Here it is, New Year's Day (my deadline comes a couple of months before publication), and like so many others, I'm sitting here thinking about New Year's resolutions. Our resolutions usually involve giving up bad habits or picking up good ones. We may not stick to our resolutions, but that we make them at all tells us at least one thing: we have an innate belief that we can change, that we have at least some ability to improve ourselves.
One problem with trying to change is the reaction of our family and friends. They may discourage us by saying we'll never do it. Or they might just make us uncomfortable when we try to present our new and improved self.
Sometimes people can't understand our changes or don't want us to change. When you visit your mother after you've grown up, she might be surprised that you don't like the same food you liked as a child. "But you used to love carrots!"
Srila Prabhupada sometimes quoted the Bengali phrase nagna-matrika-nyaya: "the logic of the naked mother." The point is that it's illogical to think that a grown woman will have to run around naked just because she did so as a child. In other words, people can change.
Srila Prabhupada applied this expression to his disciples. Their families and friends were often shocked to see they'd given up meat-eating, illicit sex, intoxication, and gambling, so much a part of their youth. They thought the kids must be brainwashed, or that Krsna consciousness, like bell bottoms, would be just another passing fad.
People are sometimes surprised to find that Hare Krsna devotees are still around after all these years. I was chanting downtown with some devotees recently when a man passed by and offered this comment: "Get over it."
But chanting Hare Krsna has the power to effect real, lasting change in anyone. Self-improvement requires at least some inner strength. We fail to honor our resolutions because we lack that strength. But chanting Hare Krsna draws out the innermost strength the strength of the soul. It gets us in touch with our real identity.
Another reason we fail to honor our resolutions is that we aren't sure they're worthwhile. What will I ultimately gain if I quit smoking or gambling? I may solve some temporary problems, but if everything ends at death, what's the ultimate significance of denying myself immediate pleasure?
By chanting Hare Krsna, we realize more and more that we're not these temporary bodies but eternal spirit souls. The soul the "I" within the body in its pure state has no bad habits. And it has immense power. That power comes from love love for Krsna, the Supreme Lord. If we tap that love, we can do anything. In the material world we can see how powerful even a person's imperfect love can be. The soul's pure spiritual love of God is inestimably more powerful. A pure devotee of the Lord can accomplish extraordinary things. Because his motive is the pleasure of his beloved Lord, he is fortified with boundless resolve.
So here's one resolution that will help you follow all your other ones: resolve to regularly chant Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare / Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.