Who Will Be the King?

King Prataparudra offers dandavat pranams Caitanya Mahaprabhu and his associates.By Swami Tripurari

Sri Caitanya taught that varnasrama dharma is external. It deals with ethics and morality, which have little to do with spiritual life proper. Although Sri Krishna says that varnasrama comes from him (tasya kartartaram api mam), in the very same verse he tells us that he is not personally involved in it (viddhy akartaram avyayam). Thus, engaging in varnasrama is not the goal of life. When we are concerned with attaining the actual goal of life, many things will be rejected, even though they may have some utility in realizing the goal.

With the above in mind, Srila Prabhupada, following the lead of Thakura Bhaktivinoda, spoke of the relative value of varnasrama in relation to society in general and also in relation to the society of devotees. The utility of varnasrama is that it invites the influence of sattva. When one understands one’s psychosomatic reality, one is better equipped to lead a well balanced life and pursue a spiritual ideal. To this extent, varnasrama, or better, the spirit and essence of varnasrama, has value in relation to the goal of life.

In the terminology of the Gita, a psychologically well-adjusted person is one who is aware of the particular influence the gunas exert on his or her psyche and thus acts in consideration of these influences. Regardless of which gunas one is predominantly influenced by, this basic awareness is itself the influence of sattva, which subtly governs the Gita’s varnasrama social system. In the Gita’s vision, the essential first step of goodness is to be situated in one’s prescribed duty, a duty that corresponds with one’s psychology. By being properly placed, one finds a sense of harmony with one’s materially conditioned self. Such harmony facilitates the cultivation of spiritual life proper.

One whose actions are not determined in consideration of one’s psychology will be out of balance and thus more easily fall prey to the influences of rajas and tamas, passion and ignorance. At the same time, sattva itself must also be transcended because it keeps us from ultimate freedom in loving union with the Godhead. Under its influence one often remains a prisoner to spiritual tradition, rather than realizing the tradition’s essential message.

To the extent that the psyche is predominated by sattva, one can directly and naturally pursue transcendental life; whereas those dominated by rajas and tamas will find this course more difficult. For such people, although they may progress in an absolute sense, relative problems, such as psychological dysfunctions, may arise and create impediments.

This notion of the gunas and their relation to spiritual culture and psychological well-being would fit well with an approach to psychology in which the necessity of developing into a psychologically well-adjusted person is considered a parallel discipline intended to complement spiritual culture proper.

Personally, I think that in the interest of “establishing varnasrama” we should take into consideration the extent to which modern society is gravitating towards a kind of social integration rather than the social segregation involved in varnasrama. Take an essential look at this modern tendency, find the value in it and go with that, advocating something that does not go radically against the current of our times and yet fulfills the essence of varnasrama.

Humanity seems to be gravitating towards the common ground of our species as humans, rather than perceived differences of race, sex, creed, etc. This has value, yet equality and fulfillment, properly understood, are not attainable within the realm of morals. Humanism and morality can never fulfill the soul. Nor can morality realize its own ideal of a perfect human society and remain vital, because morality itself is dependent upon having a society in need of morals. A perfect society is not in need of morality. Spiritual life transcends varnasrama.

Equality of opportunity and representation, the heart of democracy, belong to the realm of the soul. The common spiritual practice recommended by Sri Caitanya for all to realize this equality is chanting the names of God. In order to do so peacefully and progressively, it will be helpful to develop in terms of being well-adjusted individuals (sattva-guna). Although this may happen through the direct culture of spiritual life, practically we find that many people after years of chanting have not developed the clean heart that is representative of the influence of sattva.

Thus the need is for daiva-varnasrama, varnasrama for devotees, as envisioned by Thakura Bhaktivinoda. The very heart of varnasrama is about facilitating the development of a well-adjusted, integrated human being, and that development progresses from being aware of one’s psychosomatic reality. This in turn assists one in one’s spiritual practice.

The principle of varnasrama, based as it is on consideration of the gunas, is universal. It need not be limited to a literal expression of this universality relative to times gone by. After all, it is material: it concerns the realm of relativity—morality and ethics. Its value ultimately lies in its advocacy of an absolute reality that transcends it. Moksa renders it altogether meaningless, whereas prema, in doing the same, superficially employs it in the Vraja lila. Unless varnasrama is thought of in this essential sense, I do not see much scope for  “establishing varnasrama” today—even in the society of devotees, much less in human society. Indeed, who will be the king?

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23 Responses to Who Will Be the King?

  1. Great article! Sometimes I worry when devotees talk about reestablishing varnasrama-dharma as everyone has their own idea about what that is and how it should be implemented. Neither are most devotees well-known for their organizational skills, even on a small scale, what to speak of a wider one. And yes, who would be the king? Most devotees say Srila Prabhupada should be, but who would represent him and in what version? There are many really good points in this essay!

  2. The varnas are just as real as the ashramas. Just because people do not like to think of themselves as sudras does not mean that they are somehow not sudras. However, that does not mean that others should see them as the negative types Srila Prabhupada would often bring up in his presentations.

    I have seen many cases where the idea of varnashrama is grossly misunderstood by the devotees while in fact it is rather simple. You can have varnashrama without a king, but you can’t have it without all the varnas being there and performing their prescribed duties.

    If you can’t perform honest work – you are not a sudra. If you can’t run a business or grow food – you are not a vaishya. If you can’t manage people and projects – you are not a kshatriya. If you can’t live a simple, austere life devoted to God and teaching others about God and dharma – you are not a brahmana.

    The real question is not “Who will be the King?” but “Who are you?”. If you can’t answer that question in the sense of varna and ashrama, you have no business talking about varnashrama.

    • The point of asking “Who will be the king” is that only an essential idea of varnasrama is practical, not a classical one.

      • I actually really liked your article, precisely because it looks at the essence of the Vedic social system, and not just the popular historical concepts.

        However, as Amara prabhu’s post shows, there are many devotees who actually think Vaishnava acharyas should be kings. This is really a total misconception and a perversion of the varnashrama system.

        One of the biggest problems in our movement was the amalgamation of spiritual and material authority, leading not only to the abuses and corruption of both powers, but also to attracting the wrong type (wrong varna) of people to the leadership positions, which in turn run the movement pretty much into the ground. That is what invariably happens when you have unqualified people running the show.

  3. I think this article is brilliant. Essential varnasrama is the way to go, and really it seems to me that it is naturally occurring by the influence of western democracy. Before anyone jumps to shout “demon-crazy” or talk about the “bad habits” of non-devotees, I find that western democracy (from my liberal point of view) aims to facilitate as Swami has mentioned, a recognition of equal opportunities in pursuit of happiness. When social injustices are relieved, people naturally fall into their proper roles – a psychosomatic balance as Swami has said, or the “psycho-physical nature” Prabhupada has spoken of. Instead of focusing on foregone divisive societal roles, most modern cultures are focusing on more and more recognition of and resolution of social disparities. This focus on equality allows for people to fit into their social roles naturally and find happiness there. From that point they can pursue a meaningful spiritual life because their consciousness is not absorbed in fighting the injustices of society. Much time will be wasted in trying to reverse this progress, attempting to convince people to willingly accept socio-economic disparity in pursuit of an ancient varnasrama transplant. The real message that devotees have to offer the world will be lost in the thinking that they represent a socially backward cult.
    I think there is a wonderful opportunity to come to a middle ground; devotees should become more psychologically balanced by adding a little essential varnasrama, and non-devotees can add some essential spirituality to their lives. Great things can happen from this middle ground, whereas moral humanists and dysfunctional devotees will never find common ground.

    • Even in the modern society people tend to gravitate towards their inherent varna. It is a natural system. Those who are good at what they are doing tend to stay in that position. Such placement is also forced by natural competition.

      This natural selection system is disturbed when dogmatic principles are introduced and when there is no accountability for failure. Examples of such interference in the natural order abound in the government for example, where unqualified political appointees often run their depertments into the ground or end up abusing their authority, usually with almost total impunity.

      Devotees should stop trying to re-invent the wheel by thinking they are smarter than everybody else in all disciplines of life. That is a complete illusion.

  4. At various points in my life I’ve enjoyed serving Krsna in different ways–sometimes as a brahmana engaged in Deity service, sometimes as a vaisya doing cow protection, and sometimes as a sudra performing menial tasks such as cleaning and tailoring (never anything ksatriya-like). I’d hate to limit myself, or have others limit me, by being restricted to one “class” of occupation only. So how would that work? I guess I’m wondering just how fluid or flexible varnasrama really is, both ideally and practically.

    • One’s position changes at each birth, so I don’t see why it can’t change as one goes through different stages in a single life. To me, the point seems to be that we should shape our material circumstances so that they best fulfills our needs so as to promote our spiritual advancement. If through education or experience a new circumstance would be more beneficial to you, I think the essence of varnasrama would allow it.

    • Regarding flexibility and changes of occupation.
      The way I see it, in real life we all try different things until we find something that really suits our nature, and something we are good at. You can’t arbitrarily assign a varna to someone – it has to be a natural and fairly obvious choice. Until it becomes clear, everybody is in this general pool of ‘unmanifested’ varna… varna-pradhana 😉

  5. Dear prabhus,
    I stumbled accross this discussion and was very excited about the interest in this topic about which I have been meditating on for some time. Particularly, Tripurari Swami’s realization that varnashrama must include some awareness of the psychology of the individual and of the group has been discussed in great detail in my book “Varnashrama, the Eight-Petalled Lotus” Please read the following description and let me know if you are interested. My email address is at the end. Its very exciting for me to stumble accross such like-minded souls…
    your servant Niscala


    “Varnashrama, the Eight Petalled Lotus” is not exactly a push for varnashrama in ISKCON. It is actually based on my great fear that we might, at some point in time, introduce varnashrama in ISKCON, but do it by simply labelling people. Such depersonalization of ISKCON and blanket categorization of individuals is the very antithesis of varnashrama under the same name and dress. The introduction of varnashrama must serve its purpose or it may become a useless shadow of the real thing, a substitution without light.
    This book is the vision of varnashrama given by Srila Prabhupada in his instructions and his books. It’s purpose is not to focus on details such as of self-sufficiency and specific talents, as others are more qualified than me for that. This book is not about details, important or otherwise, but on essences which must not be lost… Varnashrama is a program of spiritual advancement, tailored to the needs of the individual, in such a way that it preserves what is essential.
    Varnashrama’s essence is our application of the knowledge of the Gita, Srimad Bhagavatam and Caitanya Caritamrita in the light of self-knowledge, honesty and faith. Specifically, it is varnashrama introduced for the all the right reasons given by Srila Prabhupada, and as a solution to many of our problems. These are problems that we have become so familiar with, that we cease to acknowledge them or discuss them any more, resulting in them becoming endemic. As one progresses through this book, it will become clear that many of these problems are due to varnashrama not being a part of our vaisnava culture.
    This book has three parts- the first as an introduction, the second as the theory and the third as practcal applications and challenges. It has been kindly reviewed and endorsed by His Holiness Hridayananda Goswami, despite his tight schedule, and for that I am extremely grateful to him. The review gave me some very valuable suggestions. The endorsement is as follows:
    Niscala Devi Dasi has written a fascinating and refreshing book on varnashrama. This is exactly what ISKCON needs: intelligent devotees who are loyal to Srila Prabhupada’s mission and teachings, yet original in their practical thinking, and courageous enough to engage ISKCON in relevant, constructive dialogue.

    Niscala makes clear that she is not attempting to give all the final answers on Varnashrama and thus preempt dialogue. Rather with unmistakable sincerity, and wit, she seeks to foster dialogue, inviting the reader to agree or disagree, but to care about varnashrama!

    ISKCON has a sort of ashrama system, but the varnas remain elusive in this post-modern age. Prabhupada cared very deeply about resurrecting the varna system, especially in rural settings, but one hardly hears nowadays about ISKCON’s “back to the land” movement. Hence, it is extremely important for all of us that a thoughtful, articulate, devoted Vaishnavi has produced this important and entertaining book that should get us all thinking more often and more clearly about “the other half” of Srila Prabhupada’s mission.

    With best wishes for her, and our, success,
    Hridayananda das Goswami
    As we see in this endorsement, I am not trying to provide all the answers, but to initiate a dialogue, and to that end I am interested to correspond with all who find the book interesting or even objectionable, as the latter can be more enlightening than the former! So I am hoping to start an email forum if someone with technical know-how can help me do it. To “start the ball rolling” I have included an objection of my own.
    Objection: Varnashrama doesn’t apply to us, as it doesn’t matter what devotional service you do- it is all good. Thoughts On The Objection (TOTO): The idea is that, as Srila Prabhupada said, we are elevating devotees artificially to the positions of brahmanas and they are consequently falling down and “becoming ludicrous” or “showbottle” or worse still, falling away and losing all hope. Varnashrama’s purpose is to stop that, as its essence is realism, authenticity and truth.
    For any society to last, it must be real. It cannot be based around people assuming positions they are not qualified for. Imagine a society where the least educated and most clumsy become brain surgeons, and those who had been through medical school, opting to spend all their time washing floors. The surgeons would not last and the floor washers would feel empty and disillusioned. So while all and any devotional service is good, it must be “favourable” to actually please the soul and the Supersoul. “Favourable” means that it must be without falsity and ambition. Therefore, it is said that as long as one is in the material world, pushed by sex desire which manifests as desire for profit, adoration and distinction, one must engage in varnashrama, as this system curbs material ambitions, material illusion and material dissatisfaction..
    It curbs material ambitions to become powerful through rising up and over others, by assuring us that one can be perfect in one’s position. It curbs the material illusion of false pride, by having everyone situated honestly, according to their conditioning in the modes. It curbs material dissatisfaction by being a way of life in which everyone is appreciated and interconnected. Replacing the isolation and emptiness of modern mundane life with close ties of interdependency and mutual appreciation, it is satisfying to the soul’s need to connect with others in a deep and meaningful way- deep, in that the interaction is based on the knowledge of the soul being part and parcel of God, with all the respect, appreciation and wonder that it affords us- and meaningful, in that social interactions become, then, an external expression of a philosophy that one has internalized.
    Please have a look at this book and let’s all discuss our thoughts for a brighter future for our spiritual master’s mission. It can be ordered by emailing me at niscala_dasi@yahoo.com.au. I have endeavoured to keep editing costs to a minimum- so I hope that minor faults may be overlooked by compassionate saragrahi vaisnavas. The cost is AU$15 per book.

  6. As usual I appreciate my Gurumaharaja Swami Tripurari’s presentation. However, I have a couple of concerns.

    First, I think to be situated in sattva guna is to exist along a continuum from struggling to establish sattva as the prominent mode (eg giving up unfavorable activities such as meat eating, hoarding of wealth, expressions of cruelty or anger, and of course unrestrained sexuality) to being firmly fixed in sattva and capable of sadhana. Of course, this represents a desired progression. The desired end is probably free from the kinds of psychological dysfunctions Swami Tripurari alludes to in his article. However, all along the rest of the continuum there are a vast number of psychological dysfunctions that predominate and are not merely correlated with sattvic ideals but caused by them. What I mean to say is that for a human to establish as an ideal the reduction of aggression (no meat eating, showing only kindness to living entities) and restrained sexuality (monogamy or celibacy, free from sexual expression in other contexts, ie masturbation, sexual flings) there will be psychological implications. What has been observed in the field of psychology over the last 100 years is that the attempted restraint of sexuality and aggression, although a generally agreed upon principle, causes a whole range of psychological distress and dysfunction especially for those to whom this does not come very naturally. We don’t even need to look to psychology for evidence of the implications of these ideals. They exist explicitly within our own (and all other) traditions.

    So although this must be surmounted in order to do sadhana and enter into transcendence, I am most aware of the ways that many if not most are impeded by attempts (even balanced attempts) at establishing themselves within the sattvic ideal of varnashrama. I hardly think that psychological dysfunction is a result of only rajas and tamas guna.

    • I guess I am also wondering if sattva guna is considered a ‘destination’ and as such arrival will mean being firmly established in a mode of peacefulness and purity? If so anything short of arrival would still be seen as rajas or tamas. Or is it a continuum on which most of us fluctuate until this material mode is transcended altogether? My experience is of the latter. As such, in many but not all cases, I consider the establishment of sattva to be iatrogenic; causing the difficulty it is intended to cure.

      To play devil’s advocate: We believe that Bhakti is independent and not reliant on our behavior to firmly situate herself in our hearts. But GM Swami Tripurari says we must set the stage and encourage her compassion through our effort. I just wonder if sometimes we are clinging to antiquated ideals of what is ‘purity’ that are causing us to ‘sweat’ unnecessarily. I mean, we assume and believe (based on scriptural statements) that material sexual passion and normative expressions of aggression (ie meat eating) are antithetical to sattva and spiritual transcendence. But maybe we can consider how this assumption and belief is a greater cause of distress and more destabilizing than sexuality and aggression itself? Maybe the ‘sweat’ should be on the practice end rather than the moral one? Is it really true that sadhana requires sattvic living and state of mind? Maybe sattvic ideals, or better yet the ways we are falling short of them as practitioners, has the greatest negative affect on sadhana.

      • I don’t think it is the sattvic ideals themselves that are the problem, but the rajas or tamas that is causing us to fall short. Celibacy is only a problem because of the strong rajic sexual desire. Vegeterianism is only a problem because of the strong tamic desire to consume a fellow animal. So I don’t think we can blame the struggle we experience while moving toward sattva on the sattva itself.

      • I think you are missing something here. One of the salient points of the article is that sattva other than being something objective constitutes psychological balance. Thus while some things may be objectively sattvic, it would not be sattvic for a sudra to try to act like a brahmin. It would be sattvic in a larger sense for a sudra to act as a sudra. So it is not a one size fits all affair. Some people should be allowed to eat meat, but they should be encouraged not to eat cows and further to eat meat as compassionately as possible. For example they should eat only so called free range animals, etc. The same holds true with sex. The Western system for arriving at a long term committed relationship that amounts to more than infatuation is trial and error. Stress the goals and let couples try for it, dating etc. You can’t expect young couples today to adhere to an arranged marriage standard when it has been found in our times to bring with it so many psychological problems. Flings, etc. are not the end of the world for spiritual practice. They are not ideal, but then again there should be different expectations from brahmins than for sudras. Such thinking will foster sattva and help everyone move gradually towards the objective reality of a sattvic lifestyle.

        • That’s a rather innovative conception. I definately want to think
          more about that. So within this conception and outside the
          caste model of India what defines a sudra or brahmin. I dislike these terms, but given this lexicon, what defines these roles? For example, I am clealry not a brahmin, but I loath the idea of being a sudra despite my likely qualification for such a role. By what criteria is each role define? What are the basic behavioral and attitudinal standards of each?

          Anecdotally speaking, I find that most sadhakas retire their practice and sometimes their faith not so much from the bewilderment of rajas or tamas as Margaret suggested, rather due to guilt or shame from not living up to real or imagined expectations of the tradition (most real). They often do not feel that who they are, with their limitations and struggles, will be compatible with continued practice. It would be nice if a realistic standard was set for those individuals. It would be especially nice if such standards were not felt to be a form of condescention but a generous understanding of our innate human limitations.

        • Pema Chodron (a Buddhist monk in the Tibetan lineage) spoke about this problem with her guru. From what I understood, it seems that feeling guilt is a very Western response to falling short. She had to explain to her guru the very concept of feeling guilty for not living up to the ideal. Eastern students, on the other hand, took shortcomings as a way to get to know themselves better.
          That being said, I have spent a lot of time in exactly the place that you are talking about: “I’ll never be able to do this right and be an adequate devotee! Better to just stop than to continually disappoint myself and my guru and offend God, and to embarrass myself in front of all the other good devotees.”
          My response to Swami’s post was similar to yours – how do you find out who is suitable for what caste? How far should the rules be bent or broken in the name of psychological soundness? What kind of people should be allowed to eat meat?
          How would one find out if they were really a sudra and don’t have a prayer of pursuing a devotional life?

        • In such a daiva varnasrama concept determinations would be made by one’s guru, and regardless of one’s objective position, the best position is to be in a position to make advancement and that is a position of relative psychological balance. There is hope not only for sudras but for so called outcastes. Again, I am only saying the obvious: Varnasrama is about material balance in consideration of one’s psycho-physiological makeup under the influence of the gunas.

        • Thanks for your honest self-disclosure about guilt and thinking it is better to stop than to continue falling short. I hardly think you and I are the only ones that have experienced and/or heard that from others. I find that ideas linked with honest self-disclosure is the most impactful conversation. I hope we can all be this honest and forthright as part of the theoretical discussion.

          You said sudras have no hope of spiritual life… but I want to point out that Mahaprabhu’s conception includes non-casted individuals such as ourselves and definitely sudras. I mean think about the example of Haridas Thakur, a meat-eating Muslim, who’s dead body was later held in Mahaprabhu’s arms. The least qualified in an external sense becoming the most qualified in an internal sense.

        • But still Haridas Thakur, although being a sudra, was able to live up to the ideal of a brahmana later in life. In other words, his psychosocial makeup was appropriate for a sattvic life, regardless of his initial caste standing. I’m worried about being unqualified in the internal sense.

        • The qualification for treading the path of bhakti is sraddha. Everything develops gradually from there by the grace of sri guru and Harinama. Wy worry about treading the path? Tread it in accordance with the measure of your faith. What else can you do anyway?

  7. What I appreciate about this conception you are proposing Gurumaharaja is its assumption about human nature and its attitude of generosity. Let me say first of all that when I called this conception ‘innovative’ I meant it in relation to the contemporary broader Gaudiya tradition. It is not, however, innovative for you. I have heard you suggest this model many times over the years and I think it is one of the obvious distinctions between you and the general tradition. But I wanted to say something explicit about how I understand it.

    In terms of its assumption about human nature I believe your conception is rooted in a humanistic attitude that assumes people are striving for self-improvement and if possible they will do what is most progressive given their circumstance. This does not always look how one would imagine from a more progressed standpoint but it is progress. For example, I have been seeing psychotherapy patients for 5 years now. Over those years I have seen some very disheartening symptoms. On many occasions I attempted interventions aimed at pointing out the self-destructive dimension of a patient’s behavior. WIthout fail those interventions fall flat or short of their hoped for result, at best resulting in feelings of shame or guilt. However, whenever I interpreted that behavior’s progressive function as a solution to some greater evil the patient responded progressively having felt understood and held. This understanding and holding often makes it possible for that person to take one further step forward and find a slightly more progressive solution than the last. A perfect example of this are patients who cut themselves as a solution to some greater despair. It is always the macabre beauty and effectiveness of such an act, that when noted with sincerity and accepted, leads that person to retire that act and find less macabre solutions to their dilemma.

    The other thing I appreciate about your proposed conception is its application of what is called a Harm-Reduction Model. This model is used in substance abuse, sexual addictions, and any other hard to control yet potentially harmful activity. It presumes that perfect adherence to an abstinence model is unrealistic and it may be better for everyone to take a more gradual and progressive attitude about it. It also has a broader perspective on progress in real-time. For years I have proposed such a model to people struggling with vegetarianism or dating non-vegetarians. I say, ” just reduce the amount of harm you are causing to yourself, the animals and the environment by eating it less frequently and in less harmful ways”. This allows people to be who they are and yet make slow and stable progress. This can be promoted by teachers such as GM Swami Tripurari or by peers. For example, I have always loved and continue to love smoking. I began by lighting my first cigarette at the age of 7 and began smoking a pack of cigarettes a day from 16 to 23 and then off and on ever since. Last month I was at Audarya and Gurumaharaja said something like, “Many people have vices and that is ok. Just try to reduce them and do practice. (not an exact quote) Then he proceeded to explain how he has a particular dislike for smoking and hoped none of us smoked. It was not a mandate, it was a hope. Since that day, when I think about smoking (a frequent thought) I just have the thought, “Gurumaharaja hopes I don’t and I have that same hope.” That has thus far proven sufficient.

    So I guess after some reflection, I find this conception a very healthy attitude for practitioners. It might even open the door for some kind of peer counseling system that helps people make slow and steady progress toward realistic spiritual goals.

  8. I just read a passage today by yoga teacher Erich Schiffmann that I think is relevant here:

    “This idea of the ‘completed’ or ‘ideal’ posture as a specific destination somewhere in the future is often a lurking presence in the back of our minds as we do the poses. Because of this, there will necessarily be a gap between where you are in the posture and where you think you should be. This gap, more often than not, contains a subtle frustration, a conflict, a feeling that where you are is insufficient–or worse, who you are is insufficient–and that if you were truly doing yoga properly and were a “good” or “evolved” person, you would be somewhere other than where you are. If this is the case, your practice will be permeated with the effort of going somewhere else. It will be future-oriented, the present moment being significant only as a stepping stone to the future. And you will miss being present.”

  9. Interesting discussion. I think so many of us know what you are talking about here Margaret regarding guilt and feeling like you can’t continue on the path because of shortcomings and failures. I think it’s only natural to want to please those we love or want to love (Sri Guru/Mahaprabhu). And when we fail – for whatever reason – to do so, naturally we feel bad. I think the only positive quality of guilt here is that at least one has to have some sincerity in them to feel like that. At least one wants to do better and be a better person for Sri Krishna and for Sri Guru.

    I just read somewhere (can’t exactly remember in what context but I think it applies) that our choice is between pain and paralysis. I think there’s truth to that statement. We can either become paralyzed with guilt or we can accept the pain of our imperfections and shortcomings and choose to go on regardless and hope for mercy. Thank God we have a very merciful God in Gaura-Nitai 🙂

    Perfectionism and the resulting guilt (because none of us is perfect after all) is a tricky thing. I for one have noticed that the areas of my life where I am most perfectionistic are the ones that I struggle most with and fail in, more than the rest. Demanding perfection or setting up too unrealistic goals for oneself will likely result in becoming paralyzed and that of course prevents any real growth.

    And sometimes, the only way go forward is to take a few steps back and take a good look at where we’re heading. Good guidance is crucial and, thankfully, available. It’s much easier to have faith in yourself when you have someone having faith in you 🙂

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