Determination and Conditioning

Illuminations Newsletter 58


In remaining motivated there are different factors to consider. Let’s first look at creating an environment to support our goals. We discuss in our japa workshops about creating Sacred Space, an environment that supports good japa. It’s a necessary ingredient for good japa.

The problem is that we are often our worst enemy. We often make it difficult for ourselves by being in environments that are not aligned with our desires. Sometimes we are the ones that create the very environment that work against us, yet we blame the environment for our problems. Although creating Sacred Space is necessary – and we should force ourselves to chant in our Sacred Space – consistently chanting in a Sacred Space happens as an outgrowth of wanting to chant good japa.  Remember, our environment is a product of our own consciousness.

If we want to chant good rounds but don’t create the proper space and time to chant well, we have a lifestyle that isn’t supporting this goal. If this is the case, it would be honest to say we are not really determined to chant good japa. We may say, “No prabhu, I really do want to chant good rounds, but…” This likely means we are not willing to do what is necessary to chant really good japa.  It’s important to admit this so we know this is the real problem and deal with it.

Do You Want It or are You Committed to It?

Our activities need to be aligned with our goals. Yet often they are not. I want to lose weight but I don’t want to exercise. I want to be rich but I don’t want to work. I want to be learned but I don’t want to study. And I want to chant good japa, but I don’t want to get up early, don’t want to give myself fully to my rounds, don’t want to …

Commitment and wanting are not the same. If we are committed, we do what’s required to get closer to our goal. If we just want something but are not committed, we won’t do enough to make it happen. When we are not committed, it’s likely we are making excuses why we can’t achieve our goal. Yet, in every excuse there is an unwillingness to do something needed to achieve our goal.

Is there anything you are unwilling to do to chant better japa? Whatever it is, these are the very excuses preventing you from chanting better japa.

Starving the Demon Within

Here’s another way of being motivated that I personally find effective. Krsna says to control the lower self by the higher self. One way I do this is to remind myself what my higher self wants and that I don’t want what my lower really thinks it wants.  When I find a conditioned response to a situation, I remind myself this is not what I want and this is not the way I want to respond: this is just my conditioned side acting up. I then reinforce to myself the way I prefer to respond. What this does is keep me in touch with my devotional side.

As Srila Prabhupada says, the devotee and demon are in the same body.  We want to nourish the devotee to health and starve the demon to death.

Focus on Where You Want to Go

Connecting with my Krsna conscious desires helps me to be focused on where I want to go rather than where I don’t want to go.  More important than where we are now, is where we are looking to go.  We progress by focusing on what we can do, not what we can’t do, on where we want to go, not why we don’t like where we are at.

Meditate on how wonderful it will be when we get a little closer to being where we want to be. Imagining how you will feel when you get there is motivating. When I see a devotee with qualities and characteristics I would like to possess, I think how nice it would be to be like him or her.

The Sincerity That Brought Us to Krsna

When our actions are not aligned with our goals, we are allowing material nature to make decisions for us rather than deciding for ourselves. When we came to Krsna consciousness, we declared war on maya. We turned away from material life and didn’t allow material situations to influence our decision. We knew what we wanted and moved towards it.

This sincerity of purpose that brought us to Krsna is what will continue to keep us in Krsna consciousness. If we disconnect from this sincerity, we are weakening one of our most important life lines to Krsna.

Mental Impressions

There’s a problem with not overcoming our conditioning that we may not be fully aware of. When we allow our conditioning to motivate our actions, the conditioning is reinforced. When we act in Krsna consciousness, it reinforces our desire to serve Krsna. So the problem with any action that is out of alignment with our goals is that it reinforces the desire to perform those actions. To counteract this, we must act in alignment with our goals, even when we don’t feel like it. These actions will create the tendency to repeat themselves.

In Sanskrit these are known as samskaras, tendencies or mental impressions. We commonly refer to these as habits.

Start It Yesterday

If you wait to feel like acting before doing something that’s important, that’s not intelligent. You might end up waiting for a few thousands more lifetimes before you finally get around to doing it. You just need to act. When do you need to act? I hear you say, “Okay, I’ll do it tomorrow.” In America when asked when we want something done, if we are in a rush we say, “I want it done by yesterday.” So if you are hesitant in aligning your actions with your goals, I suggest you start on your new behavior yesterday.

The act itself will later produce the feeling to act that way again. If a person who says I am too tired to exercise waits till he feels like exercising, he may never do it. But if he just does it, he’ll feel better and eventually will love doing it. The point is that often you are not able to think yourself into a new way of acting but you can act your way into a new way of thinking.

Regarding japa, we want to build positive japa samskaras through regular good japa practices. Once we develop positive japa habits, our japa will naturally be consistently good. It will just be the way you always chant japa.

Motivation is what gets you going. Habit is what keeps you going.

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