It’s a natural reaction when we don’t get what we want or what we expect. Children might throw a tantrum but as we grow older we start “hating” things inside, which leads to sulking and, interestingly, to renunciation.
When it happens in our external life we learn not to pay much attention to it, there’s no point in discussing how people deal with their materialistic problems.
What to do if we experience this reaction in devotional service, though? It’s a natural reaction, as I said. We experience happiness in our service, we like certain things and dislike others, we get upset, we get bored or tired, do we have place in our lives to sulk, too?
One could say that we should just ignore it as we wouldn’t worry much about other karmic reactions – feeling hot or cold, getting sick or losing something. We know we should not let those things disturb us, we put on warm socks, take pills and just patiently wait for them to go away. What about sulking, though?
We are told that Krishna reaches to us through our guru and His devotees so we treat our relationships with these persons on a very different level. In many cases they are much more personal to us than even our families. We learn to deal with nagging wives but we don’t expect similar treatment from our spiritual relations.
Unfortunately, as we all eventually find out, devotees get mistreated by their authorities and friends. We all had moments when we felt disrespected or neglected, and I bet many of us thought it was Krishna Himself who was giving us a cold shoulder.
Passed over when everyone gets some special maha prasadam, being pushed towards the end of abhisheka line or having someone cut in front of us in the queue – these and other little things can lead us to sulking. What should we do? It happens right in the temple room, under Lord’s nose, so to speak. Why are we being mistreated in such a way?
If we are a bit hot-headed we might try to renounce these things that we didn’t get, just like non-devotees do. “No maha for me? Fine, I don’t want it in the first place, they take if for their self-gratification anyway. Next time I won’t even bother asking for it.”
I bet many of us blamed Krishna Himself for what had happened to us, and we took it our on Him, too, it’s His maha anyway.
So, what would a real devotee do?
We can look at precedents, like when Lord Chaitanya complained about being “mistreated” by His devotees. He was afraid they would be sulking, specifically Jagadananda and Mukunda. He said they would sometimes not talk to Him and feel unhappy so He had to submit to their demands, mostly about eating right and staying warm. There’s a lot more of that kind of feelings in Vrindavana pastimes of Krishna and His gopis.
There definitely is a place for sulking in relationships between devotees and their Lord but we should remember that we are not gopis and so we should not imitate their anger and frustration, we are not even Lord Chaitanya’s direct associates. We can’t afford to be upset at the Lord, it’s above our paygrade.
Perhaps we better look at the precedent of Haridasa Thakura who was excluded from cleaning the Gundica mandir pastime and the following feast but he didn’t sulk, he had all the reasons to but he didn’t.
If some devotees didn’t like his company when they were eating he didn’t shun them forever, when there was no food involved and all the etiquette that goes with it, Haridas Thakur was right in the middle of it again, leading sankirtana parties and dancing for Lord’s pleasure.
We might say that he is way too exalted personality for us to follow but then we can look at examples in the material world, too. Usually mothers never sulk at their children. They never resent them, they never give up their association.
They are selflessly devoted, there’s nothing in this world that can make them turn away.
We can try to be like them. Being pushed over, overlooked or disrespected should not stop us even for a second from trying to get the mercy of the Lord. No matter how many times we are being passed when everyone gets prasadam we should always extend our hands the next time, in our relationship with the Lord there’s no place for pride or resentment.
In the material world we learn from our mistakes, we get burned once and we shun fire forever, but this is not permissible in relations with Krishna – He might burn our hands a million times but we should still stick it out next time someone distributes prasadam, or whatever it is that makes us sulk. We should never learn from “mistakes” like this, not with Krishna.
It would be even worse if we thought: “Okay, these people have no heart, I will avoid them and trust that Krishna will personally take care of me.” He won’t, He won’t like it even a little bit, His devotees are most dear to Him, His devotees is His mercy to us, we shun them we won’t make any spiritual progress whatsoever.
The fact is that they, the temple presidents, the GBC, whoever, they can spit and trample on us and break our hearts – they are still Krishna’s representatives. We turn our backs on them, we turn our back on Krishna, too.
Now, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t avoid them, sometimes respect must be shown from afar, but we should never ever allow ourselves to think ill of them.
So, basically, no sulking, not until we develop truly personal relationships where sulking would just add a flavor to the variety of devotional life.
No sulking until the possibility of us walking out on ISKCON completely disappears. Unfortunately, walking out seemed like a good idea to too many devotees in our history. They might still feel that way and that ruins their chances of spiritual progress. We shouldn’t follow their footsteps, just footsteps of Haridasa Thakura.