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By Mahatma Das

When devotees look at their obstacles to advancement in Krsna consciousness, they sometimes doubt whether they will ever be able to overcome all of them (for those of you who haven’t taken my seminar on prayer, we ask participants to make a list of obstacles they face in devotional service and formulate prayers to overcome those obstacles). It is easy to become discouraged and thus feel it may not even be worth praying to overcome obstacles. Or you may think that if you go on in devotional service, the obstacles will just somehow go away. Meanwhile you may carry these anarthas for years – maybe even lifetimes.

Can You Change?

I have seen - and research confirms – that change can take place, even if a person is convinced they can’t change. It simply requires that the impetus to change is strong enough. It is common that an alcoholic who thinks he can never give up drinking will quit when his wife tells him that she and the kids will leave if he doesn’t stop drinking. When child molesters who say they cannot control themselves are asked, “If you were about to molest a child and a policeman appeared and said, ‘If you touch the child you will be arrested,’ could you stop yourself?” They always reply, “Well if I were going to be arrested, then yeah, I could stop myself.”

You Have the Choice

So rather than say, “I can’t overcome this obstacle,” or, “I can’t do this or that,” it is generally more accurate to say, “I choose not to do it.” This gives you a more realistic view of your situation. If, for example, you feel pride is an obstacle, you can choose to glorify others rather than seek out glorification or appreciation for yourself. You have the choice. No one is telling you that you have to be proud. No one is forcing you not to serve and glorify other devotees. Your mind may be telling you that, but you don’t have to listen.

So what is the greatest potential obstacle to your advancement? You are.

The Impetus to Change

Where does the impetus to change come from? One way it comes is by looking at what you are losing by not overcoming your obstacles. I like to ask myself, “What could I achieve in Krsna consciousness if I removed this or that anartha from my life?” And the answer is always a resounding, “I would be much stronger, more blissful and way more peaceful. I would be more fulfilled, and my spiritual progress would obviously be less hindered.” In other words, I have so much to gain by overcoming my anarthas.

Just Say No to Maya

So why do I keep holding onto them? Because I choose to. Or put it another way, maya is choosing for me and I am not saying anything. I have to “just say no to maya.”

Remember, not choosing is also a choice.

Love for Guru

What is another impetus for change? Prabhupada said that when one has great love for his spiritual master, he will follow all of his instructions. The greater the love, the greater the impetus to follow. The proper attitude is that, “I may not want to do something, but I will do it because my guru asked me.” And we can pray to our guru to give us strength to follow his instructions.

Committing to Another Person

Committing to another devotee can be a great impetus to improve ourselves. For example, you can say, “I commit to you to come to mangala aroti, to not speak ill of devotees, to give up this bad habit,” etc. It is usually more effective to commit to someone else than to commit to ourselves. This is why having a coach or a friend we are accountable to is so effective.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that if Krsna sees we are sincere in our efforts to advance, He will certainly help us from within. And if He helps us, everything becomes easy.

This article is taken from a monthly newsletter by Mahatma Das called Illuminations. If you would like to read previous issues, or get on his mailing list, please visit

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1 Puskaraksa das

“Just like Lord Jesus Christ. He was so badly treated and still he was thinking, “Father, they do not know what they are doing. Please excuse.” This is suhrdah. He is praying to God This is sadhu, mahatma. Suhrdah prasanta. Not that… In India there are examples like Haridasa Thakura, Prahlada Maharaja. And the Western countries also, Lord Jesus Christ, he is saktyavesa-avatara, God’s son. And he tolerated so much. These are the examples of mahatma. Don’t misunderstand that we are preaching that mahatmas are only in India. No. By the order of the Supreme Personality of Godhead there are mahatmas even amongst the birds, even amongst the beasts, even amongst the lower than animals. Because this Krsna consciousness movement is going on in different places, in different circumstances.”
(Srimad Bhagavatam 5.5.3 –vrndavana Oct 25, 1976)

Comment posted by Puskaraksa das on September 23rd, 2012
2 Puskaraksa das

The real clue to overcoming one’s problems, is caring about others and trying to assist them in overcoming theirs…

Hence, the path of compassion is the golden path…
But it can’t be artificial though and therefore has to be genuine!

By the mercy of Sri Guru and Sri Gauranga, everything is possible:

mukam karoti vachalam
pangum langhayate girim
yat-kripa tam aham vande
shri-gurum dina-taranam

“I offer my respectful obeisances unto my spiritual master, the deliverer of the fallen souls. His mercy turns the dumb into eloquent speakers and enables the lame to cross mountains.”

So, there is no scope for pessimism or lamentation in spiritual life.

His Divine Grace Sri Srimad Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Goswami Maharaja, the celebrated Founder Acharya of the Gaudiya Matha, spoke the following few lines as His Message just a few days (23rd December, 1936) before His passing away from this mortal world:

“There are certainly many difficulties while we are in this mortal world but it is not our business simply to be overwhelmed with those difficulties or to try to overcome them only. We must know even during the duration of our present life, as to what we shall gain after overcoming all those difficulties of life and what shall be the mode of our permanent existence. We must make an adjustment of all things that evoke our love and hatred and for those that we want and do not want. Attachment and detachment of this mortal world will engage us more and more as we become farther and farthest from the Lotus Feet of Sree Krishna. When we are able to transcend the position of attachments and detachments of this mortal world and be attracted with the Holy Name of Godhead, it is then only we can understand the import of the transcendental service of Sree Krishna the Personality of Godhead. At the first instance the subject Krishna is startling and perplexing to us. Every one who is called by the name ‘man’ is more or less struggling knowingly or unknowingly to eliminate those invading elements what are baffling our conception of eternal need. It is our only duty to enter into the kingdom of eternal need.” (excerpt)

Comment posted by Puskaraksa das on September 23rd, 2012
3 Akruranatha

Nice article. We are a movement for change: change in society beginning with change in ourselves. Srimad Bhagavatam is a cultural presentation for the respiritualization of society. It is “a different creation, full of transcendental words directed toward bringing about a revolution in the impious lives of this world’s misdirected civilization.”

I like that there are practical tips for how we can recognize things in ourselves we need to change and methods for going about changing them.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on September 24th, 2012

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