Q&A with Satyanarayana dasa Babji, originally published at the Jiva Institute.
Question: I have been practicing bhakti for about 10 years and somehow I have become discouraged in my practice because of doubts, thus I am humbly asking for help.
First of all, since we are endeavoring for Goloka, is there a sign that confirms that one will go there after this life (and not after many), i.e., signs which indicate that this life is the last?
Answer: One needs to study one’s own mind. If one’s mind has no attachment to any material pleasures whatsoever, the mind does not brood over sense pleasures, and the mind is naturally attracted to the Holy Name, then such a person will not take birth again.
Question: Why do I often meet devotees who have mental sickness? Shouldn’t bhakti lead to mental clarity as a side effect?
Answer: You are right. Bhakti should remove the mental aberration. But one must engage in bhakti properly. This only proves that these people are not doing bhakti properly. Somehow you are meeting such people, but this is not the complete picture. There are many more devotees who are not mentally sick.
Question: It is a difficult topic but nowadays many bad things (lustful videos, etc.) are available on the Internet and my mind gets easily attracted to them.
Answer: Why do you watch them? Is someone forcing you to do it? There are also many good things on the Internet, many nice lectures, articles, essays are available. But if your mind is attracted only to bad things, then the problem is with your mind, and not with the Internet. You should first pinpoint the problem. Then you can hope to solve it. If you blame the Internet, then you are just trying to avoid the problem.
Question: I fear that this Internet may drag me down to hell. At the same time, I seem to not have any control over using it.
Answer: Internet is not dragging you down; it is your own mind. Hell is not somewhere else. It is in your own mind. Sri Krishna says that the mind is our enemy and the mind can also be our friend. At present, your own mind is your worst enemy. It seems that you are addicted to watching such videos, and that is the problem. Better you do something about it.
Question: What to do?
Answer: First you need to diagnose the problem. The problem is in your own mind. The first step is to know this. Then you can think of the next step. But if you do not take the first step, there is no second step. You can go on blaming the Internet and remain stuck in your problem. Better you get counseling from a qualified therapist.
Question: I have a question about causeless mercy. My understanding is that it descends upon a jiva, but then the jiva may accept or reject it. I am trying to understand the mechanism behind the jiva accepting or rejecting that mercy. I can see three possibilities for the jiva to accept the mercy:
(1) Karma. Good karma will be the cause of favorable attitude toward mercy.
(2) The mercy itself. There is no cause for the acceptance from the jiva’s side – all is coming from the mercy (it also includes the favorable attitude of the jiva).
(3) The jiva itself. The jiva accepts the mercy by a spiritual action, and there is no cause to it also. Both, the descent of mercy and acceptance are spiritual and causeless.
The problem with the first alternative is that everything depends on karma and bhakti is not independent in that case. With regards to the second option, there is no free will on the part of the jīva and everything becomes mechanical. And in the third option, there is a manifestation of the free will with bhakti remaining independent at the same time, i.e., the jīva starts to act spiritually, either by accepting or rejecting the mercy.
Is my analysis correct, and is there a fourth option?
Answer: It is option two. The soul does not make any such decisions. All decisions are made by the intellect, which is material. Mercy is an inspiration that comes by the grace of a devotee. It is a higher power and can overpower anything material. But this mercy comes in quanta. After one gets the first inspiration, then one’s conscious choice can influence one to accept the inspiration or reject it.