Obstacles to Bhakti

Illuminations Newsletter 1

When devotees look at their obstacles to advancement in Krsna consciousness, they sometimes doubt whether they will ever be able to overcome all of them (for those of you haven’t taken my seminar on prayer, we ask participants to make a list of obstacles they face in devotional service and formulate prayers to overcome those obstacles). It is easy to become discouraged and thus feel it may not even worth praying to overcome obstacles. Or you may think that if you go on in devotional service the obstacles will just somehow go away. Meanwhile you may carry these anarthas for years – maybe even lifetimes.

Can You Change?

I have seen – and research confirms – that change can take place, even if a person is convinced they can’t change. It simply requires that the impetus to change is strong enough. It is common that an alcoholic who thinks he can never give up drinking will quit when his wife tells him that she and the kids will leave if he doesn’t stop drinking. When child molesters who say they cannot control themselves are asked, “If you were about to molest a child and a policeman appeared and said if you touch the child you will be arrested, could you stop yourself?” they always reply, “Well if I were going to be arrested, then yeah, I could stop myself.”

You Have the Choice

So rather than say,” I can’t overcome this obstacle” or “I can’t do this or that,” it is generally more accurate to say “I choose not to do it.” This gives you a more realistic view of your situation. If, for example, you feel pride is an obstacle, you can choose to glorify others rather than seek out glorification or appreciation for yourself. You have the choice. No one is telling you that you have to be proud, no one is forcing you not to serve and glorify other devotees. Your mind may be telling you that, but you don’t have to listen.

So what is the greatest potential obstacle to your advancement? You are.

The Impetus to Change

Where does the impetus to change come from? One way it comes is by looking at what you are loosing by not overcoming your obstacles. I like to ask myself, “What could I achieve in Krsna consciousness if I removed this or that anartha from my life?” And the answer is always a resounding, “I would be much stronger, more blissful and way more peaceful. I would be more fulfilled, and my spiritual progress would obviously be less hindered. In other words, I have so much to gain by overcoming my anarthas.

Just Say No to Maya

So why do I keep holding onto my anarthas? Because I choose to. Or put another way, maya is choosing for me and I am not saying anything. I have to “just say no to maya.”

Remember, not choosing is also a choice.

Love for Guru

What is another impetus for change? Prabhupada said that when one has great love for his spiritual master, he will follow all his instructions. The greater the love, the greater the impetus to follow. The proper attitude is that, “I may not want to do something, but I will do it because my guru asked me.” And we can pray to our guru to give us strength to follow his instructions.

Committing to Another Person

Committing to another devotee can be a great impetus to improve ourselves. For example, you can say, “I commit to you that I will come to mangala aroti, will not speak ill of devotees, will give up this bad habit, etc. It is usually more effective to commit to someone else than to commit to ourselves. This is why having a coach or a friend we are accountable to is so effective.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that if Krsna sees we are sincere in our efforts to advance, He will certainly help us from within. And if He helps us, everything becomes easy.

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