“A man must elevate himself by his own mind, not degrade himself. The mind is the friend of the conditioned soul, and his enemy as well.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.5)
आत्मैव ह्य् आत्मनो बन्धुर्
आत्मैव रिपुर् आत्मनः
ātmaiva hy ātmano bandhur
ātmaiva ripur ātmanaḥ
“I am keenly aware that I should know better. These teachings are making an impact; don’t get me wrong. I see clearly now; better than I ever have in my life. Previously, it was as if the years were on repeat. Do the same thing, day after day, week after week, month after month.
“I had no purpose. I was in despair. Hope was lost. Then, like a ray of Divine light, the knowledge arrived in my hands. I hadn’t specifically asked for it, but perhaps the man upstairs was watching the entire time and knew something was wrong.
“I get the basic difference between body and spirit. I am Brahman, part of the spiritual energy. The body is ever-changing and does not represent me. This human life is meant for inquiring into spiritual matters. I should be conscious of the personal God at the time of quitting; the departure for the next life.
“The place where I get stuck sometimes is envy. I cannot help it. It looks like others have more than me, that they are advancing in life, while I have not moved. I am not so much upset at their happiness as I am disappointed in my lack of progress.
“To give more specifics, say that everyone around me is married, has children, and owns a home. If I have none of those things, then I will surely feel pressured. My peers are living a certain way, and I have been focused on spiritual life the entire time. I am so thankful for that awakening, but it looks like there has been a price to pay.
“You don’t have to take that situation necessarily to understand the dilemma. Peer pressure, in general. How does the Vaishnava cope? What if they lack the proper association, where they don’t have others to validate the kind of life being lived?”
It is only natural to have these misgivings, to feel inferior in the face of an alternative way of life. Others are enjoying at the night club, consuming adult beverages. They don’t have to request a special diet when dining out at the restaurant. They don’t have to explain their beliefs; a certain way of life is assumed. They are not the odd ones out.
At the same time, to get over the envy is not difficult. I am essentially jealous of how entangled someone else is. Everything that they have which is in the category of material advancement is another source of entanglement.
That house looks beautiful on the outside, but imagine the upkeep. The pressure of making the monthly mortgage payment, of knowing that if something goes wrong inside the owner has to fix it. It is not so easy to simply abandon the home and live someplace else.
That couple looks to be living the life, with their beautiful children in toe, but behind the curtain there is tremendous strife and tension. Daily arguments to the point that the police sometimes need to intervene. These are adult human beings, after all, and if you put any independently-thinking people together there are bound to be conflicts.
That person we see enjoying out on the town night after night does not show their doubts and fears when arriving home late. They seek something more in life, an answer to the mystery of this great existence, but they will never reveal that weakness to others.
As Shri Krishna explains in the Bhagavad-gita, the mind can be the greatest enemy if not controlled. When pointed in the proper direction, it can act as the greatest friend. The Supreme Lord, the all-attractive one, is capable of acting as our peer in the sense that He will be someone to validate the decision for devotional life.
The example of the acharyas is full of sacrifice and austerity, for bucking the trend, for rebelling against the standard way that causes so much misery and heartache. They have done so much to clear the path for us, to ensure that we can always blissfully chant the holy names and return to Godhead: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
From acharyas’ favor to earn,
Booked trip ticket return.
To Godhead and Krishna to see,
Who wishing always best for me.
With this goal the world to view,
Not in competition chart to review.
Advancing others or not where,
Only on highest objective to care.