I was thinking how I was perhaps overenthusiastic about my yesterday’s post. I said that it is possible to seriously dedicate oneself to performing one’s material duties, spend less time on acquiring knowledge, and still have enjoyable and satisfactory japa.
Do not try this at home, it hardly ever works.
The theory is solid there – performing our varnashrama duties IS pleasing to Vishnu, even though it’s a relatively unimportant service, and reading too many books IS detrimental to acquiring spiritual knowledge. In practice, however, material obligations are distractive and idle mind is a devil’s playground.
If you spend whole day thinking about how to do your job you won’t stop when you pick up your bead bag, it won’t happen, the mind will still be obsessed with mundane matters. Chanting requires peace and quiet, the mode of goodness, our daily duties require mode of passion, there’s a mismatch and it affects our japa.
If you spend whole day turning your mind away from Vedic knowledge and Vedic solutions to our problems it will find answers elsewhere. If it’s not filled with Krishna conscious discussions it will start thinking about everything else. This affects japa, too.
How to make it work?
Well, first thing first – mind is not our problem, problem lies in our weak intelligence. Mind is a simple thing and a product of mode of goodness, too. It simply sees things and wants them, or doesn’t. All the scheming, worrying, and plotting is done by intelligence.
It’s the intelligence that is always seeking best way to gratification. It’s the intelligence that proposes temporary restraints in return for bigger payoff in the long run, and it’s the intelligence that allows the mind to indulge the senses if the punishment doesn’t seem likely.
It’s the intelligence that has access to memory, that has experience and “wisdom”, that can learn from mistakes and that estimates probabilities and likely outcomes. It’s our intelligence that is our greatest enemy. Even though mind is exceptionally strong failure to control it is a failure of intelligence, not the mind itself.
So, what happens when we try new things is that intelligence loses its usual confidence. We simply don’t know what will happen, we don’t have enough experience, we don’t have enough information, we don’t have assurances. The result is that the intelligence goes into overdrive, calculating all possible scenarios and practicing emergency responses. When it is busy like that it’s not a good time for japa.
If, as I proposed yesterday, we decide to give more consideration to our material duties our intelligence starts to worry: “What if I am wrong? What if I am not doing it right? What if I don’t have the correct attitude? What is the correct attitude here? What to do if I don’t have time? What to do…?”
To put our mind at ease (actually intelligence but it’s a common saying) one needs to have enough test runs to become sure it works. There’s nothing like experience here. Think of trying all other new things for the first time – swimming, riding a bike, driving a car, or even sex. Worrying is natural but pretty soon it goes away. For all the assurances in the world nothing works better than personal experience.
So we need to build a bank of good experiences. We should be a little subtle here because what we want is not just a few days of good japa, what we need to find is the belief in is that our material duties are given to us by Krishna in very carefully measured dozes and strictly for our upliftment. We need to learn to interact with material nature as if she was Krishna’s personal messenger.
This doesn’t come by simply going to work and taking care of family, this requires a lot of faith, knowledge, keen observation and lots of experiments. Normally we don’t see maya as Krishna’s servant so it won’t come easy and in each and every interaction we need guidance to see Krishna’s hand.
Guidance means asking questions, reading, discussing etc. I was just arguing that it’s a distraction so it looks like contradiction. Yes, it is. We need to learn lots of spiritually useless things, staring with ABCs, in order to operate in this world. Once you got it, however, they need to be abandoned, or maybe respectfully deposited in our memories, never to be touched again.
Basically, without learning ABCs we can’t read Srila Prabhupada’s books, similarly, without learning answers to all possible questions we won’t be able to see Krishna behind everything but once we achieved that then Dr Seuss can be retired and jyotish can be forgotten.
We always need to move forward, chewing the chewed is for materialists, we shouldn’t settle for uncovering mysteries of the universe, we should be broadminded and seek pleasure in ever expanding quest for Supreme Absolute Truth.
You can answer the question “what to do if you feel sexual agitation” only so many times. Next question should be “how to avoid getting into compromising situations” and then we should purge curiosity about sex from our minds altogether. What was useful in the beginning becomes useless and distracting.
This also means that we can’t just jump to whatever stage we want to find ourselves on without going through all the necessary steps first – to build confidence and collect experiences. That’s how our faith gradually grows. What we need to find is not an objectively perfect situation but perfect situation for us.
Being a paramahamsa is an objectively perfect stage, for us, however, the perfect stage might be learning to wash hands and maintain ritual purity.
Therefore bliss I was talking about yesterday is conditional on our current situation. We shouldn’t jump into it if we are not ready. Personally, I’ve been dabbling in debating less and working more but that might be just collecting experiences for whatever comes next and not that I’ll be slaving away forever and calling it Krishna consciousness.
I *know* it’s possible, it doesn’t mean I have to perfect this art or that I will be doing it forever. I’m more interested in what is next.