Found in Sanga, Sanga 2003.

Q. My mother cheated on my dad for over twenty-five years. I caught her when I was nine years old but was afraid to tell anyone because I knew it would cause trouble. I felt sorry for my dad because he loves my mom and I broke down one day and the truth came out. Now my mom swears to my dad that I am a liar and resents me. She told me that I told the truth and gained nothing because my dad is still with her.

The scriptures say to honor one’s mother but how can I honor my mother after all she did? Please give me some religious advice. I truly appreciate your help.

A. It is difficult to honor one’s mother when she acts dishonorably. Still this embarrassing affair should not stop you from honoring your mother for everything else she has done for you. If you continue to honor her for those things, perhaps in time she will realize her mistakes—both the affair itself and her response to your knowledge of it. Hopefully at that time she will be sincerely sorry for having hurt you.

Bhagavad-gita tells us that our pure consciousness is covered by lust, the great enemy of spiritual progress. From lust anger arises which leads one further into ignorance and delusion. Your experience with your mother should inspire you in your own life to follow the Gita’s advice on control of the lower self by the higher self. The qualities of the lower self are lust, anger, greed, and delusion; the qualities of the higher self are goodness, compassion, tolerance, and forgiveness. Practicing forgiveness in the face of adversity is the natural inclination of one in touch with the higher self.

Q. I am a Hindu woman currently working in Investment Management. I am desperate to leave this environment, as it is very bad for my morale and self-development. Despite having reached several final interviews I am always disheartened to find that I have never been selected. I cannot understand what I have done wrong. Please help!

A. Your problem is not exactly within my field of expertise. All I can suggest is that you sit down and think about what you really want in life and why. Perhaps there is something more important that you are neglecting. Still, since you have approached me with your plight, I will pray for your improvement, both psychologically and spiritually.

Q. I read in your article Nama-Dharma that mind is driven by sound. Do you know anything about autosuggestion or confirmation methods used in modern psychology and some Buddhist sects? One example I read is to audibly repeat to oneself “my bodily strength is unshakable” or “my life-energy is infinite.” How does this affect someone? Is this really working on some level of consciousness?

A. Such affirmations can affect your psychology and thus the way you think about things. This in turn can affect your physical reality and your approach to spiritual practice as well. If one is not psychologically healthy, this condition may impact one’s spiritual practice. Thus affirmations and autosuggestion tailored to one’s psychological needs can be useful. They are certainly useful in a material sense, and they are also useful to those interested in spiritual practice, especially those whose psychological conditioning gets in their way. However, there is a difference between actual spiritual practice and fine-tuning one’s psychology. The chanting of Krishna nama has the power to touch one’s soul, whereas autosuggestion directly affects only the mind.

Q. Do Gaudiya Vaisnavas accept the precepts and wisdom of Canakya Pandita? (An ancient expert on the science of personal and political ethics.)

A. The wisdom of Canakya Pandita pertains to moral and ethical standards, insights into human behavior, as well as insightful ways to deal with others in general. Thus in one sense it is relative to the times of Canakya and has little to do with Gaudiya Vaisnavism itself. However, wisdom such as Canakya’s is important in Krishna-lila. Some intimate friends of Krishna are well acquainted with this kind of wisdom and they offer it to Krishna on regular basis, especially when counseling him on his romantic life. Subala-sakha is particularly well versed in this kind of practical insight. Thus Srila Rupa Goswami offers his pranama to Subala with reference to this aspect of his nature, naya-nandita-bandhavam vande.

In general it is important to note that this kind of insight, as well as many superstitions prominent in ancient Vedic culture are not part of Gaudiya siddhanta. However, they are involved in the social dynamics of Krishna-lila. Otherwise, it should be clear than any genuine insights into the nature of human psychology, etc., can be helpful in life.

Q. Thank you very much for your insights into critical thinking.

In that Sanga you wrote, “That while there is considerable crossover, critical spiritual thinking and critical thinking are not the same.” In what ways is critical spiritual thinking different from what is popularly known as critical thinking?

A. Spiritual thinking differs from critical thinking in that it is exercised within the parameters of a spiritual worldview. It seeks to support revelation as the comprehensive means of knowing as well as the particular message of the scripture itself. Critical spiritual thinking involves distinguishing between that which is relative and that which is absolute within the body of information derived from scripture and saints. In the opinion of Thakura Bhaktivinoda, cultural, historical, astronomical, geographical, and other such information found in scripture is not absolute for all times and circumstances. One must remember that the application of scripture in any given period will be influenced by that period and thus take into consideration its social and cultural point of view.

Q. What is your opinion on cloning? What happens to the soul?

A. Regarding cloning, similar concepts are mentioned in the scripture. For example, it is stated in the Bhagavatam that sages produced a new body and subsequently a person named Bahuka out of the dead body of Maharaja Venu, mamanthur urum tarasa. While this does not appear to be an instance of cloning per say, there are enough similarities to conjecture that the concept of cloning was not unheard of among the sages of ancient times.

In any event, cloning appears to be another way of facilitating the soul’s appearance within a material body. Where there is life, there is consciousness. As for the moral and ethical arguments for and against cloning in today’s world, I have not taken the time to study these arguments in any depth, and thus I cannot comment on them at this time.

Q. I read a book about religious cults and believe I found a description that fits how and why I joined the Krishna consciousness movement. The book said that the prospective Hare Krishna devotee is an emotionally frustrated and dependent person who has a growing sense of alienation and identity confusion—that he or she is typically one who has had a traumatic childhood experience and later began to develop a religious orientation. Experiments with drugs, yoga, and other Asian religious practices are sensate ways in which the individual seeks an outlet for sensual desires. Unsatisfied with this secular lifestyle, the pre-convert enters a period of confusion during which contact is made. The attraction to the Hare Krishna movement validates the sense orientation in religious terms and at the same time provides the mechanism for controlling one’s sensual inclinations.

A second personality type associated with several of the new movements is the depressive. This person is one who has a sense of inadequacy and feelings of despondency, pessimism, and sadness.

I summarized here the part of the book that I believe pertains to myself. Please comment on this and give your understanding as to how or why some people so readily accepted Krishna consciousness.

A. While there may be certain psychological dysfunctionalities that predispose one to become a member of a particular religious sect, to conclude that all participation in that sect is based merely on psychological dysfunction would be an oversimplification at best. Although you feel that your psychology fits the criterion in the book as the basis for your joining the sect, many other members do not have the same background or psychology. Why did they join? Further, many people with a similar psychological disposition do not join any religious sect. Such a disposition, therefore, can only be a contributing factor to joining a religious sect.

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