Know yourself, be yourself

Prabhupada replied to a devotee who said he was “the most fallen”, that he wasn’t the “most anything”—-implying that this could be another type of vanity. “The most fallen” status is for those pure devotees who have realized it.

Prabhupada replied to a devotee who said he was “the most fallen”, that he wasn’t the “most anything”—-implying that this could be another type of vanity. “The most fallen” status is for those pure devotees who have realized it.

Though our ambition as devotees is to follow Lord Chaitanya and revive our natural humility as souls, feeling lower than a blade of grass, practicing tolerance as the tree, offering all respect to others, without desiring any recognition, what we are talking about here is realization, not imitation.

From another perspective Prabhupada has also said that imitation of a good thing is also a good thing. This means following the practices of Sadhana Bhakti, not pretending to be an advanced devotee, or being more concerned with cutting a profile to look good, than to actually being real, and acting according to our level of advancement.

This brings us to our topic for today.

I am speaking of course from my perspective, so keep that in mind as you read on. There are other things that could be added to give a more “balanced” perspective, but when we write to make a point we emphasize certain things. There are so-called “facts” and then there are our feelings and perceptions about those facts. Which is reality? We can all think about that.
When I was growing up as a devotee (I moved into the Temple at 19) most of us thought, and the culture was such that “my concerns or nature”, was greatly played down if at all considered.

For our benefit we were focused on understanding our self as a soul, part of Krishna, and that the only work was Krishna’s work. We were satisfied to live out of a drawer, suitcase or milk crate, in a room with many devotees, and even shared all our saffron clothes. The temples and overhead were small, and we felt blissful on our new path of devotion which many of us felt called to do. Dejavu.

The cause of sankirtana or helping to awaken others was everything, and we chanted on the street for most of the day, and sometimes long into the night. Later came large scale book distribution, and Deity worship, big building and expenses, and other services including ways to make money for the Temple.

Everyone gravitated to where they could survive and with some, thrive. Often we majored in “emergency devotional service”, or rising to the need of the Temple or service—also called “doing the needful”. We made a lot of sacrifices to serve Prabhupada and the mission, though many of us at the time didn’t really frame it like that. Prabhupada’s sakti (energy of devotion) pushed many of us beyond our perceived limits.

I personally thought I could “flush my past” and that it had no relevance to my new life as a devotee. After all, surely within a few short years, the Lord’s messengers would descend in their flower airplane and take me back to Godhead. Besides that, soon we would flood the whole world with Krishna consciousness.

After ten years or so, I saw that the flower airplane wouldn’t be comin’ for awhile, and I would have to see how I could live my whole life as a devotee. I was twenty nine, and for really the first time, I began my quite search to understand myself in this body. Sounds simply enough today, but for then it was a revelation, and not always appreciated.

That “quite search” has take a long time. Some of us are slow learners, and our life path and it’s timing differs. For me, I have never really found a material occupation I identified with. I have a library of books about finding one’s calling, and “living life with passion”, or self help and motivational books that promise to help one manifest one’s destiny. Don’t get me wrong, they can be valuable resources for everyone.

Some devotees leave Krishna consciousness to find their material identity and calling (what I call one’s “karmic mission”). Although I explored many options (not all very flattering to share), I somehow always chanted and kept–however poorly— on the path. After Prabhupada left, I and many of us, went through difficult days, and some, dark nights of the souls, trying to sort everything out, and find or make or way.

But Krishna (who has come in this age, as Chaitanya Mahaprabhu) is very merciful as are his agents, like Prabhupada and his devotees, so although I have been through a lot in my years as a devotee, and in trying to find my way, I am still standing—so to speak—by their grace. Now my path seems illuminated, and my direction opened up. I would have preferred this happened a long time ago, yet I am in peace knowing, that I live in Krishna’s time, not mine. That doesn’t mean that my path ahead will be lined with roses. Every path has thorns, and we can usually only see ahead as far as the light of the lamp we carry. Still I am seeing the road, and not just the jungle.

So one of my points in this long diatribe is to say that while you strive to know and love Krishna, and yourself as an eternal soul, know yourself, now where you stand. You are going to be in this particular body most likely for awhile, and you should know it’s nature, your strengths and weaknesses, and what work excites you, in order to offer Krishna what you love and do best.

Certainly many authors have said this better than I, and you can read their books with profit. So I am not saying anything original, though I am adding to the great motivational and successes coaches, that in the process of being the best person you can be, offer your self, your life, and possessions—everything in your world for the service of Krishna. And find a guru or mentor who you can love and trust to help you go through the many challenges of life, and the ultimate test of death. That is the path of Bhakti followed by all the great teachers. The great follow the path of the great ones that walked before them.

So to repeat (repetition is the mother of skill and learning): Know yourself, and be yourself in the world, and find what you love and do best, but only to facilitate knowing your eternal self, and understanding about the Lord of your heart and the universe and beyond, the Supreme Lord whom we have an intimate relationship with. Everything has value if connected to God–who we are understanding as Krishna. That is our challenge as those on the path of Bhakti, or trying to begin it.