the desire for sense gratification will go away also. So again we are back to the question, how do we get free from the desire for sense gratification and the skepticism that goes along with it?
Krishna says in Bhagavad-gita [2.59]:
By restraining the senses from the objects of sense enjoyment, one will still feel attraction for them. But if you engage your senses in a higher engagement, you are fixed in consciousness. So, as brahmacari or brahmacarini we may practice not meditating on the opposite sex – “I have to detach myself” - and yet the desire to enjoy the opposite sex is still there in the heart. But if one actually finds a higher taste, by absorbing oneself and one’s consciousness in Krishna – the all-beautiful, all-attractive Supreme Personality of Godhead – then the opposite sex becomes like, “who cares?” When you realize the most beautiful form – the one that never gets old, never gets sick and never dies – then who cares about some temporary form that rots and stinks and has to be bathed twice a day? You see? So this is really where the understanding lies. By experiencing that higher taste of Krishna consciousness more and more and more and more, the desire for sense gratification will go away, and the accompanying skepticism will go away as well.
Thus the real question is this: How do you increase your taste for Krishna consciousness? That’s the real question, because that taste for Krishna consciousness will automatically free you of the skepticism and the desire for sense gratification. The answer is given in the second chapter of the Srimad Bhagavatam:
“By serving those devotees who are completely free of all vice, great service is done. By such service one gains an affinity for hearing the messages of Vasudeva.” So it really boils down to serving the pure devotee – serving the spiritual master. By completely dedicating oneself in service to the spiritual master, one will then actually develop a taste for Krishna consciousness. Apart from serving the spiritual master, if one thinks, “Oh, I’ll just absorb myself in service” – with no personal relationship with the spiritual master – then he won’t really get the taste. There has to be the loving service to the spiritual master, reciprocation of love with the spiritual master. When you come to that platform, then you will relish a very, very sweet taste; and that will burn away all the skepticism and all the desire for sense gratification.
So then the question is, how do you serve the spiritual master? Well, there are two presences of the spiritual master. One is his physical presence, vapu – just like now, where you are in the physical presence of Guru. When the guru is physically present, you render all service to him – laundry; prasadam; driving; water. Guru Mata is also serving the spiritual master, and Guru Mata should also be very nicely served; she is a great sadhu. So that is also pleasing the spiritual master, to serve Guru Mata. So render nice service to Guru and Guru Mata, for when spiritual master is very pleased, he bestows all blessings.
What happens when Guru is not physically present – when he gets on the ship and sails across the Gulf of Finland? What about then? How do you serve the spiritual master then?
What was that? You learn to hide in his suitcase – learn the art of anima-siddhi, and then you can become smaller than the smallest and just hide in his suitcase. Or you find a place in his shoe, and just travel with him all over the world inside his shoe. That’s one thing you can do – go to the Himalayas and find a yogi who can teach you anima-siddhi. If you can master that siddhi, then you can just hide in Gurudeva’s shoe. Whenever he leaves Helsinki you just hide in his shoe, and go all over the world in his shoe. That’s one thing to do. But if you do not have the siddhi, then what do you do?
Well, the spiritual master is also present in the form of vani. That is the vibrational presence. That means his instructions. It’s just like how we have now left you recordings of our German lectures and Helsinki lectures. So the spiritual master is fully present in the form of vibration. Even if he leaves his body and goes back to Godhead, he’s still fully present in this material world to bless the disciple in the form of his sound vibration.
For the sincere follower of the spiritual master, the spiritual master is always seen. He’s never separated – he’s always seen. And he’s always blessing the disciple. It’s simply that the degree of your connection with the spiritual master in his physical absence exists according to your degree of loving surrender. Ye yatha mam prapadantyante tams tathaiva bhajamy [Bg 4.11]. To the degree of your surrender to him – your desire to please him with your every thought, your every word and your every deed - to that degree you will feel his presence, you will feel his blessing. and you will get his guidance. In fact, the spiritual master can directly, audibly speak to you within your heart, if your heart is completely pure. He can directly talk to you during his physical absence. Of course, that happens especially after his departure. When he is present on the planet, then you should try to connect by telephone, by e-mail, by writing a letter . . . Take advantage of his physical presence when he’s away from you. Connect with him and serve him that way as much as possible. You can also pray to your spiritual master. Through the medium of the Supersoul, the spiritual master will reciprocate with all your sincere prayers.
So in this way - by making a very strong, loving, surrendered relationship with your spiritual master - we guarantee that all your skepticism will go away. You will become completely convinced. You will actually reach a point. The point at which your skepticism is completely gone is when you are seeing Krishna face to face. Then there will be no doubt. Just like you’re seeing me face to face now, you will actually reach a point, if you stay on this pathway, where you directly see Krishna face to face. What’s the question of skepticism then? You can actually see Krishna lifting Govardhana Hill. You can actually get under the hill, and get out of the rain! Then you’ll really be convinced, when you’re standing under the hill with Krishna. You can actually do that. You can go back to Godhead and stand under the hill. Then you’ll really know . . .
As George Harrison said in his famous “Words from Apple,” “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.” So if you’re skeptical – if you’re thinking, “Does this process really work? Is Krishna really God?” – even if you’re really skeptical – just do as if you were gambling: give one life to Krishna and see what the result is. You say, “Well, it may be true, it may not be true; but it seems like it could be true. If it is true it’s better than anything else that’s going on in this material world.” So even if you’re thinking like that – “it may be true or it may not be true” – just gamble. Give one life to Guru and Krishna, completely. And then you can see the results.
You’ve been serving your senses for millions of lifetimes. Just look what it’s got you! Another hellish material existence. Since you’ve been serving your senses for millions of lifetimes, why not experiment? Give one lifetime simply for serving Guru and Krishna. If you don’t like it, you can come back and be a pig in the next lifetime, or a monkey – you can be whatever you want. You can be an orangutan, a giraffe or an elephant, or you could be a fish out here in the Gulf of Finland - whatever you want. So why not just try being a pure devotee, in one lifetime? Completely give this one lifetime to Sri Guru and Sri Krishna. And just see what happens. You have nothing to lose. You’re an eternal being. You’ve had millions of births. If you want, you can have millions more lifetimes. So just check it out. See what it’s like to be a pure devotee of Guru and Krishna. See what you do. That’s the answer.
Any other questions?
Well, we were speaking yesterday about how everything is arranged in all situations so that we can learn, and that we only have to know how to read these lessons. So how can we read these lessons correctly?
The answer to that is this: Prabhupada’s books are there. Study Prabhupada’s books - read all of Prabhupada’s books – and also hear from your spiritual master and the other advanced devotees who are giving the same knowledge. Through Prabhupada directly and through Prabhupada’s followers, who are explaining Prabhupada’s philosophy from many angles of vision - Krishna’s teachings, actually, given by Srila Prabhupada - we get what is called sastra-caksur, seeing through the eyes of scripture. Instead of analyzing every experience from the standpoint of your mind, you should analyze everything that’s happening to you from the standpoint of scripture. So that means you need to be well read in the scriptures. You need to be well read in the verses and well read in philosophical concepts from the books.
It’s just like the way you’re wearing corrective lenses, glasses; they enable you to see clearly. Similarly, the sastra enables us to see things clearly. Without the sastra, everything is out of focus. We don’t understand how things could be related to Krishna. But the devotee sees everything is relation to Krishna. Do you know the story, “Whatever Krishna does is all right” – about the king who lost his finger? [ed. note: this story is narrated in the lecture “Spiritual Purity Seminar–New Vrindavana, 5.6.05”] The king didn’t have the vision to see how his situation could be Krishna’s arrangement, and he became very disturbed with the prime minister. But the prime minister had that vision. Because of it, he was never disturbed. Even when he was put into the dungeon, he was not disturbed.
So we have to be like the prime minister – always thinking, “Whatever Krishna does is all right. He can take everything away from me if He wants.” Bali Maharaja lost everything, yet he was just happy to be surrendered to Krishna. That’s really all we need: to be surrendered to Krishna. That’s all we really need. If we do that, then whatever will facilitate our service, Krishna will give us. At the right time, He will give us exactly what we need. All material facility will be there for that person who is fully engaged in Krishna’s service. Whatever facilities he or she needs materially will all be there. We don’t have to be in anxiety like a karmi, trying to grab material things for our sense enjoyment. All we have to do is engage everything in the service of Krishna, and then everything will be there, in profusion.
Any other questions?
So what do we do if we find ourselves in a situation where instead of letting go of the false ego, we are instead just protecting it?
So, for instance, what do I do if someone corrects me, and instead of taking it, I want to fight against it? That’s an example of when the false ego flares up – “Who are you? Who do you think you are?!”
The easiest way to counteract that is to always remember that you are really polluted. You’re very polluted, actually. You have to realize that you are in desperate need of rectification. You really are. Even though you’re a well respected devotee in the temple, you really have a lot bad faults sitting in your heart. You have to understand, “I am in desperate need of rectification.” One godbrother told me, “Sankarshan Prabhu, you’re such a nice devotee.” And I thought, “Nice is not good enough. I have to be perfect.” You can never feel content – “Yeah, I’m well respected now; the temple president is pleased with my service; the devotees like me; my guru is pleased with me. So I’m a pure devotee now – every thought in my mind is perfect, every word that comes out of my mouth is perfect, and every action I perform is perfect” - no. You have to realize that you have a lot of serious anarthas sitting in your heart like monsters trying to devour you. You’re desperately in need of rectification.
So what you have to do is be very, very humble. I’m always begging for rectification when I bow down before Prabhupada every day. I pray very intensely, “Please, rescue me from my position.” Prabhupada himself said, “I’m always praying to Krishna that I won’t fall down.” He felt himself to be fallen and he was praying that he wouldn’t fall down. So we should really present ourselves in our prayers to our Guru, Srila Prabhupada and Lord Krishna that we are in a very fallen position – “I’m very proud, I’m arrogant, I’m lusty, I’m angry, I’m greedy – I have all these faults! I’m lazy, I’m stupid – I have all these faults and I am just begging your mercy that somehow or other I can do service that is pleasing to you.” That’s how we have to always be feeling. That’s called humility. If you have that feeling of humility and somebody says, “You know, you’re really nonsense,” in your heart you will be thinking “Thank you, Guru and Krishna, thank you. You have spoken through this person’s mouth to remind me that I’m really nonsense. Thank you.” Of course, you have to take a strong position when you’re preaching – not that when a karmi tells you you’re wrong you accept it . . . For the sake of preaching you take a strong position on behalf of the Lord. Now you’re a representative of the government, like a policeman; you have to take a strong position on behalf of the government. So as a preacher, we take a strong position. But within your heart you always feel very meek and humble, so that when your superiors correct you – even your peers or even a junior devotee – you have to be always open. Someone may say something to us, even a junior devotee. When they say something to us it can actually be a great help to us in our sadhana. You have to be very open. For the sake of preaching we also have to take the role of correcting other people when they are wrong. But that is in the mood of complete humility, the mood of service - not in the mood of one-upmanship. When we advance in Krishna consciousness then naturally Krishna will bless us with realization of how things should be properly done; then it is our duty to instruct others who don’t have that understanding, and are doing things in a way that is not pleasing to Prabhupada. It’s our duty then to instruct them and guide them. But it has to be done in a spirit of service. If it’s done with all humility and genuine love, appreciation and respect for that person, then chances are that it will be very effective. If it’s done out of pride, or even a tinge of pride, it will just bounce off - they won’t take it. That’s the secret of success when you’re out doing sankirtan activities also, with the general public. The more you actually have genuine humility, the more people will be touched by your words. Their hearts will melt. You’ll be able to attract so many people to take prasadam or take a book because you yourself have cultivated a genuine mood of service. You’re not thinking, “Well, I have to do this for my reputation at the temple – I have to convince them to take a book and take some prasadam so I don’t get in trouble at the temple.” No. You don’t even worry about that. You just think, “I want to help this person become Krishna conscious. I’ve been blessed with this opportunity to get out of material existence, so now let me bless this person by giving him prasadam or giving him books.” In this way, always be in the mood of serving - serving, serving, serving. And then Krishna will empower you. You’ll become very empowered by Krishna. To the degree that you have the sincere service attitude towards Krishna, towards Guru, towards Vaisnavas, and towards all the jivas, who are suffering now in maya – to the degree of that service attitude, you will become empowered. Krishna will use you as His instrument to do wonderful, wonderful things for expanding His movement. There is nothing more exciting than to become an instrument in the hands of Krishna and to expand the Krishna consciousness movement. But the only way to get to that position is through humility.
Any more questions? Time is up?
Yes – we have to go.
All right then. So we will be in touch by e-mail? You may take shelter as much as you like by e-mail. My shelter is completely available.
We look forward to seeing you all on our next visit. Hare Krishna.
Transcribed by Her Grace Labangalatika devi dasi