Last night we had a interesting discussion about austerities. My understanding is that Krishna consciousness is meant to be "joyfully performed." In other words, whatever austerities that we may execute should be done joyfully or happily. For many this appears to be a tall order. There are different motivations that people have for performing austerities. Here are some of them that I can think of: Guilt, Fear (of getting smashed for not doing it), material goals (Hiranyakasipu type, desire to be respected, etc.), spiritual goals (liberation, spiritual advancement, desire to become detatched, etc.), ritualistically or because of habit-not thinking of the goal or reason for them., and Love (desire to please someone). Of these different types I have chosen 6 as I find it the most joyful. In fact when austerities are executed in this way, they are no longer austerities in the sense that they are no longer austere. They are life giving.
Sometimes devotees look at my simple diet and comment that it is too austere, but I do not find it austere at all. I had the realization that my body belongs to Krishna. It does not belong to me for my enjoyment. So as an offering of love for Krishna I would do what was necessary to keep it running nicely as long as possible to maximize my service. I don’t think of my diet in a negative way. If I did, it would make me miserable. Rather I think of it in a positive joyful way. Then it becomes super enjoyable, more than all the glubjamons, halavah, pizza, etc that I have imbibed throughout the years. Also the austerities should be performed and guided with intelligence.
For example two days ago it was Lord Nrsimha’s appearance, and I fasted the whole day up to dusk. I had no problem doing this. But, after the mid day I found that I unable to focus my mind or eyes well (because of the fasting), so I was not able to perform much service. As the day wore on I physically became weaker and weaker and finally when it was time for the evening service, I could barely stand to perform my part of the abhiseka, and after I was finished I had to sit down feeling exhausted being unable to continue or participate in the aroti ceremony.
So I decided that from now on, if necessary I would take fruit during the day during these long fasts, so that I could serve Srila Prabhupada effectively. Of course some may criticize me for this. The tendency to feel guilty about this may also be there. Or the tendency to be scared (maybe Lord Nrsimha will rip me to shreds for this).But, I understand that Krishna is a person, and He knows my intention and my heart. Therefore there is no guilt or fear. We really need to understand what motivates us, and how other people are attempting to motivate us. Sometimes people attempt to motivate us by guilt, fear, shame, denigration. If succumb to this, we will be miserable.
For example 2 days ago I received a letter from a Godbrother who was attempting to motivate me to do what he wanted. He replied to my statements in such a way as to appeal to guilt, using negative psychology. His method of attempting to motivate me was ineffective and manipulative (especially in regard to my rebellious self!). It would have been more productive had he tried to understand me first and had he explained why he was thinking the way he was.
In an institution sometimes we are stirred into actions simply by unthinking obedience to an authority. Prabhupada did not want us to be blind followers, but wanted independently thoughtful people who consciously chose to do things to serve Krishna. These are the sorts of people who can become leaders. Prabhupada wanted leaders.