Article May 25, 2017

Question: I have heard that Bhakti Yoga helps us to give up bad habits. But how exactly does it work?
Radhanath Swami: My dear god brother, Shyamsundar, he is an example of how bhakti can transform a heart, to help us give up very difficult habits.

In 1967, Srila Prabhupada asked Shyamsundar to carve the deities of Lord Jagannath, Baladev and Subhadra from the little model that they had. He was in his room working, very, very hard. One day, Srila Prabhupada came into the room to examine how the deities were, and he saw on Baldev’s head a pack of cigarettes. He was smoking cigarettes as he was carving the deity of Jagannath! He didn’t want to, he knew it was wrong, but he just couldn’t give it up. So, Prabhupada looked at the pack of cigarettes and he smiled. He said, “What is this!” Prabhupada just hit the pack of cigarettes with his cane. And he said, “Do you want one little stick of tobacco to stand between you and Krishna, God?” Prabhupada had such compassion.
You take the name of God, you pray to God, and you follow the process of Bhakti. And as Padma Purana and Rupa Gosvami explain – the power of bhakti is, it actually pulls out the root of the weed of sinful desires, removes the cause of these addictions and fills our heart with loving service to the Lord.
Within a matter of a week, Shyamsundar gave up smoking of cigarettes. Something that was so difficult became so easy. Why? Because he replaced it with something higher – ‘param dristva nivartate’. This is the teaching of the Bhagavad Gita. Unless you experience a higher taste, it’s very difficult to continually be able to give up our lower conditional habits.


सर्वधर्मान्परित्यज्य मामेकं शरणं व्रज ।अहं त्वा सर्वपापेभ्यो मोक्षयिष्यामि मा शुचः ॥

भावार्थ : संपूर्ण धर्मों को अर्थात संपूर्ण कर्तव्य कर्मों को मुझमें त्यागकर तू केवल एक मुझ सर्वशक्तिमान, सर्वाधार परमेश्वर की ही शरण (इसी अध्याय के श्लोक 62 की टिप्पणी में शरण का भाव देखना चाहिए।) में आ जा। मैं तुझे संपूर्ण पापों से मुक्त कर दूँगा, तू शोक मत कर ॥66॥


Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear.




The Lord has described various kinds of knowledge, processes of religion, knowledge of the Supreme Brahman, knowledge of the Supersoul, knowledge of the different types of orders and statuses of social life, knowledge of the renounced order of life, knowledge of nonattachment, sense and mind control, meditation, etc. He has described in so many ways different types of religion. Now, in summarizing Bhagavad-gītā, the Lord says that Arjuna should give up all the processes that have been explained to him; he should simply surrender to Kṛṣṇa. That surrender will save him from all kinds of sinful reactions, for the Lord personally promises to protect him.


In the Eighth Chapter it was said that only one who has become free from all sinful reactions can take to the worship of Lord Kṛṣṇa. Thus one may think that unless he is free from all sinful reactions he cannot take to the surrendering process. To such doubts it is here said that even if one is not free from all sinful reactions, simply by the process of surrendering to Śrī Kṛṣṇa he is automatically freed. There is no need of strenuous effort to free oneself from sinful reactions. One should unhesitatingly accept Kṛṣṇa as the supreme savior of all living entities. With faith and love, one should surrender unto Him.


According to the devotional process, one should simply accept such religious principles that will lead ultimately to the devotional service of the Lord. One may perform a particular occupational duty according to his position in the social order, but if by executing his duty one does not come to the point of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, all his activities are in vain.


Anything that does not lead to the perfectional stage of Kṛṣṇa consciousness should be avoided. One should be confident that in all circumstances Kṛṣṇa will protect him from all difficulties. There is no need of thinking how one should keep the body and soul together. Kṛṣṇa will see to that. One should always think himself helpless and should consider Kṛṣṇa the only basis for his progress in life. As soon as one seriously engages himself in devotional service to the Lord in full Kṛṣṇa consciousness, at once he becomes freed from all contamination of material nature. There are different processes of religion and purificatory processes by cultivation of knowledge, meditation in the mystic yoga system, etc., but one who surrenders unto Kṛṣṇa does not have to execute so many methods. That simple surrender unto Kṛṣṇa will save him from unnecessarily wasting time. One can thus make all progress at once and be freed from all sinful reaction.


One should be attracted by the beautiful vision of Kṛṣṇa. His name is Kṛṣṇa because He is all-attractive. One who becomes attracted by the beautiful, all-powerful, omnipotent vision of Kṛṣṇa is fortunate. There are different kinds of transcendentalists-some of them are attached to the impersonal Brahman vision, some of them are attracted by the Supersoul feature, etc., but one who is attracted to the personal feature of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and, above all, one who is attracted by the Supreme Personality of Godhead as Kṛṣṇa Himself, is the most perfect transcendentalist. In other words, devotional service to Kṛṣṇa, in full consciousness, is the most confidential part of knowledge, and this is the essence of the whole Bhagavad-gītāKarma-yogīs, empiric philosophers, mystics, and devotees are all called transcendentalists, but one who is a pure devotee is the best of all. The particular words used here,  śucaḥ, "Don't fear, don't hesitate, don't worry," are very significant. One may be perplexed as to how one can give up all kinds of religious forms and simply surrender unto Kṛṣṇa, but such worry is useless.