In The Bhagavad-gita Arjuna addresses Krishna as madhusudana because Krishna killed a demon named madhu (sudana means “killer”). Arjuna wants Krishna to kill the demon of his doubts just as He killed madhu.
As Arjuna had doubts lack of certainty or conviction about spiritual knowledge and activities, so do all conditioned souls. Generally, what we doubt reflects our particular conditioning. but even in spiritual matters doubt is not always demonic. Srimad-Bhagavatam (3.26.30) tells us: “doubt, misapprehension, correct apprehension, memory, and sleep, as determined by their different functions, are said to be the distinct characteristics of intelligence.”
Srila Prabhupada comments: Doubt is one of the important functions of intelligence; blind acceptance of something does not give evidence of intelligence. Therefore the word samsaya [doubt] is very important; in order to cultivate intelligence, one should be doubtful in the beginning. but doubting is not very favorable when information is received from the proper source. In the Bhagavad-gita the Lord says that doubting the words of the authority is the cause of destruction. . . .
By intelligence only one can understand things as they are. by intelligence only can one understand whether or not he is the body. The study to determine whether one’s identity is spiritual or material begins in doubt. When one is able to analyze his actual position, the false identification with the body is detected.
Here Srila Prabhupada explains what causes doubt: our misunderstanding the self as material. In fact, the self, or soul, is spiritual, and thus the root of doubt is buried deep. because of our incorrect perception that we are material beings, doubt pervades our consciousness, as well it should. In some corner of our awareness we know that this basic premise is completely wrong. Thus we doubt.
In Prabhupada’s words: “The knot of doubtfulness is tied when the soul identifies with the material world. That knot is also called ahankara, the junction of matter and spirit.” (Bhag. 3.24.18, Purport)
Besides misidentifying our self with our body and mind, without proper knowledge we see only the surface of the world around us and cannot perceive Krishna’s energies acting behind it. Thus we doubt Him and His activities: “The material energy is always provoking doubts about the supreme authority of the Lord.” (Bhag. 1.17.23, Purport)
Krishna Himself declares to Arjuna that the cause of doubt is a lack of knowledge: “doubts have arisen in your heart out of ignorance.” (Bhagavad-gita 4.42)
And Krishna indicts those who lack knowledge: “Ignorant and faithless persons who doubt the revealed scriptures do not attain God consciousness; they fall down. For the doubting soul there is happiness neither in this world nor in the next.” (bg. 4.40)
Commenting on this text, the great saint Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura writes:
Krishna mentions three classes of people in this verse: (1) the ignorant, who are foolish, (2) the faithless, who know scripture but having seen the mutual disagreements of proponents of various theories do not trust the scripture, and (3) the doubters, who have faith but think, “I don’t know whether this process will be effective in my case.”
Doubters have some faith, but they nevertheless doubt that following scripture will truly award results. They thus follow, but without full faith, hope, and optimism. Such doubters achieve happiness neither in this world nor in the next. even fools attain some material happiness. doubters attain none.
When we finally come in contact with the bona fide spiritual master, saintly persons, and scriptures, we have the opportunity to gather knowledge there, live our lives accordingly, and feel our doubts subside. The problem is that as conditioned souls we’re so habituated to doubting that we continue to doubt even though our intelligence tells us not to and even though those doubts are to our detriment.
From Srila Prabhupada: “Asammoha, freedom from doubt and delusion, can be achieved when one is not hesitant and when he understands the transcendental philosophy. Slowly but surely that person becomes free from bewilderment. nothing should be accepted blindly; everything should be accepted with care and with caution.” (bg. 10.4–5, Purport)
As mentioned earlier, false ego, the junction of matter and spirit, is the root cause of doubt. Therefore: “As soon as the knot [of ahankara, false ego,] is loosened, all the clouds of doubt are at once cleared off.” (Bhag. 1.2.21, Purport)
And: “When one is firmly convinced of Krishna’s opulences, that person accepts Krishna with great faith and without any doubt, and engages in devotional service.” (bg. 10.7, Purport)
To destroy doubt and follow the spiritual path with full faith, hope, and optimism, knowledge is essential. Krishna tells Arjuna that the weapon of knowledge slashes doubts. (bg. 4.42) With transcendental knowledge and vision we perform devotional service strongly and become free of sin. because a Krishna conscious person is freed from all sins, he has no doubt about the supremacy of Krishna. This is the state of divine love. (bg. 5.25, Purport)
Equally essential is to associate and make friendships with Krishna’s dear devotees, who themselves are knowledgeable, faithful, and optimistic. Following their precedent and that of all great souls, we worship Krishna, serve Him with love, and chant His holy names. remembering our great heritage and good fortune, we study Srila Prabhupada’s books and ask questions of devotees we trust. Such confidential exchanges destroy doubt, as do our patience, enthusiasm, and budding confidence in the process of devotional service. even the simple act of honoring prasada will give us faith, as will following the principles of dharma, or righteous acts.
By identifying ourselves with God’s devotees, serving them, and appreciating them from the core of our hearts, our doubts dissipate. And as we respect life in all its forms, remain spiritually focused, and share Prabhupada’s message with others, we gradually become doubt free.
Freedom from doubts is one aspect of Srila Prabhupada’s prasada (mercy). We can pray to him for that prasada. And when we bow before him and observe his example, we will feel our doubts decrease. He’s offering us a treasure of divine wealth, and firm faith gifts us that wealth.
Doubts are like demons. Since Krishna is expert in killing demons, we can ask Him to kill the demonic doubts that arise in our minds. The spiritual master and Krishna demolish doubt with their inestimable mercy.
Visakha Devi Dasi has been contributing articles and photographs to BTG for almost forty years. She and her husband, Yaduvara Dasa, have lived at Saranagati Village, a Hare Krishna community in British Columbia, Canada, since 1999. For more information, visit her website: http:// our-spiritual-journey.com.