“Your perspective on life comes from the cage you were held captive in”
– Shannon L. Alder
As young devotees we hear about the power of ‘Maya’, the illusory energy that distracts us from doing the right things in life.
Then we work diligently to avoid them, sometimes even allowing fear to overwhelm our consciousness.
And we are told the ‘No’s’ quite emphatically; NO meat eating, NO intoxication, NO gambling and NO illicit sex. Along with chanting a fixed number of rounds of Hare Krishna on our beads, we strive to say NO to these.
Slowly, we lose focus; rather than coming closer to Krishna by chanting the Holy Names, we chant ritualistically. And on the avoiding Maya front, we think, plan and worry more on how to enjoy within the four ‘No’ rules. We get lost in the details and subtly, but surely, we have lost the battle; Maya has got us. Confucius put it aptly, “The superior man understands what is right; the inferior man understands what will sell”
Although the ‘NO’ is an important ingredient of cultivating healthy spiritual habits, the real essence is the ‘YES’ and that we conveniently ignore. As sincere spiritualists, we need to go deeper to the principles that are emphasized by the rules of NO meat eating, intoxication etc. Similarly we need to chant sixteen rounds of Hare Krishna on our beads not because I have to but I want to come closer to Krishna. Besides, the chanting is supposed to be the ‘Yes’ of our spiritual life, but it remains a mere ritual as we often tend to focus on ‘finishing’ our rounds rather than connecting to Krishna. We imagine everything will happen automatically. Somewhere we are lost from the positive ‘Yes’ and are ceremonial in our practices.
When we say ‘No’ to meat eating, intoxication, illicit sex and gambling, we are actually saying ‘Yes’ to the principles of Compassion, Austerity, Cleanliness and Truthfulness. If we focus more on the positive aspect of compassion, avoiding meat becomes easier. This is important because often in an attempt to stick to the rule of ‘No’ we may avoid all kinds of meat but because we are not focusing on the positive principle of compassion, we get cruel to other humans and ill-treat even other devotees of the Lord.
The same principle works for ‘No’ to intoxication. The real thing is ‘Yes’ to austerity. Austerity is essential for a healthy mind and body and it means to voluntarily accept inconveniences for long term benefits. Saying No to cigarettes, liquor, and drugs helps us serve Krishna peacefully and thus remain in a happy state of mind.
If the principle of cleanliness- both the body and mind- is also our focus along with avoiding illicit sex, then we would be careful of what we read or watch on the internet and television. A broader perspective on Truthfulness rather than only ‘No’ gambling would help us lead a life of honesty and integrity. No gambling is important to follow, yet it’s part of a broader need to do the right things in life. Theodore Roosevelt said, “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing” And a life wedded to truthfulness helps us do the right thing always.
As we get older, we need to rise beyond what we are not supposed to do. A child is told by parents to not do so many things because that is ‘bad’. But the child truly blossoms to an emotionally stable and complete individual when he learns to say ‘yes’ to the good things. When he explores right things and worthy goals, not only is he happier, but also contributes meaningfully to the society.