By Mahatma das
Yamuna devi said in an interview on the film, Women of Bhakti, “When you live bhakti, you give bhakti.” It’s true. What you live is what you give.
I once attended a workshop facilitation training in which we were taught that many people will come to our trainings with the mindset of “I already know that.” They explained that they might know of it, about it, or are familiar with it, but they don’t know it unless they live it.
So if our audience thinks they already know what we will be teaching, the learning process shuts down for them. So we were taught to joke with the audience by saying, “The three worse words in the English language for learning are, “I know that.”
The point of this article is to see how this relates to us
I am not the body. I’ve heard it 4000 times. I know this.
Or do I?
I am a servant, of the servant, of the servant. I know this also. But do I always feel like being a servant?
I should chant feeling lower than a blade of grass. I know. I recite this verse every morning. If I know I should be more humble than a blade of grass, more tolerant than a tree and offer all respects to others not respecting any for myself, why then am I not always humble?
I should also know that whatever happens is my karma and I even deserve worse. This is our philosophy. But sometimes it’s hard to accept this when “injustice” is perpetrated against me.
If everything is Krsna’s mercy, why do I get upset when I get what I deserve from someone who delivered it in ways, well, I didn’t think I deserve?
If I know I am not a man, why do I still think I am a 66 year old American male. And worse, why, if I am not the body, am I at all attracted to the opposite sex. After all women are also not their bodies?
The simple answer, of course, is that “I don’t know that.” And the reason I don’t know that is because I am a conditioned soul; very conditioned. I am so much the way I am that I often don’t even realize the way I am. So many of us don’t always realize when we are out of alignment with our beliefs, values or and philosophy.
It is said that we notice our motives more than our actions. In other words if I feel I am a good person, then even if I do something not so good, I will either not notice or even see it as good. After all, a good person wouldn’t do something that isn’t good. (Extend this far enough and people kill in the name of God and feel it is good).
This is called cognitive dissonance, i.e. you don’t notice activities that don’t align with your beliefs. This often happens when we are mostly good but not always good. For example, there is a story of a girl who was the ultimate green eco friendly girl, or so she thought. She would make her own natural packaging and bring it to the store so she wouldn’t have to use plastic. She was so into this that she would be frustrated and critical seeing her friends and others eating lunch out of plastic containers. She was the poster child for being green.
One day something shook her world. While getting something out of her refrigerator she noticed, for the first time, that she had any plastic containers in there. What’s so amazing about this is that she obviously has been going to her refrigerator many times a day, seeing the plastic but not seeing the plastic. And those plastic containers didn’t just walk into the fridge, so even more amazing is she put them there without even realizing that she wasn’t being green.
I can relate. Sometimes I am not as kind as a devotee should be. Sometimes I am not as self-controlled as a devotee should be. Sometimes I am not as tolerant, sweet, considerate, or humble as a devotee should be. But this is not the biggest problem. The real problem is when I don’t even notice this.
A devotee is good. I am a devotee. Therefore I am good. If I am good, how can I do anything bad? I can’t.
A god-brother or sister does better than I do, gets more honor than I get, achieves more than I achieve. Am I happy? Not always. Sometimes I am envious. Sometimes I don’t like that they are successful. I should think, “Wait a minute. I shouldn’t be thinking like this.” But I don’t. Or maybe I do notice sometimes, but I shrug it off as, “This is just how I am.”
Humility means to notice when I am not aligned with what I believe. I should be noticing and I should be doing something about what I am noticing. I should be trying to go from “I know that” to becoming what I know.
If we think, “Should I be humble?” “Should I forgive?” “Should I do what is right?” “Is it okay to get back at a person who mistreats me?” We have not yet become what we believe. We want to become humble, forgiving, kind, people, not decide if we should be humble, forgiving and kind depending on which way the wind blows.
I think it has become obvious to us that what our movement needs more than scholars are exemplars of our philosophy. People who hear us wonder, “Do they really follow what they say?” And who we are will speak far more than what we say.
There are many stories in Yamuna devi’s biography about how she transformed the lives of devotees, but one story stands out for me. There was a second generation devotee musician who was into Western music and not so much into kirtan. Wanting to inspire him Yamuma devi invited him to her home for kirtan. She and Dinatarini chanted the mangala carana prayers for ten minutes and that kirtan turned his life around. For the first time he really understood kirtan, real prayer, and pure devotion. That one kirtan sparked a revolution in his heart and he took it back to his friends and became one of the key players in the establishing the kirtan revolution among the second generation. This all happened from hearing ten minutes of pure chanting.
What we live is what we give. As we live bhakti, we give bhakti. Let us become what we believe.