The DAKSA yajna

By Sankirtana das - 15.2 2018

Lessons about the Inner World & Social Psychology

A Frequent Flyer devotee recently expressed to me his liking of one particular airline for the broad choice of good movies and rock music they offer. He meant what he said, and I wondered: “Is he aware of his compromised standard and honestly confessing, or is he denying his weakness and making light of the ideal which we aspire for?” I know many devotees who are stricter and who earnestly attempt to internalize a more elevated ideal. As a result, however, sometimes such serious devotees strongly feel a clash between a standard they wish they were spontaneously attracted to, and what they actually experience. Inevitably, therefore, they feel conflicted and jeopardy their mental health.

In this article I will analyze the personal and social consequences that arise from inner conflicts and we will investigate its concomitant “sense of personal failure”. We will then examine progressive and regressive reactions to deal with the situation.

H.G. Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu, an esteemed disciple of Srila Prabhupada, conducted a seminar some years ago, entitled “The Cure of the Soul”. From there I gained some insight into the issue of inner conflicts. In fact, I remember that at the time I concluded that this was the best thing I’ve ever heard since my joining Iskcon. With this article I hope to help the reader better respond in their own spiritual struggle and furthermore equip them to be of increased help to others. Our sastric reference is an incident described in the pages of the Srimad Bhagavatam, “Daksa offends Lord Siva”, 4th Canto. Srila Prabhupada wanted philosophy to be concretely applied in life. If not, it remains mental speculation with little value. So let us take some practical instructions from Prajapati Daksa.

Prajapati Daksa’s conflict [The events in a nutshell] Daksa is upset with Siva who doesn’t rise from his seat when Daksa enters the sacrificial arena. He feels unhappy that he had to give his daughter Sati to Siva in marriage. And now this rude behavior by his son-in-law! Daksa curses Siva to not get a share of the yajna. Despite the good counsel by everyone present to remain and not to leave, he departs from the assembly in anger. Siva consequently also leaves.

Nandisvara, a follower of Siva, curses Daksa and his followers and then in response, Bhrgu, a follower of Daksa, counter curses. The tension between the father-in-law and son-in-law, Daksa and Lord Siva, continue for a considerable period after the yajna-incident. Then, one day, Daksa gets appointed to be the chief of the Prajapatis. He arranges for additional grand sacrifices and intends to directly satisfy Lord Vishnu, bypassing Siva and Brahma. Sati takes note of the upcoming gathering and desires to join that social event. Siva discourages her with warnings: “Your place of birth will become your place of death.” But she wants to go there by all means. When she reaches the arena she realizes the truth about her father’s attitude towards her husband Siva: She is not well received and further she does not see any offerings for Siva. Frustrated and irritated she resolves to commit suicide. Her father Daksa does not prevent her from pursuing it. When reports reach Lord Siva, he creates a demon that causes havoc to the participants of the yajna. Finally, Daksa realizes his mistaken attitude and repents, having regained clear consciousness.

Daksa’s insecurity It is certainly remarkable how much Daksa misunderstands his position. But because Daksa is a jiva, Maya can cover him. Lord Brahma is also a jiva but he is in a better position because is very much afraid of Maya. He seeks the Lord’s protection and feels secure. Under Maya’s influence one looses sight of what is what, “param bhavam ajanantah”. Shelter-less one has to struggle and perform great acts to feel secure. Seemingly pride is prevailing, more precisely however, all these measures are done to cover up insecurity. We see when Daksa regains his original consciousness and realizes who Lord Vishnu and Siva are in relation to him, he at once becomes happy, secure and all sense of pride is vanquished.

Natural psychology and the sense of belonging In reference to Siva’s warning to Sati to not return to her former family, Srila Prabhupada writes: Natural psychology dictates that although one can suffer harm from an enemy and not mind so much because pain inflicted by an enemy is natural, when one is hurt by the strong words of a relative, one suffers the effects continually, day and night, and sometimes the injury becomes so intolerable that one commits suicide. (SB 4.3.19 p) Sati’s example is illustrative: She feels hurt and rejected.

Srila Prabhupada said that you’ll never see Krishna alone. He’s always in the company of His devotees. God is a person. And to say that God is a person is to say that God is social. The idea of being a person, and the idea of being completely isolated, they don’t go together. Likewise, all souls, being persons, have a natural desire to be in the company of others, ultimately they want to be in the association of the Lord and His eternal associates. When Caitanya Mahaprabhu was asked “what is the characteristic of a vaisnava”, he said “asat sanga tyaga”: He gives up the association of those people who are asat, (materialistic people) and associates with devotees. Whom we associate with is our choice, but we need association. We must be able to feel ourselves a functioning part of some social whole. “To feel isolated from or to feel hurt by the group we belong to is, according to finding in social psychology studies, the root evil in functional mental illness” [ref: “The exploration of the Inner world”, Antony T. Boison, Published Harvard University Press, 1936].

Devotees are not spared from suffering mental illnesses, rather they are likely candidates. How is this possible? Devotees are persons who endeavor to attain eternal happiness, so then why would they end up suffering mental problems? Over the years, members of Iskcon have come to understand the truth of this oddity. If you make yourself aware of it, you will be able to recognize a considerable number of devotees who have some mania, are obviously bitter, fanatical or depressed. There is a fear that the group they feel they belong to is going to hurt them. They strongly doubts that the group can help them to attain the goal of life as it has not helped many others in the past. They figure: “So many have badly failed. Several of those failures are still around; their motive for partaking in the group is the attachment for unlawful positions. Those dishonest persons regularly indulge in cover ups so to preserve their illegitimate dealings. Thus, how could they ever help anyone”? To be intensely absorbed in such apprehensions and doubts is an indication of a mental disorder and a preliminary stage of paranoia.

Daksa alike, most of us suffer from insecurity. Added to it we have a “sense of personal failure”, resulting in feelings of guilt and isolation. So one is prone to come up with delusional interpretations of unfortunate past events and project them as potential present and future realities. A painful childhood (a growing up with insufficient affection and love), is often a further cause for a person’s excessive distrust towards authorities and people in general. Daksa alike, we might flaunt an air of superiority to compensate for our lack of confidence. Worried to acknowledge our own limitations we tend to foster duplicity, pretending to not possess this “sense of personal failure”. One substitute a minor for major virtues, i.e., failing to live up to the ideal (purely loving Krishna), one, in its place, clings to some skills or knowledge of small importance and makes this to be of equal value. Or one might take refuge in the glories of one special person, a hero, and reflect those glories into one’s own live, identifying oneself with it. Frequently persons with similar reaction modes link up with each other and develop a bond of partisan camaraderie. They might jointly preach the glories of such a savior or they might find some dishonest rationalization to make light of accepted standards. Somehow or other, one want to get relieve from feelings of failure and guilt.

Concealment There are constructive ways and destructive ways of dealing with the “sense of personal failure”. If wrongly dealt with, it can extend to the loss of that which makes life worth living to the individual. It can become so devastating and lead to a loss of self-respect that the person feels no hope and no reason to live. He thinks that if they knew him as he knew himself
(with all the shortcomings), they would despise him. To avoid rejection and the total loss of self-respect he conceals his failures. This destructive approach causes isolation, mental illness and an escape into maintaining a sense of self-respect through deluded self-assertive activities, “I’m OK, just see what I do for Srila Prabhupada”. To lighten the heaviness, such a person every so often takes to the practice of depreciating others. All this is done without clear awareness. Living a life of the mentally ill, obsessed with irrational interpretations, he is oblivious to what is truly happening.

For a devotee to have a “sense of personal failure” is not unnatural. Even a perfected soul thinks that “I’m not a pure devotee. Everyone else is and I fail to life up to that standard”. It is a divine discontent: “I am simply not serving Krishna enough; I could and should do much more.” This feeling is often a precondition for effort and for growth. An indicator to judge spiritual advancement is in fact the degree of faith and understanding about the Lord’s mercy and kindness to His devotees. Therefore we have the “hope against hope” characteristic of an advanced devotee: He is confident that somehow the Lord will rescue him in spite the shortcomings. Such a devotee is secure, fearless and free from distrust and misgivings to his fellowship……..he considered his teachers, spiritual masters and older God-brothers to be as good as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. (SB
7.4.31)

Frankness The healthy approach is to be frank about one’s situation and strive for the well-wishing of the persons one tries to please. The healthy way, which leads to growth, is to “confess”. One should ask for forgiveness of shortcoming. And then one should honestly act to improve. We see this exemplified when, at a later stage of the Daksa yajna incident, all those who took part in the offenses, approach Lord Vishnu with humble prayers. Daksa initially, having offended Lord Siva, was unable to come up with that required humility and faith. He resorted to denial and made up for his inner feelings of failure with grant self-assertive yajnas, bluffing and further faultfinding. He did not even want to invite his own father, Lord Brahma, because he did not want to lower himself. He imagined that he was pleasing Lord Vishnu with his performance, whereas in fact, Lord Vishnu was not at all pleased. Lord Vishnu does not need big offerings from deceived hearts. He especially does not like that His dear devotees are ignored and offended: To offend devotees is suicidal to spiritual growth and unmistakably an indicator that the person has severe difficulties to properly deal with his inner conflict.

Offenses: Causes and effects Daksa was deeply engrossed in a misconception because he identified the body with the soul. He offended the lotus feet of Lord Siva because he thought that his body, being the father of the body of Sati, was superior to Lord Siva’s. Generally, less intelligent men misidentify in that way, and they act in the bodily concept of life. Thus they are subject to commit more and more offenses at the lotus feet of great souls. (SB 4.4.13 p)

Assuming a person resolves to recuperate from the condition of incompleteness and begins practicing devotional service. To cause such a person to loose faith in this process, or to prevent him from finding shelter in the community of the sincerely practicing devotees, constitutes an offense. Say, I might be in some managing position and Daksa alike, disinterested in those needing attention and care (Sati needed that). I’m anxious to get my job done and I utilize others to help me. Instead of guiding them I exploit them. It is indeed due to the destructive way of dealing with the “sense of personal failure” that causes me to commit such an offense. Escape into self-assertive activities, I resolve that I’m not so bad and that others are worse. I work hard to show that I’m worthy of my position. Under this circumstances I reach out to those who look for guidance and who are probably struggling with similar challenges. I accomplish to make them feel even guiltier and coerce them into submission. In actuality I’m not in the position to help anyone. My preaching is simply autobiographical. The one who needs help is I. At times, now and in the past, one can observe this scenario. The past can not be undone but we can learn from it: We can not be mentally ill and deal with the problems of others.

Summary Many of us go periodically through religious experiences similar to Daksa: We are insecure and prone to fail to live up to the expected standards. Consequently we feel isolated and rejected and we fall into traps of committing offenses. Being isolated from our real relation, our eternal connection to Lord Vishnu, we act on the bodily platform. There we aspire for social acceptance to make up for our incompleteness. Om purnam adah purnam idam: Our ultimate completeness is attained when we are linked with the Lord. The place to practice our relationship with Him and realize our completeness is the association of inoffensive devotees. There we can feel the love of Krishna flow through the devotees. There we get the means and help to return to our original, secure position: Purely serving Radha-Krishna.

I found to confine in devotees who know the intricate dynamics of spiritual life is a sure remedy to the problem. I try to put away the bluffing (that which is seen as pride) and try to frankly lay out my struggles, pleading for tolerance and patience. I’m highly cautious when I have to see devotees, those who represent the ideal I aspire for, trough the eyes of mentally ill persons. Such indulgence triggers fear and causes the loss of accurate discrimination (calling a spade a spade v/s faultfinding), increases insecurity and gives way to bluffing and other kinds of reaction modes. Furthermore, to prevent spiritual crisis altogether, I apply myself with sincerity to the most essential practice for spiritual growth: The attentive chanting of the Holy Name. Bhaktivinoda Thakura explains that the root of all offenses (and the resulting reactions of concealment and depression) is inattentive chanting. To my understanding this is so because if I’m inattentive while chanting I will remain disconnected despite the nearness of the Lord. I have to chant in the clearing stage to make progress; the call of the child for his mother: “Please accept me!” Daksa, or for that matter all the jivas, are prone to forget their position and fall into isolation. Srila Prabhupada states that we have no choice but to accept our precarious condition: The only remedy is to surrender to Vishnu and always pray to be excused. (SB 4.7.30 p)

Daksa, after having gone through a major crisis in his life, comes to realize his true identity and comes to see Lord Vishnu and Siva, face to face. He feels awakened like after a bad dream. We can see from his example that when such crises are resolved successfully, the person become glorious, he may become a great saint or righteous leader. If we pass through the difficult times successfully, we come out reorganized, with higher level of realizations and commitment than we had before. And as mentioned, when they’re unsuccessful, we have somebody who escapes into self-assertive and delusional misinterpretation and is out there trying to “save” ISKCON. The society of devotees which rescues countless souls, he his “saving”! Or then, when such crisis remain unresolved for long we can get a person who might end up in a ward of a mental hospital where he is given over to medical drugs by which he loses sight of the inner conflict. He might later on be able to live again the ‘normal life’, free from inner conflicts, socialist with persons devoid of higher goals in life.

The successful outcome depends very much on the resolve of the individual and on the care, assurance and support the person gets while he is in the pits of a trial. “O Govinda, Your promise is that your devotee will never perish. By remembering this over and over again, I am able to retain my life-airs” (Pancaratra Pratipa). Devotees really are extremely precious. They preach the message of pure, selfless devotion and cause conflicts in the heart of the sincere souls who comes to realize the truth about their fallen state. But these devotees are also ready to extend their well-wishing help to the struggling aspirants so they can grow to become spontaneous lover of God. All Glories to the Vaisnavas!