No One Can Help You Like You Can

Illuminations Newsletter 75

Reverse thinking

“Reverse thinking” means thinking that “I need to be spiritually strong to keep my vows,” when in fact our strength and determination are a by-product of our commitment to the promises we made. It’s the same as saying “I need energy before I can train” when the fact is that energy comes as a by-product of training.

When Prabhupada was asked how we could become determined to follow the regulative principles, he saw a serious flaw in the matter. In the question of how to keep a promise (i.e., how to have the determination to follow one’s vows), Prabhupada saw a lack of commitment, because one who is committed to his vows would not ask such a question.

The situation described above is equivalent to the following scenario. I borrow money from you and pay back part of the money every month. But then I stop paying, I call you and ask: “How can I become more determined to pay you back?” If someone had told you this, you would have answered exactly like Prabhupada did, “You promised. The gentleman keeps his word. Why did you promise if you didn’t plan to return the money to me?”      

In the Bhagavad-gita (18.35), Krishna says: “Determination that cannot rid a person of dreams, fear, lamentation, depression and illusion – such determination, devoid of judgment, O son of Prtha, belongs to the mode of ignorance.” One who is in the mode of ignorance has practically no choice. Their will sleeps in a deep sleep. Don’t let your willpower fall asleep. And if she falls asleep, wake her up. Remember: not having a choice is also a choice.

  “99% is a problem, 100% is a trifle”

“99% is a problem, 100% is a trifle” means that if you don’t have 100% commitment, then even 1% hesitation in keeping your vows leaves you open to default and thus makes it much more difficult for you to keep your promise. Prabhupada explains that when you commit yourself to fasting, you can fast without much difficulty because you have not allowed yourself any other options. But if you leave yourself even a small chance of not fasting, then it will be difficult for you to fast.

Would you agree to heart surgery if the surgeon said he or she was 99% committed? Would you marry if your spouse was less than 100% committed to this marriage?

There is a difference between interest and devotion. When you are interested in doing something, you only do it when it is convenient or easy for you. When you are committed, you accept no excuses, only results.

Real success in life is achieved by people who are 100% committed to their results. This is a very simple thought, but every day, many people wake up in the morning, puzzled over whether to follow through on their commitments or not, whether to stick to discipline, and whether to stick to the plan.

 Rule “No exceptions”

Successful people adhere to a rule called “No exceptions.” Once you are 100% committed, there can be no exceptions. Once you’ve made a 100% commitment to your spouse, that’s it. You don’t need to think about it again. You don’t need to puzzle over a decision every day. You burn bridges and that makes life easier. For example, if you follow the “No Exceptions” rule, then not finishing your laps is no longer an option for you (even if you don’t feel like ending your laps). So, this solves the problem. Bridges are burned. You will complete your circles. You have long since decided that there can be no excuse for not completing your circles.

Beliefs That Lose Confidence

The first thing that keeps us from doing everything we try to do is a lack of faith in ourselves. One of the reasons we find it difficult to make a commitment is that we feel that we cannot do what we have committed ourselves to do. If you think you can’t do it, you’re right – you can’t do it. The phrase “I can’t” is the most powerful force of denial in the human psyche. Tell a child for quite a long time that he is not good enough at something, and even if he has the ability to do it, he will not succeed, because he was convinced otherwise. Because our perception of ourselves is so strong that we cannot do anything that contradicts this perception.

Prabhupada tells a story about a man who was walking down the road and his friends decided to confuse him.

So, there was a group of friends. Once all the friends decided to confuse one of them. So they conspired, “As soon as you meet this gentleman, start shouting, ‘Oh, ghost! There’s a ghost here! Ghost!”.” So all the friends start saying, “Oh! You are dead, you are a ghost, you are a ghost!” And after ten such statements, this person thought: “Have I become a ghost?” Then he wondered, “Have I really become a ghost, am I dead?”

What if we all pick one devotee and play pranks on her? Suppose we made a plan that whenever we meet her, we say, “Mataji, are you feeling well? You don’t look well. Are you sick? You look very tired. Are you sure you’re ok? Maybe you should go to the doctor? I think something is wrong with you.” What if everywhere she went she heard the same thing? How do you think she will feel? She will probably feel sick, tired, and weak. And he will start to worry very much that something is wrong with her.

How many times a week do you say to yourself, “I can’t follow this principle because I’m too weak” or “It’s really hard for me to do this practice because I’m an undisciplined person” or worse, “I don’t think I am it possible for me to become Krishna conscious in this life? And then you blame your inability to follow the principles on your weakness, indiscipline, or even the process of Krsna consciousness itself (telling yourself that it is a difficult process).

We understand that Krishna can work through us to do the impossible. Do you think that if every person you met told you that you are a spiritual person, that you are a person of strong moral principles, that you have great potential for spiritual development, then this would affect how you follow practice of devotional service? You can also say these words to yourself. Or you can tell yourself the opposite. But whatever you tell yourself, that’s likely what will happen, because your mind doesn’t distinguish between what’s real and what’s not.

So you may have everything you need to be Krishna conscious, but if you keep telling yourself that it is not, you are preventing yourself from being Krishna conscious. If we view ourselves as a failure, we tend to fail.

Look at your excuses and you will discover your beliefs. Also, look at how you behave and you will see your beliefs. Ask yourself: “What should someone believe who does what I do, thinks what I think, or says what I say?” Any of your beliefs that are contrary to your ideals are obstacles to your success.

Set Higher Goals

“The biggest danger for most of us is not that our goal is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it” (Michelangelo).

Most people think too narrowly, aim too low, and leave too soon. Why? They don’t believe in themselves. I’m sure you know a person who deserves to be successful but isn’t because they don’t think they deserve it. And those who think in this way become so insecure that they will only do what they believe they will succeed in, otherwise they will be broken by failure. After all, we are more made up of the decisions we make than of our personal qualities, right?

Without faith in ourselves, we will always set a lower goal than we are capable of achieving. We will be afraid to step out of our comfort zone. And unfortunately for some of us, Krishna consciousness is out of their comfort zone. It’s not that we can’t be in Krishna consciousness; The thing is, we think we can’t.

Rupa Gosvami prays to the Lord, “I don’t have any qualifications to be Krishna conscious, but I really hope to become Krishna conscious because You are the friend of the most fallen.” Rupa Goswami emphasized his hope, not his disqualification. You will never see a disqualification hold a pure devotee. This is because Krishna is more interested in our hopes than in our shortcomings. Krishna will give us the opportunity to achieve what we want, regardless of all our shortcomings. In fact, our shortcomings motivate Him to show us more compassion, because the more shortcomings we have, the more we need His mercy. Knowing this, we can strive for more: “I am so fallen that Krishna will give me more help.”

The key to keeping our vows is to place our hopes much higher than our vows. For example, if the main desire of the couple is to save the marriage, it may turn out that it will be difficult for you to stay together, not to mention a good marriage. However, if their goal is to create a beautiful family union and relationship in Krsna consciousness, then the ability to stay together is just a natural by-product of such a goal.

Prabhupada said that if you aim for the first class, you will get the second class. And if you aim for the second class, you will get the last class. In Krsna consciousness, our goal is not to chant 16 rounds a day and follow our vows. Our goal is to become fully Krsna conscious. We want to enter into eternal loving relationship with Krishna in order to restore our eternal rasa . Krishna has a place for all of us. Our ministry, our name, the way we look, the way we dress, our age, our family are all waiting for us. This should be our highest aspiration. And at the same time, we strive to take everyone else with us. If this is what we are striving for, then it will not be difficult for us to chant 16 rounds and follow the principles.  

Sooner or later we will get what we expect. Usually the people who consistently fail are the ones who expect it. If you ask a devotee who is successful in his spiritual life what his aspirations are, you will usually find that they are much higher than just strictly following the principles.

Manage your decisions daily

Many of us struggle when we think, “I made a commitment and that’s all there was to it.” But the choice we make once is not in itself our choice forever. The key lies in managing your decisions and choices on a daily basis. For example, since we have to follow the principles of Krishna consciousness every day, we need to organize our life every day in such a way that we can do it. It is not enough that we made a commitment a year ago; we must commit ourselves daily to this commitment and practically reaffirm this decision.

Good decisions, good commitments, and good choices don’t stay that way on their own. What if we have a bad day? Do we write it off and say, “Well, I didn’t repeat well today, or did I not repeat all my circles because I had a really bad day?” No. We deal with our bad day so that we can still fulfill our obligations and repeat the good circles.


“Man is defeated not by his opponents, but by himself” (Jan Smuts).

What is the likelihood that you make a commitment, but at some point become unable to keep it for some time? If you make a vow and strictly follow it all your life, then in the modern world you will be very special. I don’t want you to think that it’s okay to fail, that you should expect to fail, or that you should expect to break a promise. But what I’m saying is that if this happens, the most important thing for you is to know what to do after the fall so that you continue to develop spiritually without letting the fall diminish your enthusiasm and determination.

There is a big difference between failing and being a loser. We are conditioned. Prabhupada said that a person who practices spiritual life often becomes a victim of wealth, women and fame, being seduced by them. He also said that Krishna will forgive us for our accidental falls. So sometimes an accidental drop is unavoidable. But after a fall, it is not necessary to remain lying down. In fact, with the right attitude, you can use failure to your advantage.

When devotees fall down, they often become discouraged and discouraged. When a devotee comes to me in this condition, I ask him, “What good is your downfall?” Usually people answer: “There is nothing good in this.” But I keep asking and the devotee realizes all the mistakes he made that led to his downfall. Then I ask, “So what did you learn from this situation?” And we’re trying to learn the lessons so we can take action as much as we can to make sure this doesn’t happen again. And usually the devotee realizes that he would never have learned the lessons he needs without this downfall (part of the lesson learned is that one is not as Krishna conscious as one thought).

Then I ask: “If the result of this fall is that you understand yourself better and are so aware of what a fall is that it is unlikely to happen again, and from now on you will be able to keep your vows all your life – then was it not a fall? positive event? Was this fall necessary for you? Then they begin to see the meaning in it, and their attitude completely changes.

The truth is that sometimes the only way to learn something is to fail. Maybe we think we can flirt with maya . If that’s the case, we’ll have to burn ourselves a little to learn the lesson that she’s not to be trifled with. Sometimes we learn more from our failures than from our successes, hence the saying, “Sometimes you win and sometimes you learn.” The reality is that we will make mistakes along the way to success. Once we accept this, we can stay positive despite our failures.

The alternative to this is to feel guilty and discouraged. And that leads to more guilt, which leads to more frustration, which leads to more guilt, which leads to – you guessed it – more frustration. It turns into a vicious circle. The point is that if I fall, I can get up with even more determination and enthusiasm. When we say, “If I hadn’t done so-and-so…”, it prevents us from rising.

Then we just live in the past and mourn, which is a sign of ignorance. You cannot change the past, but you can change the future with your actions and reactions in the present.

We should say, “Next time I’ll do this or that.” This is determination in goodness. And if next time you do better, then the past was not a mistake. It was just a learning experience and that’s how you should treat it.

In the Bhagavad-gita (18.33), Krishna explains: “O son of Prtha, firm, unshakable determination, supported by the practice of yoga, and allowing a person to master his mind, vital air and senses, is called determination in the mode of goodness.”

This verse should be quoted to describe a determined person after he has fallen, not just one who never falls. We may not be able to immediately climb back to the same heights that we were before, but we should at least get up and move up. And some after the fall will strive to reach even greater heights. When we are defeated, we are not finished yet. Failure does not mean you will never succeed; it just means it will take a little longer.

It is interesting to note how guilty we can feel when we fail. But Prabhupada encouraged every devotee, no matter how fallen, to return to devotional service. He never made people feel guilty. He always welcomed them with open arms. Devotional service is the solution to the problem. We cannot solve the problem by running away from the ministry.

Laziness can prevent us from getting up after a fall. It is said that laziness is the secret ingredient of failure, but it is only kept secret from the loser. To be in Krishna Consciousness, we simply have to refuse to leave. Whenever I had difficulties, I always understood that this is the optimal time for Maya to dissuade me. So usually I reacted to it with redoubled enthusiasm. You may wonder how I could do this when I failed. The truth is that you can double your enthusiasm at any time. It doesn’t matter what happened a minute ago.

Thank you for reading these revelations. And I hope they will help you better follow your vows and resolutions!

en_USEnglish (United States)