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Exploring Your Word of Honor

Tuesday, 02 April 2019 / Published in Articles, Mahatma das / 7,782 views

Exploring Your Word of Honor Being Committed in a Non-Committal World

By Mahatma Das

Imagine this scene. After millions of lifetimes you finally make it back to the spiritual world. As you approach the gates of Goloka you are asked to wait because Krsna wants to come and personally greet you. You are getting more excited at every moment. You can hardly believe you have finally made it back to your eternal home.

In the distance you see a beautiful blue form coming towards you. Finally, after transmigrating through 8,400,000 species of life since time immemorial, you get a glimpse of your eternal Lover and Friend. His enchanting form captivates your eyes and mind. You drink in His beauty as if it were the sweetest nectar. Your heart begins to pound in anticipation of being able to talk to Krsna, to touch Him, to play and dance with Him.

You can’t stop crying as you reflect on the innumerable lifetimes you turned your back on Krsna and on the fact that you are now reuniting with Him. Finally, the supreme Lord, appearing as the most enchanting cowherd boy, approaches you. This is the greatest moment in your eternal existence. You stand anxiously waiting. You are speechless.

Krsna appears concerned about something. He is happy to see you, yet also has a serious look on His face. He remains looking at you for a few moments without speaking. As you wait you wonder what might be His first words to you. Each second feels like an eternity. You think, “Will He express His happiness in seeing that I returned to the spiritual world? Will He express His affection for me?” Yet He still looks concerned about something – and this puzzles you. Finally, looking compassionately into your eyes He tells you,

“I don’t know if I can trust you?”

You’re devastated. Your mind is reeling. You can’t stop crying. The fact that Krsna has doubts that He can trust you tears your heart apart. You want to disappear. The thought that you have let down the One who deserves all your trust is unbearable.

Krsna waits by your side as you gradually gain your composure. You want to say to Him, “No you can trust me.” Yet as you reflect on why He questions your trustworthiness, you think of promises you made to Him, your guru, your spouse, your friends – even to yourself – that you didn’t always keep. Of course, you had your reasons to not keep them. But whatever the reasons, you now know that you let Krsna down.

Can God Trust Me?
What if Krsna appeared before you today? Would He have reason to say the same thing to you? Thinking “Am I trustworthy to God and guru?” is a powerful meditation for bringing into focus our relationship with commitment. Do your activities demonstrate to Krsna that He can trust you, that you are true to the promises you have made and continue to make to Him, your guru and others? In other words, are you 100% committed to your vows? If not, you need to be or you’re asking for trouble.

Krsna tells us in the Gita to offer Him all we do, eat, offer and give away. Just as one can offer Krsna an existing thing or a present action, one can also offer Him a future action along with the perseverance to fulfill it. That offering of perseverance is characteristic of a vow. A subsequent change in one’s purpose is like taking away something that has been dedicated to Him. Think of it like taking food off Krsna’s plate as it is being carried to the altar.

Vows are Personal
When we make a vow to Krsna it helps to think of it in terms of our personal relationship with Him. For example, if you make a promise to a very dear friend and then find it difficult or inconvenient to fulfill, you’ll likely keep your promise if you know your friend will be upset if you don’t come through. We can think the same way about our promises to Krsna. When we are having trouble following our vows it’s helpful to think that we will be letting Krsna down if we break our promises. And if I let Krsna down, that damages my relationship with Him.

Steven Covey talks about the emotional bank account. Every time you do something positive in a relationship, you add deposits to your emotional bank account. And every time you do something negative, you make withdrawals. So if you find it difficult to maintain vows, it’s helpful to think in terms of your emotional bank account with Krsna. You can impersonalize your relationship with Krsna by thinking He really doesn’t feel bad when you don’t keep your spiritual vows and promises to Him. But since He wants you to love Him and come back to Him, don’t you think it hurts Him on some level every time you do something that moves you further away from Him?

How You Do Anything
Another thought to ponder is your relationship with commitment in general. Consider if not being able or willing to be trustworthy in your spiritual life also influences your trustworthiness in other relationships – and vice-versa. I think it does. As it is said, “How you do anything is how you do everything.”

Vows Empower Us
Prabhupada didn’t teach that people primarily keep vows because they are sense controlled or spiritually strong. He taught that people keep vows because they value their word or honor. Because they value their word of honor they tolerate provocations that could cause them to break their vows. He knew it wasn’t easy and he knew that many of those who took initiation had a very degraded past. But he also knew we could remain steady in Krsna consciousness if we took our vows to heart. He taught that vows empower us to do what ordinarily would be difficult; they make us rise beyond our normal abilities.

We can easily get this formula backwards. If we think we need spiritual strength to follow our vows it’s natural to blame a fall on spiritual weakness. But it is being committed to the promises we make to guru and Krsna that give us the power to be self-controlled. It’s just like fasting. Once you make the determination to fast on a particular day you get the strength to do it. If you think, “maybe I will fast the whole day,” the chances are you won’t make it. Would you loan money to a friend who brings in a contract that says, “Maybe I will pay you back?”

Have you ever heard someone say, “I don’t have the energy to exercise?” It seems logical to them that energy is needed to exercise. But we know that the reason they don’t have energy is that they don’t exercise. Saying, “I don’t have the spiritual strength to follow my vows,” is exactly like saying, “I don’t have the energy to exercise.

When Prabhupada was asked how we become determined, he said we become determined by following the regulative principles. The devotee asking the question was confused because he really meant, “How do we get the determination to follow the principles?” Prabhupada said that it is not your business how to get the determination; it is Krsna’s business to give you the determination. Again, what he meant was that if we just commit to our vows Krsna will give us the strength and determination to follow them. Why? Because it is Krsna’s business to give us the strength. Prabhupada was pointing out that we can’t fight with maya but we can stand behind Krsna who dispels maya’s darkness. When you keep your vows and you are standing in Krsna’s light.

Getting a Perspective on the Four Regulative Principles
It seems impossible for most people in Kali-yuga to follow the four regulative principles. Because of this it can be easy to think that I am only human and it is “normal” that I can’t follow. Yes, it’s true that it is normal not to follow; but as devotees we are not meant to be “normal.” Normal in Kali-yuga means sex, drugs, meat and gambling. “Normal” means living under the influence of Kali, or as Prabhupada said, being a victim of Kali-yuga. Although following the four rules seems to be an elevated thing to do, Prabhupada’s take on it was different – these are simply the activities of pious human beings

Thinking this way about the regulative principles brings them down to earth. They are not a set of rules that only special souls can follow. Prabhupada even felt that through the establishment of varnasrama dharma, everyone could follow these principles. So it’s important not to put the four rules on such a high pedestal that following them seems like some super human task reserved for special devotees.

How Does it Make You Feel
Right now, think of all the promises you haven’t kept – the little and the big ones. Maybe you haven’t returned something you borrowed. Maybe someone is expecting you to call them or answer an email and you’ve been putting it off. It could be that you promised a friend or your spouse that you’d do them a favor, but haven’t found the time to do it. What’s on your list? And, of course, there are the obvious bigger promises and vows you may not have kept: chanting a fixed number of rounds, chanting your gayatri, following the regulative principles, chastity to your spouse, etc.

Take a minute to do this before reading on. You can do it in your mind if you wish.
This exercise will really help you. Can I trust you to do it before you go on?

Now, write down or think of the reasons you haven’t followed through on these promises and vows. These are the reasons you tell yourself you haven’t yet done them. Here are some of the reasons people give in my workshop for not keeping the little promises they make:

“I forgot,” “I am too busy,” I am lazy,” “I’m overwhelmed,” “it’s not important,” “I can’t find the time,” “it’s okay if I don’t do it,” “I don’t feel like doing it,” “it doesn’t matter,” “I’ll do it someday,” “I have more important things to do,” “I don’t know why I forgot.”

For the more serious promises or vows, participants have given these reasons:

“I just can’t do it,” “I am not that tolerant,” “it’s too difficult, “I am too weak,” “Krsna understands,” “I was young when I promised,” “I didn’t know what I was doing when I promised,” “I didn’t really mean it when I promised,” “I have enough trouble just keeping my material life together,” “I didn’t learn responsibility when I was growing up,” “I don’t know why I made that promise,” “I shouldn’t have made that promise,” “The person is not worthy of my former commitment.”

So make your list before you read on.

Now imagine this scene. Your best friend, someone you have known your entire life, is starting a business. And this is not just any business; it is a business in an emerging industry that has huge potential for growth. If your friend can get in on it now, it is certain that he will make a huge amount of money. He needs $100,000 to invest in the business. It just so happens that you have managed to save $10 a day over the last 20 years, and with the compounded interest you now have amassed a savings of $100,000. You plan to retire in two years and move to Vrndavana. You will be able to do this by living off the interest of this $100,000.

Your best friend approaches you with the idea for his business and asks you for a loan of $100,000. He promises he will pay you back within two years. The prospects of the business are so good that he offers to pay you 18% interest on the loan. Since you don’t plan to move to Vrndavana for another two years and you want to help him, you are happy to loan him the money. Plus, with the 18% interest you’ll be getting, it’s a win-win situation.

Excuses
The agreement is that he will begin paying you $8500 a month in six months. By the time you are ready to retire you will have been paid back your $100,000 plus interest.

It’s now a year later and his business is not going as planned. Your friend has only paid you $8,500. You are becoming concerned, but since he is such a close friend you trust that he will stick to his word, you are not overly concerned. It is now 18 months later and he hasn’t paid you any more money. You have a serious talk with him and find that he isn’t going to be paying you any more money. You’re shocked. You can’t believe a friend would do that to you.

Now go back to your list of reasons for not always keeping your promises. Imagine that this friend is giving you those very same reasons to explain (or justify) why he won’t be paying you back.

How does that make you feel?

Vows, commitments and promises are about relationships. If you really value a person and the relationship you have with them, wouldn’t that be shown in how you value the commitments you make to them? Isn’t it a contradiction to some degree to say, “I value our relationship and I really love you,” yet at the same time not keep your word of honor to that person?

Acknowledging the truth in those questions (i.e. answering yes to them) has done amazing things to strengthen my commitment to the vows I made to Srila Prabhupada, as well as strengthen the commitments I make to others, especially those dear to me. In my exploration of my word of honor I have discovered that the reason I may not follow my vows perfectly (this includes thinking about not following them while I externally follow them) is because I am not 100% committed to the vows I made. If you can imagine a situation that would make it virtually impossible for you to keep your vows, then you too can acknowledge you are not yet 100% committed (if you had a zillion dollars, all the fame in the world, easy opportunities to enjoy the opposite sex, lived in the heavenly planets, etc.).

But if we are not committed 100% to guru and Krsna, maya will find that one tiny space to enter, that 1% percent of non commitment, that weak link, and that’s where she’ll enter. You know where your weak link lies. It’s where maya continually works on you. It is said you are only as healthy as your weakest organ. Similarly, we are only as strong as our weakest commitment to guru and Krsna.

Meditating on these questions has been helping me close those spaces in powerful ways. It’s almost mystical. Contemplate those questions. Take them with you. Ask them a hundred times a day. If you get nothing else from this newsletter but this, you have really gotten everything.

So ask yourself, “How much do I value my relationship with Krsna, my guru, my spouse, my friends, my business partners?” Do I value those relationships enough to keep all the promises I make to them?
________________________________________________________________________

Festival of Inspiration

If you are coming to New Vrndavana for the Festival of Inspiration May 11-13, I want to invite you to a couple of workshops I am doing. On Friday, May 11 at 11:45 I am giving a workshop on vows. The workshop is designed to help you explore your personal relationship with vows and with your word of honor. The workshop will help you become a more committed person, both in your spiritual life and in your personal relationships.

I was motivated to develop this workshop because I saw that our society needed structured systems that offer support for those who have taken vows (which is all of us because we either take formal initiation vows, vow to voluntarily follow some principles and chant a fixed number of rounds, or we make commitments within an asrama). The more I thought about it the more it seemed a paradox to encourage devotees to take vows that are difficult to follow, yet at the same time offer no structured support system to maximize the potential for their success.

This workshop is my personal attempt to offer that kind of support.

This workshop will help you:

1) understand what is preventing you from being 100% committed to others – and to yourself.
2) effectively deal with the guilt and feelings of failure that result from not following your vows.
3) see why you may be reluctant to take vows or make commitments.
4) explore new vows you may wish to make and how to understand when you are ready to make them
5) strengthen you resolve to continue following the vows you have made

If you can’t make it to the Festival of Inspiration this year, we plan to offer this workshop as an online course. I will keep you posted on its development but if this sounds like something you will be interested in, please email me and I will send you more details.

Education, Guidance and Support
I will also be assisting a workshop on the topic of spiritual support and personal growth in Krsna consciousness. This will take place on Friday, May 11 at 4:45 pm. As you may know, I have been working with a group of devotees to develop online courses in conjunction with live presentations. In this seminar we explain the educational philosophy and how it is used to create a supportive network and community of practice. We will give a brief description of the kinds of courses we intend to offer. And you will have a chance to participate in discussions about your own educational needs and suggest courses you think are important for us to offer.

Seminar Package for Temples
I have developed a two day seminar package for temples. It consists of one introductory session online, a Friday evening workshop on self development, a Saturday seminar on forgiveness, a Sunday seminar on Prayer (approximately 9 to 5 each day) and then two online follow up courses over the next few weeks where we deal with the real life challenges of integrating the knowledge and techniques we gained in the seminar into our lives.

If you feel that your temple or community would benefit from this, please contact me and I will give you more information and details about this program. Note that openings for this seminar package this summer are limited, so if you are interested in doing something this summer, please contact me soon.

Yamuna Boat Festival (2019) (Album of photos)
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13 Responses to “Exploring Your Word of Honor”

  1. Caitanya candrodaya dasa says :

    “Finally, looking compassionately into your eyes He tells you -“I don’t know if I can trust you?” ” – is there any sastric support for such an approach? It does not seems to be based on sastras as we have heard them from Srila Prabhupada, is it? Did any of the previous acaryas ever assumed that Supreme soul can or can not “trust” someone. It appears as if we are imposing our limited perception to the Person who has no limitations and his relationships with devotees are always free from duality of trust and mistrust.

    How can one have saksad darsan with Krishna if one is not free from such an understanding?

  2. Suresh das says :

    I always try to imagine myself eternally serving Srila Prabhupada, and somehow assisting him, as well as my godbrothers and godsisters, in his service to Radha Krishna. I think that is the correct mentality, as I have understood it from our books. There are so many offenses one can commit in relationship with the Deities, what to speak of approaching and interacting with the Lord in the spiritual realm. How will I know how to approach Lord Krishna, unless Srila Prabhupada is right there, eternally instructing me how it is to be done?

    Except for Srila Prabhupada, how can I possibly know anything about the nature of the spiritual kingdom, all the Visnu-tattva Deities, all Their expansions, as well as the deities of the material world, and all other forms of knowledge and philosophy?

  3. Kulapavana says :

    The article seems like a good idea to generate interest in your seminars. I wish you many eager participants as the subject matter is indeed important. Yet the thought of seeing the issue of spiritual trustworthiness through the parables of mundane business is somewhat unsettling.

    First of all, word of honor is primarily a matter of kshatriya and brahmana conduct, expected and required of them by the shastras. Vaishyas have some leniency when it comes to such matters in the execution of their trade, thus perhaps your business example is not entirely appropriate.

    Brahmanas and kshatriyas actually keep their word not merely because they have to, but primarily because they want to. For them, it is a matter of taste – a taste for truth, and a taste for honorable living. Vaishya tells the truth when it is neccessary for his business. Just like he lies when it is neccessary for his business.

    Second, in the matter of spiritual development, promises made with the word of honor are secondary to much more general requirements of having faith in the process and the desire to follow it’s requirements. Devotees stop maintaining their standards not because they have no honor, but because they lose faith in the process and therefore lose faith in their sadhana. Thus by concentrating on the secondary symptoms we can miss the real cause of the problem.

    your servant

  4. mahatma says :

    Sorry that I have not been able to respond to this blog until now.

    Your servant,
    Mahatma das

    The first question was “is there any sastric support for such an approach? It does not seems to be based on sastras as we have heard them from Srila Prabhupada, is it?
    How can one have saksad darsan with Krishna if one is not free from such an understanding?

    Of course, this was a fictitious story and was written to bring up the question of our trustworthiness. Krsna won’t give pure bhakti to anyone, as exemplified when he appeared to Narada muni and then disappeared. He told Narada you are not ready so I will not longer give you my darsan. IN that sense you can say He didn’t trust that Narada was ready for pure bhakti.

    Prabhupada said Krsna could give you the whole world, but if He did you would simply sleep. If Krsna gave every devotee 10 billion dollars tomorrow, many would fall away from Krsna consciousness. So in that sense you can say that Krsna cannot yet trust us with prema or with the world, and cannot yet trust many of us with large amounts of wealth, or for that matter large amounts of followers. If we are in situations which make it difficult to follow our vows, we have to ask ourselves, “Can Krsna trust me to not fall down in those situations and pray that we can be trustworthy.”

    I think the issue of trust is similar to the issue of forgiveness. We know that Krsna is unlimitedly compassionate and forgives us for all of our past sins, yet when Prabhupada was asked if Krsna will forgive those who take initiation when they fall, he said once, twice, not more. So although He is unlimitedly merciful, He can choose when to forgive and when not to. And because He is a person, why should we assume he is bound to always trust us. He can decide when and if he trusts us based on our past actions.

    But my the main point I was making is that it’s good for us to individually question how trustworthy we are to the vows we make to Krsna. So in that sense I think it’s not only safe to ask can Krsna trust me, but extremely helpful to think in those terms. We certainly want to be trustworthy to Krsna. We want Him to trust that we can use this world properly in his service, that we will not be deviated by women, wealth and followers.

    So if this meditation can help you – and it has helped me alot- I suggest you apply it.

  5. mahatma says :

    kULAPAVANA
    First of all, word of honor is primarily a matter of kshatriya and brahmana conduct, expected and required of them by the shastras. Vaishyas have some leniency when it comes to such matters in the execution of their trade, thus perhaps your business example is not entirely appropriate.

    MAHATMA DAS:
    Yes, there is truth to that statement, although there are certainly many people who have gotten wealthy without being dishonest. I think my business example would have illustrated my point better if the person who took the loan actually had the money to pay back but decided not to.

    Aside from that issue, which is a whole other discussion. the point I was making in the article was that if someone promises us something and doesn’t follow up on it, it usually harms the relationship we have with them. Similarly, our relationship with guru and Krsna is harmed by not following through on the comittments we make to them.

    KUVALPAVANA
    Second, in the matter of spiritual development, promises made with the word of honor are secondary to much more general requirements of having faith in the process and the desire to follow it’s requirements. Devotees stop maintaining their standards not because they have no honor, but because they lose faith in the process and therefore lose faith in their sadhana. Thus by concentrating on the secondary symptoms we can miss the real cause of the problem.

    MAHATMA DAS
    This is true, but may not be true for everyone. I know devotees who have faith but who are giving into weakness and are allowing themselves to be overcome by the mode of ignorance. Sometimes they want to follow, they know they should follow, but feel at a loss to find the strength. Of course, I guess you could always argue that faith is at the root of the problem, but the reason I sited not following one’s word as the fundamental cause of the problem is because that is how Prabhupada responded whenever he was asked how to do we get determination to follow. He never said you need more faith. He never said things like you need to chant more, or do this or that. He just said, more or less, where is the question of not following if you made a promise. You are not even a gentleman, you are an animal if you don’t keep your promise. He also said said if you don’t follow your vows, your initiation has no value.

    The understanding I got from this is that he was appealing to our sense of integrity, our sense of self respect, that if we say something and we respect ourselves, and we respect the person to whom we promised, we will keep our promise.

    There are so many examples in sastra of great souls keeping their commitments because they were true to their word. The sense I got from Prabhupada’s discussion on this subject is that a person with a high degree of integrity will keep his word even if he becomes weak or loses faith. You can do a search on the database for vows, commitments and promises and see if you come to another conclusion. If so, I’d like to hear from you.

    Your servant

    Mahatma das

  6. Kulapavana says :

    Dear Mahatmaji,

    You write:

    “The sense I got from Prabhupada’s discussion on this subject is that a person with a high degree of integrity will keep his word even if he becomes weak or loses faith. You can do a search on the database for vows, commitments and promises and see if you come to another conclusion. ”

    The best Prabhupada quote I could come up with on this issue is this one:

    Srila Prabhupada’s class on S.B. 6.1.13-14] “So brahmacarya, tapasya begins—brahmacarya, celibacy, no sex life. That is the beginning of tapasya… Sama, to control the senses, to keep in equilibrium. Senses may not be agitated. Damena, even it is agitated, by my knowledge I have to curb down. Just like if I become agitated by seeing a beautiful girl, or for woman, a beautiful boy… That is natural. Yuvatinam yatha yunor yunor yatha yuvah(?). Young boy, young girl, they are naturally attracted. There is nothing surprising. But tapasya means that “I have taken vow, no illicit sex.” That is knowledge. “Why? Even if I am attracted, I shall not do this.” This is tapasya. And “Because I am now attracted, now we shall enjoy”—that is not tapasya. Tapasya means even one is attracted, he should not act. That is tapasya. There may be some difficulty to control, but that should be practiced. It can be practiced. It is not very difficult. But one has to practice the determination: “Now I have taken vow before Deity because at the time of initiation, it is promised before the Deity, before the fire, and before the spiritual master, before the Vaisnava, that ‘I’ll not have illicit sex.’ That is promised. How can I break it?” This is tapasya. “I have taken vow before the Deity, before fire, before my spiritual master, before the Vaisnavas, ‘No illicit sex, no meat-eating, no drinking or intoxication, no gambling.’ I have promised it. If I am gentleman, how can I break my promise?” This is called jnana. With knowledge one has to respect. That is called tapasya.”

    You speak of integrity as the primary cause of keeping one’s word. Prabhupada says here that such keeping of vows comes from knowledge. I said that in this case following the wows comes from having faith in the process, and such faith really comes from knowledge: you know the shastra, you know the process, you see it working on you and on other people – your faith grows and you have no problem keeping your vows. When you dont understand the process, when you have developed false expectations about its results, when you dont see it work on you or others – you lose faith and you see no point in maintaining the vows.

    Integrity is usually defined as moral soundness, honesty, freedom from corrupting influence or motive. It is definitely something we all need. Often it is something common people emulate by watching their leaders (Whatever a great man does, common people follow).

    y.s.

  7. Suresh das says :

    The Chaita Guru is always kavi – He knows our past, present and future. He completely understands our heart and all of our desires. It will not be possible for us to enter the spiritual world, what to speak of Krishna-loka, unless we are completely pure and completely trustworthy. Therefore the scenario laid out in this article can not be factual.

  8. mahatma says :

    The Chaita Guru is always kavi – He knows our past, present and future. He completely understands our heart and all of our desires. It will not be possible for us to enter the spiritual world, what to speak of Krishna-loka, unless we are completely pure and completely trustworthy. Therefore the scenario laid out in this article can not be factual.

    Yes this is true. I presented that story to have a dramatic effect on the point I was making. So that is not the central issue here. The central issue here is can Krsna trust us. We could also ask, if Krsna appeared before you would He say I am not sure I can trust you? And you could say well He wouldn’t appear before you if you are not trustworthy, and that’s true. But the idea was simply to ask ourselves that question as a means of self purification and strengthening our intention to become someone who guru and Krsna can trust to remain true to our promises to them.

    I sometimes also ask myself, If Krsna came to me and offered me that I could go BTG immediately, and gave me one minute to decide but said I couldn’t tell anyone or see anyone, what would be going through my mind. I found this to be a very helpful meditation for me. Of course, it’s likely that will never happen, but thinking about this definitely helped me.

  9. mahatma says :

    The best Prabhupada quote I could come up with on this issue is this one:

    Srila Prabhupada’s class on S.B. 6.1.13-14]

    I write:

    Thanks for that.

    You write:

    You speak of integrity as the primary cause of keeping one’s word. Prabhupada says here that such keeping of vows comes from knowledge.

    I write:

    I said this because on three occasions when Prabhupada was asked how to keep our vows he replied by saying “you promised.” After reading this quote it seems to me that he is also focusing on this point as much as he is focusing on the importance of knowledge and he is defining knowledge here in terms of right and wrong. Of course, we need knowledge in order to do tapasya, which is what Prabhupada says here. However, from my reading on the subject of vows, the commitment to honor one’s word is in many ways fundamental because even a man of knowledge may not control himself (so many verses describe this – he knows what is right but doesn’t do it), but if one honors his word at all costs, then he will use his knowledge to strengthen that resolve.

    GAndhi said, “Your capacity to keep your vow will depend on the purity of your life.” So I think ultimately we are saying the same thing but coming at if from different points of view. KC is a wholistic process. We need self honor, we need knowledge, we need tapasya (which Prabhupada defines as keeping your vows).

    The reason I chose to emphasize this point is because of seeing so many devotees with a lot of knowledge and not much self respect and self honor, fall down.

    Prabhuapda was once asked how we get determination to follow our vows and he said, “That is not your business, that is Krsna’s business.” I took this to mean that you shouldn’t even be asking that question, you already promised. Determination comes from following. That would be like me asking you how do I get the determination to pay back the money I borrowed from you when I am having difficulty taking the money I owe you and giving it to you because I like to spend it on myself. Wouldn’t you say, You promised, where is the question of spending it on yourself.

    Of course, you could say, Prabhu, you need to read books on financial responsibility, on honesty, etc. and that might help. But isnt’ the real issue that I am going against my word and I need to be true to my word, true to my promise? And if read all the books on financial responsibility and then decided to pay you back, I still might have done nothing to improve myself in regards to keeping commitments.

    The reason I focused on “word of honor” is because vows are relational and Prabhupada said one who is thick and thin with the guru will follow his vows. So personally, whenever I have slipped, I find it more purifying to look at the fall in relation to my lack of commitment to Prabhupada as opposed to my lack of knowledge (or regular study time) or lack of faith. which all can become excuses for me. I found that this has given me more strength than the approach of just trying to be a better devotee. I think for many of us, being a better devotee isn’t the problem, but being a better person is the problem. And devotees have told me that after years of dealing with a “spiritual” problem they were only able to solve, when they accepted it was a character defect rather than a spiritual weakness. In other words, sometimes I have seen that we are trying to solve a “spiritual” problem with spiritual solutions when fundamentally the problem isn’t spiritual. That is why we sometimes see someone get better at sadhana but not solve a “spiritual problem.” I mean, maybe sometimes they just need a 12 step program so they stop looking at porn.

    So I consciously chose to approach it this way. It’s kind of like when you see a beautiful women you are attracted to and you want to control yourself. You know you could think,”Oh she is just a bag of stool and those breasts that you are lusting after are just muscle and blood. But we know that doesn’t always do the trick. When I think, “I have vowed to Prabhupada no illicit sex,” that thought is way more powerful in helping me become immediately sober – and then the lust seems to instantly evaporate. And the more I am fixed in committing to my vows, the less the lustful thoughts are even an issue in the first place. So what I wrote was also based on personal experience – and I wanted to share that.

    Of course, I certainly wouldn’t argue that knowledge and faith are the basis of spiritual advancement. I have just seen too many devotee take their vows lightly even though they have faith and knowledge – and that concerns me. It’s like they have given into their conditioning and write it off that “I am too fallen to follow.” Then at that point, the knowledge doesn’t help them that much. It’s like they have a governor on their spiritual life. Therefore I felt that if they were somehow able to deal with the personal issue of their promise, their word of honor, their commitment to what their life is all about (integrity meaning acting according to your principles) that might help them get back to following. Then their faith and knowledge will be much more effective.

    So I don’t disagree with you philosophically, but practically I have seen that sometimes this issue needs to be approached differently.

    You write:
    I said that in this case following the wows comes from having faith in the process, and such faith really comes from knowledge: you know the shastra, you know the process, you see it working on you and on other people – your faith grows and you have no problem keeping your vows. When you dont understand the process, when you have developed false expectations about its results, when you dont see it work on you or others – you lose faith and you see no point in maintaining the vows.

    I write:
    After I wrote you last time I was thinking also that faith as you presented it seems to relate more to those who are very fallen, who have really lost their faith, or who are coming to Krsna consciousness and have little faith. The people that Prabhupada was talking to about keeping their vows were faithful devotees having trouble following the four regs.

    Integrity is usually defined as moral soundness, honesty, freedom from corrupting influence or motive. It is definitely something we all need. Often it is something common people emulate by watching their leaders (Whatever a great man does, common people follow).

    Here’s another definition, the one I was using, although this may not be a standard dictionary definition.
    One is said to have integrity to the extent that everything he does and believes is based on the same core set of values. This means aligning our lives with our faith.

    Your servant,

    Mahatma das

  10. Kulapavana says :

    Dear Mahatmaji,

    You write: “So I don’t disagree with you philosophically, but practically I have seen that sometimes this issue needs to be approached differently. ”

    And it is precisely the practical life that verifies each approach. If your approach produces good results than by all means it is worth propagating. We probably also have different observations as to what helps devotees maintain their vows.

    y.s

  11. Suresh das says :

    Krishna is already standing before us, as the Lord of our heart, we just aren’t qualified at this time to either see Him or hear Him directly. Srila Prabhupada stated that it is an offensive mentality for us, as conditioned souls, to make a distinction between Lord Paramatma, Lord Visnu, or Lord Krishna, or believe They are not the same personality.

  12. Suresh das says :

    It is very difficult to see the Lord in the heart. The Deity of the Lord is so kind though – He allows us to see Him immediately, even though we are unqualified, and all we possess are material eyes and material vision. Even though we are unqualified to see God; He allows us to see Him, serve Him, and associate with Him.

    There is a little test I give myself from time to time. I close my eyes to see if I can see the Lord in my heart – nope just darkness. Better to quiet my mind and its endless speculations, and just keep chanting Hare Krishna.

  13. rash436 says :

    Hare Krishna prabhuji PAMHO,

    This is a wonderful article. I will surely contemplate on the points mentioned in it.

    Devotional service is very easy for simple one and difficult for complex.

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