The Nature of Soul

(In the previous issue, we covered the need for security. In this issue we will look at the soul’s need for two more things.)
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.

II. The Need for AUTONOMY (Free Will)
Krishna created us with individual identities and awarded us free will. Yet, as a jéva trapped in a human body, we feel caged up, like the bird in the opening quotation. The pain of our imprisoned soul stimulates the chit potency, searching for the truth, the knowledge that will set us free. This is expressed in this world as our need for autonomy.

The Nature of Soul

Autonomy is a manifestation of our eternal unique individuality. Without maintaining our free will there is no question of loving anyone. Love is never forced. Autonomy is our soul’s tiny ability to be “independent” to the point of being able to voluntarily surrender that independence in loving service to Krishna . It is an indispensable aspect of loving exchanges.
When the need for autonomy is NOT addressed within our human experience, our knee-jerk reaction is to FIGHT (rebel). Overwhelmed, we may come under the control of the following anarthas:

ANGER (krodha): “No one listens to me. Why do I always have to surrender and you don’t? This isn’t fair. Why can’t I have it my way, at least sometimes?”

PRIDE (mada, or arrogance): “I’ll show you that I am right. I told you not to do that. It’s my way or the highway. Look how much I have already given.”

GREED (lobha): “If you won’t give me my self-expression, I will take it, I will demand it.”

Out of misunderstanding we tend to identify ourselves as the bad guy and we generate an anartha story that we start to believe. These anartha fables pus ways that bind us to the wheel of samsara.
Again, these anarthas are misconstrued expressions of our inherent free will. Our need for autonomy, when not met, compels us to think in terms of “I, me and mine” leading to selfish strategiesh such as, “I have to take it or I won’t get it.” These motives propagate win/lose paradigms that are not sustainable in terms of our real spiritual development. In the spiritual realm, everyone wins.

The mentality that can develop in this mode is THE CONTROLLER (the dominator):
“I am in control.
I’ll show you.
I can do anything.
I don’t need anyone.
I am strong. I will help you.

” On the other hand, when we have opportunities to creatively express ourselves with full autonomy, we can also feel a sense of freedom, growth, learning, and awareness.

Srila Prabhupada was clear about our need for autonomy: “Everyone has got some way he can contribute himself for serving the Supreme Personality of Godhead, everyone. Now conduct your preaching in such a way that when anyone becomes attracted to get something from us he may be induced or allured into serving Krishna in his own way as he likes to do it, not being forced to do something else he may not like to do, that will discourage him and no intelligent men will come.” (Letter to Karandhara, Bombay, 22 December, 1972)

The Nature of Soul

“Krishna consciousness movement is for training me to be independently thoughtful and competent in all types of departments of knowledge and action, not for making bureaucracy. Once there is bureaucracy the whole thing will be spoiled. There must be always individual striving and work and responsibility, competitive spirit, not that one shall dominate and distribute benefits to the others and they do nothing but beg from you and you provide. No.” (Letter to Bhagavan Dasa, Ahmedabad, 24 December, 1972) The needs for security and autonomy are both connected with our eternal identity. When we value and honor these needs we feel stable, balanced, and empowered to express our love (service) to Krishna and His parts and parcels.

III. The Need for SERVICE (Self-expression)

The need for service represents our constitutional position as servants of Krishna , uniquely related and wanting to offer our love with some action (service). This tendency is noted even in children, wanting to give, to contribute to their parents. It has everything to do with relationship and brings us the greatest joy, ananda.
Without this element, we feel lost, disconnected, empty, and void. There is no meaning or purpose to our life.
When we talk about service, we are not talking about “free labor”. We are talking about loving offerings. Whenever there is a sense of force, or a sense that “I am not valued or appreciated,” our need for service is not truly being met.
This is an important distinction to note. Service is natural and will occur wherever there is genuine and authentic appreciation for our service. Expressing that a service is valued is part of a loving exchange.

In the conditioned state, disconnected from our spontaneous loving sentiments for Krishna , when our need for service is neglected, it feels like our love is being suffocated. Over time, this may diminish our enthusiasm and inspiration to serve and we may feel useless as if we have no value. This may eventually lead to resignation where we give up our spiritual life or no longer wish to come to the temple.

Without real and appreciated service, we may unconsciously develop habits of:

IGNORANCE: When we suppress our constitutional service attitude by ignoring our relationships with devotees and Krishna . Ignorance leads to resignation and depression.

ILLUSION (moha): When we don’t experience our natural state of service, we have to be in some form of denial to cope with the emptiness we feel.

LETHARGY: “Why bother. I quit.”
These anarthas awaken the voice of RESIGNATION and fosters the mentality of THE IMPERSONALIST:

“What is the use? I give up.
I don’t matter.
Nothing matters.
Feelings aren’t important.
Relationships are hard and painful, why bother?”

Allowing the anartha stories to grow, we may begin to verbally or unconsciously beat ourselves up which tends to substantiate them all the more. By believing the voices of the anarthas, we give them the power to delude us.
The need for service is intimately connected with loving relationships and brings us true happiness, ananda . Without it, we Freeze up (the third defense mechanism psychologists use to describe our animal propensity), just like a deer with the headlights in her eyes freezes, not knowing which way to run. We humans have a proclivity to “freeze up” by numbing ourselves; to avoid pain by denying it. An example of this is demonstrated in the movie Titanic when the orchestra players continued to play their instruments as the ship was sinking.

When relationships are painful, we humans decide, “I would rather not have to deal with people at all – give me some place where there is peace.” With this mentality we might go to the brahmajyoti, “the blissful, peaceful light,” where we can remain numb and void (avoiding pain). Of course, how long can we stay in a place without our inherent need for service being satisfied?

In this world, when our voluntary acts are not appreciated, our service attitude may deteriorate into stress, burden or obligation. The illusion created by anarthas may increase our reactive defense of freezing. We may consequently devise more ways to numb the pain by taking intoxicants or distracting ourselves with entertainment. The concurrent emotions are guilt and depression.

On the other hand, when we feel our service is valued, we also feel a sense of meaning, purpose, contribution, connection, selfexpression, and creativity in our lives.
When service is encouraged and valued, we feel as if we matter in the world; the concurrent emotion is joy (ananda ) and a desire to again offer more service.
Srila Prabhupada encourages us to: “engage ourselves in occupational engagements that will evoke our divine consciousness.” He mercifully brought the chanting of Hare Krishna (the mahämantra), to help us to uncover and recover our buried soul.

However, this is not an automatic formula and requires conscious participation also. In my own personal practice of Krishna consciousness, I have found that along with my daily sadhana , practicing compassion has been a tremendous help.

Compassionately understanding that our spiritual nature expresses itself as needs for love, security, autonomy, and service can give us the realizations required to avoid resorting to the anarthas to satisfy our soul. Becoming free of these conditioned perversions, we can thus choose win-win strategies that will enhance our Krishna consciousness and create a healthy environment of respect and humility within which we can practice devotional service and lovingly cooperate with one another.

As we pull aside the curtain of the anartha stories that have us believing we (or anyone else for that matter) are demoniac, we awaken to the beauty of our real identity as sat-cit-ananda ; forever wanting to creatively and meaningfully express our existence through loving service to Krishna and all His children.

As the practice of compassion has many details, if you would like to know more about this subject matter, please contact the author at