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Finding the Balance

Question -

On the subject of identifying ourselves as a soul and not the mind and body, there is a delicate balance between pushing oneself to detach from the body and mind versus humbly accepting that actually I have certain mental and physical needs. For years I have been struggling and praying – how much do I push, how do I get beyond my concept of being the mind and body without foolishly neglecting them? I don’t feel clear. How do I navigate this?

Answer -

That is a wonderful question. I have been much like that too. Just to give you an example I have shared many times. In Hamburg, we used to translate the Bhagavad Gita in a room nearby the temple. To reach the temple we had to walk through the garden and across a terrace to enter the building. In the winter all this area was usually covered with snow. Now, I decided not to wear shoes because ‘I am not the body’! I remember doing such things often. You know, going on Sankirtan in the winter with a dhoti without warm long johns… And I have seen after 30 years or 40 years, that this type of pushing didn’t get me anywhere. I hoped to affect a profound change in terms of spiritual realization – but realization does not come from this type of behavior.

When this became clear to me, I still remember, I sat down and prayed to Krishna - what I should do? The following answer unfolded for me: there are moments in life when it’s very good to go beyond your limits. And you know that. For instance, if a kirtan totally absorbs you but you are tired and you think the body needs sleep. Because the kirtan really speaks to you, you decide ‘let me stay in the kirtan.’ It’s so clear because you know ‘if I don’t stay I’m betraying what I believe in’. This is an answer for certain moments that occur relatively rarely. However, in general, we should see our limitations – where we are – and work within them. Accept where you are and invite Krishna in this situation or concentrate on Krishna in this situation. Krishna will dissolve it. When you read about Krishna every day and think about Him, you live your day in a normal way but somehow you’re with Krishna. For example, as a project manager you are scheduled to have another boring discussion with someone. This time you invite Krishna into the situation and think ‘You are part of Krishna so I will now listen now to you as a part of Krishna.’ Somehow if one brings Krishna into his life – even by a forceful thought – the Lord will help us solve everything. The question is not whether you should do this or not do this. The question is: ‘Can I think of Krishna?’ Bhakti is the ‘third way’; Krishna is the third alternative. That is what we are setting up. Too many of us are in the pushing mode – ‘let me renounce my mind and body’ and so on. That’s not the point; it won't bring advancement. It’s not jnana (renunciation) or karma (enjoyment) but bhakti that works. A real devotee thinks of Krishna. I’m convinced of this. For so many years I was Mr. Pusher – so intensely you wouldn’t believe it. For instance, for one year I ate one apple a day and nothing else. Or, for many days I would not sleep properly and only sleep on alternate days. Or, for one year I only lived on food which I had begged for. I did many such austerities. I guess young men need to do wild things otherwise they put a house on I did all these ‘Hare Krishna’ wild things. But I have seen that it has not helped me. What helps me is to chant, be mindful of Krishna, read about Krishna, and believe it or not, think about Krishna. It is everywhere in the scriptures: we should constantly think of Krishna – what He’s really like – and not forget Him. From a disciple meeting with Çacénandana Swami on May 26,

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