Navadwip, West Bengal, India — Thursday, April 14th


Wake up, shower, apply tilak, chant gayatri, chant japa. Rinse. Repeat. You know how it goes. Once you become used to the routine of Krishna consciousness, you start to do everything by rote.

But this is not Krishna consciousness: a daily, routine performance of our sadhana (devotional practices) does not make us conscious of Krishna. And if our sadhana does not change our consciousness, it is no more than a ritual.

Krishna consciousness is not a ritual!

Introspection, or self-examination is an essential part of the sadhana of an aspiring devotee. If I do not examine myself every day — my sadhana, my activities, my dealings with others — how will I know whether I am making genuine advancement or just ritualistically going through the motions?

Keeping a journal (and a blog!) is a great help, because it forces me to get my thoughts together at the end of the day, to review my activities, and to evaluate my performance. Most evenings, before going to bed, I ponder: Was I humble? Was I tolerant? Did I give respect to others?

Of course, most of the time, the answer to these questions is, "No," but these sessions are nevertheless quite useful, because until and unless I acknowledge my faults, I will never be able to overcome them. How can I repent and try to correct myself if I do not recognize or realize what my failings and weaknesses are?

But shouldn't chanting the maha mantra on my beads be enough?

No. I have to chant without offense. Srila Guru Maharaj tells us: "The name will create some transformation within the mental system, and we must be open and unprejudiced enough to go where the name will send us. If we carefully try to avoid that transformation and stick to our present life, that is an offense against the name: to invite Him, and then ignore Him."

What transformation, if any, is the chanting of the Holy Name causing within me? Self-examination will reveal that. Srila Guru Maharaj says, "We must go forward with our eyes open." Our inner eye — introspection — will reveal our progress.

If I read Bhagavad Gita but I do not apply its philosophy to my daily life, then what is the value of that reading? It has served only to entertain me for a few hours. But if I dive deep into the study of Bhagavad Gita, sincerely searching for the truth, it will revolutionize my consciousness. Through introspection, I will start to apply those lessons to my everyday life and gradually begin to see through the eyes of the scripture.

I used to be encouraged when I read the Bhagavad Gita verse, "Those who are sincere in their spiritual practices (na hi kalyana-krt kascid) will never be deceived (durgatim tata gacchati)" — until I realized its implicit antithetical warning: "If I am insincere, I will be deceived!"

How do I know if I am sincere?

My sincerity can be judged by the degree of my surrender to the Krishna conscious ideal: soul-searching will reveal my true motives. In Home Comfort, Srila Guru Maharaj says, "The soul can see itself, it can focus upon itself, and through introspection, realize its very nature."

We are urged to "dive deep into reality" because reality is within, not without. Internal development — introspection — puts me in touch with my real self; it gives me a hint of who I really am, how much progress I have made, and how far I have to go.

I find that introspection is indispensable to my own pathetic attempt to become Krishna conscious: it focuses me on my own faults, and not on the faults of others. It is a prerequisite for prayer, or talking to God. It sets the proper mood of humility, and forces me to despairingly confess:

mat-tulyo nasti papatma / naparadhi ca kascana
parihare 'pi lajja me / kim bruve purusottama

"O Lord, there is no equivalent to my depraved, sinful life. Everything conceivably bad is found in me. I am even ashamed to come before You to beg, 'Please forgive my offenses.' What more can I say?"

Socrates said, "The unexamined life is not worth living." I want to live! I know that if I am not introspective today, I will go away disappointed with Krishna consciousness tomorrow, saying, "It was all a hoax! There was nothing there!" — and I will have nobody to blame but myself!

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Layout by iMonk — April 14th, 2005.