Just Do It – Illuminations Newsletter 67
I apologize in advance for the length of this newsletter. I couldn’t do the topic justice without making it longer than my typical newsletter. The information I offer goes very deep into a part of our psychology that is not easily understood, (or not easily accepted). Thus, I needed more space to ensure that the message, and its application, would be clear.
This article outlines one of the foundational points for a new workshop I recently developed called the Re-Creation Workshop. The workshop deals with understanding our psychological conditioning from the Vedantic perspective and using the knowledge to live in alignment with our ideals.
This article can do much to help you deal with ways of thinking and behaving you would like to change. I suggest reading it several times. The message is simple, but since it is simple it can easily be taken as “I know that.” My experience is that much of what we know is not deeply ingrained within us. My hope is that this newsletter will implant what we know a little deeper in our hearts and thus make it come alive.
So what is the newsletter about? It is about deeper levels of our material conditioning that appear virtually impossible to overcome – and how to deal with this.
We all deal with our “demons”, and despite repeated attempts we often fail to overcome – or even keep at bay – some of our most deeply seated anarthas. So we continue in hopes that our anarthas will eventually be cleansed by the process of sadhana bhakti. Yet after years of practice, when some anarthas still have their grip on us, we naturally question whether we will ever overcome them in this life.
In this newsletter, we look at a solution to this problem that is so simple it escapes many of us. And we then analyze this solution according to the modes of nature.
Stick with the article to the end. It will be well worth your time.
May you always think of Krsna.
The Solution Is In Your Hands
Some internal problems we face are persistent. They remain with us, to one degree or another, despite repeated attempts to resolve them, or even after we think they have been resolved. Thus, it is common to feel there is little we can do about such anarthas.
There is a simple solution, but it is not simplistic. Profound truths are almost always simple. Yet, because they are simple, they are often overlooked, ignored or even scoffed at.
Prabhuapda said, “Krsna consciousness is so simple you can miss it.”
The solution I suggest is commitment.
In most cases, our problems persist because we are not deeply committed to overcoming them. (There are reasons for this, and we will discuss them in this newsletter.)
Your first reaction might be, “That is too easy. It cannot work for my problems. Some of my anarthas have been pulling me around for years.”
You might think that your problems require a thorough analysis of their cause, and a detailed, long term and rigorous step-by-step process to overcome them. Granted, in some cases this is true, but it is my experience these are the exceptions, and are usually cases in which there has been severe emotional damage or trauma.
In the majority of cases, willpower reigns supreme. In my counseling work I find that almost everyone underestimates the strength of their own willpower. Thus, they don’t realize that solutions are almost always within their own hands. It is like denying that we have free will choices. (Excuses are normally an erroneous attempt to prove we can’t do anything about a situation.)
Just Be Sincere
When Prabhupada was asked how to become sincere, he replied, “By being sincere.” He went on to explain that you become a drunkard by drinking, or a thief by stealing, so you become sincere by being sincere. In other words, you take it upon yourself to do your bhakti sincerely.
“Well, Prabhu, how can I just be sincere? I mean, how do you do that?”
“You just do it.”
“Is that all there is to it?”
“That’s too simple.”
“That’s the point!”
Another time he said if you don’t feel like dancing in the kirtan, dance anyway.
“Prabhu, how do you do that? I mean how can you do something joyous like dancing in a kirtan if you are feeling miserable?”
Step 1: stand up
Step 2: move your feet
Step 3: raise your hands
Step 4: jump up and down
Step 5: chant Hare Krsna
That’s all there is to it. That’s not that difficult is it?
By the way, if you do that you probably won’t feel miserable for long. If you act in a certain way, even though the action has no correlation to your mentality, the action will change your mentality. As Prabhuapda said, “Bow down even if you don’t feel like it, and by doing so you will feel like bowing down.”
I Do Not See The Way Out of Here
We often psych ourselves out by thinking we cannot overcome a problem when the only thing stopping us is our lack of commitment, our lack of just doing it. We often get caught in the trap of thinking that the problem is so deep, or so complex, that we cannot imagine a way out of it.
Here is a typical example: many devotees tell me they would like to get up early, but are unable to do it. So they ask me, “How can I get up early?”
By now you might be able to guess what I tell them.
“Just get up early.”
Most devotees don’t expect – or even want – that answer. I think they want a magic bullet: a mantra, a magic potion, or a Mahatma sutra that just gets them up early. Or perhaps they thought I could tell them where to buy a mystic mattress that automatically gets them up at their desired time.
Nothing just gets us up early. We get ourselves up early.
Do You Really Want It?
If you really want to get up early, you can do it, even without an alarm clock. Of course, “if you really want to,” is the key. When asking yourself how to do anything that has been difficult for you to do, ask if you really want it. If you don’t really want it, you will find great difficulty committing to it.
“If you don’t get what you want, it is a sign that you did not seriously want it, or you tried to bargain over the price.” ~ Rudyard Kipling.
This is a simple point; so simple we sometimes miss it. Let’s see how this works in real life.
In my forgiveness workshop, I ask the question, “If Krsna offered to remove your resentment immediately, would you take up His offer?” You might think everyone would answer, “Yes.”
Not everyone does. Many hesitate because they believe their offender does not deserve their forgiveness. I ask this question to demonstrate that if they are reluctant to forgive, I won’t be able to help them much. Nothing I say, and not even the forgiveness processes I offer them, will work unless they are open, in principle, to allowing the resentment to go. If they are unwilling to “let go”, they “just won’t do it” despite the many good reasons to forgive.
Of course, often we require “many good reasons” to bring us to the point of committing. Thus, knowledge is often an important – or even essential – ingredient in the commitment process. Or we require good association to increase our motivation. Yet, the “I know I should, but…” syndrome is a serious and pervasive disease. You can lead a horse to water but… You know the rest of the story.
By the way, knowledge of what and why you should do something causes increased misery when you don’t do it. “I know I should, but…” is not a happy mantra. So, if you don’t know what you are supposed to be doing, you won’t regret not doing it. “Ignorance is bliss” does have some useful applications.
Rise and Shine
Let’s look at the problem of knowing what to do and apply it to getting up early.
Let’s say I came up with a workshop on rising early. We’ll call it “The Early Bird Workshop.” In this workshop I am going to give attendees every good reason under the sun (I mean, under the moon) to get up early. Plus, I will offer them every possible technique to get their bodies upright and their eyes open before the sun rises, including offering a device that automatically turns their lights and stereo on at 4 am. Plus, I will have a selection of CDs for early rising that include such sounds as bhramastra weapons exploding, dogs, jackals and coyotes howling, and a heavy metal band playing out-of-tune guitars and singing completely off key. I mean that ought to get them up, right?
Sounds like a great workshop to me.
Do you think everyone in the workshop will become an early riser for the rest of their life? Most will start rising earlier for a while, but only those who commit will stay with it. If you have attended my japa workshop, you know by now that the most important thing you can do to chant well is commit to good japa on a daily basis. Trying to build a good japa practice with the blocks of wisdom you receive at a workshop only works when built on the foundation of commitment.
Those who decide that getting up early is what they are going to do, come hell or high water, won’t need the workshop or those nasty CDs. In fact, they won’t even need an alarm clock! They’ll just get up. Hey, if this newsletter goes viral it will put the alarm clock industry out of business.
“So, why can’t I just do it? I mean I want to do it and I know I should do it, so what’s holding me back?” It may be because there is something you are getting from the anartha. Maybe you get some form of pleasure, comfort, or satisfaction. Maybe you get control or ego gratification. Maya is such a good magician that she makes us think that maintaining anarthas is a source of pleasure. If we think like this, rather than committing to overcoming anarthas, we keep them well fed and protected. Although they are anartha (without value) we see them as artha (with value).
If you think this might be true in your case, make a list of what you are getting from your anarthas and what it is costing you to maintain them. I trust you will realize that the costs don’t justify the benefits.
“The price of discipline is less than the pain of regret.”
The sad truth is we usually don’t realize there is something we are getting from our anarthas that we are unwilling to give up. When this happens, it is common to justify our weakness with numerous disempowering arguments and slogans. We assert a weakness or disability as an excuse and thus so called succeed by failing. Of course, this doesn’t change our behavior, but it does a good job at subduing guilt.
I was once contemplating a strategy to overcome a persistent problem. As I thought about my situation, I realized that I have an attachment that is so deeply rooted within my being that if I just do not say, “That is it, we are finished with this,” this attachment will endlessly continue to get the best of me. Yes, bhakti does produce detachment, but unless we are sufficiently detaching ourselves from unfavorable thoughts and actions, we won’t be practicing bhakti well enough for it to completely and naturally eradicate our attachments at their core.
So sometimes all we need is this one little mantra –“That’s it!”- to put an end to an attachment that never seems to stop bothering us. It is a powerful mantra. Think of something right now you would like to throw this mantra at.
Okay, did you think of it?
Now tell yourself, “That’s it! I am done giving this anartha any more energy.”
Looking at our discussion from the perspective of the modes of nature is helpful. “I know I should but…” is a textbook description of the mode of ignorance. In the mode of ignorance, determination doesn’t go beyond the dreaming or contemplation stage.
Passion is different. Passion says, “You need to get more done.” You thus stay up late trying to get everything done, and trying to finish the rounds you couldn’t finish during your busy day. You don’t necessarily sleep too much, you just stay up late to get as much done as you can. Since you then rise late the next morning, soon after you rise you start feeling the pressure of the day. Thus, you find it difficult to concentrate on your chanting.
Although you know this is wrong, passion won’t let you slow down. Thus, again you’ll work late into the evening, knock off your last rounds half asleep, and get up late the next morning. Sometimes you jump on your computer or smartphone to check your messages and email right after you get up. You know this is wrong, but …
Passion is the enemy of the mantra “That’s it, I’ve had enough.” In passion, the hope and optimism to keep achieving covers any acknowledgment that this activity is not working for me, for my family, or for my spiritual life. In passion we never say, “Since it is not making me happy, since it is not helping me, since it is not in alignment with bhakti, I should give it up.” In passion we say, “I can still do it all but I will get more serious about bhakti and I will simplify my life.” But this never happens.
This change only happens when you come to goodness.
Goodness is the platform from which you can choose to act the way you prefer. It is the “I know I should and I will do it” platform of existence. You determine the right goals, determine the right ways to reach them, and then perform those right actions. “Just Do It” is the textbook mantra of goodness.
So when sastra tells us such things as, “Be enthusiastic,” “Be patient,” or “Be tolerant,” they are appealing to us to act in goodness. Otherwise, in passion or ignorance it doesn’t seem possible that you can just do something simply because it is the right thing to do. And it is from passion and ignorance that you hit a dead end and helplessly ask such questions as, “How do I get out of this mess?” “How do I improve?” “How do I change?” or make the excuse (which we think is an astute observation) that you can’t “Just Do It.” Ignorance and passion are full of excuses that are logical only to the persons making them.
You Have The Power
The attitude and understanding that we have the power to deal with or overcome many difficult problems or obstacles makes a huge difference in our lives. Prabhupada clearly expressed this mood and understanding whenever he was told that some devotees were having difficulty following their initiation vows.
(Initiation vows are a big topic and I am not addressing them here since I have addressed vows in other newsletters. My intention is not to condemn those who cannot follow their vows perfectly, but to help all of us understand that we can do more to follow than we often think we can.)
When told that some devotees were not chanting their rounds, Prabhupada asked if they were eating and sleeping. He said that if they cannot finish their rounds, then they should reduce the time they spend eating or sleeping in order to make time to finish their rounds. In other words, Prabhupada is saying if you are committed to finishing your rounds, you will do whatever it takes to keep your vow.
Prabhupada’s response to devotees who were being tossed around by difficulties was often in the mood of, “Why are you allowing yourself to fall into this condition?”
Apply The Process
Let’s apply what we are learning. Think of something you are doing that you would like to stop doing, or something you are not doing that you would like to start doing (or do more of), and write it down.
Good. Here’s what I want you to do.
On your mark!
Commit to doing what you just wrote down!
You’ve Done it Before
You can do this. You’ve done it before. You made a huge commitment when you became serious about Krsna consciousness. You added new activities to your life and stopped old ones. How did you do this? You simply decided, “This is what I am going to do.” With this attitude, and despite the odds against you, you just did it. Even sex and drug-crazed hippies became sadhus, sometimes in a matter of days. This clearly demonstrates the power of “Just Do It” coupled with the process of bhakti and the mercy of guru and Krsna.
But I Am Not The Controller?
Now you might say, “But, Prabhu, it sounds like you are saying we are in control – that we can do whatever we set our minds to do. That sounds materialistic. That is not our philosophy. We are totally dependent on Krsna for our success.”
You are right, but it is a qualified “right.”
Once, a devotee asked Prabhupada if it was okay to pray to Krsna to overcome her problems. Prabhupada said, “Yes, you can pray if you also act to overcome the problems.” In other words, self-discipline is exactly what the words describe – you control yourself. So where does Krsna come in? He gives us the strength and determination we require to overcome our problems. However, before He does this, we must first commit. As Prabhupada often said, Krsna did not tell Arjuna to go to sleep, and that He would do everything. No. Krsna said you must fight, and then I will do everything.
Krsna will run with you, but He won’t run for you. We require a level of faith that speaks to our heart that, “I can do this because Krsna will help me.” Do you think it’s difficult for Krsna to get you up early in the morning? He can lift Govardhana Hill with His pinky, so getting you out of bed is a breeze for Him. But He is not even going to try if you don’t sincerely want His help. So all we have to do is want something badly enough to attract Krsna’s attention. Then if Krsna helps us, we have nothing to worry about.
I Committed, The Problem Is Still There
A common scenario is that you commit, yet the anartha remains. When you commit, it does not always mean the anartha goes away. It is Krsna’s business to purify you of anarthas, in His own time, according to your application of the process of bhakti. The anarthas are purified on different levels of bhakti. It is up to you to properly apply the process of bhakti, but it is up to Krsna when you reach those higher levels of Krsna consciousness.
What you do have control of right now is the power anarthas have over you. Your commitment is to refuse to be subservient to the demands of your anarthas. As you commit, the intensity of the problems the anartha causes you subsides.
As long as one has the material body, the demands of the body for sense gratification will continue. The devotee, however, is not disturbed by such desires, because of his fullness. (Bhagavad-gita Purport, Chapter Two, Text 70).
This is really just the ABCs of bhakti, but somehow we often forget this simple truth and become discouraged by the presence of unwanted desires in our heart.
Once, a devotee said to Prabhupada, “It’s difficult to control my tongue.” Prabhupada said, “I know, I also have a tongue,” indicating that the pushing and pulling of the senses exist for all who have a material body. The important point is how you deal with it.
This could be the topic of an entire article. The ability to resist falling prey to, or becoming discouraged by, the presence of material desires, is essential for remaining enthusiastic in devotional service, despite the “valid reasons” to be discouraged.
Now maybe you are saying, “Yeah, this all sounds good but…”
Oh no, the “but” word again. You know what you are doing to yourself when you say “but?” You are giving yourself all the good reasons why you must fail. You are building a case for why you cannot do something. I guess this makes sense if you don’t want to do it and you need a dose of self-pity. In that case, “but” is quite useful.
Hopefully, you don’t live in these dark regions of consciousness. Still, it is important to look a little further at what “but” means.
“But” is an argument for your limitations, and when you argue for your limitations, you get to keep those limitations. “But” will cause you to procrastinate, to hide behind fear, and come up with all kinds of excuses to validate inaction.
“But” is a paralyzing word and a classic mode of ignorance response.
Many devotees say, “But I tried a few times and it did not work out.” They then use this as an excuse to stop trying. Don’t worry. If at first you don’t succeed, you are normal. Success comes after many failures. Every master was first a disaster. Moreover, you won’t fail unless you give up.
So, “Just Do It.” No one else is going to do it for you.
If you still have doubts, remember this: your life gets better when you get better and nothing gets better if you don’t get better.
Before we end this newsletter I have one request. Please commit to something you know you should be doing, or doing better, and experience for yourself the power of “Just Do It.” You can start with something as simple as committing to totally absorb yourself in one round a day, or reading one verse of sastra every day. Just commit to something so you can begin strengthening the “muscle” that enables you to determine what you want to do and allows you to do it, and that prevents you from being a puppet in the hands of the modes of nature. In other words, your mind, senses and emotions control your life when you (as in spirit soul) don’t.
Don’t spend half your life telling others what you are going to do and the other half explaining why you didn’t do it.
PS. Before releasing this article, I posted my advice to “Just Do It” on Facebook, and much discussion followed. As I said, some felt this was too simplistic a solution, while others said they already apply this solution with great success. One devotee said he applied this strategy to overcome his addiction to alcohol.
After reflecting on this exchange, I concluded that Krsna’s instruction to, “Just surrender unto Me,” is really another way of saying, “Just Do It.” Of course, it took convincing to bring Arjuna to this position, and Krsna brought Arjuna step-by-step to the point of accepting His will. Yet, by saying “surrender”, Krsna is telling Arjuna to forget the step-by-step process and just go for it. To me, this kind of surrender is like diving into a river on a cold morning as opposed to going in the river step-by-step. The goal is the same, but one takes a lot longer to get to the same place. In other words, in the end we still have to dunk our head under the water.
Krsna said “surrender,” and Arjuna finally did. He picked up his weapons and fought like anything.
Arjuna won the war, regained his kingdom, pleased Krsna and became purified, showing us that great power comes by following the words of guru and Krsna. So let us never underestimate the power of “Just Do It.”
Which also goes to prove that Nike was right all along.