From Voidist to Personalist

I read “Spiritual Exchange: A Correspondence Leading to Krishna” in the September/October issue with great interest. The author’s transition from Donna Lee, voidist and impersonalist, to Danakeli Devi Dasi, enthusiastic devotee of Krishna, brings to mind a similar transition that Bhakta Dan (Daniel Cooper Clark, aka Damodara Dasa) made in the early days of our movement. This is recorded in Srila Prabhupada-lilamrita. Dan was an out-and-out voidist, and our wonderful Srila Prabhupada worked his magic on him, going around his mind and influencing his heart directly.
Su-gita Vani Devi Dasi
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Getting Rid of Problems

I am facing a lot of problems in my personal life and want to get rid of them. I have no materialistic desires. Can you please help me?
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Our reply: The scriptures teach us that a person free of material desire should be happy, with no anxiety. You are recognizing the material miseries that come from the soul’s being within a material body. What to do? Become more conscious of Krishna and keep busy in His business and service. Any anxieties in Krishna’s service become pleasure because He is pleased.

In the material world no one is ever fully satisfied. You are not alone. It is a miserable place, and not our real home.

We should finish up our material business and take to the devotional service of Krishna. That will keep us happy and minimize the negative things that prove that this world is not a nice place. By perfecting our Krishna consciousness, we will not take another material birth. Try to remind yourself that all difficulties are only temporary. Try not to dwell on them, and recognize them as a sign from Krishna that we need to get serious about our spiritual life.

Devotees and Nondevotees

I am finding difficulty in identifying who are devotees and who are nondevotees. If someone is good in character, is he a devotee? Or is only a Vaishnava a devotee?
Amal Krishna Dasa
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Our reply: “Vaishnava” means a devotee of Krishna. And a Vaishnava is someone who by words and actions reminds others of Krishna. We should keep the company of such a person. From Srila Prabhupada’s Nectar of Instruction you can learn about different levels of devotees and how you should relate to each of them. A Vaishnava always talks about Krishna and has many ideal qualities. Srila Krishnadasa Kaviraja Goswami lists twenty-six prominent ones in Sri Chaitanya-charitamrita. Knowing these can help you to identify the pure devotee.

If at all possible, a devotee should try to give Krishna consciousness to everyone. That is the best way to associate with nondevotees. Like all souls, they are eternal lovers of the Lord, but they have forgotten.

Anger Problem

I become angry at small things. I have a big ego problem. I can’t take things that aren’t going my way. I do regret and apologize, but in spite of understanding this fact, I don’t change my behavior. I feel helpless and have stopped seeing myself as a good and sympathetic person. What should I do?
Via the Internet

Our reply: You have honestly identified the problem: the false ego. As souls in material bodies, we all have this misidentification problem; we think we are the body. We must discover our real ego buried in the misconceptions of our mind and intelligence.

Our real ego is that we are each an eternal spirit soul, part of the Supreme Lord, Krishna, or God. He Himself recommends that we purify our consciousness by hearing spiritual sound and performing devotional service. These activities will reconnect us with Him.

Read the Bhagavad-gita, take up the glorification of the Lord, and get your senses busy in Krishna’s service. We have to change some things to get out of our bad habits, like anger, jealousy, greed, and all-around selfishness. We have to start thinking of someone else – God – and our relationship with Him.

It is natural in the material world to be unhappy, angry, and dissatisfied. Our soul hankers for the eternal satisfaction of a spiritual life, full of service to God and others. With proper association and engagement in the practices of Krishna consciousness, in time you will experience a higher pleasure and peace of mind.

Engaging in Service

I would love to engage in the service of Lord Krishna, but I do not know what the conditions and rules are. Sorry to say, but I’m ashamed that, for example, I may not be able to stop eating onions.
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Our reply: Serve Krishna with all your heart and soul, mind and deeds, and He will be happy. As your taste for that service increases, He will help you give up your bad habits. Don’t let them get in your way. Just serve Krishna, and you will see them go away gradually. Many devotees were formerly victims of bad habits, but by engaging in the Lord’s service even for one day, they were able to give them up. Devotional service is very powerful and can rid the conditioned soul of its deeply ingrained sinful desires.

Women and Tulasi Mala

I would like to know the rules regarding women wearing Tulasi mala.
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Our reply: Srila Prabhupada, ISKCON’s founder-acharya, wanted all his disciples, both men and women, to wear Tulasi mala (neck beads) all the time. Once, when a group of women visiting the temple were rolling chapatis in the kitchen, he insisted that they all immediately put on Tulasi mala. For his disciples, he said the mala should never be removed. If necessary for working outside, they could be worn lower so they didn’t show. Tulasi mala are protective and identify us as Vaishnavas, reminding others of Krishna. Other groups may have different traditions, but ISKCON has no restrictions for women in this regard.