Ananda, or bliss – this is what we are looking for. But What are the conditions we need to fulfill to experience bliss ?
Over the past 38 years, while engaging in the practice of bhakti yoga, chanting Krishna's Holy Names, offering services and meditating on the words of Srila Prabhupada and the previous acaryas. I have often reflected on how the scriptures are relevant to me in my life and how I might practically apply these principles. In my own struggles to uncover my buried soul, Krishna has taken me on a long journey from my head into my heart. I have just recently completed a book entitled: “Revealing the Heart, The Practice of Compassion”. Along with my daily sadhana of chanting, I have found that the practice of compassion provides a powerful means to deal with all the emotions and anarthas that seem to hold me back in my spiritual development. The majority of this article is an excerpt from that book.
“Without knowing the need of the dormant soul, one cannot be happy simply with emolument of the body and mind. The body and the mind are but superfluous outer coverings of the spirit soul. The spirit soul's needs must be fulfilled. Simply by cleansing the cage of the bird, one does not satisfy the bird. One must actually know the needs of the bird himself. The need of the spirit soul is that he wants to get out of the limited sphere of material bondage and fulfill his desire for complete freedom. He wants to see the free light and the spirit. That complete freedom is achieved when he meets the complete spirit, the Personality of Godhead. There is a dormant affection for God within everyone; spiritual existence is manifested through the gross body and mind in the form of perverted affection for gross and subtle matter. Therefore we have to engage ourselves in occupational engagements that will evoke our divine consciousness.” (Srimad – Bhagavatam 1.2.8, purport)
Krishna is the seed-giving Father of all living entities and so, as His parts and parcels, we inherently have similar qualities: we are sat, cit, and ananda – full of eternity, knowledge and bliss.
In the human body, our human nature, especially the mechanisms of the mind, can create confusion for the living entity, even in the midst of our journey on the path of bhakti. Understanding our human nature and our spiritual nature side by side is the path of self-realization. As we understand both natures, we can distinguish the difference between the two and continue to get clarity about who we really are.
As living entities we have a certain dharma, our nature. Let's examine these constitutional qualities.
In the above quotation, Srila Prabhupada states: “There is a dormant affection for God within everyone.” This vital quality of the living entity helps us to understand our natural and prominent inclination for loving relationships in this world.
We were created in love, and we are constitutionally related to Krishna and His parts and parcels through loving relationships. In the material world we are continually seeking out loving relationships to fulfill the nature of our soul.
Babies and children seek this love from their parents. As we mature, we seek this love from friends or a spouse. Even sannyasis experience this love by dedicating their lives to God, fully depending on the loving protection of Radha and Krishna .
We are compelled to experience loving relationships and yet often, even within our families, our friendships and our religious associations, we may experience difficulty in expressing or perceiving this love. Why?
Based on my personal experiences as a devotee and life coach, I have come to notice certain repetitive patterns in humans. The following is a simple theoretical analysis of the basic needs of living beings and the negative repercussions that can take place in the human mechanism, when our souls needs are not fulfilled.
As pointed out above, being part and parcel of Krishna , sat (eternity), chit (knowledge) and ananda (bliss) are part of our true nature. Yet, as Srila Prabhupada states, we are covered. Still, these innate qualities of our divine consciousness always want to emerge. As in Srila Prabhupada 's example above, the bird wants to fly – it has a need to fly. So too, our soul seeks to fulfill its nature, even within this world.
Our quality of sat has us looking for security in this material world. Our chit potency has us seeking knowledge of how to become free from bondage. “The Truth will set you free.” Our freedom is expressed in this world as the need for autonomy.
Our ananda or blissful nature is experienced when we engage in service. It is the greatest pleasure to serve others in full consciousness.
These three basic foundational elements support the development of loving relationships (our dormant affection for the Lord) and manifest in this world as the needs for security, autonomy and service.
In our conditioned state, in order for relationships between individuals to be loving and nurturing fostering growth and health, considering the importance of these three supporting needs is quite beneficial.
Whenever even one of these three basic needs are neglected or minimized there is often a breakdown in loving relationships. As these needs are intimately connected to our spiritual existence, they will be expressed and fulfilled, if not spiritually, then in perverted, material means that simply degrade us and keep us bound to this material world. Let us take a look at each one of these needs in the context of our spiritual development.
1. The Need for Security
The first element of loving relationships is security (protection). We are always dependent on Krishna as our seed-giving Father and maintaining Mother for our life and sustenance.
The need for security reflects our quality of eternality (sat). We exist forever and have an individual identity that cannot be destroyed. That is why we do not want to die. It feels unnatural. So, along with our identity and existence comes the question:
“Where can I go for shelter?”
If we do not have the experience of being secure within our lives, either financially, physically, emotionally, spiritually or mentally, we may find ourselves grasping to fulfill this need in ways that anchor us to material existence. When we don't feel secure, we may experience:
FEAR (How will I survive? Who will take care of me?), ENVY (matsarya) (Why do you have security and I don't?), LUST (kama) (I want what you have.), or LAMENTATION (Poor me.)
When we feel insecure, we may see the above anarthas manifesting in our thoughts and actions. Seeing anarthas, which are like parasites living off our spiritual energy, we tend to denigrate ourselves or others rather than compassionately investigating what is needed in that moment.
Srila Prabhupada explains the meaning of anartha:
“Artha means substance, and anartha means illusory things.” (Lecture on Srimad -Bhagavatam 3.26.23-24 in Bombay, January 1, 1970).
“This is maya. So this is anartha. Anartha means meaningless. No artha. Artha means meaning.” (Lecture on Srimad -Bhagavatam 1.7.5 ) in Vrindavan, September 4, 1976)
“So this is anartha, a position which is false.” (Room conversation in Vrindavan, September 19, 1970) We can see from these explanations that anarthas have no real substance.
However, rather than understanding the illusory nature of anarthas, we generate stories that make us the demon. We are afraid to look deeper at what is happening inside of us. Feeling insecure, we run to find shelter.
This is our body and mind kicking into its automatic mode described by modern psychology as the FLIGHT mechanism. This lower primal nature pushes us to withdraw physically, emotionally, or mentally in order to protect ourselves.
Over time with continual breakdowns of insecurity and fear, the mentality that can develop is THE VICTIM:
“I need help. Who will help me? I am powerless. I can't do anything. I have such bad karma. There is not enough (scarcity).”
One or all of these unwanted voices may begin to dominate our minds and distract us from devotional service. The Victim mentality is the thinking that we are stuck in our karma, like animals who are controlled by instinctual behavior. Our primal brain creates an impulse to hide or avoid pain. The Victim mentality is us expecting Krishna to do the work for us, with no effort on our part; the thinking that Krishna should fulfill our needs in the limited way we think is the best.
When we don't perceive security in our relative lives, our brain then makes up some story to explain the discrepancy: “Krishna does not care for me”, or “I am demoniac. ” , etc.
The need for SECURITY represents our dependence on Krishna as well as our eternal (sat) nature. We exist eternally and have an individual identity that cannot be destroyed.
When we choose to utilize the intelligence Krishna awarded us to overcome our instinctual tendency to react, we can transcend our conditioned protective mechanism of flight.
In full Krishna consciousness our security is manifest in the grounding knowledge that "I am a part of Krishna . I am a servant of Krishna . Krishna is my dearmost friend and will provide everything I need.”
However, when we are not fully Krishna conscious, we do not yet have the security of our real spiritual identity. We are thus compelled to take shelter of a “false” identity in order to fulfill our dharma of having eternal existence. Without the shelter of our real identity, we will either come to the material world to get a false ego or merge into the security of belonging to the oneness of the brahmajyoti, both of which are only temporary.
In the conditioned state, disconnected from that pure security, our determination, enthusiasm, and resolve to remain in the process of devotional service can be interrupted when our need for security is not met in human ways.
In this material world, until we are completely Krishna conscious, the maintenance of both our false ego and its home (the body and the mind) are the bare minimum security we need, like a diving board from which to jump off and fully participate in life.
This is why it is so hard to give up the false ego. In material illusion it seems we may die if our ego is vanquished; that we will have no identity); that we will cease to exist. In this state our minds will ask the questions: How will I be sustained? How will I continue to exist?
The fulfillment of our need for security provides a standpoint where-from we can honestly confront (rather than avoid) our false ego without the fear that if we give it up we will have nothing at all. When we get a sense of security, our needs for stability, balance, support, protection, safety, trust, understanding, and peace are also simultaneously fulfilled.
From the stable place of security, we can accept anarthas as groundless delusions and not take them so seriously that we solidify them. We can see through the illusion of these stories to the secure reality of Krishna's loving care for us.
Born and raised a Protestant minister’s daughter, Sukhavaha Devi Dasi graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Social Welfare from Pennsylvania State University. During her youth, she went on spiritual quest and accepted initiation from Srila Prabhupada. This article is adapted from her book Revealing the Heart: Practice of Compassion, a memoir of her experiences integrated with her new discoveries in compassionate communication. She is also mother of three children and grandmother of two.