If a devotee can’t make their own decisions, if they’re overdependent, then this is a mental disorder!

ISKCON-Hare-Krishna-devotees-mental-disorder
Disclaimer: was not personally involved or connected with the production of this post.
Post transcribed, edited and produced by Alexander Shenkar.

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Key Points:

  • Prabhupada wanted devotees to take inspiration from Krishna and use their intelligence.
  • Prabhupada always condemned being overly dependent because if you're too dependent, then it's like you've been given knowledge but then you don't use it.
  • Prabhupada said you should approach Guru thinking yourself a fool but don't act like a fool.
  • If a person can't make their own decision, if they are overly dependent on others to make decisions for them, then this is actually a mental disorder.
  • If devotees doubt their intuition and they are afraid to use their own intelligence, then they're not creative and inspired in Krishna consciousness because they are afraid to go out of bounds.
  • Sometimes we have the sense that something is wrong but afraid to speak it.
  • One who sincerely tries to do the right thing will never be misled because Krishna will aways guide him to do the right thing.
  • We need to have faith in our own sincerity. That's the most important thing.
  • We will make imperfect decisions and do the wrong things. That's normal. If a devotee is sincere, gradually he or she will come to understand that he or she is wrong.

We have a phenomena and I think it’s universal in which you think you’re seeing something which you might not be seeing. You think you’re feeling something which you may not be feeling. Our vision and understanding is guided by sastra. But we may not always be able to understand sastra. And in an attempt to see and deal with things properly, we may try to fit our vision within the context of sastra when we interact with situations, people, and the way we allow ourselves to experience things. And when we’re practicing sadhana and we don’t understand something, then sometimes we are very uneasy about how we feel because we tend to think that however I feel – not always, but in many occasions – what I’m feeling and what I think I’m seeing, what I think I’m understanding is not correct because I feel that I’m not Krishna conscious enough to understand anything about myself and about my situation. And then this results in making wrong decisions or being out of touch with gut instincts or not being able to hear Krishna inspiring us.

Krishna guides sincere devotee and provides intelligence, always and at every stage.
Krishna guides sincere devotee and provides intelligence, always and at every stage.

One thing that is obvious when Krishna says, “I give intelligence how to come to me” and then the idea that when you are ready you meet a guru (and when you’re not ready you won’t) – there is an aspect of this conversation in which we see that even a neophyte or a new person is getting a guidance from Krishna on how to progress in devotional service. I’m not talking about sophisticated knowledge which is in a realization beyond us; and that you should think you have it at any stage of your Krishna consciousness. But what I’m saying is that the guidance that Krishna gives to sincere devotee is always there at every stage. That’s how we became devotees. Somehow or another Krishna is inspiring us. [In past personal experience] We were hearing from devotees and reading Prabhupada’s books. It made sense. He was inspiring us to go forward in our lives; he was inspiring us to renounce certain things; he was inspiring us to accept, to trust in other devotees, or trust in Vedic knowledge. That’s all that I’m talking about. It’s very clear Krishna is giving guidance but it often becomes obscured because we think, “Well, I’m not qualified. Maybe I don’t understand things correctly.” It’s true that we don’t always understand everything correctly. We have to take guidance from senior people. We are not all knowing. I’m not trying to say that any young devotee can know everything.

One of the things Prabhupada wanted to do and one of the pitfalls that we run into is that he wanted his devotees to be able to take this inspiration from Krishna, to use their intelligence and not be overly dependent on the intelligence of others to the point where they are perhaps not thinking as intelligently or as clearly as they could, or that they’re even hesitant to make decisions because they fear they’re just not qualified enough in Krishna consciousness. That is not what Prabhupada wanted. We teach that you should be dependent on Guru and be dependent on Krishna. There is no question. We should be dependent. We teach that you should approach the Guru thinking yourself a fool. But Prabhupada said that the important thing is to understand that although you may approach thinking yourself a fool, you don’t act like a fool. What Prabhupada meant is that you approach understanding that you don’t know everything and then he can enlighten you. And when you get that enlightenment then you act properly. So Prabhupada always condemned being overly dependent because if you are too dependent, then it’s like you’ve been given knowledge but then you don’t use it, and you are always depending on other people for guidance, even though you have the knowledge, even though you’ve been given the guidance. So Prabhupada didn’t want his disciples to be like that.

In the world of psychology – they diagnosed this as a mental disorder (maybe not exactly this) – but they diagnosed that if a person can’t make their own decision, if they are dependent on others to make decisions for them, then this is actually a mental disorder. And you may know people like that, “What do I do? I don’t know what to do.” And they’re always asking for guidance; and they can’t make any of their own decisions. So the reason I bringing this up is that I find it interesting because in spiritual life you do have this element where the disciple is dependent on the Guru to tell what to do, just like Arjuna, “Tell me what to do. What should I do?” But the point I’m making is when you approach a guru who gives you answers and tells you what to do, and at that point if you keep asking even though you have already got the answer then that’s a weakness because you’ve been given the answers, “Ok, now go do it” or, “Use your intelligence, use your abilities, take what I’ve given you and do it.” So there is a balance in terms of dependency where if we are too independent then that’s a symptom of pride, “I know everything. I don’t need anyone. I know everything that my guru teaches so I can do anything.” So there is a sense that it is healthy, and a sense that being over dependent is unhealthy.

In some cases devotees may see a person doing something wrong. And in their minds they may have to somehow or other conceive that it's actually transcendental.
In some cases devotees may see a person doing something wrong. And in their minds they may have to somehow or other conceive that it’s actually transcendental.

If devotees are coming to our movement and the training puts them in a situation where they doubt their own integrity, where they doubt their own intuition and they are afraid to use their own intelligence, then they’re not creative and inspired in Krishna consciousness because they are afraid to go out of bounds. Or, if they see something – and this is an even more sensitive issue – if they see something that is wrong in the movement or they see someone who is doing something wrong then they can sometimes become afflicted, and in some cases they may see the wrong as right because the person they are seeing doing the wrong shouldn’t be doing anything wrong. So in their minds they may have to somehow or other conceive that it’s actually transcendental. So they’re going against what they’re actually seeing and they’re going against what they actually know as wrong, or going against what is right in them, and they don’t see it. And if they feel that it is wrong, then they start feeling, “I have to feel bad because I’m feeling such a wrong because it couldn’t be wrong.”

In normal circumstance, in normal life (life outside of Krishna consciousness), often it’s a little more black and white. If something is wrong, if the President of the United States did something wrong then it’s obviously wrong, and there is no doubt that it’s wrong. Everyone says it’s wrong; what you do about it is another thing. It’s more black and white. There is less at stake for us. But in Krishna consciousness we are always afraid we’ll make offenses to another devotee. It could be damaging to our spiritual life. So we are very cautious, always afraid that perhaps we don’t understand the philosophy correctly. Fear that intelligence may misdirect and lead to make an offense can alienate us from using our intelligence.

Sometimes we have the sense that something is wrong but afraid to speak it. Or sometimes we’re even afraid to think it because we may think that it’s offensive or it’s just wrong and we’ll be misled. It’s important to understand two things: Krishna says in the Gita, “One who does good will never be overcome by evil.” What Krishna means is that a devotee who is sincere will aways be properly directed. If we’re not properly directed, if we end up somewhere other than Krishna’s lotus feet or the lotus feet of Prabhupada, then we can say that based on this verse that we did something bad or – good being more accurately translated in this verse is sincere. One who sincerely tries to do the right thing will never be misled because Krishna will aways guide him to do the right thing. Sincere person does not need a bogus guru. For an insincere person, there are many bogus gurus lined up waiting for their money.

We are not perfect. We will make imperfect decisions and do the wrong things. If a devotee is sincere, gradually he or she will come to understand that he or she is wrong. They may not understand it for ten years, but they will understand it at some point. We need to have faith in our own sincerity. That’s the most important thing. My brain may not always work well. I may not be able to understand everything. I may not have sufficient knowledge to understand everything. I may not understand everything my Guru tells me. At certain levels of advancement of Krishna consciousness you will not be able to understand things as deeply as you would on another stage. So we have limitations. Everything is not going to be perfect. You might say, “Sounds like what you’re saying is that you shouldn’t worry because everything will work out.” I am saying that, but it may take time to work out. Sincerity is the most important thing in making decisions which we feel are correct but may not know are correct.

Of course, I’m not saying you shouldn’t follow guru, sadhu, and sastra. I don’t mean, “Just be sincere. You don’t need books.” In a sense, you could say that. “You just need a Guru, the Holy Name, and sincerity and everything will be there.” But even though I could say that, I’m not saying that because that’s not really the way Prabhupada taught us entirely. He did teach that, but not entirely. So you have books. You have sastra. You have guidance: guru, sadhu and sastra. But we’ll still make mistakes. We have to base decisions on what we believe to be correct based on what we’ve learned from Prabhupada and what we’ve learned from sastra.

And I’m not going to say it’s ok to make mistakes – because we shouldn’t – but what I mean by saying that it’s ok to make mistakes is that we will make mistakes and that’s normal. As Krishna says, if a devotee is sincere then he will be guided and eventually he will understand the mistake and be guided properly. You might be thinking, “I’m afraid to fully use my intelligence because I don’t trust it. I don’t think I have it” or, “If I’m a fool before my Guru then how can I make so many decisions?” But we have to make decisions. We have to be able to take what our Guru has given and put it together intelligently and say, “Ok, this is what should be done in this situation.” And not, “I don’t know anything, I just have to spend my whole life asking people should I go right or left?” That is unhealthy. That’s not what it means to surrender. It’s actually a psychological weakness when you become too dependent on other’s direction. It’s not a strength.

To depend on the spiritual master, to depend on Prabhupada, to depend on Prabhupada’s books is a sign of strength. It’s just that dependence can turn into weakness when you can’t do anything unless you ask somebody, “Is it ok if I eat this? Can I eat more?” I mean, you might think I’m exaggerating. But if you translate that into certain behavior, then some people have a very difficult time making decisions in their life. Prabhupada gave us many books, so obviously we should be able to make decisions. If you’re sincere, go ahead and make decisions. If it’s the wrong decision, Krishna will show you that it’s the wrong decision and you will learn from that. It’s not a total disaster. But go with what you believe to be correct in a particular situation based on your understanding of Krishna consciousness and your personal experience in life and whatever inspiration Krishna has given you at the moment. Don’t be afraid. Don’t fall into thinking, “Oh, you’re saying paramatma is guiding me and that’s only possible if I’m at a higher stage.” You may not know whether it’s the paramatma speaking to you, but often it’s paramatma. Krishna says, “I give intelligence.” You may not hear it directly as you would like a pure devotee in the higher stage but He is giving His devotees inspiration all the time. Sometimes you might say, “Well, how do I know it’s not maya?” As you advance, you will be less in maya. Maya ultimately means just material desire. So, yes it’s possible to be inspired by maya and for one’s intelligence to be bewildered by maya, but a principle of Krishna consciousness is that if you’re following the process then you shouldn’t be in maya or you should be fairly out of maya; and if you’re fairly out of maya that means your senses are fairly purified and your intelligence is fairly purified. So the information has come into you and the realization that have come into you should be fairly Krishna conscious.

Don’t be afraid that, “Oh I don’t know what to do! I don’t know how to act! I have these feelings that I think are right but I’m bewildered! Is it really right!? I mean, am I that smart that I could make all these decisions? Am I really that advanced that Krishna is giving me this insight or intuition!?” That kind of thinking does not make sense because if you’re actually following Krishna consciousness then Krishna says that that’s exactly what He does. He gives you all of that. So you can’t back that up sastricly to think you’re not getting it. Does that makes sense? It makes sense to me, you know?

Praphupada wrote to a lot of people who had only been devotees for a few years, and saying that Krishna will give intelligence.
Praphupada wrote to a lot of people who had only been devotees for a few years, and saying that Krishna will give intelligence.

Prabhupada says in his letters that Krishna will give you intelligence. He is saying this to very young devotees. Everyone Prabhupada spoke to were young devotees. The oldest devotees could have only been 11 years in ISKCON maximum 12 but probably 11. I would say majority of people in ISKCON when Prabhupada left had not been devotees for more than 5 years. And actually, I would say that if someone did a study then I would say that most devotees were 3-4 years in the movement (the majority before Prabhupada left). So, just try to understand that. If you look at the letters that Praphupada wrote, 1972, 1973, 1974 – he is writing to a lot of people who had only been devotees for a few years, and saying that Krishna will give intelligence.

Often I see the problem of devotees getting confused. Krishna is inspiring them but they don’t always realize it. They’re not always connected with it. At the same time, it’s true that sometimes maya bewilders us. I’m not saying that that’s not going to happen. The point I’m making is that if you’re following Krishna consciousness process then Krishna promises, “I’ll give you intelligence. I’ll guide you.” You shouldn’t be in a position to doubt that “I’m getting this inspiration. I’m getting this idea. Is it really maya or is it really Krishna?” If you’re in Krishna consciousness, generally it’s going to be Krishna. If you’re in maya, generally it’s going to be maya because maya is going to direct you towards sense gratification. So, if you’re getting an idea that has basis in guru, sadhu, and sastra then why should you doubt it? And if you’re not sure if it has basis in sadhu, guru and sastra, then you should ask somebody. But don’t be disconnected and don’t turn your intelligence off – that’s my point.