Theistic practice

By editor - 1.9 2022

Question: I read a quote that says that the secret of success is that we should act as if everything depends on ourselves, but internally we should pray as everything depends on Krishna, and these are two lines that internally we develop our devotion to Krishna, but also our expertise in different fields, like if we cook – then we should learn how to cook properly, or for example we play mridanga, we should also learn how to do it properly. The question is that while developing an expertise in different fields, how to also develop the devotion along with it, because experience shows that often times you feel yourself unqualified for something, doing for the first time, then it naturally comes that you pray very much so that everything would be ok, but often times when you have some experience or become more expert, sometimes it happens so that the expertise grows, but you start to depend on yourself, not so much on inner devotion to Krishna.

HH Bhakti Bhringa Govinda Swami: It appears that the answer would be to always remain engaged in theistic practice, in the spiritual practice. For us that means careful practice of sadhana, because when we are doing our sadhana nicely there’s more of a tendency to remember that we are Krishna’s servants then if we’re not doing a nice sadhana.

And that means not just chanting our rounds, but it means studying Prabhupada’s books also. Both of those activities have to be there. It’s like, Prabhupada said “My books are not just meant for selling, but my books are meant for studying” also, because if you understand the science given in the books , then one will understand the process of going to Krishna, one will understand what the goal of Krishna consciousness is.

Performing devotional service is more than just an activity of stirring the pot or beating the drum or doing anything in the mechanical sense, but the life of devotional service is always a life of inner cultivation and prayer. You’re trying to naturally purify the heart through prayer and purify the heart through service and then we have the guideline that’s been given to us by Lord Chaitanya, because in the second verse of Shikshashtaka Lord Chaitanya glorifies the power of the Holy Name, but then He says durdaivam idrisham ihajani nanuragaha, He says: “Because I commit mistakes I do not attain deep attachment to the Name”. Meaning, the Name is all-powerful. But we are making mistakes. Means, if we perform bhakti, and bhakti is all-powerful, but we must be very mindful for the mistakes that we may commit in the execution of bhakti.

Then Lord Chaitanya establishes the standard that His devotees should practice in order to attain pure devotion, that is trinad api sunichena, taror api sahishnuna, amanina manadena kirtaniya sada hari, so all of our activities of bhakti, cooking, mridanga playing, singing, preaching, should all be decorated with these four qualities of humility and tolerance and giving respect without expecting respect. These things they constitute theistic practice. See.

Just like we have examples of great devotees who worried about the same thing. And one of our prime examples is Lord Brahma, because he had so many doubts about taking the role of the creator. Basically he was worried that he will become puffed up and start thinking that he is “karta” [the doer] instead of seeing Krishna as Karta. So then Krishna instructed him, he said “theistic practice” and “constant endeavour”.

So two things: constant endeavour and always maintaing pure-devotional frame of mind.

Pure-devotional frame of mind is something we should try to always carry with us. So that we speak in a certain way, we act in a certain way, we dress in a certain way, and it’s sort of like the external feature of speaking and acting or even the way we dress, it reflects ourselves internally. So we should become expert in whatever we do. Whatever talent one may have, whatever ability one may have, one should become more expert.

Like at one point I was known to be a good cook, but… and I guess, definitely I am proud also. But I would always pray to the Deities that by my cooking I could satisfy the vaisnavas and be the servant of the vaisnavas. You know, that was my objective. Naturally, pleasing Krishna, but I have a hard time seeing Krishna. But I can see vaisnavas. So I would always pray: “Please, let me satisfy the vaisnavas”. And because of that it was like, when I was cooking, it was as if somebody was directing my hands, what to put, how much spices to put, how much not to put. And then if I was in good consciousness I would say: “Krishna, thank You for helping me!”, and if I was in bad consciousness I’d go: “Man, I’m such a good cook!”…

We have to focus, otherwise because of our false ego we will start thinking we are the “karta”.

prakṛteḥ kriyamāṇāni
guṇaiḥ karmāṇi sarvaśaḥ
ahaṅkāra-vimūḍhātmā
kartāham iti manyate

When we become bewildered by the material nature we think that we are the doer. Doer means karta. Kartaham means “I am the doer”. Krishna says, ahankara vimudhatma, we become bewildered by ahankara and we become great asses. Mudha means ass or a fool. Vimudhatma, we become like a great ass and a foolish person.

But if you read Prabhupada’s books, you practice Krishna consciousness carefully, you will understand that everything is going on by the arrangement of the material nature. And what you have is choice. You have the choice either to serve Krishna or serve Maya. And if you turn to Krishna that’s like turning to the Sun and if you turn to Maya that’s again back to darkness.