Wednesday, May 1, 2013

cleaning the heart

Verse 2.71: A person who has given up all desires for sense gratification, who lives free from desires, who has given up all sense of proprietorship and is devoid of false ego — he alone can attain real peace.

Wow! That's quite a list, isn't it? In fact, it's overwhelming. Just giving up the desire for sense gratification is hard enough, what to speak of being devoid of the false ego and giving up a sense of proprietorship. It sounds amazing, but be honest. Is there a part of you that thinks "Is this even possible?"

If so, you're not alone.

Sometimes those who have been practicing bhakti for a long time, what to speak of those just being introduced to it, feel like it's just all too much. That's why it's important to know that this is only practical and possible if we recognize and accept a couple of things.

Just recently a friend was down in the dumps feeling like they were going nowhere fast on their bhakti path. They were starting to recognize that there was so much work to be done upon seeing various unwanted qualities bubbling up to the surface.

Firstly, this is normal. In fact, if one starts to see those anarthas (the sanskrit word for undesired things, qualities or traits), it means the process of bhakti is working! In fact, it's a cause for celebration.

It's like cleaning your room. Once you start the process of cleaning, you start to realize how much stuff you actually have (that is, if you're a pack rat like me!). The secret to successful room cleaning, which I've realized over the years, is to not stop mid-cleaning!!! You know that moment when everything is scattered around you and all you want to do is run or move? It's hard, but that's the moment when you need to keep going! If you don't, it's really really hard to get momentum to continue. It's not impossible, it's just more challenging.

It's in those moments that the mind starts to freak out and puts up all kinds of obstacles like: "You have better things to do, you don't have the energy, you'll never finish etc,". This leads the mind to stating what to some, may be the most frightening fact - "You may have to throw out some things."

"WHAT? I have to give up some of my precious clothes and junk which I never realized I even had before I started cleaning but don't want to because I'm attached? I never signed up for this!!!"

This, at the root, is one of the most challenging facets of bhakti. Recognizing we have unwanted qualities/habits and then realizing that we may be hanging on to them. Even though we may logically know that they are holding us back, we've become so accustomed to them (like we may have become so accustomed to our messy room), that the thought of letting them go is too foreign. How will we live our lives without them?

That brings us to the second point we need to remember - the bhakti process takes time. We may have to go undergo several rounds of the cleaning process and each time we may be able to let go of one other thing. The important thing is to celebrate the victories, even if they are small. They may seem insignificant, such as watching a half hour less of your favorite tv show and spending that time reading the bhakti texts, but they are important.

So don't give up hope! Although cleaning may take some effort- it's worth it. That process will leave us with clean and beautiful hearts.


  1. This was a great post-very inspiring! It can be really easy to get discouraged spiritually. But as you note, it's a process, and real understanding and insight into the transcendental doesn't happen instantaneously (well maybe in rare cases, I'm not sure, but definitely not for the majority of us)! If only it would! :)

    1. Yes! It's so easy to get disheartened and down, and very natural. One of the key differences that I've noticed between those who are advanced lovers of God and those who are aspiring to get on the path (like me!) is the fact that the former remember the times when they felt enlivened, hopeful, joyful and happy in their practice when things get tough. It's not like things are smooth sailing for them and tough for's all about what we decide to take shelter in at those times. Sometimes we stumble and fall, but that's ok. We just need to dust ourselves off and keep going. It is possible. :D

  2. I love your analogy of the clean heart and the cleaning of a room which we've allowed to become dirty and cluttered. It can seem so overwhelming even when we're determined to set things right. Thanks for reminding us that getting rid of "attachments" is a process and not always an easy one.
    I won't give up hope!

    1. Thank you so much Martha! As one who really dislikes cleaning rooms, it can really seem overwhelming! LOL. In order to get rid of those negative qualities that prevent us from loving one another and God, we need to remember one thing - we can't do it alone! We need to pray to the Supreme to "please help us!". After all, even when cleaning a room, it's always easier if you have a trusted friend helping you along. :)

  3. What a great analogy. It's so easy to dismiss our attachment to "stuff" as non-existent until we begin the process of letting some go. Really enjoyed your post.

    1. Thanks so much Kathy! I speak from lots of experience in room cleaning. It's so funny how I don't realize that I'm attached to something that I didn't remember I had until I finally see it the same way with all our other attachments like emotions too!