Emergency Service

I loved reading the well-written and encouraging article “Bhakti and Our Authentic Illusory Self,” by Arcana Siddhi Devi Dasi in the September/October issue. Her articles are always full of meaning for those who want to practically apply the philosophy of Krishna consciousness in their everyday lives. Although I had understood that we should use our talents and nature in the service of the Lord, now I understand it from the perspective of a psychotherapist.

Sometimes as aspiring devotees we may reject our natures, talents, or skills in the name of thinking that to surrender to Krishna’s will and to selflessly please guru and Krishna is higher. Although we are taught to please Krishna by doing any activity that may even be against our nature, we see that if we artificially or immaturely abandon our natures, we face the difficulty of not knowing ourselves fully and how we can use our conditioned natures in the service of Krishna. Therefore, I feel that this article is very relevant and serves to eradicate the misunderstanding that we should prematurely reject or renounce everything and be something else.

On the liberated platform we may do any service for Krishna, yet Srila Prabhupada encouraged unconditional devotional service even for practicing devotees. And although he did engage devotees according to their propensities, many times young devotees had to take on tasks that were difficult and challenging to their personal natures. So does this mean that although we are aware of our individual “authentic illusory” self and accept and use it in Krishna’s service, we should also be prepared to do anything for Krishna? How can we better understand this?

Another question: Do our natures and services on the liberated platform in the spiritual world somehow reflect our conditioned natures in the material world?
Nikunja Vilasini Devi Dasi
Durban, South Africa

Arcana Siddhi Devi Dasi replies: Your first question is “Although we are aware of our individual ‘authentic illusory’ self and accept and use it in Krishna’s service, should we also be prepared to do anything for Krishna?” My husband often says, “We should be willing to take up emergency service, but we shouldn’t major in it.” We can learn much about surrender and sacrifice, both of which are foundational to developing love for Krishna, when we take up a service in an emergency situation. But if there is a chronic lack of devotees to manage services and you are constantly being called to do emergency services, it can lead to frustration and “burn out.” As with many things, we need to apply our intelligence and figure out how to have a healthy balance. Understanding our natures, we have to bend but not break.

Your second question is “Do our natures and services on the liberated platform in the spiritual world somehow reflect our conditioned natures in the material world?”

Depending on our stage of bhakti, our inclinations, natures, and service may be coming from our awakening spiritual consciousness. They could also be from our past karma, and by dovetailing those propensities in service to Krishna, they will become purified and retired.

In the stage of anartha-nivritti, the majority of our material conditioning is cleared. While we may get glimpses of our spiritual nature prior to navigating through this stage, it is really after this stage that we begin to develop our true spiritual aspirations. The more we engage in bhakti the more our conditioned natures include spiritual elements. Thus in one of our material births our budding spiritual reality that we have been cultivating for perhaps lifetimes will appear as part of our nature, manifesting in our practitioner’s body.

Spiritual Challenges

Why do we sometimes feel filled with spiritual strength but then go down when we face unfavorable circumstances? What should we do?
Dayalu Vithoba
Via the Internet

Our reply: First of all, as much as possible avoid “unfavorable circumstances.” But of course this is not always possible, so we have to fortify ourselves against Maya’s attacks. The first defense is good association. You need to have people or a person you can call when you feel spiritually weak or come up against a challenging situation. Also, chanting well and reading Srila Prabhupada’s books regularly will help you to stay strong.

Another thing to be careful of is what you put into your ears, eyes, and mouth. In other words, carefully monitor what you do with your time (e.g., don’t watch TV, be careful about what you do on the computer) and eat only Krishna prasada. When we take nonsense into our head and body, it is bound to have some effect eventually and will make us more susceptible to fall down and weakness.

Thinking and Karma

Does thinking lead to karma?
Anadi Jagannatha Dasa
Via the Internet

Our reply: Srila Prabhupada told us that in Kali-yuga we get karmic reactions only for what we do and not what we think. If we do not act on sinful thoughts, then there is no karmic reaction. That said, however, if we continue to think about sinful things, then eventually our thinking will lead to sinful action, and we will find ourselves moving quickly from contemplation to action.

Therefore it is important to move the mind away from sinful thinking and bring it back to Krishna and devotional service. This is one of the reasons we practice sadhana bhakti under the direction of a spiritual master. When we have a regulated life, then we have boundaries that keep us moving from one Krishna conscious activity to another, making it more difficult to find the time to allow the mind to drift to sinful thoughts. And if the mind does so, we immediately have some engagement that will pull us back to our Krishna conscious duties. This is one reason Srila Prabhupada would often quote the saying “An idle mind is the devil’s workshop.”