SOMETIMES PEOPLE THINK, "It's all well for the devotees who live in the temple. They don't have to spend all day with nondevotees. But I've got my job and a house to run. It's hard to keep up my spiritual practices and feel enlivened about Krsna consciousness."
Those of us in this position need to ask ourselves, "So what do I want? Do I want to be Krsna conscious or not?" Rough roads never discourage determined travelers. And if Krsna consciousness is actually spiritual, how can anything material stand in the way? "If I want to serve Krsna," we can think, "surely I'll be able to, whatever the circumstances. Arjuna attained perfection by serving Krsna even on a battlefield."
So we can progress in Krsna consciousness, even if we have to work in materialistic association. But we shouldn't be reckless. We're affected by the company we keep. Materialistic consciousness is a spiritual sickness. If I associate intimately with a diseased person, there's every chance I'll catch the disease. But if my own health is strong and I don't get too close, I'm unlikely to be affected. And even if the disease is highly contagious, if I've been inoculated against it I should be OK.
The practices of Krsna consciousness inoculate us against material consciousness. And we can easily implement these practices. We can come at once to the spiritual platform simply by chanting Hare Krsna or taking prasadam. We may not have the special opportunity to be "hospitalized" in a temple, but we can still conscientiously take our spiritual medicine and get the same benefit. As a good diet, clean habits, a peaceful mind, and regular exercise promote physical health, so a combination ofprasadam, chanting, prayer, scriptural reading, and other spiritual practices promote our spiritual health.
Despite our daily inoculation and our determination to be Krsna conscious, we may still find our work a spiritual drain the stream of endless talk that goes nowhere, the sound system pumping out "sense enjoyable tidings of the flickering mundane world," the salacious pictures spread on the walls, the cigarette smoke, the canteen, the general tedium, the arduous journey to and from work.
Can I change any of this by adding Krsna consciousness? A little touch of Krsna works wonders, like putting a one in front of a line of zeros. Can I talk about Krsna or about His opinions and so add a spiritual dimension to conversations? Can I distribute books to my colleagues? Can I add some transcendental tapes to the repertoire? Can I put up devotional pictures for my sore eyes? Can I campaign for a smoke-free zone around my work area? Or a more wholesome choice at the canteen? Or how about forming a Krsna conscious study group?
If I'm not in a position to be so assertive, there are still many things I can do.
The Isopanisad advises us to study the material and the spiritual side by side. In the morning we can study the scriptures, and during the day we can see how the teachings apply. We can consider how, by Lord Krsna's mercy, our values have changed. Now we see material life as an abnormal condition. Having to hear useless talk may be a bore and a drain, but it can also solidify our conviction about Krsna consciousness. If we're fixed in the truth, even though surrounded by untruth we'll be untouched by it, just as the lotus is untouched by the water.
We can further enhance our Krsna consciousness by taking a Bhagavatam or Gita to work, by going for lunchtime walks to chant on our beads, or by listening to tapes or reading as we travel to and from work.
When we try to share the happiness and freedom of Krsna consciousness with the people we work with, we should remember that our lives more than our speech will attract them.
Often people who know nothing about Krsna make tremendous spiritual advancement by their dealings with a devotee. Our sincerity and the strength of our spiritual practice will enable us to help others, no matter how unfavorable the external conditions.
We can reach people at work in other ways besides our speech and personal example. We shouldn't forget or underestimate the power of prasadam. An irate government official in South Africa was once about to deport a foreign Hare Krsna devotee, but he changed his mind while eating a Simply Wonderful a sweet that had been offered to Krsna. In the Caitanya-caritamrta, Srila Prabhupada writes that prasadam has the power to turn even demons into devotees.
It's easy to distribute prasadam to people wary of evangelistic fervor. We can take biscuits for the tea break, remember birthdays with a prasadam cake, or make pies at Christmas. We can offer our garden produce to Krsna and give it to friends at work.
We're pioneers breaking new ground. We're trying to introduce a spiritual culture in a society where spirituality has largely been lost. It's not surprising there will be difficulties. A sign that our spiritual culture is beginning to take root is that we're discovering ways to maintain and nurture Krsna consciousness in our own lives. If we can't, or rather won't, do it, how can we expect anyone else to?
As the Krsna conscious culture spreads, people will practice devotional service in hundreds and thousands of homes. Only time and perhaps our own timidity separate us from such a happy society.
One hundred years ago, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura yearned for the day when people from all classes, countries, and creeds would come together at the holy city of Mayapur under the banner of Lord Caitanya and chant the holy names. We can share in his vision, and we can work and hope for such an enlightened future in our own hometown.
Rohininandana Dasa lives in southern England with his wife and their three children. Please write to him at Woodgate Cottage, Beckley Nr. Rye, E. Sussex TN31 6UH, U. K.