"We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope"
– Martin Luther King, Jr.
Practicing Krishna consciousness helps you become helpless, yet we don’t feel hopeless. A devotee may face repeated disappointments, but he’s never discouraged. That’s because he loves Krishna .
If you make chanting Hare Krishna japa as your number one priority in life, very soon you’d feel helpless in the wake of the innumerable obstacles posed by the mind. Yet, if you persevere, Krishna recognizes your sincere endeavor, and you’d simultaneously feel enthusiastic and hopeful. That’s when you helplessly chanting helplessly, depending on Krishna for mercy, but you aren’t hopeless. On the contrary you are joyful, an archetype of what Çrila Prabhupada called “Chant Hare Krishna and be happy.”
Helpless means to realize “I can’t do it on my own,” and hopeless implies “I can never do it.” The latter hints at a lost cause, while the former suggests help from another source.
While perfected devotees are absorbed in sweet remembrance of Krishna , practicing devotees struggle; they constantly fail in the face of the challenges presented by the material world. Yet they never feel hopeless, for they trust Krishna ’s plans. They turn to Krishna for help, and feel hopeful and enthusiastic to discharge their Krishna conscious duties.
You could be totally helpless yet happy, but if you are hopeless, misery is your constant companion. That is when you enter a quicksand, and one bad experience leads to another, and your gloomy tale becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. We invest energy into our hopeless stories, and search for evidence that support how terrible our lives are. And then these scars and hurts shape our future. A sincere chanter of Hare Krishna , however, allows his hopes in Krishna to form his future.
One who feels helpless is humbled, but a hopeless person is depressed. It’s healthy to feel humble, but if you are dispirited, you are spiritually unwell and one could easily drift to inaction and cynicism, even as he realizes how spiritual life is an arduous uphill task.
After the initial euphoria in Krishna consciousness, when the reality of life’s struggles dawn upon a devotee, it could be nerveracking. Some succumb to the pressure with a knee-jerk reaction like giving up Krishna consciousness altogether. Others secretly lead a lifestyle that is incongruent to Krishna consciousness principles. And there are some who while professing to be well wishers, openly blaspheme devotees and malign their character on the internet. Basically as the struggle gets real, various distractions pull us away from Krishna .
Chanting Hare Krishna then appears a drag, and spiritual activities become dry and boring. That is when we are helpless, but some mistake this condition to be hopeless while a few others get shameless. While the hopeless are down in the dumps, the shameless declare the principles of Krishna consciousness to be either unrealistic or in the name of being an honest devotee, they justify their refusal to take shelter of Krishna . Those who realize they are truly helpless in this terrible material world humbly call out to Krishna by intensifying their spiritual activities and seek help from other sincere practitioners. However, those who mistake their situation to be hopeless sulk and get lonely while the shameless ones incur further bad karma.
Since we are always helpless but never hopeless, success in Krishna consciousness is to realize our helpless condition, and then turn to Krishna . And it’s a terrible failure when we slip to hopelessness. Let’s avert this tragedy; let’s embrace hope even as the struggle gets intense. South African social activist and Nobel peace prize winner, Desmond Tutu put it simply, “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” As spiritual practitioners, we know that that light is Krishna . He is there for us always, even in the most trying circumstances of our lives. Let’s seek to connect to Him, and feel comforted by the nourishing hope of Krishna consciousness.
Vraja Bihari Dasa holds a postgraduate degree in International Finance and an MBA from Mumbai University. He serves as a resident monk at ISKCON Chowpatty in Mumbai and is an active teacher of bhakti-yoga. You can read his daily reflections on www.yogaformodernage.com