By Mahatma Das
In this article I focus on how our degree of commitment to our vows and promises is affected by what we believe is possible for us. I also look at how beliefs affect us in general. Some of our beliefs give us strength and some make it difficult or impossible to achieve our goals. And many of these beliefs are transparent, i.e. you don’t even know you have them.
Itâs important to uncover your beliefs so you can see if they are empowering you or holding you down. If they are not helping you, itâs possible to change them into beliefs that support your goals. Sound intriguing? It is.
The Soul is Made of Faith
In this article I use the word belief as âa feeling of certainty about what something means.â I discuss how this feeling of certainty affects the way you look at things, and the way you look at things affects your actions. Therefore, in this sense things are less the way they are and more the way we are.
Belief is fundamental to consciousness. In Chapter 17 verse 3 of the Gita, Krsna says the atma is made of faith. If someone doesnât believe that the atma is made of faith, it just means they have faith (they believe) that the atma is not made of faith. Since that is also a belief, it proves that the atma is made of faith.
What Do You Believe?
If you ever find it difficult to keep your vows and promises or commit to something new, itâs possible you have beliefs that are preventing you from being more committed. If you believe something is difficult to do or if you believe something is possible to achieve, you are usually right, not necessarily because thatâs true, but because of the way you think about it (or the way you think about yourself).
You may ask, âWhat if I believe I can be the president of the USA? Just because I believe it doesnât mean itâs going to happen.â That’s true. That might be totally unrealistic for you (in which case you probably wouldn’t even try for it). But the point is that if you believe you can do greater things than you are doing now, you will start working towards greater things. Prabhupada said if you try for first class, youâll get second class; and if you try for second class youâll get last class.
And why would you try for second class unless you believe thatâs all you can get or thatâs all you deserve?
Isnât it true that your belief in what you can do, including how much you believe Krsna can work through you, is so powerful that it sets a governor on your activities? For example, if an athlete thinks, âI could never make it to the Olympics,â itâs unlikely he or she will even try for it unless someone with faith in their ability pushes them. Similarly, unless someone really pushes us, we normally only attempt to achieve a level of success that fits the image of how successful we believe we can be (which again, includes how much you think Krsna can do through you). Altering your beliefs about what is possible for you will have a major effect on both what you attempt and what you achieve.
Whatâs Your Script?
Beliefs are like internal scripts that talk to us. If you are wondering why you are having difficulty following a vow you made, you might have a script that says âI canât follow this principle, itâs too difficult to follow that principle, I am not strong enough to follow, it wonât make me happy to follow it, it’s not possible for a young person (old person, fat person, skinny person, white person) to follow.”
If you see something continually playing out in your life, itâs likely you have a belief thatâs affecting that. If you have continual difficulties in marriage (or if you canât seem to get married), it might be because of beliefs you have about the opposite sex or marriage. If you find you donât have enough money or canât seem to keep money when you get it, itâs likely your beliefs about money are causing this.
Have you ever entertained beliefs like, âitâs not possible for me to be really Krsna conscious in this life,â âI could never be like such and such Prabhu,â etc? If so, these beliefs are affecting how high you set your goals in devotional service.
What are You Asking?
An easy way to understand some of your beliefs is to look at the questions you ask. If you are asking, âHow can I become fully Krsna conscious in this life?â it means you believe you can do it. If you are asking, âHow can I distribute 100 big books in a day?â it means you believe itâs somehow possible. If you are asking, âHow can I follow the principles of sadhana bhakti and chant x number or rounds?â it means you believe you can do it.
And look at your excuses. Your beliefs often remain hidden behind excuses like, I couldnât do that becauseâŠâŠâŠâ
Psyche Yourself Out
Prabhupada tells the following story of the man whose friends decide to bewilder him. âSo there was a circle of friends. So all the friends conspired to make another friend bewildered. So they conspired that “As soon as you meet that gentleman you cry, ‘Oh, here is a ghost! Here is a ghost! Here is a ghost!’ “So all the friends, they come, “Oh! You are dead, you are ghost, you are ghost!” So after ten times like that, he thought, “Have I become a ghost?” Then he became bewildered, “Whether really I have become ghost, I am dead?”
What if a group of us decided to do a similar trick on one healthy devotee? Letâs say we decide that whenever we see this devotee we will say, âPrabhu, are you feeling ok? You donât look well. Are you sick? You look really tired. It looks like something is seriously wrong with you. You should definitely go to the doctor. Iâm worried about you.â
How do you think she is going to feel? Sheâs probably going to start feeling tired and weak. And she’ll probably be really worried about her health and think that something is seriously wrong with her. And she might even get really sick, all from believing that she is sick.
So it’s obvious what negative beliefs can do to us. You might have all kinds of negative beliefs that are affecting your devotional service, beliefs that are saying you are not good enough, strong enough, smart, enough, qualified enough, etc. to be a good devotee, to practice good sadhana, to follow vows.
So it’s of utmost importance that you explore what negative beliefs you might have about becoming advanced in Krsna consciousness. I want you to make a list of your negative beliefs. Before you start Iâll give you a few more ideas to help you with this exercise.
1) I committed so many sinful activities in my past that itâs sooooooooooooo difficult to be very Krsna conscious now.
2) My bad upbringing is preventing me from being very Krsna conscious now.
3) Although I keep trying, I donât make any advancement.
4) I don’t have a strong spiritual inclination.
5) My material desires and attachments are especially bad. Other devotees are not as bad off as me (youâd be surprised how many devotees think like this).
6) I could never be a spiritually advanced person.
7) I donât deserve it.
8) Itâs not possible to balance my material and spiritual life
9) I have some heavy karma
10) I canât be Krsna conscious if I am married.
All these and other similar beliefs hold you back from making a greater effort to be Krsna conscious?
So make your list. It is important to uncover these beliefs because you need to acknowledge anything that may be making it difficult for you to go forward.
Once youâve made your list, please repeat the following mantra over and over as loud as you can:
âThis list is killing me.â
Let me show you why itâs killing you. How would you feel if everyone you met told you whatâs on that list? Not too good, right? Well, your beliefs speak to you 24/7. So to be Krsna conscious we need beliefs that foster our spiritual lives rather than undermine them. Having this list resonating inside of you is like attempting to climb to the top of a mountain while chanting the mantra, âIâll never reach the top of this mountain.â
But what if we turned this list around? How would you feel if everyone you met told you that you are a spiritual person, an insightful person, someone with potential to make spiritual advancement, a person who is different from the masses? Wouldnât that have a positive effect on you? And to be a devotee, you obviously have those qualities â and probably a lot more. So letâs look at your qualifications.
Contemplate what advantages you have that aid you in becoming Krsna conscious. Maybe itâs your natural attraction to God and spiritual activities, you natural attraction to devotees, your natural faith in the importance of spiritual life. It could be that you are a seeker of truth, one who lives for truth and understanding. Perhaps you have a strong desire to see others become Krsna conscious. Maybe you have always felt close to God and trusted Him. Could it be that you have natural qualities that make it easier to be Krsna conscious, qualities like determination, enthusiasm, patience, humility, gentleness, etc? Or perhaps you have a natural service attitude, which is, of course, a great asset for spiritual advancement.
Maybe youâve seen the ugliness of material life and fully believe that real happiness doesnât exist in this material world. Have you ever tasted the nectar of Krsna consciousness in such a way that you believe that itâs the only thing that can make you really happy? Do you have faith that the holy name can bring you to Krsnaâs lotus feet if chanted properly? Whatever it is, make a note of it and write it down.
The point is that you have a choice of what to believe about yourself and how the process of bhakti works in your life. If you believe you can become Krsna conscious in this life (Prabhupada believed you could), it will give you more energy, enthusiasm and determination to advance. If you believe itâs going to be a problem for you to commit, a problem to make much advancement, a problem to overcome your anarthas, a problem to increase your service in bigger and novel ways, a problem to have a good marriage, a problem to âŠâŠâŠâŠâŠ, isnât it obvious it will have a negative effect on you?
Maybe you feel thatâs too simple an explanation for where you are at in Krsna consciousness. Maybe you are thinking itâs not right to say that I am not as advanced as I could be simply because I donât believe I can be that advanced. I have my past lives of conditioning â whatever bhakti I may have performed, my samskaras, my past pious and sinful acts - and they are all affecting me.
OK. But you donât even know exactly what those past activities were. If you believe you canât be that Krsna conscious because you were very sinful in your past life, the story of the deliverance of Jagai and Madhai proves you wrong. They got the gold medal for sin. They were way more sinful than you ever were or ever could be. In any case, if you believe you are especially (or uniquely) fallen and sinful, wouldnât it be wiser to adopt an empowering belief like, âI need to try harder than the other devotees?â
The point is to look at your beliefs and ask, âIs this belief helping me or hurting me?â If it isnât helping, why not change it or get rid of it? Negative beliefs limit what you believe is possible for you in Krsna consciousness (and also in everything you do). And the reality is that sooner or later you will get what you expect.
Usually the people who keep failing are the ones who expect to.
A mind saturated with fear of failure or images of unwanted results, can no more accomplish anything great than a stone can violate the law of gravity by flying upwards. Krsna does not alter the law of gravity to accommodate a person who walks off the roof of a house. Similarly, you will achieve what you work towards, focus on, desire, and believe you can achieve. Great devotees have great hope. They know Krsna will fulfill their hopes and dreams for pure devotional service.
Changing Your Beliefs
Letâs look at the beliefs that are hurting you and see how you can change them into beliefs that will help you. In this way you can start getting 24/7 encouragement from yourself for your commitment to Krsna consciousness (if you ever feel a strong need for or dependence on encouragement from your guru or others, itâs could be because your own beliefs are discouraging you).
As referred to above, maybe you think you canât be very Krsna conscious because you did many horrible sinful things before you were a devotee. That belief could easily be changed into a belief that the holy name is so powerful that it can purify persons who are more sinful than you (the sastra is full of such references). Plus, Lord Caitanya is especially merciful to the fallen. Isnât it interesting how we can somehow end up having a belief that we arenât capable of making a lot of spiritual advancement even though we are inherently Krsna conscious and Krsna is ready, willing and able to help us in all ways? Just the fact that we are (always have and always will be) spirit souls, and that we contacted Lord Caitanya, makes us pre-qualified to become Krsna conscious (congratulations, you are pre-approved to become fully Krsna conscious!). If you have even one negative belief about something as positive as Lord Caitanyaâs mercy, that belief needs to be changed.
Hereâs another common belief: âItâs difficult to control the mind?â Yes, itâs difficult, but not for those who are Krsna conscious. We have the maha-mantra which is the ultimate process for controlling the mind. Therefore shouldnât we really have the belief that itâs not difficult to control the mind for one who daily chants the maha-mantra sincerely?
Caught In Your Own Web
Of course, if you donât chant much or donât chant well, it will be natural to develop a negative belief about controlling the mind. Krsna says in the Gita that the modes of nature you cultivate dictate the kind of faith you develop. For example, if you live predominately in passion and ignorance, you will believe Krsna consciousness is difficult to follow (I canât control my mind, I canât control my desires, etc). And believing that itâs difficult reinforces the difficulty you have following Krsna consciousness. So if you donât practice good sadhana and cultivate more activities in goodness, your beliefs remain tinted by passion and ignorance (things are not the way they are, they are the way you are). In this way you get caught in your own web. The point is that beliefs will also change when actions change. For example, if someone stops eating meat for a short time itâs likely their belief that some animals are meant for food will change.
There’s No Time to Chant My Rounds
Letâs look at a popular belief, the belief that thereâs not enough time in my day to chant my rounds. If you have this belief, it makes it more difficult for you to find time to chant your rounds. And when you do chant all your rounds, this belief will often cause you to get them done as quickly as possible (âitâs time to play âbeat the clock japaâ). Am I saying that more time will manifest if you believe there is enough time? Not exactly. I am saying that the time to chant japa will manifest because youâll make the time for japa (and youâll do this by choosing not to do the things that take away time from your japa). If you still think that there just isnât time to chant, let me ask you if you have you on any regular basis not found the time to eat. If not, it means you donât believe thereâs not enough time to eat. (âOh, but I have to eat.â Yes, but you could live 40 days on water).
I Can Never Be Fully Krsna Conscious
What else do you believe about being Krsna conscious? How about, âI am not planning to become fully Krsna conscious is this life.â So what are you planning? Are you planning to be 44/100ths Krsna conscious in this life because thatâs all you believe you can get? Well, if you plan for 44/100ths Krsna consciousness in this life, I bet youâll only be trying to be 44/100ths Krsna conscious in your devotional practices. I donât imagine that youâd be calling out to Krsna and practicing sadhana with the same intensity as if you were trying for 100% Krsna conscious. The more Krsna consciousness you plan for (the more you believe you can get), the more your life adjusts to that plan.
Why not do an experiment and just for this week raise the bar and plan to be really Krsna consciousness (rising earlier, getting your rounds done earlier, reading a lot, no TV, no internet surfing, more service, etc.).
âOh I could never do that.â
Oh, there you go again with those beliefs. Let me ask you, âIs it absolutely true that you really couldnât be a lot more Krsna conscious this week?
Cause and Effect
Letâs look at the effect of this and other disempowering beliefs. One way to fully understand their effect is to imagine what it would be like to repeat them over and over again. Obviously it would be stupid to repeat over and over again, âI could never be a lot more Krsna conscious this week.â And wouldnât that be an especially dumb thing to say before you chant japa or in between each round? How about repeating it when you arrive at work? What about when you get home? And letâs try that mantra ten times before going to bed and ten more times when you wake up.
Sound like a good idea? Sounds like the worst idea Iâve ever heard. But our beliefs operate exactly like this. They continually replay themselves on our sub-conscious. So if you actually believe you canât be more Krsna consciousness this week, that song will be playing for you all week (or maybe itâs been already playing for a long time), and then thatâs what youâll get (or should I say thatâs what you wonât get).
Of course, no one in their right mind wants disempowering thoughts to be repeated? The good news is that if we change disempowering beliefs into empowering beliefs, theyâll always be there helping us, feeding us encouraging and positive thoughts.
Change Your Beliefs
So go back to your list of disempowering beliefs and see how you can turn them into empowering beliefs. If needed, use the list of positive traits and beliefs you have to help you. Every negative belief you change into an empowering belief will have a dramatically positive effect on your life. I canât over emphasize the power of this one little exercise.
And if you don’t have time to do these exercises now, I beg at the dust of your lotus feet to make the time to do them later. Yes, it might be difficult to face those beliefs, and that might be why you donât want to do this. But those beliefs might be exactly what are getting in the way of achieving your goals. So to use a famous Iskcon expression, âJust surrender Prabhu.â
Lack of Belief in Oneself
So where do these negative beliefs come from? Some of them come from a lack of belief in yourself - and we should also add, âa lack of belief in your Self.â Krsna can work through you to do what you now think is impossible for you. To encourage us, the scriptures are full of stories of fallen people who became great devotees and accomplished great things. Still, the problem is that we set our goals based on our beliefs about what is possible for us, not what is possible through us.
âA man is not defeated by his opponents but by himself.â
Ok, we are all fallen and we have our faults. The problem is thinking thatâs whatâs holding you back from being more Krsna conscious or achieving success in your endeavors. Believe you can do more than what you think is possible for you and you will start to do more.
âTry for things I think are impossible? That sounds totally impractical.â At first it does, but the more you think about this the more you will see the power in it. Most people are not where they want to be in their lives - and they never will be. Why? Because they donât think they can get there (theyâll say the reason is because they donât know how, but thatâs not the real reason). When you start to plan for things far greater than what you think are possible, something magical happens. You start to ask empowering questions, and these questions force you to come up with ideas how to achieve those âimpossibleâ dreams.You begin to think and act in new and empowering ways.
âThe greatest danger for most of us is not that we aim too high and we miss it, but we aim too low and we reach it.â Michelangelo
Look at what you are aiming for. If itâs all in your comfort zone you are aiming too low.
Itâs About Attitude
Krsna responds to our attitude. If our attitude is to see all the reasons we canât follow, Krsna will help us see all kinds of âgoodâ reasons. But no one ever becomes successful meditating on all the reasons they canât be successful. They became successful by meditating on how to be successful - and then acting on those ideas.
So if you think you can be more Krsna conscious, more committed and can do bigger and better service - or if you think you canât - you will fortunately or unfortunately find out you are right.
This article was based on a section of an upcoming online course on âSacred Vows.â More information about the course is available at:
If you who have the belief that you canât be Krsna conscious at work, read the Illuminations newsletter, âTransforming Your Workplace into the Spiritual World.â
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