Breaking Free

Radha Krishna “Serving Krishna with purified senses is called Krishna consciousness. That is the way of bringing the senses under full control. What is more, that is the highest perfection of yoga practice.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 6.26 Purport)

Obstacles will inevitably come in our way of achieving our hopes and dreams. Sometimes these stumbling blocks come about through the forces of nature, and other times through the actions of other living entities. Most often, however, these obstacles are brought on by our own minds. One of the most difficult things to control, the mind can be drawn off course by even the slightest agitation.

Hanuman reading about God The material world consists of five gross elements: earth, water, fire, air, and ether, and also three subtle elements: mind, intelligence, and false ego. The mind is so important because it is the catalyst for the acquisition of knowledge. Knowledge is our way of out of this material world. According to the Vedas, living entities are spirit souls at their core, but they have somehow or other been forced to become conditioned while dwelling in bodies made up of the aforementioned material elements. The secret to breaking out of this conditioned state lies in the mind, which ultimately drives our consciousness. According to Lord Krishna, God Himself, a person’s consciousness at the time of death determines the type of body they will receive in the next life.

“And whoever, at the time of death, quits his body, remembering Me alone, at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt.” (Bhagavad-gita, 8.5)

The key is to adapt our consciousness in such a way that we can be guaranteed of thinking about God at the time of death. It is a popular belief that when one is about to die, their life flashes before their eyes, with all the major events relived. This idea originated with the Vedas, the original scripture for all of mankind, handed down from God Himself at the beginning of time. Consciousness is the definition of existence. We get whatever we want. God is very nice to us in that way. After many many births, one finally comes to the platform of understanding the constitutional position of the soul and its relationship with God. Having this theoretical knowledge is not enough though. One must act in such a way as to create a permanent change of consciousness; otherwise that knowledge goes to waste. The secret is to use that knowledge to direct all of our actions.

“One is understood to be in full knowledge whose every act is devoid of desire for sense gratification. He is said by sages to be a worker whose fruitive action is burned up by the fire of perfect knowledge.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 4.19)

Lord Krishna The mind is the captain of this ship known as the body. If properly controlled, it can lead us to the path back home, back to Godhead. Wanting to go back to Krishna’s realm and actually getting there are two different things, for the mind is very difficult to control.

“For the mind is restless, turbulent, obstinate and very strong, O Krishna, and to subdue it is, it seems to me, more difficult than controlling the wind.” (Arjuna, Bg. 6.34)

Desire is the root cause behind the restlessness of the mind. Every living entity desires. Even the greatest renunciates have desires, namely those of negating all activity. They hope to merge into the impersonal effulgence known as Brahman. Desire is fine by itself, but problems arise due to the fact that desires never go away, even when satisfied. We may want something today, but tomorrow that desire can completely change. For example, many of us in our youth prayed to God to give us certain things, either toys, or success in some venture. We invariably prayed to the Lord, “Oh God, please give me this. I don’t ask for much. If You come through for me this one time, I promise that I will never ask You for anything ever again.” That promise never actually holds true. God may or may not give us what we want, but that doesn’t stop us from desiring. God’s illusory energy known as maya, also plays an important role. Maya fools us into thinking that we’ll be happy chasing after sense gratification. With all these forces constantly acting, it becomes very difficult to control the mind and keep it on the right track.

Starting a new task is the most difficult of all the steps necessary for achieving success. Once we start our plan, maya goes to work, attacking our aforementioned vulnerabilities relating to desires. Many of us fail at fighting off maya. For this reason, the majority of us aren’t self-starters. We get discouraged very easily, so much so that we give up on trying again. Thinking positively is a very difficult thing to do, thus we require motivation and inspiration from others. People that write self-help books, or books about thinking positively, make millions of dollars. Everybody is looking for someone to guide them and give them the much needed boost of positive energy.

Lakshmana What if we don’t have that person in our life to motivate us? How are we to succeed at keeping the mind steady and not giving way to lamentation? The answer is that we must follow the example of the great devotees of the past. Lakshmana was one such devotee. An incarnation of Ananta Shesha Naga, Lakshmana was born as one of the four sons of Maharaja Dashratha, the famous king who ruled over Ayodhya many thousands of years ago. Coinciding with the appearance of Krishna’s incarnation of Lord Rama, Lakshmana played the role of a great kshatriya warrior, trained in the military arts by the best of brahmanas, Vashishta and Vishvamitra. His greatest attribute, however, was his devotion to his elder brother Rama.

“I will thwart the influence of destiny by my bravery and prowess, similar to how an excited elephant, secreting from its temple, breaks free of its shackles and runs with violent force.” (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 23.20)

In the above mentioned statement, Lakshmana is trying to convince Rama to ignore Dashratha’s order requiring Him to spend fourteen years in the forest as an exile. Since he loved Rama so much, Lakshmana couldn’t bear to see his brother put into so much difficulty; all for no reason. Rama was supposed to be installed as the new king, but Dashratha was forced to honor the requests of his youngest wife, Kaikeyi. Lakshmana not only wanted Rama to ascend the throne, but he was willing to personally fight anyone who would disagree with such a decision.

Radha Krishna - perfection of devotion Lakshmana’s suggestion wouldn’t be taken to heart since Rama was dedicated to the welfare and good name of Dashratha. He had other purposes to serve by living in the forest for fourteen years. Nevertheless, Lakshmana’s bold display of love for God should be a lesson to us all. The key to being successful in spiritual life is to have the same steadiness of mind that Lakshmana had. Maya will always attack us, but we should be assertive and confident in our service. There is no reason to lament over failure because if we are sincere in our love for God, our success is guaranteed. Lakshmana was successful in his execution of devotional service, so much so that Rama was forced to bring him along to the forest. Lakshmana’s success came from his complete confidence and faith in Rama. Just as our desires are always leading us all in sorts of directions, if we make our ultimate desire the satisfaction of God, we are guaranteed to always act in knowledge. Thus we can break free of our self-imposed limitations and ultimately go back to God’s kingdom after this life.

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